finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

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bernoulli
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finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by bernoulli » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:11 pm

Dear fellow handy BHs:

Our house already had blown-in insulation (I think it is what it's called) in the attic when we moved in. Now we are trying to install a Ring-type home monitoring system and cannot locate the junction box transformer with all the insulation around.

Is there an easy way to locate the junction box transformer without removing all the insulation (which means we will have to put the insulation back in after)?

Also is the transformer indispensible for installing the doorbell device?

Your input is appreciated, as always.
Last edited by bernoulli on Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sc9182
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by sc9182 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:32 pm

Only if you are adept at it - and have sufficient term life coverage :happy

One of my not-so handy cohorts, a first time home buyer attempted to walk in attic over the “blown” insulation (instead of locating the beams/floor-joists). His walk was above the two-level family room 22” height! And as you guessed already, he mostly fell through the ceiling drywall!!

Luckily, he was a big-boned person, got stuck, didn’t fit/fall thru between floor joists. All is well, except for torn pant, and badly scratched up thighs. After returning to work, he said - he may sue the builder for not warning him about this danger/risk! Incidentally he was let go in about 6 months. Go figure!!

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lthenderson
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by lthenderson » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:39 pm

Look for landmarks that you can recognize like can lights that are nearby, vent pipe, etc and eyeball the distance. Once in the attic, locate the same landmark and distance and start digging.

Another method I have used is to drill a small hole and stick a wire up through the hole into the attic. (recycled utility marking flags work great for this.) Then you just head up to the attic and find where the wire is sticking up. Patch the hole with a small dab of spackle. If you ceiling is white, you probably won't even need to touch up the paint.

barnaclebob
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by barnaclebob » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:58 pm

Are you trying to locate a light fixture box or a randomly located junction box?

gliderpilot567
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by gliderpilot567 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:58 pm

LTHenderson's advice is spot on.

Bring more lighting than you think you need for up there. A headlamp is great. I also bring a conventional flashlight for poking into weird corners, and often a lantern or utility light that I can hang on a nail.

If your attic has tight clearance, or there are a lot of roof nails sticking through the roof, consider a hard hat.... seriously. I also wear a respirator mask from home depot, safety glasses, and gloves... the blown-in insulation is mostly shredded paper-like material, but it's very dusty and irritates eyes/lungs. The deeper in the attic I have to crawl, the more I suit up. I would wear knee pads if I had some. If you are working near the edge of the roof, where the clearance is low, expect to spend some time on your belly or back.

Any small tools that you bring up there, tie them to your person with a string or at least have a nice stable tool box/belt. Bring extra screws/hardware because you will drop some and the insulation will swallow them. Big tools (drill etc) will not sink through the insulation, but I've had to dig for a small dropped screwdriver before. This is no fun in dark, cramped, hot, dusty conditions.

Lastly, if you are going to be doing this kind of work a lot, or if you find that your junction box is in a weird or tight corner: grab yourself some sheets of 1/2 inch plywood and cut them into 3ftx18in sections (or other size as convenient), and bring them into the attic with you. Lay them across the ceiling joists where you will be traversing/working, to give yourself an easier path and more comfortable work space. No matter how well balanced you are, at some point you WILL mis-step and put a foot's weight in-between joists - having a temporary plywood floor will avoid dangerous and expensive drywall goofs.... like sc9182's story...

renue74
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by renue74 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 3:15 pm

I am not a licensed electrician, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

I have wired and rewired homes before and can wire a circuit breaker panel, plus I know NEC requirements for my area...so here is what I suggest:

1.) J boxes below blown in insulation should be marked so future electricians can indentify them for future work. A flag or some type of high vis marking tape with "J box" written on the tape could be used to attach to a rafter dangling the tape above the J box.

2.) To track a J box, start from the home runs (romex, etc.) cable where the breaker panel is...and work your way out.

