For contractors, builders, and utility workers, locating underground pipes and conduits before digging is a critical issue. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, careless digging leads to hundreds of thousands of incidents annually, sometimes resulting in costly repairs, disruptions, injuries, or even fatalities. Installing tracer wire — also known as locating wire — can help contractors find underground assets and avoid costly repairs and delays.

Tracer wire is used to locate buried non-conductive pipe or tubing, such as natural gas or water lines. In many installations, poly tubing is replacing traditional steel or iron pipe, and it’s often necessary to relocate that tubing before beginning any new utility work. By burying a tracer wire with the tubing and then using a frequency generator to send a current through the wire, construction crews can locate pipes before they dig.

Solid Copper Versus CCS Tracer Wire

There are two common types of tracer wire — traditional solid copper and copper clad steel wire (CCS). Both have specific characteristics and advantages.

Solid copper tracer wire provides excellent signal fidelity and offers greater flexibility when tracer wire needs to be bent. Also, design engineers will sometimes specify solid copper wire based on how and where it will be terminated.

CCS tracer wire is often touted as a better alternative to solid copper, and it does offer many benefits:

  • CCS tracer wire has a higher breaking strength and is more rugged than traditional copper.
  • With a limited aftermarket value, CCS wire has a lower theft risk than pure copper.  This is a significant consideration, as the Department of Energy reports that the amount of stolen copper exceeds $1 billion every year.
  • CCS tracer wire is generally more cost-effective than solid copper.
  • CCS is also lighter than copper tracer wire, which can result in lower handling and shipping costs.

At Kris-Tech, both our CCS and solid copper tracer wires are manufactured with a rugged, high molecular weight polyethylene (HMWPE) insulation. They are both rated for direct burial in wet or dry locations and are electrical and corrosion-resistant. Our own testing shows just how tough Kris-Tech tracer wire is — after burying it, then digging it up after several years, it looks as good as new.

Other Tracer Wire Variations

Color — Our customers are direct burying our tracer wire in a variety of challenging environments. To make it easier to identify those conditions, we manufacture our tracer wire in a range of colors, in conformance with the American Public Works Administration Uniform Color Code. For example, blue is for potable water, green is for sewage and drain lines, and red represents electric power lines, cables, or conduit. We can also produce tracer wire in non-standard colors, based on unique customer requirements.

Thickness — Kris-tech also offers tracer wire in two different thicknesses for the different voltages used in locating systems. Our 30 mil wire is used for low voltage 30 volt systems, while our 45 mil wire is employed with 600 volt systems.

Stranded Copper — We also manufacture stranded copper tracer wire. Stranded wire bends much easier than solid copper, and is sometimes specified when installations demand maximum flexibility.

Conductivity — The industry standard for CCS tracer wire conductivity is 21%. Varying the thickness of the copper cladding, however, can change that conductivity rating. Customers may require better conductivity and a stronger signal based on soil conditions, burial depth, or other factors. For those customers, Kris-Tech can manufacture our CCS tracer wire with a higher conductivity rating.

Built to Meet Standards — With Safety in Mind

There are a lot of variables to consider when selecting the right tracer wire. That’s why we make it easy for customers to consult with our expert staff engineers. Clients can ask questions, get advice, and even share project specifications and ask for our written qualifications.

Even though Kris-Tech can provide a wide range of tracer wire options, it’s important to note that all tracer wire we produce goes through strict testing in accordance with UL standards. As with everything we manufacture at Kris-Tech, product quality and customer safety are always our primary concerns.