When selecting a garden hose, there’s more to consider than just its material and length. One critical factor that often goes unnoticed is burst strength. Understanding burst strength in garden hoses is important for ensuring you choose a hose that’s appropriate for your watering needs and that minimizes the risk of damage and water waste.
In this article, we’ll delve into the science behind normal pressure and burst pressure as it relates to garden hoses, how these metrics determine burst strength, and how to evaluate burst strength ratings on garden hoses to make an informed decision when purchasing one.
What Is Burst Strength in Garden Hoses?
In the context of garden hoses, “normal pressure,” also referred to as “working pressure,” is the internal water pressure at which a hose is expected to perform its intended functions without any structural damage or leakage.
In contrast, “burst pressure” is the maximum internal water pressure that a hose can withstand before it fails catastrophically and ruptures. The burst pressure is typically well above the normal pressure range to prevent accidents and ensure safety.
Under ordinary circumstances, a typical garden hose experiences a normal pressure of about 50 PSI (pounds per square inch) from the public water supply system. However, various locations throughout the United States can encounter normal pressure as high as 125 PSI, with factors such as location, proximity to pumping stations and pipeline sizes influencing the pressure levels.
Periodically, pressure spikes occur in the supply system due to the opening and closing of water valves. When a valve is closed slowly, the impact is minimal. However, when a valve is closed quickly, it results in a noticeable pressure spike. This is because when a substantial volume of water is moving through a pipeline, it has quite a bit of momentum. If you suddenly stop that movement—for example, by quickly closing a valve—all that momentum has nowhere to go. It’s like slamming a freight train into a brick wall. That abrupt change in momentum generates a spike in pressure that travels as a shockwave through the pipe, which can then rupture the pipe and cause major damage to the system. You might have experienced this in your own home when you close a faucet quickly and hear this shockwave as banging noises in your walls (commonly referred to as “water hammer”).
Garden hoses are typically designed with a burst strength that can withstand a burst pressure three times higher than the highest normal pressure. This safety factor is incorporated to protect against sudden and brief pressure spikes. For instance, where the public water supply system is between 50 PSI and 125 PSI of water pressure as mentioned previously, the safety factor is calculated by taking the highest number in the range—125 PSI—and multiplying it by three for a 375 PSI burst strength.
When shopping for garden hoses, you’ll see a variety of burst strengths. Here are a few common burst strength ratings and their equivalent normal pressure ratings:
- 300 PSI burst strength = three times the maximum normal pressure of 100 PSI
- 400 PSI burst strength = three times the maximum normal pressure of 133 PSI
- 500 PSI burst strength = three times the maximum normal pressure of 167 PSI
Understandably, a higher burst strength rating means the garden hose is designed to handle higher water pressure systems and thus the higher spikes in water pressure.
Matching Burst Strength to Your Garden Hose Needs
Swan designs higher burst strength hoses to accommodate water supply systems with higher pressure levels and greater pressure spikes. They achieve this by modifying the hose’s construction, which can involve using more robust materials, increasing wall thickness and enhancing the strength or quantity of reinforcement strands. These are typically classified as heavy-duty hoses (400+ PSI burst strength), ideal for contractors, farmers and other industrial applications where elevated water pressure might be seen. These hoses also tend to perform well in challenging environments due to their rugged construction. However, due to the additional materials and durability, heavy-duty hoses come at a higher cost.
You will also see Swan hoses classified as light-duty and medium-duty based on burst strength. Light-duty hoses (under 200 PSI burst strength) are well-suited for light-duty tasks under normal pressure, such as watering delicate flowers and small garden beds, as well as washing cars. These garden hoses are also typically lightweight and easy to maneuver, making them convenient for watering tasks that require mobility and precision. One notable advantage of garden hoses in this category is their affordability. They’re often less expensive compared with hoses with higher PSI burst strength, making them an economical choice for casual gardeners.
Medium-duty hoses (200–400 PSI burst strength) on the other hand strike a balance between durability and affordability. They’re highly versatile and suitable for a wide range of common gardening tasks, such as watering lawns, shrubs and larger gardens. Their moderate PSI rating ensures efficient water flow without excessive pressure, which is often necessary for achieving even and thorough watering. Medium-duty garden hoses also offer enhanced durability compared with light-duty hoses, providing resistance to leaks and bursts. While they may come at a slightly higher cost than light-duty hoses, their longevity and versatility make them a cost-effective choice for many gardeners.
What Burst Strength Is Not
Burst strength is NOT an indication that a hose can be used in a system where the burst pressure is close to the highest normal pressure.
Most garden hoses are engineered to function effectively within public water supply systems with normal pressure, typically up to a maximum of 125 PSI. However, they are not designed for use in supply systems that consistently maintain pressures exceeding 125 PSI. A supply system with a constant water pressure at this upper limit can be challenging for any hose, as this persistent pressure can give rise to other issues that may eventually lead to hose failure. This highlights one of the reasons why garden hoses should not be left on continuously: They will endure every pressure fluctuation occurring within the water supply system.
A Note on Pressure Washers
In the case of pressure washers, they utilize specific hoses and nozzles designed to handle their extremely high pressure ranges. When using a garden hose with a pressure washer, the hose’s primary role is to supply water from the water source to the pressure washer itself. Typically, during normal use, the garden hose does not experience higher pressure; the increased pressure occurs on the outlet side of the pressure pump of the pressure washer.
What you should be mindful of when employing a garden hose with a pressure washer is the potential for interrupted or reduced water flow caused by issues such as kinks or obstructions. It’s crucial to ensure an uninterrupted water flow as pressure washers require a specific amount of water to cool their pressure pumps.
Understanding burst strength is crucial when choosing a garden hose that meets your gardening needs and ensures safety and longevity. By selecting a hose with the appropriate burst strength for your specific tasks and maintaining it properly, you’ll enjoy a more reliable and durable gardening tool that will serve you well for years to come. Whether you’re a casual gardener or have more demanding outdoor chores, making an informed choice about burst strength is an investment in your gardening equipment’s performance and your peace of mind.
For more general information on hoses, read the following articles: