Review By Dean Bielanowski  Ryobi Website - http://www.ryobi.com.au

Ryobi Pressure Washer
Models: RHP4121, EHP1037, EHP1236
By Dean Bielanowski

When it comes to general household cleaning where water is involved, it is hard to go past a pressure washer. They make general cleaning jobs involving water use quick, simple and effective. There are many cleaning tasks where high pressure water flow simply outclasses your standard watering hose nozzles and the pressure they supply.

Today we are looking at and comparing three general household use models from Ryobi. We are reviewing them together because, despite their individuals differences in specifications (which we will certainly mention), the mechanics and general use of each is very similar.

Note: These Ryobi units are readily available in Australia and the UK but are not currently available in the USA, as far as we are aware.

What can they do?
A pressure washer is a "machine" that converts your general low pressure household water supply into a concentrated high pressure supply who's primary purpose is to clean things. Simple eh? The mechanics of it all are a little more detailed, but I won't go into that here - you can find out about how it turns low pressure water into high pressure water on various websites online. Essentially, a powered pump does all the work.

All most people will need to know, or care about knowing, is that these machines make life easier when it comes to cleaning duties. So what can you clean with a pressure washer? Most commonly, a pressure washer is used to clean things like cars, boats, outdoor furniture, decks, siding, patios, sidewalks, concrete areas etc. If you have an item that needs some hard hand scrubbing to clean, a pressure washer may make life easier. Naturally, small, lightweight objects will simply be blasted away by the high pressure water stream, so we are talking mostly larger, heavier objects here.

There are also pressure washers designed for home use (as reviewed here) right up to commercial washers offering even more pressure for heavier duty tasks, and you can buy electric or gas driven models. In general, the larger they are, the more they cost.

With the basics out of the way, let's now take a closer look at the models we are reviewing.

Tech Specs
All three models reviewed here are electrically driven units. This means they run on an electrical supply as opposed to a fuel/gas supply (usually reserved for the larger units). Being electrically powered means you do not have the issue of exhaust gases or fumes, meaning these units can be used in confined and poorly ventilated areas without any problem to user's health.

All three units are made in Europe. The RHP4121 specifically lists Italy as its location of manufacture. The other two models are probably made their also?

Model Number Power Pressure Water Output Sound Emission
EHP1037 1400 W 1450 PSI 370 L/h 81 dB
EHP1236 1700 W 1740 PSI 360 L/h 81 dB
RHP4121 1800 W 1740 PSI 400 L/h 79 dB

Spec-wise, all three units are fairly similar, the RHP4121 and EHP1236 being slightly more "powerful" than the EHP1037. The 1450 - 1740 pounds per square inch (100 bar to 120 bar) pressure rating is more than enough blasting power for general household cleaning duties, as mentioned above. There are other differences too. The RHP4121 features a long 9.5m pressure hose and weighs 13kg, the EHP1037 has a 5.5m hose and weighs 7.8kg while the EHP1236 features a 7.5m hose and weighs 7.8kg also. There are also differences in supplied accessories. The RHP4121 is fitted out with more quality attachments, with most connections being brass as opposed to hardened plastic fittings on the EHP models. The RHP4121 also features an aluminum pump head with stainless steel pistons, which probably accounts for its additional weight over the EHP models - almost double. The price tag on the RHP4121 is also higher as a result of its "better quality" build and components. Despite these differences, during our tests, each machine performed well and there were no apparent problems that could be traced to type of components used (i.e. plastic vs metal).

These pressure washers are not toys. They can emit a powerful blast of water, so they should be respected as much as when using a circular saw or a chainsaw. You could injure yourself or others if not used properly. When used properly however, they are extremely useful and handy. You should read through the entire manual supplied with each product. This will not take long as the manuals are only roughly 4-5 pages in length (in your chosen language) , but have all the information you need for using and maintaining the washers.

Water Saving
One key advantage of using a pressure washer is that it provides a much more efficient way to clean using water than a regular garden hose and spray nozzle. If you live in areas where water conservation is important, or where water restrictions are in place, the use of a pressure washer allows effective cleaning to be realized. But before I go on, you might say that using water to clean in water-restricted areas is not ethical. Well, these machines can be readily fed by any clean water source, including feeding water direct from a bucket (with hose fittings attached to its base) if needed. Because the pressure washer cleans much more rapidly than a regular standard hose, you can clean a car, deck, siding or patio etc much quicker, hence often using less total water. I have been able to clean the whole exterior of my car in under 2 minutes using these pressure washers, which results in about 10 liters of water being used (and that is at maximum water output). In most cases, the total amount of water used when utilizing a regular hose and nozzle in car cleaning tasks would be much more.

