Excavation Services

Air & Hydro Excavation Services

If your company is involved in excavation in any way, you could likely benefit from air or hydro excavation services. Or, perhaps you take advantage of these innovative processes already. ERC performs both air excavation and hydro excavation, which are among some of the safest ways to remove soil and dirt for construction and other purposes.

What Are Air & Hydro Excavation?

Air and hydro excavation allow you to remove soil and dirt as needed while minimizing your risk of damaging utility lines or other structures under the ground. Air excavation works by using very highly pressurized air in a jet to break up soil, which we then remove with an air vacuum service. The air affects soil, sand, rocks and gravel without damaging power lines or other utility cables that may be embedded in the soil.

Hydro excavation is a similar process, but using pressurized water instead of air. Similarly, a hydro-vacuum service is used to suck up all the hydro excavation waste as you go, transferring the soil and dirt into a tank for disposal later. Many operations prefer hydro excavation because it is more powerful, more precise and therefore faster. Air excavation, on the other hand, is less messy and less likely to damage sensitive underground cables or structures.

Why Choose ERC for Air and Hydro Excavation?

When starting a digging project, it's crucial to factor utility lines and pipelines into your plan. If you're looking for an excavation solution that's safe, cost-effective and doesn't risk damaging utility lines, air, and hydro excavation are the best ways to go. ERC offers these two excavation methods as the ideal way for any digging project to safely work around utility lines.

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    air and hydro excavation graphicERC has a wealth of experience in construction waste removal, as well as other applications for vacuum excavation. We have even successfully uncovered unmarked utility lines at an active natural gas power plant in Pennsylvania using air excavation, demonstrating just how effective and safe this method can be.

    There are other excavation and vacuum truck companies that can provide you with the equipment you need to perform air and hydro excavation, but ERC is a full-service excavation and waste disposal company. We offer both vacuum truck services and vacuum truck waste disposal. We can provide you with the equipment to excavate the dirt from your site, and we can then handle the soil and debris tank and safely dispose of your excavation waste.

    Furthermore, we offer environmental vacuum services, which means we always make an effort to dispose of your vacuumed-up soil, sand and other debris in the most sustainable way possible. Excavation waste disposal is an important aspect of vacuum excavation for many jobs, and we are an industry leader when it comes to environmentally friendly waste disposal solutions.

    If you are located in the Mid-Atlantic Region and are looking for a turn-key solution that gets the job done and protects the environment, partner with ERC. Contact us today to learn more about how we can serve your vacuum excavation needs.

    Starting An Excavation Project

    When starting a modern-day digging project, it is crucial to factor in utility lines and pipelines into your digging plan. If you’re looking for an excavation solution that’s safe, cost-effective, and doesn’t risk damaging utility lines, air and hydro excavation are the best ways to go. ERC offers these two excavation methods as the ideal way for any digging project to safely work around utility lines. Find out more about the two methods, what their benefits are, and learn which method best fits your needs.

    Want to utilize ERC’s air and hydro excavation? Learn more about our safe excavation options today.

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    Air Excavation

    Whereas hydro excavation has a long history, air excavation has only found widespread application in recent years. Air Lance Excavation from ERC, which is also called pneumatic excavation or simply air excavation, uses compressed air to produce a high-speed laser-like jet to break up soil and aid in rapid digging. A compressor generates kinetic force that releases pressurized air at 250 pounds per square inch. This pressurized air is paired with a powerful vacuum that simultaneously removes debris from the dig site as it is displaced.

    Air excavation equipment is capable of cutting through a variety of soil types along with gravel, sand, and small rocks. As with hydro excavation, air excavation provides a safe alternative to traditional soil-excavation methods that may damage sensitive underground utilities. When you’re using air instead of a metal instrument to dig into the ground, you can safely locate utility lines without puncturing them.

    Air excavation isn’t as prominent a method of vacuum excavation as hydro excavation, but it offers many of the same benefits and some unique benefits of its own. An air vacuum service is:

