How To ID Your Breakers


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Old 11-26-15, 09:45 AM
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How To ID Your Breakers

I find the panels mis-marked many times
Agreed! I find they are just for show most of the time
Any suggestions/comments for good method to go through all the breakers and get them all updated and marked correctly? We have five panels, quite a good amount of breakers, that I'd sure like to get marked clearly and CORRECTLY.
 

Last edited by sgull; 11-26-15 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 11-26-15, 10:52 AM
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I use a label maker. When I built my first house, I also identified all the circuits and marked the inside of the receptacle and switch covers with the breaker number that controlled it. Not fail safe, but it worked for the time I had the house without modifications. In my present house, I have a computer generated legend of the breaker numbers and their purposes taped to the door, along with number stickers for the generator/generac switch circuits.
 
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Old 11-26-15, 11:04 AM
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Well.... you know what it takes to re-label the panel. It's up to you how it's done but every breaker needs to be shut off one at a time. You can get a Fox and Hound AC tester where you can plug in a transmitter at a receptacle and then find the correct breaker at the panel. You would do that for EVERY receptacle.

I couldn't imagine the amount of time this will take.
There are no miracle shortcuts here.
At this time you may have to leave things as they are.
 
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Old 11-26-15, 11:11 AM
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I like all those ideas, label maker, and computer-generated legend as described by chandler. Not sure what was meant by generator/genarac though. But mostly what I am asking about it is in regard to efficient (if any) and effective sensible method of actually identifying the circuits, using a "tracing" method I suppose, pre-labeling.

edit: Right during my post above, PJmax posted too (post #3) which seems to address my inquiry pretty good.
 
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Old 11-26-15, 11:19 AM
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It's up to you how it's done but every breaker needs to be shut off one at a time. You can get a Fox and Hound AC tester where you can plug in a transmitter at a receptacle and then find the correct breaker at the panel. You would do that for EVERY receptacle. I couldn't imagine the amount of time this will take.
I think it might be worth the time/trouble in my case. I'll look into the Fox and Hound. Thanks
 
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Old 11-26-15, 11:29 AM
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The generator/generac referred to the circuits that my generator provides power to in an emergency. It is purely for reference.
 
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Old 11-26-15, 11:38 AM
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Ok I see. thanks chandler.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 05:42 AM
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Spreadsheet

As Larry suggested, I use an Excel spreadsheet which gives leeway as to how much info can be posted about each breaker by changing the font size in each cell.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 07:56 AM
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The breaker finder can tell you what breaker serves an area. If you turn off that breaker you can then check to see what else goes off so you do not need to check every receptacle.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 08:37 AM
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You can get a Fox and Hound AC tester where you can plug in a transmitter at a receptacle and then find the correct breaker at the panel.
My searching Fox and Hound in that regard came up with this, which I'm initially tending to think probably may not suffice for tracing the circuits as I'd like to be able to trace them: Fox & Hound™ HotWire™ 3388
I think I'd want a setup more like this one to do the job. but it's spendy: https://www.tasco-usa.com/products/c...FY9ufgodyMsEbQ

The breaker finder can tell you what breaker serves an area. If you turn off that breaker you can then check to see what else goes off so you do not need to check every receptacle.
What is the breaker finder? Would that be referring to equipment similar to what I linked above?

As Larry suggested, I use an Excel spreadsheet which gives leeway as to how much info can be posted about each breaker by changing the font size in each cell.
Yes that sounds nice and neat method for sure for the breaker ID key/legend. I have Excel on my computer.
Now I just need about 1000 bucks for that spendy circuit tracer... then good to go!

There are no miracle shortcuts here.
At this time you may have to leave things as they are.
Dang!
 
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Old 11-27-15, 09:04 AM
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Here is an example of a breaker finder.

Klein Tools Digital Circuit Breaker Finder-ET300 - The Home Depot

http://www.amazon.com/61-534-Digital.../dp/B000LEBRNE

You plug in the transmitter and scan the breakers until you get a tone.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 09:31 AM
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Ok pcboss I see. Well those kind are apparently fine (and reasonably affordable) for tracing between just a receptacle and its corresponding breaker. But what about cases where you might be wanting to trace between a wall switch and its corresponding breaker.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 10:06 AM
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But what about cases where you might be wanting to trace between a wall switch and its corresponding breaker.
You do not need to know the breakers for switches. You need to know the breakers for the lights. Just use a bulb to plug converter.

