Forcing a breaker to trip?

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  #1  
Old 07-20-14, 03:23 PM
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Forcing a breaker to trip?

I am trying to label my panel breakers, which is very painstaking in a century old two story house. My wife is "helping", but she wouldn't know a CAT 5 from a gas pipe. I have found one live circuit on the 2nd floor that I cannot identify to any breaker. Is there any easy way to force that circuit to trip out other than dead shorting an outlet? I've done that inadvertently many times.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 03:34 PM
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My old man had some wiring done a couple months ago and we had to plot the circuits in his house afterward. We had a similar situation and I sat in that room with him flipping the breakers off one at a time for 30 seconds until the room I was in went dark. At that point, I had enough time to run downstairs and inform him that was the one.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 03:45 PM
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Well, you could wire both prongs of a plug together and stab it into the receptacle although doing so would be rather dangerous to you and is hard on the circuit breaker. (So DON'T do it!) A much better way is to invest $30 to $40 in a circuit breaker finder. To know absolutely if you have found the correct CB you trip it manually and see if you lose the signal.

Amazon.com: breaker locator
 
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Old 07-20-14, 03:45 PM
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I have found one live circuit on the 2nd floor that I cannot identify to any breaker
Sometimes two circuits get accidentally cross connected. This usually happens in a box that has separate circuits from two different breakers. Either a mistake on the part of someone doing a repair or insulation failure causing current to bleed between to circuits on the same leg. You start by turning off all 15a and 20a single pole breakers. You turn one on and observe if you have power in the circuit. If not you turn the breaker back off and test the next breaker. When you find a breaker that powers the circuit you mark it and turn it off and continue till you find a second breaker that powers the circuit.

If you don't have a reliable helper use a long extension cord and a trouble light or lamp. Put the light where it can be seen from the breaker box and connect to the circuit in question with an extension cord.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 03:49 PM
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You can use your cell phones,you flipping the breakers and you wife sitting in the room with a lamp plugged into an outlet,when she says the light is out you mark that breaker accordingly.simple
Geo
 
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Old 07-20-14, 04:53 PM
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Thanks All

I think I'll check out the circuit breaker finder. I didn't know of such a device. The wiring in this house is unusual to say the least. Most of the sins were committed by my wife's ex-husband about 40 yrs ago. In newer houses you can pretty well bank that stuff in a given area will be on a circuit. The oddest circuit I have found here has a single outlet in the dining room, our office ceiling light, stairwell light, then goes upstairs to the master bed room and den. It used to feed everything in the office plus the downstairs bathroom, but I rewired to eliminate some of that. I am rambling, but pointing out that there is little rhyme and reason to what is wired where in this century old house.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 06:40 PM
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Klein Tools Digital Circuit Breaker Finder-ET300 at The Home Depot combined with a screw in lamp adapter can test almost any circuit. Just plug it in to a receptacle and run the device slowly over your breakers. Mine has a sensitivity setting to prevent false readings. When it blips, you have a 90% chance of having it right.
 
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Old 07-20-14, 08:43 PM
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I like Ray's idea better, the circuit breaker finders aren't what they are cracked up to be. I am sure that Ray is right that you have two circuits cross connected, you need to find both of those breakers and that's when the fun begins.
 
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Old 07-21-14, 05:25 AM
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Except when dealing with a tandem breaker I find the finder to be accurate. You still need to check to ensure them power is off before starting any work.
 
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Old 07-21-14, 08:32 AM
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You should not intentionally cause an overload or short circuit. The fewer times a breaker trips by itself the better. Extra wear and tear happens to a breaker each time it trips.
 
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Old 07-21-14, 10:16 AM
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If you don't have a reliable helper use a long extension cord and a trouble light or lamp. Put the light where it can be seen from the breaker box and connect to the circuit in question with an extension cord.
I've done that, or used a radio instead of the lamp. That way, you can use a shorted extension cord, or none at all. When you hear the music, you have the circuit in question.
 
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