A great smart lock offers convenience, flexibility, and peace of mind. But the process of upgrading your home security is an intimidating prospect under the best circumstances. It can be particularly daunting if you don’t know what to look for.
It’s difficult to find a product that is universally compatible with every home. Although the smart home ecosystem has been rapidly expanding, it is still fairly young and rudimentary. Most products would be a little rough around the edges. This guide aims to give you a well-rounded perspective on the benefits of smart locks and how to pick the one that works best for your home.
The most important, but sadly underrated, aspect of home security is most likely your door locks. The emergence of electronic lock proves how the smart home industry recognizes the eventuality of connected devices as an efficient means of maximizing safety and security.
A smart lock is an electromechanical locking device that can be locked or unlocked wirelessly upon receiving commands from an authorized source. These intelligent deadbolts allow a whole new way to open your doors. Depending on the make and model, you can control the lock via a smartphone app, a button, or even by touching your lock, waving your phone in front of the lock, or just being close to the door.
Like traditional locks, connected locks consist of two main parts: the lock and the key.
However, the key is not a physical key. It can be a smartphone, a key fob, or a digital key sent via SMS or email to allow homeowners to grant access to guests, couriers, and other service personnel.
While automation gives us unparalleled convenience, helping us gain complete control of our lives, it also does create security concerns. You must carefully consider your options and your device settings and features to make smart home technology beneficial for you.
An important caveat to consider first: having a smart door lock won’t necessarily make your home any safer. There are instances where a traditional deadbolt can provide better security. But connected locks allow for more control — so you can access your door remotely and share virtual keys to relatives, guests, caregivers, and anyone who needs to enter your home regularly.
Smart security systems are quickly becoming standard household items rather than superfluous luxuries. The first step toward finding the right lock for you is to decide on the type of product you want and the features you can’t live without.
Many people want a keyless lock for different reasons. For instance, some people want something that works with their home networking system. Others prefer a smart lock that offers alternate entry.
Before you make a decision, think long and hard — home security is not something you should take lightly. You should fully understand the benefits you are expecting, realize that any connected device is vulnerable to unauthorized intrusions, and determine which is more important to you.
Here are some of the essential considerations to take into account to help you narrow down your smart lock choices.
Some “smart locks” can’t communicate with a smartphone app or any smart home system. They are really just electronic locks that use code instead of a key to unlock. In order to monitor your lock using your iPhone or Android device or let it communicate with your smart home setup, it must use any of the three communication protocols.
The most common connection standard used with smart locks is Bluetooth. These locks connect seamlessly with your smartphone, but can’t be monitored remotely or connected to a smart home hub. It’s fine if you just want a quick solution to frequently misplaced keys, but if you want more control and the ability to access your lock when you’re not at home, you need a Z-Wave or
The upside to Bluetooth is that it connects directly out of the box, without the need for an additional bridge or hub. Also, it doesn’t drain batteries as quickly as WiFi does. Under normal conditions and a reasonable number of locking and unlocking, batteries should last for about a year.
With a WiFi-enabled lock, you can control the lock anywhere with an internet connection. WiFi connectivity is often available as an optional add-on. An example would be the August Connect that serves as a remote access bridge between the August line of locks and your home network. With Kwikset Bluetooth locks, you also need a separate component to have a WiFi connection that will enable remote access and integration with other smart devices.
Z-Wave is another wireless protocol that allows connected devices to communicate with each other within your smart home. Z-Wave locks also require a middleman device to be able to control the lock with your smartphone. Samsung’s Smart Things and Wink Hub is an example of a Z-Wave hub. The downside of this protocol is the range restriction, which is about 100 feet. You can boost the signal up to 500 feet by buying extender devices. A Z-wave smart lock may not be a worthy investment if you don’t plan to add more devices to your smart home.
Do you want to keep or replace your existing lock? Retrofit models are attached to the interior side of your door, so you can keep your antique Victorian-style deadbolt and save yourself some installation time. You can open the lack via a smartphone app or continue to use the standard key for the outside. Make sure the smart lock product is compatible with your deadbolt before you buy them.
If you have an existing hub like Homekit, Smart Things or Wink, or voice assistants like Siri or Amazon Alexa, you’ll want to make sure that your chosen smart lock is compatible from the start. A sizeable number of smart locks use Bluetooth, so they can connect with your phone, but will not be able to integrate with your home network. Choose a lock that supports Z-Wave or ZigBee if you are using a smart home system like Wink Hub or Smart Things.
The latest smart locks offer additional features that add convenience but may also come with extra cost. Smart locks aren’t cheap but it’s better not to skimp on your home security. Consider the convenience it delivers, the features that can enhance functionality, and decide how much you can spend.
Virtual keys – many smart locks let you create and distribute digital locks for your house guests to use either indefinitely or for a limited amount of time
Geofencing – automatically locks the door when you have left the vicinity and can be set to unlock when your phone is in close proximity
Power backup – allows emergency power during a power outage. Yale smart locks have external jacks where you can hook up a 9-volt battery to power the lock
Alternate entry – some locks have a numeric keypad or traditional keyhole for worst-case scenarios
Many smart lock users have been disappointed with their purchase because they failed to grasp the potential drawbacks of this new smart device. Technology is fantastic until it fails to work. You have to understand the limitations of these products so you won’t end up regretting your decision.
When your phone’s out of battery, you may not be able to open your door lock.
The system could malfunction and fail to authenticate that you are entering the premises
Smart locks can be hacked if they are not updated regularly
Not all smart locks can connect with your devices
Older keypad locks are vulnerable to tampering
Q: How does hands-free unlock work?
A: Some smart locks have a geotagging feature that detects if you are near or far from the door as long as you leave the app running on your phone. It automatically opens when you are in close proximity and closes behind you when you leave.
Q: What are the different options of unlocking a smart lock without a physical key?
A: There is a myriad of approaches available depending on the model. It can be opened via fingerprint access, key fob, RFID card, voice control, and keypad among others.
Q: How are smart locks powered?
A: Most smart locks run on battery power. The battery life depends on smart lock usage and where the lock is installed. Doors that are slightly misaligned can impact battery life.
Q: Can I use a smart lock if I’m renting?
A: Since most landlords insist to preserve their right to entry, you need to give them your keycode or extend a copy of the key to the lock. It may also be against your rental contract to install a smart lock, so ask your landlord if you are allowed to install a new lock or not.
Q: How much does a smart lock cost?
A: Feature-packed smart locks generally cost between $200 to $300. If you need an additional hub or bridge, it could set you back an additional $70 to $100.