August 18, 2017

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X-Jet Vs. Downstreaming: The Great Debate, by Allison Hester

X-Jet Vs. Downstreaming: The Great Debate, by Allison Hester

It’s the age-old industry debate, and one that apparently still gets contractors fired up. X-Jetting versus downstreaming. Which is better for reaching and cleaning heights from the ground?

To find out, I asked eClean readers for their opinions, and boy did they have some! But before I get into the survey results, I want to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to understanding how both processes work and the pros and cons of each.

The Basics Behind the X-Jet

In the late 1980s, Mike Baker, Sr., who had been washing houses for over a decade, was standing on a ladder trying to wash the high dormers of a home when the ladder slipped out from underneath him. That unfortunate incident led to the creation of one of the all-time favorite accessories of the pressure washing industry – the X-Jet nozzle.

The X-Jet is a nozzle that connects to the end of the pressure washing gun and allows contractors to shoot chemicals up to 40 feet high. What’s unique about the X-Jet is that it is an external chemical system. In other words, the chemicals do not go through the pressure washing system at all – only the nozzle.

The X-Jet comes with a 15-foot hose that has a shut off valve and strainer. You place one end of the chemical hose into the bucket of chemicals you need to use, then the other end connects into the X-Jet nozzle. The system uses the Venturi effect to suction the chemical through the hose and out the stainless steel nozzle.

The X-Jet system also comes with a set of 14 color-coded proportioners that, when used, automatically proportion your chemical to the mix that you want.

“We find that a lot of contractors don’t use the proportioners, but they are such a valuable part of the X-Jet system,” explained Ken Sapic of Xterior Sales and Service, manufacturers of the X-Jet nozzle. The color-coded proportioners automatically dilute the water-to-chemical ratio with your X-Jet, based on the size of the machine. Ken added, “The proportioners make it easy. You don’t have to do math to figure out the mix ratios, and you can change your mix ratio at any point during the cleaning process.”xjet proportioner chart

And Ken is right, at least according to the eClean survey. Of those who said they use an X-Jet nozzle, 45 percent said they do not use the proportioner tips. Some who do use the proportioner tips only use one or two specific colors.

Nathan Arhelger of Squeegee Clean Services said he was introduced to the X-Jet 10 years ago by his predecessor and has continued to use it to this day. He explained, “I do mostly residential and I always use the black proportioner.”

Kirk Ott from Aqua-Nomics Xterior Cleaning said, “I carry two X-Jet nozzles with me on every job – typically one with the red proportioner and the other with the tan. I only use the tan on the bad north/northeast sides of a house. This works really well and conserves chemicals.”

In addition to the original X-Jet, Xterior Sales and Service also manufactures the M5 X-Jet, which has a variable spray pattern from 0 to 60 degrees for more versatility. Ott said, “I call the X-Jet M5 the ‘miracle nozzle’ because it can go from full stream to fat fan instantly. We’re able to go from watering plants gently – obviously with the injector valve shut off on the hose – to shooting chemicals on a house in seconds.”

First the Pros: xjet 2

  1. It’s easier on your equipment. With an X-Jet, no chemical goes through any parts, so you save wear your hose, your reels, your wands, you guns, and so on. Brian Barrett of Be Clean Window Cleaning said, “The X-Jet works well for the type of residential work that I do and I like that chemicals are only introduced at the end of the gun, not through the whole run of hoses.”
  1. It allows for stronger chemical mixes. Using the correct proportioner, an X-Jet lets you get as strong as a 2:1 mix.

“I usually prefer to downstream, but the X-Jet is so reliable as a backup or if I need really strong concentrations,” said John Burdine, Pressure Point Cleaners. 

  1. It creates accurate chemical mixes easily. Again, the proportioners do the work for you. No math. No guesswork.

“You really need to use the proportioners so that you control the flow of the chemical injected,” said Rafael Ramirez of Xtream Clean. “Otherwise you’re really just using guesswork.”

  1. It allows you to adjust your chemical mixes. Change proportioners and you immediately change your mix ratio.

“With the X-Jet, I can mix ratios of sodium hypochlorite and surfactant for different areas of the house or building as we go along,” said Rick Kadletz of Mid Missouri Window Cleaning Co. “Downstreaming requires working out of a big tank with one mixture for all.”

  1. It saves on chemical usage. With downstreaming, you have to clean your line of chemicals before water comes through. With the X-Jet, you can immediately switch from soap to rinse without wasting any chemicals.

“Another reason we X-Jet is because when you switch your tip you have instant fresh water for rinsing and watering grass and plants,” said Chris Dubbs of The Wash Wizards.

  1. It works with longer lengths of hose, as well as on hills. As we will cover momentarily, downstream injection is limited by the amount of hose used as well as by gravity.

“While I prefer downstreaming, I use the X-Jet when using 300 or more feet of hose, then rinse with my own long-range tips that I created,” said Henry Bockman of Commercial Restorations.

