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How Does a Circuit Breaker Finder Work?

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

how does a circuit breaker finder work

How does a circuit breaker finder work to find the specific breaker? Is it true that it considers the same breaker of an outlet or light? How can a device like this find the same breaker?

Yes, a circuit breaker finder or tester can indeed find the same breaker of your outlet or lights. You’re probably wondering how this device can locate the breaker of your outlets or lights.

This article will help you understand the importance of this device and how it works.

How Does The Circuit Breaker Finder Work


A circuit breaker finder works by using a receiver and transmitter. The transmitter sends a signal that walks through the wire up to the circuit breaker. Then the receiver will then detect that particular signal through a specific breaker.

The transmitter and the receiver are typically sold as packages. They may not work if you use another device that didn’t come in the original box, especially if it is from another brand.

This tool is essential when servicing an outlet or light fixture, especially if your circuit breaker panel has no labels. By locating the correct breaker of the circuit you’re servicing, you can quickly and safely shut off the particular area you need to work on.

You can also use this tool to label all breakers on your service panel, so you won’t need to use this tool in the future.

Just a quick reminder: this device is for locating circuit breakers only. It isn’t the right tool if you want to trace your home’s circuitry – a circuit tracer is a proper tool for that. If you need one, you can check the top-rated electrical circuit tracer reviews, which I also wrote based on my experience.

Now, to help you understand more about the circuit breaker finder, let me share additional information about it.

What is a Transmitter

The transmitter is the one that sends a signal to the breaker. It can be used in different applications – like plugging it directly into your outlet, through a bulb receptacle, or even by placing alligator clips to live wire.


However, some of these accessories are not usually included in the package. These are examples of a light socket adapter that allows you to use the transmitter in your light socket. You can also look at these alligator clips to see how the transmitter connects to unterminated wiring.

What is a Receiver

The receiver is the one you hold and need to point into the breaker. It detects the signal sent by the transmitter and would usually beep rapidly and flashes quickly when passing over the circuit breaker carrying the signal from the transmitter.


This lets you quickly and accurately find the breaker of your outlet. You would save time and effort by switching off the correct breaker the first time, every time. Furthermore, some circuit breaker finders have built-in GFCI testers, which test if the outlet’s safety feature is working correctly.

What is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)

A ground fault circuit interrupter (a.k.a. GFCI) is designed to shut off power instantaneously if a ground occurs. It could respond in less than a fortieth of a second, keeping users safe from electrocution.

It works by measuring the current to and from the device plugged into the outlet. When it detects a surge, it will automatically cut off power. This feature is designed to trip fast enough to prevent incidents and injuries.

Investing in the trusted GFCI outlet will erase your worries about faulty terminals and shocks, especially in damp and wet areas. You can check my reviews on the top-rated GFCI outlet if you want to add safety features to your outlet.

More About Circuit Breaker Finder


Circuit Breaker Finders from Greenlee and Fluke are some of the most popular brands on the market. Many professionals, including me, trust them. However, excellent quality does come with a higher price.

These brands can be found in most hardware stores near you; you can also find them online. Check these reliable circuit breaker finders that I reviewed base on my experience. I also included a buyer’s guide to give you an idea of which device best fits your needs.

All circuit breaker finder brands require scanning the breaker panel twice. This ensures that the reading is 100% correct to prevent the hassle of turning off a wrong breaker and avoid accidental electrocution. It also needs to be reset before using for precision. Every device has a different procedure, so ensure that you read the manual before using it.


This device draws power from the outlet, and it may not work if you have a damaged circuit breaker or damaged wire. When this happens, the most reliable way to test it is to use a circuit tracer tool. If you want to see how it’s done, consider watching this video by the Sparky Channel.

Remember, some circuit breaker finders have a maximum voltage capacity; a short circuit may occur if you use a device incompatible with your system.

Although most breaker finders will work on standard 120-volt circuits, you have to check if you have a 220-volt system installed in your house. Usually, this can be found in outlets designed to carry heavier loads like centralized air conditioning units or electric clothes dryers.

However, circuit breaker finders designed for use in industrial settings will have a higher voltage rating of around 270-volts or more. Primarily, these are used by professional electricians like me.


A circuit breaker finder saves you a lot of time and effort from finding the circuit breaker of your outlet or lights. With this device, you will no longer manually switch off each breaker to find the correct one.

I highly recommend these 12 best circuit breaker finders; read through them to get an idea of your options based on your needs and budgets.

Did this article solve and answer the question “How Does a Circuit Breaker Finder Work” in your mind? Is there anything you want to know more about? Let me know in the comment sections below.

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