Over the years, we have sold thousands of wireless products, the majority being door chimes, entrance alerts, and driveway alarms. Every now and then we field customer service calls for our products and in most cases, when it comes to wireless products, it boils down to a “wireless range” issue.
In this article we are going to talk about:
- What is “wireless range”
- The “published range” versus actual range
- Factors that interfere with range
- Tips on improving range
*image from bizzarocomics.com
What is Wireless Range When it Comes to Door Chimes?
Doorbell transmitters are the piece in a kit that will generate and send a wireless signal to the receiver. For door chimes, transmitters are the push button, the part a visitor actually presses when they ring your doorbell. For entry alerts and driveway alarms, the transmitters are build in with a motion, magnetometer, or contact-based sensor. When these sensors are triggered, the transmitter sends a signal to the receiver.
Door chime receivers are battery operated or plugin units that receive the transmitted signal and play a tune, tone, melody, or other doorbell sound.
The Published Range vs. the Actual Range of Wireless Products
When manufacturers publish the wireless range of products, they have to use a standardized way to determine the range. For testing purposes, they use line of sight, which is essentially the unobstructed distance in a straight line, usually determined in a lab environment.
Although this isn’t how consumers will actually use the products, it’s the easiest way to ensure manufacturers are measuring the range the same way…basically, this gives an apples-to-apples comparison. In most situations there will be at least one wall between the doorbell transmitter and the receiver, but if manufacturers published ranges this way, how would you know if it was a brick wall, or a thinner, dry-wall constructed wall.
How does this affect your decision? If the distance from the doorbell button to the receiver is 150 ft., and you purchase a common wireless door chime kit with a published range of 150ft., changes are you will have reliability issues. On the other hand, if the published range of a kit is 75ft., but you only need 20ft., changes are you won’t have any issues.
Factors That Interfere with Wireless Door Chime Range
- building materials
- mounting material you mount transmitter on
- surrounding environmental factors
- other wireless devices
Walls Will Reduce the Range of Your Wireless Device
The most obvious factor that will interfere with the range of a system is a wall. The type of material the wall is made of will play more of a factor. The general rule of thumb is that each wall a signal passes through will diminish the signal by 20%. For example, if you have a sensor at the driveway entrance with a receiver plugged into an outlet in a room adjacent to the exterior of your home, that’s one wall the signal needs to penetrate. If the product has a published range of 1,000 ft., one wall takes the range down to 800ft. If the receiver is behind another wall, even an interior wall, the signal will diminish by another 20%. Another 20% off 800ft. is now 640ft. If the wall is solid concrete, you need to take 30%-40% off, steel, 50%. These numbers are not set in stone, but they do provide a general idea of how signals are diminished.
I took a call yesterday from a lady who purchased the Honeywell Portable Chime, the RCWL 200A. She wanted to mount the wireless doorbell button on a wrought-iron gate. She called and said sometimes the doorbell would ring and sometimes it wouldn’t. I asked how far it was from the doorbell button to the receiver and she said it was less than 100ft., therefore the product should work as advertised.
Ultimately, the problem was the range. Not only was the exterior wall of her home stucco, which automatically reduced the signal by 30ft. (taking it down to 120ft.), the pushbutton was mounted against a solid wrought-iron gate, another factor to consider.
The Mounting Surface Matters
The fact that these transmitters are wireless poses another issue to consider and that’s what you mount it against. When triggered, the transmitters emit a wireless signal that the receiver needs to pick up. When metal is directly under the product, problems occur because the wireless signal will bounce off the metal. Weaker signals will loose a tremendous amount of range due to this bouncing around, while stronger signals will not be as effective.
In the case above with the wrought-iron gate, we were already stretched to the max because of distance, and exterior wall material, the metal right up against the transmitter was too much for this system to handle.
This is why we typically recommend commercial applications purchase a motion based entrance alert versus a door/window contact entrance alert. Door/window entrance alerts sit right up against the door frame, which are usually metallic in commercial applications. A motion sensor sits a few inches away from the metallic frame, which is usually enough for the wireless signal to emit uninterrupted.
