Can't figure out what's on a circuit


  #1  
Old 04-27-21, 10:16 AM
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Can't figure out what's on a circuit

I'm losing my mind. I have a circuit that powers a receptacle, and then another cable leaves that receptacle and goes -- somewhere? I've had the circuit off for a day, and I haven't run into anything that isn't working (except for the one receptacle). I confirmed that the cable leaving the box is indeed wired to the receptacle, so power is passing through to it. I've traced the cable from the receptacle, down into the basement, through the basement, and over to an exterior wall, where it goes up. I've checked every receptacle in every room that touches that wall. I even checked each half of the duplex receptacles, just to make sure there isn't something that's half-hot. I checked exterior lights. I just can't, for the life of me, figure out what else is powered by this circuit. I'm hoping I don't have an abandoned junction box buried somewhere.

Does anyone have any suggestions for tracking this down? (In case anyone's wondering, I'm maxed out for space in my breaker panel, but I have a few circuits with just one receptacle on them, and was thinking that consolidating them could buy me the space I need. I want to make sure this one isn't serving anything big that I should know about).
 
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Old 04-27-21, 10:23 AM
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Exterior receptacle? Exhaust fan? Does the cable extend to the 2nd floor or attic?
 
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Old 04-27-21, 11:57 AM
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Is it possible that it used to provide power to a bunch of outlets but someone thought those circuits should be on a separate breaker? So they ran new conduit from the first receptacle to the panel and just capped and left the old conduit in the wall?

It sounds like something that an inexperienced DIYer like myself I might do.
 
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Old 04-27-21, 12:15 PM
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One way to find out if it is serving anything at all is to put an "amp-clamp" meter on the black wire and see if any current is drawn.

There are wire tracers which clip to the wire and inject a signal which can be picked up with a scanning device. I've not had a lot of luck with the cheap ones, and never could justify a spendy one. There are also stud finders which have a "live wire" detector. Might be worth spending $25-30 to try one of those. Turn off every thing but the breaker that feeds that outlet.

 
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Old 04-29-21, 07:17 AM
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Exterior receptacles are all accounted for. So are exhaust fans, unless I have a booster fan hidden in my range hood vent. But that's only a 5 foot run to outside, so I wouldn't expect there to be one.

I can't tell where it goes once it goes up the wall. It might make it to the 2nd floor, but I haven't been able to figure out where. There are lights, vent fans, and one receptacle the attic, but those are also accounted for on different circuits.

It seems most logical that it would serve something somewhere on that outside wall. Since they had an unfinished basement to work with, I would expect they would run along or through the joists to the closest possible point, before they went up a wall.

Good idea about the stud finder. I actually had one already with the live wire detection. Spent all morning going over my walls like a ouija board, but no luck.

Once it cools off in a few days, I'll go crawl around in the attic and look for any clues. Maybe something is buried in insulation. I'm also thinking about getting a borescope and trying to fish it up through the hole the cable runs into, and see what I can see.
 
 

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