Out of the Box
For each unit we tested, there is some minor assembly to be done before you use the tool. Each model is supplied with various cleaning accessories (see photos) to use for various cleaning tasks, from your basic high pressure spray wand/lance to brush attachments and detergent (cleaning product) bottles. Each model also comes supplied with an inline hose filter. You will need to supply a standard garden hose and fittings to attach to the pressure washer. You attach the inline water filter to your garden hose by severing it close to the water source outlet and attaching it inline. This filter helps keep large particle contaminates in the water source from entering the pressure washer where they could potentially cause damage to the internal components. Using high pressure hose fittings to supply the water to the washer is also useful as the washer restricts the amount of water entering the unit (the water saving feature). The downside of this is that it builds up a little more pressure in the supply hose itself (similar to if you were to kink a running hose with your hands). With poor quality fittings, the connection to the supply tap or water input connection on the washer may simply pop off under pressure. Because the units use very little water in comparison to how much a standard hose can deliver, you can alleviate the issue in most cases by simply turning down your supply feed a little.

In Use
All models tested are essentially the same in terms of operation. First you hook up your supply hose to the input on the front of the unit. The washers must be used in the upright position. You cannot use them lying down without causing possible damage or reduced service life. There is a handle on the top of each unit as well as wheels at the rear to allow you to either roll each unit around, or to pick it up and carry around as needed. The large wheels make each unit readily mobile. The RHP4121 unit is the tallest of the three and a little more comfortable to drag around if you are of the 6 foot (or taller - like me) variety of human being. However, in saying that, the EHP models are light enough to pick up and carry around anyway. The high pressure outlet hose and the attachment you wish to use connect to the outlet on the side of each washer (on the RHP4121 both IN and OUT connections are on the front of the unit). The IN (for garden hose supply) connection is labeled with a large "IN" designation to avoid confusion on the EHP models. Water supply should not exceed 50 degrees Celsius or 145 PSI, otherwise the unit could be damaged internally.

There is a three step procedure to operating the units so as to avoid damage to the systems. Firstly, you attach the hose and then turn on the hose to supply water to the pressure washer. With this done, you then pull on the trigger of the washing wand/lance. This allows any air in the water supply chain to the lance to be expelled and a little water to flow. With this done, you can then turn on the pressure washer via its operating switch and it will start to deliver a pressurized water supply from the unit. You can now start cleaning. The RHP4121 model has a simple ON/OFF, one pressure setting push switch. The EHP1037 also has one pressure setting but is a dial switch. The EHP1236 models feature the additional option of setting the unit to deliver a HIGH or LOW pressure feed. The switch on the EHP1236 unit can be rotated to either the HIGH or LOW setting depending on whether your cleaning task requires the higher pressure feed or not. The user should take care not to block the various ventilation grills located around each unit to ensure the motor and internal components do not overheat.

When is use, or when about to power up, grip the lance fairly firmly. High pressure water has a bit of a kickback effect (like when shooting a gun) so you need to be prepared for it a little when you push the trigger. Once water is flowing, it is not hard for anyone of normal strength and stature to control and use the lance and attachments effectively and safely, but maintain a firm grip at all times.

Ryobi's Total Stop System
Each of the three units we tested here feature Ryobi's Total Stop System (TSS). TSS is designed to prevent premature wear and tear on internal components. When using the washers and releasing the trigger on the lance (to stop high pressure flow), the dynamic pressure increase detected in the system results in an automatic cutting out of the motor. This saves the motor trying to work against excessive pressure load. When the trigger is again pressed and water flow is again initiated, this results in a pressure drop which triggers the motor to automatically kick in again and deliver a high pressure water supply. In use, you don't really notice this taking place, i.e. it all happens very quickly.

The TSS system is certainly a nice inclusion on these models and will help prolong tool life greatly, however, its implementation results in a few precautions for use that must be followed to ensure correct function and prolonged tool life. For example, if you release the trigger to stop water flow, you must not re-engage the trigger again for at least 4-5 seconds. No big deal here. 4 seconds is not a lot of time in general household use context. The second item of note is that you should not release the trigger and then leave the unit on (in automatic cutoff status) for more than 10 minutes, i.e. if you plan to leave the cleaning task for more than 10 minutes, you should turn the washer off at the main power switch on the washer itself. Just simple things to remember during use which will help provide a longer service life.

