Buying an Apartment Intercom System with Door Release

Tags: apartment intercom system with door release | wireless apartment | intercom system with door release | intercom system with door release | intercom systems with door release | video intercom system with door release

This guide allows you to choose an apartment intercom system with door release capabilities. We will also cover wired and wireless intercoms, as well video intercoms with door release abilities.

You can also view our articles on the list of best apartment intercoms and the best business intercom systems

Table of contents
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Person Using Swiftreader X Video Intercom
Apartment intercom system with door release

Key takeaways from this blog:

  • Types of apartment intercom systems with door unlock
  • Wired vs wireless apartment intercom systems
  • Replacing an existing apartment intercom system
  • Best apartment intercom systems with door release
  • Smart apartment intercoms
  • Modern apartment intercoms
  • Features to consider when purchasing them

If you are looking for a modern apartment intercom, you can see the Swiftlane’s video intercom here and also request a quote for your building. We also have a guide to choosing a condo intercom system here. 

First a quick technical detail:

What is an apartment intercom with door release?

An apartment intercom with door release is an intercom communication device, that connects into door locks and can open the door lock for a visitor or guest. When a visitor comes to the door intercom, they dial a name from the directory to start an audio or video call. The person receiving the call can verify the identity of the guest, and then press a mobile app button to send a door unlock command. This command physically sends a wired signal to release an electronic door lock.

How do most intercoms release the door?

Most apartment buildings have an electronic door lock that can work with a key, but also with a power source, like 12 V DC power.

Electronic Door Strike That Can Be Operated with an Intercom

Electric Strike that sits inside the door frame

Most intercom systems have a relay, which is like an electronic switch, controlling the door lock power. When the lock gets power, it will release the lock and open the door. 

Typical external relay board from Swiftlane used with an intercom

The door locks are designed in this way, so that any apartment intercom can control them, without limiting yourself to any specific type of product. This creates complete independence between the door lock and the intercom product being used. 

Do you need to change your door lock if you are upgrading your intercom?

No, most intercom systems will work with existing electronic door locks, without needing to replace them. There are always unique exceptions, reach out to us if you have questions using the online form. 

Can I still use the keys when I upgrade an intercom?

Yes, most  of the time, you are not upgrading the door lock so you can continue using the current keys without having to replace them. The intercom system will connect to the door lock in parallel to the use of the keys. 

Let’s talk about the types  of intercom systems:

Video intercom systems with door release

Most buildings are moving away from telephone buzzer systems, towards a modern apartment video intercom system. Video intercoms are growing popular due to the following reasons:

  • Video is just more secure than audio, you can see who the visitor is before letting them in
  • You can use a mobile app to remotely unlock the door by pressing a button in the app
  • You can see a photo log of the people who may have called you
  • You can generate and give our temporary PIN codes that can be used to give access to friends and family, cleaners, dog walkers and other people

You can see our review of apartment intercom systems here. 

You can see how modern video intercom systems work here:

Wireless Apartment Intercom with door release

Wireless systems are easier to install, and upgrade existing buildings. Most wireless intercom systems require just the front door intercom device, that connects to a resident using a telephone door phone call, or a video call through a mobile app on the person’s phone. 

The word, wireless intercom, can be a bit confusing. Most of the time, it refers to the ability to connect the visitor to the resident. The actual intercom unit at the front door is still wired. 

What part is wireless? 

In a wireless intercom, the call is connected wirelessly over an internet connection. The intercom device has an ethernet cable connected to it, and it will talk to the intercom provider’s servers, which would then connect the resident’s mobile app to the intercom call. This will allow a “wireless” connection between the two parties. Traditionally, this can also be achieved by using telephone line callboxes.

Swiftlane Video Intercom Call
Video intercom call with door release button

What part is wired?

The intercom is often still wired to:

  • a power supply to provide power
  • An ethernet connection going back to an internet router
  • A relay on the intercom connecting back to the door lock, to release it


Traditionally, the wired intercoms required wiring the main intercom panel to every single apartment unit buzzer. This hardwired connection could cost tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade. The newer wireless apartment intercoms can provide remote unlock and video intercom in a much more cost effective manner. E.g. Swiftlane intercoms cost roughly $2000-$3000 for the hardware and installation, to upgrade an existing building to video intercom, remote door unlock, face unlock and so much more. 

Typically, here are the costs involved for upgrading to a wireless apartment intercom with door release capabilities:

Cost of the hardware

Most of the time, you would need to purchase a modern video intercom system that can provide the wireless video calling, remote door release using the app, and other functionality like face unlock.

SwiftReader X
Swiftlane’s Swiftreader X

Cost of the installation

Often, installation involves running the internet cable from the nearest router to the intercom device. It also involves rewiring the door lock power to connect into the internet relays, mounting the intercom, programming and account setup. All this work should be done by a locally licensed technician. You can contact us and we can put you in touch with a local installation company.

Cost of the internet line or cellular line

Traditional systems ran through fixed wiring inside the building. There was no cost associated with it once installed, but it costs 10 times more to initially install them. Upgrading to a new wired intercom is not feasible and would cost enormous cost and possibly stripping down the wall to access the cabling. Newer systems require an internet connection for making video intercom calls. Many providers can offer cellular based systems as well. 

Cost of the monthly fees for covering the cloud based video calling

Modern intercom systems route calls through a web server, to connect a visitor to the resident’s mobile app. They also provide server hosted functionality like ability to remote unlock the door, and store photo and video logs. These incur some additional cost, but typically only a couple of dollars per month per apartment unit. 

Optional: Cost of covering up any older intercom space, if was too big and needs some finishing up

Sometimes, the older intercoms are very bulky and might leave a huge opening. This requires putting a cover plate to fix up the space, and may cost another $250-$350 in order to beautify the older space. Here is an example of a newer intercom on an older intercom with a cover plate. 

Intercom buzzer with door release button

If you are looking for a buzzer to be available inside the unit, this is typically harder to achieve without inflating the budget. If you want to do that, you are looking at adding another $500-$750 per apartment unit to install a modern receiving unit. However, many advanced intercom systems allow using an android or iPad tablet to receive a call, so there can be a device present for a handful of residents who want it. This will keep your costs under control. 

Wireless video intercom system with door release

Most buildings are moving to wireless video intercoms, that either can open the door with a built-in relay, or provide an additional relay board inside the building. This allows connecting to most existing door locks easily. If you are interested in purchasing a video intercom system for your apartment or condo, I highly recommend checking out our extensive checklist to review intercom providers and compare their features. 

Hope this was helpful, please leave a comment if you found it valuable, or if there is anything that can improve the content.

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