Last updated: August 10, 2021

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According to Statista, there were 87,145 cases of residential burglary recorded by the police in Germany in 2019. Unfortunately, this is no longer a rarity. Do you want to feel safe at home and know who is standing in front of your door before you open it? Then an intercom system is a good tool to help you feel safe within your own four walls.

In our intercom test 2021 we have collected comprehensive information for you so that you can find the best intercom for you. We explain not only the different types of intercoms, but also their advantages and disadvantages. In addition, we summarise for you which criteria you should consider when buying so that you can find the best product for you. We also present a few of our favourites below.

Contents




Summary

  • Intercom systems make your home safer and allow you to communicate with the visitor before you decide whether to open the door or not.
  • Acoustic signals can be sent via cable, radio or WLAN connection. The systems are then installed either "surface-mounted" or "flush-mounted".
  • Intercom systems can also be integrated into existing bell systems, provided the existing cables are intact and of good quality.

The Best Intercom: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an intercom system

What is an intercom?

An intercom is a security system that allows communication between two or more areas/intercoms in the form of electrical signals.

The internal security systems allow both parties to speak at the same time and are mainly used for home security. They can be used between indoor and outdoor areas (e.g. front door) or between two rooms.

Gegensprechanlage-1

The intercom system was invented in 1854 by a precision mechanic .
(Image source: unsplash.com/Bernard Hermant)

How is an intercom system constructed?

An intercom is built in such a way that it has an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. These both have a microphone and a loudspeaker. The outdoor unit also has a bell button, which sends the signal to the indoor unit, e.g. by cable or radio.

An intercom system is designed in such a way that speaking is possible in both directions. Depending on the model, the indoor unit also has a button to confirm the speech connection or a loudspeaker in the form of a telephone receiver.

How does an intercom system work? And how does an intercom with door opener work?

An intercom system basically works with an indoor and outdoor unit. The outdoor unit attempts to establish a speech connection with the indoor unit by pressing the bell/push button.

As a rule, the bell is integrated into the intercom system, so that the ringing sound is also heard when the button is pressed. The indoor unit establishes the connection by pressing an (answer) button or lifting the receiver. The connection can be wired or wireless (via radio or WLAN).

An intercom system with door opener also has a button in the indoor unit that is connected to the door. When this is activated, a buzzing sound signals to the visitor that the door can be opened. This time is usually limited to a few seconds.

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Most indoor stations with a receiver have a built-in magnet to prevent it from falling off.
(Image source: Unsplash.com/Franziska Meyer)

Who is an intercom (door phone) suitable for?

An intercom/door phone system is usually suitable for everyone, as it increases security and is convenient, especially if the entrance area is not easily visible.

However, an intercom system is particularly useful for children, the elderly or people in need of care, as it provides access control.

What are the advantages of an intercom system?

An intercom system offers the following advantages:

  • Increased security
  • Convenient door opening
  • generally simple installation
  • simple operation
  • many possible additional functions (door opener, camera, etc.)
  • Resident can see who is standing in front of the door without being seen
  • Ideal for rented flats (works from all floors)

How much does a (good) intercom cost?

You can get a good intercom system for as little as 50 euros. There are no upper limits. The price varies depending on the features, additional functions, material and design.

Here is a rough overview:

Type Price
Simple wired intercom (two units) from 50€
WLAN intercom with door opener and camera from 300€
Wireless intercom with multiple units from 500€

Intercom systems for apartment buildings are usually more expensive because they have several units that are connected. Remember that, depending on the system, you may need to hire an electrician to do the installation (for wired systems). This takes about 35 to 50 euros per hour. Discuss in advance how much work you can expect to be involved.

What alternatives are there to intercom systems?

There are several alternatives. Here we present a few:

  • Door viewer: The door viewer also makes it possible to see who is standing in front of the door without opening it (only suitable for single-family houses, this does not help in houses with several flats)
  • Surveillance camera at the entrance to the house: With a surveillance camera you can see who is standing in front of your door before you open it
  • Video intercom: A video intercom works like an intercom, except that it also transmits a video image

Decision: What types of intercoms are there and which one is right for you?

How does a wired intercom work?

A wired intercom, as the name suggests, is connected by cable or wire. This means that either existing wires must be used or new ones must be laid.

A wired intercom system then sends the acoustic signals (ring tone, conversations) via these cables or wires from one station to the other. There are different wiring options. 2-wire or 4-wire intercom systems are common.

