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Pressure Washing Cold Weather Hints and Tips

    • DO NOT LET YOUR WASHER FREEZE! If possible, store your pressure washer in a warm place. Automatic bathroom or "Milk House" electric heaters work well in small areas like small garages and inside of enclosed vehicles (vans, bobtails, trailers).For Natural Gas and LP Gas water heaters the pilot lights provide heat at the base of your heater coils. Block off the stack to capture additional pilot light heat.Heat lamps or 500 watt halogen light next to the pump under a tarp or cardboard box helps protect the pump. If you cover the entire wash rig with a tarp you can protect the entire rig if it’s not too cold for too long.Automatic kerosene (torpedo heaters) & Natural Gas heaters will protect larger areas. Connect these to automatic thermostats. Thermostats on short plug-in extension cords are about $35.00 at your local hardware store.Infrared LP gas heaters also work well. Heat from these heaters can be quite intense so watch for fire hazards.Water Tanks can be kept from freezing over night by installing recirculating water pumps to keep the water moving. Install a water filter to clean your water as it is recirculating.If you heat the inside of an enclosed vehicle (Bobtail or Van) with snow or ice on top you may melt the snow or ice. When the water runs down the sides of the vehicle this may freeze again locking the doors and windows in place making it difficult to gain entry.An enclosed vehicle (van, step van, bobtail, enclosed trailer, etc.) offers protection against theft in addition to weather protection. Insulate the inside of your vehicle for additional protection against the cold weather. If you store your vehicle inside of a heated garage short travels of an hour or less can usually be made without the pressure washer freezing.A lot of garages and garage doors are un-insulated. Insulating the garage and garage doors offers additional protection against the cold weather. Light weight Styrofoam panels are easily attached to garage doors.

      Caution: Do not put combustibles next to your heat source, or items that could melt.

    • If your washer is going to freeze, the best way to protect your washer is with automotive anti-freeze, RV anti-freeze, or windshield washer fluid (Note: Be sure and check the freezing point of the fluid you are using. Some windshield washer fluids do not protect below freezing). Fill up your empty float tank with anti-freeze then start up your washer and push out the water with anti-freeze, (Note, most hot high pressure washers hold about 5 gallons). Remove your spray tip from your wand and insert it into the float tank. Re-circulate the anti-freeze for 2 minutes while turning the Trigger Gun on and off to force antifreeze into the by-pass line of the unloader. This will protect your pump, coils, hoses and plumbing. This should protect everything except the chemical line hose which you will need to do separately while recirculating the antifreeze.Use a 5-gallon jug to capture the anti-freeze for reuse. If you start out with 5 gallons of pure antifreeze it should last you all winter if you recapture it each time. If you have any questions on this call Mark Demko, Larry, or Robert for technical support at: 800-433-2113.If your unit does not have a float tank, use a 5-gallon bucket and insert the water intake hose into it.For pressure washers without float tanks that are hooked to water tanks you can install a 3/4" or 1" 3-way ball valve (T-valve) with a short piece of hose in the inlet water line to introduce the antifreeze with. This way it is not necessary to disconnect the water line from the water tank.

 

