Apartment buzzers are the buzzword this year when it comes to providing safe and convenient access to people visiting multifamily buildings. However, today’s buzzers are much different from their simple predecessors. They don’t just allow visitors to buzz apartments, but also route their call to the residents’ mobile phone when they’re not at home. Popularly known as apartment intercom systems, these modern day apartment buzzers leverage technology to provide residents, visitors and property managers with a range of useful features, including video calling, remote management, mobile unlocking, and automated keyless entry for visitors and residents.
In this comprehensive apartment buzzer guide, we’ll discuss everything you ever wanted to know about modern apartment buzzer intercom systems, giving you some solid buying tips that can never go wrong. Let’s buzz you right in.
Table of contents
- What is an Apartment Buzzer?
- Types of Apartment Buzzers
- Components of a Modern Apartment Buzzer Intercom System
- How Does an Apartment Buzzer System Work?
- How to Use an Apartment Buzzer Intercom?
- Why You Should Upgrade to a Smart Intercom Buzzer System
- Benefits of Apartment Intercom Systems
- Best Apartment Buzzer Intercom Systems for Multifamily Residential Buildings
- Apartment Buzzers and Access Control
- What Are Building Access Codes and How Are They Changed?
- The Role of a Door Buzzer in Managing Access During Tenant Turnover
- Apartment Buzzer FAQs
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What is an Apartment Buzzer?
An apartment door buzzer system, sometimes also called an apartment video intercom system or a smart buzzer system, is an electronic communication system that enables visitors to call their host from the building’s front door and request access into the building. The system allows the resident receiving the call to unlock the door remotely using wired or wireless door release mechanisms.
Types of Apartment Buzzers
Apartment buzzers can be placed in various broad categories based on the communication protocols and door release mechanism they use. Here are the common types used at multifamily residential buildings:
Fixed Line Apartment Buzzers: These door buzzer ancestors operate via dedicated fixed electric cables running between the front front door panel and each apartment. Their earliest generation would just sound a buzzer in the apartment when that apartment’s button was pressed, hence the term ‘door buzzer’. Audio intercoms were soon added to these system, but it was always expensive and complicated to install fixed line intercom buzzers at large multi-tenant buildings. They could not call local or mobile numbers and of course, offered no remote unlocking features.
Telephone entry systems: Fixed-line buzzer systems were not efficient or cost effective when it came to large-scale deployments. Telephone building entry systems provided the answer. Still in use at many multifamily apartment complexes and condominium communities, these telephone entry system systems allow residents to receive visitor calls and grant access via their landline telephone, without the need for a separate intercom line or handset. Some of the legacy telephone entry systems have upgraded over the years to offer mobile calling and unlocking features, but they have severe limitations when compared with the latest video intercom entry systems – such as difficult programming, expensive landline bills, and lack of video entry surveillance.
Digital intercom systems: These systems use fixed wires to relay voice and video signals and to connect with the door release mechanism. Just like fixed line door buzzers, they require cables (ethernet or Cat 5) to run from the main door entry panel down to each apartment unit. Some of these systems have evolved to include VoIP wireless calling in their products.
Wireless intercom systems: These door buzzer intercoms use wireless communication between the caller and the recipient as well as between the intercom and the door release mechanism. Older wireless systems used RF signals to communicate and had several handicaps. The latest wireless door buzzers are connected to the internet and use VoIP protocols to relay voice and video signals. These systems can operate wirelessly as well as through ethernet cables.
Smartphone video intercom systems: Also known as smart intercoms, these systems allow residents to see and speak to visitors via their smartphone, even when they are not at home. Residents and pre approved visitors can also access the building using entry pin codes or their smartphones, either by clicking or scanning entry links or by using their smartphone like a keycard.
Check out: Apartment Intercom System: Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Components of a Modern Apartment Buzzer Intercom System
A modern wireless or smart door buzzer system consists of two main hardware components:
- An entry panel: This is installed at the front door and allows visitors to alert the residents via audio or video calls or via push notifications.
