Getting your $%*# Ring Doorbell hard-wired
I got a Ring Doorbell as a gift recently (thanks, Mom!), and, after about 4 weeks I’m finally satisfied with its installation!
It’s not hard to find people complaining on the internet that their Ring Doorbell installation isn’t working. The design is… not great. There are spring pins on the back of the device that are meant to make contact with copper pads built into a mounting bracket. You mount the bracket to your wall, terminate your wires into it, and the pads channel the signal/energy through the spring pins into your fancy doorbell.
That is, if it’s all working.
Based on my experience, as often as not, or perhaps more often, the spring pins won’t make contact. There are lots of reports online of similar situations, citing warped brackets. The mounting bracket itself is quite thin, and if you’ve cranked down the mounting screws, internet wisdom states, you can warp the bracket, thus deflecting the plane of the copper pads, making it difficult for the pins to connect.
I removed the bracket. I re-attached the bracket, careful not to over-tighten the screws.
I did it again.
There was a brief window in which the device decided that it was, in fact, hard-wired (you can tell a few ways, including the white ring around the button staying lit full-time, and a couple places in the app reporting that the battery is begin charged and/or explicitly reporting that the device is “hardwired”). Despite not touching the device, this window closed.
I had an idea. I would “fluff up” the pads with pillows of solder, like so:
The pins would surely make contact now, right?
Right! The ring stayed lit! The app reported being hard-wired! I was a genius!
I decided I should document my fix for fellow fancy doorbell owners online.
I removed the Ring Doorbell from the mount, and found… broken pins. The “pillows” were too fluffy, it seems, and the action of attaching and/or detaching the unit from the mounting bracket was enough to break a couple of the pins. I was defeated. And probably for good. My modification was surely warranty-ending, and since I had not purchased the doorbell myself in the first place, even trying to get it replaced was probably not going to be fun.
At this point I had two choices. I could continue using the doorbell “wirelessly,” (i.e. removing it from its bracket periodically to recharge it via USB cable), or I could take a chance on a more extreme fix. I think you can guess which way I went.
I broke out my volt-meter, and set about figuring out the pin assignments of those copper pads. The circuit board was fairly easy to see, and didn’t appear to have any components onboard, only traces. If you hold it up to the light just so you can make out the trace paths. Looking at those and testing things out with the volt-meter, I was fairly certain that the left three pads of the middle and lower sets were the only useful pads, and that three of them went to each screw terminal, like so:
So, reversing that pattern, I soldered wires directly into the back of the doorbell; yanking out the spring pins and soldering wires into the pads beneath. Then I cut out enough of the mounting bracket (including the board with the traces and terminals) to make room for the wires, and twisted the 6 wires from the doorbell into the two from the wall.
The white ring shone. I was, once again, restored my genius status.
So, warranty be damned, I’ve got a working fancy doorbell, and a good story to tell.
A request came in the comments for a photo of the finished wiring. I’m not sure how helpful this will be, as it’s a pretty ugly soldering job, but here you go (below). It’s difficult to see what’s going on in the photo, but I essentially have three wires soldered onto the terminals that I shaded green in the photo above, and three soldered onto the terminals shaded yellow. Each set of three is then twisted together with each other and with the lead coming out of the brick.
One thing I didn’t think through about this approach is that if I ever need to reboot my doorbell, I’ll need to figure out if Ring has a hard reset button (don’t think they do) or cut these wires.