It’s easy to buy a Ring Doorbell during a sale, only to later open the box, see all the wires and confusing instructions inside, and think: what have I done? How do I install this?
One part of this confusion is that Ring includes a “jumper cable” kit. But what exactly is a jumper cable? And do you actually need it? Well the short answer is…
The Ring Doorbell jumper cable kit allows you to bypass the chime coil, giving sufficient power to your Ring Doorbell to function. But this also means that your old doorbell won’t chime anymore.
This is naturally a bit of a confusing area, so let’s dig into this topic in a bit more detail.
Recap: The Ring Doorbell Range
The Ring Doorbell range put smart homes on the map. These doorbells are fairly small devices that include a camera and motion sensor, meaning that they can replace your old fashioned doorbell:
There are two main types of Ring doorbell:
- Battery powered doorbells. These contain a battery, allowing for easy installation since there are no wires to worry about. They do need to be recharged from time to time, but this only takes a few hours – and the battery can last for six or more months at a time.
- Hardwired doorbells. These have no battery, and instead they need to be wired into your house’s electrical system. While this makes the installation process harder, it results in better performance than the battery-powered doorbells.
Some people hardwire their Ring doorbells using a nearby circuit (such as a lighting circuit), while other people re-use the existing doorbell wiring to instead power their Ring doorbell. This can result in a problem, though: there isn’t always enough voltage (power) to ring the old doorbell chime, and also allow the Ring Doorbell to function as it should.
This is where a jumper cable comes in.
What A Jumper Cable Is
In its most general terms, a jumper cable diverts power from one source, moving it to another. You may have used a jumper cable when jump starting a car:
Here a jumper cable will take power from one car’s battery (or a portable recharging unit), and ‘send’ it to another car – i.e. the one with a flat battery. Jumper cables are also used on vans, trains, tractors and more.
However beyond these large-scale uses, a jumper cable can also be used for smaller purposes: such as wiring up a household doorbell.
When (And Why) Your Ring Doorbell Will Need A Jumper Cable
As mentioned earlier, if you want to hardwire your Ring Doorbell, you might choose to re-use the existing doorbell wiring. After all, if you plan on replacing your old doorbell with a Ring Doorbell, you don’t need that old wiring, right?
One problem is that your old doorbell will probably have a wall-mounted chime unit somewhere:
While this can sometimes work fine, often old doorbells are fairly low power – they don’t contain a power-hungry camera and motion sensor, after all! This presents a problem because even if your Ring doorbell supports ringing your chime unit, there might not be enough available electrical power to support your chime unit and also your Ring doorbell.
Just think of what needs to happen when someone walks up to your Ring Doorbell, and presses it:
- The Ring Doorbell’s PIR sensor will start sensing the person walking up to the doorbell, and has to start deciding whether to start recording (based on the configured motion settings).
- If (or when) it starts deciding to record, the Ring Doorbell will connect with Ring’s cloud servers and activate the camera – allowing the recording to begin.
- A motion notification might also be sent to user’s smartphones.
- If (or when) someone clicks the doorbell button itself, another notification is sent: saying that the doorbell has been rung.
- At this point, any pre-existing chime unit might also start ringing.
While Ring Doorbells don’t use too much electric, these steps still require more electrical power than the vast majority of old doorbells support.
Therefore if there isn’t enough electrical power to also ring the pre-existing chime unit, you will need to use the included jumper cable kit:
Without this, the Ring Doorbell might turn off when someone rings the doorbell (because there is too much demand for electrical power at this point). This is the first reason why you will need to use a jumper cable.
Secondly, not all Ring Doorbells actually support ringing the old chime unit. The Ring Doorbell Wired doesn’t support this (it’s part of the reason why it’s sold for $40, while the Ring Doorbell Pro is $160+):
Since the Ring Doorbell Wired can’t ring your pre-existing doorbell chime, you will also always need to use the jumper kit here – so that you bypass the chime coil that rings out when your doorbell is pressed.
How To Use The Jumper Kit
Your pre-existing doorbell chime probably has some wiring that goes to and from the actual chime coil, which is the part of the chime unit that makes a loud sound when your doorbell is pressed. Therefore you will need to take these wires, and bypass them using the included Ring jumper cable kit.
Go to 1:10 (1 minute, 10 seconds) on this YouTube video which explains this process in more detail:
When You Can Skip Using A Jumper Cable
Now that we’ve covered when you will need to use a jumper cable, let’s also cover when you can skip this step.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, you need to use a jumper cable to bypass the existing chime – in other words, to stop it ringing. By the opposite logic, there’s two cases when you don’t need to use a jumper cable:
- If your Ring Doorbell fully supports ringing the existing chime (and there’s enough power available for this). The Ring Doorbell Pro 1 and Pro 2 both support this, and the included Ring DIN rail transformer ensures that you will have enough power available.
- If you don’t have an existing chime unit at all. It’s entirely possible to insert the Ring transformer straight into your breaker panel, and then run a cable straight to your Ring Doorbell. This is called a “direct to transformer” install, and it means that you skip any chime unit completely. In this setup, you will need to use a plug-in Ring Chime to let you know that someone is at your door.
I installed my Ring Doorbell Pro via approach (2), and as a result, I have never needed to use the jumper cable kit.
Do You Have To Use Ring’s ‘Official’ Jumper Cable?
You do not need to use the official jumper cable kit that Ring includes in the box of your hardwired Ring Doorbell. If you have lost this, you can either purchase a separate jumper kit – or just splice the two chime coil wires together to manually bypass the chime unit.
Of course, the Ring jumper cable kit is quite convenient – so if you have lost it (and you need to use a jumper cable, as explained earlier) you can always purchase a Ring spare parts kit.
These kits usually cost just $1.99 (or £2.99 in the UK), although shipping will be extra. They also include any Ring doorbell screws that you might have accidentally lost.
Note: the Ring Doorbell Pro’s spart parts kit doesn’t include a specific jumper cable kit, but the included wire nuts should allow you to bypass the chime coil regardless.