The best utility locator (2023)

The best utility locator (1)All utility contractors expect the same thing from their utility locators: accuracy and efficiency. To do this, it is important that contractors seek resources and innovations that will help them find their dealerships more safely, quickly, and consistently.

First, a utility company must consider the specific type of underground object they are trying to locate.

Amagnetic locatorfinds ferrous metal objects. "These finders will find anything that a magnet can stick to," says Scott Rauen, sales manager for SubSurface Instruments. "In the gas industry, contractors use them to locate things like valve covers, test point covers and manholes that can be buried."

However, a magnetic finder will only come in handy when looking for metal. "OneFinder of all materialsyou can find everything, including PVC pipes,” emphasizes Rauen. "These locators are popular with contractors in the water, wastewater and natural gas industries." SubSurface's AML models use patented radio wave technology to locate underground objects.

electromagnetic location devicesare also popular with utility workers. These locators detect the magnetic field around a utility system generated by a radio frequency. This high frequency can occur naturally (passive localization) or by induction from a transmitting device (active localization). Subsite Electronics, part of The Toro Company's Ditch Witch Division, offers two electromagnetic locators, the UtiliGuard 2 and the 830R/T.

According to Rauen, the SubSurface Instrument product range consists of six modelspipe and cable locatorsare also important drivers in all segments of the utility industry. Although well built and packed with plenty of modern technology, the PL-TT is another affordable locator for contractors who only need to use part-time. The PL-G is a specialized locator geared towards the oil and gas industry. The PL-2000 is ideal for the water industry. But when it comes to segments that include power and natural gas, Rauen says the PL-VF models suffice.

"The PL-VF3 in particular is currently our best-selling product," emphasizes Rauen. "But for anyone who needs to find minor faults in their electrical cables, I would normally recommend the PL-VF10. This gives the contractor 10W of power instead of 3W.”

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Bodenradar (GPR)is another type of utility locating equipment. According to Chris Thompson, senior product manager at Subsite Electronics, this type of technology has been around since at least the 1980s, but like anything technology-driven, it's constantly improving.

“Our 2550GR device is very useful for locating plastic that you couldn't send an electromagnetic signal to anyway,” Thompson points out. “We'll also see utility contractors using it for what they call pre-sweeping. A contractor issues a ticket stating that an area is vacant. But the really good contractors pre-scan with a GPR to make sure nothing is missed along the intended path.”

GPRs work by inducing a radar signal into the ground. This signal bounces back letting the contractor know if they are hitting something in the ground.

“GPR is a very job-specific technology because the contractor has to work in conductive ground,” explains Thompson. “GPR will not work well in soils like wet clay. But in places like Florida and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, utility companies have been very successful with this type of machine.”

According to Thompson, there are a few tricks to maximize the performance of a GPR device. "It's important to use a good laptop with a Cat 5 connection to get the best image on the screen," says Thompson.

durability and reliability

Utility contractors work hard and often work in hostile environments. Utility locators should be designed to match the everyday conditions one is most likely to encounter.

"We know contractors throw these things in the back of trucks," says Thompson. “That's why we test all our tracking devices. Our trackers are also IP65 rated to protect them from dust and water ingress.

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"But I would say, first of all, it's really important that we have an incredible dealer network through the Ditch Witch organization," Thompson continues. "On the rare occasion that a problem arises, the dealer is there to help solve it."

Intelligent technology helps to reduce these rare occurrences to a minimum.

For example, SubSurface Instruments' AML PRO Series all-material locators feature a durable ABS housing. ABS is a type of plastic known for its resistance to impact and chemicals, as well as its superior strength and rigidity. ABS also has excellent electrical properties.

SubSurface's ML-3 and ML-3L magnetic trackers are also built to last. They are housed in an aeronautical aluminum monotube. "One of these trackers can get hit by a 10,000-pound vehicle and start tracking again when you pick it up," says Rauen.

The ML-3 and ML-3L are also 100% waterproof. "Water and electronics don't usually get along," says Rauen. “If rain gets into a device, the circuit boards will short out. With a waterproof tracker, you shouldn't have any problems with water as long as you keep the battery compartment tightly closed.”

The best utility locator (2)Ease of use for utilities

Subsite's Thompson says ease of use is another key benefit ofutilities.

