An Overview of Underground Pipe Locators 


Rapidly increasing use of underground cabling and piping has made it extremely essential for construction crews to accurately locate and follow underground pipeline routes so that they can avoid digging into underground pipes by mistake. If this is not done, there can be serious injury to people and as well as property damage caused by underground piping as well as live electric cables. Underground pipe locators are used to help construction workers avoid cross boring into pipelines by finding out their location. 

Pipe locators typically comprise of two components, the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter is responsible for inducing a signal on to the pipeline located at the nearest distance. On the other hand, the function of the receiver is to pinpoint the pipe’s exact position. Some pipe locators come as one convenient system with both parts fused together.  

Types of Locators 

Passive location is the simplest method for finding out the location of underground cables or pipes. However, this is also the least reliable one amongst all types of locators. It uses a receiver to search for signals emitted naturally from the underground source.  Some radio waves of low-frequency from the environment tend to travel underground along with buried pipelines. These signals are picked up using a receiver, which helps identify the exact location and path of the underground pipeline network. Most of the pipe locators, however, come equipped with transmitters and receivers.  The transmitter generates a signal in the pipe, which is measured by the receiver to locate the pipe.   

Direct connection is another pipe location technique that involves using cables to connect the transmitter to a pipe. One of the cables from the transmitter is attached to an earth rod after hammering it into the earth. On the other end, the other cable is attached directly to the pipe. A radio signal at a specific frequency is generated by the transmitter and it travels along the pipe’s length. The location of the pipe is determined by tuning the receiver to this frequency and taking measurements at ground level.  

In direct induction method, instead of electric cables, a magnetic field is used for energizing the pipe at a specific frequency. A magnetic field is generated by passing current through a coil within the transmitter. The signal is transmitted into the pipe by placing a transmitter clamp around the pipe. The pipe position is determined by tuning a transmitter to the transmitter frequency and taking measurements at ground level.  

If the pipe is non-metallic, a copper wire containing duct rod is pushed into the pipe. After this, the copper wire is energized using induction or direct connection and the receiver determines pipe location by picking up the signal.   

Using Underground Pipe Locators 

While using underground pipe locators, the entire area is segmented into grids for the purpose of checking and marking it systematically. As described above, direct connection or induction method is used for connecting a transmitter to the pipe. Then the receiver is set to match the transmitter’s frequency.  

After setting up the equipment, an operator with the receiver walks along the grid lines. When a signal is received from the underground pipe, the operator finds its maximum strength by moving the receiver around the location. To indicate the location of the pipe, markers are inserted at that point.  

If you are looking for a pipe locator for your next project, don’t forget to take a look at Austeck’s spectacular range of pipe locators.