All About Doorbells and Chimes

Ding Dong! It’s the sound that announces the arrival of guests, joyfully alerting you to the presence of friends and family. Or, maybe it’s just the UPS guy. Either way, the doorbell is an indispensable part of the modern home. Before electricity, door knockers were standard equipment for notifying residents someone had arrived. Electric doorbells are now installed at nearly every home and apartment. Along with decorative outdoor lighting, they are often chosen for how they coordinate with the home decor.
Learn about doorbells and chimes.
Learn all about doorbells and door chimes with this guide.

Wired vs. Wireless

Doorbell systems fall into two major categories: wired doorbells and wireless doorbells. Wired doorbell buttons are physically connected to the chime unit. Wireless systems connect via a radio signal. Wired doorbells are designed after a simple electrical circuit. The system starts with a doorbell transformer which steps down standard home voltage to a lower voltage such as 10v or 12v. The doorbell button is wired to the transformer which, in turn, connects to a chime unit. When the button is pushed, the circuit is completed, and an electric current brings the chimes to life.
An oak wood door chime.
An oak door chime. Chimes can be practical as well as stylish.
Variations on this simple system include the addition of a second button which may be used for a back door. This second button is wired separately from the transformer to the chime so that a different sound may be played. Two-button doorbell systems let you know which door your visitor has approached. Hardwired doorbell builder kits, or contractor kits, are sold with all the pieces needed for installation. Although the setup is not complicated, you will need to run wires from external doors to the transformer and then to the chime. If you are installing a new doorbell where wiring does not exist, a wireless system may be a good choice. In this case, you only need to mount the button or buttons and the chime unit. No wires to run!

Features of Doorbells and Chimes

Simple features distinguish the different kinds of doorbells that are available. First of all, you’ll have many styles of buttons and chime units to choose from. Also, some push-buttons are lit making it easier to find the button in the dark. Next, determine if you need a system with two buttons or only one. Finally, you’ll get to choose the sounds your chime unit makes when rung.
An antique brass doorbell design.
A  decorative  antique brass doorbell.
Many chimes play two simple notes: ding dong! Some others, however, treat you to a more elaborate song. The most recognizable tune for doorbells is called Westminster Quarters. This tune originated in Cambridge, England, in the late 1700s. It wasn’t until this tune was adopted by the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster in London that it became famous. Every quarter hour, the tune rings out. At the top of the hour it’s punctuated — once for each hour — by the giant main bell called Big Ben.

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