Forum Thread

Tracing house huge circuit path

1,794 451 November 19, 2020 at 01:20 PM
I am wanting to trace a very large circuit path in an older house. apparently this house was wired before all the strict wiring laws came able back in the 70s-80s. like this house has multiple rooms both overhead lights and outlets wired together on a big circuit. in todays wiring laws this is a big no-no. rooms and overhead lights with their outlets should all be on separate circuits so if something plugged into an outlet trips that outlet circuit the overhead light circuit will still work and you will have light to see around. so, how would i go about tracing this very big circuit?

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#2
https://www.harborfreight.com/cir...XgQAvD_BwE

Not 100% but better than the alternatives. This will tell you which outlets are on which circuits, but won't tell you WHERE the wires are routed (your question was confusing).
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#3
Quote from TodayOnly
:
I am wanting to trace a very large circuit path in an older house. apparently this house was wired before all the strict wiring laws came able back in the 70s-80s. like this house has multiple rooms both overhead lights and outlets wired together on a big circuit. in todays wiring laws this is a big no-no. rooms and overhead lights with their outlets should all be on separate circuits so if something plugged into an outlet trips that outlet circuit the overhead light circuit will still work and you will have light to see around. so, how would i go about tracing this very big circuit?
Speaking broadly, my understanding is that in general, there's nothing wrong with mixing outlets and lighting together on the same circuit or having said circuit span multiple rooms. It's mostly a matter of the calculated load on the circuit. Some municipalities may have different requirements and some rooms like bathrooms, dining rooms, and kitchens and things like track lighting have special requirements.

If you're concerned about the wiring in the house, the best thing would be to have an electrician inspect and evaluate the house and make recommendations about things you might want to change.

If you want to try to figure out what's on all of your breakers, the easiest way is to plug in a bunch of things like lamps, Christmas lights, night lights, clock radios, fans, etc scattered around the house and turn off the breakers one by one. Write down what loses power and use an outlet tester (or move the lamp etc.) to check nearby outlets that don't have anything plugged in.

When was this house built?
Major remodels / additions?
Lots of DIY electrical in the past?
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Original Poster
#4
So I already know what is on the circuit. I am wanting to trace and find out how the circuit is wired. I would like to find out if I can break up the circuit spanning multiple rooms.

I'm thinking and hoping at least the hot feeding each room is running to the light on the ceiling in the middle of each room. This would make breaking each room off the current circuit fairly easy as there would be the light/light switch and 1 or more lines down to outlets in the room.

the bathroom plug is on the circuit and i would definitely like to put that on its own circuit with a gfci outlet. the other side of that wall is the living room and i hope that didn't link that to the bathroom plug.

I have this feeling that im going to have to do some exploring, checking light fixtures and outlets.
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Last edited by TodayOnly November 19, 2020 at 03:17 PM.
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#5
Quote from TodayOnly
:
So I already know what is on the circuit. I am wanting to trace and find out how the circuit is wired. I would like to find out if I can break up the circuit spanning multiple rooms.

I'm thinking and hoping at least the hot feeding each room is running to the light on the ceiling in the middle of each room. This would make breaking each room off the current circuit fairly easy as there would be the light/light switch and 1 or more lines down to outlets in the room.

the bathroom plug is on the circuit and i would definitely like to put that on its own circuit with a gfci outlet. the other side of that wall is the living room and i hope that didn't link that to the bathroom plug.

I have this feeling that im going to have to do some exploring, checking light fixtures and outlets.
So how many receptacle outlets and lights are on the circuit and how may are in the bathroom? Is it a 15 or 20A circuit and what wire gauge was used?

When was the house built? Wire is certainly something that has changed a lot over the years.
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Last edited by jkee November 19, 2020 at 04:05 PM.
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#6
what type of wiring is it? old as in knob and tube, older cloth wiring, vinyl romex wiring?
You'll need to look in the outlets and switche boxes to see how many wires are connected behind or into the outlets. then disconnecting them to see what is hot and where it goes. no easy way to do it
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#7
The easy way is to find another reason to open the walls, and then hey, let's look at the wiring too.

Trying to do this on an older house is going to be really hard. You can probably guess where some of the wiring is going, but there's no magic way to get a diagram. I have a similar situation with overhead lights and outlets in multiple rooms mixed together, but not all outlets in each room, etc. It's a royal pain trying to do work and figure out which breakers need to flip.
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#8
Quote from TodayOnly
:
So I already know what is on the circuit. I am wanting to trace and find out how the circuit is wired. I would like to find out if I can break up the circuit spanning multiple rooms.

I'm thinking and hoping at least the hot feeding each room is running to the light on the ceiling in the middle of each room. This would make breaking each room off the current circuit fairly easy as there would be the light/light switch and 1 or more lines down to outlets in the room.

the bathroom plug is on the circuit and i would definitely like to put that on its own circuit with a gfci outlet. the other side of that wall is the living room and i hope that didn't link that to the bathroom plug.

I have this feeling that im going to have to do some exploring, checking light fixtures and outlets.
Have you ever wired up a receptacle or hooked up a light switch before?
Yes?
Great, pick any outlet in a room. Turn off the breaker to that outlet.
Verify no power in the junction box.
Pull the Receptacle out and document each wire.
Disconnect the black wires. *assuming there are black, white and green/Bare wires.
Turn the breaker back on and check to see which black wire still has power.
That's your feed.
Check for power in any other outlet in the room to see if they were downstream of this outlet.

Lather, Rinse and Repeat at every outlet and switch in the house.

It would help to enumerate each outlet an switch.
Start with the outlet to first outlet to the left as you enter the room.
Mark that as #A1, then find the next outlet to the right, Mark that as #A2, and so on and so on...
The next room is B1, B2, B3...
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