Installed a Doorbell (300/366)

300doorbelltop“Next time y’all need to find me, just rub these two wires for the doorbell …”
~ Redman

We’ve been hanging out with Nick’s grandma lately watching the Giants’ Post Season magic (I scored my first baseball game there!), and we realized the other day that her doorbell wasn’t working!  Boo!  But what a great opportunity to help Grandma and do something new at the same time!

Grandma’s doorbell had stopped sounding for some reason, and since it’s an older house, we figured there was some problem in the wiring somewhere (it’s a hard-wired bell).  Because the house is multiple stories and the wires run through several stories, it would be a challenge for us to figure out where exactly the fault was.  One option was to replace the old unit with a wireless doorbell.  That seemed pretty cool, since then Grandma could put the bell speaker anywhere she’d like and even change the tones if she wanted.  The only thing I didn’t like about the wireless idea was that it would mean having to add a separate button box at the front gate, which I thought would look kinda lame:

The button box includes the button itself and the wireless transmitter, which sends the signal to the bell speaker we’d place inside the house.  We thought for a while and wondered, “could we hard-wire the old button mechanism to the new wireless transmitter?”  We thought we’d give it a shot.

We opened the gate panel so we could see what was going on with the button wiring.  Those are the hands of my lovely assistant, Nick.

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The original doorbell button is installed in the little hole in the gate, and that button, as well as the gate buzzer (the bronze box), are wired into the house.  Two wires are for the button, and two wires are for the buzzer.

We had to see if we could use the existing button wiring to trigger the wireless transmitter, so we followed the wiring it as far into the house as we could and tested it to make sure there wasn’t a fault between that end and the button itself.  If we could rig the wireless transmitter right, we’d want to connect it at that spot in the house to get a nice, close range for the transmitter and the bell speaker (a lot of wireless bells have range issues, especially when the house is more than one story high).

*Note: For more information on electrical wiring, you can visit this page (scroll down to “Switching”).  Here’s a simple diagram to help explain this next part (thanks to The Circuit Detective!):


Alright, so with the doorbell, pressing the button is the same as the switch being flipped to “on” (causing the bell to ring), with the release of the button being the same as the switch flipped to “off” (the normal, no sound state).  Make sense?  Cool.

We opened the wireless transmitter to see how it worked:

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As you can see above (in the guts of the plastic button box), the wireless transmitter is basically a small board with circuits, an antenna (the little copper coil), and the rubber button placed on the “trigger”.  We removed the button and found a small metal plate lightly taped on top of a larger, center conductor.


The plate touched three spots around a center conductor at all times (similar to the “white wire” in the diagram above).  When the button was pushed, the center of the plate touched the center conductor (like the “black wire” above), the circuit was completed, and a signal was transmitted to the receiver (the bell speaker).

We could replicate this action by using the old doorbell button wires: if we could connect one wire to the three dots around the center conductor, and the other to the center conductor (without touching the first wire), when the button was pressed, it would complete the circuit and trigger the wireless transmitter (we hoped).

We found a previous wire repair a few feet from the gate, and realized there was some extra material we could splice off and use to test our hack, so we were in business.

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In the second photo above, I’m holding the blue wire triangle (from the first photo) to the three dots around the center conductor, and then touching the green wire (our circuit closing “trigger”) to the center conductor (being careful not to touch the blue wire with the green or our circuit wouldn’t work right).  Now we just had to push the button …

Here’s our test video:

Success!  Well, part of it.  The connection worked, but we had to make sure we could secure the wires solidly in place.  Here’s what we Frankenwired:

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Ha ha ha, lots of character there.  Well, I liked it anyway.  Now, we just had to hard-wire our snazzy new transmitter to the line that ran from the original button, and we’d be set!  I joined green to green, twisted the wires together and capped them, and then did the same with the blue wires.

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Wahoo!  We were almost done.  Now we just had to reattach the original doorbell button to the wires in the gate, put the button back in its spot, and we were good to go!

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This was a super fun project, even though in real time it took several hours; but that was mostly because we were messing around with a lot of this stuff for the first time and figuring things out as we went along.  In the end, we were really proud to be able to fix Grandma’s doorbell situation and give her a fancy new electronic chime.  Yay!

Related Links:
Scored a Baseball Game (298/366)
The Circuit Detective
Wireless Doorbells on

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2 Responses to “Installed a Doorbell (300/366)”
  1. aar says:

    Great problem solving and teamwork, while helping out Grandma– perfect story! 😀

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