Smart home door locks are a great place to start if you’re considering upgrading your home security. Smart locks provide convenience and an added layer of security. Let’s start off by making one thing clear. The main purpose of smart locks it to make things easier and safer to an extent. Smart locks enhance your homes overall safety via remote access and automatically locking the door behind you. However, the primary purpose of smart locks is flat out convenience. All in all, smart locks make it so that you can enter your home without breaking stride. The is especially true if your arms are full of groceries or if you frequently lose your keys.
What is a Smart Home Door Lock?
A smart home door lock is nothing more than an electronic lock. Smart locks use Bluetooth, WiFi or Z-Wave protocols to interact with other devices in your smart home. You use either an app on your smartphone or a dedicated fob. As you approach the door, it will unlock for you saving you from fumbling for your key or, even worse, finding you left your keys at work.
Deadbolt: To Upgrade or Replace?
Some smart home door locks allow you to work around your existing deadbolt while others call for a replacement. Smart locks like those from August fit over the hardware in place meaning you can achieve connectivity without the expense of a total deadbolt replacement while also keeping your keys as a back-up.
Most electronic door locks require a replacement deadbolt. You’ll need little more than a screwdriver and 30 minutes, but there are a couple of factors to consider when carrying out the work. Take a snapshot of your existing locking hardware then you can always switch back to how things were if you run into problems with your smart door lock. It’s also wise to double-check for compatibility before purchase. If you need to push or pull your door too hard for smooth bolt operation, it might not be ideal for a smart lock. Make sure the door is thick enough to cope with the lock, too. Download the app for the lock you’re considering since you’ll get detailed instructions about fitting and compatibility.
Do You Rent or Own Your Home?
If you’re a homeowner, any changing and making the switch to the electronic door locks are down to you. When you’re renting a property, you should contact your landlord before uprating your locks. Get permission in writing to protect yourself when it comes time to move out.
Type of Lock
While you can get keyed electronic locks, the majority of these automated systems are now keyless.
Keyless smart locks fall into three broad categories:
- Touchscreen: Touchscreen smart locks ID your fingerprints much like a biometric reader. You can use a backup code in the event of any system malfunction.
- Keypad: With push-button keyboards, you need to enter a numeric code to gain access.
- Smart Phone Access: The bulk of the best smart locks now come with a sensor so you can unlock your day in-app on your phone.
On many commercial buildings, you’ll see fob-enabled smart locks you can unlock without using a smartphone. A single fob will typically open and close all locks on that system simplifying things for you.
Other Types of Smart Locks
You can also find smart padlocks which are as tough as regular padlocks but also Bluetooth-enabled. Use an app to grant either permanent or temporary access to visitors without the expense of a dedicated smart lock.
Smart Door Lock Protocols: Bluetooth, WiFi or Z-Wave?
For your smart lock to communicate with other smart home devices including your cell phone, it needs to harness 1 of 3 standard communication protocols.
One of the primary advantages of Bluetooth with keyless locks is the way it’s much more economical on battery life than WiFi. If you use your smart lock under normal conditions with a reasonable number of entries and exits, batteries should last one year with Bluetooth.
Another key benefit is the way Bluetooth locks integrate seamlessly with your smartphone without calling for any third-party hub. If your smart home ambitions are limited to keyless entry, and you don’t need a hub for any other devices, Bluetooth makes an intelligent choice.
The downside of Bluetooth as a communication protocol is minimal range. While you might think at best get a reach of 300 feet, in reality, it’s often much less. You’ll need to think about how you configure and what impact this has on the range.
Many electronic locks now have WiFi connectivity as an optional extra. With the August range of locks, the modestly priced August Connect acts to bridge the connection between your August lock and your home WiFi network. Just plug in the device, and you can control the lock remotely from anywhere you’re online.
Although you sidestep the need for a bulky hub, this bridge is not multi-purpose like a hub, so you’ll only be able to use it for your smart lock.