Multi-frequency electromagnetic locators like Subsite's UtiliGuard 2 offer the utility more flexibility. "For example, if you have a pipe with a lot of connections, or maybe a cable where there's some noise in the environment, you can switch to a frequency where you can attenuate the noise and still pick up the line," Thompson explained .

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On the other hand, single frequency locators can also offer an advantage in certain situations.

“We've found utility companies really like our 830R/T when working with gas lines,” says Thompson. “I'm not sure what the specific characteristics of these lines are, but contractors tell us the 830R/T finds them very efficient. In fact, this device works so well that we created a viewfinder that only transmits on 830. The advantage is that you get a much clearer transmission because the antenna is only tuned to 830.”

With any electromagnetic locator, the user interface is an increasingly important issue to consider – especially as the workforce changes all the time.

"A lot of the people doing localization today are younger and familiar with many types of digital screens," says Thompson. “With our UtiliGuard 2 we tried to mimic something similar – something that lights up and lets the operator know when they're in a good location. We want to make this user interface as intuitive as possible.”

According to Thompson, a more intuitive user interface also helps address a unique feature of the utility site industry.

“There are two broad categories of utility locator users,” explains Thompson. “One is the professional who works at an 811 service and does rentals all day. Then you have people working with utilities, trying to verify locations, or tracing private properties that may not be part of the 811 system. These people typically wear five different hats in a single day. A more intuitive user interface requires much less training. Also, it's easier to remember how to use the device after a while without using it. It's like riding a bike, once you learn it you really don't forget it.”

Innovation in utility location devices

An improved user interface touches on another design feature utilities should pay attention to: technological innovation. Utility locating devices, particularly electromagnetic locators and ground-penetrating radar systems, are “technological” in nature. But as fast as technology advanced, device manufacturers rushed to keep up.

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For example, Subsite Electronics has added GPS to its UtiliGuard 2. “Our GPS module is accurate to within 3 meters,” Thompson points out. “Location allows you to record a GPS location instead of scanning a large area. So if you come back later you usually know where it is.

Sometimes a utility wants to be more than 10 feet accurate. Because of this, Subsite also added Bluetooth technology to the UtiliGuard 2. “If the utility really needs 1 to 3 cm accuracy, they can pair the UtiliGuard 2 with other GPS providers that can provide that,” says Thompson.

Another feature upgrade that comes with GPS functionality is logging and mapping. "We enhanced UtiliGuard 2 to support ArcGIS or any other type of mapping a contractor wants to do," says Thompson.

Even when equipped with the best utility locating equipment, Thompson says a utility's biggest obstacle will always be safety. "When you bury utilities, it's imperative that you lose what's already there," Thompson points out. "That's why the 811 is so important for loss prevention." In the utility industry, a simple phone call can be the best tool there is for locating utility lines.

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What is the best utility locator? ›

If you're looking for the all-around best choice, the obvious answer is the Ridgid Underground Utility Locator. This device can track just about everything, from live wires to dead, from accessible pipes to inaccessible.

What is the most common locator problem? ›

Interference is the most common problem locating technicians face. It can distort the locating signal and provide inaccurate information.

What are the most common Locator frequencies? ›

Frequency Affects the Locator's Ability to Trace a Line
  • Very Low to Low (128 Hz – 1 kHz)
  • Medium (4 – 40 kH z)
  • High Frequencies (40 - 300 kHz)
  • Very-high Frequencies (>300 kHz)
Dec 1, 2008

What is the meaning of utility locator? ›

Utility locating is the process of finding and marking utility lines that are buried underground. Utility lines include sewer lines, gas lines, water pipes and telephone cables, among others.

How do you find live wire underground? ›

Using a utility locator (also called a pipe & cable locator), you can pick up an electromagnetic signal from the utility from the surface without any digging. This can help you to trace and mark the full extent of the pipe or cable. In other words, there is no more blind digging.

How do I find utility locations? ›

811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone who plans to dig should call 811 or go to their state 811 center's website before digging to request that the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags so that you don't unintentionally dig into an underground utility line.

Which locators should be avoided? ›

Redundant, or duplicate, locators should be avoided.

What is the best frequency to locate tracer wire? ›

512Hz. This low frequency is most useful for line tracing and identification over long distances. It does not couple easily to unwanted lines.

Which of the following is faster and more reliable locator? ›

Id Locator

The most popular way to identify web element is to use Id. Id's are considered as the safest and fastest locator option and should always be the first choice even when there are multiple choices.

