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HVLP vs LVLP Spray Guns: What’s the Difference?

Staining wood with spray gun_Greentellect Studio_shutterstock

If you’ve ever gotten an estimate for a painting job, you may have scoffed at the price, thinking that you could save a small fortune if you did it yourself. You’re not alone in this line of thinking. Those handy with DIY projects may already be looking at what sprayers are available. When you do, you’ll discover that you have to choose between HVLP and LVLP.

At first glance, it can be difficult to spot any differences between these two types of paint sprayers. They both look similar and perform essentially the same job. They even have models available at similar price points. So, what’s the difference between them?

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HVLPREXBETI 700 Watt High Power Paint Sprayer

HVLP stands for high volume low pressure. As the name implies, HVLP uses a much higher volume of air to create its spray. This means it will require a much larger and more powerful compressor than LVLP unless it has a built-in turbine system. Originally designed as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional style paint sprayers, HVLP systems are highly efficient getting up to 80 percent transfer onto the desired surface. This means they won’t waste any paint, so you’ll be saving money in the long run.

This type of paint system creates a very nice finish, though not quite as nice as the LVLP. It’s the best choice for metallic paints, slow painters, and thicker materials. You’ll still need to water down most materials to get the proper viscosity, but HVLP can handle thicker materials better than LVLP thanks to the higher pressure.

Pros
  • Better with thicker materials
  • Great finish and efficient paint transfer
Cons
  • Needs a large compressor for enough pressure
  • Not as great with thinner materials

LVLPSPRAYIT SP-33000 LVLP

LVLP stands for low volume low pressure, and it’s excellent for very thin materials such as clear coats, thin stains, lacquers, and varnish. It’s not great for standard latex paints though, even when they are thinned substantially. Because LVLP requires less air pressure, smaller compressors can provide adequate airflow for an LVLP sprayer. Generally, LVLP systems use 10 psi or less. This makes them great for home systems since many people don’t have a compressor that can keep up with the large demands of an HVLP sprayer.

Low volume paint systems can create superb finishes, even with lower-end compressors powering them. LVLP systems tend to be more precise than HVLP because of the lower pressure. This makes them better for woodwork and other precise crafts. They’re also slightly more efficient making better use of the material than HVLP.

Pros
  • Efficient paint transfer and great finish
  • Low pressure can use small compressor
  • Great with thinner materials
Cons
  • Not good with thicker materials

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Similarities

While these two spray systems do have some notable differences, they also share many similarities that are worth mentioning. They both have small fan patterns that make for a slower application process. Also, both will provide a very nice finish coat from a variety of materials, though the LVLP will be a little bit smoother. They are both very efficient, enjoying paint transfer levels as high as 80 percent, though on the whole, LVLP tends to be just a little more efficient.

Although each type of sprayer has its strengths and weaknesses, both of them will be able to spray most types of materials once you get the pressure and viscosity set correctly.

Which Should you Choose

So, why would you choose one over the other? Well, for thinner materials you would want to choose LVLP. This would also be your first choice if you have a small compressor that you plan to use to power your spray gun. If you do a lot of staining or clear coats, then the LVLP will again be your best choice.

If you have a very large compressor already, you may opt for the HVLP setup. When your sprayer will be used for paints and thicker materials more often than clear coats and stains, we suggest the HVLP.

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Conclusion

While they’re very similar, HVLP and LVLP do have a few differences that may make one more preferable to you. HVLP uses much higher-pressure air than LVLP. As such, it’s not quite as efficient, but it’s better with thicker materials. LVLP doesn’t need as large of a compressor since it requires lower pressure, and it’s better with thinner materials like clear coats. Despite the differences, either one will be able to spray a variety of materials provided you get the mixture and pressure set correctly.


Featured image credit: Greentellect Studio, Shutterstock

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