All About Air & Hydro Excavation
A Backhoe caught on fire after striking a 4-inch natural gas main in Woodland Hills.
As many know, there are two different mediums for vacuum excavation: air and water. Air excavation is primarily used in applications where soil is loose, water is not readily available, where the whole needs to be backfilled immediately, or in small-scale projects. When vacuum excavation needs to be done around buried electrical lines or brittle utilities, air is often preferred because of the lower operating pressure. Hydro (water) Excavation works very well when the ground is hard or even frozen. Some vehicles also have heaters onboard to aid water in cutting through materials. Water also acts as a lubricant and helps prolong the life of equipment by reducing wear on the vacuum hose and other components in the air stream. Hydro excavation also does not produce the same sandblasting effect that air excavation does.
There are many debates as to which method of excavating is faster. When purely looking at the task, hydro excavation is faster than air. However, when considering the full amount of time it would take to complete a job, it is important to consider the time that it would take to fill the tank with water that may only last a couple of hours, the time to drive to a dump site to empty the debris tank of mud, and the travel time associated with both of those actions. However, air excavation can last several days or even a week without needing a refill, and even then, debris can be used to refill the holes that are made immediately and may not require a separate dump site. Each and every application might have a more optimal method, and it is important to evaluate which methods would be better for which jobs.
A question I have asked myself many times before (and to my knowledge wasn’t answered anywhere on the internet) is “Can a hydro excavator truck also use air to excavate?” I had to do a lot of searching, but I came across a few interesting things. It is hard for a machine that is labeled as an air excavator to use water. Often times air excavators only have a debris tank, meaning that there isn’t a place to store the water that will shoot out of the nozzle. However, it is possible for an air compressor to be added to a hydro excavator to enable it to use both mediums for excavating based on the task at hand.
It’s also possible that someone might find it practical to have a machine that can do both hydro and air excavation. Luckily, Bortek offers a few machines that have an option to add an air compressor onto a hydro excavating truck. The X-Vac X-8 and the X-Vac X-13 with the air compressor option are both capable of both air and hydro excavation. They also have a boiler option so that these trucks can become lean, mean, excavating machines capable of operating in just about any and all situations. If you have any questions or would like more information, we would love to hear from you here!