How to Search for Underground Power Lines with a Digital Multimeter

Before breaking ground on any outdoor project, you must first locate any existing underground power lines. Using a digital multimeter is an easy way to find underground cables and can determine if they are active and how deep they are buried. You can use the digital multimeter to determine signal strength through audio and visual indications on the meter. Using a headphone accessory attached to the multimeter allows you to operate it in noisy areas.

Power lines should always be located prior to breaking ground to avoid serious injury.
  1. Install the required number and size batteries into the digital multimeter.

  2. Hook up the inductive antenna to the multimeter, if it is not permanently attached to the housing unit of the meter. Place the meter on the ground in the location you wish to look for underground power lines. Turn the meter on.

  3. Watch the indicator screen for visual signal strength. Listen for the beep of an audio confirmation of power line detection. Adjust the transmitter output and receiver sensitivity by rotating the appropriate dials.

  4. Move the meter to another area to determine the path of the power line. Spray the fluorescent spray paint in a broken line on the ground to indicate the location of the discovered power line.

About the Author

Gabrielle Black has been a professional writer, artist and designer since 2002. Her theatrical designs, puppet design and construction have been featured in "Theatre Design & Technology" magazine and she has written numerous articles for various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Luther College and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Idaho, both in stage design and painting.