  • The next best way to protect your unit from freezing is to blow out the water with air pressure. Be careful with this method. Water will collect in low places and still break your washer. This is especially true if you move your washer after blowing out the water on vehicle mounted pressure washers. The vibration will collect water droplets in low places, especially in the heater coils.The packing and the valves in the high pressure pump may not completely dry when blowing out the water with air. If you start up the pump before it thaws out the valves may stick closed and the packing may stick to the ceramic plungers and tear it up.An emergency supply of air is the "canned air" sold at auto supply stores for emergency tire inflation.
  • Your washer will freeze going down the highway with a reported air temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit. That is because of the cooler temperatures in low places. Remember that air temperature varies normally 2 to 6 degrees in a given region going up and down high and low places.
  • In calm air hot water washing can be done to 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It depends on how your customer can tolerate ice on the ground or pavement (See the next item). In blowing wind hot water washing can be done to about 34 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible wash in direct sunlight to take advantage of thermal heating.
  • If your wash water runs across sidewalks or driveways and freezes, salt or sand these areas down for safety. Always carry a bucket of rock salt or sand for your customer's safety. Note: Rock Salt will give the people a rough surface to walk on for better traction.Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride are also use for melting ice. However, these products leave an oily residue and present a "slip" hazard. Magnesium Chloride is a naturally occurring salt that is mixed with anticorrosive agents and sprayed on roads prior to winter storm to prevent ice from forming and bonding to road surfaces. There have been some health and corrosion issues with Magnesium Chloride which is used primarily in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Utah, and Washington.Rock Salt presents a maintenance and corrosion issue. And the dyes in some ice melting chemicals can stain shoes, side walks, door frames, carpets, etc.
  • Aluminum brightening and acid cleaning do not work well below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember the sun, direct sun light will raise surface temperature several degrees.
  • You can pull open trailer wash rigs with water tanks down the highway in freezing temperatures by putting your wash wand into your 500 gallon water tank and firing up the water heater and recirculating the water as go down the road. If you are only going a short distance or if the temperature is not very cold (like 15 to 20°F) it may not be necessary to turn on the water heater. In this case this procedure will also work for cold water pressure washers connected to water tanks.
  • Keep your water supply hoses flowing with water, water out of the ground will be about 50 degrees Fahrenheit in most areas. If your water supply or high pressure hoses run across the cold ground they will freeze in a few minutes in sub-zero temperatures.
  • The average ground water summer to winter water temperature variation is about 30°F. Most oil fired high pressure water heaters raise the inlet water temperature 120 to 140°F with the burner running continuously. With the reduction of inlet water temperature in the winter you need to increase your fuel nozzle one or two sizes. Then in the spring you need to change the fuel nozzle again and reduce the fuel nozzle by one or two sizes.
  • Chemicals work slower in cold weather. Plan on using more chemicals and extra dwell time for the chemicals to work.
  • Do not let your chemicals freeze. Store in a dry, warm place. Liquid chemicals will usually separate upon freezing.
  • Protect yourself in cold weather with: 1) rain suits, 2) over shoes, 3) hard hats with rain troughs to keep water from going down the back of your neck and with face shields to protect your eyes and face, 4) thermal underwear, and 5) gauntlet gloves with jersey inserts. Turn the gauntlet back so that water will not run down you arm. 6) Keep extra dry gloves available.Exercise caution as ice may form on your gloves, hard hat, shoes, etc.Winter clothing generally arrives at stores in September. If you wait until cold weather occurs your store may be out of the items you need. Plan ahead and buy while the selection is the greatest.
  • On days you cannot wash do sales calls and equipment maintenance. Call Powerwash.com at 800-433-2113 and order spare parts. Plan ahead and save time.
  • Below freezing work: vent-a-hoods; in-plant cleaning; produce warehouses, limo garages, inside factories, automotive garages, car dealer repair shops, de-icing of: aircraft, oil field drilling rigs, refineries, manufacturing plants with outside water piping, etc. Look for anything that will be inside cleaning with a pressure washer.
  • You can drain your water hose by disconnecting it at each end, laying it out in a straight line, and then walking down the hose passing the hose over your shoulder.
