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Tracer Wire Best Practices

You can locate conductive metal pipe and cables with a standard pipe & cable locator which sends an alternating current frequency down the pipe. On Plastic pipe is it recommended that tracer wire be used. For a long term traceable system, a minimum specification of the tracer wire is recommended with the following points:

Wire should be made for specifically underground use - Standard commercial electrical wire is not made for underground use. The coating will eventually deteriorate and the signal will ground out and eventually fail to work properly. Underground tracer wire is normally Polyethylene coated

Wire should be copper with a solid steel core - Steel core wire will be stronger and less likely to break with pulling, back-filling, or trench settling. The copper and steel will carry the signal as well as solid copper.

The tracer wire should be attached to the pipe in a consistent way and place - The tracer wire will be used to detect the depth of the pipe. If consistently placed at either the center of the pipe depth on the pipe, or on the top of the pipe, the depth of the pipe can be accurately detected with a pipe locator.

All connections should be insulated and waterproof - Anywhere the wire can touch or ground out to soil or water will degrade the pipe locator signal, and possibly lead to corrosion and failure at the connection. All connections should be made with silicone gel filled wire connectors.

All dead ends should be grounded - Having dead ends grounded with a grounding anode will allow grounding at the end of the tracer wire to be located and insure good long distance locator signals.

Wire Terminations - For best and easiest locating, it is recommended to use professional wire terminations above ground in which to attach pipe locator transmitter clamps. This will prevent them getting buried, hit by lawn mowers, or cut but weed trimmers. It will also insure a good clean and strong connection with the transmitter.

Suggested Tracer Wire Spec (Minnesota Rural Water)