Air vs. airless
The vast majority of striping units sold today are airless, but there are still a few companies that sell air-atomized paint stripers. Kelly-Creswell Company Inc. produces both air-atomized and airless sprayers and many of their striper models can be configured for either spray system.
"My opinion is an air-atomized machine is a simpler design and is less expensive to maintain and to procure over a 10- to 12-year life of a machine," says Craig Treon, vice president and general manager at Kelly-Creswell.
Treon notes, however, that air-atomized sprayers work great for most basic parking lot applications, but in certain applications airless would work better.
"I know most parking lot guys usually will use a single striping gun. Some striping jobs require a two-gun application, and in that instance my opinion would be that an airless sprayer would be more suited toward the job because of the additional gun it takes to spray that second line," he says. "If you're a striper who wants to look at doing airport markings, then airless machines are also probably more suited toward that job. Airless machines can be set up to spray wider patterns in a single path."
The type of paint you'll be spraying will also be a consideration in spec'ing an air-atomized unit.
"If you're leaning toward an air-atomized machine, the thing you want to look at is whether you're going to be using the air machine to spray an oil-based or a latex paint. If you're spraying a latex paint, the best set-up is a stainless steel fluid system to prevent corrosion. The other thing you want to look at is to ensure that the supplier includes a non-bleed striping gun as part of their machines," he says. "Non-bleeder guns also do a wonderful job spraying oil-based paints, but a bleeder gun, which was designed for oil-based paints, does not do a good job of spraying latex paints. So if you're one of these guys who is going to bounce back and forth between latex and oil-based paints, the best set-up would be a machine with a stainless steel tank and a non-bleeder gun, and then you're assured of spraying both types of paints well.
"If you exclusively spray oil-based paints through a machine - because some contractors may buy two machines, one machine just for latex paints and another for oil-based paints - a machine specifically set up for oil-based paints is about 25% less the cost of a machine set up to spray latex," Treon adds.
Accessories and features
Most manufacturers offer basic accessories you can purchase for your unit. These include items such as paint hoppers that allow you to carry more than your machine's standard allotment of paint, light kits for striping in low-light conditions, and line pointing systems. Titan offers a laser pointer, which fits most any walk-behind striper unit.
"The laser pointer plots an extended reference line on the ground ahead of the unit," explains Dunn. "In a parking lot situation this allows the operator to plot a line for marking accurate starting points, provides a razor sharp line to follow when painting the line, creates an accurate point of reference for the next set of rows, and produces a more professional job in less time."
Another useful accessory is a glass bead dispenser.
"If you're going to be doing any roadwork at all, like that access road to the parking lot, a bead dispenser is a great accessory," Knutson says. "Going back a few years, airports required that glass beads be applied to their runways and taxiways, so if you're doing airport work, a glass bead accessory is something you should get."
Certain striping machine features can also increase a contractor's productivity, such as the ability to switch the positions of the paint guns on the machine.
"When you're doing diagonal parking spaces, the gun has to be sort of behind the machine because of the angle you're going into the parking space on, and when you get to the one end or the other, you've got to put the gun over on the other side to do the last one. Ours has a real quick release on the gun arm that allows you to move it to the other side in about 15 seconds," Malloy says.