HVLP vs. LVLP – What’s the Difference?
There is a vast variety of spray guns available in the market today, and so you can be certain that there will be something out there to suit any project that you might have.
However, deciding the spray gun type to go for is not always easy even for the highly experienced DIYers and professionals. And in most instances, the most troublesome part is picking between the HVLP and LVLP spray guns.
While these spray guns might look the same and are used for pretty much the same applications, they are still two distinct tools. To make sure you pick the right one for your jobs, you need to know their differences. Here we explain these differences and also provide overviews of both to help widen your understanding of the two popular spray guns.
HVLP or high volume low-pressure spray guns are now some of the most widely used around, and they are also the older of the two types. As the name implies, these spray guns are designed to produce high volume output and use very little pressure.
Their work mechanism and overall design make them easier to use even for beginners and inexperienced DIYers. Also, these spray guns waste little material and they will deliver a much better quality color when compared to the conventional spray guns.
Because they are one of the most commonly used, they will give users a much easier time as this means that support and training are widely available. Better yet the fantastic finish that they produce makes them perfect for the more demanding projects.
These spray guns will also use much larger air compressors which can mean extra cost for the users. And because they are generally slower than the LVLP types, they will not be very good for professional users.
One more thing that some users will not like about these spray guns is the fact that they seem to struggle a little with thicker paints, and so they will not be very useful for certain projects.
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The LVLP or low volume low-pressure spray guns are the types that have been built to require less pressure to function. These spray guns will deliver superb material transfer efficiency and hence minimizing waste.
LVLP guns spray relatively faster than the HVLP which is what makes them more popular with experienced DIYers and professional users. But, what many of its users seem to love most is that it delivers a superior finish quality.
These spray guns will also only require around 10 PSI on the nozzle which means that they can work with almost any air compressor type.
And as far as material compatibility is concerned, these spray guns will work best with thinned paints. The LVLP spray guns are also usable with waterborne paints which further increases their versatility and convenience.
However, these spray guns do not seem to have the high enough volume required to spray high viscosity materials or metallic paints. Also, they will typically have a smaller spray pattern which is usually between 8 and 10 inches which can affect the time you will need to paint a particular surface and the quality of the finishing coat you get.
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Minimal Operating Pressure
20 CFM @ 50 PSI
5 CFM @ 10 to 25 PSI
65 to 70%
Up to 80%
Ease and Convenience of Use
Widely used and with more helpful resources
Newer in the market and comes with a learning curve
DIYers and beginner spray gun users
HVLP vs. LVLP
If you are going to do a good job when it comes to spray paint, you need to make sure that you have the right spray gun for your particular situation. And while choosing between the HVLP and LVLP might look a little complicated, it should not as you will only need to understand the following differences.
1. Minimal Operating Pressure
The most obvious difference between these two tools is the minimum pressure required to operate them, and this should be clear enough from their names.
With the HVLP spray guns, you will have a high volume and low-pressure tool which means that it will require a good air compressor to function efficiently. Most will operate at about 20 CFM and at least 50PSI which means in many instances you will need at least an 80-gallon tank.
Most LVLP spray guns, on the other hand, will come at between 10 to 25 PSI and can work with as little as 5 CFM. This gives them an edge over the HVLP as it means you can use them with almost any air compressor out there, and hence making them more convenient spray guns.
2. Fan Width
Another key difference between the HVLP and LVLP that you will need to know is the fan spray pattern or width as it affects their overall performance and convenience.
While both sprays guns will deliver decent fan pattern ranges, the LVLP types seem to fall a little shorter because their 8 to 10 inch often considered to be on the smaller side.
And while for most users this is not a deal-breaker, it is worth noting that it can increase the time it takes to paint a particular surface, and if you do not have enough experience, this smaller fan pattern range can also affect the quality of the finish.
HVLP spray guns will deliver a relatively larger fan pattern range than what you get on the LVLP. However, in many instances what you get depends on the specific spray gun model and brand that you buy, and so you can still get a small fan width with these spray guns.
3. Transfer Efficiency
Paint transfer efficiency varies from one spray gun model to the other, but it also depends on whether you are using the HVLP or LVLP.
But one certain thing is that you will not get the same paint transfer efficiency you would get when using other paint applicators like rollers and brushes from any spray gun.
When it comes to the transfer efficiency, the LVLP seems to have an edge as most models will deliver up to 80% transfer efficiency which means that there will be less paint flying all over. Hence, there will be less likelihood of getting paint in the wrong places, and this will be a more environment-friendly spray gun.
With the HVLP spray guns, you can expect to get a paint transfer efficiency of between 65 and 70%, but some brands claim that their products can deliver up to 75%. While this makes them less efficient when compared to the LVLP, these spray guns are still much better than using the conventional sprays guns which will hardly provide a transfer efficiency of more than 35%.
4. Ease and Convenience of Use
Ease of use is often more subject with most tools because what you find easy to operate might give the next person a hectic time. This is also the case with spray guns, and in many instances, how easy to use your gun is will depend on your experience.
With that said, the HVLP spray guns have been around much longer, and so they have been tried and tested enough which means they are more likely to give you an easier time. Better yet, there are more helpful resources on their use, and so in case you are having any difficulties, it will be easier to get help and support.
LVLP spray guns are relatively new on the market, and so the chances are that many people have not used anything similar before. Hence, when you buy one, it will typically come with a steeper learning curve. Worst yet, it is not always easy to get support and help as there is not enough information about them out there.
All in all, if you buy either of the spray guns from a reputable brand, you will most likely have an easier time because most manufacturers will provide detailed instructions and good support.
5. Best For
The HVLP and LVLP are some of the most efficient spray guns you can get anywhere and will hence be ideal for almost any spray painting job. But given the different operating mechanisms and pressure, they will be ideal for different situations.
Starting with the HVLP spray guns, these will be perfect for inexperienced users and hobbyist's projects given their relatively slower spraying.
Also, these tend to waste a little more material and will hence not be very ideal for professional users that require something more material-efficient as they can raise the overall project cost significantly.
With HVLP, you will also need relatively larger air compressors which can limit where you use them as it will make them less portable. And this means that it will work better around the home than at different job sites.
LVLP spray guns will come with a steeper learning curve given that they are not very common. Hence they will not be very ideal for beginners and hobbyists that do not have enough experience using these tools.
Instead, these spray guns will be more appropriate for professionals given that they can use almost any air compressor including the small units which allow users to have more portable tools.
These spray guns will also allow for relatively faster spraying which means professionals get to finish the job faster. And because they also provide better transfer efficiency, they will be more cost-saving than the HVLP which is just what every professional user wants.
Given that both the HVLP and LVLP spray guns are available in a wide variety of models from different brands, you can also expect to get them in various price ranges.
You can get some basic models of either type for even under $100, but if you are looking for something with a higher capacity and more advanced features, you are more likely to spend more money on the HVLP guns than on the LVLP models.
The top quality HVLP guns will retail for upwards of $500 while the best LVLP guns hardly go beyond the $400 mark. Worst yet, with the HLVP, you will also need to buy a larger air compressor which means extra cost for you.
Both the HVLP and LVLP spray guns are top-notch quality and will be very useful for different applications. Hence, what you pick between them will depend on the specific tasks you will be using it to accomplish.
For regular DIYers and beginners looking for something easier to use and does not take a lot of effort to master, HVLP will be a good buy.
But if you are a professional that prefers something that paints relatively faster and also offers more paint transfer efficiency, the LVLP spray guns will be more appropriate.