Now the Cons

  1. Noise. Some find the sound of the X-Jet is too “annoying” to use.
  1. The hose is “awkward.” Being tethered by the X-Jet hose is bothersome to some, and if you’re working around landscaping, your hose can get tangled.
  1. The Bucket. This is the big one, and seems to be the main reason some prefer to downstream. Several said they don’t like carrying a bucket around, and a few have had issues with knocking the bucket over while cleaning. “Many contractors are unaware that Xterior offers an enclosed pail system accessory for the X-Jet to prevent spilling,” Ken Sapic pointed out.

“It can definitely be more work carrying my chemical bucket around, but then again there is less walking back and forth to my machine,” said Arhelger, who said he prefers the X-Jet. However, “most guys that work for me don’t like this method because the bucket is pretty heavy.”

“I find that by using two-person teams, packing the bucket becomes less of an issue,” said Kadletz. “Plus, the extra person can help scrub if needed, drag hoses, as well as serve as a spotter for the washer. These roles can be reversed to help prevent fatigue.”

The Basics of Downstreaming

The other popular option for applying chemicals is by downstreaming. This means the chemicals enter the pressure washing system via a downstream chemical injector inserted on the pressure side of the pump. This keeps corrosive chemicals from entering into the pump, so it’s better for your pump than upstreaming (i.e., chemicals going through the pump), although they do still run through several components. Downstreaming is also better than upstreaming in that the pump does not have to work under a vacuum to draw detergent, which puts less stress on the pump packings.

As Michael Hinderliter of PowerWash.com explains in a video on his website, three things can cause your injector to stop working.
One is using a high pressure nozzle. If you use a setup where you are able to switch from low pressure soaping to high pressure rinsing (as demonstrated in the video), you do not have to run back to your machine to remove the chemical hose from the bucket.

 

An example of the J-Rod. Photo provided by Ryan Wilkins. featuring the new Kynar sniper nozzle on the left.
An example of the J-Rod. Photo provided by Ryan Wilkins. featuring the new Kynar
sniper nozzle on the left.

Another popular option is the J-Rod, which is is sold by Pressure Tek. This handy tool holds four of your favorite nozzles in one convention tool. “The J-Rod from Pressure Tek is amazing!” said William Higgison of Aquavation Mobile Wash.

The second thing that will cause a downstream injector to not work is using too much pressure hose, as the longer the hose, the greater the resistance there is to push water through the hose.

The third problem is gravity. When the low pressure nozzle is raised higher than the downstream injector, such as when working on a hill or from a ladder or lift, the downstream injector will stop drawing chemical.

Long Range Nozzles

To reach greater heights when downstreaming, a number of companies – and individual contractors – have developed long-range nozzles. These attach to the end of the gun and shoot water higher. “A long-range tip for downstreaming is hard to beat for ease of application,” said Erich Kreig of AMC Services. “They are a really nice accessory to have.”

Several professional manufacturers make long range nozzles – and have for years – but over the years, a number of contractors have elected to make their own. For example, John Orr of Low-Pressure Exterior Cleaning said when he started his company back in 1999, he was looking for a way to shoot his cleaning solution further. “For awhile, I drilled out zero degree tips, but wound up breaking a lot of drill bits.” It was at a roundtable event that he first saw how to make shooter tips by using hose barbs in ¼-inch quick connects.

Guy Blackmon, owner of Pressure Kleen Power Washing Service, started making his own “Shooter Tips” back around 2009. “I wasn’t satisfied with the products that were on the market. Being a gun guy, I used the principle of a rifle being able to shoot farther than a pistol, and made my tips longer than what was on the market,” he explained. “I also wanted them to last.”

After showing them to some fellow contractors at various industry-related events, contractors began asking for them. So earlier this year, Blackmon started offering his tips in larger production through the “Original Shooter Tip” Facebook page. He stressed that he will only sell his tips to professional contractors, and he requires some sort of proof – such as a company website – to ensure that those buying tips are serious about their pressure washing businesses.

Andrew Krume of Absolute Pro Wash has used Guy’s Original Shooter Tips. “They work well, providing a fat stream to shoot a little farther and also knock down wasp nests and dirt dobbers.”

“People have commented tht my shooter tips are just a round stock with a hole drilled in them, but I assure you they are more than that. I’ve gone through several prototypes to get them where they are today.” Blackmon’s tips are made from stainless steel, so they are corrosion resistant and difficult to break or bend. “The only reason you should need to replace them is if you lose them.”

Which is one of the reasons Ryan Wilkins of Beacon Roof and Exterior Cleaning started making his own tips. For years he purchased brass nozzles from a Florida dealer who sold locally. When the distributor retired, Wilkins needed an alternative. He tried Blackmon’s tips, which “worked great,” but his technicians kept losing them.

“I wanted something less expensive and lighter weight,” he explained, so he worked with a machinist to create an aluminum nozzle for his own technicians to use. Like with Blackmon, word got out and contractors started asking for them. Now Wilkins produces and sells the “Sniper Nozzle” nationwide.

“The Sniper Nozzle works great,” said Michael Stacer of Coast2Coast Pressure Cleaning. “I have tested all of them and like it the best.”

