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Spray painting has transformed the painting industry, and manufacturers are continuously improving it. However, if you are using a paint sprayer for the first time, you may find it difficult to choose between an Airless vs. HVLP. To facilitate your decision-making, we have compared the performance of HVLP vs. Airless paint sprayers.

Both paint sprayers are versatile tools for numerous commercial and home decorating projects, such as painting furniture, cabinets, trims, house siding, interior walls, woodworking or even fences. HVLP vs. airless paint sprayers works in different ways to achieve the desired look for your painting projects.  

Here are specific differences between HVLP vs. airless sprayers, each of them having its unique advantages. For a deeper understanding, have a look at the comparison table!

­­HVLP Vs. Airless Comparison Chart

paint sprayer hvlp vs airless
Paint Sprayer HVLP vs Airless

HVLP Paint Sprayer Vs. Airless Differences

* Principles Of Operation

Airless sprayers operate without compressor. They use a piston and pressure pump to draw paint from a container. The paint is then atomized by forcing it through a small hole in the spray tip.

In contrast, HVLP sprayers atomize the paint by using a compressor or turbine. Paint is either stored in a cup attached to the gun or in a remote pressurized pot. The fluid needle and nozzle system of HVLP spray guns provides precise control over the paint application. HVLP sprayers offer a slower spraying speed compared to airless sprayers (For example, my Graco X5 sprayer can handle up to 10 gallons in size, enabling you to take on multiple projects throughout the year). However, HVLP sprayers excel in providing a smoother finish, especially for interior surfaces, and they also generate less overspray.

According to Mike Peterson, the marketing manager of Wagner/Spraytech, the gallons per minute (GPM) measurement is crucial as it indicates the machine’s capacity to perform work. In simpler terms, GPM refers to the amount of paint or fluid that the machine can spray within a minute. A higher GPM value means the machine can cover a larger area or complete tasks more quickly.

Understanding the GPM of a sprayer is essential for selecting the right equipment that matches the required workload and efficiency. Manufacturers often provide GPM specifications for their machines, helping users make informed decisions based on their specific needs and project requirements.

Consumption Of Paint

The other notable difference between Airless paint sprayers and HVLPs is the amount of paint used, commonly known as the “transfer rate.”

Although airless sprayers are more powerful, still the product transfer rate is only 50-60 percent. As per I researched and testing, HVLP technology has a 70 to 90% transfer rate, making it highly efficient. These sprayers ensure less paint gets into the air and create less mess and less waste.

Did you know?

When an HVLP paint spray gun is tested according to the ASTM standard, it typically demonstrates a transfer efficiency ranging from 25 to 32 percent. However, when the same HVLP gun is tested using the EN standard, the transfer efficiency significantly improves, reaching a range of 70 to 78 percent.

* The Quality Finish

When it comes to the finishes produced by HVLP and airless sprayers, there are some distinct differences. HVLP sprayers excel in delivering a finer finish due to their low-pressure atomization process. The paint is sprayed at a lower pressure, allowing for greater control over the flow and thickness of the coating. With an HVLP sprayer, you can easily adjust the spray pattern to achieve a super smooth finish.

On the other hand, airless sprayers, operating at higher pressures, can also produce excellent finishes by using the right spray tip. Generally I prefer to use specialized tips like the green Graco FFLP tips to help create a finer finish with reduced overspray.

YouTube video

Difference between Airless Paint Sprayer vs HVLP

* Liability of Over-spray

Overspray occurs more frequently with airless sprayers due to their significantly higher pressure compared to HVLP sprayers. For example, airless sprayers may require operating pressures ranging from 1500 to 3000 psi. In contrast, HVLP sprayers are limited to 10 psi to meet regulatory standards.

HVLP spray guns offer better control over fan size and provide a second control knob to regulate air flow. This additional control allows for more precise application, reducing overspray significantly. This makes HVLP sprayers an ideal choice when working with expensive paints, as the risk of wastage due to overspray is minimized.

In my personal experience using the Graco X7 airless sprayer, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that overspray is not as significant as I initially expected. The X7 model, renowned for its efficient and well-designed features, provides a more controlled spray pattern, resulting in reduced overspray. However, it is important to note that the higher pressure associated with X7 airless sprayers can still contribute to overspray.

