Underground Utility Locating

A Brief Introduction to Underground Utility Locating

Before you decide to start digging, you need to know what lies under the ground. Utility locating may get more complex than you think since the number of lines has increased.

You need to know where the lines are before anything serious happens. Not checking it out first means the digger could meet with deadly circumstances. Keep on reading to learn more about utility locating services and how it all comes together.

Utility Locating

The ground we walk on has becomes packed with underground utility lines. You need to know where they’re at and what they are. These lines can range from water, communications, and gas to sewer lines.

These lines and pipes even run under rivers and lakes. Respecting these lines can mean saving a life, even your own. It may also keep you from damaging the lines when you dig.

Utility locating works much like dialing up a radio station. These devices pick up signals from the underground lines. The lines send signals back to a transmitter.

In rare instances, the lines don’t give off signal frequencies. When that happens, a transmitter gets used to induce a signal to a metal line, and the utility locator will pick it up.

Active and Passive Utility Locating Methods

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, hundreds of thousands of digging accidents happen each year. The use of utility locating services can stop that from happening. The two utility locating methods are active and passive.

Active locating uses a locator to look for a specific line. That gets done by the inductive method or direct method.

The direct method is the more popular. The utility locator gets attached straight to the line.

The inductive method uses frequency and signals to find a line. The person checking will set a transmitter on the ground. The need for direct connection clamps or coils gets eliminated.

Passive locating services get used in looking for unknown lines. The checker will do a sweep over the entire area with a receiver that looks for utility frequencies. The passive method won’t let you know what kind of line you find.

Types of Utility Locating Services

The kinds of locators come in single and multiple frequency units. These get used for active and passive locating.

Single-frequency locators have a transmitter that gets placed on the ground. It induces a single high-frequency signal picked up by the underground line. A signal gets radiated back to the receiver.

These kinds of locators work well on pipes and lines in areas that are not congested. Yet, using high frequencies can ping everything underground and result in a distorted signal. You won’t know the depth of the line or what type you have found.

Multi-frequency locating services let you match the signal to the type of pipe or line you are searching to find. Using a lower frequency, you are more able to distinguish different lines.

No matter which type of locator you use, you want to know it will get the job done. When using a Ditch Witch locator, there are refurbished transmitters available that work like new.

Points to Know

Sometimes a line will cross over another line. In those cases, it may help to have a utility locator that offers the current measurement index (CMI). That lets you know you are on the right line and not crossing over to the wrong one.

Most utility line locators can give a depth estimate of the pipe or line. It uses an algorithm to measure signal strength, but interference can distort things. It will still give you a good idea of the depth and location of the line.

Although the active method gets used more than the passive one, you can’t always open up the area you need to access. That is why the inductive method could help, as it uses signals and frequencies to find the lines.

Conditions for Digging

When digging and looking for utility lines, the ground condition is essential. It could have a definite impact on the signals and possible interferences.

If the ground is wet, it becomes more conductive. Moist conditions provide a stronger signal and have less interference. If the soil is hard and dry, the signal will not reach the lines as well, causing distortion and signal weakness.

If you need to make a direct connection and the ground is dry, it might help if you pour water around the area. The rod will go into the soil better and may transmit a stronger signal.

Private Utility Locating

Some people decide to use private utility locating services. These services get used when contractors think there could be non-public lines underground. It may get thought of as an extra security measure.

These technicians get trained to find any private lines. Sometimes map records are not accurate, and private locating becomes necessary. They use electromagnetic tools or ground-penetrating radar to get a good map of the soil.

These services help avoid more digging mistakes when it comes to finding lines and pipes. It may seem like an extra step, but it will ensure the job gets done without hitting something unexpected. It could be worth it to avoid a damaged utility line.

The Right Locator

Using an underground utility locator may seem simple, but not all systems work the same way. When you get a locator, you want to make sure you understand how it functions.

Some get more complicated than others. You want anyone who will need to use it to pick it up at any time and not forget how it works.

The units range from $1,000 to $4,500, so getting the one you need and can work with won’t be hard. Utility locating is a game-changer for identifying underground utilities. Follow us for more informative articles like this one.

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