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About Tasco, Inc.
Tasco has been producing innovative and powerful electrical testing equipment since 1986. Rather than spread themselves thin with a massive catalog of equipment of questionable quality (as some brands do), Tasco focuses on doing one area exceptionally well. That area is circuit tracing and mapping. By narrowing their market to this essential field, Tasco is able to produce the highest quality circuit mappers and circuit tracers available. Tasco's sole focus is to increase efficiency and reduce time cost, allowing the devices to pay for themselves very quickly in saved man-hours. Nothing else on the market really compares at all. You'll see why as we take a deep dive here into the Tasco Circuit Mappers and Tasco Circuit Tracers.
Why use a Circuit Mapper or Tracer?
Let's take a little trip back to the beginning and discuss why you would need to use one of these devices in the first place. Along the way, it will become clear why the Tasco Circuit Mappers and Tracers are vastly superior to any competing products. Perhaps some of the following will be obvious to experienced technicians. Still, it always helps to review the basics, and it will give a clear foundation on which to build up the advantages of Tasco tracers and mappers.
Accurately and quickly tracing circuits is a persistent problem for electrical contractors, whether the job is renovation and repair or new construction. Of course, there are electrical codes in place to make sure that all the wiring in a building is completed correctly and labeled properly, but in reality building and renovation projects are very often plagued by bad labeling, no labeling at all, faulty rewiring, confusing paths, or wiring that is just too hard to trace with typical devices. All of these problems lead not only to project delays (which can be quite costly) but also encourage further mistakes and pose a safety risk to builders, management, and tenants.
Typically, an electrical contractor must hunt down each of these faults through manual tracing, which can take hundreds of man-hours. What the Tasco Circuit Mapper Systems make available is a fast, accurate, and safe way to map an entire construction project or existing building in a small fraction of the time needed for manual tracing.
Some Common Wire Mapping Challenges
Large construction jobs often involve the installation of thousands of feet of electrical cable and many workers, making it difficult to keep track of the circuit ends. Additionally, in this scenario, each contractor or technician may have a different set of best practices for installs and labeling.
On a renovation or retrofitting project, you may run into wiring that predates current wiring codes or has just been labeled poorly.
It's a bit of a cliché, but as they say "time is money", so hours wasted correcting the mistakes of others are a massive downside to large-scale wiring work. Tasco Circuit Mappers were explicitly designed to eliminate the tedious task of correcting these mistakes and put that money (time) right back in your pocket.
Another factor to consider is regulatory compliance and safety standards. Among these are OSHA 1910.335(b)(1) and NEC 408.4. OSHA states that "Safety signs, safety symbols, or accident prevention tags shall be used where necessary to warn employees about electrical hazards which may endanger them…" and NEC states that "Every circuit and circuit modification shall be legibly identified as to its clear, evident, and specific purpose or use ." In a nutshell, that means that you must have all your circuits properly labeled or you're looking at the potential for pretty hefty fines (adding to the project costs).
Obviously, it's best to make sure these errors and violations never occur in the first place, which is easily accomplished by proper circuit mapping (and then labeling). In addition to the financial dangers of mislabeling, there are also safety dangers. Fire hazards are created when technicians are not able to identify the sources for large panelboards correctly and could mistakenly be working on energized equipment.
The Old Way and the New, Better Tasco Way of Circuit Mapping
Now clearly, you need to get a handle on all the potential problems detailed above in a timely and cost-effective way. The old way of remedying the problems caused by blank or mislabeled circuits relies on a sort of trial and error tracing of breakers and fuses. However, because companies rely on large and expensive equipment in their electrical applications, a sudden drop in load when throwing a breaker can lead to system failures that neither you nor the client can afford.
There are, of course, more sophisticated tracing devices like tone and probe type kits, but even with two techs working a large panel it is a very time-consuming and error-prone process to map an entire system. Even if you manage to trace all the branches accurately, you'll still need to compile all that data into a comprehensive map of the system.
Now that we see all the challenges facing us, we are all set to appreciate the tremendous advantage that Tasco Circuit Mappers offer. Tasco's innovative tester makes the whole mapping process simple by coming at the issue from a totally new angle. Instead of an individual probe that traces end-to-end connections, the Tasco Circuit Mapper uses a transmitter that connects directly to the panel and sends a unique signal through every branch.
Circuit Mapper Operating Procedure
Now, this is really a revolutionary process, so we will restate it in a few different ways here so that you can fully appreciate how this works. The main transmitter connects at the panel main, and then there are individual outputs for many circuits that are numbered on transmitter face. These individual outputs connect via a small CT style clamp to each particular circuit on the panel. Depending on which model you select, there are increasing circuit testing capacities. The Tasco CMT24DS Circuit Mapper comes with 24 numbered outputs and clamps, the Tasco CMT42DS Circuit Mapper comes with 42, and the Tasco CMT84DS Circuit Mapper comes with 84.
These Circuit Mappers are essentially the same in function, so you will need to select the model best for you based on your project size. The transmitter is powered by a microprocessor that creates a unique digital signal for every numbered output on the device. This signal is not susceptible to electrical interference and is individually tied to each output on the transmitter. So, once you've made all your connections at the panel, you can take the receiver portion of your Circuit Mapper and start traversing the building testing for what is connected where.
