When performing construction or maintenance a cable avoidance tool, or CAT, is absolutely essential. Like a lot of specialist tools out there, however, there is a vast range that varies between professional quality, with lots of useful accessories and deluxe features, and the more budget models that tend to be highly variable.
There are plenty of CATs out there that are simply more than you really need, and plenty of budget models out there that are unreliable and ineffective. Generally, they are priced as such. Whether you’re new to this particular kind of tool or you’ve been using an older model for a while and are looking to upgrade, we’re going to run through a few key features to help you choose the perfect CAT for you, your team and your projects.
General Considerations when buying a Cable Avoidance Tool
- How sturdy is it?
You need to know whether the tool you select is able to stand up to the working conditions in which it’s going to be used. This is absolutely essential when it comes to the longevity of the tool as well as making it easier to use.
- How weather resistant is it?
Similar to my previous point, but just as important, you need to know how water resistant the CAT is and what temperatures it can stand up to. Again these determine the effectiveness of the tool in different situations and areas, so need to be thoroughly considered.
- How good is its reliability?
You need to know you have a CAT that measures accurately and consistently, and that you can always trust to perform on the day. An error with the location of a cable can result in expensive damage to the cable, and this would be your fault.
- Is there a guarantee offered?
Like any tool you buy, especially a more technical, specialist one like this, you want to know you have a guarantee of some kind. Make sure you shop around and see what different brands and retailers offer.
- Is it an intuitive system?
You do not want to waste too much time getting to know the system and how it works, make sure you get the kind of well-designed tool that you can start using effectively within a few hours of training or use.
- Is it good value?
This goes with everything really, obviously you need to shop around till you find the highest grade tool at the best price, but make sure you don’t neglect the importance of a guarantee, when making this sort of investment, it really helps to have a backup plan if something goes wrong with your CAT.
Specialist Considerations when buying a CAT
- Do you need to invest in a signal generator, or will you use the CAT on its own?
You can make your CAT more powerful and effective through using a signal generator. This will allow you to not just locate cables with power running through them, but also inert cables, so you get a clearer view of the subterranean map. It also means you can pick up non-electric cables such a water pipes. This can prove useful.
- What kind of ranges and distances do you need to scan?
Are you going to be more focused on local areas or are you going to be working on whole chunks of motorway? Depending on the amount of ground you’re going to be covering you will want to select a CAT with power that matches the job size.
- Do you want to be able to measure depth?
Certain, more advanced cable avoidance tools don’t just detect the cable in location, but also in depth. This means that while you might know the cable is there, but are gingerly excavating for three meters to reach, now you can know how deep it is, and therefore dig quicker and less carefully for the first two and a half meters. It basically gives you a depth reading.
- Do you want to store cable location data, or just mark up the area?
When you’ve worked over an area, do you want the cable location data storing on a PC or are you content to simply mark up the area? Only certain CATs can communicate effectively with PCs, meaning that if you intend on retaining cable location data, you need to get a CAT with good PC storage and mapping options.
- Will training be necessary?
This is especially important if it’s not just you using the CAT, is it intuitive and straightforward enough for anyone to use after a bit of on the job training, or do you need to allocate some budget to train your guys up to use it effectively? Sometimes, if you’re using some of the more technical features such as the data storing, or depth reading, training can be a necessity, but if you don’t need those features, make everything easier on everybody and go for a simpler, more intuitive model.
If you are looking for a cable avoidance tool, or indeed any type of measuring equipment, then head over to The Tape Store, who have kindly provided this article, one of the largest online retailers of measuring equipment in the UK.