on September 24 2013
A doorbell is a device that emits a buzzing, ringing or other type of sound to alert you to the presence of a visitor. Recent technology has resulted in a broad selection of doorbells from which to choose, ranging from units with features for people with special needs to models that can be customized to reflect your own unique style and taste. Most doorbells are available in convenient kits that include all the components you need for fast assembly and easy installation.
This buying guide will help you understand the different types of doorbells available so you can feel confident you’re selecting the right doorbell for your lifestyle, home and personal taste. If you plan to replace your doorbell yourself, follow the step-by-step instructions in our Replacing a Doorbell Project Guide.
Factors to Consider
– Wired or wireless
• Sound options
– Basic, changeable, custom
• Sound quality
– CD quality, frequency blocking
• Sound range
– Distance, portable speakers, sound extenders
• Decorative style
– Materials, shapes, size, colors
Doorbells, also known as door chimes, come in two basic types – wired and wireless.
Wired doorbell systems have been around for over a century and are the most common type of doorbell found in residences. This type of doorbell is typically wired into a home’s electrical system when the home is constructed. A wired doorbell system offers several unique advantages:
• Doesn’t require batteries
• Low maintenance
• Hundreds of design options available
• Provides a steady electrical signal, resulting in clear and dependable sound quality
• Lasts up to ten years or longer
In most wired systems, the doorbell makes a sound via a switch that is located inside the doorbell button mechanism beside the door. The switch is connected with wires to a terminal that is attached to a transformer, which lowers the voltage used from a typical 120-240 volt AC circuit to 8 – 24 volts, which saves on electricity and lowers the risk of an electrical fire. Both the switch and transformer have wires that run to the actual chiming unit, usually located in a central area of the home.
• Older wired doorbell systems operate using an 8 to 20 volt transmitter and transformer,
with 16 volts being the most common.
• Many newer wired doorbell systems use 24 volts to accommodate larger homes and
greater lengths of wire without a drop in voltage.
• When replacing a transmitter or transformer, make sure the voltage on both devices is
• In many already installed wired doorbells, the transformer will be in a separate location,
such as a basement, closet, attic, garage or near the breaker panel.
Wireless doorbell systems have been around since the early 1990s. They use radio waves to connect the transmitter switch to the bell, making physical wiring unnecessary. Most wireless doorbell systems consist of a radio switch/transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is mounted on the door exterior. The receiver can be placed anywhere in the house as long as it meets the range specifications. This makes wireless doorbells a cost-effective alternative when remodeling, making additions to your home or replacing a wired doorbell that has stopped working and may be difficult or expensive to repair.
• The doorbell sound receiver can be placed anywhere inside your home.
• Multiple ring units can be placed in and around your home to expand your hearing
• Wireless doorbell systems are portable – ideal for apartments, motor homes or if you
want to hear your doorbell in different rooms.
• Most wireless units are battery powered, sometimes with rechargeable batteries, while
others use standard triple A or D batteries or less common batteries such as 3V, 6V
or 12. Battery operated models need to be checked periodically and the batteries
replaced when necessary. Some advanced models emit an alarm when the battery
is getting low.
• Wireless doorbells also come in models that run on AC or DC power and can be
plugged into any electrical outlet.
• Wireless doorbells are very easy to install. In most cases, you can attach a wireless
doorbell transmitter to the exterior door with double-sided tape or screws. After that,
simply place the battery-operated receiver wherever you like or plug it into any
electrical outlet, depending on which type you choose.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of shopping for a doorbell is choosing the sound for your new doorbell.
• Basic doorbell options include a ringing, buzzing or chiming sound. Most doorbell kits
come with a variety of sounds, from the basic “ding dong” sound to the traditional and
well-known “Westminster” chime sequence. Many come with a selection of several
sounds within each category.
• Other kits offer dozens and even hundreds of sounds you can change out at any time.
Sounds include well-known melodies, seasonal sounds, holiday music, animal
sounds, funny sound effects and more.
• Finally, more advanced doorbell kits allow you to customize your doorbell’s sounds by
uploading songs from your music device or computer, or record your own original
sounds or spoken words.
The type and number of doorbell sounds you have will depend on your personality, taste and budget. It’s definitely an area in which you can have some fun when making your buying decision. Use our online doorbell tool to listen to sound options for your new doorbell.
Sound QualityCD quality
sound can be delivered by both wired and wireless doorbells. At one time, wired systems were considered to have superior sound because wiring creates a dedicated, uninterrupted path along which the sound can flow. Frequency blocking
capability is making wireless doorbell system sound quality competitive with wired systems. This new technology blocks out background frequencies which can interfere with the doorbell signal caused by other devices like garage door openers and car alarms.
