How to Use an Underground Utility Locator

underground utility locator
An underground utility locator is a device used to locate underground utilities, and it is a valuable tool for both professionals and homeowners. If you are planning on doing any excavation, then you should consider getting an underground utility locator.
There are many different types of underground utility locators on the market. But no matter your style, they all work the same way. The device emits a signal that is then picked up by a receiver, and the receiver is then used to locate the underground utility.

If you are planning on doing any excavation, then you need to know how to use an underground utility locator. This article will show you how to use an underground utility locator.

1. Choose the Right Locator

Choosing the right underground utility locator is essential; the right tool can make the job much more accessible and save time. Most underground utility locators can locate multiple types of underground utilities, such as electric, gas, and water lines.
Before purchasing an underground utility locator, consider the type and depth of the underground utility you want to locate. Different underground utility locators are designed to detect different types of utilities. For example, a device that detects electric lines may be less effective for gas lines.
If you plan on using the underground utility locator to locate underground utilities in deeper layers, choose one with deeper search capabilities. Generally speaking, the more expensive models are designed for deeper lines.
You should also consider the size of the underground utility you want to locate. This is important because some underground utility locators are designed for smaller lines and others for larger pipes. Depending on the line size, you may need to use more than one type of underground utility locator.
Lastly, you should consider the size of the area that you want to locate underground utilities in. If you are working extensively, you should choose an underground utility locator with a more extensive detecting range.

2. Prepare the Area

Preparing the area is an essential step for using an underground utility locator. Before you begin using the locator, it is necessary to survey the place you intend to work and clear any debris. Having a clean area will ensure a more accurate reading.
Start by clearing away any dirt, rocks, and other debris. Remove anything that may interfere with the locator, such as metal pipes, screws, and nails. You want the surface of the area to be clear so the locator can detect the underground utility correctly.
Examine the surface of the area and mark off any potential underground utilities you can identify. This will help you avoid any potential safety issues while using the locator.
You should also know the layout of the area that you are scanning. This will help you identify any potential underground utilities that may be hidden or difficult to detect.
When ready to use the underground utility locator, ensure the area is clear and safe. With the correct preparation, you can find underground utilities more quickly, efficiently, and safely.

3. Calibrate the Locator

Before using the underground utility locator, you must ensure it is properly calibrated. Calibration involves finding and setting the zero point on the locator, ensuring that the locator is working optimally and is accurate.
To calibrate the locator, you can use a calibration pad. A calibration pad is a device with a series of sensors the locator can detect. The calibration pad helps to indicate the locator’s performance in different conditions.
Once the calibration pad is connected to the locator, you must check its readings. The readings should indicate whether or not the locator is accurate. If the readings are inaccurate, you may need to adjust the calibration.
Once the locator is calibrated, you can detect underground utilities. Utilizing the locator correctly can help you quickly identify any potential dangers or issues with the utilities below.

4. Scan the Area

Once the locator is calibrated, the next step is to scan the area for underground utilities. This can be done manually or with a mapping program’s assistance.
The manual scanning process involves walking the locator over the area and checking for the sensing signals it gives off. As the locator detects a utility, it will give off a steady tone or a blinking light to alert the user.
Scanning the area manually allows you to get highly detailed and accurate results.
If you want to scan the area electronically, you can use a mapping program to detect underground utilities. The program uses a digitized area map cross-referenced with data from local utilities, giving you a general location of any utilities in the area.
Once you have identified the potential location of any underground utilities, double-check it with the locator before you begin any excavation or construction project.

5. Mark the Location

Now that you have identified where underground utilities might exist, you should mark the location with some form of visual indicator. This can include using flags, stakes, paint, or marker flags.
Marking the location provides a quick visual reference to any workers in the area. This is important as it helps to prevent accidents and can help you quickly identify the location of the underground utility during the excavation or construction.
When marking the location, it is essential to double-check the details so that the markers are accurate. It is also a good idea to check the features regularly to ensure they are still visible.
Finally, remember to always adhere to the laws and regulations applicable in your area. If any laws or regulations require a permit before any excavating can begin, ensure you obtain one before starting your project.

6. Repeat as Needed

Repeating the marking process on the same utility may also be necessary. Depending on the length of the project, you may need to move the markers farther out to ensure they are still visible and that the underground utility can continue to be easily identified.
If you move the markers, it’s important to note that you also make sure that the area is marked again with the visual indicators so that no one unknowingly damages the utility. You are re-marking the site whenever the projected location changes are essential to keep the area safe and compliant with the applicable laws and regulations.
Additionally, repeating the process as needed helps ensure that the utility is located and easily identifiable. The risks associated with not re-marking the area can be significant and lead to costly repairs and disruption to service.

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