As an electrician, I can say doorbells are one of the easiest repairs I make. When I arrive at customer’s homes in Old Greenwich, CT, the first thing I do is ring the doorbell. What amazes me is the frequency of seeing a handwritten sign on the front door that reads, “Doorbell out of Order.” It is so common, I want to change my business card to read, “I fix doorbells.”
There are three types of doorbell systems: wireless, hardwired and part of an intercom system. Wireless are very inexpensive to install and replace. The common problem with them is that the pushbuttons have batteries that need to be changed every couple of years, and most people do not change them. They take an unusual type of battery, so be sure to bring the old battery with you to the hardware store.
Hardwired doorbells are easy to fix because there are only three components of the system: a pushbutton (commonly referred to as a doorbell), a chime (that makes the noise), and a transformer (provides electricity to it). What usually happens is the pushbutton gets stuck in the “On” position for an extended period of time, and burns out either the chime or the transformer. The hard part is finding the transformer. It is a little metal thing attached to a metal junction box (usually in the basement or garage) or on the electrical panel. First I test the transformer for power, then test the pushbutton for continuity, and lastly, I check the chime to see if the plungers move freely and hit the two chimes inside. After I diagnose the system, I replace the necessary components and get the doorbell system working again.
The last type of doorbell is one that is integrated with an intercom system. Those systems are a little more complex because there are more intercoms to test throughout the house. Intercom systems are getting more rare in these newer homes. Parents used to use them to tell their children that dinner is ready. Now that everyone seems to have a cell phone with them at all times, families just call each other on their mobile phones. If one component of an intercom system fails, parts are usually available for it. In some rare cases, the whole system will need to be replaced if it is an older system that is not compatible with newer components.
Next time you see an Old Greenwich neighbor with a “Doorbell not Working” sign on it, please have them call us.