Hot vs. Cold Pressure Washers: Which is Right for Me?

Pressure washers are very useful cleaning tools, but what kind of pressure washer is the best kind? Is hot water better than cold water when it comes to cleaning?

Hot water pressure washers are better than cold water pressure washers when it comes to cleaning up oil and grease, while cold pressure washers are great for cleaning off dirt. However, hot water pressure washers will also clean off dirt and grime quickly.

Hot Water Pressure Washers

Hot pressure washers are designed to cut through oil and grease, but they can also be used to clean other items, and many people choose to use hot water pressure washers rather than cold pressure washers. Hot water breaks up grime and oil faster and better than cold water, which is always nice. If you’re cleaning engines, automotive parts, or anything with oil or grease on it, you’ll need hot water. Basically, the thing to remember is that whatever cold water cleans, hot water will clean better and faster. The reason for this is that hot water packs a powerful energetic punch when released into the cleaning equation. This energy also causes a reduction in the water’s surface tension allowing it to easily and more effectively penetrate the molecules of grease and grime.

The soap, otherwise known as detergent, used in pressure washers is very different from laundry detergent, that is used by hot and cold water pressure washers also contributes to how well and how quickly they clean off grease and grime. The soap chemically breaks the bond between dirt and the surface. It starts when the molecules of oil and grease attach themselves to dirt and keep them trapped or bound to the surface. Detergents use softening agents in order to emulsify the oil and grease. This is the process in which two or more immiscible liquids, like oil and water, no longer repel each other but actually mix. Once the oil and water are able to mix, forming an emulsion, the dirt, still clinging to the oil and grease, is washed away in the wash water.

Gas hot water pressure washers and electric hot water pressure washers work in very similar ways. The main difference between them is how they are powered, and their pressure capacities. Electric hot water pressure washers are quiet, oftentimes very portable, require a low amount of maintenance, there is no need to purchase oil or gas in order for it to work. However, they tend to have a shorter lifespan than gas powered hot water pressure washers. Also, the power cord limits where you can go, although that can easily be fixed with a very long extension cord.

Gas powered hot water pressure washers are very useful machines as well, and tend to use a higher amount of pressure than their electric counterparts, and therefore clean slightly faster than the electric pressure washers, and are better for heavy-duty cleaning jobs. However, they are much heavier than the electric pressure washers, but they often have wheels attached in order to help you move the machine to where you want to use it. However, the because this type of pressure washer uses gas in order to power it, you will smell gas when you are using it, and this type of pressure washer uses more oil than the electric pressure washers. This type of pressure washers also require you to perform maintenance on it regularly. However, if you keep up with the routine maintenance, they may last you for many years, and may last longer than the electric pressure washer.

Sometimes hot water pressure washers cost more than the cold water pressure washers. However, you will save time and energy if you purchase a hot water pressure washer rather than a cold one, since hot water breaks up grime faster than cold water. Hot water pressure washers tend to require more preventive maintenance, such as the burner assembly, coil and redundant excess-pressure protection, all of which need annual tune-ups. Still, hot water pressure washers quickly pay for themselves by providing a faster, more effective pressure cleaning method, especially if you are trying to clean something very quickly. And, because the water is pushed through the machine at such a powerful rate, less detergent is needed when you use a hot water pressure washer, which saves you even more money.

Cold Water Pressure Washers

Cold water pressure washers are ideal for removing all forms of dirt, even if it is dried and caked-on dirt. However, if the surface you are cleaning is mixed with oil or grease, a cold water pressure washer won’t clean as well as a hot water pressure washer. A cold water pressure washer is ideal if you are simply blasting away sand, caked-on mud, or even stripping paint. When the pressure washer is used with a detergent, a cold water pressure washer can be very effective in many applications. For all other applications than dirt and grime, the hot water pressure washer will allow for faster cleaning, and also will reduce the amount of detergent required to get your cleaning project fully cleaned and looking beautiful.

Can You Use Hot Water in a Cold-Water Pressure Washer?

You can run warm water through a cold water pressure washer safely up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you should not run water that is any hotter than that through your cold water pressure washer. The parts of the machine are not built to withstand that kind of extreme heat. You could potentially melt the seals in the pump, and overheat the unit. With that said your hot water tank likely wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand for very long, even if you did want to run hot water through your cold water pressure washer.

Cold water is recommended for high volume low pressure applications in order to knock away caked on mud and debris, or when stripping away paint. For all other applications Hot water will allow for faster cleaning and reduce the amount of detergent required. Hot water is especially recommended when cleaning grease and oil.

