Benefits of Wire Tracers
- Efficient. Wire tracers are specially designed to locate wires in hard-to-reach areas. These days, wires run underground or through the walls, which makes them harder to trace. With a proper tracker, you can locate wires with ease, whether you're in a home or commercial environment.
- Time-saving. A wire tracer also saves you a lot of time you would otherwise spend trying to figure out there the wires go. It can locate wires both underground and in walls within a few minutes, allowing you to perform any repair rather quickly.
- Easy on the budget. Wire tracers are smart investments because they last for a long time. They allow you to trace wires, network cables, and open circuits for years, saving you a lot of money on electricians and other related expenses. Wire tracers are not expensive, so you won't have to spend a fortune to get one in the first place.
Types of Wire Tracers
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There are two methods of checking for wires and cables with wire tracers. The first one regards active locating, which is convenient for those who need to locate specific lines, pipes, and more. A wire tracer charges a specific line with electricity and uses a receiver to pick up the generated signal. It does that by using a direct connection or by emitting a signal. Some devices require direct attachment to the line, while others only have to be well positioned on the ground above the particular line.
The second method is called passive wire locating. It is used when a targeted line is already charged with electricity. The tracer picks up the signal without the help of the receiver. This method, however, won’t help you find a specific wire in wire pairs or groups. It will detect power in a specific area and help you secure the place prior to drilling or other activities.
Extech was founded in 1971 and is located in Boston, Mass. The company produces all kinds of tools for preventing, identifying, and resolving mechanical, electrical, and other issues. Its main goal is to equip both professionals and DIYers with reliable and high-quality gear. Extech covers a whole array of tools, from electronics to lab instruments, and the Extech Electrical Troubleshooting Kit is one of its most popular products.
Amprobe is one of the most popular companies when it comes to tools for electricians and HVAC technicians. It was founded in 1948 and is located in Long Island, N.Y. For more than 70 years, Amprobe has been a company trusted by both professionals and handypersons. It stands behind the first clamp meter and the first wire tracer, and it always brings new and innovative tools on the market. An example of this is the Amprobe AT-6020 Advanced Wire Tracer with 8 Sensitivity Modes.
Wire Tracers Pricing
- $30-$40: There are a lot of reliable and quality wire tracers in this price range. Although they might be specifically designed for some situations such as underground or wall tracing, they are very effective and accurate.
- $50 and up: Pricier wire tracers come with more durable cases and a lot of extra features. They are designed to last and give more accuracy when used for professional and demanding tasks. For some extra cash, you can also find electrical troubleshooting kits with many accessories and versatile devices that can trace wires, cables, circuits, and more.
Consider what type of wire tracer you need in the first place. Some of them are specifically designed for certain conditions and environments and might not work for all purposes. Along with the two main types of wire tracers (active or passive tracing), there are also several other models. There's an underground wire tracer that can help you with finding wires buried deep under the ground or circuit breakers for locating power issues. Determine which type works best for your specific issues and pick a model accordingly.
Along with choosing between an active or passive wire tracing, you can also opt for a particular attachment type. Some wire trackers need to be attached to the network directly, and only then they can send the signal and detect specific lines, power issues, and more. Others, however, use clamps or alligator clips to send the signal when there's no direct access to the line.
Whether you're a professional or a DIYer, you'll need an adjustable receiver. It will allow you to pick up the signal of a different range, and consequently, detect and locate wires faster and more accurately. The best wire tracers have adjustable sensitivity modes, and users can set them up according to the situation and environment.
- Range. Not all line finders have the same range. Although most of them detect the signal at around three feet deep and 100 feet length, that can vary a lot depending on the model. These standard wire tracers work just fine for home purposes, but you might need the one with a higher range for professional purposes.
- Construction. It's also important to look for a device that comes with a rugged case for more durability. Home inspectors can go with a less durable wire tracer, but professionals might want to get a sturdier model. They are likely to use the device frequently and store it with other tools, which can cause damage and shorten the lifespan of a wire tracer.
- Additional Accessories. Consider what extra features and accessories you might need in the future. You might need the extra range at some point, as well as signal clamps and other accessories. If you have the means, you could invest in an all-purpose tracer that would work on all kinds of cabling and last for many years.
