The primary purpose of installing locks on your doors is to keep out unwanted guests and protect our families and home from possibly dangerous intruders. Even with the advanced tools available on the market today, the placebo effect of locked doors lends a sense of security.
When it comes to traditional locks, however, failure due to human error is all-too-possible. Each and every one of us have experienced the sinking sensation of wondering – whether in bed in the middle of the night or miles from home on business – if we forgot to lock the doors. This becomes even more of a concern when pets, children, and elderly parents reside at your home.
Traditional locks are also prone to failure when we forget our keys, either inside the house or elsewhere. This results in substantial locksmith fees, especially after hours, which can cost well over $100 per visit, to complete a task that with the right tools, you could do for yourself.
This is where modern technology has presented us with a digital age solution. Smart locks allow you to lock and unlock your door remotely, as well as quickly check its current state and usage logs.
With a smart lock, there is no worrying about whether you locked the door. Because smart-lock systems can be managed with a phone or passcode instead of traditional keys, installing one does away with locksmith fees.
As with all home security devices, there are many different smart locks on the market. The following tips and tricks can help you determine whether a smart lock is right for you and highlight some of the features to look for.
Compatibility with your existing lock
Although most smart locks essentially use padlocks to secure a door, some devices are designed to fit on top of your existing lock. With these models, you are basically only replacing the front handle of your existing lock, whereas other models require a complete replacement.
Both options have their advantages, and the right choice for you depends on your circumstances.
If you purchased an expensive lock or trust the strength and materials of your existing lock, you may be hesitant to replace the bolt. With retrofitted locks, you have the advantage of holding on to the existing hardware that is already protecting your door.
By retrofitting your lock, you also remove the need to have new sets of keys made for every person in your family, and you can add the connectivity benefits without losing your original hardware. For many people, this is the best-case scenario, particularly considering that it also saves on installation time.
The alternative options are smart locks that completely replace your existing lock. Although they do require a complete installation and, often, an investment in new keys for everyone, they are ideal the ideal solution for individuals who are moving into a new home or have lost their keys. They may also be your best bet if you think that your existing deadbolt lock is not up to the job.
The “smart” in smart locks refers to their connectivity. There are several types of connectivity technology used in modern smart locks, but the main ones are Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi, each of which comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Bluetooth is the most commonly-used technology for smart lock systems because it offers both low power consumption and easy setup. The low power consumption allows for battery operation that lasts long enough for replacing that is not inconvenient.
The Bluetooth connection is established directly between the lock and your phone with no intermediary devices necessary, meaning there is no possibility for a breakdown in the system during a power outage.
However, the reason that power consumption for Bluetooth systems is low is because of their limited range. While they work well in most cases – i.e., unlocking when you approach and locking when you leave, as well as being able to remotely check the status of the lock on an app within 100-300 feet of the device – they do not maintain a connection past a certain distance limit.
Z-Wave technology uses a different technique to connect to smart locks. Rather than connecting the lock directly to your device, it interfaces to a Z-Wave hub, which acts as a transmitter between the lock and your home’s internet connection. Once the connections are set up, you can lock and unlock the door from anywhere in the world that you have an internet connection.
A Z-Wave lock makes the most sense for individuals who already own Z-Wave compatible devices and networks. If you require your smart lock work without electricity, or the sound of a more complex setup does not appeal to you, a Z-Wave lock may not be the right choice.
Smart locks with Wi-Fi connectivity usually offer a good compromise in simplicity and range. There is no additional hardware to set up, and you can lock and unlock from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. However, the lock does require power to function and would not operate in a power outage that knocks out your internet connection.
All smart locks essentially serve one function, which is to let you control access to your home remotely and without hassle. Apart from connectivity options, the second biggest difference between smart lock models is in how you interact with them.
Smart locks can detect and verify your presence either through your phone, a keycard, or a passcode. The most convenient unlocking system is accomplished with a Bluetooth system that unlocks when you approach with the connected device on your person.
Other locks let you “knock-to-unlock” where the lock can detect when your phone is near, and you can tap on the device to unlock it.
Most locks also offer a keypad set-up so that your home can be accessed without a phone or key. This is great for homes without multiple residents or trusted employees as it allows access to your home in your absence.
When it comes to interactive interfaces and innovation, the potential for combinations of these is endless. Cutting-edge biometric options feature fingerprint scanners, and facial recognition technology is also beginning to make its way onto the scene in the home security market.
Conversely, most smart locks still feature a keyhole for those who are looking for a less futuristic solution to their home security needs, and it is prudent always to purchase a lock that can be opened via key, just in case.
Remember, smart locks do not make your home any safer than a traditional lock, as they still operate based on conventional deadbolt security.
Rather, smart locks are about lending peace of mind and simplifying your home security routine. A smart lock can make your life easier and more convenient, especially for homes with multiple residents or employees that require access in your absence.
By understanding the different compatibility, connectivity, and interface options, you can make an educated decision about your newest investment in the security of your home.