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How to Check a Doorbell Transformer

Checking a doorbell transformer is the easy part; sometimes just locating it can be the real challenge.

A conventional doorbell has wires that connect the chimes or bell to the power source and that run to the button, which acts as a switch.

A conventional doorbell has wires that connect the chimes or bell to the transformer, which reduces standard voltage to low voltage.

Sometimes finding a doorbell transformer is a challenge. It may be located inside the chimes or bell enclosure but often is located elsewhere.

If you know where the doorbell wires run, trace them back to find the transformer’s location. Newer homes often have doorbell transformers conveniently located in plain sight, high on a garage wall.

Sometimes it’s mounted on a floor joist in the basement, below the doorbell, in a closet, in the attic (possibly buried under insulation), or in a crawlspace. Or, it may be located inside an electrical box, near the electrical panel or the doorbell.

The proper voltage rating should be stamped on the transformer and/or the doorbell mechanism.

To check the doorbell transformer:

1Adjust a volt-ohm meter’s scale to 25 VAC. Attach the two probes to the two flat screws that connect the small-gauge doorbell wires to the transformer.[GARD align=”left”]

2Compare the reading to the device’s voltage requirements. If it’s too low or exceeds 16 volts, shut off the power to the transformer before doing any more work on the doorbell system. Replace the transformer with a new one, readily available at home centers.



How Doorbells Work

The button of a doorbell simply completes an electrical circuit, delivering electricity to the bell, chimes or buzzer.

Doorbells are simple electrical systems. Repairing one is normally easy and a good lesson in basic electricity–as long as you can find the key components.

Because buttons, buzzers, and transformers are relatively inexpensive, replacing these faulty components usually makes more sense than trying to make involved repairs on them.

Don’t be intimidated by the steps involving a multi-meter (or voltmeter or ohmmeter); these electrical tools are important and inexpensive.

 

A Doorbell Diagram

A doorbell, chime, bell, or buzzer normally operates on low voltage.

A conventional doorbell has wires that connect the chimes or bell to the button and transformer, which converts standard power to low voltage.

Older systems may be 6 or 8 volts, and newer ones are 12 to 14 volts for bells and buzzers and 16 volts for chimes. To produce this power, a transformer converts standard household 120-volt current into the lower voltage.

Two small-gauge wires run from the transformer to the bell or buzzer; a push-button switch interrupts one of these. When you push on the button, it completes the circuit, delivering low-voltage electricity to the bell unit.

At the bell unit, one or two spring-loaded pistons slide through the windings of an electromagnet. The electrical surge sent from the transformer charges the magnet, pulling the pistons against their springs; when the charge stops, the springs thrust the pistons against the bell or chimes: “ding-dong!”

Many doorbell units make two sounds: one for the front door, the other for the back door. Terminals on the bell unit are marked “front,” “back,” and “trans” (for transformer). One wire from the transformer goes to the “trans” terminal, and one wire from each button goes to either the “front” or “back” terminals. The button connected to the “front” terminal produces a “ding-dong,” and the one secured to the “back” terminal just produces “ding.”

Electrical Safety of Doorbells

The button and small-gauge wires that run from the button to the doorbell and transformer are normally safe to work on without shutting off the power. Nevertheless, be careful. Even the low-voltage side of an electrical system may carry dangerous current in certain conditions where the transformer has failed, though this is fairly rare.

Avoid shock by testing the transformer first. You can also use an electrical tester to check the two low-voltage terminal screws on the transformer; it should NOT light up if the transformer is working properly.

If you can’t find the transformer, you can still check its voltage and see if it works. At the bell unit, remove one wire from the terminal marked “front.” Have a helper push the button, if the button is known to be good; otherwise carefully remove the button and connect its two wires with a small wire nut (just to be safe, don’t touch the bare wires at this point).

Using a volt-ohm meter (set for voltage) at the bell unit, touch one test lead to the free wire from the “front” terminal and the other test lead to the terminal marked “trans.” If there is no reading, start hunting for the transformer so you can replace it.

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Doorbell Troubleshooting & Repairs

If your doorbell is relentlessly buzzing or humming, the button may be stuck in the contact position. If this continues for very long, the electromagnet will burn out and the bell unit won’t work even if current is being delivered to it through the button.[GARD align=”left”]

You will need to immediately disconnect the button from the wires and repair or replace the button. Otherwise the bell unit will wear out and you will have to replace it. For instructions on disassembling a doorbell button, see below. To understand the components inside a doorbell, please see the diagram at How Doorbells Work.

