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The difference between tracer wire, TW/THW, and THHN Wire?

by | on | in Damage Prevention of Utilities | 0 Comments

What is the difference between underground tracer wire, TW/THW electrical wire tracer, and THHN building wire? Moreover, can THHN wire be used as locating wire?

In the market for underground tracer wire?

What is underground tracer wire?

PRO-TRACE HF-CCS PE30 TRACER WIREWe distributors of Proline Pro-Trace, a highly flexible underground tracer wire used in open trenches and direction drilling.Underground tracer wire is also called locating wire or electrical wire tracer. This wire is buried alongside underground plastic pipes, fiber optics or undetectable lines so that locating equipment can detect the locating wire, hence the utility line, before digging.

The wire is coated with 30 to 45 millimeters of polyethylene (plastic) making it durable, resilient and well-insulated to sustain adverse weather conditions, be resistant to liquids, chemicals, corrosion and be flexible.

What is TW/THW?

TW or THW means thermoplastic high heat-resistant and water-resistant. Typical uses of TW/THW electrical wire tracer are in control panels, air conditioning equipment, refrigeration equipment, control wiring of machine tools, and automatic washers. This tracer wire is used in industrial, commercial and residential applications where it is dry and less than 194 F.

What is THHN Wire?

THHN wire or thermoplastic high heat-resistant nylon wire is a favorite building wire used to transmit electricity through buildings. The wire itself may be aluminum or copper, but it is not tracer wire. THHN satisfies most residential and industrial electrical needs and has approval for up to 600 volts, and 194 °F. THHN is less expensive than tracer wire.

Can I use THHN as an underground locating wire?

While gas, water, fiber-optic, and sanitation companies use underground tracer wire, from time to time contractors and subcontractors mistakingly use THHN which can be problematic.

THHN is not insulated sufficiently to hold up over the lifespan of the underground utility which may be expected to last 30 years. The primary coating of THHN is nylon which is vulnerable in moisture and will eventually break down, and the wire will erode, becoming unusable. If THHN is used as tracer wire, when it fails, the line will need to be excavated, and the THHN wire will require replacement. While THHN wire is less expensive than tracer wire, the small increase in price is insignificant compared to the tremendous cost associated with excavating a line to replace the tracer wire.

 locating wireThere are many types of tracer wire.


Linc Energy Systems is a master distributor of Proline tracer wire. If you are interested in underground tracer wire, we are here to assist you.

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About The Author

Brian Cox is one of our natural gas odorization experts, along with being a Linc Energy Systems sales associate. Brian will be blogging about natural gas odorizers and other natural gas products.


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Guest Friday, 24 January 2020
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