Best Wire Tracers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
If you're looking for a reliable device to help you detect, prevent, and resolve electrical issues, the Kolsol wire tracker is an excellent choice. It's an efficient device that traces all kinds of hidden wires, from pet fences to metal pipes.
The Kolsol wire tracer comes with an impressive range of up to three feet in depth and 1,000 feet in length. That should be enough to let you tackle all electrical issues, from commercial to DIY ones. The tracer also accurately traces circuits and wires buried underground and behind walls. In addition, it's compact, lightweight, and easy to transport.
The main drawback of this wire tracer is the fragile outer shell. It's made of plastic, feels a bit flimsy, and might break easily. The device, therefore, is not a perfect option for daily use where it can be highly exposed to damage. Also, the tracer works only on single strand wires, which means it can't locate and differentiate specific wires in a group.
Meterk Wire Tracker
This wire and cable tracer is ideal for those who are looking for a versatile yet budget-friendly device to help them track lines behind walls or those buried underground. It's also handy for checking the status of network and telephone lines. Thanks to the user-friendly design, it's suitable for everyone—even first-time users can get the hang of it.
The wire and cable tester is easy to maneuver, and it comes with a comprehensive manual that contains all the necessary information. What makes it even more appealing is the signal range of up to 3,000 meters. The tracer is quite powerful and can locate wires in different environments. It even has a loud signal sound and multiple-color indicator light for easier coordination. Additionally, a pair of earplugs and a storage bag are included in the package.
It's important to note that this device is not a perfect option for commercial use, although it does give accurate results. Unfortunately, the tracer might break or malfunction if it's used daily or not handled carefully. Also, the button on the probe is flimsy and might accidentally turn on the tracer. The included earplugs are not of the best quality either.
Extech Electrical Troubleshooting Kit
Extech offers a high-quality tracing kit for detecting electrical issues. Along with detecting wires, this kit can also help you locate circuits, installation defects, and other malfunctions around the house. It's also quite handy for professionals because it's very powerful and highly efficient.
The wire and circuit tester features a unique snap-on design. A transmitter and a receiver snap together for easier transport and storage. The tracer is ergonomically designed and pretty straightforward. It comes with an LED light and an audible alarm, so the results are easy to read. There's also a sensitivity adjustment button that allows you to set up the signal and detect wires in every situation.
The button, however, doesn't have increment markings, so setting it up might be quite a challenge. It also feels a little loose. Another thing that requires careful handling is the outer shell in general. It’s rather fragile and might break if dropped or damaged in any other way.
The Klein Tools Cable Tracer is a high-grade tool for finding and testing wires. It’s built with a strong plastic housing and includes durable ABN (angled bed of nails) clips that grip wires securely without pinching or damaging them. It’s simple to use and helps save time in the long run.
By far, one of its best features is its audible alerts. The device comes with five distinct tone cadences that alert you to different types of wires. It can also detect wires that are up to 1,000 feet away. It’s an accurate device that is compact, lightweight, and easy to carry around, either in your pocket or in a box.
While the tool may not be overly expensive, it is mid-range when it comes to price. There may be issues with the speaker not being loud enough to hear without headphones, but it does include a headphone jack for extra versatility. Also, the buttons can be turned on quite easily if it is left in a bag or pocket.
The Fluke Networks Tone Generator is designed by a top-of-the-line manufacturer. It’s a premium wire tracer that is ultra-sleek and compact, but mighty in power. It’s meant to test wires on non-active networks and is set up with five tones for multiple ways to identify wires and cables around the house or workshop.
It also includes a completely replaceable tip. It features a great grip and ergonomic handle so it is easier to hold onto. Also, perhaps its best aspect is its loud and clear speaker. But if that doesn’t work, you could always use its included 3.5mm headphone jack. It saves you time by allowing you to track down wires in minutes as well.
It is a pricey wire tracer device, but it isn’t absurdly expensive. There have been complaints with the RJ11 port not being adaptable with the RJ45 connector. Also, the batteries may not be included with the tool. The buttons may also get turned on if you leave it inside of a tool bag and move it around. It’s small and can get squished more easily inside the bag too.