Doorbell Hums But Doesn’t Ring

If the bell doesn’t ring, but the transformer hums when the button is pushed:

Doorbell Repair

1Check the bell. Be sure the wires are connected to the terminals in the bell unit. If necessary, clean the contacts with fine sandpaper or electrical contact cleaner.

2Check the piston. It may be worn and jammed inside its sleeve or gummed up if someone has tried to oil it in the past (something you should not do). If this is the case, replace the electromagnetic/piston component or the entire bell unit.

3Check the wiring. Look for any breaks in the doorbell wiring. If you find one (or more), strip the insulation from the wire ends and splice them with a short piece of matching wire, using properly sized wire nuts.

Doorbell Doesn’t Ring or Buzz

If, when you push the doorbell button, you do not hear a bell, a hum, or even a click, it often means that electricity is not being delivered through the system.

1Check for a tripped circuit breaker.

 

2Check for a burned-out transformer. Turn off the power to the circuit before working on the transformer. See How to Check a Doorbell Transformer.

3Be sure all wires are connected securely at transformer, bell, and button.[GARD align=”right”]

4Remove and check the button. Because the button is the primary moving part of the system, this tends to be the most likely component to fail. To do this, remove the button’s attachment screws and gently pull the button out.

Be sure the two wires are connected securely to the screw terminals. Then touch a screwdriver blade across both terminals (or remove the two wires and touch them together).

If the bell sounds, you are in luck; this is a very easy, inexpensive repair. Remove the wires, and clean corrosion from the button’s contacts and wire ends with fine sandpaper or electrical contact cleaner.

5Reconnect the wires. If the button still does not work, just remove and replace the button (available at hardware stores).

This button test will work if the power circuit is functional. If the button is faulty AND there is an additional problem, it won’t. If the simple button test fails to ring the bell, you can make sure the button is faulty by doing a continuity test with an ohmmeter (set on ohms).
Hold one of the meter’s probes on each of the button’s contacts, and then push and release the button. The meter’s needle should bounce up when the button is pushed and drop flat when it is released. If it doesn’t, the button should be replaced.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Electrical Wiring Pro

Call for free estimates from local pros now:
[telnumlink] 1-866-342-3263[/telnumlink]



Doorbell Troubleshooting & Repairs

If your doorbell is relentlessly buzzing or humming, the button may be stuck in the contact position.

[media-credit name=”©HomeTips” align=”alignnone” width=”247″][/media-credit]

If this continues for very long, the electromagnet will burn out and the bell unit won’t work even if current is being delivered to it through the button.[GARD align=”left”]

You will need to immediately disconnect the button from the wires and repair or replace the button. Otherwise the bell unit will wear out and you will have to replace it. For instructions on disassembling a doorbell button, see below. To understand the components inside a doorbell, please see the diagram at How Doorbells Work.

Doorbell Hums But Doesn’t Ring

If the bell doesn’t ring, but the transformer hums when the button is pushed:

[/media-credit] Doorbell Repair

1Check the bell. Be sure the wires are connected to the terminals in the bell unit. If necessary, clean the contacts with fine sandpaper or [easyazon_link identifier=”B000BXOGNI” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]electrical contact cleaner[/easyazon_link].

2Check the piston. It may be worn and jammed inside its sleeve or gummed up if someone has tried to oil it in the past (something you should not do). If this is the case, replace the electromagnetic piston component or the entire [easyazon_link identifier=”B000VH5ILI” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]bell or chimes unit[/easyazon_link].

3Check the wiring. Look for any breaks in the doorbell wiring. If you find one (or more), strip the insulation from the wire ends and splice them with a short piece of matching wire, using properly sized wire nuts.

Doorbell Doesn’t Ring or Buzz

If, when you push the doorbell button, you do not hear a bell, a hum, or even a click, it often means that electricity is not being delivered through the system.

1Check for a tripped circuit breaker. For more, see How to Turn Off Your Home’s Electricity.

 

2Check for a burned-out transformer. Turn off the power to the circuit before working on the transformer. See How to Check a Doorbell Transformer. If it is burned out, replace it with a new [easyazon_link identifier=”B019BW9VZ2″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]door bell transformer[/easyazon_link].

