The ABCs of Locating

Locating is the art and science of finding hidden things. So many of these things have been hidden intentionally, for many reasons. Wires, pipes and tanks are buried out of sight, below ground or within walls, to keep us safe from them (and to keep them safe from us). This is fine until we want to find them and no one can remember precisely where they are.

A great way to locate hidden things is to cause them, or something near them, to transmit a radio signal. Then all you need is a receiver tuned to that signal, able to measure the signal’s strength and direction, to home in on the source of the signal.

The basic requirement for locating is that the transmitter and receiver talk to each other on the same radio frequency. Will just any frequency do? No. The optimal frequency depends on the type of locating you are doing and the material you need to penetrate with the signal, along with some other considerations. 512 Hz has become the industry standard frequency for locating transmitters through cast iron; higher frequencies won’t go through it. But that frequency is vulnerable to cross-interference from power lines and other electrical devices, so higher frequencies are often used when locating in non-metallic environments. A whole array of frequencies and locating techniques are available to help you solve almost any locating problem.

The two most common types of locating are:

  • Sonde, or transmitter, locating. A small radiating unit (a transmitter) is sent down a pipe and its precise location is detected by the receiver. This method is mostly used to locate buried tanks and specific trouble spots in a pipe, often in conjunction with a video camera. Mapping a line can be accomplished by moving the transmitter a few feet at a time and marking the locations on the ground.
  • Line tracing. The entire underground pipe or wire is energized with a signal (some wires, like power lines, already radiate a signal) and the user can follow the signal, marking as he goes. This method is most often used for locating utilities.

Prototek is an industry leader in Sonde-based locating. You’ll find on this web site an impressive variety of transmitters that get into about any place there is, with companion receivers that make this type of locating a breeze.

We also offer Line Tracing equipment to expand your ability to locate pipelines and drainfields, as well as locating utilities in order to avoid digging them up by accident.

Prototek is the only stop you’ll require for all your locating needs. Contact us now.