Published on July 28th, 2015 | by Henri


Tracing electrical circuits

Q.  I had a new circuit breaker box installed by an electrician, and he failed to write out on the new box what each circuit breaker controls. Is there any type of tool I can use to help me map the circuits? I do not want to be running up and down stairs all day trying to determine which lights are on and off when I switch the breaker.

A.  Yes there is such a type of tool. It’s called a circuit tracer. You can find them in hardware or home stores, or on-line, and prices range from about $30 to over $500.

But do you really need to buy a circuit tracer for a one-time session? My licensed electrician friend tells me that he and his men use a low-tech system that works just as well and is fine for use by someone working alone: plug in a radio in the circuit you want to identify and shut off breakers until the radio is turned off. It will require you to move the radio around, but we all need exercise anyway and stairs are the best kind.

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