Power washers are often confused with pressure washers, for good reason. Power washers are, in fact, pressure washers that utilize hot water for stronger cleaning capability.
Power washers carry a heavy price tag than regular cold-water pressure washers, and they are mostly used for commercial and industrial purposes.
Still, many homeowners could benefit from having a power washer handy. As you’re probably aware from doing the dishes or cleaning clothes, hot water remove dirt, grease, and oils more effectively than cold water does.
Power washers are great for businesses that need frequent deep cleaning like restaurants and mechanic shops, and residential buyers can make good use of hot water power washing too. It makes removing any type of substance that much easier and, as a bonus, has disinfecting benefits as well. It also allows you to use less water pressure because the heat does the heavy lifting by softening tough dirt, thus lowering the chance of peeling paint or eroding materials.
Most convenient: Simpson Mini Brute MB1518 Electric Hot Water Pressure Washer
Most power for price: Easy-Kleen EZO4035G Professional 4000 PSI
Power washer or pressure washer: What's the difference?
The terms "power washer" and "pressure washer" tend to be used interchangeably. You’ll find that our selections for the best power washers are simply pressure washers equipped with water boilers.
Be aware that anyone using a power washer (or pressure washers) should take sensible precautions. For one thing, pressure washers themselves can be dangerous because of how powerful their jet streams can be. Potential injuries can be more severe when you add scalding water into the mix.
Also, using streams of hot water to wash objects that have sealing agents or glue, like windows, could damage them. Washing cars with very hot water can likewise be risky for the seals; and, in some cases, the window glass could even crack.
Fortunately, there are usually ways to adjust these devices to get the temperature and controls just right for the task at hand. Hot water pressure washers can be used without heating the water at all, and some have simple dials to raise or lower the temperature.
Before starting any job, do some research on your power washer’s capability and whatever it is you plan on cleaning, to determine whether it’s safe to proceed. And when considering which power washer to buy, it’s important to think about how you’ll use it, and perhaps pick one that’s versatile enough to safely handle many different cleaning situations.
Power washer buying guide
Here are some other considerations when you’re shopping for a power washer:
• Pounds per square inch (PSI). Power washers are primarily pressure washers, so PSI — the measure of force — is one of the most important specifications. They normally range between 1500 and 4000 PSI. The higher the number, the more “stripping power” the jet stream will have. On hot water models, the PSI tends to be lower than in regular pressure washers because the heating mechanism provides stripping power by itself.
• Gallons per minute (GPM). GPM measures water flow, and most power washers range between 1.5 and 4.0 GPM. Since pressure is built by narrowing both the hose and the nozzle, power is needed to pump as much water as possible through that small area without sacrificing pressure. Compared to cold water pressure washers, power washers provide a bit more GPM because, again, heat helps with stripping. If there is more hot water in the cleaning area, more rinsing (and disinfecting) can be done.
• Temperature. Heat is the main difference between pressure washing and power washing, so you’ll want to look at the heating elements in your unit. In most cases, it’ll be a diesel-powered burner that can heat water to anywhere between 180°F and 280°F. You can also find electric burners on select models, though they’ll be on the lower side of that temperature range.
Power washers are most commonly used in commercial and industrial settings, and they cost around $5,000 to $6,000 — and sometimes go well over $10,000. However, we found lower cost options that are suitable for residential use and more within reach of the average homeowner's budget. We kept our selections under the $4,000 mark without sacrificing much in the way of reliability, solid warranties, and power.
Best power washers
1. Best overall: NorthStar Gas Wet Steam & Hot Water Pressure Washer 157310
PSI: 3000 │ GPM: 4.0 │ Engine warranty: 3 years │ Pump warranty: 2 years │ Advertised temperature: 250°F
If you want a little bit of everything in a power washer and are willing to pay for it, the NorthStar 157310 is the model to look at, right at that $4,000 mark. Although rated at 3000 PSI like less expensive models, it has a very high GPM of 4.0. What's more, it's powered by a Honda engine, which provides well-known durability and a longer, 3-year warranty than other models.
