What about pressure drop and recovery?
A few of of the common questions we are asked about any vapor steamer are
Will the machine lose pressure?
How much pressure will be lost?
How fast can it recover to full pressure?
To be honest these questions are a little difficult to answer. But before we get into specifics about our machines, we would like to address creating steam in general, especially at 120 volts.
Different than a pressure washer
A steam cleaner is FAR from a pressure washer. A pressure washer uses a never ending supply of water and its forced through orifices by a pump and the force turns into pressure. A pressure washer is rated in PSI as well, but its so much higher. A really good steam cleaner will be rated at around 100 PSI or up to 135 PSI as in our injection machine. This is GREAT pressure for a steamer but nothing compared to a pressure washer. A pressure washer will be anywhere from 600 PSI to over 3000 PSI for an industrial model. A pressure washer also will use a large amount of water.
But you already know that if you are looking for a steam cleaner. You have already realized that a pressure washer is not what you want or need for your particular cleaning operation. So, crossing that piece of equipment off your list is what you have already done, and you have determined that a steam cleaner is the next best option
What to expect from a vapor steam cleaner
Even though you already know you cannot use a pressure washer for your cleaning need, some peopel still think…….or hope…… the steam cleaner can work almost the same way. It just cant. But with the correct technique, a steamer can be very effective.
A steam cleaner uses an enclosed boiler boiler to create steam and pressure. Think of it like a tea kettle. The tea pot holds water such as the steam cleaner boiler holds a set amount of water. A heat source is used to start to heat the water. It goes from cold, to warm, to hot, to boiling, then to steam. In the case of the tea kettle once the water boils and starts to pressurize, the resulting pressure in the form of steam is released through the spout hole. Steam keeps escaping as the water is continuing to be heated from your stove. If the heat source (the burner on your stove) can easily handle the amount of water to boil (which it can), you would have a never ending flow of steam out through the spout hole until the tea kettle runs out of water
A steamer is similar, but a little different in the fact that you are trying to create pressure that is far higher than the steam escaping the tea kettle. In the case of an electric vapor steamer, the heater source is an electric heating element at 120 volts. The wattage can be no higher than 1800 watts as that is the maximum wattage provided on a standard 120 volt 15 amp electrical circuit. Many steamers have a 1500 or 1600 watt heater. This heater can produce steam but it will take some time to produce the steam pressure that is advertised for a particular unit. As water gets super heated it turns into vapor and is pressurized. The longer the water is allowed to be heated, the more pressure will be created.
In an enclosed steam boiler, the heater will stop after a desire pressure is achieved. If allowed to sit too long without the pressure being released, or if the heater continues to be stopped, the steam will condensate and turn back into water. With a steam cleaner we want to use the super hot vapor under pressure to clean. So the machine has a way of releasing pressure through the boiler and it rushes out through passage ways, into the steam hose, and out of the desired nozzle to clean under pressure. But how long will this impressive steam last?
What happens next?- Pressure drop
As the boiler is releasing its pressure, the pressure will drop. It has to. The steam wants to escape much faster than it can be recovered. Now think of letting air out of a balloon. The balloon began at a certain size. But as you release the air from the balloon, the reserve of air is exhausted at some point and will need to be blown up again. A steam cleaner works in a similar manner.
The boiler releases pressure and therefore there will be an immediate pressure drop. If you are using a steam cleaner in its “high” pressure mode, or in the case of a Vapor Chief steamer, the valve is wide open, you will release a higher volume and higher pressure of steam. This is probably what you want for your cleaning job. You want to see a good flow of steam at a fairly high pressure and high heat. Now…..what you have been interested in finding out…..THE TRUTH!
How much pressure drop will there be?
The pressure drop depends on a few things
1) What pressure did you start to begin with?
2) what “mode” of pressure release are you in?
3) How large or small is the boiler?
4) How many watts is the heating element?
5) How long are you using it before letting go of the trigger?
