Figuring out what circuit goes to what?

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Old 10-02-20, 07:43 AM
K
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Figuring out what circuit goes to what?

My panel seems to be a mess (Older home) I also have a sub panel. I have been around it enough times, but each flip of the breaker is a guessing game. So what I did was went to every outlet and switch in the house (or anything that has electricity running to it) and labeled them on a sheet of paper. Then I want to take that into a spreadsheet and put what each breaker the outlets or switches run to. So there is no more guessing, see what the outlet is labeled, go to the list, flip that breaker. What is the best way to do this? Just try one outlet, go down and flip a breaker until it goes off, mark it down, then flip it back on? And do that over and over and over for each thing? I even have some outlets in the kitchen that the top is to one circuit and the bottom another.... Is there a faster way to do this? Is it safe even to be flipping so many things on and off?

Thanks!
 
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Old 10-02-20, 07:51 AM
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Get a circuit breaker finder. Here's an example: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Klein-To...T310/308709729

There are cheaper and more expensive options. Trying to map it all out in one go is a big task, with lots of walking up and down from and to the panel, unless you have a helper.

I've been doing this by moving the transmitter to a different outlet before every trip to the basement (where my main panel is). That way it's not adding any additional trips to basement.

Of course, if you need to work on an outlet or light fixture, after flipping off the identified breaker, make sure you confirm the device is deenergized.
 
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Old 10-02-20, 09:52 AM
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When you do figure out what breaker a device is on, label it on the back side of the cover plate. That way next time you take the plate off you know what breaker to turn it off.
 
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Old 10-02-20, 11:20 AM
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Hi, it maybe easier to turn off a breaker and go through the house and see what’s not working, the circuit SHOULD BE relatively close together.
Geo🇺🇸
 
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Old 10-03-20, 05:47 AM
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I'm with Geochurchi on this procedure.

Make a crude drawing/layout of your home. There are free drawing programs on the Net. Mark in pencil on the layout where all lights, receptacles, switches etc are in the home.

Turn off one breaker at a time. Go thru the house with a plug in tester or even a lamp/radio and any receptacles or lights on that circuit mark it on the layout with pencil. Turn that breaker back on and turn the next breaker off. Do the same thing until you have all the receptacles and switches etc on your layout marked with the breaker number. Place this information into the drawing program, print it out. Place it in a plastic paper/sheet protector and hang it next to the breaker panel. If you have an issue in the future refer to the layout and you will be able to see what breaker needs to be turned off. No panels have enough room at each breaker to be able to mark enough information indicating all the switches, receptacles etc that breaker controls. the layout is your guide. This is what I have for my home. So much easier.


 
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Old 10-03-20, 07:07 AM
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I find the correct circuit breaker by plugging extension cords to an outlet in a room and turning all switched lights on. I keep adding extensions cords to get to the breaker panel. I connect a lamp to the end of the extension. With the lamp on, I cycle breakers until lamp goes out. I go to the room where the extension cord is plugged in and verify all switched lights are off. I plug a light into all other outlets in room to verify no power. Note outlets and lights powered by breaker and any lights and outlets still powered in room that need verification when another breaker open. Move extension to each room, garage, basement and outside and repeat the process. Much easier if you have a helper on other end of extension cord with a cell phone. Good luck.
 
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Old 10-03-20, 07:42 AM
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Instead of a bunch of extension cord plug in a radio(no batteries) and turn it up loud. You will hear it go off when get the correct breaker.
 
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Old 10-03-20, 07:47 AM
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Hi, radio or extension cords still require many trips to the area to move the device to a new outlet, even with a circuit tracer you will be required to keep moving the transmitter.
Geo🇺🇸
 
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Old 10-03-20, 09:18 AM
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Once you find one receptacle in a room, you can easily test the others once the breaker is off without multiple trips to the panel.
 
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Old 10-03-20, 04:19 PM
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Radio can't tell you the room switched lights are off.
 
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Old 10-03-20, 07:24 PM
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Radio can't tell you the room switched lights are off.
Neither will a long extension cord.
 
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Old 10-03-20, 08:12 PM
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You can make logical flow charts in MS Excel I did this when mapping out the circuits in our 1750s farmhouse, 1820s addition, and 1990s sunroom addition. What I did was establish a short labeling system to identify each outlet
First by floor level B, 1, 2, 3 Ext. then by a letter for the room Kit, Den, Living, dineinG, Half Bath, Full Bath, (bedrooms were 1, 2, 3, 4), then by the direction of the wall N,S,E, W. and finally by Left, Middle, Right.
So the outlet for the computer I'm typing on is 1LSL (1st floor, Living room, South wall, Left outlet.
I've got a few rooms with only 1 outlet, so those simplified to only 2 charachters.

Most of the outlets in my old house have a lamp near them. I had switched most of the bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent, so I just turned on all the lamps in the house, and for outlets that didn't I used a couple of 2 prong light sockets with small bulbs.

It took about 2 hours, but I believe I downloaded and listened to a podcast or audio of a baseball game.
 
  #13  
Old 10-05-20, 01:01 PM
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Thanks all. Thought about a lot of these, didn't know if there was some hidden gem out there. Worth a shot. Looks like I will be switching and checking no matter what.
 
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Old 10-05-20, 04:40 PM
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Hi, my house is about 60 wears old. I checked the breakers to confirm my suspicion that light circuits have a 15 amp breaker and outlets have 20 amp breaker, They Do.
I would use the radio system. Plug the radio in an outlet then find the breaker and shut it off, then with that breaker off go in the house and find the outlets with no power there will be some kind of a pattern. When found and recorded. With the radio do another circuit remember don't check the ones you did, ( cuts down on the walking) Turn on lights and shut off a breaker and record.
Good Luck Woodbutcher
 
 

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