3.) I typically will use one of those electricity sniffers that will buzz to track the romex and work my way out from the box.

4.) Once your electricity sniffer "hits" a box....dig through the blow in insulation and you will either find a J box, 2x4 header where the wire goes down the wall...or a light box where the wire ends in a room.

This is a pain if you have a ton of circuits and I wouldn't attempt it in the summer. I would wait until the fall/winter when the attic is much, much cooler.

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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by LadyGeek » Fri Jul 19, 2019 3:29 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (junction box).
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by 123 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 3:43 pm

While navigating around the attic among/over the joists it's helpful to have some short pieces of lumber along to lay across the joists as you move around to provide a wider footing/seating. It can get tedious quickly if your only footing can be on the joists. A dust mask can be an essential, you could be moving insulation and things that have not been disturbed for many, many years.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by dbr » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:24 pm

I wonder if some of the most recent stud finder technology would find wires and a junction box at least if used on the ceiling from below. I don't know if some of the claims you read are exaggerated.

Aside from that any junction box must be attached to joists so you can track along the joists by feel.

I suppose ground penetrating radar is overkill, expensive, or impractical?

zxllxz
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by zxllxz » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:53 pm

I wonder if one of those metal detectors might work, to trace out the wire?

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Sandtrap
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Jul 19, 2019 4:59 pm

bernoulli wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:11 pm
Dear fellow BHs:

Our house already had blown-in insulation (I think it is what it's called) in the attic when we moved in. Now we are trying to install a Ring-type home monitoring system and cannot locate the junction box with all the insulation around.

Is there an easy way to locate the junction box without removing all the insulation (which means we will have to put the insulation back in after)?

Your input is appreciated, as always.
What type of "J" box does this system need?
Does it just need a central location and then hard wired into a "J" Box with a feed?
Is there an electrical outlet in your attic such as for an HVAC system or attic light feed?
If you're just looking for "J" boxes in the attic the one's you will find are for the ceiling lights and fixtures.

What kind of circuit are you looking for?

j
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brianH
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Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Post by brianH » Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:47 pm

lthenderson wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:39 pm
Another method I have used is to drill a small hole and stick a wire up through the hole into the attic. (recycled utility marking flags work great for this.) Then you just head up to the attic and find where the wire is sticking up. Patch the hole with a small dab of spackle. If you ceiling is white, you probably won't even need to touch up the paint.
This is what I do. I use a straightened clothes hanger (one of the wire ones people hate). It's strong enough to punch through drywall on its own if you spin it a bit. It can also be long enough to stick through a thick layer of insulation, especially if you have a helper down below to wiggle it so you can easily find it up in the attic.

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bernoulli
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by bernoulli » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:05 pm

Thanks all - only that what I am looking for is not the junction box :oops: but the transformer. My lack of knowledge is self-evident :oops:

Post updated so I am asking the right question. Thanks for all who replied, folks here are always so helpful!

miamivice
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by miamivice » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:11 pm

Have you looked in your garage, assuming you have one? This is where they normally are installed.

Hiker-Biker
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Hiker-Biker » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:36 pm

bernoulli wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:11 pm
Dear fellow handy BHs:

Our house already had blown-in insulation (I think it is what it's called) in the attic when we moved in. Now we are trying to install a Ring-type home monitoring system and cannot locate the junction box transformer with all the insulation around.

Also is the transformer indispensible for installing the doorbell device?
I assume you mean the transformer that provides a 24 volts to your doorbell. The Ring Doorbell - you don't specify which model you have...
The Ring 2 Video doorbell that I have has a rechargeable lithium battery that will work without connecting to the 24 volt circuit. The problem is you will need to recharge it using a USB cable. Very inconvenient in my opinion. If you hardwire the Ring to the 24 volt transformer circuit, then it will keep your Ring charged up.