- Receiving station: Depending upon the type of intercom system being used, residents can receive visitor calls via fixed indoor monitors as well as through their mobile phone.
The person being called can unlock the door and grant access to the caller by pressing a button on their monitor or mobile app.
How Does an Apartment Buzzer System Work?
The entry panel of a modern apartment intercom system is equipped with a microphone, a speaker, and a video camera. It has a touchscreen interface that visitors can use to browse the resident directory and call the person they’re visiting by tapping on their name.
The buzzer system automatically routes the call to a fixed indoor monitor installed in each apartment and also to the resident’s smartphone or cell phone, if it’s a smart intercom system. The residents can grant access by pressing the door release button on their monitor screen or mobile app or by pressing a predefined digit on their regular cell phone.
Watch: How Swiftlane Smart Door Buzzer Simplifies Access for Multifamily Buildings
How to Use an Apartment Buzzer Intercom?
How you use a multifamily apartment building buzzer system depends on who you are—a resident, tenant, visitor, delivery person or a building manager.
Using a Buzzer System as a Tenant
If you’re moving into a new apartment in a building with a smart door buzzer, you and your family and friends, will have multiple options for gaining access to the building. These may include building entry codes, your mobile phone, or even your face, if the building has Swiftlane video intercom system installed.
You’ll be able to receive visitor calls on your mobile phone even when you’re not in your apartment and grant access from wherever you may be. Schedule automatic permanent or time-barred access for your friends, dog walker, visitors and deliveries and watch live entry video before granting access.
Using an Apartment Buzzer System as a Visitor
Visitors to a multifamily building can include personal guests, delivery couriers, maintenance personnel, food deliveries and frequent visitors such as dog walkers, therapists or fitness coaches. A modern apartment buzzer provides a convenient workflow for each type of visitor.
- Personal guests can simply call their host from the intercom’s entry door station. In case their host has enabled automated access for them, the guest can unlock the front door by entering a pin code into the buzzer system’s entry panel.
- Amazon drivers, USPS and other courier people can often be allowed automatic access by scanning their badge with the entry panel’s camera or entering a pin code.
- Food deliveries can call the starving resident directly before their meals get cold.
- Dog walkers, maintenance people, and other frequent visitors can be given automated pin code access on the days and times when they’re supposed to be visiting.
Using a Buzzer System as a Property Manager
You and your staff can use the apartment buzzer to control access to the building, improve security, track entries and exits and prevent package theft. You can grant or revoke access permissions, lock and unlock doors, and view entry footage and snapshots remotely from anywhere. Smart intercom buzzer systems are easy to manage. You can add and remove users, assign and reassign building entry codes, and grant or revoke access permissions from anywhere through intuitive web and mobile interfaces.
Watch How Swiftlane Simplifies Administrator Onboarding!
Why You Should Upgrade to a Smart Intercom Buzzer System
You and most importantly your prospective tenants are missing out on the benefits of modern access technology if your apartment buzzer looks like this:
Your building will deliver a much better first impression and your residents will enjoy a superior living experience if you have a smart door buzzer system that looks like this:
A modern door buzzer replacement doesn’t only have better aesthetics, it also has better features that make it worth investing. Let’s look at some of the benefits of a smart intercom system for apartments.
Benefits of Apartment Intercom Systems
Apartment intercom systems offer safety, convenience, and a sense of community for apartment dwellers. They provide numerous benefits to residents, building management, and visitors. Here are some of them:
- Enhanced security: Apartment intercoms enhance security by allowing residents to screen visitors before granting them access to the building, reducing the risk of unauthorized entry
- Effective two-way communication: Buzzer intercom systems improve communication between residents and visitors, ensuring smooth and efficient entry and exit from the building
- Increased convenience: Smart intercom systems offer a level of convenience, as residents can remotely grant access to visitors from inside or outside their homes
- Video surveillance: Video intercom systems watch the entry, capture entry photos, and allow residents to visually identify the caller
- Increased property value: Modern apartment buzzer systems can increase property value and desirability, as they are considered a modern and essential feature of multifamily living
Keeping these benefits in mind, it is a no brainer why modern-day property managers invest in smart door buzzer intercoms rather than an outdated telephone entry systems, particularly when both the systems have a competitive total cost of ownership (TCO).