  • Be careful where you point your spray: door locks, brake drums, door jams, and steps will freeze after you spray water on them. If you use 180 degree to 200 degree Fahrenheit, hot water evaporation will help minimize the icing problem. Sometimes you can minimize the freezing by opening and closing doors and operating the locks. Also you can spray with WD-40 with the long red needle adapter into door locks and mechanisms. Put some WD-40 on a rag and wipe on the rubber weather seals of the doors.
  • Sheathing Wax added to the rinse water like W-200 Spray Wax will help the water slide off faster, thus speeding the drying process, and reduce icing. Depending on the temperature a leaf blower may also help in blowing off the water to reduce icing. This also can increase the freezing rate if not used properly.
  • When washing reefer trailer make sure the units are running, this will help minimize icing.
  • Avoid washing in the shade. Direct sun light heats up skin temperature rapidly. Try to have the fleet owner park vehicles in the sun. The hottest part of the day for Deck Cleaning is 11:00 am until 3:00 pm.
  • If you walk on a lot of ice, use boot chains or shoes with spikes. Remember ice is really slick. Caution: The force from the surge of pressure at the trigger gun from a pressure actuated unloader can slide you backwards on ice or knock you down! While the force at the trigger gun from flow actuated unloaders may slide you backwards.
  • Mount your pressure washing equipment in an enclosed trailer, Bobtail Truck, or Step Van and insulate the inside.
  • Start your washing activities later in the day after the sun has had time to warm items up, like after 10:00 a.m.
  • Drop a small electric water pump (like those used for waterfall displays) with a 3' hose attached into the water tank. Water in motion will delay the freezing of the water tank. Also small submersible water heaters work good in water tanks for keeping the water above freezing.
  • When traveling short distances you can disconnect your pressure washer from the water tank and only antifreeze the pressure washer, hoses, etc. Put a plug into the water tank. When you arrive at the job site remove the plug and use a screwdriver and knock out the ice.
  • Where practicable cover exposed piping with heat tape. Freeze-protect outside faucets with heat tape or freeze proof valves.
  • You can remove ice from house gutters by heating up the gutter from bottom and sides then removing the ice by hand in 3 to 5 foot sections. Average size home can be done in about an hour.
  • Use indoor fittings with garden hose hook up for the sinks when outside faucets are frozen.
  • If at all possible never travel with your water tank half full. The surging of the water can push you out into an intersection or make you lose control under slippery conditions. Always check the brakes at the beginning of each day!
  • Common add on businesses for supplementing income during the winter months: 1) window washing, 2) New construction cleanup of houses for final walk-throughs, 3) snow removal, 4) chimney cleaning, 5) carpet cleaning 6) yard work and maintenance cleanup, & 7) indoor painting.
  • The best way to keep air lines from freezing is to have one continuous line with a moisture filter at the Compressor. Be sure and drain the Compressor Air Tank regularly to remove the condensation.
  • Window washing can be done in the winter time in below freezing weather. Be aware of the following: Double pane windows freeze faster than single pane windows because single pane windows get heat from the inside; use warm water but not hot water because you may crack the window from thermal stress; add 1/2 to 1 gallon of windshield washer fluid or methanol to a 5 gallon bucket of wash water.
  • Window washers commonly add "Methanol" to their wash water to keep it from freezing. This solves the water freezing problem but not the hand freezing problem. Some Power Washers also use this technique and add Methanol to their wash water. They purchase the Methanol from their Oil or Diesel Fuel Supplier or a Solvent Specialty Company by the 55 gallon drum. How much to add. Depends of the ambient conditions. Start out at about 5% and adjust from there.
  • Winter Storage of Pressure Washers:A. Antifreeze your pressure washer per instructions above. Use automotive antifreeze for storage of your pressure washer. I have personally seen units stored over 5 years with automotive antifreeze with no problems except to clean and free up the pump inlet valves.B. Get a Fuel Stabilizer from an auto parts store and add to the fuel tank to keep your fuel from turning into varnish and having the gaskets in the carburetor go bad.C. Remove the spark plug wires; spray WD-40 into the carburetor while turning over the engine to coat everything with oil.D. Remove the spark plugs and spray with WD-40 into the cylinders or put in some "Marvel Mystery" brand oil. Turn over the engine a few times to coat the cylinder walls.E. Change the engine oil, oil filter and fuel filter. If you do not change the engine oil the sludge will collect on the bottom of the oil pan and solidify. If there is any water in the fuel filter it may freeze and break.F. Top off the Fuel Tank to keep moisture from condensing inside the fuel tank. This will cause rusting of steel fuel tanks and water in the fuel.G. In the spring put in fresh fuel, replace the spark plugs, and start it up. If it is hard to start spray WD-40 into the carburetor intake the same way you would starting fluid. This gives an easier ignition than starting fluid.H. Disconnect the battery to avoid a trickle discharge.