The PTE Wire Tracer and Circuit Tester features a simple yet elegant-looking design. It’s another great budget-friendly choice for a wire tracer kit that is accurate and simple to set up and use. It’s capable of detecting wires through ceilings, floors, and walls with its strong tone signal. It functions quickly and works at a depth of up to 10 feet.
Continuing with the simplicity of the tool, it has a variable sensitivity dial that lets you cycle through different wires until it identifies the correct one you’ve found. It’s precise and handy enough to fit in your pocket, a drawer, or a tool chest, too.
Sure, the tool won’t win any awards for how it looks, but it’s functional. It’s a cheap wire tracer that is designed for the everyday homeowner and not the mechanic or electrician. It’s better for small projects and may not be the best for larger buildings. The audio through the speaker may not be the loudest either.
Best Mid-Range Priced
Sperry Instruments Wire Tracker Wire Tracer
The Sperry Instruments Wire Tracker Wire Tracer is a tool designed to help anyone with their audio visual troubles. Keeping track of cables can be annoying, and this little tool helps track down RJ45, RJ11, and coaxial cables behind walls and floors. It’s not difficult to adjust its sensitivity levels and is all around easy to use.
When it comes to price, the wire tracer is on the lower end of the spectrum. It even fits snugly and securely inside of a slot designed in the device itself. The audible tones are loud, the plastic case is tough, and it is able to detect cables a few feet deep. Also, even though it isn’t a premium priced tracer, it can differentiate between several types quickly and conveniently.
The batteries are not included with the device, so you will have to spend a few extra bucks on batteries. It may not be able to find cables that are super far away—not 1,000 feet for sure—but is great for those just behind drywall or insulation.
- The price of wire trackers could vary a lot depending on its purpose. You can find an excellent cheap tracker for home purposes and detecting wires occasionally. If you need a professional-grade tool, however, you'll need the best tracker that money can buy.
- Check the voltage power of a wire tracer before you use it. Not all devices are made to withstand the same amount of power. If the voltage of the source is higher than what the tracer can endure, the results won't be accurate. This can also cause a short circuit.
- Perform the necessary tests to see whether a wire tracer works well. It's important to know that the probe and the transmitter are at their peak power before you start tracing. Once you set the probe's sensitivity to a maximum level, move it towards the transmitter. It will allow you to check the connectivity and alert you about possible issues.
Q: What is a wire tracer?
It's a device that tracks wires and cables located deep inside walls, underground, or in water. It also identifies specific wires in a set or groups of other wires in the same connection. A wire tracer is perfect for detecting wiring issues and malfunctions in houses. It is also helpful in professional electrical tasks.
Q: How do wire tracers work?
Every wire tracer has a transmitter, a receiver, and a probe. The probe itself has three sensors. They are meant to locate a wire and determine in which direction the current goes. The probe points to a particular area, and the sensor catches the signal. The transmitter produces a unique signal that is detected by the receiver. Lastly, a receiver provides a numeric value that will depend on the signal strength.
Q: What are the most common types of wire tracers?
The main difference between wire tracers is each one’s ability to locate energized or non-energized wires. Some of them can locate both wire types, but most models are specialized for only one of them. There's also a type of circuit tracer that detects the circuit and its voltage.
The Kolsol Wire Locator is our top pick when it comes to wire tracers. It’s reliable, quick, and easy to use. If stored properly, the device can be used for DIY purposes and some professional applications.
For those who are on a tight budget, we recommend the Meterk Wire Tracker. It’s an inexpensive wire tracer that can tackle most electrical jobs around the house.