What are the 8 locators? ›

Selenium supports 8 different types of locators namely id, name, className, tagName, linkText, partialLinkText, CSS selector and xpath.

Is XPath the best locator? ›

XPath Locator

It is slowest among all locators. But it provides you reliable ways to locate web elements. XPath engines are different in each browser, hence make them inconsistent across browsers. That means if you write XPath for your application in Chrome browser, it may not work on IE.

What do locate receivers detect? ›

Receivers can be moved throughout an area to yield information about a signal: how strong it is, its direction, and whether it is round. More sophisticated receivers provide more information about a signal, such as depth and interference.

What are the four key identifiers for utility? ›

Utility refers to the value or benefit a customer receives from the exchange, according to the University of Delaware. There are four types of utility: form, place, time and possession; together, they help to create customer satisfaction.

What are the different types of locators? ›

Different Types of Locators in Selenium
  • By CSS ID: find_element_by_id.
  • By CSS class name: find_element_by_class_name.
  • By name attribute: find_element_by_name.
  • By DOM structure or Xpath: find_element_by_xpath.
  • by tagName: find_element_by_tag_name()
  • By link text: find_element_by_link_text.
Oct 1, 2022

What tools do utility locators use? ›

Utility Locator, LLC utilizes both electromagnetic and ground penetrating radar equipment to successfully locate most underground utilities on your project or construction sites.

How do you trace an underground cable fault? ›

To find the location of cable fault using the thumping method, a thumper is set to thump repeatedly and then walking along the cable route to hear the thumping sound. The higher the dc voltage applied, the louder will be the resulting thump. This method is useful for relatively shorter cables.

Can you use a metal detector to find underground wires? ›

Do metal detectors find power lines and underground wires? Short answer, yes they do! Most metal detectors can identify underground cables as long as they are buried within your machine's range. A detector's signal will easily penetrate the plastic pipe and detect the metallic wire inside the power line.

What device can I use to tell if a wire is live? ›

A non-contact voltage tester is the quickest and simplest way to safely check for electrical current in a wire, outlet, switch, or old lamp that has mysteriously stopped working. It's a useful tool that every electrician carries.

How deep are electric lines buried? ›

Underground electricity cables are usually buried between 0.45m and 1m below the surface of the ground, in ducts, or may have a layer of tiles, boards or coloured plastic tape placed approximately 150mm above them.

How do you detect underground services? ›

Ground Penetrating Radar and Electromagnetic Location are the most common tools, but other methods may include:
  1. Frequency Locators.
  2. Magnetometers.
  3. Cable Locators.
  4. Acoustic Pipe Location.
  5. Potholing (Hydro/Vacuum Excavation)
May 8, 2020

How do I find local utility companies? ›

You can also visit and search by ZIP code to see which utility companies are available, or ask neighbors, friends or family who live nearby to get recommendations based on service experience. Many states and counties allow a monopoly on specific utilities – gas, water and electricity in particular.

What is the most accurate form of locating device for profile location? ›

Profile locator

However, it is the most accurate profile locating method. V locator mainly used for round workpiece. Centralizing feature is the main advantage of V locator.

What are the different types of locators choose the best options? ›

Different Types of Locators in Selenium
  • By CSS ID: find_element_by_id.
  • By CSS class name: find_element_by_class_name.
  • By name attribute: find_element_by_name.
  • By DOM structure or Xpath: find_element_by_xpath.
  • by tagName: find_element_by_tag_name()
  • By link text: find_element_by_link_text.
Oct 1, 2022

What tools does a utility locator use? ›

The utility locating technicians use a variety of electromagnetic sensors and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) that are able to non-invasively penetrate the surface of the earth, up to a depth of 13+ feet.

Which sensor is used for location tracking? ›

The BHI160BP tracks a person's position by intelligently applying an inertial sensor based algorithm for Pedestrian Dead Reckoning (PDR).

How accurate is phone Locator? ›

If you're outside and can see the open sky, the GPS accuracy from your phone is about five meters, and that's been constant for a while. But with raw GNSS measurements from the phones, this can now improve, and with changes in satellite and receiver hardware, the improvements can be dramatic.

Which is generally the preferred item locator method? ›

Id Locator

The most popular way to identify web element is to use Id. Id's are considered as the safest and fastest locator option and should always be the first choice even when there are multiple choices.


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