The problem I had was my doorbell was mounted on the brick-mold between the entrance and storm door. I tried to locate the 2 wires to pull them up to the suggested mounting height by drilling some pilot holes. Unfortunately they weren't where I assumed they were. I'd have to remove the entire brick-mold just to find them. So I just ran the wires on the surface and plan to cover them with some half round PVC pipe. So much for aesthetics!

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by 123 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:38 pm

miamivice wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:11 pm
Have you looked in your garage, assuming you have one? This is where they normally are installed.
Not always. It may depend on when the house was built or door bell was installed/updated. When I had to look for one in a 1950's track house in Southern California it was in the attic. I found it readily because it had a large barrier around it. I assume the barrier was put there when they blew all the insulation in and they wanted the transformer to have "breathing room". When we had a remodel on another house done 15 years ago the doorbell transformer was mounted on the ceiling of the finished garage.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:13 pm

miamivice wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:11 pm
Have you looked in your garage, assuming you have one? This is where they normally are installed.
+1
Mine was in the garage.
I have never seen one mounted in an attic because they burn out and may need to be replaced.
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6Pack
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by 6Pack » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:30 pm

Just some safety advice: I’m not sure where you are located, but if you’re in part of the US that’s experiencing the heat wave, this weekend may not be the best time to poke around your attic looking for the doorbell transformer. With that being said, nighttime or early morning is the best time to do this when the temperatures are lower.

If it were me, I’d start poking around the attic above the door with the doorbell.

EDIT: My house was built in the early 2000s and my transformer is in the ceiling of the basement below my front door.
Last edited by 6Pack on Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Yooper16
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Yooper16 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:31 pm

123 wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:38 pm
miamivice wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:11 pm
Have you looked in your garage, assuming you have one? This is where they normally are installed.
Not always. It may depend on when the house was built or door bell was installed/updated. When I had to look for one in a 1950's track house in Southern California it was in the attic. I found it readily because it had a large barrier around it. I assume the barrier was put there when they blew all the insulation in and they wanted the transformer to have "breathing room". When we had a remodel on another house done 15 years ago the doorbell transformer was mounted on the ceiling of the finished garage.
At our last house, the transformer was essentially above the door- chime in the attic. Maybe approx. where the chime is or where the door bell button is and start around there. It was a ranch built in 1946ish

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by neilpilot » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:31 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:13 pm
miamivice wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:11 pm
Have you looked in your garage, assuming you have one? This is where they normally are installed.
+1
Mine was in the garage.
I have never seen one mounted in an attic because they burn out and may need to be replaced.
j
My last 2 houses had the transformer in the attic, not near the floor joists and insulation but attached to the rafters.

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Sandtrap
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:36 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:31 pm
Sandtrap wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:13 pm
miamivice wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:11 pm
Have you looked in your garage, assuming you have one? This is where they normally are installed.
+1
Mine was in the garage.
I have never seen one mounted in an attic because they burn out and may need to be replaced.
j
My last 2 houses had the transformer in the attic, not near the floor joists and insulation but attached to the rafters.
That would make sense. They get hot. Can't see as how they'd be buried in insulation.
j
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Silverado
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Silverado » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:42 pm

Recently found ours in a very random place above basement ceiling.

Also have seen them mounted to main circuit box.

Good luck, be careful.

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MP123
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by MP123 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:52 pm

Electricians are very conservative when it comes to running wires so it's likely close to the doorbell, chime, or electric service entrance/breaker panel.

I've never seen one in an attic but that might be the way it's done some places.

bitlicious
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by bitlicious » Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:53 pm

In the midwest, it's fairly common to find the doorbell using the furnace 24V transformer; or to have the door bell transformer located in proximity to the furnace transformer.
-- bitlicious

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by random_walker_77 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:09 pm

Assuming you're in a suburban development, you might consider polling your neighbors to see if any of them know where theirs is at. There's a decent chance yours is in a similar location. Here in my neighborhood, the doorbell transformer tends to be in the attic, screwed into an outlet near the attic stairs, and close to an attic light switch (hence, not under insulation). I've even seen this question show up on nextdoor in the past year...
Last edited by random_walker_77 on Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tev9876
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by tev9876 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:18 pm

Do you have a porch lamp? If so replace it with the ring spotlight camera and save the crawling through the attic and associated hospital bills and drywall repair. Much better picture than what my neighbors post from their doorbell cams to the ring neighborhood watch.

