Cost and Types of Utility Locator Tools

Utility Locators Should be Used to Increase Safety

utility locators
Call before you dig. Photo J Rodriguez

What Are Utility Locators?

Utility locators are considered nondestructive testing used to enhance and promote safer excavations. Non-destructive testing is a mean of detecting cracks, problems and manufacturing defects in a material or surface without causing damage to it, or in our case, locating underground utilities  The advantages of using utility locators are enormous, as it reduces the possibility of dig accidents and can provide information so you can determine whether is necessary or not to complete the work by other means  It also helps without increasing construction costs related to replacement parts.

In USA only, there are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities and more than 38 million will dig without location existing utilities.

Utility Locators: Methods Used

Pipe locating tools usually are divided into– active tools and passive tools. Utility Locators systems are the ones that emit a sound when some leak or pipe is detected. Active pipe locating systems are more complex and they not only detect the pipe, but in the case, they detect a leakage on water pipes, they will also try to minimize or stop the water leakage. Once locators have identify all utilities, you can start digging. Make sure that within 24 inches, check your state for different clearance, you dig only by hand. 

Utility Locators Cost

You can own your personal equipment or you can hie specialized contractors to complete this work. Locating tools can start at $1,000 and could be as costly as $5,800, depending on the type and capabilities of the equipment used.

Many companies can also charge you about $400 for the first couple of hours and close to $100 for each additional hour.

Advantages of a Pipe Locator Tool

Using a pipe locator will help you:

  • Identify the area where the utility is located.
  • Minimize the amount of digging needed.
  • Detect and warn of possible unnoticed pipe crossings.
  • Reduce the possibilities of damaging other utilities.
  • Using specialized equipment, depth of buried pipes can be detected.
  • Save time on detecting the location of the pipes.
  • Easy to Use.

Utility Locator: Acoustic Pipe Locators

Acoustic pipe locators are an excellent resource when dealing with small pipes. They work depending on the vibrations produced in the pipeline. They require a transmitter that must be attached to one exposed end or extension of the pipe. This test is not recommended when pipe detection is far enough from the location of the transmitter. Plastic pipes might reduce the sound wave or not work as well as concrete or steel pipes. Soil type might reduce the quality of the sound waiting to be detected.

Utility Locator: Leak Detectors

Leak detectors are pretty similar to acoustic pipe locators. They emit a sound from a transmitter that is higher where the leak is occurring. They can work at three times the depth of an acoustic leak detector. Their main disadvantage is that they can get interference from outside noises and require a high specialized operator. Their cost is substantially higher than acoustic pipe locators.

Utility Locator: Ground Penetrating Radar

The operator is required to move until the disturbance of the signal is noticed on the equipment screen.

Their effectiveness and accuracy are the best attributes that this equipment produces. Their accuracy also depends on external factors such as: soil moisture, soil texture and salinity and soil mineral composition. Their initial high cost is their main disadvantage, but they can be used where cost is not an issue.