How do door bells work?« Back to Questions List

A door bell is a simple electromagnetic device and requires very little energy to do work. So what are electromagnets and how do they work? Electromagnets are temporary magnets. They have magnetic effect as long as they are supplied with electricity.


Electromagnets consist of a metal wrapped with a piece of conductive wire (mostly copper wire). Winding should be in the form a coil in order to generate strong magnetic field when current flows through it. It is simply a piece of metal when there is no current flowing through the coil. But when current is made to flow the coil, a magnetic field is created around the coil. Now the metal acts like a magnet. The magnet has got two poles - North and South. If in case it comes in contact with another electromagnet, like poles repel and unlike poles attract, or if comes in contact with metal like iron, the magnet attracts the metal. You can try connecting a nail wound with a wire to a battery and see how it attracts pins. Apart from door bells, the electromagnetic property is used in induction cook top too.

door bell, electromagnetic

Now that we know how an electromagnet works, let us take a look at how the door bells work. A simple design of door bell involves an electromagnet to which current is passed. In our houses, the supply voltage from the mains is high voltage (220 Volts). A simple device like door bell works at a very low voltage in the range of 6 -12 Volts. Hence the door bell circuit has a transformer which receives the input supply. The role of the transformer is to simply decrease (step down) the input voltage from the power source to be accepted by the low voltage doorbell circuit.  


While one end of the transformer is connected to the supply from the mains, the other end is connected to a metal contact. Now when the circuit closes, the metal contact acts as an electromagnet. The magnetic field created helps ring a noise making apparatus.

Why are alloys popular and useful?

What are the major applications of remote controls?