Best Circuit Breaker Finders and Tracers Tested

Circuit Breaker Finders and Tracers Tested: What Is A Circuit Breaker?

A circuit breaker is a device which prevents the flow of electricity from one part of your house to another when there is no fault with either the power supply or the electrical equipment. It stops any current from flowing into a particular area unless it’s been specifically turned off. If both circuits are faulty then electricity will not pass through them and they’ll simply remain open until they’re switched off.

What Are Circuit Breakers Used For?

If you have a faulty light switch, a faulty TV set or other electrical appliances which don’t work properly, you need to make sure that the problem isn’t caused by a short circuit between two wires. If all three parts of the system are working correctly then there won’t be any danger of damaging anything else. However if one part fails, then everything could go wrong very quickly!

How Do You Test A Circuit Breaker?

The best way to test a circuit breaker is to use a circuit tester. These devices measure the resistance of each wire connected to the circuit and if they show that they’ve got too much resistance, then you know that something is causing the current to stop flowing through it. They’re great because they’re easy to use and you can get results back very quickly so you can fix whatever’s broken.

How Does A Circuit Tester Work?

The circuit tester looks a bit like a hammer, with a metal detector on one end and a long handle which you can hold. You simply touch it against each of the wires in turn and if it detects that they have too much resistance then it will light up. If it doesn’t light up at all, then the wire either has no power running through it or there is no connection to it. You can then check the next wire and keep on doing this until you find the faulty one.

What Are The Different Types Of Circuit Tester?

The most common type of tester is the analogue type, which looks like a tack hammer with a flat end which has an LED inside it. They’re relatively cheap and easy to find in any DIY store or online.

Another form is the digital type, which contains a small computer chip and can display a measured resistance value. These are more expensive but they’re very easy to use and you don’t need to know anything about Ohm’s law or have experience in electronics to get good results.

Finally there are apps for your phone or tablet device, which let you test the resistance of each wire quickly and easily by connecting the wires to your phone using alligator clips or a probe. They’re a great choice if you want to be able to test wires without carrying a separate tool around.

What Is Ohm’s Law?

Ohm’s law states that the current which flows through a wire is directly proportional to the resistance of the wire. In other words if you have two wires of different thickness, the thicker one will allow less current to flow through it than the thinner one.

How To Measure The Resistance Of Wires With A Multimeter

A multimeter is an invaluable tool for testing wires and can be used in place of a circuit tester. To use it, you simply need to touch the test probes to each end of the wire you want to test and then adjust the dial until the number on the screen shows exactly 0.00.

If it shows anything other than 0.00 then this means that there is a break in the circuit or that one of the wires is not making a good connection. You can test this by touching one of the probes to each end of the wire and checking that it now reads 0.00. If it does, then the original problem has been fixed but if not, you’ll need to keep adjusting the dial and testing it on each end of the wire until you’ve found the point at which the resistance becomes zero.

How To Use A Circuit Tester

A circuit tester is a small device which you can use to help find faults in your wiring. The best way to use it is to follow the wiring diagram for your electrical system and test each circuit in turn.

For each one you need to test, simply touch the tester to each end for a few seconds and then check the light on the front.

If it lights up green then this means that the power is getting through and if it lights up red then this means that there is a break in the circuit. If it lights up yellow it usually means that there is an intermittent fault which you need to track down.

How To Use A Circuit Tester For Large Circuits

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Circuit testers for large circuits (anything larger than about 16 circuits) usually come with a map of the local area which shows you the boundaries of each electrical zone, which can be very useful if your house has more than one main panel. This is what you need to do…

Begin by testing the line side of the service panel. This is the main service panel and all the panels downstream from it.

The line side of the service panel is always on, even when all the breakers are turned off. To test it, all you need to do is touch the tester to both lugs at once and it will light up green if it has power or red if it doesn’t.

Next test the load side of the service panel. This is everything in your house that is “powered”, basically anything that has a plug or is wired directly in to the main panel.

Test all of the downstream (child) panels in your house, including the sub-panels. For most houses this will only involve testing two or three breakers but some houses have much larger sub-panel systems with up to fifteen or more breakers.

