How Does a Circuit Tracer Work?


Most modern residences contain a complex system of cables, ground lines and other electrical conduits necessary for day-to-day electrical functions. These circuits can be susceptible to numerous electrical problems. A circuit tracer simplifies the process of tracing such problems to their source and consists of a probe, transmitter and receiver.


  • The transmitter on a circuit tracer is used to transmit a signal sent along the circuit to which it attaches. An electrician can connect the circuit tracer to the end of a circuit wire, such as in an electrical outlet.


  • The circuit tracer receiver picks up the signal sent from the circuit, and typically takes the form of a hand-held unit. The receiver generates a buzzing noise or activates a light when held close to the circuit transmitting the signal. The stronger the signal, the brighter the light or louder the noise produced.


  • The circuit tracer receiver contains a probe, which houses three sensors. An electric field sensor locates the end of a conductor. The differential field sensor determines the direction of the conductor located above ground. The inductive sensor determines the direction of the conductor transmitting the circuit beneath the ground. The probe generates some electrical energy via a switch, then determines the amount of power being generated by the circuit’s signal.

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  • Photo Credit electric outlet 2 image by Dawn Williams from
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