Surrounding Environment and Other Wireless Devices
Other environmental factors will play a roll in the effective range of your wireless device, however, under normal circumstances, they are not as important as walls and mounting surfaces. When I refer to environmental factors I am talking about any outdoor elements that could interfere. Trees, hills, rocks, etc. will play a roll, but in many cases there are easier ways to over come these obstacles than dealing with unmovable factors like walls.
Trees between the receiver and transmitter won’t play a major role unless it is an extremely heavily treed area. Hills and valley should not play a major role unless there is a huge dirt derm right next to the transmitter.
Neighboring wireless devices could also cause some interference, but privacy codes help alleviate this problem. Simple adjustments to the privacy codes on your doorbell will usually eliminate this issue. We have an entire article that covers this topic here: How to Avoid Doorbell Interference by Changing your Privacy Codes.
Tips On Improving Wireless Range
In most cases, there are some basic things you can do to ensure you are getting the maximum range of your product. These tips won’t work in every case, but when making your decision on what product to purchase, or deciding if you need to return your product, think about these tips and see if they work.
1) Make sure the product you have is within the published range of the product. I know this sounds simple, but in many cases this isn’t something people think about. If the distance from the doorbell button to the receiver is 100ft., don’t get a doorbell kit with a range of 75 ft.
Our driveway alarm systems are available with a variety of wireless ranges. If you know the distance from where you place the sensor to where you place the sensor is 600ft., I would not go with a product like the WMA-3000 which has a range of 650 ft. I would get a product like the Di2000S-A Driveway Alarm with a range of up to 1,000 ft. Another option would be to move the sensor closer to your home or make try to move the receiver to the closest exterior wall facing the sensor.
2) Place your receivers closer to a window or wooden exterior wall. Personally, I would recommend upgrading your system to a stronger one, but if the range is close (when considering interference) then simply placing your receiver closer to an exterior window of your home might do the trick. The only caveat to this is making sure it is an exterior window or wall. If your home is brick, for example, it is easier for the signal to penetrate glass than brick.
3) Moving the transmitter off a metallic surface is another tip to consider. If you want a wireless doorbell system but the door frame, we recommend placing a wooden shim in between the push button transmitter and the surface. A thin piece of wood should do the trick. By doing this, it lifts the transmitter from the surface giving the wireless signal just enough room to escape the interference from the metal. Many users who have screen doors face this problem and in almost every case, wood, or even a piece of cardboard helps.
4) Get a High Powered Wireless Doorbell. Unless you are trying to install a wireless doorbell system where the receiver is inside solid concrete enclosure (like a bomb shelter) a higher-powered doorbell system will often do the trick. Here are the top two long range wireless door chime systems that we carry.
The DC-1000 is the most popular long range system that we carry. With a published range of up to 1,000 ft. from push button to receiver, this product usually has more than enough range to get the job done. The kit ships with one battery powered receiver (optional plug-in receiver sold separately) and one push button. Additional buttons are also available.
This product will play several different melodies and also have visual indicators, one that flashes a LED strobe and one that flashes a Roman Numeral that corresponds to the zone the transmitter is associated with.
The LH-2500 Long Range Door Chime System – our most powerful door chime system with a published range of up to 2,500 feet! This kit ships with one push button and one receiver. This system uses a “universal transmitter” the UT-2500 that may be used as a push button OR a door/window contact. It communicates with the DCR-2500 plug-in receiver. This transmitter is great because of its versatility. Another
This transmitter is great because of its versatility. Another greet feature of the UT-2500 are the NO and NC inputs that allow you to integrate it with other devices. For example, you could wire a decorative wired doorbell button to the transmitter and when the wired button is pressed, the wireless transmitters sends a signal to the receiver. The receiver is expandable and has four different tones it plays. It also compatible with additional receivers, and other types of sensors like motion sensors, door/window contacts, and magnetometer sensors.
We hope this article provided you with a basic understanding of wireless transmission ranges as published by manufacturers. These principals will hold true when evaluating the range for just about any wireless product.
For more information about this topic, our products, or anything else, please feel free to contact us.