Troubleshooting Large Circuits

There are a few simple methods you can use to track down the specific breaker which is causing the problem.

If you can find one breaker in the same electrical “zone” which is off but all the others are on, then this means that the faulty breaker is in the same loop of the circuit and is often close to the panel. If you find a breaker which is on when everything else around it is off then this means that it’s located somewhere in the middle of the loop and will require further tracking to identify it specifically.

If you’re having problems then you can use shorter cuts to directly transfer power from one breaker to another. This is a temporary fix but will allow you to determine whether the problem lies in an off breaker or in a faulty feeder cable somewhere outside.

How To Use A Circuit Tester For Small Circuits

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Locate the problem…

Once you have a shorted or broken wire, located the problem, then test it using the circuit tester. The only thing you need to do is hold the tester against each of the wires in turn and see which one causes the tester to light up.

It’s as simple as that.

Once you have located the faulty wire, cut it back as far as it is safe to do so and then replace the section using a coupling and a length of new wire.

Finally, test the circuit again to ensure that the problem has gone and then feel proud of yourself for having solved it!

You can buy a simple circuit tester very cheaply at any hardware store.

You can use a voltage detector instead if you have one but these are not always 100% reliable and if there is more than one wire in the cable then it will be difficult to determine which one is the live one, especially if it’s a broken or damaged wire that you can’t see inside the sheath.

Make Your Own Wire Connectors If You Don’t Have Many Wires To Connect

If you only need to connect a couple of wires then it’s cheaper and easier to simply use “wire connectors” or terminal connectors as they’re sometimes called. These are designed to be used without solder and can be pushed on to the ends of the wires then squeezed together to make a good connection.

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Make sure that you get the right size for your wire. The most common size for household wiring is the 5.5mm variety.

These can be a little difficult to find in small quantities, especially at a reasonable price, so you may have to buy a larger quantity then just keep what you need and throw the rest away. You can also get crimp on connectors that don’t need cutting but again, these are usually only available in large quantities.

The easiest method, unless you buy a “crimp on” connector, is to cut the wire to the correct length, strip a small amount of the insulation, then cut the wires on the connector itself approximately the same length. Place the wires into the connector and squeeze everything together with pliers.

This is not the best way of making a connection but it’s simple and effective for temporary or backup uses.


Always keep your connectors separate from one another otherwise you’ll end up with a short circuit!

Always Use The Correct Sizes For Wires And Connectors

This might seem obvious but some people will cut a length of wire and then just wedge it into the connector regardless of whether it’s the correct size or not. Obviously this is a bad idea since if the wire is too small it will inevitably break inside the connector and become a “live” wire.

If you buy your own cable then it will be supplied with connectors already in place. These will be the correct size for that particular cable and all you need to do is cut the amount you require off the roll and wedge it into the connectors.

You can reduce the risk of having a problem by taking extra care when cutting the wires to length. Instead of hacking the insulation all the way off, just score it with a knife till you get close to the wire itself.

Then pull the rest of the insulation off by hand so that you don’t accidentally cut through the actual wire as well.

The same applies if you use the knife to cut straight through the insulation in one movement. Make the cut slowly and stop part way through then pull the rest off by hand.

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If this all seems like too much trouble then you might want to think twice about messing around with electricity. There are safer ways of making a quick connection that don’t involve anything more than a screwdriver.

You can use clips that snap over the wire itself or push on connectors that only require a bare minimum of exposed wire to operate.

Always Use Insulated Clips On Non-Shielded Cables

If you are using a clip to connect non-shielded wire to something else then it must be made from a material that doesn’t conduct electricity. The most common one is made of plastic and has “Flexible” right in the name.

These can be purchased in either a single or double configuration.

These can only be used on non-coated wires as they have no way of making a proper connection to the conductor itself. In other words you can’t use them on speaker wire or anything else that has a thin coating of something like vinyl.

You also need to use the double version for thicker wires as the single ones are only intended for smaller gauges.