How do I know what wire is right for me? ›
To determine what gauge wire you need, consider the carrying capacity and the amount of current the wire needs to conduct (measured in amperage or amps). Wire gauge is directly related to how many amps you need to run through it. The distance you need the wire to go can also impact the gauge of wire you need.What do electricians use trace wires? ›
Using a Magnetic Stud Finder you will be able to easily detect where there is a wire behind the wall, ceiling, or floor or wall studs. It works by producing electrical fields when the user puts it on the surface and produces a beep sound to indicate where the wire is.How do you trace electrical wires in the wall? ›
There are two kinds of stud finders that can help you find wires in a wall – magnetic and electric. A magnetic stud finder is used to detect metal nails in wall studs. Electronic stud finders produce a tiny electrical field that changes when the finder reaches a denser region in a wall.What happens if wire gauge is too big? ›
Using too large a wire gauge, with a higher rated amperage than the circuit breaker, can lead to a tripped circuit even if the load doesn't exceed the wire's rating.What is thumb rule in electrical? ›
Voltage between Neutral and Earth <=2 Volts. Resistance between Neutral and Earth <=1Ω Creepage Distance=18 to 22mm/KV (Moderate Polluted Air) or. Creepage Distance=25 to 33mm/KV (Highly Polluted Air)What do electricians call wires? ›
An electrical wire is a type of conductor, which is a material that conducts electricity. In the case of household wiring, the conductor itself is usually copper or aluminum (or copper-sheathed aluminum) and is either a solid metal conductor or stranded wire.
Other types of wire that are used as tracers are simple bare copper wire and stranded wire. Excellent options are copper-clad steel, stainless steel, and coated copper wire. While bare copper is acceptable, the best options are insulated because they are protected by insulation, safer, and easily traceable.How do I find electrical wires behind drywall? ›
A magnetic stud finder detects metal nails in the studs, which wires often rest on, while an electronic stud finder produces an electrical field that lets it identify denser regions (some can detect electrical currents). Since wires are configured horizontally in walls, turn the stud finder on and move it this way.Can a stud finder find electrical wires? ›
The stud finder wall scanner can quickly find the edges and center of metal studs, pipes, rebar, joists behind walls, floors, and ceilings as well as the live AC wires.Do wires run up from plug sockets? ›
Wires can be run anywhere. In a wall they can come from below, from above, or from another outlet to another outlet horizontally through the wall.
Can a circuit breaker be on but no power? ›
If you have followed the correct steps and reset the circuit breaker to the 'on' position but there is still no power, you may have a defective breaker or a break in the circuit's wiring.What is a circuit with no loads called? ›
Open-circuit voltage (abbreviated as OCV or VOC) is the difference of electrical potential between two terminals of an electronic device when disconnected from any circuit. There is no external load connected. No external electric current flows between the terminals.How do you trace a bad electrical wire? ›
To trace a wire with a multimeter, you set your multimeter to Ohms or continuity, place your red probe on one wire ending and then place the black probe on a suspected ending. If the multimeter reads “0” or beeps, then that is where the wire traces to.Does doubling wire increase gauge? ›
Save this answer. Show activity on this post. If you twist two wires together, each would carry half the current, so you'd "effectively increase the gauge." American Wire Gauges go down by about 10 for every factor of ten in cross-sectional area.Does thicker wire require more electricity? ›
The smaller wire loses more electricity to the heat loss than the larger capacity wire. For example, 100 feet of 12 gauge wire delivering 15 amps of current loses 77 watts of energy. A 10 gauge wire of the same length only loses 48 watts of energy when delivering the same load of current.Is thicker gauge wire better? ›
Considerations for Wire Gauges
For example, electrical circuits with higher amperage ratings require thicker wires to accommodate the load without experiencing excessive heat buildup. Using wires that are too thin for the specified circuit amperage can result in wire failure or ignition.
The first rule of electrical safety is to always disconnect whatever you're working on. This might mean unplugging an appliance that requires repairs or turning off a circuit breaker. You must disconnect before performing any electrical work to reduce the risk of electrocution.
The best way to stay safe is to stay away from electrical hazards. Unqualified personnel should not interact or come close to electrical currents greater than 50V. If you must work in the same area or room as an electrical hazard or equipment operating on more than 50V, maintain a safe distance.What is the 80% rule and when is it used for electrical? ›
The 80% (standard-rated) breaker can only be applied continuously (defined as 3 hours or more by the NEC) at 80% of its continuous current rating (or Ir setting; e.g. if a 150 A H-frame is dialed to 100 A, the 80% rating applies to the 100 A setting).What are the 3 types of wiring? ›
The three types of wires used in household circuits are Earth wire, Live wire, and Neutral wire. Out of these Earth wire is used as a safety measure especially for those appliances that have a metallic body. The colour of insulation used for this wire is Green.
