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My doorbell ("speaker" portion pictured above) got very soft today. It still chimes, but just barely.

I'm guessing it's battery-operated and the batteries are weak, but how can I tell for certain?

I also assume I need to unscrew the tubes from the "speaker" and change the batteries. Is that correct?

Finally, is it dangerous to unscrew the tubes if this isn't a battery-operated doorbell (ie, risk of electrocution?).

  • Notice the screws near the bottom with wires going to them? That is a good sign this is not battery operated. A battery operated unit would use a circuit board, and all the connections would be soldered to the board.
    – Tester101
    Feb 15, 2011 at 12:57
  • 1
    that bell is definately transformer operated. 24vdc. Feb 16, 2011 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


Seeing screws with wires attached to them is a good sign the doorbell is hardwired (not battery operated), in a battery operated fixture the wires would be soldered to a circuit board.

If you live in the U.S. you are probably dealing with 12 to 24v at the chime, though the power should still be shut off at the main panel before you start working.

Here is a good guide to troubleshooting a doorbell.

Troubleshoot a doorbell switch

  1. Unscrew the switch from the house and pull it away to tighten any loose wires.

  2. If that fails, bypass the switch by shorting across the terminals with a screwdriver blade or by removing the two wires and touching them together. If the bell rings, replace the switch. If not, twist the two wires together and move on to the next step.

  3. Connect the two wires to the two terminals; push the wires back into the wall and screw on the switch. If new mounting holes are required, start the holes with an awl and drive in the screws.

Troubleshoot a transformer

  1. Locate the transformer, and inspect and tighten low-voltage wire connections to it.

  2. If neither doorbell works, use a multitester set to the 50-volt AC range to test the transformer. Touch the probes to the two terminals. If the reading is within 2 volts of the transformer's rating, troubleshoot the chime. If not, go on to the next step.

  3. Shut off the power to the transformer's circuit at the service panel, and remove the outlet-box cover. To test for power, pull out the black circuit wire and remove the wire nut. Probe the black and grounding wires with a neon tester. Repeat the test for white and grounding wires. Tighten any loose connections.

  4. To replace a faulty transformer, remove the low-voltage wires. When there is more than one wire at a terminal, tape them together for easier rewiring.

  5. Shut off the power to the doorbell circuit at the main service panel. Remove the outlet-box cover and disconnect the wires from the old transformer, then disconnect it from the box or the box's cover.

  6. Attach and wire the replacement. Connect the transformer's green wire to the bare grounded wire and its other two wires to the black and white circuit wires. Attach the outlet-box cover and secure each low-voltage wire or set of wires under a terminal.

Troubleshoot a chime

  1. Remove the chime cover, which may snap or screw onto the base, and inspect all wiring connections.

  2. If the connections look good, set a multitester to the 50-volt AC range, then touch one probe to the transformer terminal and the other to the nonworking front or rear terminal. If it fails the test, replace the faulty wiring (see "Replace doorbell wiring," below). If the chime has power but neither doorbell works, replace the chime (go on to steps 3 and 4).

  3. To replace a chime, remove its cover. Disconnect and label the wires for easier rewiring. Remove the mounting screws and the old chime.

  4. Thread the wires into the back of the new chime and mount it to the wall with the provided screws and anchors. Attach low-voltage wires to their respective terminals and replace the cover.

Replace doorbell wiring

  1. Disconnect the faulty wire at both ends and loosen or remove all accessible wire staples.

  2. Twist together one end of the existing wire to an end of the new wiring and tape the splice, using very little tape. Pull the existing wire to draw the new wire through holes, staples and wall or ceiling cavities. Pull it through one section at a time rather than all at once. Staple as needed.


Most doorbells aren't battery operated -- if you take the cover off, and there aren't blatent batteries to be replaced right there, then stop, as it's hard wired, and you're playing with mains line power (110 to 240V, depending on your location).

Occassionally, the button will be battery powered, but if that had died, then the chime shouldn't have sounded at all.

The picture's a little bit strange, but it looks to me as if there's two metal chimes on either side of the electronics box -- try tapping them, and make sure they chime well, and they're not being dampened by something. If they're not, it might be something wrong with the device that strikes them, which is usually driven by an electromagnet. Before you mess with that, I'd shut off the power, but I don't know enough about what could go wrong in those to know what to look for to fix. (a loose connection? I have no idea)

Just don't go rooting about in it without shutting the power off first unless it's obviously battery powered.

  • 1
    Unless the transformer is in the chime (which is usually not the case), the voltage at the chime should only be between 12 to 24v (In the USA at least). Though it is still sound advice to turn the power off before poking around.
    – Tester101
    Feb 15, 2011 at 13:05
  • 1
    it is obvious that the wiring at the bottom is low voltage wiring. I have NEVER seen a line voltage doorbell, they don't exist! Feb 16, 2011 at 23:55
  • @shirlock : your gamma must be different from mine, or your eyes a lot better ... I just looked again, and didn't even see the wiring block without getting my face up close to the screen
    – Joe
    Feb 17, 2011 at 2:04

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