Using a canister vacuum to move a large load of dirt.

I am planning construction of a 3 foot retaining wall, and I plan to level my back yard with approximately 2000 cubic feet of dirt. The
dirt will be dumped in the street in front of my house. I recently watched my neighbors spend three days of a similar project hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt (less dirt than I plan to use) and it made me seek out alternative, cheap methods of moving all the dirt in one day.
Renting a little earth mover for $400 for a day (delivery/pickup fees, diesel, rental) is too pricey in my estimation. My new idea is to instead rent a high-horsepower canister vacuum, or perhaps re-purpose my home's central vacuum unit, using 90 feet of PVC tubing as a temporary dirt conduit from the front street through to the back yard. I anticipate the supplies and rental should cost less than $200. The first and last thirty feet will be flexible tubing to allow maneuvering the vacuum discharge around to position the dirt as it's sucked through and to move with the dwindling pile of dirt in the street.
I figured that if my central vac unit is rated at around 100 cubic feet of air per minute, I could get perhaps 10% of that sucking large amounts of dirt, so 2000 cubic feet of dirt at 10 cubic feet per minute would in theory take 200 minutes. The electricity cost would be small for several hours of operation, but I'm wondering whether a rental vacuum or my home's existing unit would burn out under the strain or need numerous cool-down sessions, pushing the total time spent to many hours more than I want.
Can anyone tell me why this is a dumb idea? Do you have any better cheap dirt moving ideas? Any suggestions for other forums on which to inquire?
Thanks,
Nat Surrey, British Columbia
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
There is a real-life device called a mudsucker which is used to suck mud, silt, etc. out of the bottom of ponds, etc. (hence the name.) It basicallly is a vaccum with a very long hose attached to it: Of course in that case the dirt is extremely wet, which helps to lubricate things....
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for the idea, Timothy. www.mudsucker.com shows a gigantic trailer-hauled bad boy. I imagine it would cost quite a bit more than $200 a day to rent that thing. Also, I don't think I could direct the output dirt they way that I want to. But I'm pretty sure I couldn't burn out its motor!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just hire some cheap labors with shovels and wheel barrows, buy them lunch, they will get it done fastest and cheapest $7/hr for 4 guys.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 28 Jun 2005 20:46:15 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Have you factored in the cost of replacing the blower motor on your vacuum when you overload it in this fashion?
Sounds about as smart as using a Yugo to pick up the bags of cement to pour a 200 sqft driveway.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Is the city really going to let you dump a pile of dirt 10X10X20' in the street in front of your house? Will your neighbors appreciate this?
Why not make room and have the dump truck dump the dirt in your back yard?
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
If we could, we would have the dump truck drive down the public walkway next to our house and dump in the back yard. Our neighbors already established the precedent of leaving a honking pile of dirt in the street for a few days with no one seeming to mind. The street is already narrow because only one side of the street has been developed with houses.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dear njolsson:

Dynamite. Catapult. Rotate your house so the rear is in the street prior to having the load delivered. Rent a "bobcat", and let 12 willing horses and water-filled tires make short work of it. Rent a belt conveyor, and shovel the dirt onto the conveyor. Have a crane lift the dumptruck up and empty it in the backyard.

How much is your time worth?

You are correct, the motor is not usually rated for 100% duty cycle. You will be emptying the cannister every few minutes. You will not get 10% volume movement... more like 1% if you have any hope of not clogging the delivery lines.

"Spend a pound to save a penny."