Both the EHP1037 and EHP1236 models feature the same set of attachments as follows:

  • Spray Gun

  • High/Low Pressure Lance

  • Power Nozzle

  • High Pressure Hose (varying lengths - see above)

  • Cleaning Brush

  • Detergent Bottle

  • Nozzle Cleaning Pin

The RHP4121 has a slightly different set of attachments, as follows:

  • Spray Gun

  • High/Low Pressure Lance

  • Turbo lance

  • High Pressure Hose

  • Rotating Cleaning Brush

  • Detergent Bottle

Each attachment serves specific tasks depending on how wide or narrow a spray pattern you wish to use. Some attachments are adjustable to provide varied spray patterns and the brush attachments are very handy where you need to also manually brush away stubborn dirt or grime. The rotating cleaning brush packaged with the RHP4121 is worthy of note as its rotating brushes do a lot of the hard scrubbing work for you.

The detergent bottle allows you to add a stream of detergent agent to your water flow as you wash. This is handy to use where a specific agent is required to perform a job, although you should check the manuals for a guide of appropriate agents that can be used. Obviously, you don't want to use anything that could be corrosive or damaging to the pressure washer parts themselves. It is a handy addition for car washing and for many other tasks. It is good to see that Ryobi has included a range of attachments and accessories in these products. Some other brands provide the pressure washer, a lance, a high-pressure hose, and nothing else, so you need to go out and buy all the specialized attachments individually, which adds to the overall total price.

The Results
In short, all three models performed equally well. There is a small but noticeable difference in the pressure between the EHP1236 and RHP4121 opposed to the EHP1037. You can feel it in use, although even the EHP1037 performed very well in most household tasks I tested it with. While these units may not blast your concrete driveway perfectly clean like some of the 3000PSI or higher units might be able to achieve, for deck, patio, car, boat, siding or other general household cleaning involving water, they performed very well for me.

If we look at prices now (in Australian Dollars), the current recommended retail price for each unit (as of April 2006) is as follows:

  • RHP4121 - $399.00
  • EHP1037 - $199.00
  • EHP1236 - $249.00

At AUD$399.00, the RHP4121 is the most expensive. This is understandable given its better build quality and use of more metal components which should see it outlast the other models in the range. The EHP1037 and EHP1236 are priced well for the performance and features they offer, in my opinion. Again, you are getting pretty much a complete package out of the box with probably no need to purchase any additional accessories (apart from the garden hose to feed them) - they are all-inclusive packages. Is the EHP1236 worth the extra $50 though? Well, you do get an extra 20% boost in pressure with the EHP1236, and that can be useful in some instances, particularly with hard surface cleaning (concrete etc), but if all you are planning to clean with these units are the car, boat and maybe the wooden deck, then the smaller, cheaper EHP1037 will suit that task well. If you want to do more, go for the EHP1236 with its higher pressure, and if you want to do more and want the best quality unit of the bunch, the RHP4121 is the way to go.

Were there any problems during our tests? No, not really. Everything worked as advertised and the results we obtained are pretty much what you would expect from pressure washers of this size and specification. The wheels on the RHP4121 did seem to be a little out of line or warped slightly as when dragging it around it rumbles a little rather than being a smooth ride as it was with the EHP models, but that may have just been a once off, and perhaps something that could be fixed. I just didn't get to it. It's nothing major, I'm just being picky for the sake of trying to find something to fault. Apart from that everything else worked well. I think I may have mentioned above that you also might need good quality fittings as, on occasion, my garden hose connection to the pressure washer would blast off when too much pressure was in the hose. When I replaced with better quality fittings, this issue was a non-issue, and not something you can pin on the washers themselves as a fault.

Overall, each of these Ryobi units represents a useful option for water-based cleaning around the home. Worth a look next time you are at the hardware store or hardware/auto/tool section of your favorite retailer. If you cannot find a supplier nearby, contact Ryobi direct. Their website is www.ryobi.com.au


Ryobi Pressure
Washer Photos
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The three washers side by side.

The inlet for connection to a garden hose f\or water supply.

Large wheels on each washer aid in mobility. Note also the water outlet for connection to the high pressure hose and lance on the side of the EHP models.

Simple ON/OFF dial switch on the EHP1037.

Dual pressure setting dial switch on the EHP1236.

Handle makes it easy to carry to cart the washers around.

Basic ON/OFF push button switch on the RHP4121.

The water inlet and outlet are both located on the front of the RHP4121.

Each unit ships with a high pressure hose...

...as well as an inline water filter to ensure a 'clean' supply of water reaches the pressure washer.

The standard set of attachments/accessories for the EHP1037 and EHP1236.

The accessories provided with the RHP4121. Note the higher quality brass fittings.

The EHP1236 in action cleaning a paved area.

These washers are great for cleaning cars quickly and easily.