How to Find a Doorbell Breaker

doorbells with exposed wiring
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
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What You'll Need
Circuit breaker finder
What You'll Need
Circuit breaker finder

A conventional doorbell or chime is wired to your home’s 120-volts electrical supply, which a transformer steps down to its required voltage between 6 to 24 volts. Older doorbell systems used to operate on 6 or 8 volts AC while newer models require a step-down transformer at 12 to 14 VAC and at 16 or 24 volts for door chimes.

hand pressing front doorbell on pink wall

So before performing any maintenance on your system, the circuit breaker has to be turned off to prevent the risk of electric shock. The doorbell transformer, however, is not normally wired to its own dedicated circuit breaker, but rather with an already existing receptacle, light switch, or another junction box nearby, and supplying a completely different circuit, so it will not likely be identified inside the electrical breaker panel. By following the instructions that follow, you will be able to find the right breaker without too much hassle.

hands adjusting internal doorbell electronics

Step 1 - Locate the Doorbell/Chime

The first thing to do will be finding the transformer that powers the doorbell/chime. The way to do this is to track it by following its low voltage wiring leading from the doorbell/chime.

1.1—If it’s hard-wired to the push-buttons, look around the area at the main entrance to the house for the doorbell/chime itself. It could be exposed on a wall surface if it has a nice finished appearance, or concealed—not hidden—behind a wall or inside a closet near the entrance area but from where it can be heard clearly.

Figure 1 shows an example of a chime concealed behind a wall hidden from view but at a reasonable audible distance.

doorbell electronics

1.2—If you’re dealing with wireless push button, it will offer an infinite number of option to the doorbell/chime installation, but keep in mind that it’s there to be heard, it should be located in a widely used room such as the kitchen, living room area, den or elsewhere, and as mentioned previously, it could be concealed.

Step 2 - Tracking Back to the Transformer

2.1—Regardless of the system, the transformer will most likely be closeby as it needs hard-wiring to the doorbell/chime in order to power it (Figure 2).

doorbell electronic wiring elements

If the wiring is exposed, it will make locating the transformer much easier. If the wire goes through the wall to the opposite room or inside a closet, it should be again easy enough to follow to the transformer.

If it’s inside a wall, however, it will either go down to the basement where the wiring from dozens of circuits offers great hook-up opportunities or up to the attic secured under a joist or hidden beneath insulation but you need to look for an electrical box since it will probably be within reach of its 120 V supply wires.

Figure 3 shows a transformer wired-in to an added junction box that is tapping from an outlet closeby and in this case, visible from the other side of the wall.

2.2—At this point, you’re now looking for a circuit breaker feeding or dedicated to a whole circuit and most likely identified inside the breaker panel. Shut off the breaker and proceed to do your required maintenance. But if that circuit is not readily identified, you’ll need to keep searching.

2.3—If there is a light fixture closeby, turn it on, and with the help of someone else to tell when the light will go off, test each 120 volts circuit breakers to find the one that will turn off the fixture.

2.4—If the circuit feeds a receptacle nearby, a Circuit Breaker Finder with the sender plugged into the receptacle, the right breaker can easily be identified by scanning the receiver probe in front of it in the breaker panel (Figure 4 & 5).

doorbell electronics and schematics

As the probe approaches the right breaker, the light will flash more rapidly (Figure 5) and the beeping frequency will increase. The CB Finder can be a very practical tool for under $35, for any DIYers doing frequent electrical work.

How to Find a Doorbell Breaker FAQ

How do I check the power on my doorbell button?

The easiest way to test if your doorbell button is receiving power is to simply press the button and listen for a sound. However, if your doorbell isn't working properly or you aren't sure, this is not a good enough test to ensure your safety if you're going to do some work on the doorbell.

The safest and surest way to check if your doorbell has power is to use a multimeter. This will show you exactly how much voltage the doorbell is receiving, if any.

Do I need to turn off power to change doorbell?

Unless you are working with old wiring and an old doorbell, all the electrical wiring for the doorbell will go through a transformer. This transformer reduces the normal voltage of 120, the current that is typical in homes, down to 16 volts.

Because of the transformer, it is technically safe to install a new doorbell and even to touch bare doorbell wiring. However, it is extremely inadvisable to do so.

Just because certain safety measures are supposed to be in place does not mean that they are. Code violations happen all the time and sometimes, shortcuts are taken.

Never, ever trust your safety to what should be in place and what the codes say should happen and what is supposed to be integrated into writing. In other words, always turn off the power to a doorbell before installing a new doorbell, handling the wires, or exposing yourself in any way to any possible electrical dangers.

Do you need to turn off breaker to install Ring doorbell?

The Ring doorbell installation guide recommends disconnecting the power before installing the doorbell. The official guide says that this should be done at the circuit breaker or fuse box to ensure that all power is disconnected.

Failing to follow installation instructions can and will void a warranty on a doorbell, so it's important to follow the instructions. In this case, the instructions are in place in order to protect you from the danger of electrical shock so it’s definitely a good idea to follow these steps.

Why does my Ring main circuit breaker keep tripping?

If you have a circuit breaker that keeps tripping, this is a clear indication of a short in the wiring or some other issue in the circuit. This may also indicate that the circuit breaker is overloaded or even that the circuit breaker box is not working properly.

A problem like this can get worse in time and it is a hazard, as any problem with your electrical wiring can lead to a potential fire hazard. For example, if the circuit breaker is tripping because of a damaged wire, a spark along the exposed area of the wire could catch onto something else and set your home ablaze within a matter of minutes.

A tripping circuit breaker should be inspected and repaired immediately by a licensed professional who knows what they are doing.

How do you turn off a doorbell circuit breaker?

Turning off a circuit breaker is very easy once you have located the breaker that supplies power to your doorbell. Once this is done, all you have to do is flip that specific breaker from the "on" position to the "off" position.

Circuit breakers are designed to be flipped pretty easily and work a lot like switches. It doesn't take much strength or pressure to flip them on and off.