With Z-Wave compatible smart locks, you’ll need to buy a hub which then translates the signal received from your lock so your router can interpret that signal and interact with it.
The range is restricted with Z-Wave, so the connection is only suitable for just over 100 feet. If the lock is not at least that near to the hub, you can use up to 4 extender devices to boost the signal out to 500 feet and beyond. You’ll need to consider the layout of your home so you can budget for accessories if you’re choosing Z-Wave. With some Z-Wave locks, you access the lock interface in-app with your hub rather than needing a dedicated app. Unless you plan to run multiple devices in your smart home beyond the entry and exit system, the expense of a Z-Wave capable smart lock is probably not worth it.
Interoperability: Communicating With Other Devices in Your Smart Home
While a Z-Wave electronic lock involves the additional expense of a hub, you’ll also get the ability to communicate with other devices in your connected home. Having the hub sets up small but valuable processes like the lights activating as the door unlocks.
Since digital butlers are integral to the modern connected home, many smart locks let you interact using your favorite voice assistant. Locking and unlocking are restricted and also requires a passcode due to security concerns.
- Alexa: Amazon’s famous virtual assistant Alexa was first used with the August Smart Lock. Partnerships are now in place with most other leading lock manufacturers, so it’s getting easier than ever before to find a smart lock that lets you check in on the status and lock your doors using Alexa. Since unlocking doors using voice activation still raises security suspicions, Alexa can’t help you out here.
- Siri: August, Schlage and Kwikset locks work alongside Apple’s HomeKit so you can use Siri to interact with your smart lock.
- Google Assistant: August electronic locks are compatible with Google Assistant while Google owns nest so you won’t be left out if this is your preferred digital assistant.
How Do Different Electronic Locks Work?
Although there are many variables with electronic locks, they all perform the same basic function of giving you remote access your home. The majority of smart locks have keypads. This means if you don’t have your app open, you can punch in a code, and you’re in without needing a large bunch of keys. Many smart locks, while permitting coded or in-app access, also let you use your key when required. Others eliminate keys. Only you know what makes the best sense for you.
Enhanced functionality varies from brand to brand. From auto-unlocking to detecting whether your door is open or closed, smart locks are getting smarter all the time. With some locks, you’ll be able to arrange access codes that work only at certain times of the day. You’ll also be able to set codes to expire after a certain time, ideal if you rent out your property on Airbnb.
Battery life depends on the number of entries, the type of batteries and even the weather. The colder it is, the quicker the batteries will die. You should expect to replace the batteries once a year or so allowing for perhaps 15 entries a day. Many keyless locks now feature some jumpstart nodes as a back-up so you can get enough power to open up your doors if the battery lets you down.
Does The Smart Lock Fit Both Sides of The Door?
If you’re buying a smart lock for a new build, this is a non-issue. When you’re aiming to switch your old locks for keyless alternatives, make sure they fit on both sides of the door, so you don’t end up needing to swap the side on which your door opens.
If you’re at all reluctant to invest in a smart door lock due to safety concerns, don’t do it. You should be getting an upgrade in terms of security, so it’s no use if you’ll end up worrying about someone gaining entry. However, what might help you keep your peace of mind is knowing you can disable codes to ensure people you don’t want to come in, don’t.
If you need to let someone in when you’re away from home regularly or you frequently arrive home with a baby in one hand, and shopping bags in the other, smart locks are a super-convenient way to make your life much more comfortable. You’ll also enjoy the peace of mind of receiving alerts notifying you of any entries to your property triggering the tamper alarm. Make sure the kids are home from school and that they can get in even if they often used to lose their keys.
For the ultimate in convenience along with a handy additional layer of security, it might be time to treat yourself to a smart lock whether for your home or business. There’s no right or wrong answer to getting a smart lock, but if you take the factors above into consideration, you should easily find one tailored to your specific needs.