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The best way to communicate from upstairs to downstairs in a large house or from the house to the workshop out back is with a home intercom.

Types of Intercoms

There are three basic types:

  • Hardwired: Uses separate wiring system, best installed when the house or addition is still under construction. A hardwired intercom is the most secure system. It offers the clearest connection and won't suffer from interference. The simplest hardwired intercoms might use battery power, or have a wall adaptor. A good choice if you are building new and wires can be easily run.
  • Wired add-on: Piggybacks on existing phone or AC power wiring, easily installed anytime. Wired add-on intercoms are easily added after your home is built, but since they use common AC wires or your phone wires, there is a chance for interference and possibly snooping by your neighbors. Look for a system that has security encoding features to prevent this.
  • Wireless: Uses low power radio transmissions to work through walls without wiring. Has a working range of several hundred feet. Wireless is the latest and most popular type. You can put the intercom stations anywhere in the house, garage or shop. Here again, watch for features that ensure your privacy. Also remember that wireless intercoms operate in similar radio bands to cordless phones and may be susceptible to interference.

Extra Features

When shopping for a home intercom, you may want to also consider some of the features found on the newer and more expensive intercom systems:

  • video -- especially handy if you use the intercom to check who is at the front door.
  • channel FM music throughout the house -- a great way to bring the music with you as you move about your home.
  • act as a baby monitor or a security check -- a great way to monitor for a baby's cry or a child's call when you're in a different part of the house.

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