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Old 08-28-2012, 10:44 AM   #1
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Identifying Circuit Breaker for Partial Outage Circuit

Please tell me if this would work for identifying the circuit breaker for a partial outage in a residence (breaker not tripped),

Turn off main breaker in panel, and make sure all light/device switches are off. In one of the outlets not working on the circuit, install a jumper wire across hot & neutral. Go to the panel and place one lead of an ohmmeter on the neutral bus bar, then with the other lead probe the individual breaker terminal screws until you get continuity beeper or low resistance. Or would the neutral bus bar connection (with my ohmmeter lead) pose a problem since neutral bus bar would still be connected through meter to transformer? And if the neutral bus bar is also connected to ground, would the ohmmeter current take the path of least resistance and just head for "ground" instead of back through my ohmmeter?

After writing the above, I have just now learned about Klein's TONEcube & PROBEplus Kit, model number VDV 500-808 . Klein rep. told me to remove outlet cover (loosen the outlet screws that hold it in the box) and attach alligator clips to hot & neutral, then scan the breakers at the panel with the handheld receiver.

I assume Fluke's Pro 3000 Tone & Probe Kit would do the same thing and since home depot carries the Fluke unit, will probably buy that one ("he said", without first checking out Klein's price and features). However, would still appreciate knowing if my idea above would work or not with just an ohmmeter. I realize that even if it did, would certainly be quicker to just remove/replace an outlet cover instead of the panel cover, and the Pro 3000 has really good reviews on for tracing cables inside wall also.

After identifying the circuit breaker for the partial outage, then I'm hoping the Pro 3000 hooked up to the hot and neutral (at panel) of this circuit, would trace the cable outbound from the panel and indicate likely spots where an "open" might be - would that work?


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Old 08-28-2012, 01:09 PM   #2
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What, may I ask, is a partial outage? Is it a brown out or dead leg? Lost a neutral and whole house trying to run on 240v? (if everything is turned will things work right?)


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Old 08-28-2012, 01:33 PM   #3
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If you have an open (hot or neutral) between the panel and the receptacle, how will you see continuity trhru your jumper?
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Old 08-28-2012, 01:54 PM   #4
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Thx for your reply rj~ . I seemed to have overlooked that small point.

Looks like my question needs to change: What's the most efficient way to identify the breaker for a circuit having a few of its receptacles (maybe a ceiling fixture or two also) not working? Some are working however.

Is there a better approach than what I had in mind: Identifying the breaker, then hooking up the Fluke Pro 3000 at the panel, then tracing the cable for open spots? Maybe I shouldn't even be using the words "better approach" - don't even really know if this method works, but someone suggested it.

Gac~, thx for your reply. Please tell me your method for ID'ing the breaker in this case, then locating an open hot or open neutral.

Last edited by justplumducky; 08-28-2012 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 08-30-2012, 10:44 AM   #5
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Okay, how 'bout this (using the Fluke Pro 3000 Tone & Probe), after identifying the breaker for this partial outage circuit and shutting it off (couple of receptacles and a ceiling fixture not working on this circuit and the breaker was not tripped):

In this circuit , open one of the non-working receptacles that has 2 hot & 2 neutrals connected to it (an "in-line" receptacle, not one at the end of a run with only two wires connected to it), then connect the tone generator to the hot & neutral of one cable (after disconnecting this hot & neutral from the receptacle) and follow the tone until it stops, which would indicate an open spot, unless it was at a light switch (turned off, in which case you could turn it on and continue scanning/tracing) or at the end of that cable's run at a receptacle or other device where the cable ends.

If no luck on that part of the cable in this partial outage circuit, then go back to this receptacle and connect the tone generator to the hot & neutral of the other cable connected to this receptacle and scan that cable.

Would this work? But then if I have identified the breaker for this circuit in the first place, I could hook up the tone g~ at the panel and start tracing from there, which I believe is what you're supposed to do anway, correct?

Ok, I also just realized that I should google for How to use a tone generator to find an open, but grateful for any responses...

Okay, here's a post by PaliBob (Retired Test Equipment Engineer) on Wire Tracing: For DIY there are two ways to trace AC wiring, with Power OFF & with Power On.
1) For bigger bucks there is a third choice Pwr OFF or ON e.g. The Greenlee 2011.
On this puppy the receiver will operate up to a 4 miles from the transmitter.

2) The Power Off tracers are the phone type tracers. I use this tone generator/kit:
Test-Um KP100 Field Kit: TT100 & TG100 in a Cordura pouch Test-Um KP100, KP-100, KP 100
It works fine for shorter runs. The main problem is that due to the small transmitting power of the generator anything that is plugged into a receptacle will suck up the signal. Another signal killer are lights that are not turned Off.

3) The Power ON tracers center on the Circuit Breaker Finders. These I think s/b just called circuit tracers because while the circuit breaker function is valuable, they are good at tracing wires in a wall or to sort AC wires in a bundle. Here is a higher end tracer that is advertised to trace cables to a depth of 15". Try that with your phone tracer.
ECB50A - at the Test Equipment Depot

Wire Sniffers as has been pointed out are also useful.
HF Non-Contact Voltage Tester

The sniffer that I like is the Greenlee GT-16
It has an adjustable threshhold so it can be used to trace doorbell wires, Thermostats, LV Yard Lighting, or even those Xmas lights
Greenlee GT-16 - Non-Contact Adjustable Voltage Detector, AC 5-1000V

Last edited by justplumducky; 08-31-2012 at 09:19 AM.
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