I am looking for a tool to follow wires in a wall.

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Brian M, Apr 11, 2021.

  1. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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    I am very familiar with residential wiring. I see units for anywhere from $20-1500. Some do what I want, some not. I am not a pro so under $100 would be great. I am not going to use it very often.

    I am not looking for a tone generator for finding the wire from an outlet to a breaker box. If it has it fine. I am looking to follow wires behind drywall or plaster to follow where they go. When you have 2 loads coming out of an outlet and don't know where they go. No problem with using a jumper on the wiring to help follow them. Not wanting to cut into drywall to find them. Any recommendations?? Thanks
     
  2. fitter30

    fitter30 Well-Known Member

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  4. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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    Good price... Will look into that one... Thanks.
     
  5. hj

    hj Master Plumber

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    A good tone generator and a good antenna will let you follow the wire inside the wall.
     
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  6. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

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    Most good detectors use a tone generator. Detecting on only the live AC like with a contactless tester or fancy stud finder has limited range. Some breaker detectors only work on live circuits as they get their power from the CUT.
     
  7. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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    Live circuits would be fine... It would be a big plus to have the unit detect a short or open.
     
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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  9. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Putting a transmitter on a wire end, and then tracing it with a receiver works, but it's likely a bit expensive for a one-time use. I've never looked to see if any tool rental places might carry one...would be worth a few calls.
     
  11. hj

    hj Master Plumber

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    Trying to trace a "live" line would be a fool's errand, because there is no way to verify if you are following the correct one, once two or more converge or cross over.
     
  12. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

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    That depends on the tool. The breaker finder I mentioned that only works on a live wire injects a tone so it should not lead you astray where wires intersect.
     
  13. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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  14. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    I have had one of these for years when I did telephone work. This type tester has been around for decades and a few times I was able to trace wires behind walls. I won't use it on a live 120v ac circuit. Turn off the breaker, connect both leads to each side of the line (Blk & Wht). Use the probe to listen for the tone. I first saw one one these in the 1970's. I have the TEMPO brand model 77R about 10 years old. There are several brands and they are all the same, Made in China. They'll work on live land land telephone circuits, 48v DC with 90 V AC 20-30 Hz ring voltage. It's such a nice tool I won't try is on 120v live wire. I'm afraid it might fry.

    The last time I used it was at a home with two flood lights on the pool deck and no one knew where the switches were. I put the toner on the wires at the flood light fixture. Walked around the home with the receiver at full volume. just went along the walls and held it near the ceiling. Sure enough one was in the bathroom at one end of the home in a four gang wall switch. The other was on a middle wall of the home in the living room. The locations didn't make sense as you would think they be near a exterior door.


    https://www.amazon.com/Generator-Accuracy-Inductive-Amplifier-Adjustable/dp/B08DV1N2Q9/ref=sr_1_7?crid=YK7O8HDSXG3E&dchild=1&keywords=tone+tracer+kit&qid=1618268591&sprefix=tone+traceer,aps,175&sr=8-7

    https://www.amazon.com/Greenlee-601...jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
  15. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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    I can handle using it on non energized circuits. How does it handle with a short circuit?? Since it has 2 connections. Sounds like it picks up well through the walls.

    BTW interesting story with the light switches all over the house. I have 2 no rush projects. One the ground fault keeps tripping. (it has been replaced) As far as I can tell the GFCI feeds another outlet that is dead, and something else... So far we can't find what the something else is.

    Another is a short in a new addition. Probably critters chewed through a wire somewhere. They had a problem with squirrels. I was thinking with those problems a wire tracer would be a good use for a new tool.
     
  16. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    Put one lead on the copper, the other on a ground or the green wire. I don't think it will find the location of the short since a short makes it one wire. If the circuit breaker is not tripping then it is an open. If a gfi trips it can be an open on one side ( load side) or the neutral is shorted to ground. If the hot side has a short then the breaker would trip. A new addition could be a drywall screw went through the wire and may take a while after arching before the trouble shows its head. What you may need to do is disconnect the wires at outlets and switches to isolate an open or short. Sometimes a short is in the box caused by screw that holds the outlet or switch.

    The tool picks up the signal at about 8 inches. It'll be very faint and it gets louder as the probe gets closer to the wire. Of course it's great for telephone wire, CAT cable, speaker wire and even coax. If you place the probe right on the copper say at an outlet, you'll know it. It gets very loud. For $50-$90 it's a tool to have forever.

    When I was with New York Telephone we had a tool for finding shorts. It was a toner with a pickup coil on a long pole with a head set. I'm sure it wasn't cheap. Squirrels loved to chew on lead shielded cable and leaded cable had paper insulated wire. When it rained the paper would wick up water causing what I called a high resistance short. Your phone line would have a lot of static but it would still worked.
     
  17. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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    2 projects so will keep them separate. The one with a short is kind of new construction. The addition was put on a few years ago. Yes it keeps tripping the breaker. I told my buddy to stop resetting it, hate to have it arcing in the wall somewhere. I will isolate the wires and figure out which one. The problem is the feed wire is ran over a cathedral ceiling. It is probably 60-80 ft long, who knows where it is under the "new" drywall.

    The GFCI that trips. It can be reset and may trip instantly or may goes for days with out tripping. Moisture?? Hard to separate wires and leave them for quite a while. The GFCI is in the kitchen. I guess I can fold them up in the box. Also not sure where the last wire goes. It is a house built in the 90s.

    Thanks for the ideas
     
  18. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    The GFCI that trips you'll need to ID all outlets and do check for any exterior outlets on that GFCI. Usually, the one in the garage is for exterior outlets but for a kitchen it's doubtful. Maybe in the past someone branched a new outlet outdoors.

    At my last home, wind driven rain would get inside an exterior outlet and the GFCI would trip. The hassle was, as homes were built at that time, the same GFCI also handled the bathrooms. That is no longer allowed. The first fast fix was to use baby proof covers in the outlets.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
  19. Brian M

    Brian M New Member

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    Yep, back to finding a tool to trace the wires. Since when the gfci trips, nobody can find anything else that does not work. Nobody added into the work. I know the original home owner.
     
  20. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    Easy fix then. Disconnect the "LOAD" wires out of the GFCI.
     
  21. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    I had a GFCI that would intermittently trip...could be weeks, or could not allow a reset until later. I isolated it to the final leg of a multi-receptacle branch, and decided it was easier to just run a new cable from the panel for that one. No idea what it was...could have been a nail through the cable, a pinched cable such that temperature or humidity expanded things enough to move it just right, or who knows what.

    Across a cathedral ceiling, that's a tougher one, as it's a pain to work on it, and tearing it up is not a fun endeavor.
     
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