An apartment intercom is a useful device, but it is no stranger to malfunctioning. However, they are often the least thought of appliance in an apartment. Most people only become aware of a problem when hearing a hum instead of a singsong chime, or when there is no sound whatsoever. Most of the time there is a quick fix and you will only need to follow a few simple steps to get to the root of the problem.
Step 1 - Assess the Buzzer
The first culprit of a faulty buzzer is the button itself. Inspect it for any wear and tear. This is a common problem if your buzzer is open to the elements or aggressive visitors. If your button appears to be in excellent shape, then remove the button's casing and check the state of its wires. Ensure the wires are attached properly to the button. You can handle dust accumulation at this stage by using a cloth drenched in rubbing alcohol or by just swabbing lens cleaner over the surfaces.
If the wires are well fastened, remove them and touch them together. Use the voltage meter to test for voltage before you go about this, to avoid getting shocked. If a chime emerges when you touch these wires together, then your problem lies with the switch and you have to get another one. If there is no sound or the sound of the chime echoes faintly, then the transformer is the problem.
Step 2 - Test the Transformer
The transformer in your system is an electrical component of the chime. It should be located near the chime. You can't work on it with the power turned on. You can, however, inspect the low voltage wires connected to it without disconnecting your electricity. These wires may simply be loose, in which case you only have to tighten them using a screwdriver to get your buzzer working gain.
If the wires are okay, use the digital multimeter to measure the voltage in the transformer's terminals. Set it at the 50VAC range. If you detect low voltage (below 6V) you need to replace the transformer.
Use electrical tape to mark the location of the transformer's wires. The wires on the circuit panel should match with those of the incoming transformer, that is, the black and white with the black and white and the green wire with the copper.
Step 3 - Check the Buzzer Wiring
This should be the final thing you check before you call in the experts. Inspect the wiring underneath the chime covering. Use the screwdriver to tighten any loose wiring.
These steps will help you diagnose and fix problems with an apartment intercom buzzer system.
Apartment Intercom Buzzer FAQ
Why is my apartment intercom not working?
Apartment intercom systems can stop working due to age or damage. Visually inspect the intercom to see if you can spot any loose wires or noticeable signs of damage.
Remove the access panel and inspect for areas of loose wiring or corrosion. Clean out this area using a can of air to get rid of dust and dirt and swab the lens with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol.
Be careful not to touch any loose or damaged wires unless you turn the power off to the intercom completely. With the power turned off, you can attempt to reconnect any loose wires and see if this fixes the problem.
How does the buzzer work in an apartment building?
Buzzer systems in apartment buildings have a main hardware unit at the front door. Wires lead from this unit to all the hardware units inside each apartment.
When someone presses the button for a particular apartment, a buzzing noise sounds in the apartment hardware unit to alert the person in the apartment that someone is at the building's front door.
What to do when intercom is not working?
If your intercom is not working, first check the power. Look at the circuit breaker box to make sure none of them have been tripped, which means they flipped themselves to the off position.
If you're certain the system is getting power, the problem is likely due to faulty wiring and will probably require the services of a professional electrician.
How long do intercom systems last?
Intercom systems last, on average, around 20 years before they need to be replaced or retrofitted.
What is the average cost of an intercom system?
The price of intercom systems varies depending on whether they have video or audio, or both, and on the overall number of units needed for the system. Larger apartment buildings will pay much more for an intercom system than a simple home intercom system, for instance.
Large intercom systems with audio and video can cost tens of thousands of dollars, though something under $10,000 is more typical.