Pressure Washer vs. Jetter

Pressure Washer vs. Jetter


Author: John McBride

OK so we get this question all the time…can I use my pressure washer as a jetter? The short answer is yes (with the right tools). Let’s face it, the basics are the same. The clog, grease, scale, roots and sludge don’t know or care about the name of the machine that is supplying high-pressure water via the jetter nozzle.

But the answer doesn’t stop there, what are the differences between Jetters and pressure washers?

First, and most obvious is the hose and nozzle.  Jetting hose is lightweight, abrasion resistant, slippery, and push able when inside pipe. Jetting nozzles are designed to pull the hose into the line and provide proper cleaning.

So let’s get more detailed about the differences between a Jetter and a pressure washer. Like anything else you might buy for your business, a jetter needs to be effective for the job it’s designed to do. The better it does its job, the more likely it is to become a profit center for your business. Even among pressure washers there is a huge difference between hardware store models and one made for professional cleaning contractors. So here are a few of the basic differences…

Flow (GPM or Gallons Per Minute)

Your typical pressure washer is between 2.5 and 4 Gallons Per Minute. Jetters start at the 4 GPM mark and go up from there, 8-9 GPM for portable models and up to 18-25 GPM for trailer mounted equipment. Our rule of thumb for flow is 1 GPM per 1” of pipe diameter for “normal” flushing and maintenance. Higher GPM is needed for tougher jobs like grease and tree roots. So, your larger pressure washers might be effective for jetting up to 4” pipe. There are specialty nozzles available for jetters to make cleaning more effective however, a lot of the industry’s best tools are not available for lower “pressure washer” sized GPM’s.

Features of Jetters and Pressure Washers

Jetters and pressure washers alike both come with a pump, engine, and some form of pressure control (usually an unloader valve). In most cases that’s where the similarity ends. A professional Jetter will have additional features like a pressure gauge to aid in making adjustments, a pulsation valve to create hose shake when needed, a hose reel with adequate continuous length of jetting hose, multiple jetting nozzles, and a method of turning the flow to the nozzle on and off. Larger units will include a water tank to supply both the right amount of incoming water for the unit and to provide for cooling of the pump for longer periods in bypass (flow is turned off with a valve but the engine is running). A jetter is built specifically to do the job.

Duty Cycle

A much larger segment of the pressure washer market is geared towards homeowners and light duty users. They are often high pressure (2700-3000 PSI) but lower HP (5-7) units, which is the first indication of lower GPM or Gallons Per Minute. These machines are not built with the heavy duty parts like commercial duty equipment. They are most often direct drive pumps and in recent years the trend is going toward even smaller, cheaper built pumps.

Drive Type

Pressure washers and Jetters are divided up into 3 basic drive types. Direct Drive units dominate the pressure washer market and are sold by hardware stores and commercial dealers alike. Some of them are not bad units, just not built for a substantial amount of use. A direct drive basically means 2 things, the pump is directly connected to the engine and the pump runs at the same RPM as the engine. These light duty pumps run hotter, higher RPM, hold less oil and have smaller faster wear parts. Belt Drive units have long been the standard of the commercial industrial cleaning market, with the main benefit being the reduction of speed between pump and engine. Most belt drive pumps run between 1450 and 1750 RPM, are larger than direct drive pumps, run cooler, hold more oil, and are made with bigger heavy duty parts. Belt driven pumps will typically outlast a direct drive pump 4:1. Last but not least, Gearbox Drive pumps offer the same speed reduction benefit and long life of belt drive systems (1450-1600 RPM), higher oil capacity etc… but, offer more space efficient design options due to the compactness of the gear drive vs. the size and spacing needed for a belt driven unit.

When shopping for a jetter also keep in mind that gearbox driven and belt driven units provide better pulsation due to the longer slower plunger stroke.

So can you use a pressure washer for jetting?  Yes. Is it the best option for your business? Probably not…Jetters are designed to be jetters for a reason, because they better serve the needs of the job and those using the equipment!

If you’re not jetting now…get started!

If you would like to share with us how jetting has impacted your business go to our feedback page and let us know. https://jettersnw.wpengine.com/customer-feedback-form/  or connect with us via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jetters-Northwest

John McBride

Jetters Northwest Production Manager

(877) 901-1936