What is Vacuum Excavation?

Vacuum Excavation Truck

Vacuum excavation, also referred to as hydro excavation, is the process that combines high-pressure water with an air vacuum. Vacuum excavators are used to remove unwanted material away from an area, including water from pools and dirt or mud surrounding underground utility assets.

Vacuum excavation trucks (which are also known as sucker trucks, suction excavators or vac trucks) are primarily used to safely excavate around cable networks and buried pipelines. Vac trucks can also be used for emergency repair of utility and pipeline networks, rail track maintenance, deep excavation, confined spaces, sewer clearance, clearing around tree roots, basement work and more. They’re also commonly used for environmental maintenance, including clearing away any environmental damage and cleaning blocked gullies and gutters on the street.

Vacuum excavation serves many purposes with the most common centred on digging and collecting dirt around an underground utility or cable, without using traditional digging tools or machines. This process has become popular in recent decades as it alleviates the risks commonly associated with conventional digging via excavator and shovel. Using non-destructive digging techniques like vacuum excavation and hydro excavation has proven to significantly mitigate the risk of line strikes and utility damage, while also decreasing project time, across the world.

Vacuum excavation is an excavation technique that uses a combination of air suction, compressed air lances, and high-pressure water jets to safely expose underground utility cable networks, buried pipelines, and even dated railways tracks for emergency repair, removal, and inspection.

How does a vacuum excavator work?

The water jetter cuts into and breaks up the soil and the air vacuum then removes the slurry that’s produced from the location into a debris tank. The vacuum source is provided in one of two ways: either through a positive displacement blower or a fan system. The fan system is easier to use. It effectively moves huge amounts of air; this means it delivers faster excavations and is usually both lighter and less expensive than the alternative displacement blower systems.

Vacuum excavators use twin or triple air vehicle fans to create airflow, ensuring the vacuum can pull material inside the intake hose, where it’s transported into the catchment chamber. Sometimes the end of the tube will be toothed which helps to cut into the earth when it’s being used for excavating. From there, the material is sent to the holding tank, while a micromesh filter system captures the dust particles.

In action, you’ll typically find a vacuum truck parked close to the project at hand, typically a location that needs to be dug up to access damaged or redundant utility cables, with the operator utilising a powerful water jet to break up the ground while the suction tube sucks up the dispersed waste, leaving the utility exposed.

Benefits of vacuum excavation

The main benefit of using a vacuum excavator is the minimum damage to existing and underground fixtures of pipework, cabling, and power or other lines. As the work carried out from a vacuum excavator is also more precise and accurate and there is less need for backfilling. Vacuum excavation is more advanced than the traditional digging methods and is a lot safer, as the process is much more controlled. This creates a cleaner workspace as the suction devices excavate the materials but retain them within the storage unit. The speed at which vacuum excavation can extract materials makes it a more cost-efficient solution and using this method is also quicker and does not involve any chemicals making the process of using a vacuum excavator environmentally friendly.

If you are thinking you will need vacuum excavation or need a qualified vacuum excavation service for your next job then get in touch with the iSeekplant team on 1300 691 912, who can give you expert advice.


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