As long as you follow the instructions and don’t try to shove a “non-Flexi” style clip onto something that it’s not intended for then there shouldn’t be a problem. The manufacturer also claims that the clips are resistant to heat and common solvents so short of setting them on fire or pouring glue on them they should last a reasonable amount of time.

Always Use A Safety Switch With Older Equipment

If your older equipment doesn’t have a power switch of any kind (as in disconnected by default) then you should get a manual switch such as the one shown at the top of this section.

These are sometimes known as hospital switches or line isolation switches and are designed to isolate a piece of equipment from the incoming power source. In other words it’s the electrical equivalent of throwing a breaker in your house to turn off the power.

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These switches can be had for as little as $5 at most hardware stores so there’s really no excuse not to use one. The only potential problem is that they do require being physically attached to the device you want to turn on and off so you may need to drill some holes in the case or modify it in some other way to make them fit.

If you are using a separate power supply (as opposed to one that’s built in) then at the very least you should always unplug it from the wall if you aren’t going to be around the equipment for any length of time. A quick trip to the bathroom or grabbing a snack does become a safety issue if there’s a chance of your cat deciding to use your expensive gear as a scratching post.

Always Ground Your Equipments For Your Own Safety

In the modern world we are taught that electricity and water do not mix thanks to the potential for shocks that could cause serious injury or even death. The fear of death by electric shock has lead to the requirement that all electrical equipment be grounded to prevent such occurrences.

Without getting too technical, a ground is simply another pathway back to the power source should anything happen to the primary one. In the event of a power surge (increase in power) or power failure the switch will instantly break the connection preventing anything from happening to the equipment (or you) assuming that it is grounded.

Technically you can get by without grounding your equipment if you never turn off your equipment or if you always leave one device plugged in and turned on at all times. This works because the live center (power on) is always connected to the ground (safety path to power source).

This is typically achieved by always leaving your computer turned on for example.

If you follow this practice then it isn’t necessary or even desirable to ground your audio equipment. If however you follow good safety practices such as unplugging everything before you go to bed at night or go out to lunch then you really should consider grounding everything.

This is especially true if you live in an older home which might not have had all the proper wiring installed according to modern safety standards. It isn’t a matter of if your house gets struck by lightning, it’s when.

And if your equipment isn’t grounded then you are putting yourself at risk of being part of the problem rather than the solution.

So how do you ground your equipment?

The easiest way is to add a ground wire to your main power cable. Most power cables have a hole near the middle that you can add a bolt to connect to a ground wire. You can then run this wire to either a grounded outlet in your house, or if your really want to be safe, to a buried copper wire hammered into the ground outside. Don’t just attach it to a random screw or you might as well not bother.

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If your equipment doesn’t have a hole near the middle of the power cable or you prefer not to mess with it, you can always add a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet somewhere near your equipment and simply plug your equipment into that. While this isn’t as good as a physical ground, it is better than nothing and certainly better than having nothing at all.

Note that the rules for grounding change if you start messing with high voltage equipment such as amplifiers which can put out 45,000 volts even when not plugged in. If you start adding alternative grounding methods such as burying wires or attaching them to electrical boxes you really need to know what you’re doing or get professional help.

Otherwise you risk electrocuting yourself or starting a fire and it isn’t worth the money you’ll save by not buying a proper ground wire kit.

If your house or the area where you keep your equipment is new and doesn’t have grounded outlets available you might want to strongly consider having them added. This is something that a handyman or an electrician can easily do for a relatively small cost.

Just make sure that they are grounded with a copper wire (sometimes called greenwire) that is hammered into the ground outside, not just attached to a screw inside the wall.

And while you are at it, you can have extra outlets installed that you can use for your equipment. It is a lot more work to bring the extra wiring into the room and have the outlet installed, but once its there, you have one less thing to worry about.

This doesn’t just save you time and frustration when setting up, but allows for future expansion as well so you don’t end up having to rewire everything later on.

