Installing a New Wired Apartment System
You can use all the same components for a new system as you can for repairing an old system (assuming your old system uses standard components). The main components of an apartment entry system are a door entry panel, an electric door strike, an amplifier, and apartment stations.
Of course, you will need to run wires to each apartment. For the voice part of apartment stations, you should run 22 gauge twisted pair wiring. The twist in the wires helps cancel out noise that may be picked up on the wires. You want to avoid running cables to the stations in the same parallel with electrical wiring or wiring with background music. Also, keep them away from fluorescent lighting or other electrical equipment.
Apartment Intercoms That Need Repair
Older wired apartment intercom stations are available in 3-wire, 4-wire, and 5-wire configurations. The most common is 4-wire. There are a few systems that also used 6-wire, but these are far less common. You will need to know how many wires yours has before moving forward.
You can tell what system you have by removing a station from the wall and counting the number of screw terminals or connections that have wires attached on the back of the intercom. The cable running to the station could have more wires in it, but if they are not used, they don’t count.
Here are some steps to take to decide what you need to do to get your system working again:
- Is the problem isolated to one or two apartments? Then you likely just need to replace the apartment stations. You’ll first want to remove those stations from the wall and inspect the wires. Are they connected to the terminals on the station? Disconnect them from the station and from the other side at the door and run a continuity check between pairs of the wires by connecting two wires together on one side and then putting a continuity checker on the same two wires on the other side. If you do not get a positive reading, then you have broken wires somewhere and they will have to be replaced.
If the wires are OK, it could be a defective station so swap it to an apartment with a working station and see if the problem follows. If so, replace the station.
If that isn’t the problem, then it may be with the entry door station. Check all the connections on the door station thoroughly. If everything looks good you may need to replace the entire door station, or the amplifier for the entry door panel, but first check the button for that station to make sure it is not the problem. You may need to disconnect the wires to the button and see if the button has continuity when pressed. If the button is OK, then it is the amplifier board driving the apartment station and you will need to replace it. This could be in the form of a separate amplifier circuit board or an enclosed unit that is in a different location than the button entry panel.
- Is the entire system dead? Then the problem could just be the power supply that drives the amplifier circuitry. Make sure you test the outlet the power supply is plugged in to first. Then, using a voltage meter, check the output power on the supply to see that it is putting out the voltage it is supposed to according to what’s printed on it (make sure to disconnect the power supply because defective components could be drawing too much current from it).
- If the power supply is working, then the problem is with the amplifier unit that runs the entire system. These are not repairable, but even if the original manufacturer has gone out of business, you may still be able to use a replacement amp like the PK543A we offer (see a typical wiring diagram below). Most manufacturers used an apartment station that was similar except for Nutone. There is a lot of circuitry on their boards so you will need to replace the entire system with them. If you can find the manufacturer name somewhere, we can try to figure out compatibility. Just send us an email with the info you have.
Your apartment suite station should have buttons like the one in the pictures below (this one is 4-wire). When a visitor presses the appropriate call button on the entry panel it transmits a call tone to the suite station. The tenants answer the call by pressing the ‘Talk’ button to ask who is there, and the ‘Listen’ button to hear the response. After verifying the visitor’s identity, the tenant can admit the visitor by momentarily pressing the button marked “Door”, which then triggers the electric door strike. Some of the manufacturers who have compatible stations are Auth-Florence, Tek-Tone, Pacific, Mircom, Leedan, and Jeron. There are lots of manufacturers who have gone out of business so this is by no means an exhaustive list.
The wiring diagram below shows how an amplifier may connect to a various apartment stations and entry panels.
If replacing an older system, there can be size differences in door entry panels so an adapter plate may be needed to keep from having to do expensive wall repairs. You can also have custom entry panels made to match what you currently have. If you need a custom-built panel just contact us.
Wireless Apartment Intercom
If you can't run wires, then there are wireless options available. There are some benefits of wireless systems as well. With wireless systems, tenants don't even have to be home to answer calls from visitors. Systems that use cell phone service not only don't require running any wires to tenants apartments, they can call any phone number, either landline or mobile. There is a small monthly fee for the cell phone service of these intercoms,