    I. In the spring de-lime the coils with Scaleaway De-liming Acid and add "Red Devil Soot Remover" to your Diesel or Kerosene for your burner. Put a trickle charge on your battery for a couple of hours assure a full charge before starting with WD-40 to establish fuel flow.

  • Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning. When finished have one person turn on the fan on while a 2nd person sprays deicer on the fan. Then leave the fan on. This assures that the fan works and is not out of balance when the morning kitchen crew arrives.
  • Use fall protection equipment when on roofs. You may want to hose down the roof and melt the ice and snow.
  • Sealing Decks: You need 12 to 24 hours of drying time above 50°F before sealing a deck. Use a moisture meter to be sure the deck is dry enough. Follow the manufacturer recommendations of your Deck Sealer you are using. Some Contractors have cut off dates like October 31 of each year to stop sealing wood (Decks, fences, roofs, etc). Decks will be warmest from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm.
  • At what temperature do you quit washing? This is a safety issue. 1) Is it safe to drive on the roads? 2) Can you arrive at the job site safely and without the equipment freezing up? 3) Will you have a safe surface to walk on? Will you be on a roof? Sidewalk? Ice or Snow? Scaffolding? 4) Can your employees drive to work OK? 5) Will the freezing of the waste wash water be a problem? 6) Can the washing be done safely? 7) What will other traffic be like and how skilled are other drivers? What are the chances of a traffic accident?
  • When removing large chunks of ice from vehicles use your zero degree nozzle to cut the ice into small sections. Then direct your spray to break off these smaller sections. This is faster than simply melting the ice. Caution: Beware of flying chunks of ice!
  • Preventing your Bay Doors from Freezing:A. If you have steel rollers change them to magnum type rollers.B. Install proper weather stripping around the door.C. Make sure the door is well lubricated and serviced.D. Insulate the door with Styrofoam panels is not insulated.E. Install a heater at the threshold of the door.H. Keep only one door open at a time to avoid a creating a wind tunnel.
  • Keep pressure hoses and airlines in the cab of the truck to prevent freezing on the way to the job if needed.
  • If you suspect that your pressure washer is frozen proceed with caution:A. Try to rotate your pump by hand to see if it will turn freely. Practice this during warm weather so that you will know what the resistance feels like and you can recognize a frozen pump. Disconnect the spark plugs when doing this to avoid the engine accidently starting.B. Do not turn the burner on until water flow established. Frozen controls may allow the burner to fire without water flow. This could result in a steam explosion.C. It will take about 12 hours in a heated area to thaw out a frozen pressure washer.D. Failure probability due to freezing is: 33% chance of no damage, 33% chance of delayed failure which will occur in 90 days, 33% of immediate failure.E. Caution: We have had Contract Cleaners add gasoline to their kerosene and diesel fuel in order to make the burner hotter. This has resulted in a melt down and failure of the burner assembly. If you need more heat increase the size of your burner nozzle one or two sizes.
  • Hair Dryers and Heat Guns are safer than torches when thawing things out.
  • Tips for pouring concrete:A. Order concrete made with hot water and increase the cement content by about half a bag. Exact amount will depend on the conditions and thickness of the concrete.B. Order air-trained concrete. This provides additional protection against freezing.C. Order low-slump concrete to ease finishing.D. Do not pour concrete on a frozen surface. This includes frost, ice, and rebar that is covered by frost or ice. When poured on frozen ground the concrete will settle as the ground thaws.F. Surfaces and concrete can by insulated with straw, plywood, insulating blankets, or fiberglass insulation between 4 or 6 mil polyethylene sheeting. Polyethylene sheeting alone may be OK if the temperature does not get much below freezing. New concrete should be protected from freezing to avoid cracking or flaking off.H. Place extra insulation around the edges. Faster cooling here can cause cracking. Make sure the concrete cools slowly over two or three days.I. Calcium Chloride flakes or pellets may be placed under the insulation to produce heat. Caution: Calcium Chloride tends to discolor and produce efflorescence.J. Under severe conditions a heat enclosure may be required for several days before the ground is thawed out. Caution: Excessive direct heat can blister the top layer of concrete and cause personal injury. Make sure the enclosure is properly vented.

    K. Concrete needs to be at least 55 degrees at pouring and 50 degrees for two days.



By: Robert M Hinderliter, Powerwash.com, 2513 Warfield St., Fort Worth, Texas 76106-7554. email: robert.hinderliter@powerwash.com ; URL: http://www.powerwash.com ; Phone: 800-433-2113; Fax: 817-625-2059.
Copyright 2011. Powerwash.com. All rights reserved.

 

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One thought on “Pressure Washing Cold Weather Hints and Tips ”

  • Michael Latimer

    Hey, I am new to the pressure washing business, and your articles are really teaching me a lot; you will be saving me money and keeping my pressure washer running with this information.

    Thanks

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