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Utility Locators

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There are many types of utility locators on the market today, but all of them are meant to find underground utility sources at a job site. While advancements in technology have made them more reliable, the basic principles of an underground utility locator have stayed the same. Pipe locators and other types of location equipment have been the standard way for finding utility lines and other objects underground, which they do by sending an electromagnetic frequency through the conductive material of an underground facility.

A similar principle is used to find water pipes. You apply the signal to the pipe at a riser, hydrant, or valve. And if you want to find an underground cabling system (such as an electrical or telephone line), you connect it to the grounding structure of the utility system. Power lines can be located by connecting the unit to a meter box, transformer, or ground wire. Telephone and Cable TV lines can be found by transmitting a signal to the ground cables inside a pedestal, manhole, or interface box. Once the signal has been sent to the target utility, you can detect the transmission on the surface by using a device that’s designed to receive the signal. Utility locators will come with this type of device, which is set to the frequency being transmitted. But many receivers can be reprogrammed to detect additional frequencies if the situation requires it.

You can also use utility locators to look for natural radio transmissions — ones that match the frequency you’re trying to locate. This is called “passive locating,” which is a less reliable method of using an underground utility locator. It can also be misleading, which is why an active location method is always preferred. Many types of utilities can transmit the same frequencies, which can make it harder to use utility locators in this manner. If you want more information about pipe locators and other types of location devices, be sure to get in touch with Engineering Supply. And feel free to look at what we have in stock.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use a utility locator?

The utility locator needs to be attached directly to the line or if you cannot make a direct connection to the line, a frequency is selected and inducted into the ground and reradiated by the utility.

What is a pipe locator?

A pipe locator is a device that uses conductive or inductive methods to find hidden or underground pipes with a high level of accuracy.

How do utility locators work?

A utility locator works by transmitting an electromagnetic signal through the conductive material of an underground utility.

How do pipe locators work?

Pipe locators are composed of both a transmitter and a hand-held receiver. Conductive wires and pipes emit radio signals in a passive or active mode which can be detected with a hand-held receiver.

How to find underground utilities?

There are two detection principles to consider, Passive Location or Active Location
  • Passive location uses electromagnetic field already present in the utility
  • Active location uses a signal transmitter to locate the utility
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