When working with appliances or anything involving live wires, many people tend to worry that they’ll be electrocuted, and understandably so. However, this isn’t the case with doorbells.
Doorbell’s wires can’t shock you if you happen to come in contact with them. The majority of a doorbell’s circuit is low-voltage with a transformer that further lowers that voltage, which means the wires don’t have a current strong enough to shock you.
Through this article, I’ll discuss this question in more detail. We’ll go over what voltage a doorbell circuit has, why doorbell wires can’t shock you, what type of current flow a doorbell has, and how a doorbell transformer works.
Why Doorbells Can’t Shock You
Doorbells operate at a low voltage with the help of a transformer. Because of this, their current isn’t powerful enough to shock you if you touch the wiring. Still, there are some things you should keep in mind:
1. Doorbells are Low Voltage
Most electrical circuits carry around 120 volts, but the doorbell’s transformer reduces that voltage to +/- 16 volts necessary for the doorbell to operate. Any voltage above 30 is considered threatening, and you should regard it as such.
A low voltage falls in the 70-600v range and is used in home outlets supplying 110-220 volts. Although it’s low voltage, touching any live wires having such voltages isn’t recommended. These outlets can still shock you, and the shock can prove to be lethal in wet conditions.
Medium voltage falls below 35kV, and high voltages range between 115-230kV. These voltages are generally not used for home consumption as they’re extremely dangerous and fatal. They are used primarily for transmission between substations and utility poles.
2. Dorbells Have a Current of 16 Volts
If you’re going to be in contact with live wires, it’s crucial to be aware of how many volts there are or what voltage level the doorbell is.
Doorbell systems have low-voltage currents, so the chances of you getting a shock from the wires are low. Due to their low voltage, a doorbell’s wiring is safe to handle even if electricity is running through them.
However, if you want to be extra cautious, you can always switch off the main power point before handling the doorbell’s wires.
Doorbells often have 16 volts, whereas older models have 18 to 20 volts, and newer models take up to 24 volts. The newer models have a higher voltage to compensate for the more extended amounts of wire in bigger houses.
3. Doorbells use AC
In a nutshell, current is the flow of electrons. There are two types of current flow: AC and DC. AC stands for alternating current, and it’s a flow of charge that periodically changes direction. As a result, the voltage changes with it. DC stands for direct current. Because it’s constant, it moves in one direction.
The type of current of doorbells is AC. However, AC can be converted to DC using an additional bridge rectifier. A doorbell runs on AC because transformers only work with alternating currents.
Note that DC wiring is more prone to corrosion than AC wiring, which can end up being costly to replace.
When it comes to convenience, AC is more readily available than DC. This is why AC doorbells are more common. If you want your doorbell to operate on DC, it would require a rectifier circuit on the doorbell transformer. The chime of the bell does, however, sound a lot more pleasant with direct current wiring.
4. Doorbell Transformers Lower the Voltage
Most wired doorbells operate using a transformer. You can buy battery-operated doorbells that don’t need a transformer, but doorbells that use batteries have certain limitations. For example, they can’t act as a security camera.
Doorbell transformers convert the standard 120-volt current used in households to the lower voltage the doorbell needs, generally ranging from 6-16 volts.
A transformer is a metal box with two terminals that connects the wired doorbell to a power source in your house. It converts the current to a voltage on which your doorbell can operate.
A transformer that converts a high voltage to a low voltage is called a step-down transformer. The doorbell and doorbell button are connected to the transformer via the doorbell’s wire. Most doorbells can’t work without a transformer.
5. You Can Take Precautions Against Electrical Shocks
If you’re going to be working with electricity, there are a few precautions you need to take.
- Always use tools that are insulated.
- Avoid water when working with electricity at all costs, and never touch any electrical equipment/wires with wet hands.
- Always turn off the main switch when working on receptacles. It would also be good to put a sign on the power panel, so no one mistakenly turns the main switch on.
- Always use goggles and insulated rubber gloves when working on an electrical circuit.
- Don’t use a steel or aluminum ladder if you’re working on a receptacle that requires a ladder to reach. Opt for fiberglass, bamboo, or wooden ladders.
- Never use equipment with damaged cords and insulation.
- Never pull a plug out by its cord. Turn the switch off at the socket before pulling the plug out.
- Never wear watches or rings when handling electrical circuits.
- Never use metallic rulers, pens, or pencils when working with electrical equipment.
- If possible, keep a fire extinguisher close by in case an outlet blows a fuse and causes a fire.
- Keep flammable items away from the area you’re working around.
Doorbell wires are unlikely to shock you due to their low voltage, but you shouldn’t let your guard down.
When you’re working with wires or any electrical equipment, remember to practice proper safety precautions at all times. Following the necessary protocols for being safe around electrical hazards ultimately protects yourself and the people around you.
If there’s a severe electrical issue in your home, don’t try to fix it yourself. Call a professional and have them do it for you. Whether it’s a circuit breaker problem or a minor issue with a fuse, always remember to play it safe!
- Wonderopolis: How Does a Doorbell Work?
- Energy.gov: The War of the Currents AC vs. DC Power
- Electrical Technology.org: What is Voltage?
- MIT: What’s the difference between AC and DC?
- Kitchen: Question: Can doorbell wires electrocute you?
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