Because pressure washing equipment squirts water, commercial pressure washers must be very careful about preparing their machines for cold weather. Water grows 9 percent as it freezes. If any water is left in your machine, it could break internal components as plummeting temperatures cause it to expand.
Below, we explain how to ready an industrial pressure washer for a freezing spell. We also discuss the most extreme temperatures at which commercial pressure washers may be safely operated and provide further tips on using commercial pressure washers in low temperatures.
At all costs, do not let your industrial pressure washer freeze. Should your pressure washing equipment freeze, it will likely break. Avoid costly repairs by storing your pressure washer in a dry, warm place if frigid weather is in the forecast.
If your industrial pressure washer is mounted to a vehicle, you may need to keep it warm with an electric heater. A 500-watt halogen bulb may be directed at the pump to prevent it from freezing. If cold weather has caught you unprepared and you don’t have a warm storage area available, your best hope is to cover the entire industrial pressure washer in a tarp. This will trap some heat next to the machine and may provide a temporary solution in short cold snaps.
Alternatively, you can run recirculating warm water through the water pumps to prevent the water tanks from freezing. The best way to protect your industrial pressure washer is to flush with anti-freeze. If you have plenty of prep time, the best defense for your pressure washing equipment is to wash it out with antifreeze. Auto or RV antifreeze will work, as will windshield wiper fluid. Be sure to check the freezing point of whatever liquid you will be using – some windshield wiper fluids don’t offer protection below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Flush the antifreeze through the entire system. Begin by filling the float tank with the antifreeze solution.
Next, turn on the industrial pressure washer to send the antifreeze through the hose, pushing out water ahead of it. To protect the machine’s plumbing, coils, hoses and pump, take the spray tip off and insert the wand into the float tank. Pump the trigger gun on and off for two minutes to send antifreeze into the unloader bypass line.
Finally, if your machine is capable of spraying chemical cleaners, you’ll need to flush out the chemical line hose separately. Fortunately, you can capture and reuse the same five gallons of antifreeze throughout this entire process. If your pressure washing equipment doesn’t have a float tank, fill up a five-gallon bucket with antifreeze; this is the reservoir that the water intake hose will pull from.
The second best way to protect pressure washing equipment: Flush out water with air. If for some reason you cannot carry out the anti-freeze method, you can send most of the water out with pressurized air. This entails basically operating your commercial pressure washer “on empty,” with no water going through. The concept here is that the pressurized air forces the water out of the industrial pressure washer’s parts. The air pressure method is imperfect; it may not get all water out of the lowest coils. Therefore, this approach is not recommended except in emergencies.
Be wary of low temperatures when operating your industrial pressure washer. Wind chill must be taken into account when running commercial pressure washers in cold conditions. If the air is still, it is generally safe to operate pressure washing equipment on the hot water setting when the temperature is between 15 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot water prevents the machine from freezing. (Don’t try to run a cold-water pressure washer in below-freezing temperatures; this is just asking for trouble.)
Wind alters this formula. If it’s a windy day, you should stop using your hot-water pressure washing equipment when the temperature hits 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that operating a pressure washer in below-freezing surroundings will result in a good deal of ice, something that many businesses must eliminate to avoid liability lawsuits. If you must perform a pressure washing job when it’s very cold out, be prepared. Bring ice-busting substances, such as rock salt or calcium chloride, to avoid turning the surrounding concrete driveway into an ice-skating rink. A few more tips for using commercial pressure washers in low temperatures:
• Chemicals will take longer to work in cold conditions, since all chemical reactions slow down as temperature drops. Don’t let your cleaning chemicals freeze; freezing separates the chemical components in most cleaners, rendering them useless.
• Don’t point your pressure washer at door jambs, locks, brake drums or steps in freezing weather. Water can break these objects when it freezes on them.
• Try to take advantage of solar heat. The warmest part of a day is generally between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; clean during these times, and aim to clean in full sunlight whenever possible.