On a 120 volt steamer, you WILL see a pressure drop. There is no getting around it. Its the science that we just explained. This is normal even in the best steam cleaners. On machines with a pressure Gage, the user has a tendency to constantly look at the Gage and notice the pressure dropping. Then they forget about cleaning! They think the pressure always NEEDS to be at full to actually clean. This is not true. If you used a very good steamer and did not look at the Gage, the chances are you can use it for a few minutes before the pressure drop was too great that the steam became ineffective, or slowed your cleaning process down
1) If you start at a higher pressure such as in our 100 or 125 machines, you will have a much longer time of “effective” cleaning. The pressure will drop but it will still be effective. This is why many people look for a steamer with as high of a pressure rating as they can afford. More pressure is always helpful. But it will still drop
2) If you are using your steamer at it full pressure in “high” mode, or in the case of the vapor chiefs, using it with the steam adjustment valve wide open, you are allowing the maximum amount of steam to escape. So the pressure drop will be faster. If you do not need a large amount of steam volume or pressure for what you need is, the lower pressure adjustment and the Gage will not drop nearly as fast. It will hold pressure a lot better
3) The boiler size will matter….to a degree. A larger boiler will hold more steam volume and allow you to work a little longer without a huge initial pressure drop. However, a large boiler takes longer to heat initially and longer to recover. Its a double edged sword. We have conducted extensive tests on boiler shapes and sizes and we think we have the correct boiler in all of our machines to combat this
4) How many watts is the heater? In North America we use 120 volts. Sure, we can use 240 volts but nobody really wants to and most house and even commercial outlets are not 240 as standard. We work with 120 almost exclusively. So 99% of all the steamers out there will be 120 volts. Thus, we can only have a maximum 1800 watt heat on a 15 amp circuit. We use 1750 watts on all of our heaters. But with this kind of wattage you cannot make steam as fast as the customer wants to use and exhaust the steam supply. This is why there is a pressure drop. The lower wattage heaters will take even longer to heat and recover steam pressure. If a large boiler is being used with a mid range heater, then you have a long heat time initially to get to pressure and you also have a longer recovery time back to full pressure. This is not the best combination.
But you still did not give me time frames? How fast will it drop and how fast can it recover? I need to know!
As we stated, these are tough questions to answer. But lets give it an honest shot. For example, our 100 PSI machine will be used here. We start it at 100 PSI. Its ready to go. Another thing to be aware of is initial heating and water condensation. On an initial heat up you will have the full 100 PSI in the boiler. But the steam hose is cold and empty. This is the case with any steamer. You may have to cycle it a few times and allow it to recover before really getting into you cleaning job. The first time you use your machine after initial heat up there will be a more drastic pressure drop due to the empty and cold hose
Once its cycled a few times, here is the example. if the machine starts at 100 and you are using the valve at wide open and requesting full steam volume and pressure, you will notice the drop immediately down to 90, then soon down to 80. But visually the steam still looks strong. There is no problem here. Maybe it will go down to 70. This may take a minute or 2 to get this low
You may think that this is unacceptable. But its normal! If you fall in love with looking at the Gage while you work, you will end up with buyers remorse. Don’t fall in love with looking at a Gage. Just use it! Some people think that they should be able to use a 120 volt steamer at FULL pressure for 5 or 10 minutes. This statement makes us cringe. There is no way this will be possible. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Its impossible at 120 volts to make a steamer like this. We wish we could. We have tried and tried but its not going to happen
But the difference between our steamer at the 100 PSI rating and most others with a rating of 65-75 maximum, is of course that we start at a higher pressure. But the way we engineer the boiler and the heater, we control pressure drop better and we can recover it better. Our “working” pressure is generally about 70-80 PSI most of the time at wide open. Of course, the heater is still “on” while you are using the steam. That tells the heater to try to keep making steam as fast as possible. But again we are at 120 volts and 1750 watts. But it hangs in there and keeps the pressure from drastically dropping. If you still think this is unacceptable or it will not work for you, then a 120 volt machine is not what you should be purchasing based on the science and the truth we are telling you.
Some steamers will lose half their pressure very quickly. And it will take a few minutes to recover. This is generally poor and may not work well for what you want to do. However, all of our vapor chief steamers are designed to hold pressure well and recover quickly. We just can make them hold “total” pressure and recover “instantly”
ALL steamers need to be cycled. This means use them on for a minute or 2 and let it recover for a minute or 2. You cannot expect to use it for 5 or 10 minutes straight and recover in a few seconds. This again is impossible for a 120 volt machine. It will never be effective that way. And its technically the WRONG way to use it this way. Our machines allow you to cycle them on for a little longer period of time before the pressure drop becomes too great that the steam is ineffective. We do know how you “WANT” to use it, but we also know that some things are impossible due to voltage and wattage.
But we also know that there are some very well known brands out there that are not very effective when they are cycled for more than a minute or more. As we said, its in the boiler and heater design. We have worked and tested boiler and heater combinations for years and we think we have the best set up of any of the steamers you may have already looked at.
And hopefully by reading this entire section you are more educated on what the steamer can potentially do for you. And hopefully you also know that we know as much about steam technology and engineering a steam cleaner than anyone in the USA