Tracer wire is used extensively in construction to help contractors and utility workers locate underground pipes and other buried assets. However, when ordering tracer wire, project managers need the right information in hand to ensure they’re choosing the best tracer wire solution for their specific requirements.

For most distributors and project managers, getting that information starts with selecting a tracer wire supplier with the expertise and resources to help guide you through the selection process.

What Is Tracer Wire?

Tracer wire (aka locating wire) is an insulated wire buried with poly tubing and other non-conductive piping (often used in natural gas or water lines). When crews need to relocate or excavate in the vicinity of those underground assets, they use a frequency generator to send a current through the tracer wire and locate the underground assets before digging.

By using tracer wire, contractors can reduce or eliminate service disruptions, expensive repairs, worker injuries, and potential fatalities.

How to Choose a Tracer Wire Supplier

A high-value wire supplier will have the infrastructure, expertise, and processes in place to help you through the entire tracer wire purchase cycle, from initial inquiry to ordering and delivery:

Manufacturing experience. The best wire suppliers typically have a proven track record reflected in positive customer reviews. They extensively test all of their products to ensure they meet industry standards and have a strong commitment to safety and customer service.

Short lead times. Project managers rely on fast lead times to meet their demanding construction schedules. Wire suppliers should publish their lead time targets and consistently meet or exceed them. Here at Kris-Tech, we take pride in offering the best lead times in the industry.

A deep inventory. Your wire supplier should stock the most common tracer wire types and colors. Maintaining a substantial inventory helps eliminate delivery delays.

Personalized service. How fast can you get a quote from your supplier? Is your customer service rep knowledgeable, and can they answer all of your questions? At Kris-Tech, our team responds in 30 minutes and can provide same-day quotes. They receive extensive product training and can leverage our in-house engineers and technical experts as required.

Cost-effective shipping options. As tracer wire is often made from copper, it’s heavy and expensive to ship. Making the right shipping choices can help keep contractor costs low.

The Right Questions Yield the Best Results

Experienced wire suppliers know the questions to ask to help their customers choose the right tracer wire. These questions will help determine several variables, including:

Material. Tracer wire is commonly available in two types — traditional solid copper and copper clad steel wire (CCS). Both offer unique advantages.

  • Solid copper tracer wire, the traditional choice, provides superior signal fidelity and greater flexibility for applications where tracer wire must be bent.
  • Copper clad steel (CCS) tracer wire has rapidly become a popular alternative to solid copper. With a higher breaking strength, CCS is more robust than copper.
  • Solid copper wire is an attractive target for thieves. CCS wire, however, has a limited aftermarket value and isn’t a common theft target.
  • CCS tracer wire is typically less expensive than its all-copper counterpart and is considerably lighter, resulting in reduced shipping and handling costs.

Wire Gauge. Tracer wire is available in multiple gauges. For example, Kris-Tech manufactures copper tracer wire in gauge sizes from 4 to 18 AWG. Wire gauge is typically determined by the project engineer or specified in the Request For Proposal (RFP).

Voltage. Tracer wire is rated for different voltages depending on the application. Higher voltages require a greater insulation thickness. Kris-Tech offers three voltage choices for tracer wire — 300, 600, or 1,000 volts — with 600 being the most commonly specified.

Insulation color. Tracer wire is available in a range of jacket colors. Each jacket color is designated for use in a specific utility. For example:

  • Yellow — natural gas lines
  • Green — sewer lines
  • Blue — potable water
  • Red — buried electrical wire
  • Orange — fiber optic and telecommunications cables

Kris-Tech publishes a handy tracer wire color guide to help our customers choose the correct tracer wire color for their application.

Take the Guesswork Out of Ordering Tracer Wire

Choosing the right supplier can take simplify the tracer wire ordering process and save you time and money. However, there are other ways that high-value suppliers can enhance your purchasing experience.

While we’re known for our customer service and industry-best lead times, Kris-Tech can also customize many aspects of your tracer wire order, including:

  • Custom Print Legends
  • Non-Standard Lengths
  • Packaging and Labelling Options
  • No Cut or Reel Charge

For more details about the Kris-Tech line of Tracer Wire, contact us today.

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