This model also raises the temperature capacity: it reaches 250°F, as opposed to other competitors that max out below 200°. One of the burner’s best features is that it includes a temperature control dial and has a steam option, like most NorthStar products.
On top of all that power and versatility, it has two massive 8.75-gallon tanks (one for the pump and one for the burner) so you can keep washing without refilling. Other models in this price range have half of that capacity.
The pump warranty could be better, and there are machines with higher PSI, but this model is a great all-around package for those who don’t mind its price tag.
2. Most convenient: Simpson Mini Brute MB1518 Electric Hot Water Pressure Washer
PSI: 1500 │ GPM: 1.8 │ Engine warranty: 3 years │ Pump warranty: 5 years │ Advertised temperature: Not disclosed
Although very similar to our selection above in power and size, the Simpson Mini Brute has its own pros and cons. First, the Simpson is more expensive, but has a longer warranty on both engine and pump. Second, while the Mini Brute’s PSI is lower than the NorthStar, its GPM is a bit higher. As mentioned before, GPM is generally more important in a power washer, since the heat will do most of the heavy work.
Finally, the Mini Brute is smaller and easier to maneuver than its rival. Even though the dimensions are similar, the real advantage here is weight, or lack thereof. The Simpson is more than 100 pounds lighter than its NorthStar counterpart. Considering that all hot water pressure washers are large and include a tank, this can be very important, especially for domestic use.
The Simpson does not have adjustable temperature or a steam functions, so it lacks some versatility. But it makes up for that with longstanding reliability, a very good warranty, and the rare commodity of a small footprint.
PSI: Compatible with up to 4000 │ GPM: Compatible with up to 4.0 │ Product warranty: 2 years │ Advertised temperature: 250°F
Buying a power washer is a big investment. However, if you already own a regular pressure washer, you can turn it into a power washer with an add-on like this one made by NorthStar. It’s still fairly expensive at $1,599, but that’s $400 cheaper than the brand's least expensive power washer.
If your washer is rated above 1700 PSI and 1.5 — the specs on NorthStar’s cheapest model — you’re already getting your money’s worth, and the more powerful, the better. This add-on is compatible with units up to 4000 PSI and 4.0 GPM. It comes with a diesel-powered burner that raises the water temperature up to 250°F.
Keep in mind that not all pressure washers can handle such high temperatures. They can normally withstand water only up to 140°F in temperature (although always check with the manufacturer first). The NorthStar Add-on, however, has an easy-to-use temperature control dial so you can still run hot water safely and consistently.
4. Most power for price: Easy-Kleen EZO4035G Professional 4000 PSI
PSI: 4000 │ GPM: 3.5 │ Engine warranty: 1 year │ Pump warranty: 3 months-10 years (by parts) │ Advertised temperature: 185-195°F
If you need a lot of power but are on a tight budget, the Easy-Kleen brand has you covered.
While $3,299 can still seem pricey, it’s actually a pretty good deal considering you get a 4000 PSI and 3.5 GPM hot water washer. When you add a durable and trusty Honda engine with three-year warranty coverage, the value proposition only gets better.
There are, of course, some caveats. The EZO4035G offers a rather short warranty on the pump. The head and the crankcase are covered for five and 10 years, respectively, which sounds great. But the internal parts (rather important ones at that) are only covered for 90 days. Other manufacturers cover the entire pump for one year or more, five years in the case of some of our choices.
It also has an electric burner. While this could seem attractive because you don’t have to buy fuel, this type of burner doesn’t heat the water as much as diesel-powered units. In fact, it only reaches 195°F, while diesel units can easily reach 250°F. Many users claim that level of heat isn’t needed, but it’s up to each buyer to decide whether power or temperature is more valuable.