September 7, 2023

Pipe Laser Levels- their use and benefits for drainage projects

To ensure that complex projects like pipeline installations and sewer systems maintain their intended gradients and alignments, pipe laser levels have become indispensable. These innovative devices offer unparalleled precision, ease of use, and time- saving benefits for setting and aligning pipes on civil drainage projects.

The function of a pipe laser such as the compact Topcon TP-L6 is to emit a beam over a long distance and at a pre-determined  set slope to provide both a straight line and the correct angle of slope for drainage of sewer pipe, stormwater or water supply pipelines.

Most pipe lasers including the Topcon pipe lasers, now come in either a red beam or green beam version with the green beam version being more visible to the human eye over a greater distance.

Given the wide variety of terrain slopes that water and sewer pipes are typically  used for; a wide grade slope range is a necessity for a drainer or plumber and for the most versatility most operators look for a slope range of -15% to around +40% which the Topcon units provide.

topcon pipe laser tp-l6

Setting up and using a Pipe Laser

Most often the laser unit is set over a pit or alternatively within the first pipe and the required slope is then preset. The laser is then pointed in the direction of the required water or sewer line. With the use of a target plate at the other end of the straight line and with the use of the remote control unit the beam emitted from the laser level is picked up on the target plate and each pipe is then laid with reference to this beam.

In essence think of the laser beam as a “chalk line” which is set both as a straight line and with a predetermined slope and each pipe is laid to this imaginary line. Real time adjustments can be made to the slope and direction if necessary with the use of the remote control. For instance due to terrain, an initial pipe run may be at 5% and might change to say 12% and may even change direction. This is easily accommodated by using the remote control unit. 

topcon tp-l6 pipe laser

What to look for in the ideal Pipe Laser

Given the nature of laser levelling in conjunction with drainage works, there are a number of features that need to be considered for the task.

Battery Life. Due to the fact that the unit has to constantly emit a beam for the duration of the pipe laying project, a pipe laser requires a good power source and a long run time. Look for a unit with a rechargeable battery and ideally around 60 hour run time such as the Topcon TP-L6; otherwise the job can be compromised by having to reset after a battery change.

Size of Unit.  On many occasions, especially in tight suburban environments there isn’t an excess of room, either within or pit or at the invert. A compact unit, both in length and diameter is a consideration and the Topcon pipe lasers are designed to fit into tighter pits.

Waterproof Housing. Pipe Lasers are used in the harshest conditions and often in the mud and slush of trenches. As such they must be robust and above all, waterproof. Most are built with rugged cast aluminium with an IP68 rating which is the highest waterproof rating.

Red Beam or Green Beam? As mentioned earlier a green beam unit is more easily seen by the human eye over a longer distance; however due to the fact that the beam emitted from the pipe laser is a dot, in most applications unless the distance is over 150m it will be immaterial and either will work.

If used primarily in full sun, the green beam laser dot will be seen more easily and the extra expense of the green beam versus the red beam in this instance may be beneficial.

In summary, for drainage work to be carried out effectively, accurately and efficiently a pipe laser is an essential piece of equipment for every drainer and civil plumber. The other vital consideration is to not compromise on the quality or the functionality of the unit and given the harsh conditions a pipe laser is used in, a reputable brand such as the Topcon pipe laser series is a pre-requisite for proper pipe laying.

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