What are the 4 types of wire? ›
- Triplex wires.
- Main feeder wires.
- Panel feed wires.
- Non-metallic sheathed wires.
- Single strand wires.
- live wire ( Red colour)
- neutral wire(Black colour)
- earth wire (Green colour)
Stranded wire is more flexible, making it ideal for connecting electronic components in cramped spaces or for twisting and bending to fit intricate geometries. Stranded wire is more flexible and malleable than solid wire, and it won't split or sever.Can I use aluminum foil for wires? ›
In communication cables, aluminium foil gives long-term insulation against moisture and attack from naturally occurring corrosive elements found above and below the ground. Aluminium foil also acts as an insulator against the magnetic and radio frequency fields associated with metal electrical cables.What size does tracer wire need to be? ›
Access shall be provided to the tracer wire or the tracer wire shall terminate above ground at each end of the nonmetallic piping. The tracer wire size shall be not less than 18 AWG and the wire insulation type shall be suitable for direct burial.How do you find a short circuit in wall wiring? ›
The first step in finding a short circuit is to look for physical signs. This may include visible burns or melted metal on wires, burning smells, or flickering lights. Once you've identified a potential short, use your multimeter to confirm the voltage by placing it on its resistance or continuity setting.Do electric wires run up or down? ›
Electrical wires typically run either vertically, up and down the side of a stud or horizontally. The vertical wires are typically pretty easy to avoid: avoid drilling above a receptacle or light switch.How do you rewire a house without removing drywall? ›
One solution is securing the cable to joists or rafters using wire staples. The electrician needs to make sure that each wire is perfectly anchored to the appropriate device electrical box using the correct clamp. Using junction boxes to keep wires organized is another great tip for when rewiring.How deep are wires in walls? ›
However, if you don't have access to this, most wiring runs horizontally 6 inches or 12 inches above the receptacle, so avoid these areas. If it is possible, only drill shallow holes. Most cables will be at least an inch deep into the wall, so by avoiding deep drilling, you can be sure to avoid wires.Can you use a magnet to find a stud? ›
If you slowly slide a magnet along the surface of your wall, it will be attracted to the steel drywall screws that come up very close to the surface of the drywall. Even better, you can leave the magnet stuck to the screw to mark the stud throughout your project.
How do you know if a wire is live? ›
One of the easiest ways to know if a wire is live is to use a voltage checker or a current checker. These are simple devices that you can touch to any wire, and it will tell you if there is electricity running through it.What should you never overload an electrical socket? ›
Never overload an extension lead by plugging in appliances that together will exceed the maximum current rating stated for the extension lead. This could cause the plug in the wall socket to overheat and possibly cause a fire.Do I need to check for wires before drilling? ›
A cable must have a current in order to be picked up by the device. Please note: for your own safety, after detection you should switch off the power supply completely before you start drilling.Which side of socket is live? ›
The live wire is on the left-hand side while the neutral wire is on the right-hand side. It is fairly simple to connect the wires to the plug socket this is because all plugs today come with connectors. Wiring a plug socket is extremely simple and can be easily done by beginners.Why does my power go off but the breaker doesn't trip? ›
A circuit breaker can fail without tripping and is an indication it needs to be replaced. It can also mean there are wiring issues with the circuit itself, such as exposed/loose wiring, overheating, and unregulated voltage.Why is half of my house without power without flipped breakers? ›
So, if power suddenly goes out to part of the home, but no breakers trip, it could be that one of the two hot wires has become loose (causing flickering) or disconnected (no power). This can happen at the transformer, in the meter base, or at the connection to the main breaker in the panel.Why has my electric gone off but nothing has tripped? ›
There are usually three reasons why your electricity has stopped working partially or in your whole home. These are an overloaded circuit, a short circuit, or loose wiring.How many ohms is considered an open circuit? ›
As you can see below in Image 2, when the probes are seperated, the circuit is completely open, which is indicated by the reading of infinite resistance, or Ohms, on the multimeter scale.What are the two types of circuits called? ›
There are two types of circuit we can make, called series and parallel. The components in a circuit are joined by wires. If there are no branches then it's a series circuit.What is a dead circuit? ›
Dead circuit testing is testing performed with the power disconnected from the circuit. The main benefit of disconnecting power supply while tests with an external energy source are performed is to eliminate hazardous risks to the environment or the person conducting the test.
