|The basic theory behind vacuum excavators is
simple. It digs a hole in the ground by penetrating hard soil with
pressurized water to break up the soil. The loose soil is then
vacuumed through a hose into a collection tank for later disposal. In this
way, a pothole (an industry term that refers to digging a small hole to
physically view underground utilities) measuring 12"x12" can be
dug in a matter of minutes. And this can all be done without damaging
In the Market
Vacuum excavators are fast becoming a desired and necessary piece of
equipment in a variety of markets. Collecting the slurry for directional
drilling is one of the many uses, according to Lance Slabach, operations
manager for Slabach Enterprises. It can also be used for potholing
utilities. Practically anyone who has a reason to pothole around
underground utilities will find vacuum excavators quite useful.
Coupled with ground-penetrating radar, vacuum excavators are quite
adept at unearthing underground utilities without the damage that so often
occurs due to blind digging. Knowing where the utilities are located will
significantly reduce restoration liability. Potholing not only safely and
quickly digs a hole but allows workers to physically view the objects they
are to avoid.
Vacuum excavators have many other uses, including small hole boring,
spoils clean-up and repairing underground utilities, just to name a few.
Construction crews will surely find a use for them as well. Cleaning
around valves, meters and plumbing areas will certainly be cleaner and
Features and Specs
There are a number of factors to consider in purchasing a vacuum excavator
that will fulfill your needs. Tank capacity for water and spoils,
compressed air or water pressure, vacuum capability, mobility and
attachments are some of the important aspects in choosing the right
machine for the job.
Several sizes and capacities are available to handle a variety of jobs.
For instance, Slabach currently offers two dual compartment tank sizes in
their VacStar models, the VS-350 and VS-500 models. The VS-350 and 500
have respective spoils capacities of 350 and 535 gallons. Slabach will
soon release the VS-800. This machine will offer even more capacity than
its predecessors. Two hundred gallons of water and 800 gallons for spoils
promise that this unit will handle the large job.
Compressed air or water pressure is another consideration. One of the
two is necessary to loosen up the soil. Water works best because it can
penetrate and soften the soil as it seeps down. The VacStar systems start
at 2500 psi at 3 gallons per minute. That pressure level is equal to a
small commercial pressure washer commonly used by house painters to clean
houses. That is enough pressure to break loose even the hardest soil.
Vacuum is obviously a central feature. A vane-type pump makes the
VacStar models quite capable. Siphoning off 295 cubic feet per minute of
spoils is not a problem. The stronger suction allows contents to be
vacuumed from as far away as 200 feet away from the source.
Transporting the vacuum systems is simple. Slabach's dual compartment
design makes the VacStar system easy to mount on trailers or skids which
provides easy mobility.
A variety of attachments make vacuum excavators versatile and can make
almost any job easier. For instance, Slabach's duck bill attachment
assists in cleaning the on-site-spoils from directional drilling.
Clean Up is a Snap
Clean up after a job is relatively painless. "Emptying the tank is
achieved by moving a lever on the vacuum pump," says Slabach of the
VacStar system. "The action causes the contents to discharge when the
vacuum tank is pressurized." Clogged hoses are not a problem.
"Contents stuck in the hose are reduced by the same ability to
pressurize the hose and discharge the material."
Operator safety is ensured on vacuum excavators through the use of
operator consoles mounted on the unit. Curbside operations keep the
operator up to 200 feet away from dangerous traffic flow.
Vacuum excavators also reduce the chance of worker injury. Moving a
vacuum hose is much easier on the human body than digging a hole with a
Vacuum excavators are playing a significant role in changing several
industries. Benefits are plenty. Locating and digging up underground
utilities has never been easier. Clean up for any kind of digging job is
simple and tidy. However, the advantages do not end there. You can even
please Uncle Sam by using vacuum excavators.
Recently approved Occupational Safety and Health Administration
regulations that will become law in the near future dictate that workers
must be ergonomically correct. Guess what! Digging by hand does not fit
the bill. The new vacs do, however, meet the standards that are coming
down the pike. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also happy
because the spoils are collected using water, rather than environmentally
harmful chemicals, and the spoils are being hauled away cleanly instead of
remaining on the site.
As you can see, there are many reasons to jump on the bandwagon (if
you're not already there). Vacuum excavators are fast becoming a necessary
tool in many industries. They are versatile and easily operated. They
lower costs for a nominal investment and reduce chances of worker injury.
They are truly changing the jobsite in many ways.
For more information on Slabach's VacStar system you can visit their web page
Special thanks for this write up to:
Utility Equipment Online Magazine