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HVLP, airless sprayers and why you need both

calendar-icon 31 October 2018

When it comes to paint spray systems, industry leaders have long been preaching the need for contractors to purchase and use both a HVLP and an airless sprayer system, alongside one another (in addition to a pressure washer and the right masking products of course).

In other words, manufacturers, trainers and professional bodies claim that these two systems, whilst similar in their function, are in fact complementary products.

Selecting the right painting equipment requires a knowledge of not just the surface being painted, but the paint to be used and the desired finish too. Armed with this information, contractors can decide which application method will be most effective in delivering an outstanding result, with minimal wastage in a time effective manner.

What are the key differences between HVLP and airless paint sprayers?

The key difference between these two popular systems is in how they spray the paint. A HVLP system (which stands for high volume, low pressure) uses air pumped from a compressor or turbine to atomise paint before it leaves the nozzle. An airless sprayer uses a piston to pressurise the paint before spraying it through a nozzle outlet which is smaller than those found on a HVLP system. The combination of high pressure and the tight squeeze upon exiting the system shears the paint into particles.

So, what’s the difference between atomised paint and particulate paint? Simple. Your HVLP system (atomised paint) is a direct substitute for a paintbrush, whilst your airless paint sprayer (particulate paint) is a direct replacement for a roller. Let’s examine that in more detail.

In the spotlight: Airless sprayers

With a paint transfer rate of only 50% and a psi of 1,700 at the nozzle, airless sprayers are the more powerful tool and should be used for large, relatively flat surfaces, such as internal and external walls.

When spray painting with this equipment, you will experience one continuous flow rate, meaning less control over the paint fan size, hence why it is only appropriate for large scale painting and more basic paint types – latex paint going onto a drywall is an ideal combination for this equipment.

Speed is priority with an airless system; you can work quickly and effectively across large areas, delivering a quality finish – using between half a gallon and two gallons of paint per minute.

In the spotlight: HVLPs

In contrast, HVLPs can achieve an impressive paint transfer rate of 90% with a 10 psi reading at the nozzle, which means it should be your go-to application method for precision work, such as handrails, spindles, doors and cabinet work.

Using an average of 15-20 ounces of paint per minute, this smaller tool has a secondary control function to regulate air flow, giving you more control over the fan size for ultra-precise work. With so much additional control when it comes to overspray, HVLP systems are ideal when working with expensive paints such as lacquers, varnishes, stains or enamels. Atomised paint gives a more uniformed, finer and satin finish which really matters when using these sorts of paints on areas of detail within a domestic or commercial environment – unless of course it was the dreaded “orange peel” effect you were after? (No, we didn’t think so!)

Need to do a quick touch up? Even if its on a wall where you’ve used your airless kit, your HVLP can be used to make good any small imperfections. Why? Because it’s quick and easy to set up and wash down afterwards compared to an airless system and bucket.

Do you tailor your application method to each specific job?

It’s no secret that customers are becoming more demanding than ever before, with a sharp increase in interior-savvy home and business owners having high-expectations for their paintwork finish. Selecting the right equipment for the job is imperative to success in such a competitive industry, which is why, once you’ve selected your paint application method, it’s also important to choose the right masking products. We’ve made this easy for you:

For more information on these two products, or to watch some of our customer project videos visit Q1 Experience page.

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