Ring a ding ding

We recently had to replace the doorbell on our house. During remodeling work, the doorbell became skittery from all the activity and it scampered in front of a speeding contractor. The collision cost the doorbell its life, attesting to the wisdom of keeping a level head even in trying times.  We gave it an aerial funeral, tossing it over the side into a giant dumpster the contractors had brought. Feeling badly about the recent demise, our contractor bought a replacement from the contractor stuff store and they installed it as one of the final finishing touches.

This thing is a riot. It makes a subdued ding (more like a dink) when you press the doorbell button and about half the time it will make a dong when you let the button go.  We’ve found that if there is any kind of activity in the home, we can’t hear the bell, even if it supplies the often errant dong.  Suffice to say the doorbell has become a punchline to the sign on the front door suggesting that visitors “Ring Bell Then Pound on Door.”

I decided that I’d see about getting a different door chime,  perhaps something more powerful and Avon-like.  I was met with a huge selection of doorbells and I gotta tell ya, the world of doorbells has changed over the last 30 or so years since I last was involved in a doorbell installation.  Well, now there are doorbells that have up to six channels and support motion detectors and magnetic door sensors in addition to working with any “E” type ringer button, whatever that means. You can have different sounds for each channel; selecting sounds from their library or using your own MP3 sound. That means that you can use complete MP3 music files as well, in case you’re the sort who likes their doorbell to go on for 2 minutes and 45 seconds as Dion and the Belmonts sing Teenager in Love or that twelve minute audio recording of howler monkeys pirated off PBS’s Nature.

Wireless offerings eliminate the need for any wiring, a nice feature, but the vast majority of them run on batteries, which means you have to remember to change your doorbell batteries every few months.  There are still the good old wired versions of doorbells. They run at 16 volts on the average. What they amount to is a simple circuit consisting of a power supply, a button switch, and a bell/chime. When the button is pressed, electricity flows to the chime and ding dong. Since we already had a wired system in place, and the wired type chime was $9 and the wireless system $45, it seemed most judicious to maintain the old wired standard.

doorbell-catI was surprised to find that the chime I bought wasn’t really a chime or bell per se, it was a little sound effect generator that modeled the ding dong of a doorbell. In essence, I was installing a synthetic doorbell. However, a few screws and wire connections later, my wife pressed the button by the door. The device made it’s ding dong, but with about the same volume and force of a fog horn. The house shook and little cast figurines skated around on the surface of their shelves. “Don’t do that again for a minute.” I called out, reaching up to the dinger with a screwdriver. I adjusted it back about half way and shouted to my wife to try it again. We were rewarded by a very “Avon Calling” ding-dong, proving once again that in engineering,  there are no insurmountable problems, just things that can’t be fixed.