Go into any rental business and you will likely find a pressure washer or two... or a dozen. Their task is not glamorous and they don’t inspire oohs and ahhs from customers. But you would be hard pressed to find a tool more needed by so many for so much.
Yes, pressure washers are used for everything from cleaning a patio or deck to degreasing industrial food processing equipment. They are used by contractors, farmers, fleet operators, factories, municipalities and more.
Pressure washers come in two distinct varieties: hot-water and cold-water. While similar in their overall purpose, they differ in the applications they are best suited for. Hot-water pressure washers excel in removing greasy substances from surfaces quickly. They are bigger, more complicated machines that cost significantly more than their cold-water brethren. The question is, do they make sense for your rental inventory?
The heat is on
“Typically, in regards to hot-water washers, you think of applications where grease, oil or road film needs to be removed,” says Keith Price, vice president of sales for Shark Pressure Washers. “A hot-water washer will produce the same psi and gallons per minute as a cold-water washer, but when the burner is activated, it produces up to 200F-degree cleaning, which attacks [dirt and grime].”
Ollie Nielsen, director of sales and marketing with Alto Cleaning Systems Inc., notes that while hot-water pressure washers will clean faster and more thoroughly than cold water, they do require another source of fuel to heat the water and they are also larger and heavier than cold--water units, making them more difficult to transport.
“A cold-water unit is easier to operate and has fewer maintenance concerns, but cleaning times will be longer,” adds John Lembezeder, national sales manager at Mi-T-M Corp. “Anytime hot water might damage the surface being cleaned, cold water would be the solution.”
According to Price, there is a growing trend for rental centers to stock trailer-mounted hot-water machines with on-board water tanks for large contractors who require a lot of equipment cleaning. “A hot-water washer has the versatility of providing both hot- and cold-water cleaning. They will provide more effective cleaning, but if all you’re removing is dirt and mud, then it’s overkill.”
He adds, “Because of their [compact] size and weight, cold-water machines are better suited to homeowners and small businesses. Many models are designed to fit in the trunk of a car, which expands their market potential dramatically. Hot-water machines typically are attractive to big businesses and contractors who have more serious cleaning needs.”
When deciding whether to incorporate hot-water pressure washers into your fleet, cost will inevitably come into consideration. “The cost of cold-water machines has stayed level or dropped over the past decade, making them an excellent value,” says Price. “Good, heavy-duty, engine-drive machines are priced well below $1,000 and are more reliable than ever before. Depending on the configuration, it’s not uncommon to pay more than double for a hot--water pressure washer. The real benefit to hot-water pressure washers is that they command double the daily rental price and they almost always are rented for longer periods of time.”
Lembezeder adds, “Quality is a significant factor in the price of a pressure washer. You can expect cost differences between electric and gas, and hot and cold washers. Also, the size of the pressure washer determined by its horsepower will impact the price.”
Nielsen explains that pressure washers most often range between 5.5 and 20 horsepower and 1,500 to 5,000 psi. The most common rental machine is the 13--horsepower, 3,000--psi unit.
While the size of a pressure washer is generally measured in water pressure by pounds per square inch, this can be misleading. There is a tendency to look only at psi and not the volume of water or gallons per minute (gpm).