Dear James: My doorbell hardly rings anymore, and I probably need a new one. It looks like a fairly simple project to replace it. What are the basic steps to do this? — Cindy D.
Dear Cindy: A doorbell ringer can lose its intensity from aging materials and dust buildup inside it. Modern homes also have more things running, creating more background noise. Buying one will not break the bank, so it makes sense to just replace it yourself.
There is slight possibility that the outdoor doorbell switch is faulty, and it does not always ring when pushed. Push it repeatedly to make sure the ringer does ring every time. A new button is easy to replace. Doorbells run on low voltage, so it is safe to replace the button and tighten up loose wires.
Even though it is low voltage, ALWAYS switch off the circuit breaker to the doorbell transformer before touching the wires. There usually is a small transformer on or near the circuit breaker panel, which reduces the dangerous 120-volt house voltage down to a lower voltage. You should hear it humming. When you switch off the proper breaker, the humming will stop. If you cannot find which breaker it is, just switch them all off.
You will not need special electrician tools to install a new doorbell, particularly since wiring is already in the walls for the existing doorbell. You really cannot do too much damage because of the low voltage to the doorbell and the outdoor switch. The reason for the low voltage is the doorbell button is outside in the weather and it is touched by a person’s finger.
There is a possibility the transformer may have failed. If this is the case, it will have to be replaced because you cannot repair one. Since you did not like the sound of your current doorbell, anyway, replace the doorbell assuming the transformer is working. If the transformer needs to be replaced, you should probably call an electrician because it is connected to 120-volt house power.
You have many doorbell options today with a variety of decorative styles with hardwood and brass trim. The selection of sounds is even greater ranging from beautiful ringers to prerecorded soundtracks. The installation method for them is similar.
With the circuit breaker off, remove the outdoor doorbell button housing and unscrew the two small low-voltage wires. Tape them to the door frame so they do not slip back into the hole. Get the new button switch from the doorbell package. Attach the wires to it and screw the housing back to the door frame. The wires are fragile, so do not flex them any more than necessary.
Remove the old ringer from the indoor wall. Notice which wire is on which labeled terminal on the old door ringer. New ringers often have several sets of terminals to accommodate several door buttons with different rings. Attach the wires to the similar terminals on the new ringer. Reattach the new ringer to the wall and switch the circuit breaker back on and it should work. If not, have the transformer and wall wiring checked by an electrician.