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Author Topic: Separate Breakers  (Read 1986 times)

Tamar Ghobria

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Separate Breakers
« on: January 30, 2014, 07:31:22 am »

What is the best way to detect if two different outlets are on the same breaker? Any gadgets out there....I just bought something from Home Depot but wasn't sure if there was something out there which everyone uses
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Chris Hindle

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2014, 08:44:37 am »

What is the best way to detect if two different outlets are on the same breaker? Any gadgets out there....I just bought something from Home Depot but wasn't sure if there was something out there which everyone uses
The only <no gadget> sure-fire no question about it way is to plug a light (or something) in each outlet, and throw the breaker.
Then, either on the outlet or on a drawing of the room, write down which breaker controls which outlet.
I have used a couple different version of the "plug this thing into the outlet, and use the sniffer at the breaker box", and once I *think* I have identified the breaker, I do the light thing to verify. I am often wrong (using the sniffer only).
Depending on the distance, and how the wiring is routed before hitting the box, the sniffer is easily fooled (2 or 3 breakers all seem to be the source)
The sniffer will tell you "around here", after that, you still gotta throw a couple of breakers.
I mostly do this kind of thing in residential. For my rig, I have my own distro.
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Ya, Whatever. Just throw a '57 on it, and get off my stage.

Tamar Ghobria

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2014, 09:01:16 am »

The only <no gadget> sure-fire no question about it way is to plug a light (or something) in each outlet, and throw the breaker.
Then, either on the outlet or on a drawing of the room, write down which breaker controls which outlet.
I have used a couple different version of the "plug this thing into the outlet, and use the sniffer at the breaker box", and once I *think* I have identified the breaker, I do the light thing to verify. I am often wrong (using the sniffer only).
Depending on the distance, and how the wiring is routed before hitting the box, the sniffer is easily fooled (2 or 3 breakers all seem to be the source)
The sniffer will tell you "around here", after that, you still gotta throw a couple of breakers.
I mostly do this kind of thing in residential. For my rig, I have my own distro.


I kind of had the same experience....The device I got would beep no matter what....then sometimes not...Just didn't seem reliable..
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frank kayser

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2014, 10:12:47 am »


I kind of had the same experience....The device I got would beep no matter what....then sometimes not...Just didn't seem reliable..

Same experience. I wouldn't bet my life on one.
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2014, 11:02:34 am »

Same experience. I wouldn't bet my life on one.

A cheap boom-box or clock radio (anything that will make a lot of noise as soon as the AC power is turned on) makes a good second helper. Plug it into the article in question and turn it up until you can hear it from the circuit breaker panel, then start flipping breakers until the sound goes on and off with your breaker flip. Then put a mark on that receptacle that matches your CB# in the panel.

Tamar Ghobria

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2014, 12:16:11 pm »

A cheap boom-box or clock radio (anything that will make a lot of noise as soon as the AC power is turned on) makes a good second helper. Plug it into the article in question and turn it up until you can hear it from the circuit breaker panel, then start flipping breakers until the sound goes on and off with your breaker flip. Then put a mark on that receptacle that matches your CB# in the panel.

Most venuse I work in won't allow us to just start flipping breakers
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Ray Aberle

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2014, 12:23:06 pm »

What is the best way to detect if two different outlets are on the same breaker? Any gadgets out there....I just bought something from Home Depot but wasn't sure if there was something out there which everyone uses
If you're dealing with what I did, when I re-wired my house-- I had multiple things on random circuits, several overloaded, one circuit that the previous owners "fixed" by adding a GFI outlet in the living room-- that sure didn't stop the light switch from smoking, but I guess it was easier to re-set that in the LR then have to go to the service panel... Another circuit that had **19** things on it (outlets and receptacles) ending at the microwave in the kitchen (!!). So basically I ended up just chopping power, disassembling outlets/fixtures to bare wire, and my dad and I went through with a multimeter and figured out where a wire went from the service panel. It was a long, painstaking process, but helped to figure out a) what we were dealing with so we could b) figure out what we were going to do with it.

Ended up re-balancing everything on paper, and then pulled out the aluminum wiring, replaced with copper, upgraded circuit counts where needed, added AFCI breakers where required, outdoor outlets that weren't there before, -- ugh. It took a bit, but it's all amazing-like now. (Oh, and pulled Cat5/Cat3/RG6 to each room, and expanded wall outlets in bedrooms from one gang to two, cos you never have enough outlets in a bedroom, what with cell phone chargers, computers, TV and game consoles becoming more prevalent in bedrooms these days.)

So tl;dr -- if there's no power, and you had bare wires on both ends, you could use a meter to check for continuity from one wire to the other, after connecting them on the other outlet. Best to do if you're gonna rip it all out and re-do it anyways.  :D   [Probably would not suggest doing this at a venue... haha.]

-Ray
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Jerome Malsack

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2014, 01:14:46 pm »

Most venuse I work in won't allow us to just start flipping breakers

I would recommend a site visit the week before the event and before the door open to customers.

The reason why is because if you shut down the power on the Point of Sales computers,  Cash Registers. 
They can not work with the customers.  Being in before the open doors allows them time to test and to get there computers back on line. 

But one should ask why they dont have power backup systems?   
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2014, 01:24:34 pm »

But one should ask why they dont have power backup systems?
Due to cost, and not needing them, other than for folks turning breakers on and off.
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TJ (Tom) Cornish

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Re: Separate Breakers
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2014, 01:29:08 pm »

Most venuse I work in won't allow us to just start flipping breakers
The only sure way to tell if two receptacles are on different circuits is to plug an extension cord into one, carry the female end of the cord over to another receptacle, and using a volt-meter, measure hot from the extension cord to hot on the other receptacle on the wall.  If you read 208 or 240 volts, they are definitely on different circuits.  If you read 0 volts, they may or may not be on the same circuit, as they are on the same phase.  BTW, if you read 120V doing this, something is wrong - there is a hot/neutral swap somewhere.

For venues that have unlabeled/inadequate power, you basically have two choices - either work with them to improve this if it's a reoccurring event - working to get either more 5-20 circuits or a 14-50 circuit installed, or downscale your show to fit the venue.  There's only so much noodling that you can do.
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