DIY Intercom Systems
DIY Intercom Systems

Wouldn't it be nice to answer the door-without having to answer the door? Intercom systems allow you to do just that: have whole conversations with anyone who comes to the door, from the comfort and security of anywhere in the house-and these days, you can even get intercoms equipped with video cameras, so you can see who you're talking to. This can be useful for safely talking to suspicious callers, ignoring unwanted neighbors, or identifying visitors when you're sick in bed.

There are lots of different intercom models on the market, and prices vary; however, one of the best ways to save money on an intercom system is to install it yourself. Intercom systems are relatively easy to install, and most come ready to install right out of the box; you just have to decide which kind of intercom works best for you and follow the instructions.

Buying an Intercom

Here are a few things to think about when you're shopping around for that perfect intercom:

  • Location. Where's it going to go? Also, you may want several intercom stations for convenience's sake, or you may want to hook it up to your telephone line, so you can answer the buzzer from any phone in the house-in which case, you'll want to buy a system designed for a phone connection.
  • Video. Decide if you want to see your callers as well as hear them. Then decide whether you want a black-and-white or color monitor (black-and-white is significantly cheaper).
  • Electrical compatibility. Talk to an electrician before buying your intercom to see which models are best suited to your home.
  • Features. Lots of intercom systems come with extras, such as musical doorbells or electronic door openers. Look for intercoms that have the features you want.
  • Price. While a color video monitor with added security features can cost over $200, you can also find simpler black-and-white systems for under $100. Prices on audio-only models also vary dramatically. Decide how much you're willing to spend, and shop accordingly.

Installing an Intercom

Once you've bought your intercom, you've got to install it. Depending on the type of intercom you have, you can install it either by running a cable from the intercom to the monitor, or by rewiring your existing doorbell and connecting the intercom to your electrical circuit.

For a Video Intercom System:

  1. Position the camera box outside the door at about eye level.
  2. Mark and cut a hole in the wall for a 4-wire 18-gauge cable. Run the cable through the hole and over to the monitor.
  3. Attach the camera box to the wall outside so the cable comes through it.
  4. Connect the protruding cable wires to the back of the camera unit.
  5. Stick the camera unit into the box and screw it in place with tamper-proof screws and an Allen wrench.
  6. Back at the monitor end, screw the monitor's mounting bracket into the wall over the electrical outlet. (You may want to install a recessed receptacle-an electrical outlet situated deeper in the wall-so the cords won't be visible. If you do, install it first, then put the mounting bracket over it.)
  7. Connect the cable wires to the back of the monitor and plug the monitor into the wall.
  8. Fasten the monitor onto the mounting bracket, turn on the power, and test your intercom.

For a Doorbell Intercom System:

(NOTE: There are three parts to a doorbell: the transformer, which connects the button to the electric box; the button by the door; and the bell or buzzer itself, inside the house. To install a doorbell intercom, you have to rewire all three.)

  1. Turn off the power to the doorbell circuit.
  2. Remove the doorbell button and disconnect the wires from the back of it.
  3. Attach the intercom mounting bracket to the wall over the wires.
  4. Connect the wires to the new doorbell module.
  5. Find the transformer (inside, either by the electric box or closer to the door), transfer the doorbell wires to the intercom's AC adapter, and plug it in.
  6. Go to the bell itself and disconnect the wires. Twist the wires together and cover them with a wire connector.
  7. Find a place for the intercom, screw it onto the wall, and plug it in.
  8. Turn the power back on and test your intercom.

Once you've installed your intercom, just sit back, relax, and wait for someone to come use it.