How to play it safe when locating underground utilities

Before you break ground for a new commercial structure or residential development, or extend electrical, water or gas lines into a new area, you need to accurately locate buried utilities to avoid risking outages and to prevent potential injuries and fatalities. The first step is to review a utility map of the area if one is available. However, if there is no map or it is out of date, this gets complicated and expensive, so you’ll need to look for other options.

If you don’t find out exactly what’s underground before you dig, you may find out the hard way by cutting an electrical, gas, or water line. The risk to human life, the cost and delay, and the damage to your organization’s reputation of such an accident can be significant.

Why take the risk?

Taking note of the ever-increasing number of buried utilities to be identified and accurately mapped, Amprobe saw the need for an underground utilities locator that was easy to use, applicable to a variety of locating needs, affordable, and above all, safe. That led to the development of the Amprobe UAT-600 Series Underground Utilities Locator, which allows you to safely connect and accurately trace energized lines and find other utilities so you know exactly what is underground before you dig.

Multiple active and passive tracing modes

The UAT-600 Series provides multiple tracing modes to locate and trace energized and de-energized utilities in a variety of applications. The Receiver detects the presence of buried utilities up to 100 feet deep and accurately determines the depth of utilities to 20 feet.

What truly sets the UAT-600 Series apart is that it is the only underground utility locator on the market with a CAT IV 600 V safety rating. This means it is also the only underground utility locator that allows you to safely connect the Transmitter directly to an energized line up to 600 V in a CAT IV environment—wearing proper PPE of course. Previously, if a crew needed to trace a specific electrical line by transmitting a signal through it, the line had to be de-energized first. That adds time and reduces productivity.

Using the Receiver with the directly connected Transmitter surveyors can easily trace an individual cable, find shorts and breaks, or locate connections and junction boxes and determine the depth of those components, even if other utilities are buried in the vicinity.

With its rugged, water resistant case, the UAT-600 is ideal for many outdoor applications including highway construction, underground communications installations, and rerouting electrical lines. The Receiver features a high-contrast screen display that allows you to clearly view results in full sunlight and an automatic backlight for high visibility in shade or low-light conditions.

The complete solution for active and passive tracing

The UAT-600 Series comes as a complete kit with a Transmitter, Receiver, test lead kit, Signal Clamp (UAT-620 kit), batteries, and extra fuses. For passive mode applications you can use the Receiver alone to detect energized wires and buried metal pipes. In active mode you can use the UAT-600 Transmitter to generate a unique 8kHz or 33kHz signal that can then be detected by the Receiver.

Passive modes

The easiest and quickest way to locate energized wires and metallic pipes is by using the UAT-600 Receiver without the Transmitter. You can set the Receiver in either of two passive modes to detect a signal directly from a live circuit:

  • 50/60 Hz mode detects 50Hz or 60Hz energized electrical lines
  • Radio frequency mode detects buried metal objects such as electrical lines in metal conduit or gas and water lines.

Active modes

The intuitive UAT-600 Series Transmitter offers three types of active mode tracing, and automatically selects the correct mode for your application:

Direct test lead contact signal injection

The UAT-600 Series, with its CAT IV 600 V rating makes it uniquely suited for applications where you have access to an energized circuit. Now you don’t have to shut down power to the circuit. You can safely connect the transmitter directly to an energized circuit (up to 600 V) using the test leads. The UAT-600 kit also includes a ground rod to provide a separate ground for the UAT-600 Transmitter.

Connecting directly to the circuit via test leads delivers the best accuracy when you need to trace a single wire in an area where multiple wires are overlapping. It is particularly useful for locating shorts, opens, and breaks in energized lines, and for locating underground connections and junction boxes.

Signal Clamp non-contact signal injection

For applications with low impedance closed circuits, where it is difficult or impossible to access a lead connection point, you can use the UAT-600 Signal Clamp (UAT-620 kit) with the Transmitter. This allows you to trace individual energized and de-energized wires and metallic pipes without a direct connection to the bare metal of the wire. The Signal Clamp fits over cables, wires, and pipes up to 4” in diameter to trace a specific pipe or cable. This is a good choice for tracing underground lighting systems, verifying substation or junction box wiring, or tracing the “last mile” of wires from the transformer to the building.

Induction non-contact signal injection

If you can’t access an energized line to map buried metal utilities, the UAT-600 Transmitter in induction mode generates a unique 8 kHz or 33 kHz pulsing signal into the ground. Anything below the Transmitter that has any kind of metallic conductor takes the pulse and reflects it directly to the entire grid. You can then use the UAT-600 Receiver to trace the signal and determine the depth of the pipe and the direction it runs. The UAT-600 Transmitter needs to be placed at least 65 feet from buildings or electrical towers to avoid signal interference.

Key applications for the UAT-600 Series Underground Utilities Locator

Residential or Commercial Developments

To set up a safe and productive excavation plan for building in an already developed area, project engineers are legally obligated to survey the area and map out any utilities that are located underground. Using the UAT-600 Receiver, with or without the Transmitter, surveyors can detect the location of individual electrical lines as well as gas, water, and other utilities. Using the receiver and the transmitter you can also accurately determine the depth of those utilities to 20 feet.

Highway Projects

Before highways are designed and built, engineers need to know where any utilities are buried. The UAT-600 provides an accurate picture of what pipes and cables are underground and how deep they are. This helps reduce the number of test holes that need to be dug, thus saving time and costs, and reducing risk.

Cabling Installation Conduction Monitoring

Ground faults are a common problem with electrical cables. Using the optional Amprobe AF-600 A-Frame Ground Fault Locator with a UAT-600 Series Transmitter, surveyors can pinpoint leakage points in seconds. Just set up the UAT-600 Transmitter to apply a fault find signal to the utility under test using induction, the Signal Clamp, or direct test lead connection modes. The AF-600 A-Frame receives the signal and identifies the location of the fault. The AF-600 will pinpoint where a cable metal conductor (either a sheath or a metallic conductor of the wire) touches the ground and can also detect other ground faults such as pipeline coating defects.

Accurately and Safely Pinpoint Underground Utilities Before you Dig

Amprobe knows there are many electrical safety challenges associated with outdoor maintenance and construction. With the UAT-600 Series, hitting underground utilities won’t be one of them. Now you can confidently pinpoint the location of any utility, energized or de-energized, buried up to 100 feet deep. And with a CAT IV 600 V rating, your time and safety are never compromised.