Your experience with a wire tracer?

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  #1  
Old 02-19-16, 07:37 AM
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Your experience with a wire tracer?

Hi everyone,
I was just wondering what your experience is with a wire tracer. My 1920's house has some K&T and early ungrounded romex that I'd like to replace, and was thinking this could be handy for figuring out where the existing wire already runs - kill the breaker, plug a cord with bare wires into the dead outlet, clip the tone generator to the bare wires, and trace away? Is it that easy?

Will this trace NM and K&T through plaster walls? How accurately? (ie: within an inch, within a foot, etc?

I know Fluke makes a similar model to what I linked to for about $80 - also highly rated. This model caught my eye cause it's relatively low priced. Just interested to hear some opinions.




Wire Tracer & Circuit Tester with RJ-11 Plug and Alligator Clips (Tone and Probe Kit) - - Amazon.com
 
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  #2  
Old 02-19-16, 09:13 AM
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I have the Triplett Fox and Hound 3 and have used it a lot for various tracing and wire identification tasks.

The answer to your question, as usual, is: it depends.

Tracing the route of a romex circuit that is physically isolated from other circuits is easy. You can trace it behind drywall or plaster and generally, with some experience, narrow down location to a few inches. This is probably the best case scenario.

Identifying which, out of 3 or 4 romex cables in a J-box goes to a particular light or outlet is also fairly reliable and easily done, although it usually means isolating the cables by removing the wire nuts, etc.

If wires run in conduit or MC, you can still work from the ends, but tracing the path is not so easy. If you can isolate the piece of conduit or MC you can apply the tone to it and trace it that way, but if it's grounded, it will prevent picking up the signal along the route. You can tone the wires inside, and get the signal at the end or at J-boxes along the way, but not along the conduit or MC itself.

Problems arise when you have a bunch of wires or cables that run parallel to one another for some distance. The signal will often couple between them so you find the signal on multiple cables or wires. Sometimes you can tell by signal strength which is the one you want; sometimes you can't. This is the problem with circuit breaker identifiers too, you get cross coupling and the signal shows up everywhere.

So, bottom line: it's a very useful tool for tracing and identifying wires and cables under the right circumstances. It's not a magic tool, but you develop strategies and tricks for getting the best results in most cases.
 
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Old 02-19-16, 09:21 AM
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It's not a magic tool, but you develop strategies and tricks for getting the best results in most cases.
Paul left you some great advice. I use a toner on pretty much a daily basis if not several times a week.

Metal flex and metal conduit are the bane of the toning system. Since you have an older house there will be a good chance coming across some type of metal/BX cable. You can identify it at the ends but won't be able to follow it.
 
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Old 02-22-16, 07:01 PM
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Toner / breaker

This is somewhat relative but perhaps more complex.

I want to rewire my basement. I turned off the breaker, (controlling one half of the basement) removed the wire, attached my toner and attempted tracing out which Jbox this goes to. 1) is this the correct method? 2)am I hooking the toner up correctly 3) is it easier to just eliminate all this wiring and run a new wire from panel to the jbox?

Also, there are junction boxes all over.. It's an old house.
 
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Old 02-22-16, 07:16 PM
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You would take the black wire out of the breaker. Clip the tone generator to the black wire and to the white or even the metal box. Make sure your toner picks up the signal right there at the panel. If yes.... then you can follow it to each box. If you can't hear the toner on the cable at the panel then there is too much load.... too many things connected to that circuit and loading it.
 
  #6  
Old 02-23-16, 04:03 AM
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Ok thanks! . I'll try that later today.
 
  #7  
Old 02-23-16, 04:11 PM
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Good news is I now found a tone at the Jbox. I disconnected the wires, connected the main wire back to the breaker, turned on but I still receive power to other outlets I thought would be off. I'm still searching for the main line that powers all these circuits. Patience is a must I see.
 
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Old 02-23-16, 05:09 PM
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You found the tone at the j-box but you also found out that j-box is not the first point that power goes to.
 
  #9  
Old 02-23-16, 05:30 PM
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My thoughts exactly... What's frustrating is the wires that then continue out of that Jbox, continue further away from the panel- so this line must've looped around somewhere. The pre construction layout seems backwards but moving on... Thanks for your input here.
 
  #10  
Old 02-28-16, 06:18 PM
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Hello Gents, new inquiry here:

Upon demoing my basement, I discovered a question in need of an answer. Bear with me on this:
My panel has two breakers controlling -say the left and right side of my basement. The breaker controlling the right, also supplies my two bedrooms and bath on the second floor. After demoing, I found 3 Bx cables that must be down feeding from a junction box In-between the 1st and 2nd floor. (from the panel, the main feed clearly goes up)
My question is, instead of breaking walls open above my basement, can I enclose the 3 BX cables I discovered in splice boxes; Then feed my new wiring for the right side of my basement? If so, do I need to install access panels where these splice boxes will be installed... Thanks, hope this was clear.
 
  #11  
Old 02-28-16, 06:28 PM
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The feeds that leave the panel and go up probably don't go to splice boxes..... they go directly to the first item(s) on the circuit.

Ok.... you have three BX circuits. By code, you can't modify those circuits unless the BX is of the style with the little metal tracer wire in it.

What is it exactly you are trying to do ?
If you are wiring the basement and those BX's affect the upstairs.... why bother with them at all.
 
  #12  
Old 02-28-16, 06:56 PM
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Unfortunely no, it's an older-type of BX.

I kind of have to do something with them, no? They're capped off now and I was hoping to supply half my basement from there. Now that I cant, The other ends can't be seen. Im guessing one goes to a switch on top of the stairs and the other two continue up.

Bottom line is this place wasn't wired with the best technique and to make matters worse, a miss-labeled panel. To sum it up, I just want to supply new outlets, high hats and switches.
 

Last edited by MooseOnaHill; 02-28-16 at 06:57 PM. Reason: Spelling
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