How do you find hidden wires? ›
Another practice of finding electrical wires behind walls is to use a metal detector. This can be an efficient method if you know there are very few wires and if there aren't many other metal objects, like nails, in the walls. You can find out which wires are connected to which circuit breaker without any tools at all.How do I know if my electrical wire is up to code? ›
How do I know if a home's electrical wiring is up to code? Homes built in the past 20 years should be up to code. Newer homes may not be up to code if they've had unlicensed electrical work done. Older homes with no GFCI outlets are probably not up to code.Should I use 12 or 14 gauge wire? ›
Choosing Electrical Wire Size
14-gauge are usedfor light fixtures, lamps, lighting circuits with 15 amps. 12-gauge are used in kitchen, bathroom, outdoor receptacles, and 120-volt air conditioners supporting 20 amps.
As a general rule, 14 gauge wiring is used to wire outlets on a 15-amp circuit. If the circuit is 15 amp, it's safe to use 14 gauge wire for the outlet. However a 12 gauge wire loses less voltage on long distance runs. In some cases it may be better to use a 12 gauge wire even though a 14 gauge will work.What wire do I need for a 20 amp circuit? ›
A 20-amp circuit, protected by a 20-amp breaker or fuse, must be served by 12-gauge or 10-gauge wire.What gauge is most house wiring? ›
Most wiring found in homes is either 12 or 14 AWG with 10 AWG sometimes used for heavy appliances.How far can 14 gauge wire go? ›
Sizing the Conductors
As an example, for a 120-volt circuit, you can run up to 50 feet of 14 AWG cable without exceeding 3 percent voltage drop.
How far can you run 14 2 wire on a 15 amp breaker? there are rules in the NEC, but one is voltage drop, which means that 14 gauge wire is recommended only up to around 40 feet.. and many charts will show it as 25 feet, with 12 gauge for 50 feet and 10 gauge for 75 feet..What happens if you use 14 gauge wire on a 20 amp circuit? ›
What happens if you use a 14 gauge wire on a 20 amp circuit? 14 gauge wire is rated for 15 Amps. A 20Amp breaker/fuse would risk fire. The wire gets hot enough to melt the insulation and start fire.How many outlets can you have on a 20 amp circuit? ›
A good rule of thumb is to assume that there will be a maximum power draw of 1.5 amps for each outlet, allowing 10 outlets for a single 20-amp circuit.
How far can you run 12 gauge wire on a 15 amp circuit? ›
You can run a 12 gauge wire up to 70 feet on a 15 amp circuit. That number drops to 50 feet if you run 12 gauge wire on a 20 amp circuit.Is it OK to use a 15a outlet on a 20a circuit? ›
For instance, it is crucial that the amperage of an outlet doesn't exceed the amperage of the circuit it uses. As a result, both 15 amp and 20 amp electrical sockets can be installed to a 20 amp circuit, yet only 15 amp receptacles should be used for 15 amp circuits.How far can I run 12 gauge wire on a 20 amp breaker? ›
For a 120v circuit, that means 3.6 volts of volt drop. With 12 guage wire, that works out to just under 57 feet with a full load of 20 amps. If you allow for 16 amps (the maximum CONTINUOUS loading permitted on a 20 amp circuit), you can go just shy of 71 feet.How many outlets can you run off of a 15 amp circuit? ›
Technically, you can have as many outlets on a 15 amp circuit breaker as you want. However, a good rule of thumb is 1 outlet per 1.5 amps, up to 80% of the capacity of the circuit breaker. Therefore, we would suggest a maximum of 8 outlets for a 15 amp circuit.