A Quick Circuit Breaker Primer
Circuit breakers are amazing devices that protect your appliances and gadgets from receiving too much current. The sockets we plug our appliances and gadgets to give out a constant voltage of either 110V or 220V. The formula for power is:
Power = Voltage * Current
If, say, our power sockets are have a voltage rating of 110V and we plug a hair dryer with a power rating of 1000W and a gaming computer with a power rating of 3000W to an extension cord that can only handle 20A of current, the excess ~17A current overheats and melts or burns the extension cord. Circuit breakers are built to automatically cut off the current when they reach a defined threshold.
Why Buy a Circuit Breaker Finder?
It’s rather easy to know which circuit breaker has been tripped because the switch would be in the ‘off’ position. There are, however, some cases wherein you’re not trying to restart a tripped circuit breaker; you may just be trying to do some electrical work that require you to turn off a circuit. Because circuit breakers are part of this circuit, by turning one of them off you effectively cut off power to certain outlets. That being said, you’ll find that a circuit breaker finder comes in quite handy as it lets you find exactly the circuit breaker that corresponds to a specific power outlet.
In this buying guide, you’ll be taken through some of the best circuit breaker finder 2019 has in store for you, along with the best circuit breaker finder reviews from amateur to professional electricians. First, let’s talk about the aspects you need to look closely at in a circuit breaker finder.
Especially in larger homes, it’s important to consider the maximum distance possible between the transmitter and receiver. Some circuit breaker finders will indicate this while some leave it up to the user to find out for himself. Some can go or as far as 1000 ft. whereas some can go only up to 100 ft. You’ll want to choose one that has a range that includes the distance from your circuit breaker to the farthest outlet in your home.
To date, there’s no single circuit breaker finder that can be considered to be the best. Circuit finder reviews will often contain mixed responses, from devices coming up with a lot of false positives to devices giving amazingly accurate readings. This is because even the circuit breaker finders easily provide inaccurate readings when there are too many wires in an area. In this case, you’ll find that anecdotal reviews may be more useful than purely technical reviews.
High quality circuit breaker finders should have sturdy ground pongs, receptacle testers, and other parts that you’ll commonly have to plug in or pass a current through quite a lot of times. A lot of users have complained about one or two of these parts breaking off at the most inconvenient times. That being said, you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to build quality.
Top Circuit Breaker Finders in 2019
While there isn’t an ultimate winner for circuit breaker finders, there certainly are a couple of them who’ve made a lot of users happy and warrant being on the list of the top rated circuit breaker finders 2019 brings in. Try them out and see if any of them are a perfect fit for your electrical/electronic projects.
Created with the idea of surpassing the customer’s expectations, the IDEAL 61-534 Digital Circuit Breaker Finder with Digital Receiver and GFCI Circuit Tester comes jam packed with features you wouldn’t normally find in most circuit breaker finders.
What a lot of people love about this product is how accurate it is, as most users have reported getting the correct circuit breaker every time. The only issue that some people have with the IDEAL is, apart from its relatively high price tag, the fact that it had to be re-initialized every time it was left unattended for just a couple of minutes. Apart from this minor inconvenience, however, this circuit breaker finder is one of the most accurate circuit breaker finders you’ll ever find, especially with this price tag (other circuit breaker finders with the same degree of accuracy may cost you a couple hundred bucks).
Apart from finding circuit breakers, the IDEAL also identifies proper wiring and is able to check for power with the GFCI receptacle tester. Unless you plan on working on really old circuitry, then you’re most likely going to be very happy with the accuracy and added features of the IDEAL if your budget allows it.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($74.96)
Klein Tools ET300
Cheap, accurate, and long range aren’t words you’d normally find clumped together in a circuit breaker finder review, but the Klein Tools ET300 Digital Circuit Breaker Finder has received extremely positive user reviews enough to warrant the combination. The ET300 is not a straightforward product to use, which is why some people have given bad reviews of this product and have reported getting a lot of false positives. In order to get accurate readings for this product, one needs to run the tester slowly all throughout the panel face, letting it beep a couple of times as it learns about the circuits, after which one needs to run the tester again until it chimes. The chime means that you’ve found the circuit you’re looking for.
Perhaps the only annoying thing about the ET300 is how one could easily turn it on by accident, causing it to beep inside one’s toolbox/bag. You’re going to want to find a way to protect the switch; otherwise you’ll have to resort to removing the batteries when you’re not using the device, which is frankly, clunky and impractical to do.
The ET300, like any other circuit breaker finder, will have its limitations, but if you can live with an annoyingly soft power button, its accuracy and range are well worth the price.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($36.65)
A lot of times, circuit breaker finders give false positives because of how sensitive their probes are. With the Extech CB10 Circuit Breaker Finder, you could finally get more accurate readings because of its variable sensitivity.
The Extech also includes a simple GFCI test that checks for problems with wiring at the push of a button. Some customers complain about the product’s build quality though, and for professionals, the Extech might seem too flimsy for comfort. This, however, is only a break-in period and as the device ‘warms up’, you’ll find that it works particularly well assuming that you follow the instructions carefully.
One must pay particular attention to the up and down arrow directions given otherwise the device will not give an accurate reading. You will want to play around with the sensitivity control for more accurate readings, though. In a nutshell, the Extech is a powerful circuit breaker finder, but it needs a break-in period and a bit more patience. You’ll find, however, that its versatility is a great asset to have especially for old and oddly wired connections.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($37.82)