Electric pressure washers aren't as strong as gas pressure washers, spraying from around 1,300 to 2,000 PSI. This is still plenty of power for most home projects -- ideal for jobs like "cleaning cars, small boats and patio furniture," says Roy Berendsohn from Popular Mechanics. With lower water pressure, the spray wand is easier to control and less likely to damage wood or paint, making them a better choice for those who might only use their pressure washer on occasion.
In addition, the motor on an electric unit doesn't require regular servicing and maintenance (like a gas engine does) and electric pressure washers tend to be lighter, quieter and less expensive than their gas counterparts. The best models have a stop system that shuts off the pump and motor when the trigger is released. This protects the pump from overheating and silences the unit, allowing users to easily pause while cleaning to have a conversation. Judging from user reviews, electric pressure washers don't seem as rugged as their gas counterparts, so it's important to select one with a solid brand reputation and to follow the manufacturer's directions for proper pump maintenance.
Among electric models, we sometimes saw a surprising split between pressure washers that rate well with experts, and those that rate well with users, but the Ryobi RY14122 (Est. $150) is a happy exception. It's an Editors' Choice winner at TheFamilyHandyman.com, and earns that honor by not only being the best overall performer among electric power washers, but also the best value. "This unit is an all-around winner, not only our favorite machine but also the most affordable," the editors say.
What do users say? Plenty, and most of it is pretty complimentary. It earns a 4.4 star rating at HomeDepot.com, with 89 percent of owners offering it a recommendation. There are some reports of units that failed shortly after purchase, but the pressure washer is backed by a strong three-year warranty -- one of the longest of any residential pressure washer -- and users add that if you get a lemon, it can be returned no-questions-asked within 90 days to Home Depot. Some users are also disappointed with the cleaning power, though it's on a par with other electric pressure washers of the same grade. However, the overwhelming majority award this Ryobi pressure washer 5 or 4 stars.
It's rated at 1,700 PSI and with a water output of up to 1.5 GPM -- plenty for most residential chores, though well short of what you will get from most gas powered pressure washers, covered elsewhere in this report. It includes three nozzles: a high-powered turbo nozzle that's appropriate for cleaning grimy brick and masonry (though bear in mind our comments regarding the safety of such nozzles in the introduction of this report). There's also a 15 degree nozzle that's appropriate for most surfaces (though caution should be used with less durable surfaces) and a low pressure soap and rinse nozzle. There's also a soap tank on board and wheels for easy moving. There's no hose reel, but TheFamilyHandyman.com notes that the hose is both high quality and highly flexible, which will aid in ease of use.
The Sun Joe SPX3000 (Est. $150) is also worth considering. It costs about the same as the Ryobi, but is a little more feature rich and a little more powerful, with ratings of 2,030 PSI and 1.76 GPM. However, it only gets okay reviews from the credible experts that have tested it. ConsumerReports.org dings it a little for low power; it will clean effectively, it's just the job will take longer, but that's common with many electric pressure washers. It also has a relatively short, 20 foot hose (by comparison, the Ryobi has a 25 foot hose). On the plus side, it's relatively quiet, and easy to use, maneuver and store. YourBestDigs.com has the Sun Joe as a close runner up. The editors ran into some problems in assembly --exacerbated by some sharp plastic edges on the body of the machine that cut testers during set up and use. However, the machine was rated to be a good performer for an electric machine -- you'll want something else to remove paint, but typical cleaning tasks are handled with ease.
But while expert reviews are a little meh, users like the Sun Joe just as much as the Ryobi, and there's even more owner feedback. It earns a 4.3 star score at Amazon.com based on more than 3,200 reviews. At HomeDepot.com, while some feedback is originally posted at the manufacturer's web site, the Sun Joe SPX3000 earns a 4.5 star rating and 92 percent of the roughly 780 owners that weigh in give it a recommendation.
On the features front, you'll find two soap tanks that can carry different detergents, letting you switch from one cleaning task to the other without having to empty and refill the tank. There are also five quick change nozzles, -- zero, 15, 25 and 40 degrees, plus a low-pressure soap nozzle.
The company also offers the step up Sun Joe SPX3001 (Est. $180). It essentially identical to the SPX3000 except that it adds a hose reel for neater storage. User reviews are less plentiful, but no less positive. It earns a score of 4.4 stars at Amazon.com based on nearly 250 reviews, while at HomeDepot.com, the rating is 4.5 stars based on nearly 100 reviews.
Cheap pressure washers are rarely reviewed by experts, and when they do, they tend to get mediocre ratings at best. However, as long as expectations are kept reasonable, we found that homeowners don't have to empty their wallets to find a pressure washer that can handle light duty jobs more than adequately. Durability might be a concern in some cases, but experts say that by carefully following operating and maintenance instructions, users can get the most from their pressure washers.
The Sun Joe SPX1000 (Est. $85) is about the least expensive pressure washer you can buy. It's also one of the lightest weight models, coming in at just under 12 pounds. The power is limited -- it's rated at 1,450 PSI and 1.45 GPM -- and there's no detergent tank (an accessory detergent bottle, the Sun Joe SPX1DT (Est. $12) is available, but it doesn't get terrific feedback from users). Those factors lead ConsumerReports.org to not give it a very high rating, but owners seem very pleased anyway. It earns a 4.2 star rating at Amazon.com based on 380 reviews. At HomeDepot.com, it gets less feedback -- just under 60 reviews are posted -- but similar satisfaction with a 4.2 star rating and recommendations from 93 percent of owners.
The key to satisfaction seems to be understanding what this pressure washer can and can't do. It's not suitable for stripping paint or digging years of grime out of masonry. But for cleaning out a barbeque after use, or knocking dirt and mildew off of a patio, deck, siding, etc., it does the job with a minimum of muss and fuss.
Users like that the wheeled unit is fairly maneuverable, plus it is compact for easy storage. There's only a single adjustable tip, and the unit won't accept quick connect pressure nozzles. For that you'd need to step up to the pricier Sun Joe SPX3000.