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outlet sleuthing

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Bob Cole
outlet sleuthing
on Jan 9, 2015 at 8:03:43 pm

Is there a way to test two or more electrical outlets and determine (before tripping a breaker) whether they are on the same circuit?

I have run stingers from several rooms, just to lower the odds that I would trip a breaker. Naturally, one time, several of the outlets I chose were on the same circuit despite being in different rooms. The search for "the engineer" ensued. If I can avoid this, I'd like to.

Related issue: there is no way to determine from looking at it that a given outlet has much available wattage. Is there a way to test an outlet to see what the available wattage is?

Thanks!

Bob C


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Mark Suszko
Re: outlet sleuthing
on Jan 12, 2015 at 10:06:07 pm

There are gizmos that test/map your circuits using rf, but you'd already have to have one of the parts connected to/near the breaker panel, and one at the outlet in question.


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Todd Terry
Re: outlet sleuthing
on Jan 12, 2015 at 10:17:11 pm

A few years ago I "invented" (sadly, only in my head) a genius device that sorta is along the lines of what Bob is asking about...

I always thought it would be so infinitely useful if there was a a little test device... just a gadget with a plug on it... that you could stick in an outlet and it would tell you what kind of load was already on that circuit.

This would have been super useful on location, and keep us from tripping breakers in practical locations that frequently led to large amounts of cursing from other parts of buildings in businesses when whole banks of computers suddenly went dark, and the like. When I mentioned it, I had several other DPs tell me that such a gadget would be a godsend.

I inquired about it with several different electrical-engineer-types about the feasibility, and their reactions varied wildly from "impossible" to "no way" to "can't be done." I find that hard to believe, but I'm not an EE guy. Surely there is a way.

It eventually became a moot point though... with camera changes though the years my lighting needs (and styles) have drastically evolved, and now for the most part the big-wattage instruments like our HMIs just gather dust here and battery-powered LEDs are our go-to fixtures of choice now... so for me personally the gadget is not nearly needed as much as it once was.

Still, it would be very cool to have.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bob Cole
Re: outlet sleuthing
on Jan 13, 2015 at 2:49:58 am

Thanks Mark and Todd. I went onto a professional electrician's forum and discovered that the answer was basically "no."

The only way to get the answer is apparently to buy a circuit tracer, and then use an amprobe at the circuit breaker box. But I lack access to those boxes when on location, unless we get a building engineer to provide it.

So, back to my usual method: plug everything in and wait ten minutes; bring doughnuts and offer them around when the power goes out.

bob


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Steve Kownacki
Re: outlet sleuthing
on Jan 13, 2015 at 4:47:48 pm

Well Bob, *technically*, a 20 amp circuit should have these type of outlets. Roughly 2400 watts on the circuit.

A 15 amp outlet does not have the horizontal tab, and roughly 1800 watts on the circuit. So looking at the outlets can give you a very general idea of avail power.

I believe the National Elec Codes states only 4 outlets per circuit in a commercial structure, unlimited for residential, but I think most electricians keep it to 8 outlets. (I'm no engineer and this is for thought only.) AND these ratings are for non-continuous loads, which hot lights are not.

Steve





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