My doorbell went crazy - how does it all work?

At 7am yesterday the strange buzzing noise finally got me out of bed to investigate. The annoying "chime" that bleats when someone presses the doorbell was buzzing constantly. I headed down to the basement and found that another bell, attached to the main fuse panel by some square metal things and some ancient looking wires, was also ringing constantly. I actually had never really noticed it before, nor even knew that there was a doorbell ringer in the basement, but it does make sense.
Anyway, I unscrewed a wire from the downstairs ringer and happily sighed as the noise stopped both upstairs and down. I then went to the door and unscrewed the doorbell noting that the built in little light was no longer lit, checked the wiring since it had been raining and snowing a good deal, and it looked ok so I screwed it back in. I hooked up the disconnected wire in the basement and no bells went off.
Somewhere further back in the basement is an odd construction hanging from the ceiling that looks like a transformer made from square Tower of Hanoi puzzle parts and which I always thought was part of the doorbell system. It looks very much like the one hanging from the fuse panel leading to the ringer but is much bigger.
I guess those are converting house current to DC for the doorbell, but why there are two, and whether that big one is still functioning is something that I'll need to test.
Anyway, it seems to me that the doorbell must have shorted and maybe burned out the little bulb, and set off the bells constantly. Then, I fiddled with the doorbell and it went back to happy mode and everything is working ok. One oddity is that a few times I've pressed it since then and both bells ring, but sometimes only the basement one rings. I think perhaps the constant ringing has managed to weaken the upstairs bell. I always hated that one anyway so maybe I should replace it.
Does this make sense? Is there something else I should check? Maybe hookup a multimeter across the terminals of those transformers?
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On 12/16/2013 01:24 PM, dgk wrote:

Can't answer that, but it's actually usually about 16 volts *AC* - no rectifier just a plain old transformer.
It would make sense actually that the doorbells were both working off the same transformer, otherwise you'd have to have double pole doorbell buttons, unless I'm visualizing things incorrectly. So one of the xformers may be abandoned and could safely be removed, or else it's being used for something else.
Typically one conductor out of the xformer is considered "common" and runs straight to the doorbell assembly. The other is switched through the button to the doorbell. Most doorbell assemblies have two different terminals/solenoids, one for "front" and the other for "rear." The "Front" one will hit one chime when it pulls in and then retract and hit the other chime when released. The "rear" does *not* hit the first, smaller chime; it pulls in silently and only hits the bigger chime when released. Hence "bing-bong" for "front" and "bong" for "rear."
If you have a constantly ringing motor bell in the basement you may only have one button and this may not apply to you, as that would not be able to discriminate between front and rear.

The original symptoms you describe are almost always a stuck button. Being out in the weather all the time this is not uncommon; I'd get a new one and not worry about it for another 15 years.
It is in fact possible that you've fried your upstairs doorbell; basically what's happened is a solenoid coil intended for very intermittent use had current run through it for an unspecified non-intermittent period of time.
nate
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wrote:

I wouldn't remove anything, until I was 100% positive what it was and all that it did. I have a friend, very smart, PhD. in math, works for a defense contractor designing something difficult, for national security, who bought a used home and took out some box he found on top of a closet. Later on, his wife noticed that the remote which was supposed to turn on floodlights around the house when she came home at night didn't work. He had thrown away the receiver. His wife is very unhappy.

You mean the doorbell button.

When the bulb wasn't lit, you had unscrewed a wire from the thing on the fusebox. Anyhow, if the button shorts, it's just like pushing the button. The light goes out, but only stays out until the pusher lets go of the button.
I don't think such a button** can short using only its own parts. Maybe stranded wire or extra wire at the end has touched something it shouldn't.
**Especially if it's not one that uses a round button, with an escutcheon around it or not. Although Nate's right and it's the only part outside, and they do wear out, I'd look for stray wires and check it with an ohmmeter. bearing in mind that it has a light so the resistance won't be infinite, before throwing it out.

Well, maybe, but since it was buzzing I don't think the bell is bad. If you hold in the button, a normal bell may well buzz. (I've never been in two places at once) It may be designed for longer use than it is intended for.

