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Wired or Wireless: Today’s Choices for Our Home’s Doorbells

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By Bill Primavera

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

Not so long ago, the sweetest young lady who worked at my firm had attached a ring sound to her iPhone signaling her mother-in-law, which was the theme song from “The Addams Family.”  Her husband, even adoring as he was, wasn’t amused and she rapidly changed it.

With the new electronic doorbells, welcoming visitors can take on any jazzy theme imaginable.

When I was a child, my parents bought a newly constructed home featuring a doorbell with a particularly beautiful set of chimes just inside the door. I’m told it was that special feature that sold my mother on the house.

From earliest times, visitors to a home were announced simply by banging one’s knuckles against a door. Shortly after, knuckles were spared by the use of knockers, which gave Gene Wilder a great line in “Young Frankenstein.” Later, a bell on the inside of the house was sounded by pulling a string from the outside.

In 1831, the electric doorbell was invented by Joseph Henry, an American scientist who was the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. It was a simple device, much like the wired doorbells we see today, where an outside button is pushed and electrical current flows to an inside transformer which activates a noise signal.

In the beginning, this noise was an annoying buzz, but the sound was enhanced in the 1920s to bells or a chime.

In my recent mid-18th century home, the doorbell still features that annoying buzz sound, much like an insect zapper. The cover has so many coats of paint on it that its shape is hard to define. I’m convinced that the same device has been working faithfully since the 1920s.

Well, maybe not so faithfully. In the recent past, any unannounced visitor could get frustrated trying to reach us inside. It’s embarrassing to admit, particularly because I write as The Home Guru, but something went haywire with my doorbell system. It somehow got disconnected and didn’t ring for a couple of years without my knowing it. Visitors would call us on our cell phones saying they were waiting for us in the driveway.

Recently, I had a handyman install new buttons outside thinking that was the problem but, not being an electrician, he couldn’t figure out the connection to the buzzer. Even the electricians who came later had a hard time getting it operational again. But now it works like a charm, albeit still with the annoying buzz.

While the basic function of a doorbell has always been as an important signaling device, there are times when you don’t want to hear it. For instance, during a visit to my local Subway, I was seated near the door trying to enjoy my meatball sandwich. Every time a customer walked through the door, there was an annoying and loud sound that all but stopped my heartbeat. I can only imagine the effect this must have on the staff members there who have to listen to it all day, everyday.

From the first mechanical systems, it seems that inventors have spent a lot of time and effort devising new ways to alert homeowners of visitors, from the first use of chimes to iTunes ringtones.

Today the major choice in doorbells is either a wired or wireless version, and there seems to be a debate about which is better. While wired doorbell systems are still the preferred choice, wireless has caught the imagination of younger buyers.     Wired doorbells are cheaper than wireless, but more involved to install. Wireless can be up and running, literally in minutes. Aesthetically, wired doorbells are more appealing, with many designs, shapes and materials from which to choose, while wireless models are more utilitarian in design. Wireless wins out on portability; its receiver, whether battery operated or plug-in, can be moved around the house at will.

Sound quality and the range of tunes are clearly better on the wired models, while wireless can have erratic performance if there is outside interference.

With the advent of iTunes and the MP3 player, sounds announcing visitors are limitless, much like telephone ringtones. Now each time that I hear that annoying buzz from my antiquated but functional doorbell, I imagine what would best represent my personality in a customized sound.

In my new condo, there is a sturdy knocker on the door, but not a single person has had the chance to use it. Visitors are announced at the concierge desk and, as though I haven’t seen a human in years, I swing open the door wide before they have a chance to knock. I hope I don’t frighten them.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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