So, what are your options if you decide to replace your old apartment buzzer with a modern alternative?
Watch: Swiftlane Apartment Buzzer: SwiftReader X in Action
Best Apartment Buzzer Intercom Systems for Multifamily Residential Buildings
Here are some of the most popular apartment intercom buzzer systems:
Swiftlane Video Intercom and Access Control System
Swiftlane is an all-in-one multifamily access control and security solution that comes with a built-in smart video intercom, pin and mobile entry options. It even has AI powered facial recognition access features for a next-level visitor and resident experience. Swiftlane apartment buzzer’s key benefits include:
- Super-easy installation and wired/wireless operability
- Manage any number of doors across any number of locations from a single dashboard
- 2-way HD video and audio calling and remote door release through mobile app and browser interface
- Automatic audio call placement and door release via GSM phones and POTS landlines
- Multiple access methods for visitors and residents
Learn more about Swiftlane Video Intercom
2N Video Intercom
2N is an old and established player in the building intercom market. Over the years, the European manufacturer has added IP communication and video calling to its range of products, but it’s still not a mobile-first or the most user-friendly solution for building managers and residents. 2N’s video intercom product is branded 2N IP Verso, which has a video camera but no live video footage display in its entry panel. Key features include:
- SIP calling to IP phones only – buy 2N LTE Verso for calling via mobile broadband
- Mobile app for video calling and door release via tablets and smartphones
- Access control options (add-ons) include Bluetooth, RFID, and fingerprints
- Captures and emails entry photos if you select the model with the camera
In Depth: 2N Intercom Review, Pricing, and Comparison with Swiftlane
DKS Doorking Door Buzzer
Doorking is a household name in apartment building entry systems. Established in 1948, the company practically invented telephone entry systems for apartments. You can still see their legacy door buzzer systems installed in apartment buildings of NYC and other metropolises. Primarily known for its telephone line apartment buzzer system, DKS offers a wide range of PC programmable audio intercom apartment buzzer products that look old fashioned and outdated. Key features of Doorking’s apartment buzzer solutions include:
- System customization, configuration, and installation by DKS dealers
- No mobile calling or video calling capabilities unless you install and integrate extra equipment
- The system cannot be called user friendly for managers and residents
- Large and retro-style hardware, which, though reliable, doesn’t look very sophisticated
In Depth: Doorking Telephone Entry Systems Review and Comparison with Swiftlane
Aiphone Intercom for Apartment Buildings
Established in 1948, Aiphone has been providing communication solutions for more than 70 years. Their intercom systems are commonly used in apartment buildings and provide a simple way for residents to communicate with visitors and control access to the building. However, compared to the latest intercom systems like Swiftlane, the Aiphone intercom system falls short in terms of modern features and sophistication. The Aiphone system typically requires a dedicated landline connection, and its functionality is limited to audio communication and door release. The interface is also not very user-friendly and can be difficult to navigate for some users. Key features include:
- Requires dedicated landline connection
- Provides two-way audio-only communication between apartment units and front door
- Remote door release by pressing a digit on your landline phone
- Built to last, with many models designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and heavy use
In Depth: Aiphone Intercom Review, Cost and Comparison with Swiftlane
Related post: 19 Important Tips for Apartment Buzzer Replacement
Apartment Buzzers and Access Control
An apartment buzzer must do two things – allow visitors to call residents, and allow residents to unlock the door remotely. The remote door release function makes physical access control an essential part of all apartment buzzers.
