If you own a home with a front door that is away from normal traffic and a side door that might be at your garage and used as a primary way for you and visitors to enter your home then you may want to install a doorbell that gives you the option to know which door someone is at.
This type of doorbell is called a two tone or multi door chime and you can actually find them to program in at least 3 doors on your home. This is great for a backdoor, front and side door bell that will let you know where your visitor is at without you guessing or having to run to a window to look.
Normally the primary door will ring a tone of 8 and the secondary door a tone of 4 and then the final door if you have a three button unit will just ring one or maybe two notes. This means that normally you won’t get to go through a full series of musical chimes on these units because the function of location is more important.
Now there are some units I have seen that will even allow you to upload MP3 files that can be played but from the reviews I have seen they seem to fail pretty often and the manufacturer that I saw was even starting to get rid of some of their decorative buttons for this unit. I suspect that eventually it will be unsupported once the product has reached its end of life and the manufacturer no longer is required to supply parts for it under warranty.
These units normally come as wired units and although you may find a wireless chime with more than two buttons its likely that both buttons announce themselves as the same location. So each button will set off the same chime sound and you won’t really know where the visitor is at.
However there are some units that accept both wired and wireless buttons and they can be programmed so each button will call a different chime to let you know which button was pressed.
Wired vs Wireless Doorbell Chimes
Lets just quickly go over the differences in why you might want a wired vs a wireless doorbell system.
The first consideration is if you are installing a doorbell and you are not able to run wire between the chime unit and the buttons. This can be difficult but most homes are designed so you can run wires pretty easy to the areas of your doors from the basement or crawlspace. If you are on a slab though that might mean running wires into the attic and often you can get away with running them up the side of your home to an overhang and then into the house.
Wired Doorbells run off low voltage so you have a very low risk of electrocuting yourself while working even with live wires that run from the chime to the bells. However each unit will require the wiring of a transformer which does need a connection to your home’s wiring that is at full house current. If you are in doubt then maybe a wireless system is safer for you or you will need to hire someone to run the wires for you and make a cut into your home electrical circuit for the transformer.
Wireless units run off batteries and this can be a big problem. I have owned a few wireless doorbell units that I use as call buttons so family members can call someone to them without the need to scream at the top of their lungs. Over a few years of having these units I have found that the batteries don’t last longer than about two weeks even at full charge. They take three 1100ma AAA batteries in each chime and two AA batteries in the buttons. The chimes seem to be the problem as I believe they are having electrical / radio interference that drains their batteries. What I think is happening is radio signal from other devices in the house are running through the radio of the chime and although its not going off it is draining its battery. I tested this by moving the chimes to different locations and i found this to hold true. So if you are placing the chimes or buttons near computers, Televisions, Alarm Systems or anything that gives off electrical or radio disturbance you might find this to be true for yourself. You will often also get false rings. So, I am just saying expect problems with these devices no matter the vendor or price of the unit.
The next type is a mixture of wireless devices that don’t use batteries. They are slightly better but you do need to plug them into an outlet. If you have an open hallway jack then you will be fine but if you have to run an electrical cord off the back of a surge protector thats behind your television it can be a bit of a problem. The bell or chime will need to be in an area where it has open air so its chime can be heard from some distance.
Wireless in basements can also be a problem. This can be hit or miss. If you have a wireless unit that has two chimes so you can hear the bell being rung upstairs and also in the basement then all of the buttons must be able to communicate with both of the chimes. Unlike Ethernet Extenders for your wifi there really isn’t a way to amplify these signals or extend them but if the units are close enough then a standard wood framed home should allow enough signal to a basement chime or from a basement door button if you have a basement door.
There are a number of different options for installing doorbells today. Some even include wireless cameras that let you see who is at your door. Just remember that every added feature means that there is additional cost and possibility that something might not work.
Wireless is great for a fast install but the buttons and chimes are not as heavy duty as the wired units. They also require frequent battery changes even if you use relatively strong rechargeable batteries in them. It really is worth using rechargeable because of the number of changes you will go through.
Take your time and research not only the features but the customer feedback when getting these devices and I suggest that you find feedback from more than one dealer website.
In the end you can expect to spend from about $20 to hundreds of dollars on a door bell unit but if cost is a consideration there are normally units of both wired and wireless that can fit your needs pretty well.