What is the difference between a 2-wire or 4-wire intercom system?

The 2-wire or 4-wire technology differs in the number of lines ("wires"), as the respective name already reveals. The 2-wire technology only needs two wires to transmit sound, video or power. The somewhat older 4-wire technology uses four wires in contrast.

The 2-wire technology, often also called 2-wire bus system, has many advantages. Here is a brief overview:

Advantages
  • Power cable can be saved (less material costs)
  • Easy installation
  • Connection to existing bell systems possible
Disadvantages
  • Cable must have a minimum cross-section of 0.75 mm² to prevent interference
  • Smart-Phone connection only with separate IP gateway

The designation 2-wire system is not protected and is therefore sometimes incorrectly used for marketing purposes, although an additional power cable may be required. Therefore, always pay attention to the exact description!

The 4-wire technique uses four wires. This technology needs a separate line for power, sound or video.

Advantages
  • Thin wires also possible
  • Higher interference resistance
  • Higher video quality (if a camera is integrated)
Disadvantages
  • High expenditure for retrofitting in existing buildings
  • Only suitable for new buildings

This technology is not particularly well established. The 2-wire bus system is more commonly used.

What is the BUS system that is used in many intercom systems?

BUS is an abbreviation for "Binary Unit System". The BUS technology is a frequently used communication and control system to exchange information between the different system components.

The signals are sent via a common transmission path, but the individual data transmissions are clearly separated from each other.

How does a radio intercom system work?

A radio intercom system forwards the signal as soon as someone presses the bell or speaks to the indoor station via a radio frequency. The indoor station plays back the received signal with a selected tone and enables a voice connection when the receiver is picked up.

Radio technology is built into both the transmitter and receiver device, which makes it possible to send and receive the signal.

Advantages
  • Easy installation
  • Can be controlled via smartphone or tablet
  • No cables need to be laid
Disadvantages
  • More susceptible to interference than a cable connection
  • battery must be recharged

How does a WLAN intercom system work?

A WLAN intercom system is integrated into the home WLAN network and sends signals via it. As a rule, these are not pure intercom systems but fully equipped video door intercom systems.

An audio and/or video signal is sent from the doorbell to the smartphone or tablet via an app, which establishes communication, whereby the resident can also be on the move and talk to the visitor at the front door.

Furthermore, a wifi doorbell can partly serve as a surveillance system, because here there are additional functions such as motion detectors, face recognition and, to a limited extent, also the recording of images and videos.

Advantages
  • Easy to install
  • Can be controlled via smartphone or tablet
  • No cables need to be laid
Disadvantages
  • WLAN router must be nearby
  • battery must be recharged

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate intercoms

In the following, we would like to show you which criteria you can use to compare and evaluate the countless offers so that you can find the right intercom system more easily.

The following aspects will help you to compare:

Here we explain what you should look out for.

Material

The housing of an intercom system can be made of plastic, aluminium, stainless steel or sometimes even glass. This makes a difference both visually and in terms of quality.

Here is a small overview:

Material in comparison
Plastic partly water-repellent, inexpensive, easy to assemble
Aluminium higher quality and more stable than plastic, visually appealing
Stainless steel very durable, robust and chic design
Glass visually chic, but also more sensitive

Water protection (IP)

An intercom system should be waterproof, especially if it is installed unprotected outdoors, so that it lasts a long time. A good point of reference here is the IP value.

According to DIN 40050, protection classes for electronic devices have been defined. These protection classes are divided into values from IP00 to IP69K. The abbreviation IP stands for International Protection. The first number indicates the protection against the penetration of foreign bodies, the second the protection against water. The higher the number, the better the protection. Accordingly, IP00 is not protected against dust and not against water.

The most common protection rating for intercoms is IP 55, which means that the device is protected against dust and jets of water. A high protection value promises better durability in wind and weather.

Volume & Ringtone Variation

Volume is important in an intercom to ensure proper communication. Since a bell is usually also integrated, the choice of ring tones is also important here.

When buying an intercom, you should pay attention to how many volume levels are available and how loud they are. Of course, the size of the house or flat plays a role here, as well as your own hearing sensation. Three volume levels are usually sufficient.

There are various intercom systems with different ringing melodies. With a large selection of melodies, there is certainly something for you. You have to decide for yourself what you like.

