Pot-Holing & Clean-Up Made Easy

There is a new piece of equipment on the market that will make the job site cleaner and easier to work. It will reduce man-hours wasted on digging, reduce the number of possible injuries from back-breaking labor and lower costs. It is becoming an indispensable part of the work site for many industries. It is all the rage in new technology, it's the vacuum excavator.
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 subterranean utilities.

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 faster.

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 shovel.

The Benefits
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 (OSHA) 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 at www.vacstar.com .

Special thanks for this write up to:

Aaron Kruger
Utility Equipment Online Magazine

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