Access Control in Old Apartment Buzzers:
Old buzzers had electric wires running from a control box to each apartment unit, connecting residents with the door unlocking mechanism. These systems were not secure as they left no audit trails and captured no entry photos. They also had no remote unlocking features and came with expensive installation costs, landline bills and service contracts.
Access Control in Modern Apartment Buzzers:
In smart buzzer systems such as Swiftlane, an apartment video intercom system is built into the buzzer as just one of the access control options. Visitors can access the building either by video calling their host or by using pin codes or QR codes assigned to them by their host. The same system also allows residents to access the building using a variety of entry options such as facial recognition touchless access, mobile unlock, and access codes. The system automatically maintains a record of all entry logs along with visitor photos that can be accessed in case of an eventuality.
Benefits of Integrated Access Control and Intercom
Integrated access control and intercom systems offer several benefits, including improved security and convenience. By combining these two systems:
- Remote Unlocking: Access to a building can be controlled and entry can be granted remotely, reducing the need for on-site security personnel
- Two Way Communication: Visitors and tenants can communicate with each other through the intercom, improving overall communication, access control, and safety
- Increased Efficiency: The integration also allows for centralized monitoring and management of both systems, reducing administrative workload and enhancing efficiency
- Simplified Building Access: Finally, integrated apartment buzzer intercom and access control allows for easy and hassle-free entry for residents, their friends and family. They can unlock the front door and enter the building by using building entry codes, smartphones, and facial recognition access.
Deep Dive: Best Visitor Management System Reviews
What Are Building Access Codes and How Are They Changed?
Access codes, also called entry pin codes, are typically four to six-digit numbers that residents or authorized personnel must enter into a keypad or phone system to gain entry to the building.
How to change access codes?
Building managers or owners should periodically change access codes to prevent unauthorized entry and ensure the safety of the building’s residents. In some cases, residents may also need to change their access codes to maintain their personal security, such as when they suspect their code may have been compromised.
To change access codes, the property manager or building owner should first consult the manufacturer’s instructions for the buzzer or intercom system to determine the process for changing codes. In some systems, the codes can be changed remotely through a computer or smartphone app, while in others, a physical keypad or phone system must be used.
The best apartment video intercom systems allow property managers and residents to change access codes easily through a browser interface or mobile app, without having to go to the intercom panel or have a technician come on-site to reconfigure the code.
Watch: Changing Tenant Access Codes on Aiphone GT Series Panel
How to Avoid Security Risk of Shared Visitor PIN Codes
If your building’s staff and tenants are sharing visitor entry codes to grant self-access to delivery people or guests, it’s only a matter of time before the shared pins become common knowledge and defeat the whole idea of building security. Today’s apartment buzzers offer robust security features such as video entry surveillance, single entry pin codes, and facial recognition access, which reduce the security risk arising from shared visitor pins.
The Role of a Door Buzzer in Managing Access During Tenant Turnover
Before the introduction of smart buzzer systems, building staff used lockboxes to securely store the keys during the turnover period. Old and new tenants, contractors, and and change the locks when a tenant moves out. While these steps may be essential for buildings with a physical lock-and-key entry system in place, digital access and intercom systems provide a much simpler way to manage and secure access even during tenant turnover.
Using Swiftlane Face Recognition and Video Intercom Access System, you can instantly open doors, enroll or remove users, modify access permissions, and provide time-barred pin codes to renters and contractors. There’s no need for lockboxes or new locks when the old occupants and maintenance people leave and new tenants move in.
The Best Apartment Intercom Systems 2023
Apartment Intercom System: Ultimate Buyer’s Guide (2023)
Apartment Buzzer FAQs
Apartment buzzer is not working – what can I do?
As a resident, you should contact your landlord or building manager to report the issue. As a manager, you should contact your service provider or a professional technician to diagnose and repair the buzzer system promptly. For a smart cloud-based intercom system, the service provider may take care of the issues depending upon the terms of your service contract.
