Electric pressure washers are much quieter than gas-powered washers, and better for the environment. A downside is that they're also less powerful than most gas pressure washers, generally rated between 1,500 to 2,000 pounds per square inch (psi). For common household tasks, like cleaning patios, small decks and sidewalks, you can loosen dirt and remove light stains with a pressure washer rated at about 1,800 psi. The faster the flow rate, measured in gallons per minute (gpm), the faster the loosened dirt will be washed away. For lighter tasks like washing a car or outdoor furniture, 1,500 or 1,600 psi is plenty.
Among consumer-grade electric pressure washers priced below about $300, there's really no consensus among reviewers about the best brand. Experts point to some factors that indicate better quality, however, including induction motors, which are quieter and more durable than universal motors. Metal parts and fittings are more durable (and thus desirable) than plastic ones, and an axial cam pump will last longer than a wobble pump. Still, experts say pressure washers in this price range, even when used with care, often don't last far beyond their warranty period. It's critical to get the best warranty and repair service available, and to follow maintenance procedures faithfully.
A few brands stand out among electric power washers, including AR Blue Clean, Briggs & Stratton, and Karcher. The AR Blue Clean AR383 (*Est. $165) is recommended by the staff at retailer PressureWashersDirect.com. (Their recommendations are based on customer feedback and their own experience and knowledge of the products.) The AR Blue Clean AR383 is rated at 1,900 psi, with a water flow rate of 1.5 gpm. Its manufacturer, Annovi Reverberi, is known for its high-quality pumps, and the AR383 uses a triplex plunger pump with tempered stainless steel plungers – very unusual to see in this price range. The big drawback to the AR383 pressure washer is that it uses a universal motor rather than an induction motor.
Only eleven owners have posted reviews of this model on the PressureWashersDirect.com site as of this writing, but they give it a high average rating: 4.6 out of 5. The AR383 pressure washer also gets great reviews from over 130 users posting at Amazon.com; in fact, over 100 of them give it either 4 or 5 stars. Most are pleased with the pressure washer's performance, and many also say that the AR Blue Clean's customer service is excellent.
PressureWashersDirect.com also recommends a cheaper 1,600-psi, 1.6-gpm AR Blue Clean model, the AR141 (*Est. $130). We found very few owner reviews of this model, though -- one on PressureWashersDirect.com and two more at Amazon.com -- but it has the same features as the AR383, including the desirable triplex pump. AR Blue Clean pressure washers come with a one-year warranty.
The Briggs & Stratton 20358 (*Est. $240) is rated at 1,800 psi, 1.6 gpm, and unlike the AR Blue Clean AR383 it has an induction motor. The shortcoming on the 20358 is its axial cam pump, a type considered less durable than triplex pumps. The Briggs & Stratton gets a recommendation as the best in its category from PressureWashersDirect.com, and about 50 owners have posted reviews of it on the website. In addition to its motor and sturdy construction, reviewers like the Briggs & Stratton's two-tank design, which lets you keep two pre-mixed cleaning solutions handy. Owners give it an average rating of 4.4 out of 5; most are satisfied with its performance, although a couple of them say it doesn't have as much power as they expected. Another common complaint centers on the pressure washer's plastic control knobs, especially the one that controls the soap tanks. One owner says he just removed the knob and turns the control with a pair of pliers. The Briggs & Stratton 20358 carries a one-year warranty.
Karcher introduced its new range-topping X Series of electric pressure washers in 2011, with 1,800- and 2,000-psi models that use a new water-cooled induction motor. Both are recommended by product experts at PressureWashersDirect.com. The 1,800-psi K3.740 (*Est. $240) has a flow rate of 1.5 gpm, with onboard accessory storage and one detergent tank. The 2,000-psi K5.740 (*Est. $300) has a 1.4-gpm flow rate, with other features identical to those of the K3.740. Both models have newly designed direct-drive axial pumps and are covered under Karcher's rapid-exchange program during their one-year warranty period.
Since these Karcher pressure washers are relatively new models, we found few owner reviews, but those we did track down are positive overall, both at PressureWashersDirect.com and at Amazon.com. (Amazon.com sells an X-Series model that is virtually identical to the K5.740, under the model number K5.540 (*Est. $270). At PressureWashersDirect.com, the smaller model receives an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 from about six people as of this writing, while the 2,000-psi K.5.740 is rated an average of 4.5 from more than 10 people. There are a few complaints about the plastic quick-connect hose connectors; one owner writes that you should just go ahead and order brass connectors when you order the pressure washer and swap out the stock plastic units.
PressureWashersDirect.com also recommends the 1,600-psi X Series Karcher, the K2.425 (*Est. $160), which has an induction motor, but not the new water-cooled version that the more powerful X Series models have. The K2.425 has a flow rate of 1.2 gpm. Only two owners have posted reviews of the K2.425 on the site, so it's still too early to discuss how this pressure washer performs in actual, real-world use. Amazon.com also sells the K2.425, but no owners have chimed in with reviews of their own as of this writing.