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Thread: Odd doorbell failure

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    18

    Odd doorbell failure

    Just wanted to see if anyone else had this issue or an idea on what may be causing it.

    A customer of mine has a 2 button doorbell system installed. Standard builders grade, Nutone BK125LWH if that matters. Both buttons are lighted and both were off when I arrived. The transformer was fine so I looked at one of the buttons and when I tightened the terminal screw which appeared loose, BOTH buttons lit up and the doorbell worked fine.

    I got a call back the next day to say the doorbell had quit again. I went back to the same button and replaced it with a new one and both buttons lit up again with the doorbell working OK. After about 5 minutes, both buttons go off and the doorbell doesn't work. I have to assume the exact same thing happened on the first trip when I just tightened the screw.

    The only thing I can point to as a possible issue is the wiring. Both buttons and the chime are wired with two pair 23/4 Cat5 wire. Not sure who does that but...uh, OK? I am thinking there may be some type of issue (interference?/cancelling?/other random term of your choice?) with the twisted pairs and/or the small wire gauge. The buttons are using the wires from the same pair (orange, orange/white). I am wondering if using 1 wire from each pair (blue, orange) would solve anything.

    I can even take this a step further as at each button location and the chime, there is a "spare" four pair 23/8 Cat5 wire. (Yes, all 12 wires are tucked in behind each button!) If interference is the issue somehow, I can take a wire from each cable wire so they are completely isolated.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Texas
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    947
    Have you checked continuity to make sure you don't have a short? Have you swapped out the xfmr in case it is having an issue?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    UK
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    Is it worth the hassle?
    We have wireless front and back doorbells. Programmable ring tones. No wiring. And less than ten bucks apiece.
    Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    18
    Yes. I did check continuity and infinite resistance between all pairs that were being used. Recall that the doorbell does work when I replace or reconnect the one button so I'm thinking a short may not be the issue.

    I did not change the transformer as the open circuit voltage was OK. Same thought as the possible short, it does work initially and not sure what would cause it to shut down after only a few minutes.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by Besoeker View Post
    Is it worth the hassle?
    We have wireless front and back doorbells. Programmable ring tones. No wiring. And less than ten bucks apiece.
    Well aware of wireless doorbells which have a higher failure rate than traditional doorbells and require batteries that eventually need replaced.

    Was not looking for options. Looking for how to troubleshoot and correct the issue at hand. This is a very new and very expensive home. Not ready to put in an $7 doorbell in it just yet.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    UK
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    12,168
    Quote Originally Posted by gsurace View Post
    Well aware of wireless doorbells which have a higher failure rate than traditional doorbells and require batteries that eventually need replaced.

    Was not looking for options. Looking for how to troubleshoot and correct the issue at hand. This is a very new and very expensive home. Not ready to put in an $7 doorbell in it just yet.
    Mine have lasted years.
    Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tennessee NEC:2008
    Posts
    4,919
    Quote Originally Posted by gsurace View Post
    Yes. I did check continuity and infinite resistance between all pairs that were being used. Recall that the doorbell does work when I replace or reconnect the one button so I'm thinking a short may not be the issue.

    I did not change the transformer as the open circuit voltage was OK. Same thought as the possible short, it does work initially and not sure what would cause it to shut down after only a few minutes.
    I had a similar issue with a Nutone chime kit. I ended up replacing the chime as the coil would not engage. Yours may have an intermittent open and not show up all the time. There's only so much to a standard doorbell/chime. To save you time and headache, I would change out the unit.
    Only other thing you might try is to use two wires of the Cat5 per terminal at both the button and coil.
    If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
    Posts
    3,986
    Nothing screams hack like using data cable for other than it's intended purpose. No, there is no "issue" like interference or cancelling, this is a stupid door bell for God's sake. It's possible that there is a intermittent open in the run from the transformer or someplace that affects both buttons. That can easily happen by overdriving a staple or using a staple gun. That's why you don't use data cable as a substitute for thermostat wire.

    Another possibility is that there is a poorly made splice buried someplace.

    What I would do is use other pairs, as long as you have them, and see what happens.

    -Hal

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia
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    23,748
    As mentioned, it could also be the chime solenoid coil. The buttons and bulbs, which are in parallel, are in turn in series with the chime, as with a typical lighted wall switch.

    A simple trouble-shooting step would be to move the wire(s) on the 'front' terminal on the chime to the 'rear' terminal, and see whether the issue continues to occur.
    Code references based on 2005 NEC
    Larry B. Fine
    Master Electrician
    Electrical Contractor
    Richmond, VA

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    NE Nebraska
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    38,520
    Are the buttons hooked up in parallel to one another (both controlling the same chime solenoid)?

    The one you mentioned is a two solenoid chime I think, and has a "front" and "rear" (one note and two note chime in one unit).

    Though I doubt this is the case...if they are parallel to one another, they are in series with the chime solenoid, in parallel possibly not enough voltage across the light to illuminate it? Most will light at pretty low voltage though.

    Does chime still work when you press either button when lights are out?
    I live for today, I'm just a day behind.

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