Can you make an old apartment buzzer smart and how?
Smart door buzzers are connected to the internet and can call residents on external landlines and mobile phones. If you’d like your old apartment call box to work like a smart intercom system, you’ll need some technical knowledge and a bit of experimentation. Here are a few useful links to help you execute this project:
- YouTuber GreatScott’s push notification device – here’s what it does: watch video
- Turn your old apartment buzzer into a smart doorbell – “kind of like a Ring device, minus the video”
- SwitchBot is a clever work around that makes legacy buzzers smart – here’s a video explaining how it works.
Yes, you got that right. The end product is probably not going to be worth the effort, so you should consider a replacement.
Can I Buzz in Visitors from Multiple Phones?
Smart apartment buzzers let visitors call residents on multiple phones, including landlines, smartphones and regular cell phones. As a resident, you can just share your phone numbers with the building management and ask them to feed them into the intercom system. The buzzer can be programmed to call the given numbers in a sequence or simultaneously. You can buzz up your guests from the phone on which you are receiving the call – by pressing the unlock button on the mobile app if you’re using a smartphone and by pressing digit 9 on landlines and cell phones.
What is the Difference between Front Desk Intercom vs Multi-Tenant Intercom
Front desk intercoms only allow communication between the visitor and the front desk staff, whereas multi-tenant intercoms allow visitors to contact each individual apartment unit. Front desk intercoms, also known as single-tenant intercoms, are also used in single family homes. Multi-tenant intercoms are only used in multifamily residential buildings.
Should I Buy a One-Way or Two-Way Video Intercom
A one-way video intercom for apartments allows the resident receiving the call to hear and see the person calling, but the caller cannot see the resident. A two-way video intercom allows both the visitor and the resident to see and hear each other, although residents have the option to block their video. Two-way video intercoms are generally more useful for communication and security purposes.
Watch: Swiftlane 2-Way Video Intercom and Access Control
Apartment Buzzer Buying Tips for 2023
There are dozens of door buzzer brands and products out there on the market. Making the right decision is not easy. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your needs including the number of doors and common use facilities you want to manage. To be worth your money in 2023, an apartment buzzer system should have the following abilities.
Ability to Manage Multiple Access Points
One of the key benefits that modern access control systems offer is the ability to manage multiple doors across multiple buildings. Being cloud-based, systems such as Swiftlane and others can be scaled to operate a potentially unlimited number of entries and buildings. All the access points can be managed easily from anywhere through browser-based screens.
Seamless Access for Family and Friends
Let’s say your friends decide to throw you a surprise visit while you’re away fishing. After multiple attempts to buzz your apartment through the old buzzer, they call you on your mobile phone, but you have no way to unlock the door for them. Such unpleasant surprises can be completely avoided if your apartment building uses a smart access control system. You can simply unlock the door from anywhere or even provide automatic entry codes to your guests, allowing them to let themselves in instantly.
Watch: All-in-one Access Control for All
Ability to Provide Complete Common Area Security
Common areas in apartment and condo buildings can include hallways, doors, elevators, lobbies, amenities such as storage rooms, package room, laundry, lounges, and fitness and recreational facilities. Wouldn’t it be great if you had one system controlling access to all of these areas, starting from the main door? All in one integrated access control and video intercom systems such as Swiftlane make it simple to manage complete common area access. Its user-friendly web interface allows managers to view all doors and amenities, manage access permissions, enroll and remove users, and generate usage reports.
Ability to Easily Change Access Codes
As we discussed above, older door buzzer systems required building staff to go to the intercom’s master panel whenever they needed to change building access codes. Smart buzzer systems allow managers to change pin codes from anywhere using a browser interface or mobile application.
A property manager looking to buy an apartment buzzer system today probably needs to buy a smart intercom system for their multifamily building. These systems operate wirelessly and can be installed with minimal disturbance and cost. They look good on your front door and offer your tenants a high-tech building entry experience, just what they expect in 2023.