The distance the sound of the doorbell will carry is one of the most important factors to consider when making a buying decision. With wired doorbells, sound will carry to any location where there is a receiver. With wireless doorbells, however, the distance is determined by the range of the radio signal being transmitted. Wired doorbell system ranges
– If you live in a large house and are having problems hearing your doorbell throughout the home, you may need to upgrade to a 24 volt doorbell and transformer. If you are remodeling or adding an addition to your home, you’ll need to install additional wiring to reach those areas. Wireless doorbell system ranges
- Look for a unit that comes with portable speakers that allow you to hear the bell from all parts of your home. In addition, most wireless doorbells have a transmitting range of 100 to 150 feet, which is suitable for small to mid-sized residences. Larger or multi-storied homes may require a sound extender, multiple receivers or a long-range wireless doorbell system. Some long-range wireless doorbells can extend the sound range distance from 300 to 500 feet, with select units extending up to 3,000 feet. Keep in mind that the radio signal from the doorbell must reach the main receiver unit. Depending on your home’s construction, thick internal walls or stone walls may interfere with the signal. In this case, you may want to consider a wired doorbell system.
A sound extender, sometimes called a chime extender or sound amplifier, is a device that allows you to hear your doorbell in areas where the doorbell is difficult to hear. This typically occurs in areas located at a far distance from the main door or where loud activities prevent the bell from being heard. Consider a sound extender if your doorbell needs to be heard in areas such as:
• Home theaters
• Separate workshops or outdoor areas such as decks, patios or swimming pools
Many wired doorbell systems offer sound extenders as accessories. Or, in many cases, you may add a wireless sound extender to an existing wired doorbell system. This is done by a simple process that physically connects the wireless unit to the existing doorbell unit. Depending on the model you choose, the included receiver can then be plugged into any standard AC outlet or operated with batteries. Additional doorbell buttons can also be added to back doors, gates, garage doors and other areas, using different sounds to distinguish between locations. Adjustable volume control is available with most models.
When shopping for a sound extender, you’ll need to make sure the model you choose is compatible with your existing doorbell system, whether wired or wireless. You’ll also need to confirm that the range distance of the model you purchase meets your needs.
|A doorbell is more than a device that emits sound. It can also be a decorative element in your home. The easiest way to personalize your doorbell is by choosing a decorative button or cover, also known as a plate or surround. Doorbell buttons and covers come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes and colors that allow you to express your personal taste and match your décor.
While doorbell buttons are usually made of plastic, the covers that surround them are available in a variety of materials:
• Metal finishes include bronze, brass, nickel, copper, pewter, chrome, silver and other
• Other materials include ceramics, glass, wood or plastic.
• Many metal covers may acquire a burnished or aged look over time, while other
surfaces are designed to maintain their original appearance.
Shapes and Sizes
Doorbell buttons are usually rectangular, circular or oval in shape. Covers come in a wide variety of shapes and themes that allow you to express your artistic side. These include:
• Square, rectangular, oval, round, diamond, multi-sided
• Nature themes such as animals or flowers
• Antique or futuristic themes
• Abstract designs
Sizes can vary, so make sure the replacement button will fit the area where it is being installed. Also, you can avoid having to repaint by choosing a size that is equal to, or larger, than your existing cover.
• Most doorbell buttons come in basic black, white or amber. However, there are kits
available that feature other colors, including back-lit buttons that change colors on a
• Doorbell covers come in dozens of colors, depending on the material and decorative
FeaturesWeatherproof Units -
Weatherproof doorbell buttons are perfect for gates, garages and back doors, while weatherproof receivers are ideal for outdoor areas such as decks, patios, swimming pools and play areas where you normally wouldn’t hear a doorbell ringing inside the house. Lighted Systems for Hearing Impaired -
Doorbells for hearing impaired persons or people working in noisy areas feature a flashing light alert when a visitor is at the door. This type of doorbell is available in both wired and wireless versions. You can also choose to supplement your existing doorbell system with a separate wireless transmitter especially designed for this purpose. The transmitters come in both battery and plug-in units. Pet Doorbells -
A collar-activated system controls your pet’s indoor and outdoor access. Lighted Buttons -
Helps visitors locate the doorbell at night and lets you know if your doorbell is working. Also confirms the status of wireless systems that operate on batteries. Motion Sensors -
Some doorbell systems include a motion sensor that alerts you to movement or sound outside the door. Other systems offer an intercom or video options, allowing you to speak to or see the person before you open the door. Warranties -
Doorbell warranties can differ greatly depending on the brand and model. Check the warranty to see what it will and will not cover, and for how long.