Ding-Dong: Who's that at the door?

A History of Doorbells

In 1831, when Joseph Henry invented the first electric doorbell, he probably never imagined how his intricate gadget would one day transform into a wireless masterpiece. As the 1900s approached, electrical transformers began to replace the prohibitively priced batteries used in the doorbells and continue to be used even today.


“DoorBell 001” by HNH – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commonsa

In the early 1900s, expensive batteries were replaced by transformers, allowing the use of a household current. Until the early 1930s, most doorbells were loud electric buzzers. Musical chimes with pleasing tones became popular in the 30s. The Depression and WWII quieted development, which surged again in popularity during the 1950s. In the mid-1960s, decorative and multi-functional door chimes became more popular. They were built with clocks atop the chimes and decorative plaques hiding indoor components.


How They Work

Hard-wired electric doorbell components include the outdoor button, wiring, transformer and chime or bell. The electric chime functions when the button, outside the home, is pushed, causing electrical current to flow into a transformer. The transformer takes the electrical energy from the circuit/source and transforms it to the lower voltage needed to power the door chime inside. The current activates a chime or some sound signal. The doorbell's sound may come from a buzzer or a bell instead of a chime.

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