We bought a house that has light posts in the yard, scattered across 100 feet or so. I know there is buried wiring (probably no more than 12" deep) that supplies these lights, but this is a crazy old house, few breakers are marked, and there are dead circuits everywhere. I want to know if all the posts are connected (they probably are) and figure out where the wiring connects them. Is there a way (metal detector, signal injector, what?!?) that I can trace this/these circuits and find a way to reconnect them? Thanks!

  • 3
    Google "wire tracker" or "wire tracer". But really, if you know that the place is wired, "crazy", why wouldn't you just do over? Apr 23, 2016 at 2:28
  • A good wire tracer may be able do this, even if circuits are broken or grounded. However, it will cost you a big chunk of cash (expect on the order of $500 for a new one with the right capabilities) and reviews I see in the net aren't too good. Have you considered simply checking if anyone ever filed a permit for all that wiring? The permit would include a map. Apr 23, 2016 at 4:42

1 Answer 1


There are basically two types of wire tracer:

  • audible frequency transmitter and receiver often used with telephone wires to detect them in floors, walls, etc. It is expected the receiver can be placed within a few inches of where the traced wire potentially is.
  • low frequency RF (400–500 kHz) intended for detecting buried wires or inside structures where the receiver detector can be up to a few feet away.
  • There are some which can do both audio and RF.

Each type has its tradeoffs. The RF system can be difficult because of how the trace signal propagates through conductive conduit or nearby wires (like grounds) so it often seems like the "wire" is everywhere. The audio detector often seem like the signal disappears and it is only by occasional blind luck that you find the wire.

In the case of a wire buried in a yard, I would think the best way is to dig up the wire. That way you can easily follow it and get a great feel for how its installation is aging, how well it is staying out of the way, etc.

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