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Old 11-27-15, 10:43 AM
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What about say the circuit to something like a furnace (which typically also would have a wall switch). And what about lights such as fluorescent tube type?
 
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Old 11-27-15, 11:09 AM
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like a furnace (which typically also would have a wall switch). And what about lights such as fluorescent tube type?
If 120 volts make up an alligator clip adapter. Connect it to the power source. If you don't know how to tell where the power comes in post back.

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Once you find all the 120 volt breakers the 240 should be much easier because there will usually be only one device per circuit. You can even use the old sheet and check if it is correct on individual 240 volt equipment.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 11:29 AM
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Okay great, an alligator clip adapter such as that. Good, it seems I should be able to manage fine and be all set then with that, a plug converter as shown on the previous post, and one of the those affordable tools such as the type(s) pcboss linked in post #11. Thanks!
 
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Old 11-27-15, 12:57 PM
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Labeling on the inside of the switch/plug covering plates can easily be misleading if the plates get swapped during future work. Because of this a tester should always be used before working/tampering.

Dick
 
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Old 11-27-15, 01:39 PM
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Yeah I suppose best safe practice would be to utilize labeling on switch/plug covering plates (and for that matter written or printed legends/schedule labeling at the panel) as only general initial reference, certainly not to be relied upon, prior to always using a tester before working/tampering.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 04:32 PM
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I don't like the word tester. A non contact tester could give a false positive even with the breaker off. You need to use a multimeter or neon tester or a solenoid tester (AKA Wiggins - Wiggy).
 
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Old 11-27-15, 05:07 PM
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Ray I get the impression that you absolutely "detest" non contact testers (pun intended, haha). Okay okay then I'll ditch my cheapo little red pocket-pen type non contact tester. And maybe think about getting a Wiggy type something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Ideal-61-065-V.../dp/B000BVNSLG ?
I do happen to also have a 20-dollar multimeter already (but I need to take the time to learn how to use it properly as a device to detect live/hot circuitry... ).
 
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Old 11-27-15, 06:07 PM
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I probably have at least a half-dozen non-contact testers but I rarely use them. I know I have at least two, possibly three, solenoid type testers and one is kept on the top of the circuit breaker panel. I usually recommend a solenoid type tester for DIY work. And yeah, I have several digital multimeters as well, two of them are Flukes and one is a Simpson model 360. Also two clamp-on ammeters as well as a couple of amp-clamp adapters for the multimeters.

For general testing on AC circuits I prefer the solenoid tester. I've mostly been using my Amprobe AC/DC clamp meter with the electric lawn mower project.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 06:09 PM
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Non Contact tester are good for a quick test the circuit is dead but not if it is live. We have had threads here tens of posts long we couldn't resolve until we found out the circuit the member said was live really wasn't. It just seemed to be when a non contact tester was used.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 06:44 PM
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Non Contact tester are good for a quick test the circuit is dead but not if it is live.
So I might be able to rely on the non contact tester to tell me a circuit is dead if somehow I already strongly suspected it was dead? I'm confused now. The non contact tester can serve a useful purpose then, sometimes... ?

Getting off topic. again.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 06:47 PM
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Ray, I have personal experience with that. I have one receptacle box in my "project" room that has two circuits in it. I wanted to install a better receptacle or something and turned off the circuit breaker for that receptacle and then used a non-contact tester that beeped loudly. I KNEW my panel schedule was correct and I DID trip the proper breaker but that darn pen would still beep whenever I got within a few inches of the box. I finally used the solenoid tester, or perhaps one of my multimeters, and found that the circuit I was working on was indeed dead.

I don't think I have used a non-contact tester since.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 07:04 PM
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I see. It'll give you false positives sometimes so shouldn't be relied upon.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 07:43 PM
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Precisely! The same goes for why we say a cheap analog multimeter not a digital multimeter. A cheap digital is too high impedance to cancel out capacitive or induced voltage so readings may be misleading unless you are experience enough to know when to ignore the reading. There are actually digital multimeters that have special circuits for reading AC but they are expensive. If you want to do some reading much of the article at http://support.fluke.com/find-sales/...105317_A_w.pdf also applies to why non contact testers can be unreliable.
 
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Old 11-27-15, 09:15 PM
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Guess for now I should ditch my cheap digital multimeter and get a cheap analog one instead. Then maybe ask Santa for one of these: Fluke 12 Digital Multimeter
 
 

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