Hydro vs Air Vacuum Excavators – Which Should You Use?

Hydro vs Air Vacuum Excavators – Which Should You Use?

Deciding between air and hydro vacuum excavators can be hard. To help you decide between them, we’ve run through several points. Keep reading. 


Safety is definitely something you’d have to consider when choosing between the two. If you’re going to be digging near electric wires, you’d go with options that use air – air is not a conductor. The air would not come into contact with the wires directly either, so you’d be able to move debris without getting hurt. 

Water excavators would also not be a good idea if the liquid would start chemical reactions at the site. You’d have to research the area you’d be digging in to prevent such a thing. 


Air excavators take more time to pull debris out of a site. But as mentioned, you won’t always be able to use water powered options. You may need to get the debris out fast, but you’re working in an area with exposed lines. The water vacuums would hurt you and everyone else at the site. 

As air vacuum excavators come in a variety of models and sizes, the larger ones would do their job faster.  

Man Power Available

Let’s talk about the job site again. Unfortunately, you don’t have a large crew to do the digging for you. Air powered vacuums would be your go to, as they’re easier to work. And more importantly, they are smaller; you don’t need that many people to handle them. Their smaller size lets you move them around easily too. 

When utilizing hydro vacuum excavations, you’d have to use a truck to haul the wet debris away. Considering how heavy wet dirt can be, a large truck may not be something that you can afford. 


Not only do you have to consider the workers at the site, but you need to consider the resources at your disposal. A hydro vacuum would require a constant supply of water, especially if you’re going to be digging a massive hole. Decide if you’re alright with the liquid being wasted, as well as where you’d be getting the continuous supply of water from. 

Soil & Debris

Would it be a good idea to have air blasting at very fine sand particles? The workers on the site would likely be wearing goggles, but the sand could affect equipment and get stuck on clothes. While on the topic of the soil, you’d be affecting it by making it wet when using a hydro-vacuum. There may be rules in the area that might not allow this. 

The soil may be too tough to use air vacuums, unfortunately. Hydro-powered ones that use hot water would be needed then. 

Final Thoughts 

There is an equal number of air and hydro vacuum excavators on the market. Everything discussed was an in-depth look at which would be the most worth your time. It all depends on the site you’d be working on, but air vacuums would be needed for projects that electric wires aren’t present in. 

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