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Frequently Asked Questions - Locators
  • What is a sonde and why would I need to purchase one?
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    • A sonde is a miniature transmitter that is battery operated and omits a specific frequency your locator will receive. A sonde gives the ability to locate nonmetallic pipe. A sonde goes in the pipe and transmits a signal. Pipe & cable locators will not be able to locate nonmetallic pipe because nonmetallic pipes will not carry a signal
  • Which sonde is compatible with my locator?
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    • Typically you need to use a sonde produced by the same manufacturer as your locator. The locator is designed to receive specific frequencies. Usually there is only a ±3 Hz range that the receiver will pick up.
  • What is the difference between a flexible sonde and a standard sonde?
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    • Size is the main difference between the two styles. Flexible sondes give the ability to locate 2" or 3" pipes. Theses sondes have a small diameter and a long flexible profile, allowing them to navigate bends in small diameter pipe. A standard sonde will have a larger diameter and shorter overall length. Usually the flexible sonde will have a greater transmitting depth. Because of its advantages, the flexible sonde is normally going to cost more.
  • What is the difference between a metal detector and a ferromagnetic locator?
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    • Since all locating jobs are not the same, choosing a multi-frequency locator provides you with greater versatility. Single-frequency locators work great for the applications they were designed for, but fall short in other applications. A multi-frequency unit allows you to select higher frequencies when searching for ductile iron water pipes, deep conductors, broken tracer wire or tracer tape. Blind locates are also best attempted with a high frequency. Lower frequencies are used when searching for phone lines/cables, tracer wire and locating in congested areas where minimal signal bleed over is required. Occasionally, depending on the soil conditions and the application, a combination of high and low frequencies are required. Obviously, in these situations, a multi-frequency locator would be the only viable solution.
  • How can I locate my PVC water line if there is no tracer wire buried?
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    • Start digging. Actually, the RD500 was designed for this application. The RD500 consists of a transmitter and receiver. The patented transmitter produces a non-destructive pressure wave in the pipe that is detectable 250’ or more in each direction. (Some of our customers have reported distances of more than 1000’.) The receiver, using seismic technology, provides both a visual and audible indication of the pressure wave, thereby locating the pipe.
  • How do multi-frequency locators compare to single-frequency locators?
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    • Size is the main difference between the two styles. Flexible sondes give the ability to locate 2" or 3" pipes. Theses sondes have a small diameter and a long flexible profile, allowing them to navigate bends in small diameter pipe. A standard sonde will have a larger diameter and shorter overall length. Usually the flexible sonde will have a greater transmitting depth. Because of its advantages, the flexible sonde is normally going to cost more.
  • What is the best locator for use in my water system?
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    • The "best" locator for any application depends on what you want to locate and what experience (if any) you have had with locating equipment in the past. There are two basic locator types. The first is basically a metal detector, a locator that detects either all types of metal or one that responds to iron-based objects only, is used to find valve boxes, curb boxes, manholes and meter pit lids, etc. Every utility needs one of these. The second type, a pipe and cable locator consisting of a separate transmitter and receiver, requires a conductor, such as a metal pipe or cable, on which the transmitter will send a signal. This signal is then picked up, and can be pinpointed, by the receiver. Most utilities are going to need one of these also. There are many varieties of both types of locators, so it pays to ask questions and consider the alternatives before purchasing.
  • What is the best locator for use in my water system?
    View answer
    • The "best" locator for any application depends on what you want to locate and what experience (if any) you have had with locating equipment in the past. There are two basic locator types. The first is basically a metal detector – a locator that detects either all types of metal or one that responds to iron-based objects only – is used to find valve boxes, curb boxes, manholes and meter pit lids, etc. Every utility needs one of these. The second type, a pipe and cable locator consisting of a separate transmitter and receiver, requires a conductor, such as a metal pipe or cable, on which the transmitter will send a signal. This signal is then picked up, and can be pinpointed, by the receiver. Most utilities are going to need one of these also. There are many varieties of both types of locators, so it pays to ask questions and consider the alternatives before purchasing.
  • Up to what depths do your locators find objects?
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    • It all depends on the locator, size and material of the object, but some examples are as follows:
      Survey markers up to 9 feet
      1-1/4" PK Nail Up to 12 inches
      4" Cast-Iron Pipe Up to 10 feet
      Well Casting Up to 18 feet
      Manhole Cover Up to 10 feet
  • How accurate are the mobile GPS units that you have in your catalog?
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    • The accuracy of the equipment is generally within about 9 to 24 feet, but can be affected by factors such as atmospheric conditions and the angle of the satellites that are within the line of site.