Do you have a tough cleaning job for your pressure was but you're not sure how 'green' your options are?
More and more people want to make environmentally informed decisions about products that they intend to use, rent or buy. I mean, if you can get a product that will do the job for you and leave less of an ecologically damaging footprint - then why not go with the 'gerener' choice?
At first glance, power washers may not seem like a very wise purchase for the environmentally conscious but there are some choices you can make that will reduce your over all footprint.
There are at least three aspects of your purchase you should consider if you want to make the best ecological choice.
1.The number one thing is efficiency. You want the best unit for the job otherwise you will be wasting water and energy. Electric pressure washers will probably be your most environmentally friendly choice. There will be no local exhaust however you should know where your power is coming from. If your local electricity is coming from a coal fired generator, then you are only contributing to green house gas and acid rain emissions elsewhere (not to mention the damage done from coal mining itself). If your power is wind, solar or hydroelectric based then you will be running your pressure washer on cleaner energy. An added bonus is that electric pressure washers typically create less sound pollution than diesel or gas units.
However, the typical electric pressure washer is not as powerful as a diesel or gasoline powered one, so you need to know what you will be using the pressure washer for. Typically, for consumer use, (like cleaning your hybrid car), you do not need more than a 1500 PSI unit. This is well within the range of an electrically powered pressure washer. If you have tougher cleaning jobs that might require a 3,000 or greater PSI unit, then you might need to look at a fossil fuel powered pressure washer. Diesel tend to be more efficient and stronger than gas but will often produce more particulates in the exhaust (like soot, etc.). The other thing to check out is whether the motor is a two stroke or four stroke system. Two stroke engines often produce more power than four stroke but their fuel is not completely combusted so you will have more pollution in your exhaust. And do not forget that with gas and diesel powered engines, there can be some carbon monoxide in the exhaust. This is very toxic to humans and animals and is impossible to detect with your senses. If it is allowed to build up in a non-vented space, it could kill you.
Your final concern about energy use is whether you get a cold water or hot water pressure washer. A hot water unit heaters the water and this takes more energy than using cold water. But if you need to clean off grease or oil, hot water may do the job faster and use less water and detergent than a cold water unit.
2. The next largest environmental concern is water use . Typically, the average consumer will use tap water for their pressure washer. It is very wasteful to clean your car, etc., using good drinking water. A lot of energy is used to make water safe for human consumption. Waste water management (including water treatment) is often the largest expense for a municipality - and that money is coming directly from your taxes! Ideally, you want to use the least amount of water possible for your cleaning jobs. This is where you need to weigh the benefits of a higher pressured unit. Maybe you can use less water with the right detergent or higher pressure? Again, think about your cleaning needs. Too much pressure may strip paint or finishes off the things you are cleaning.
Another possible option is to get a self-priming unit with a run-dry feature. This allows you to draw water from sources other than your tap. You could draw water from a pond or lake or even from collected gray water or rain water. The run-dry mechanism will protect your pump if your water source runs out while the pressure washer is still on.
Also consider where your water will run off into after you've finished cleaning. Try to avoid allowing the waste water to contaminate surrounding ground water or sensitive ecosystems - this is especially true if you are using detergents.
3. The last thing to consider is whether to use detergents or not with your pressure washer. Many units allow you to add cleaning agents either in the unit itself or once the water is coming out the wand (often referred to as upstream or downstream). You have to make sure you use approved detergents for your model or your might damage the unit. Deciding on using a detergent again depends on the cleaning job you need to do. Abstaining from using a detergent is often more environmentally friendly, but not if it means running your pressure washer for a longer period of time and / or using up more water.
More and more companies offer 'green' detergents that are safe to use in pressure washers. But read your labels carefully. The terms 'green' and 'natural', etc. are not regulated and anyone can make those claims even if it is not true. Typically, you want to avoid harsh chemicals that do not break down quickly in the environment. You should also avoid cleaning products that contain a lot of phosphates since they can create algal blooms in lakes and ponds and choke out other life. It is also best to avoid products that are colored or spotted. There is more and more evidence that the chemicals used to color and scent products are bad both for the environment and for you and your family. Finally, stay away from chlorine bleach. It is very toxic to you and if it gets in waterways, it can bind with other elements and is very toxic to fish. Also, people have died from the fumes created when chlorine bleach is mixed with other cleaning chemicals. You can find oxygen based 'bleach' which is a safer choice.
These are the three main factors to consider when weighing your pressure washer purchasing options if you want to be more environmentally responsible. It is possible to be kinder to the planet and get your cleaning jobs done easily!