Expandability

This point is important for you if you live in a larger house or have a granny flat. Of course, this also applies to apartment buildings and rented flats. Then it is helpful to pay attention to how many possible indoor stations you can add to the system.

There are models with several indoor stations that can be expanded. Pay attention to the maximum number.

LED lighting (doorbell plate)

LED comes from the English and means light-emitting diode.

If the bell is integrated into the intercom system, make sure that the bell sign is illuminated. This is helpful for visitors and looks visually attractive.

Permanently illuminated doorbell signs require more power, alternatively there are some where the LED display only comes on at the touch of a button. This can be particularly useful for apartment buildings.

Surface-mounted / flush-mounted installation

An intercom system can be installed "surface-mounted" or "flush-mounted". Flush-mounted installation is more complex because the system is built into the wall. With surface-mounted, also unprotected installation, the whole thing is simply mounted on the wall outside.

Surface-mounted installation is simple because the entire system and thus also the cables are visibly attached to the wall. The cables run directly on the wall or in electrical installation pipes. These are then fastened with small clamps. This makes the entire system look less integrated.

Advantages
  • Simplest type of installation
  • Subsequent changes or extensions are easy
Disadvantages
  • Visually less appealing
  • visible cables outside

Flush-mounted installation requires a hole in the wall in which the flush-mounted box can be installed. The electronics are usually hidden in this box. This can also be done in existing buildings, but it is more complex and cost-intensive.

There are various ways in which the flush-mounted installation can be fixed. A flush-mounted box is always necessary.

  • Bolt plate: Is attached to the back of the system and is not visible from the front. It is fixed directly to the masonry of the house with dowels.
  • Silicone adhesive: The system is glued to the masonry with silicone adhesive. However, it is difficult to remove later.
  • Tension spring: Similar to a socket, an intercom system can also be fixed with a tension spring. To do this, the housing must be pressed onto it and fastened with snap locks.
  • Threaded inserts: Here, small screws are screwed into the threaded inserts for fastening and an outer plate is pre-screwed.
Advantages
  • Electrical equipment (cables etc.) disappears into the wall
  • beautifully integrated into the house wall
Disadvantages
  • Complex installation
  • Higher installation costs
  • Possibly a hole must also be drilled in the wall

Additional functions (Smart Home, camera, door opener, fingerprint)

When buying, you can orientate yourself on which additional functions the intercom system offers. This also depends on your individual needs and wishes.

  • Camera: An integrated camera in the intercom system gives you the security of being able to see not only the voice but also who is visiting. This way you don't even have to let unwanted visitors know that you are at home.
  • Door opener: Another very practical additional function is a door opener. This is especially useful in apartment buildings. You can receive visitors without having to go to the door.
  • Fingerprint: This option integrates a fingerprint scanner as an entrance control, which allows the door to be opened by fingerprint. This eliminates the need for a key. With this technology, multiple fingerprints can also be stored. According to a Statista survey, only 4% use this technology so far, but it is becoming increasingly popular and 30% are planning to purchase it.
  • Smart Home: There is the possibility to connect the intercom with your smartphone. This gives you quick access from anywhere. There are now almost no limits. Some devices allow everything from voice recognition to automatic door openers. Your advantage is that you can also receive a notification when someone is at your door.

Smart Home Tür Gegensprechanlage

The advantage of a Smart Home intercom is that you receive a notification directly on your smartphone when someone is at your door.
Image source: Unsplash.com / Sebastian Scholz (Nuki))

You can consider all these additional functions when buying a device to find the one that suits you best.

Facts worth knowing about the topic of intercom systems

At what height should I install the intercom?

When installing the intercom, you should make sure that everyone can reach it. This includes children and people in wheelchairs. Therefore, a height between 1.10 and 1.40 metres above the floor is recommended. This way, no one has to bend or stretch excessively.

Who is responsible for installing the intercom system? Tenant or landlord?

The landlord is responsible for this. The installation is a measure to increase the value of the owner's flat. The tenant is not responsible for this.

What is the difference between an intercom system and an intercom system?

The difference is that with an intercom system you only speak in turn. With an intercom, both people can communicate with each other at the same time.

Is the intercom part of the common property?

In apartment buildings with condominiums, each flat uses the intercom system installed in the building, which is why it counts as common property due to its shared use.

Image source: Kachmar/ 123rf.com

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