Many guys ask me, "What is the difference between a pressure washer and a power washer?" In truth, those of us in the industry generally use these terms interchangeably, but one pressure washer manufacturer, Hydrotek, does make a distinction. According to Hydrotek, a power washer is a lighter-duty version of a pressure washer.1 When I tell guys this, the next question usually comes back, "What is considered a light or heavy-duty pressure washer?" This can be even more subjective, but it is based on the pressure washer PSI rating.
To the average homeowner just using a power washer to clean their decks and siding, a 1,500 PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch) unit may seem like high pressure. I mean, that is more pressure than the garden hose, and it can knock the dirt off of their surfaces. On the other hand, to the contractor using a pressure washer to clean parking lots with a lot of tar and grime, a rating of 1,500 PSI would seem week. The contract cleaner would probably consider a unit rated high pressure, which is more in the ballpark of 4,000-7,000 PSI. With that in mind, here is a general breakdown:
1,000 - 1,900 PSI: This PSI is on the low end, and is considered a residential unit. This type of pressure washer is good for the average homeowners to handle most household and automotive cleaning jobs, and is usually a hand carry electric model.
2,000 - 2,900 PSI: This is a moderate strength unit used heavier residential tasks. These units are commonly sold as either electric or gas pressure washers.
3,000 - 6,900 PSI: These high pressure models are what professional pressure washers and contractors usually use. They are commonly used in commercial and industrial settings, and can run on either gas or diesel.