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wrote:

Could be the transformer for the furnace thermostat

The button can "stick" - sometimes mechanically, and sometimes from a "micro-weld" between the terminals.

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On Mon, 16 Dec 2013 14:31:33 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Could have a bug in it. The is where the term comes from.
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On Mon, 16 Dec 2013 14:31:33 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

I guess I'd best check that before messing with it, but there have been several different boilers before this one. I know the first was coal, and since then I think gas. Currently there is a gas boiler that I had installed when I moved in 20 years ago. The current theromstat does have batteries - that probably need to be replaced.
There is a wall switch leading down to the basement that does nothing now but might have been part of that original system. If only walls could talk.
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wrote:

By which I mean, if it's a transformer, either I found that there was only one wire connected to the primary, or only one wire connected to the secondary, or I had followed the wires and found them to be disconnected at the other end, or connected to something I recognized was something I absolutely didn't use. If it's not a tranformer, I'd want similar results. .
As for my friend, I found for maybe 6.00 dollars, some receiver on ebay, with remotes, and I hooked it up and it worked once, but then burned out, I guess. So I told the seller, and he sent me another for free. (I think he had plenty, for cheap, probably because with even a moderate load they burn out) and that burned out too.
Months later I found something at Sears, in the little garage door section, and I hooked that up, and it worked and I tested not just from the street outside their house but 20 feet beyond the far curb, and it worked well. And I handed him the remote and told him that.
Didn't hear for a year, not even the wife to thank me, so I asked this weekend when he told me aobut his broken microwave, and he said it wasn't working, that he'd torn out a bunch of things in the basement. I said loudly, "After I fixed it!" and he mumbled something that didn't ansewr anything.
I can't imagine why he would do this. He's 70. Maybe he forgot what the parts were for, even though we stood there and went over them a year ago. But if he doesn't know what they're for, he shouldn't be taking them out.
His wife already walks slowly because of some hip or back problem. She's 66. When she's 86, she'll really want those floodlights, to feel safe coming in. (There's also a switch in the closet, but that requiires someone to be home to turn the lights on, requires her to call from the car and get them to do it..)

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wrote:

Thanks. I don't think there was ever a back doorbell but maybe the components are there. I did replace the doorbell button a few years back after a storm ripped off the siding so this was just a cheap piece of crap. I'll see what I can find to replace it.
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I'd start by replacing the button. When installing I would make sure that it is well sealed from water intrusion, and doesn't look like it is made of plastic that will fail in a few years. Last time I replaced one I used a cheap brass non-lighted one, theory being that simpler is better, and the b rown plastic button might be more durable than a plastic that also had to b e translucent. Was I right? Who knows...
If you still have issues with the bell not working reliably after that, the n think about replacing the indoor unit. Or if you jjust don't like it, th is is a good excuse to do so :)
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On Monday, December 16, 2013 10:24:16 AM UTC-8, dgk wrote:

sing google groups)
Stuck or shorted doorbell as others have said, quite common.
When I remodeled my mother's kitchen I lowered the ceiling (old 9' ceilings ) with those grids with drop in tiles. Doorbell ringer was in the way so I just tucked it up above the new ceiling...yep, button stuck and they went nuts trying to find where that ringer was.
Harry K
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On 12/16/2013 11:29 PM, Harry K wrote:

Google Groups? Die in a fire! JK :-)
Are you logged in? I have no idea what their interface is, but I imagine there is an icon for "start a new" something. Thread/topic, I don't know.
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On Monday, December 16, 2013 10:01:56 PM UTC-8, Irreverent Maximus wrote:

ne using google groups)

ings) with those grids with drop in tiles. Doorbell ringer was in the way so I just tucked it up above the new ceiling...yep, button stuck and they w ent nuts trying to find where that ringer was.

It isn't a problem _starting_ a new post. I just can't find any way to att ach a post to a running thread without quoting someone else. Seems to be a new thing that cropped up a couple days ago.
Nothing wrong with google groups that shooting the designers wouldn't cure :)
I keep planning to take this box to a guru and getting some other news read er installed. To say I am computer illiterate would be a gross understatem ent.
Harry K
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDwLN8_XS4Y


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