A pipe locator is a device which is designed to locate buried pipes underground. Pipe locators work in a number of different ways, and can vary in cost considerably. These tools are manufactured and sold primarily by specialty companies, with some hardware stores carrying pipe locators for their customers, or being able to order them by request. It is also sometimes possible to rent a pipe locator, which may be preferred in settings when the device is only needed for one project.
Burying plumbing for water and gas underground, along with conduits for electrical lines, cable, and so forth is extremely popular in many regions. There are a number of advantages to burying utilities, ranging from less risk of storm damage to a desire to create a clean and uncluttered look in a yard and around a structure. However, the main problem with burying utilities is that they can be difficult to find again.
When service needs to be performed on a buried utility, a pipe locator can be used to find the pipe, minimizing the amount of digging which needs to be done to track it down. Pipe locators are also used to identify potential hazards before digging, ensuring that pipes and utility lines are not accidentally severed during digging. Damaging utilities with careless digging can be a costly mistake, as some people have learned to their chagrin.
People may also utilize pipe locators to map out underground utilities in a yard or area for general reference. For example, someone moving into a new home might want to know about the approximate location of buried utilities, as this information could be useful to have when problems develop or when yard work is being performed. While utilities do tag underground lines with signs, sometimes the signs are dislodged, removed, or accidentally moved, which means that the presence of a sign does not necessarily indicate that there's a pipe underneath it, and the lack of a sign doesn't mean it's safe to dig.
Some skill is required to operate a pipe locator, especially an advanced model which has a number of different functions. This task can be performed by an experienced contractor or utility worker. As a general rule, utilities would rather be called before people start digging than after people have made a mistake while digging, and many utilities are happy to send out a worker with a pipe locator to locate buried utility lines by request.