So, it is important to consider overspray levels when choosing between airless and HVLP sprayers. This is especially true when using expensive paints or in environments where overspray is a concern. HVLP sprayers provide superior control and minimize overspray, making them a suitable option for situations where precision and efficiency are crucial.

* Speed Efficiency  

Speed is a huge factor. You can fly with airless technology as airless sprayers consume a paint container more quickly than HVLP. 

Airless units are better for a wide range of indoor and outdoor painting jobs, such as a house’s exterior walls, fences, and decks.

* Material Viscosity

My Graco airless X5 sprayer

Most airless sprayers possess sufficient power to pump paint to the gun without requiring thinning. However, with HVLP sprayers (just like my wagner control spray max), thinning is often a necessary step as the gun’s orifices are smaller and prone to clogging when dealing with thick materials. For example, the Titan Capspray 115 is capable of atomizing thicker latex- or solvent-based paints, enamels, or varnishes with minimal or no thinning required.

Thinning paint for an airless sprayer is generally not necessary when spraying and rolling walls or siding. However, it becomes a good practice for achieving a fine finish and preventing the appearance of an undesirable “orange peel” texture. Finding the right viscosity for your paint may require some experimentation, as different paints and application scenarios may vary. By thinning the paint appropriately, you can ensure smoother application and better control over the spray pattern, especially when using HVLP sprayers with their more delicate orifice systems.

* Cost Differences 

HVLP sprayer is always more affordable than an airless sprayer.

The cost for HVLP sprayers is usually between $30 – $100 or, in some cases, slightly higher than 100 dollars, while airless sprayers range between $200 and $1000 on average.

The higher price of airless paint sprayer is due to its speed, flexibility, and smooth finish. Furthermore, purchasing an additional part of the sprayers or their maintenance can be more expensive, so you should look for a cheap replacement part to save more money.

However, the paint sprayer rental has a significantly cheaper cost.

* Safety Measures

In terms of safety, HVLP sprayers tend to be safer than airless ones.

Both of these sprayers come with their risks. Therefore, it is essential to follow the safety instructions in the manual as closely as possible to minimize the risk of an accident.

Airless paint sprayers can cause more accidents due to their high level of pressure, which can easily bend metal, break glasses, and even penetrate the skin.

The most important thing is to be careful when removing the tips from the spray gun. Otherwise, the high pressure may injure your hands.

If you use airless sprays, you should cover all nearby objects and non-working surfaces to don’t accidentally spray them.

Safety equipment such as respiratory masks, protective boots, safety goggles is necessary to spray.

Also, it would help if you placed signs and red tape to alert people that they should keep their distance from the work area.

HVLP Turbine Vs. Air Compressor

HVLP turbine vs compressor

HVLP Turbine Sprayer
  • An HVLP turbine sprayer generates the flow of air required to spray by using a turbine.
  • More portable type of sprayer.
  • The HVLP with a turbine system will give you a good finish on smaller painting jobs such as furniture and cabinets painting. Also, it reduces the amount of overspray.
  • Less expensive.
  • Better for environment.
  • Slower speed than compressor system.
HVLP turbine vs Air compressor

Air Compressor HVLP system
  • This type of HVLP spray gun uses an air compressor to supply compressed air at a faster rate. These sprayers operate at higher pressures.
  • Less portable.
  • An air spray setup with a compressor can produce the best finish possible. However, it has a greater risk of creating a bit more mess.
  • More expensive.
  • Less Eco-friendly in nature.
  • Fast Speed.

HVLP vs Airless for Cabinets & Furniture

Compared to turbine vs airless paint sprayer, HVLP paint sprayers use a small electric turbine to compress air to apply paint. Because HVLPs have a lower output than compressed air sprayers, they’re not ideal for large jobs but work well for smaller painting projects, such as for painting cabinets and furniture.

However, a Magnum airless paint sprayer provides the fastest and most reliable way to achieve a perfect finish on cabinets. Consequently, there is no need to spend a lot of money on replacing cabinets when an airless sprayer offers both efficiency and quality for a quick and simple home improvement project.

HVLP vs Airless for Fences & Walls

When comparing HVLP vs Airless for walls, the airless models are better suited for high volume and large painting jobs, such as exterior walls and fences, whereas HVLPs are useful for touchup jobs.

