How Does a Doorbell Really Work?

closed circuit diagram

How Does a Doorbell Really Work?

Want to find out how your specific brand and model of doorbell works? We have instructional videos on many of our product pages. For instance, here’s the Carlon model RC3250 doorbell.

Chime style:
Inside this bell are 2 vertical bars of different types/thicknesses of metal, which make different sounds when struck. The vertical metal bars act as “bells” to make the familiar ding and dong sounds. Separating the 2 vertical bars are batteries, a spring and a small electromagnetic clapper or hammer – to do the striking. The magnetic hammer is a cylinder inside a horizontal plastic tube. This “cylinder-in-tube” setup is just like a piston or small battering ram – and is called a solenoid. To operate:

  • Press the door chime button (which acts as the switch) completing the circuit.
  • The electromagnet activates – it pulls the piston or metal inner cylinder (clapper or hammer) to the right, which compresses a spring.
  • The sudden movement of the metal cylinder (the clapper/piston) and the collapsing spring allow the clapper to strike the right-hand bell (vertical metal bar) making the ding sound.
  • As the metal cylinder (clapper) hits that right-hand metal bar, it breaks the circuit, switching the electromagnet off – so the spring then re-expands suddenly.
  • This sharply snaps the metal cylinder (hammer/piston) back the other way, striking the left-hand chime (vertical bar) and making the dong sound.
  • The vertical metal chime bars vibrate as the sound dies out – for that little extra drama!
  • A doorbell with an almost endless choice of sounds and advanced features? Check out the iChime programmable doorbell with 50 sound choices. You can even record several sounds of your own with this hard-wired chime.

Multiple chimes for apartments or office buildings: Electric doorbells for multi-unit dwellings or offices will complete one of many circuits – to ring the bell in the selected apartment number only, as you press the button. In older buildings, you may find a round or cool rotary style. These were patented back in the 1930s. To operate this type of chime, you first turn the dial to select the apartment/office you’re visiting. Then you press the button in the center to get the circuit going and ring the bell.

Wireless or electronic styles: Wireless electronic doorbells use a special kind of circuit – called an integrated circuit. How do these work?

  • Pressing the push button causes a recorded digital sound to be transmitted. The button is battery-powered and the system is wireless.
  • The doorbell button/switch acts as a transmitter, sending a radio signal for a distance of up to about 300 ft. to the receiver/speaker in your home.
  • The signal reaches your indoor battery-powered ringer/receiver or speaker – which emits a sound. This indoor speaker plugs into a wall outlet – or you can carry a portable transmitter with you to the back yard.

Most wireless chimes offer several different radio channels, so you can use a different one than your neighbor to avoid mix-ups! There are several quality advanced wireless doorbells for the hearing impaired that offer visual signals in addition to audible features.
Wireless Style Advantages:

  • No wiring: Wireless doorbells require no wiring. Hard-wired styles need to be hooked up to the electrical system in your home and may require an electrician. The coordinating button uses a small battery that lasts a long time.
  • Amplified reach: These modern wireless bells make it easier to hear, even if you are far away in the back yard, for example. Many people with large homes choose wireless doorbells – you can carry the battery-powered ringer (also called a receiver or speaker) with you when you are far from the front door of your house. You can also install (plug in) extra speakers throughout the house. Here are some excellent options to extend the range of your doorbell.

When you need help selecting a new style that’s perfect for your home or business needs, call on the experts at

We can also help you with troubleshooting your old/existing chime, and offer guidance on installation of new ones. Call us today at 800-366-7235 or contact us online at!