Compact Excavators Noted For Practicality, Flexibility

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | February 2011, Vol. 66 No. 2

A compact excavator is typically equipped with a hydraulically-controlled backfill/grader blade for backfilling a trench it has dug. This blade, combined with the unit's small size and light footprint, make it well suited for grading small areas such as patios, residential lots and new landscape installations.

Compact excavators are ideal for residential utility applications, including digging for new utility installations and excavating existing installations that need repair or replacement. If there is a pipe in the ground that’s leaking, a compact excavator offers pinpoint control in these situations. For new construction, utilities typically will come into the building at one location, but at different depths. The compact excavator can dig a trench for the deepest utility installation, then partially fill the trench for the next installation and so forth until all the utilities are installed.

Contractors appreciate many features of compact excavators. For one, a compact excavator is very portable and can be trailered easily. They provide superior visibility from the cab. They offer the ability to swing the boom without rotating the swinging, which means they can dig in tight quarters and around objects like poles. The compact excavator is a good choice for working on existing landscapes because its rubber tracks don’t disturb the ground.

Contractors use a variety of buckets for utility applications. Also popular is the thumb-clamp attachment that is useful for grabbing objects like pipe sections. Some contractors also use hydraulic hammer attachments for demolition work.

Center-swing boom designs allow for the unit to dig or operate attachments directly parallel to building foundations, fences or other obstacles. Two-speed transmissions give the excavators faster ground speed. Zero-tail-swing designs allow unobstructed operation near obstacles, tree lines and foundations.

Joystick pilot controls and proportional-flow hydraulics on Case compact excavators give smooth and intuitive control of the excavator and any hydraulic attachments, while reducing operator fatigue. Variable controls allow the operator to use either hand to control the bucket or dipper. Case excavators feature a three-post ROPS, instead of four, which improves operator visibility of the work site. It also makes it easier to enter and exit the excavator.

The Case one-touch decelerator allows the operator to tap a button and instantly drop the engine to idle so that they can talk to ground operators. One more touch and the engine returns to the previous RPM level without having to reset it.