Testing buried wires??

trivetman

Bronze Supporter
Jul 14, 2017
255
Jenkintown, PA
Does anyone know a way to test whether a buried wire is carrying voltage?

My landscaper unearthed two buried 14 gauge romex cables (no conduit) as he was excavating for a retaining wall. I found two similar wires in a junction box in the detached garage which are no longer connected to anything. These are probably the ends of the buried wires and are no longer carrying voltage. Someone probably cut them off and rewired the garage years ago.

But I’d like to know for sure the buried wires are dead. I could cut them and test for voltage but if they are live...that then becomes a bigger problem having live exposed wires. Any suggestions?
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
16,525
Any hardware store will sell a noncontact voltage tester that you touch to the wire to see if it has live voltage.

 
Last edited:

trivetman

Bronze Supporter
Jul 14, 2017
255
Jenkintown, PA
Ive got a non-contact tester. Do they work well enough through the sheath? Id be worried about a false negative.

Not familiar with a clamp on power meter. Will look into it.

Thanks
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
16,525
The non contact tester should be good enough.

A clamp on meter won't work on noncurrent carrying wires or when clamped around multiple wires. So, it won't work for this purpose.

Another option is a wire tracer that can verify that the wires in question go to the cut wires.

 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
1,109
NY
Also, remember to flip every switch you have on when testing. (I like the probe tester that’s the size of a sharpie marker). If it was something like old patio lighting you could cut it thinking it’s dead and energize it the next time you hit the right switch.
 

trivetman

Bronze Supporter
Jul 14, 2017
255
Jenkintown, PA
Also, remember to flip every switch you have on when testing. (I like the probe tester that’s the size of a sharpie marker). If it was something like old patio lighting you could cut it thinking it’s dead and energize it the next time you hit the right switch.
Arrgh...good point. This will be fun in my ancient house with 100 switches which I think are out of commission...some of which who knows which way the “on” is!!
 
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