Airless Paint Sprayer Vs. HVLP

* Are Airless paint sprayers the right choice for a painting job?
Paint sprayers that use airless technology are more productive and take less time to paint larger areas like walls, doors, decks, and fence painting. Airless sprayers are ideal for thick coatings such as epoxy, latex paints, and roof coatings. These sprayers force the paint out of the nozzle(tip) by using high pressure. Thus, sprayers with airless technology provide greater consistency when spraying.

* Is an HVLP spray gun the right choice for working?
An HVLP spray gun will be ideal if you do not need a lot of paint for your project. You can apply a wide range of coatings with an HVLP system, including stains, lacquer, and gloss. HVLP spray guns are usually recommended for applications where the main objective is quality rather than speed. In addition, HVLP sprayers won’t be a good choice if you use thick paint material because these sprayers do not have that much power to atomize thick coatings.

HVLP vs Airless vs Conventional Spray Guns
Compared to HVLP spray guns, conventional spray guns use air at a higher pressure. By increasing the pressure, it is possible to atomize even thick coatings, which is higher than HVLP. Plus, It is good to use conventional air caps when heavy coatings such as glues, epoxies, and zincs are present. 
However, It has a major drawback because transfer efficiency is reduced to around 35 percent, resulting in more coating waste and higher costs.

Conclusion on HVLP vs. Airless Paint Sprayer

You can make your painting experience more enjoyable by using the best painting equipment. The choice of a paint spraying system depends on whether you are working on a short or long project. If you are painting large surfaces, like an exterior wall or an interior wall, you should use an airless sprayer. On the other hand, HVLP sprayers are best suited for small surfaces, like painting furniture, cabinets, or any other job requiring a precise application.

By learning all the facts about how and why you should choose HVLP vs. Airless paint sprayer, you will be ready to tackle the next project and get those professional results you’ve always wanted.

FAQs (Airless vs. HVLP)

Q: HVLP vs. airless – which is best?

If you are a beginner, HVLP spraying is more suitable for smaller-scale projects, especially vertical spraying. An HVLP gun usually has a better transfer efficiency rate, thus resulting in less paint waste and mess. Most professionals use airless spraying technology since it is more powerful and speeds up the project.

Q: Do Airless paint sprayers work better?

Using airless paint sprayers is particularly beneficial in large areas because of their faster working speed. Airless paint sprayers are more recommended for a thick coating, and these sprayers work best on uneven surfaces.

Q: Is an Airless paint sprayer used on cabinets?

Yes, with an airless sprayer, you can quickly transform your cabinets appearance at a lower cost instead of replacing them. Cabinet painting is a small job, so you should use a spray tip that sprays a smaller amount to ensure a smooth finish.

Q: Which Airless sprayers are better?

As per our experience, our top priorities for Airless paint sprayers:

  • Graco 262800 X5 Airless Sprayer for Fences, Decks, and Walls.
  • Wagner 0580678 Pro 130 Airless Paint Sprayer.
  • Titan 1900 PRO HEA technology Airless sprayer.

Q: Which HVLP guns are better?

As per our experience, our top priorities for HVLP paint sprayer:

  • Fuji 2202 HVLP Paint Sprayer.
  • Wagner 0518080 HVLP for Cabinets and Furniture.
  • Earlex HV5500 HVLP Sprayer.
  • Fuji Q4 PLATINUM – Professional HVLP Gun.

Q: What are the disadvantages of HVLP?

HVLP sprayers have several advantages, but there are also a few disadvantages. Firstly, HVLP sprayers are slower than airless sprayers, which can be a problem when working on large projects. Sprayers using HVLP technology require more frequent paint thinning to ensure optimal atomization, which is time-consuming.

It isn’t a good choice for large painting projects due to the limited spray pattern and reach of HVLP systems. However, many painters appreciate HVLP sprayers for their ability to deliver a smooth finish on interior surfaces and their reduced overspray.

Q: Can you use HVLP sprayer for house paint?

Yes, a HVLP sprayer can be used for house painting. They are particularly suitable for interior projects requiring a smoother finish. The use of HVLP sprayers provides better control over paint flow and coating thickness, which allows for precise application on walls and ceilings. However, they may require more time and effort due to the need for paint thinning and occasional clogging of small orifices. This makes them less suitable for house painting.

Jennifer Marie-Holapaints writer

Jennifer Marie

Jennifer Marie is a general contractor with over the years of experience in home remodeling, DIY projects, and commercial painting projects. Her experience includes working with paint sprayers, painting tools, and other painting supplies. You can follow her on Facebook.

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