The receiver has a probe tip and an LED readout on its face. The probe can go directly into the hot side of any outlet. And this is where the magic happens. Because there is a unique signal going to that outlet, the receiver unit will display the number of the breaker that the outlet is connected to (based on where you hooked it up earlier at the panel). The signal must be detected twice by the receiver in order to register, so false positives are virtually out of the question. Now all you need to do is go around the building (preferably with some building plans) and test for the digital signal and make a note on your map of which breaker or circuit the outlet is connected to. It's that simple.
Once you get back to the panel, you'll have a numbered list of every connection in the building, and then you can quickly and easily label the panel for every corresponding outlet in the building. All of the Tasco Circuit Mappers come packed with conveniently numbered notepads so that you can mark the numbered circuits on the go and simply transfer that information to the panel when you do get back around to it. You can perform the testing on both energized and de-energized systems, so there is no risk of damaging anything by throwing breakers. Also, it's a huge benefit to be able to map the system without shutting it down. That way, if you've got a large project, there are no service interruptions to whatever tenants there might be. This ability is crucial in settings like hospitals or laboratories, where repair or renovation may be needed, but it is simply not feasible to power down the whole panel or system.
You may have also noticed that this whole procedure can be completed by a single technician and doesn't require the use of an assistant or any communications equipment. All of these factors reduce the man-hours and cost of a project substantially, as we have noted above.
Conclusions and Recommendations
At this point, you can see why the Tasco Circuit Mappers are such a valuable tool in ensuring proper installation and maintenance in electrical systems. The testing process is a piece of cake and could not be any clearer in terms of the results you get. The number of the circuit that your outlet is connected to displays right on the receiver screen, and you mark it down and move on. We thoroughly recommend you one of these testers, and the only consideration is the size of your job. The best seller is the Tasco CMT42DS, as it has enough outputs and clamps that you shouldn't run out on your average job. However, if you're certain of a small or large job, then the Tasco CMT24DS and the Tasco CMT84DS will suit you just fine, respectively.
That's plenty of great info on the Circuit Mapper tools, but Tasco makes a few other great tools that we'll take a brief look at now. Let's go.
The Tasco Power Trace PTL610
The Tasco Power Trace PTL610 is a powerful live circuit tracer rated up to 600V. The PTL610 is very useful for a wide variety of tracing applications, including finding power lines, neutral lines, ground lines, dead or shorted lines, wire in conduit or underground, breaker panels or circuit breaker ID, and more. We'll take a quick look at how the unit works, and you'll be able to see and imagine all the different uses for the tester since its various applications all come down to its unique operating principle.
The Tasco Power Trace transmitter draws current from a 9-600 Volt line and produces a microprocessor-controlled combination of different frequencies to create a completely individual composite signal. The receiver unit of the PTL610 is designed to detect only this composite signal and can do so from up to 20 feet away!
The great advantage of this composite signal technology is that the Tasco Power Trace is practically immune to outside "noise" or electrical interference. You know that the signal you're picking up is precisely the one coming from the transmitter and nothing else. This extreme precision is what makes the tester so versatile.
A Basic Testing Procedure
Let's discuss one basic testing application so you can get a feel for how the unit works, and then you can imagine all the different ways it can be put to use. Let's explore the process of plugging the transmitter into a wall outlet and tracing it back to the specific breaker on the panel.
First, you'll plug the transmitter into the outlet with the included adapters and power it. A blinking LED lets you know that the signal is being applied. The receiver has a two-mode switch and a ten light LED signal strength indicator. The receiver modes are "Breaker" and "Search". The search mode is going to be the one you'll use at range. So if you need to find hidden wiring or aren't even sure which panel the circuit goes to, this mode will allow you to pick it up. Once you know the panel you are tracing, you can switch over to breaker mode. Because of the specialized signal we discussed before, the breaker mode is extremely accurate. Turn the receiver sideways, so the arrow on the tip aligns with the breakers and move it up and down vertically. If, for example, your outlet is connected to breaker 6, you won't get any signal on breakers 7 or 5, but a solid 8-10 LEDs on breaker 6 to show signal strength. That's how close you can pinpoint. This type of accuracy is virtually unheard of with traditional circuit breaker finders.
There are a whole host of other uses for the Tasco PTL610, but we won't go into them right now. Basically, any wire tracing application will be a perfect fit for this precision locator. The unique benefits that come with the composite signal technology make this tester a no-brainer for wire tracing your wire tracing needs.
Other Tasco Products - Buried Wire Locator
In addition to the Mappers and Tracers we just discussed, Tasco makes a few other very useful tools. We'll just do a very brief run-through, and you can find more info on the product pages.
First up is the Tasco INS120P Inspector Line Load Simulator. This great little tool simply simulates the function of a wiring system under load. The INS120P draws a minimal load for a brief time period and then uses internal calculations to project the voltage drop percentage at full load. This process allows you to check the integrity of the wiring without ever putting the full load on the line (which could potentially trip breakers or unduly stress the system). We could say more, but the gist is that this device will reassure customers of the proper function of their wiring, help protect against hazards from faulty wiring, and ensure that a system's wiring is up to the relevant codes.
Next up, and finally, we have the Tasco BLM2015 Buried Line Locator. Underground wire location is beyond the scope of the current article, but you can visit the product page for more info on this high-quality tool. Suffice it to say that you can expect the same performance and innovation in the sphere of underground location that Tasco brings to all of the wire tracing technology that we have just discussed.
That's an extensive rundown of all the main products available from Tasco. In the end, the Tasco mission is efficiency and elegant performance, saving hundreds of hours of work for technicians and getting the job done fast and accurately for a fraction of the cost. And they deliver on that goal. You can't go wrong with any tool that Tasco produces.