Cost of Pressure Washers

Buying to Own

If you want to buy an electric hot water pressure washer, it will cost $85-$5000. The price will vary depending on how heavy-duty the pressure washer is, and how large it is.

Hot Water Gas: 

Hot water gas-powered pressure washers range from $240-$9550. This does not include the cost of oil and gas, which you will always need to keep on hand if you regularly use your pressure washer.

Cold Water Electric: 

The price of buying an electric cold water pressure washer is not any different from the price of buying an electric hot water pressure washer.

Cold Water Gas: 

The cost of buying a cold water gas-powered pressure washer does not vary from the cost of buying a hot water gas-powered pressure washer.

Renting Prices

Renting a pressure washer from a home center costs $30-$100 per day. There are many other accessory options, but in most cases you can negotiate the shop to “throw them in” with the rental.

The cost of renting a pressure washer does not change depending on whether it is a hot or cold pressure washer, which is kind of nice to know. Just make sure that you look closely at the description of the pressure washer model that you are thinking about renting if you want a hot water pressure washer rather than a cold one.

An electric pressure washer will cost you $100 to $400, and a gas pressure washer will set you back $300 to $600.

Extra attachments will cost more, but the price of each attachment will vary depending on the attachment that you purchase, and what brand the attachment that you purchase was made by.

Is a Steam Cleaner the Same as a Hot Water Pressure Washer?

It’s not unusual to hear hot water pressure washers referred to as steam cleaners. While there are a few applications such as deicing or disinfecting that require steam, it has been proven over the years that hot water under high pressure is a much more effective method of cleaning than steam. That’s because hot water washing has the additional benefit of agitation—water volume under high pressure pounding the surface.

However, some pressure cleaning systems offer a “steam combination” option where the water is superheated to 280°F in order to create a “saturated steam” effect for those rare applications where a surface requires higher temperature cleaning.

What is the Best Hot-Water Pressure Washer?

One of the most well-known brands in the pressure-washing industry is a brand called Hotsy. According to its website, Hotsy pressure washers feature rugged high-pressure pumps backed by a 7-year warranty, and are built with durable reinforced frames for maximum durability and longevity.

What is the Best Cold-Water Pressure Washer?

If you are looking to buy or rent a cold water pressure washer for very heavy-duty jobs, look at your local hardware store or stores such as Home Depot or Lowes. Their associates will have the knowledge that is needed to help you make an informed purchase that will last for a long time, even with frequent use.

Below is a video tat shows the differences in the cleaning abilities of hot and cold pressure washers:

Increasing Your Pressure Washer Power

Boost the strength and reach of your cold-water pressure water by using accessories.

The main difference with power washing vs. pressure washing is the heat. The jet wash in a power washing machine uses heated water, whereas the water in a pressure washer is not heated. … The heated water makes it easier to clean surfaces — just as it does when doing dishes or washing your hands. source

Since the main difference between the two is heat, you may be wondering 

How is Water Heated in a Pressure Washer?

Hot water pressure washers raise the water temperature from about 53°F to as much as 311°F. This allows the working pressure, cleaning time, and detergent quantity to be reduced, which is always nice.

In order for the water to be heated by the pressure washer, water enters a pressure washer from a spigot or tank via a garden hose. It first passes through a high-pressure pump, which speeds the water on its way through a heating coil, consisting of up to 200 ft. of half-inch, schedule 80, steel pipe or tubing. The helical or circular winding configuration allows the water to get maximum exposure to the flame (fueled by diesel oil or natural gas/propane) as it roars through the center of the coil. For all-electric models, the coil is immersed in a tank of hot water heated by electricity. By the time the water rushes out of the coil and through the wand and nozzle, it will have reached temperatures of up to 200°F.

What Jobs are Best for What Pressure Washer

Other than the items talked about above, pressure washers are great tools, and are very versatile because of how the amount of pressure they use can be adjusted to fit the job that you want to use it for. Some people choose to use cold pressure washers to clean their cars because of how quickly it eliminates dirt. However, you should not use a pressure washer to clean your car like many people choose to. If you do, you will chip or peel the paint, and may cause damage to the metal of the car if you use enough pressure. Many people choose to use hot or cold pressure washers to clean things around the house that have been neglected for too long, like concrete or the siding of a house.

For any cleaning projects on the outside of your house or apartment, such as cleaning concrete or a fence, a hot water pressure washer should be used rather than a cold one.

If you are working on a cleaning project that has frequently been cleaned and does not need a lot of work in order to finish it, then a cold water pressure washer is great.

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