3Be sure all wires are connected securely at transformer, bell, and button.[GARD align=”right”]

4Remove and check the button. Because the button is the primary moving part of the system, this tends to be the most likely component to fail. To do this, remove the button’s attachment screws and gently pull the button out.

Be sure the two wires are connected securely to the screw terminals. Then touch a screwdriver blade across both terminals (or remove the two wires and touch them together).

If the bell sounds, you are in luck; this is a very easy, inexpensive repair. Remove the wires, and clean corrosion from the button’s contacts and wire ends with fine sandpaper or electrical contact cleaner.

5Reconnect the wires. If the button still does not work, just remove and replace the [easyazon_link keywords=”door bell button” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]door bell button[/easyazon_link] (available online or at hardware stores).

This button test will work if the power circuit is functional. If the button is faulty AND there is an additional problem, it won’t. If the simple button test fails to ring the bell, you can make sure the button is faulty by doing a continuity test with an [easyazon_link identifier=”B00KHP6EIK” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]ohmmeter[/easyazon_link] (set on ohms).
Hold one of the meter’s probes on each of the button’s contacts, and then push and release the button. The meter’s needle should bounce up when the button is pushed and drop flat when it is released. If it doesn’t, the button should be replaced.

Last but not least, if your doorbell isn’t working and you don’t want to deal with electrical work, replace it with a new [easyazon_link keywords=”wireless door bell” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]wireless door bell[/easyazon_link].

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Electrical Wiring Pro

Call for free estimates from local pros now:
[telnumlink] 1-866-342-3263[/telnumlink]



Doorbell Troubleshooting & Repairs

If your doorbell is relentlessly buzzing or humming, the button may be stuck in the contact position. If this continues for very long, the electromagnet will burn out and the bell unit won’t work even if current is being delivered to it through the button.[GARD align=”left”]

You will need to immediately disconnect the button from the wires and repair or replace the button. Otherwise the bell unit will wear out and you will have to replace it. For instructions on disassembling a doorbell button, see below. To understand the components inside a doorbell, please see the diagram at How Doorbells Work.

Doorbell Hums But Doesn’t Ring

If the bell doesn’t ring, but the transformer hums when the button is pushed:

Doorbell Repair

1Check the bell. Be sure the wires are connected to the terminals in the bell unit. If necessary, clean the contacts with fine sandpaper or electrical contact cleaner.

2Check the piston. It may be worn and jammed inside its sleeve or gummed up if someone has tried to oil it in the past (something you should not do). If this is the case, replace the electromagnetic/piston component or the entire bell unit.

3Check the wiring. Look for any breaks in the doorbell wiring. If you find one (or more), strip the insulation from the wire ends and splice them with a short piece of matching wire, using properly sized wire nuts.

Doorbell Doesn’t Ring or Buzz

If, when you push the doorbell button, you do not hear a bell, a hum, or even a click, it often means that electricity is not being delivered through the system.

1Check for a tripped circuit breaker.

 

2Check for a burned-out transformer. Turn off the power to the circuit before working on the transformer. See How to Check a Doorbell Transformer.

3Be sure all wires are connected securely at transformer, bell, and button.[GARD align=”right”]

4Remove and check the button. Because the button is the primary moving part of the system, this tends to be the most likely component to fail. To do this, remove the button’s attachment screws and gently pull the button out.

Be sure the two wires are connected securely to the screw terminals. Then touch a screwdriver blade across both terminals (or remove the two wires and touch them together).

If the bell sounds, you are in luck; this is a very easy, inexpensive repair. Remove the wires, and clean corrosion from the button’s contacts and wire ends with fine sandpaper or electrical contact cleaner.

5Reconnect the wires. If the button still does not work, just remove and replace the button (available at hardware stores).

This button test will work if the power circuit is functional. If the button is faulty AND there is an additional problem, it won’t. If the simple button test fails to ring the bell, you can make sure the button is faulty by doing a continuity test with an ohmmeter (set on ohms).
Hold one of the meter’s probes on each of the button’s contacts, and then push and release the button. The meter’s needle should bounce up when the button is pushed and drop flat when it is released. If it doesn’t, the button should be replaced.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Electrical Wiring Pro

Call for free estimates from local pros now:
[telnumlink] 1-866-342-3263[/telnumlink]



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