Be sure and grade the yard so that surface water is directed *away* from your house.
David A. Smith
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David-- My wife agrees with the spirit and letter of all of your comments. But I'm still convinced it's a workable idea. I need a few more humiliating responses (preferably from physics Ph.Ds) here before I give up and hire a Bobcat, etc.
My one quibble with your analysis of the vacuum: the canister would not be attached; I would be directing the output hose straight onto the ground.
Nat
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 28 Jun 2005 22:10:53 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

If the canister is not attached, what (or who) is providingh the suction?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

LOL!!!!!!!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Bob Ward wrote:

I'm guessing his plan is to hook the vacuum hose directly to the intake of the vacuum impeller so that all the dirt will have to pass through the vanes of the impeller. This is the way many cheap vacuum cleaners are designed in that it eliminates the need for a hard body chamber to hold the vacuum. This means that all the dirt they pick up in their lifespan passes through the impeller (which is what often wears out first). I doubt these type of vacuum cleaners last for 2000 cubic feet worth of dirt (which they only move a short distance). If this guy actually succeeds in moving a couple of wheel barrows worth a 100' with this contraption I would be impressed.
-jim
-
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
> first). I doubt these type of vacuum cleaners last for 2000 cubic feet

I'd estimate my cleaner collects less that 0.25 cubic foot of fluff a week. It that's typical then 2000 cubic is about 153 years worth of fluff let alone regular dirt.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
CWatters wrote:

Yup... let alone moving it 50 feet or more! Sometimes there is no substitute for elbow grease (so to speak).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I seem to remember something about a golf ball and fifty feet of garden hose, but it wouldn't be appropriate to recite chapter and verse in this venue.
Likewise chrome bumper hitches.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The little I have read about vacuum physics (aha, ignorance is the culprit!), and a presentation by an unsuccessful vacuum salesman a few years back tell me that a vacuum works through air flow, not suction. My home's central unit has the intake flowing into a removable canister, then the air flows through a large filter hanging in the center of the canister and then out an exhaust tube. My plan was to remove the bottom of the canister so the filter was hanging free in the open air, then direct the dirt away into the yard before it hit the filter. Will I have destroyed the loop and lost all air flow by doing this? Will the vacuum motor burn out by being forced to age 153 years in one day? It looks likely now. I have to hope that I don't injure myself, another, or our property with a Bobcat, or that the cheap laborers I hire don't injure themselves on my property and sue me.
Nat
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Will I have destroyed the loop and lost all air flow by doing

Exactly.. by opening the bottom of the vacuum, it will draw all of it's air through the filter from the now open bottom... that can is made of stiff materials for a purpose..
So you will not wreck your vacuum fan, because it will be moving only air through it's fan blades...
There are ways to do this, but as other's have said, unless you have a good degree of engineering skills, _and a well stocked junkyard to play in_, it would be cheaper to hire the local lads, or do it yourself...
I wonder if you are close enough to a farming area to borrow (like they would let you... =) some grain transport belts to ease the moving of the dirt past your house?...
Al...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Alan Adrian wrote:

I've pretty much given up the vacuum idea now, but...what if I replaced the canister bottom with a five foot tall plastic or tin cone, like a fireplace flue, with an opening at the top the size of the vacuum. Then I set the vacuum inside it and let it fill with dirt, pulling the vac and cone away to leave little dirt castles to be spread around the yard. The cone is pressed against the ground to make a seal of sorts. I think I still have the problem of overwhelming the poor vac motor sucking dirt.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If the dirt was dry enough not to get jammed in the system (which we can pretty well assume it won't be dry enough...) then this idea would work. You could make your cone pretty big. Getting a tight seal depends on the yard, maybe you could use some poly on the ground to seal against? I don't see why it would be harder on the vacume than just running it in the house for all those hours.
Filters will plug up though, jams will happen...
dunno how fast you'd be able to actually move the dirt, how soon you'd abrade the pipe so that jams would start to happen against the now rough insides very regularly....
Seems like a lot of work and expense... Unless you already own lots of pipe and the cone? to risk the possible adventure if it plugs up every couple minutes (seems about right to me)...
Al...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 29 Jun 2005 21:36:53 +0200, "Alan Adrian"

You don''t see a wear factor because you are attempting to move tons of dirt rather than ounces of dust?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.