In addition to all this, never run your power cables near potential sources of interference such as large wiring, plumbing, or metal posts. If possible avoid areas near high voltage transformers as well since these can emit magnetic fields that can cause undesirable electrical noise to be introduced onto your line which can cause dropouts and other annoying problems.

It is also important to keep your power cables away from areas that get a lot of foot traffic. People are always coming in contact with doors, windows, walls, light switches and all manner of things that can create electrical noise.

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Even something as simple as having a door closed tightly versus left open a bit can cause problems. This is less of a concern if you are setting up in a room that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, such as an equipment closet, but it is still good to keep in mind.

The first thing you need to do is gather the proper tools and equipment. While not absolutely necessary, they will make your life much easier so might as well.

You’ll need a stud finder, a drill, a hammer, some nails, and some electrical cable. You may or may not need a saw depending on just where you set up.

You should already have some sort of table to set your machine on and a chair to sit in. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you still don’t want to set up on the floor.

A couple of sturdy boxes will work just fine to raise your chair up to a reasonable height.

Once you’ve determined where you want your table and have cleared off the floor, you need to find the studs in the wall. You can do this easily enough by running the stud finder over the wall.

The little device has a button that beeps when you push it and when it locates a stud it causes the finder to vibrate in your hand. It is very simple to use, just keep running it over the wall until you’ve found all of the studs.

Once you have marked them with a pencil, you can start nailing up your brackets. The brackets come with nails installed so all you need to do is hammer them into the studs.

You will need to measure and mark the placement of the brackets on the wall.

You’ll need to run the cables along your power source, in most cases this means running from a nearby outlet. If there isn’t one in the area, you’ll need to run a new line which is slightly more involved.

You can either fish a new line through the walls or ceiling or run it out to an existing outlet and use an extention cord. The extention cord method is much simpler and in most cases just as reliable.

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Once you have your power cable run and the ends stapled to the studs, it is time to mount your outlet. This can be a little tricky since you will need to support the weight of your machine by yourself.

The easiest way that you can think of is to hang it from the bottom mounting bracket while you secure the top one. After you are sure it is stable, remove the bottom bracket and mount the top one permanently. Once this is done, you can bring your computer over and plug it into the new outlet.

Now that you have a power cable running along the floor, you’ll need to figure out a way to get it to your table without leaving a mess. You could either lay it on the floor and run over it with chairs and tables or come up with some way of hiding it.

Running it under the floor would be difficult, but not impossible. You would need to make some holes in the floor and fish it through.

This would work best if you are already planning to put in a floor jack to raise and lower your table since you can put the power source under there as well. This isn’t the most practical solution for a home automation system so you will discard this idea unless you have a reason to do otherwise.

While thinking about this, you remember the baseboards in the room. They are made out of some sort of thick plastic and have a row of clips along the bottom.

You could easily modify one of these boards by cutting a slot in the bottom to hold the power cable. You could then secure the board to the wall and no one would be the wiser since they aren’t exactly works of art to begin with.

Once you have your cable channel in place, all you have to do is slide the cable under the baseboard and into the slot. You can secure the power source in place by screwing in a board across the bottom of the channel.

With everything in place, you need to test to make sure everything is working properly. To do this, you’ll need a set of jumper cables.

Set one end to the power supply, the other to the motherboard. If everything is working correctly, you should hear a series of beeps when you turn on the power. If you don’t hear anything, check your connections and jump them again.

This concludes the hardware installation. The software side is pretty easy.

You just need to boot up your computer and install your router with the provided CD. Follow the on screen instructions and perform a quick format once it is up and running.

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You can now either hook up your computer using the Ethernet cable or connect to it wirelessly. Since you haven’t finished your basement yet, you’ll need to run a cable for now.

With the computer physically connected, you need to set up the software so you can access it remotely. To do this, you’ll need to install virtual router software so you can share your existing connection.

This software essentially emulates a router so you don’t have to give out your password to your ISP.

When you run it, you need to give it a name and a password. Other than that, just follow the on screen prompts to get it working with your existing connection.

You’ll also want to set up a persistent connection so this software starts when your computer does.

Once this is done, you are ready to test it by unplugging the Ethernet cable. If all goes well, you should still have internet access.

