People downplay the dangers doorbells pose because they are light-duty devices. But is that attitude justified?
Can Doorbell Transformer Cause A Fire?
1). First of all, there have been cases of doorbells starting fires. KPC News reported on one such incident. The LaGrange Volunteer Fire Department had to extinguish a roof fire that began because of a doorbell’s transformer.
The transformer started the fire after shorting and overheating. This ignited the insulation in the vicinity. Because the contractors had installed the transformer and its wiring in the attic, the fire eventually engulfed the wooden rafters. This proves that doorbell transformers are fire hazards.
2). If you need a more prominent case to convince you of the dangers of doorbells, Consumer Reports released an article in 2020 in which they highlighted the risks associated with ring doorbells. The article mentions 23 incidents in which doorbells caused minor property damage after starting a fire. In eight cases, people suffered minor burns.
The Fixer released a video explaining the factors that encouraged Ring to recall an estimated 350,000 second-generation doorbells. The problem arose from improper installation:
- The second-generation ring doorbells come with a doorbell, bracket, four wood screws, two security screws, and anchors. The security screws are unique because you can’t remove them with a standard tool. The manufacturer provides a special tool that works with the security screws.
- The wood screws connect to the bracket.
- The security screws attach to the bracket at the bottom of the Ring doorbell.
- People have accidentally inserted the longer wood screws into the bottom section of the doorbell. Because the wood screws are longer, they go far enough to puncture the battery, leading to overheating. The security screws are short, and they enter the bottom of the doorbell with relative ease. You have to force the wood screws into the doorbell’s holes.
- Ring updated its instructions to emphasize the importance of using the correct screws.
In this case, the doorbell is not at fault. Fires start because people fail to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Nonetheless, this proves that doorbells and their transformers are not as safe as people think.
What Causes Doorbell Transformer To Burn Up?
Transformers won’t combust out of the blue. Fires usually start because something unexpected has gone wrong, for instance:
1). Short Circuit
If the insulation between adjacent windings fails, a short circuit can occur, resulting in overheating and a fire.
A situation where a transformer overheated because corrosion caused the doorbell button to stick in the on position. The transformer was so hot they couldn’t touch it without gloves.
3). Improper Installation
Improper installation can lead to short circuits and overheating, which, in turn, can start fires. ARS Technica has given the example of Ring video doorbells that start fires because people use the wrong screws to install them. The screws can cause short circuits by reaching into places they have no business touching.
4). Naked Wires
Naked wires can short-circuit the transformer, leading to overheating. Wires can lose their insulation because they keep rubbing against one another to the point where the insulation falls off.
If you keep the transformer in the attic or basement, don’t be surprised if pests like mice nibble on the wiring.
Some transformers have factory defects. In other words, you can’t stop them from starting fires, not without replacing them.
What Should I Do To Prevent Transformer From Fire?
- Find loose connections and tighten them. If your doorbell keeps humming and buzzing, something somewhere is loose. Most of the time, tightening a few loose screws is enough to solve this problem.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. This Ring Support Page has warned consumers about the threats they will encounter, including fires and shocks if they fail to follow the safety instructions. You can’t hold the manufacturer liable for any fires that start if they only occurred because you couldn’t follow the installation instructions.
- If the doorbell button is stuck because of damage or corrosion, replace it.
- De-energize the circuit before performing repairs, replacements, and installations on the doorbell system. Even though the doorbell is a light-duty device, things can still go wrong. It only takes one spark from an energized circuit to start a fire. Proceed carefully.
- Replace a defective doorbell system.
How Do I Know If A Doorbell Transformer Is Going To Cause A Fire?
You can’t tell that a doorbell transformer is about to cause a fire. However, certain signs will encourage you to take action, including:
Heat in a transformer always causes panic, but that reaction isn’t always justified. Transformers step down the voltage. This process generates warmth. You must learn to differentiate between warmth and heat.
You can touch a warm transformer. Overheating stands out because the transformer will burn your hands. It should also worry you because it can start a fire. Transformers can overheat because of malfunctioning windings and short circuits.
2). Humming/Buzzing Sound
Like the warmth a transformer generates, humming and buzzing are normal. They occur because the current makes an electromagnetic field that causes the metal laminations to vibrate.
Loose connections will make these vibrations even louder. But that doesn’t make humming dangerous. These sounds should only concern you if the humming and buzzing transformer is overheating.
In that case, the transformer is overloaded. You must troubleshoot the entire doorbell system to eliminate the humming as a possible cause for concern. That means checking the bell, chime, wiring, and buttons.
If you’re fortunate, tightening the screws will stop the humming. But if it continues and the transformer is still too hot, hire an electrician to diagnose the problem before a fire starts.
3). Button Stuck
Doorbell buttons can get stuck over time because of wear and tear. This doesn’t mean your entire doorbell system is dead. Most of the time, it is enough to replace the button. That being said, you should act quickly. A stuck button can start a fire. Make sure the button moves freely. Look for rust and debris. These components can interfere with the button’s operations.
4). Voltage Below 16V
A transformer should show readings that exceed 16V whenever you test it. Readings below 16V should concern you. The transformer is probably defective. Replace it before it causes trouble.
Voltmeters are not the only tools people use in such situations. You can also apply a low-voltage light probe. You can conclude that your transformer is bad once the bulb fails to illuminate.