Doorbell and intercom buying guide

Doorbell and intercom buying guide

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Guide written by:

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Doorbells and intercom systems are essential for letting you know when someone's at the door. Whether you're looking into audio or video, wired or wireless systems, there's a doorbell or intercom out there for everyone. From basic doorbells to high-tech video intercoms, read on to find the right system for you.

Important features

  • Wired
  • Wireless
  • Video intercom
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Doorbell vs. intercom doorbells

While a slight improvement to hanging a bell in your doorway, a doorbell is just about the most basic way to let you know when someone's at the door. While this system works fine for letting you know when you have guests, it won't let you see or talk with the person at the door.

Intercom doorbells add audio into the mix allowing you to chat with whoever's outside. These systems can even be used to open the door remotely if the door is equipped with a smart lock. This can be a really handy option if you have a particularly large garden or if the weather is making you want to stay indoors! An intercom video doorbell incorporates a camera that also allows you to see your guests for even greater security.

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Doorbells and intercoms: wired vs. wireless

Wireless technology is really convenient as it allows you to install a doorbell or intercom without having to feed outdoor wires into your home. Some systems even allow you to carry the bell or video intercom around with you which is ideal if you don't want to set up intercoms in every room! That said, wireless doorbells are less reliable than wired systems as there can be frequency interference. What's more, they do have limited range. The transmission distance noted by the manufacturer refers to outdoor transmission over an area with no obstacles. It's therefore important to ensure you pick a doorbell with a long range to make up for walls or any other objects that could interfere with the signal. It's also important to check the batteries regularly!

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Intercom doorbells

How does a wired doorbell work?

A wired doorbell consists of a button that is placed at the entrance and connected to a bell or chime located inside your home. It's important to choose a central location in the house for the chime so the doorbell is always within earshot.

When choosing a button, you should think about wear and weather resistance as well as your own preferences in terms of design. Doorbell chimes often come with several ring tones and volume control. They can run on high-voltage mains power if the doorbell is inside (i.e. in a block flats), but should generally be low-voltage (e.g. 12V) if installed outdoors to avoid the risk of electric shocks. And yes, since we are talking about a wired device, you do need a power supply with all the installation requirements this involves (chasing cables, etc.).

How to choose a doorbell intercom system

A flush mounting plate will provide less of a target to vandals than one that protrudes, although the latter type can be fixed onto a wider variety of surfaces. It's important to check that the plate offers sufficient weather protection.

A backlight is very handy for nighttime use, especially if your intercom is not in a lit area.

In terms of strength and durability, aluminium mixed with Zamak is always a great choice!

IP weather protection

The IP code ("IP" followed by two digits) can be found on all electrical and electronic devices designed for outdoor use. The figures appearing after "IP" represent the degree of weather protection:

First digit:

  • 0, no protection;

  • 1, protection against solid objects greater than 50mm;

  • 2, protection against solid objects greater than 12.5mm;

  • 3, protection against solid objects greater than 2.5mm;

  • 4, protection against solid objects greater than 1mm;

  • 5, some dust protection;

  • 6, protection against all types of dust.

Second digit:

  • 0, no protection;

  • 1, condensation protection;

  • 2, protection against light rain up to 15° from the vertical;

  • 3, rain protection up to 60° from vertical;

  • 4, protection against splashing water from any direction;

  • 5, protection against jets of water;

  • 6, protection against any kind of soaking including e.g. sea waves;

  • 7, protection against brief immersion;

  • 8, protection against permanent immersion.

Just combine the two tables to work out how well your appliance is protected!

How to choose a video intercom

A video intercom doorbell is equipped with a camera at the entry point and a corresponding screen at the handset end. Images can be captured in colour or black and white, depending on the model. Make sure the outdoor panel has a light or night mode to allow you to see any visitors past dark. You should also think about the screen size; the bigger the screen, the better chance you have of identifying your visitors! On the other hand, bear in mind that a large screen will take up more space. Some video intercoms can be set to take a picture of any visitors if you're not there, a bit like an answering machine!

In terms of image quality, you'll have the choice of either IP or analog. An IP system will offer superior picture quality, while analog may suffer from interference issues which can result in blurred images.

The viewing angle is another important factor to think about; the wider it is, the more you see on your monitor screen.

Some high-end intercoms can even be connected to your smartphone.

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3 final tips for choosing a doorbell or intercom

  1. If you're renovating, go for a wireless system; choose wired for a new-build.

  2. If you live in a flat or if you have a small garden, a doorbell should suffice.

  3. If you have a large garden, you're paranoid about missing the postman, or if you're concerned about security, choose an intercom or even a video intercom. These systems provide maximum security and comfort, especially when connected to an automated gate or door. What's more, while you probably don't want to barricade yourself indoors, you can even use these systems to keep unwanted visitors at bay!

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Guide written by:

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton

Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical work. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him! Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!

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