Another nozzle that recently entered the market is the Assassin Nozzle from PowerWash.com. These, too, are made from aluminum and they feature two flat notches so a wrench can fit on them for easy tightening. These come in different sizes for different sized machines.

Which leads to one of the concerns from some contractors about these long range nozzles. Some say they only work well with higher gpm (i.e., 8-plus) machines. “I’ve used three different kinds and they all seem to need some development,” said Mike Kidwell of East Coast Power Washing. “The stream is too messy and unconcentrated on the lower gpm machines.”

So nozzle manufacturers are beginning to create different nozzles for different sized machines. For example, another contractor – James VanHandel of Innovative Pressure Wash – now manufactures his brass “Innovative Shooter Tips” in six different sizes so that they match different machines, ranging from 2-point-5 to 12 gpm.

Wilkins, too, is now introducing a variety of nozzles based on different sized machines. To make it easy for technicians out in the field to determine which nozzles goes with which size machine, he is also anodizing the aluminum in different colors. Finally, he is about to introduce new nozzles made from Kynar, an “extremely corrosion-resistant plastic.”

Ott, who earlier called his M5 X-Jet a ‘miracle nozzle’ said he’d be willing to use a long-range downstreaming nozzle, but “only if it has an adjustable spray/fan tip.”

Xterior Sales and Service is introducing a new and improved M5DS Twist downstreaming nozzle. The stainless steel M5DS comes in three sizes to match machines ranging from two to 12 gpm. “This nozzle eliminates the constant switching back and forth of nozzles to achieve different heights or spray patterns,” explained Xterior’s Dana Sapic. “Simply give it a twist for a long range, tight zero-degree pattern or also twist to a wide 65-degree pattern and any spray pattern needed in between. This can be done even with the trigger pulled while applying the cleaning solution.”

Downstreaming Pros and Cons

First the Pros:

  1. Downstreaming requires no bucket. Again, the bucket seemed to be the biggest complaint that people had about using the X-Jet. With downstreaming, there’s no bucket to tote around.
  1. Potentially faster. This is another downstream/x-jetting debate, but some have found downstreaming to be a faster way to clean.

“I used to X-Jet only for years so I am quite experienced with that method, but downstreaming will beat X- Jetting in speed and efficiency on house washing without question,” explained Len Sutton of Sea to Summit Pressure Washing, LLC.

Others disagree, however. “I’ve used both and our X-jet setup blows away downstreaming big time,” said John Tornabene of Clean County Powerwashing.

Disadvantages

  1. Wears on equipment. With downstreaming, the chemical goes through the hoses, reels, lances and guns, which leads to faster wear.
  1. Hose length and gravity limitations.
  1. Weaker chemical ratios. Downstreaming limits the strength of your chemical mix.
  1. Less accurate chemical ratios. What you mix in your chemical bucket is not necessarily the same as what hits the object to be cleaned.
  1. More wasted chemical. Chemicals have to empty out of the system before you can rinse.
  1. Can potentially require more trips back and forth to the machine.

X-Jet vs. Downstreaming

So, now for the real question. Which is preferred? X-Jetting or downstreaming?

I posed this question to eClean readers in a recent survey. The results, while a small sampling of our readership and unscientific, may provide a little insight. Of the 173 readers who responded, 39 percent said they preferred downstreaming, 30 percent preferred X-Jetting, and 27 percent said they liked both methods. (The remaining four percent said they don’t use either method.)

That being said, several of the people who answered that they preferred one method over the other added that there were times when they used the alternative method.

“I look at it like a toolbox. A wrench is a great tool to have, but it can’t do everything. Sometimes you need a hammer,” said Blackmon. So even though he created and sells his own downstreaming tips, he still uses an X-Jet when he needs stronger chemical application.

Similarly, VanHandle said his guys generally prefer the X-Jet to downstreaming, even with his tips. “We do a lot of large condominiums where we need to use a long amount of hoses, and downstreaming just won’t work,” he explained. “But my guys also just like the X-Jet. The bucket doesn’t seem to bother them.”

“Downstreaming is great for most residential work, but for commercial, if we are using a lift, the X-Jet is the way to go,” explained Eric Wulff of Wash Authority. “Both have their place.”

Downstreaming is preferred over the X-Jet when fleet washing. For houses and buildings, the response was mixed, and largely depended on the situation.

Finally, “If you’re out on a job and your downstreamer fails for some reason – and they do – the X-Jet will work like a charm,” said Sutton.

Which is one of the key points that Dana Sapic of Xterior Sales and Service wants to make. “We feel the X-Jet is an excellent tool even for downstreamers as it will work in a pinch when your downstreamer fails, you are pulling from longer lengths of hose, or you need a stronger mix, and it works every time.”

Not only do the X-Jets work, they last. “We have people who are still using the same X-Jets that they bought back in the ‘90s.”

“Both tools have their specific uses,” concluded Michael Edwards of Boston Power Wash, LLC. “Both have helped the industry and I would not be able to do jobs without them.”

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