    • Low-maintenance: When hydro excavation, you have to stop to refill your water supply if you run out before the job is complete. This is a non-issue when you’re working with air since you can never run out. This means workers can continue to work without having to leave to fetch more supply.
    • Clean: Another advantage that air excavation offers is that it minimizes the mess during the excavation process. While a small amount of debris may be kicked up, the vast majority of it will be quickly sucked up by the vacuum. It’s a cleaner process than hydro excavation since the dirt is not turned to a muddy slurry.
    • Eco-friendly: Air excavation is friendly to the environment since it only disturbs the section of ground you need to remove. While hydro excavation is also an eco-friendly process, air excavation has the advantage of leaving the soil dry so it can easily be used to backfill the hole, returning the area to its natural state.
    • Safe: Air excavation is also a safe process for workers. With air excavation, as with hydro excavation, you protect workers from the dangers of digging in a trench where cave-ins can occur. Air is also the safest choice when digging around utility lines that metal instruments or pressurized water could damage.
    • Undemanding: Air excavation is also an undemanding process. In the hands of a skilled operator, the equipment does the leg work of breaking up dirt and sucking it into the storage tank. This is an excellent alternative to having multiple workers digging. The fact that air never needs to be refilled makes air excavation an even less demanding process than hydro excavation.
    • Cost-effective: Air excavation is generally not as fast as hydro excavation. However, it’s still an efficient process and is a cost-effective option compared to standards methods of excavation. Cost is primarily determined based on the time it takes to complete a job, so it’s wise to choose the method of vacuum excavation that is best-suited to the projects and will help you finish it faster.

    Hydro Excavation

    Hydro excavation, also sometimes called hydrovac or hydro vacuum excavation, is the original form of vacuum excavation, dating all the way back to the late 19th century. Its original application was mining in the United States. The vacuum truck services that exist today are more closely tied to the 1950s when these trucks began helping with cleanup and sewer applications. Today, the technology of hydro excavation has been refined and has found widespread applications.

    what is hydro excavationHydro vacuum excavation is a way to precisely dig by using pressurized water from a hose to loosen and soften soil. Once the dirt has turned into a muddy slurry, a vacuum is used to transfer the soil and debris into a tank. The use of water helps reduce the soil’s holding strength which allows the soil to be broken up and suctioned out of the hole easily.

    Hydro excavation is a useful method for handling a wide variety of excavation projects. It works on nearly every type of soil and can even work on frozen ground if hot water is used. You can use hydro excavation to dig down as far as 70 feet deep in some cases, and you may be able to dig several feet away from where the pumping truck is located. This makes hydro excavation a suitable option for remote locations that may be difficult to access.

    There are some special advantages to using hydro excavation over traditional excavation methods and even over air excavation. Some of these advantages include that hydro excavation is:

    advantages of hydro excavation

    • Fast: One of the advantages of hydro excavation is that it is exceptionally efficient, especially compared to traditional methods of excavation. The process itself is extremely fast, and there’s no need to slow down to carefully probe for buried utilities since this method is designed not to harm those utilities when you come into contact with them. When you want to get a job done quickly, hydro excavation is an excellent choice.
    • Eco-friendly: This method is also one of the most eco-friendly processes for excavation possible. Hydro excavation is less invasive than traditional excavation methods since it doesn’t disturb the ground surrounding the immediate area being dug up. This allows you to get the job done with minimal impact to the natural environment.
    • Precise: Hydro excavation allows you to dig with an impressive level of precision. Consider the difference between digging into a large area of earth with heavy equipment and using a hose to shoot a stream of water into a precise location. Digging with greater precision means you can avoid disturbing a wider area than you need to and avoid only excavate the exact area you intend to open up.
    • Safe: This process is also safer than traditional digging methods. For one, workers don’t need to stand in the trench as they work, which eliminates the risk of a cave-in. Another reason this method is safer than hand digging or excavating with heavy equipment is that it makes it easier to avoid the danger of a punctured utility line. However, around some utilities, pressurized water is not a safe option.
    • Undemanding: Digging by hand is extremely labor-intensive and requires many workers for most projects, making it an unpractical choice for large projects. Heavy equipment is less labor-intensive for large excavation projects, but this option comes with many disadvantages. Fortunately, hydro excavating is a simple process that requires fewer workers than manual methods to get the job done.
    • Cost-effective: Because hydro excavation takes less time, uses fewer workers and incurs fewer problems, it’s one of the most efficient excavation options you’ll find. This also means it’s a cost-effective option. Rather than pay a construction company for the involved task of excavating a section of land, you can typically pay less to have the job done more effectively and efficiently through hydro excavation.

    While hydro excavation has many benefits, it’s not always the best choice for every excavation project. For instance, hydro excavation is not an ideal choice when you plan to backfill the hole with the soil you removed. In some cases, you may be able to do this, but because the soil has been turned to mud, it can be a messy process.

    Another potential issue to consider is that, if the truck runs out of water, it will need refilling. This is only an issue for large projects that would require a great deal of water to excavate. Overall, the benefits of hydro excavation make it an innovative and highly effective method of removing earth.

    Is Hydro or Air Excavation Better for You?