If not, check your software and router settings to make sure the connection is enabled.

Lastly, you’ll want to set up port forwarding on your new router so you can access it remotely. To do this, you need the IP address of your computer.

Instructions on finding this are different for every operating system. Once you have it, set up port forwarding for 5300.

With all of this set up, you should now be able to access your computer remotely. If for some reason it isn’t working, try rebooting your computer.

With all of that out of the way, you can finally start looking into those files.

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The first things you notice are a bunch of files with weird names like “iHdjkfdjsdfj.mp4” and “kjfghkj.txt”.

Obviously, Filename and Name aren’t his strong suits. Still, you look through them to see if anything is useful. Most of it is stuff like purchase orders and bank statements so you delete those immediately. You do find a few spreadsheets full of formulas on how to make various chemical mixtures so you keep those. You assume he uses these for his job. There are a couple of PDF’s but you can’t view them since you don’t have a compatible reader. You’re not really concerned with those since they are probably just procedure manuals for his job.

Eventually you come across several Word documents, at least one of these has to be important right?

The first few are just brief notes with titles like “Things to do”, “Cheap apartments in city”, “Programs to learn” and other mundane tasks. The next one is titled “Life goals” and is the only one that interests you since it is apparently written by a real human being.

“Life goals”

Keep my job

Get married (hah!)

Have kids (maybe)

Buy house



You got to give it to him, he’s a real visionary.

There is also a directory titled “Private” which contains more Word documents. You open a few at random but they are all for personal purposes like a will, a letter to his mom and email passwords.

All very private stuff that you shouldn’t be looking through. However, you come across one titled “My Story”. Now this sounds more like it.

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It’s a Word document so you open it and start reading.

“My Story”

I always thought I was normal.

I had a mom, dad, and sister. We lived in a house and I went to school like everyone else.

I had friends and I even got pretty good grades.

I guess I was normal right?

Well maybe not. Normal people don’t generally think about killing themselves, at least I don’t think they do. I don’t really know since I’ve never really talked about it with anyone. I just felt it was something I might do someday, especially in the depths of my depression.

What teenager isn’t depressed though right?

I mean I had every reason to be. My parents were loaded (that’s rich people talk for lots of money) and they were both retired. They didn’t need my sister and I to help them spend their money so they pretty much left us to our own devices. They were always building some kind of arts and craft project in the basement or taking some trip around the world. As for my sister, well she was a complete and utter brat. She didn’t have any friends due to her spoiled rotten attitude so she made friends with the first people who would give her any attention, which was mostly older guys. I’m not surprised she got pregnant at 16. She ended up dropping out of high school to have the kid and now lives down south some place.

I ended up being the “parent” in the house, getting both of us to our respective after school activities. I was also the one that kept the house clean and made sure we had food in the fridge.

I did all of this without complaining too much since I didn’t want to see my sister punished if she did something wrong (like most parents do) I just wanted her to have a good life. The best life she could have, which at the time I thought was a life without our parents.

They didn’t care about any of us so why should I bother caring about them?

Then I got older and I started to care more about my own life. My parents didn’t care about me but maybe they would for my sister. She was still a brat though. Since she didn’t have any responsibilities or expectations she could just whine whenever she wanted something. If I got grounded for something I did then she would just whine to our parents until they gave in and lifted the punishment. Or she would start a fight with me and of course mom and dad would take her side since I was the one “being aggressive” again.

I ended up leaving home as soon as I could, got a job and lived by myself. I didn’t go to college since I couldn’t afford it, nor did I really have any motivation to do so.

If anything I was content on keeping my job at the supermarket since it was the only place that didn’t give me grief for not attending school. Then of course mom and dad had to go and pull the rug out from under me.

They got into a car crash and died. The cops said it was bad driving on the other person’s part but I know it was really the curse of their generation.

They were too busy enjoying their retirement to even bother seeing what their kids were up to anymore.

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I cried for weeks when I found out, not because I really cared but because I now had to get a job at the local supermarket AND pay for their funeral.

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