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by mpnret » Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:14 am

First look in the easiest most common spot which is mounted on, around and sometimes even in the main breaker panel. Make sure you know what you are looking for. Then look in some of the other easy suggestions like exposed boxes in attic like the attic light, attic light switch etc. If you still can't find it return to the main breaker panel. Switch off breakers one by one until you find which one kills the doorbell. Now you know what circuit it's on and the transformer should be attached to one of the boxes on that circuit. If it's a ceiling fixtures, I don't know what type of ceiling fixtures you have but if there are only a few suspects and they are easy enough to remove, view the boxes from inside to determine where the transformer is. This doesn't solve anything other than give you the location. Then poke a wire up into the attic alongside the box to find it up there and get at the transformer from the attic
May I ask why you need to find the transformer? Is your Ring type device not working? Sometimes it's easiest to hook it up and see if it works. If not then go hunting for the transformer.

ddurrett896
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by ddurrett896 » Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:45 am

Easiest option might be to buy a $30 doorbell kit

Go in the attic over the doorbell and find the chime/transformer wires, cut them and wire new.

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by GrowthSeeker » Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:57 am

24 volt transformer can also be right next to the electrical panel (circuit breakers)
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you.

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by lthenderson » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:14 am

bernoulli wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 8:05 pm
Thanks all - only that what I am looking for is not the junction box :oops: but the transformer. My lack of knowledge is self-evident :oops:

Post updated so I am asking the right question. Thanks for all who replied, folks here are always so helpful!
I typically find them in the attic or in the floor joists (basement ceiling) near the door with the doorbell. They aren't something that typically gets buried in insulation due to heat issues. When you pull off your doorbell, look to see if the wire is going up or down. That might narrow your search some.

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Chan_va
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Chan_va » Sat Jul 20, 2019 9:26 am

It all depends on whether you have an autobot or a decepticon in your attic.

Housedoc
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Housedoc » Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:29 am

Mine is adjacent to junction box that also houses a smoke detector in the garage. Best of luck as the location it may be is many.

rterickson
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by rterickson » Sat Jul 20, 2019 1:15 pm

A portable AM radio tuned between stations will pick up a lot of static in close proximity to a transformer.

dbr
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by dbr » Sat Jul 20, 2019 1:56 pm

There is a transformer buried in insulation? As queried by a previous poster that does not seem like a good idea. I hope someone looked before doing the insulating.

Seems like others have some suggestions to look. I have three 24 volt transformers in my house. One is on a panel at the furnace, one is in a circuit box used to run a chime doorbell device, and one is on the main panel box. All of them are easily evident and serviceable.

IowaFarmBoy
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by IowaFarmBoy » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:48 pm

When I was wiring houses 30 years ago, we put them in a two gang switch box that we mounted the chime unit on. Our current house has it at the panel. As many have said, they can be all over the place.

Jeep4Life
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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Jeep4Life » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:14 pm

OP, the electricians around here usually put them in the coat closet closest to the door. Look around against the wall with the door of the closet, they hide them there for the aesthetic reasons.

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Re: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)

Post by Smoke » Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:39 pm

Jeep4Life wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 7:14 pm
OP, the electricians around here usually put them in the coat closet closest to the door. Look around against the wall with the door of the closet, they hide them there for the aesthetic reasons.
Thats where mine is, right inside the door of the closet way up near the ceiling and about 1 foot away from the "Chime" in the hallway.
Arguing for the sake of arguing is something I am not going to engage in.

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