    Once you’ve decided to use vacuum excavation for a project, you have the option to either use hydro or air excavation. Both of these methods of vacuum excavation is a valuable option, and in many cases, both will get the job done effectively. Each of these methods, however, has its unique advantages and potential downsides, so you’ll want to weigh your options and consult with a professional vacuum excavation provider who offers both options so you can choose the best method for your application.


    Let’s look at some of the reasons to choose one option over the other.

    When You Should Choose Hydro Excavation

    why choose hydro excavation

    Hydro excavation has some advantages that make it the ideal choice in certain scenarios. Here are some times when you may want to use hydro excavation as opposed to air excavation:

    • When you want to dig quickly: Hydro excavating tends to be a faster process than air excavation, making it the ideal choice when speed is an essential factor. Keep in mind, though, that having to fetch additional water or disposing of hydro excavation waste can add time onto the job, so it’s important to consider all factors to determine how long a job might take.
    • When you need to break up difficult terrain: Loose soil is easy to break up and remove for both air and hydro excavation, but rocky ground or densely-packed clay can be difficult to break up through air excavation. Hydro excavation generally does a better job at breaking up more difficult terrain, especially when the soil is moist to begin with.
    • When the ground is frozen: When you’re working in freezing conditions, then hydro excavation is undoubtedly the better choice. This is because you can use hot water to thaw the ground and turn the hard, frozen dirt into a wet slurry that can then be sucked up by the vacuum service. Air excavation is not a viable option for excavating frozen ground.
    • When you need to avoid sandblasting: Though air excavation keeps the majority of the excavated dirt contained through the vacuum, some dust may enter the air. This is problematic in certain scenarios where you need to avoid sandblasting to protect surrounding objects from damage. In these instances, hydro excavation is a better choice.
    • When you’re near a water refill station: Hydro excavation is a higher-maintenance process since it requires a constant supply of water. If your project area is near a water refill station, however, this can help tremendously since it will minimize the time spent to fetch new supplies of water. You’ll also want to consider the distance to the hydrovac waste disposal site to factor in time for waste transportation.

    When You Should Choose Air Excavation

    when to choose air excavation

    There are also some scenarios where air excavation offers some unique advantages over hydro excavation that make it a better choice. These scenarios include:

    • When you want to minimize mess: While hydrovac has many advantages, it’s a far messier process compared to air excavation. When you want to minimize the mess associated with a project, air excavation is typically the right choice. Especially in the case of waste cleanup, using air excavation prevents the danger of hydro excavation runoff.
    • When you’re digging near electrical wires: Water is a conductor, which means it should not come into direct contact with electrical wires. When you’re working near electrical lines, you are better off using air excavation. Air is not a conductor and can come into contact with electrical wires without posing a threat.
    • When water could cause a chemical reaction: Another issue with water is that it can cause a chemical reaction when it interacts with certain materials. This is not a concern with air, so in these instances, air excavation is the safer choice. When cleaning up waste, make sure you factor in what sorts of chemicals have seeped into the soil and whether they might react with water.
    • When you want to backfill with dry soil: Using air excavation allows you to backfill the hole after it has been dug with the same soil that was there before, assuming that the soil doesn’t contain harmful substances. This keeps the natural environment intact and saves you from having to retrieve soil from elsewhere to fill the hole. When you use hydro excavation, you typically cannot reuse the soil to backfill the hole or trench.
    • When water stations or dump sites are far away: A hydro vacuum service goes through as many as eight to 10 gallons of water every minute. Therefore, if the water refill station is far away, hydro may be a poor choice. With air excavation, there is no need to leave to refill your supply. There is also no need to dump the vacuumed soil unless that soil needs to be disposed of.

    ERC Promise

    We are committed to providing turn-key, environmentally sound waste management solutions using the latest technologies to help our customers meet their sustainability goals.

    More About ERC

    Contact ERC for Air and Hydro Excavation Services in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Beyond Now

    As one of the biggest industrial waste processors in the Mid-Atlantic region, ERC can also be your air and hydro excavation, waste disposal and vacuum services provider. From our main locations in Lancaster, PA, and Baltimore, MD, we have spread all over PA, MD, NY, NJ, DE, VA, WV and Washington D.C. with our various sustainable waste removal services for companies large and small.

    If you’d like to learn more about how we can put our environmental vacuum services and other waste management services to work for you and your company, our experts are waiting to talk to you. Just submit our simple inquiry form online or call us at 1-833-342-5372 today to get started.

    Creating Safe Solutions for You

    Find out how your next project can benefit from the use of air or hydro excavation. Contact ERC today to learn more.