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Size Efficiency For Pressure Washers

Size Efficiency For Pressure WashersFirst-time equipment customers toss and turn every day about what pressure washer to buy. Generally, they are trying to buy a minimal piece of equipment today with the idea that they will be able to afford a better machine tomorrow. This is flawed logic, and one of the biggest reasons so many start-up companies fail.

That “minimal” machine will never make you efficient. It will force you to bid high and make less per job. This is the simple truth, usually discovered only after years of experience dealing with lesser equipment.

Let’s not even talk about pressure washers that deliver less than 4 GPM. A person who buys that little amount of rinsing power will likely never make any money as a contractor.

The simple truth is that bigger, better equipment sets the level of pricing that customers are willing to pay. If I can get the job done in an hour with my big equipment, the price of that job is capped at $150 to $200. That is where I will bid the work, and no customer will be willing to pay you more because you have smaller equipment.

It also doesn’t make any difference if it takes the guy with the 3 GPM cold water machine three hours to do the job – the price is set by the big equipment. That 3 GPM guy is limited to making his $50 to $70 per hour, and he will never make enough to survive as a contractor.

The fellow who CAN get the job done in an hour is now making his $150 - $200 per hour. He does more jobs per day, feeds his family well, and takes his wife out to dinner on Friday night.

The difference between these two scenarios is striking.

Looking at the other side of the equation, think about the guy who buys the biggest equipment available. He looks for 8 GPM and above because he understands that rinsing power is everything. The problem for him is that cities do not often deliver 8 or more GPM to their water sources. As much as I love the power I feel standing behind a trigger gun delivering 8 GPM, I can work smarter with a smaller machine. The 8 GPM contractor hauls 525 gallons of water to every job to feed his thirsty rig. Problem is, he runs out of water every hour and needs to go fill up. At six gallons per minute, it takes an hour and a half to refill the water his rig drinks every hour!

The solution? There are two. 1) A faster way to fill, such as a fire hydrant. While he can fill the tank in a matter of minutes from a hydrant, the contractor is stopping work and moving his trailer for twenty minutes for every hour he works! To use a hydrant, he often has to buy a permit and a meter and carry documentation that he has paid for the privilege of tapping a hydrant in any particular town. 2) When you haul 525 gallons and still tie in to city water. In that case, you only need to make up about 2 GPM in shortfall, so the 525-gallon water tank will last about a half day. You still have to stop to refill at least once per day.

If 3 GPM is too small and 10 GPM is too large, how does a guy maximize his efficiency and make the most amount of money with the least amount of wasted time? Choosing the largest GPM machine that can be fed by municipal water sources will minimize wasted time and maximize efficiency.

(It’s easy to check the water flow output in your city. Place a 5-gallon pail under a hose bib and carefully time how long it takes to fill it. If it fills up in 50 seconds or less, you are getting at least 6 GPM.)

The most versatile pressure washer in the industry is a 5 – 5.5 GPM hot water skid. Capable of using municipal water sources, this unit can work non-stop morning ‘til night. Since it doesn’t require hauling water to the job, trailers can be smaller, mileage goes up, safety while driving is improved, and maximum efficiency is achievable. A small buffer tank or float tank provides protection against short-term drops in water supply.

The cost of a small trailer with a 5.5 GPM skid is very reasonable. A single-axle trailer is adequate, usually not longer than 8’. Even brakes are optional, as the fully-loaded trailer usually weighs less than 2600 pounds (even with 100 gallons of buffer-tank water).

The investment in a small trailer like this with brand-new equipment is often less than $7000. We have built “minimal” trailer rigs like this (no reels, for example) for as low as $6000 with a quality brand-new belt-drive Pressure Pro 5.5 GPM machine.

If you do flatwork, this kind of equipment makes exceptional sense. I talked to a contractor at a Roundtable who sets each of his trailers up with two 5.5 GPM machines, a small buffer tank, and a powerful reclaim vacuum. His 2-man crews clean as much as 100,000 square feet of concrete per shift. He bids these jobs at pennies per square foot, and he rakes in $375 per hour per 2-man crew at that rate. He is making money the smart way.

Even residential contractors would see the benefit of using a 5.5 GPM hot water skid over a 3 or 4 GPM cold water machine. The hot water unit will cut driveway cleaning time in half. Warm water (not hot, but that’s another article) speeds up house washing, and makes your house wash chemicals work great even in the cooler months. Leave the burner off when you clean a wood deck or fence, and everything is fine. The payback for a residential contractor depends on the number of house washes and drives he does. If you save an hour a day and you aim for $150 per hour, the $3000 price difference in the equipment will take 20 working days to pay for itself – about a month. After it pays for itself, the machine starts paying YOU.

Let’s go back to Mr. First Time Buyer. He or she comes into our store looking for something cheap. He first asks what a direct-drive cold water machine goes for, and starts talking about how little he would have to spend at HD to buy one. In his mind, he is doing the smartest thing – hanging on to his money very tightly. He sees nothing dumb about spending up to $1000 on a machine that will certainly get beat into the ground within a few years trying to do what the big guys do. It will take him twice as long on average to clean any surface he goes after (compared to the 5.5 GPM hot water skid). He will make less money and probably drop out of the picture after a couple of frustrating years while dreaming about buying better equipment someday.

If he took that same $1000, he could do things a lot differently. He could, for example, put $600 down on a $6000 trailer rig. He could take the remaining $400 and put it aside for payments. (That $400 would make approximately 3 payments on this rig while the guy gets his business together and starts pulling in money.)

I have heard all of the arguments against taking on added debt, but this is simple business. Business means risk and reward, and the people who start out with the right equipment are facing less risk because the rewards roll in faster and bigger than the guys who scrimp at the start. Simple and easy.

We have been teaching this approach for years. It kills me to watch different people make the same mistakes year after year.

I listened in recently at a couple of Roundtables and loved finding out just how many experienced contractors have figured this formula out. Buy your equipment wisely, and cut the time between start-up and success in half. Call me and I will explain how leasing a trailer like this is virtually free to a contractor.


Size Efficiency For Pressure Washers