Vacuum Excavation 101- Hydro Vs. Air Excavators

Excavation processes can be challenging and require a great deal of attention to maintain worker safety and ensure that underground utilities are not damaged. Vacuum excavation offers an alternative to hand digging or the use of heavy excavating equipment, reducing the health risks of on-site workers, while effectively removing unwanted material from an area.

What is Vacuum Excavation?

Vacuum excavation involves the process of combining a vacuum with high-pressure water or air to remove unwanted material, such as dirt, mud, and slurry, from around underground utilities without damaging the pipework, power lines, or cabling.

Compared to traditional digging methods, vacuum excavation is a highly precise, advanced, safe, and controlled process. Vacuum excavation equipment can quickly excavate material and retain it within the system’s storage unit, making it a clean and cost-effective digging method. Vacuum excavation is also environmentally friendly as it does not require the use of harsh chemicals.

Since vacuum excavation eliminates the need for abrasive evacuation methods and hand digging, the process allows on-site workers to remain safe on the surface while preventing trench cave-ins and accidental line damage. Some common applications for vacuum excavation include accurately identifying the depth of a utility, removing material from around plumbing pipelines and sewers, and dry potholing.

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Hydro Vs. Air Excavation

There are two types of vacuum excavation options: hydro vacuum evacuation and air vacuum evacuation. The chosen method typically depends on the type of material being removed.

Hydro Vacuum Evacuation

Hydro vacuum evacuation combines a vacuum with high-pressure water to safely uncover underground utilities without puncturing any pipes or other utility components. High-pressure water is more aggressive than air and can therefore cut through almost any soil type. Considered the most efficient type of vacuum excavation, hydro vacuum excavation is quicker than air vacuum excavation; however, the excavated material cannot be reused to fill the hole.

Hydro vacuum evacuation uses the water to loosen and reduce the strength of soil, making it easy to vacuum out of the area and into the tank. When dealing with frozen ground, hot water can be employed to thaw the area for digging.

Air Vacuum Excavation

Air vacuum excavation uses a vacuum combined with compressed air to break apart soil, which is then vacuumed into the tank. This process is typically used to safely uncover sensitive underground utilities that can’t withstand water pressure. Unlike in hydro vacuum excavation, any excavated material stays dry; therefore, the retained material can be dumped back into the hole for refilling purposes.

High-Quality Hydrovac Trailers

At Vector Technologies, we offer high-quality hydrovac trailers to suit the needs of private and municipal operations. Our versatile and powerful machines are capable of handling anything from small excavation to daylighting jobs and potholing. Our machines are straightforward and easy to use, making them suitable for safely excavating underground utilities and many other jobs. Our line of hydrovac trailers includes:

  • Mudslinger™. This trailer offers up to 800 gallons of spoils capacity. The water pump can reach 4,000 PSI with four gallons of water per minute and can store up to 325 gallons of water. It offers 1,000 CFM vacuum systems and comes with features such as rear door locking and opening, reverse flow, hydraulically rotating and lifting extendable booms, and hydraulic valve exercisers.
  • Mudslinger HD™. This trailer offers up to 1200 gallons of spoils capacity. The water pump can reach 4,000 PSI with four gallons of water per minute and can store up to 500 gallons of water. It comes with vacuum power up to 28” HG, a fully hydraulic extendable boom, and a 55° dump angle.

Hydrovac Truck

Contact Us for More Information on Vacuum Excavation

Vacuum excavation is the ideal digging method as it provides safe and efficient operation when compared to traditional methods. At Vector Technologies, we have over 30 years of experience designing reliable and powerful industrial equipment for various industries. To learn more about our high-quality tanks and vacuum systems, contact us today.


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