Just about everyone recognizes the basic principle of a door lock. It’s used to secure a door, and unless you blow the hinges, destroy the lock, or destroy the door itself then your only way of getting inside is with a key. But for smart home door locks, that principle is no more than the basic foundation for all its other features.
In this modern age, we’ve all heard about electronic door locks. These don’t necessarily require a traditional key. Instead the key to opening the lock may be something like a credit card, or you can punch in the numbers in the lock’s keypad. But today, smart home locks offer many more features.
Let’s take a closer look at the various benefits you can get with today’s modern automated home locks. These are the factors you need to look at closely aside from the price, so that your choice matches your needs properly.
1. Security. It’s perfectly appropriate to put this consideration at the top of the list, because it is its main function anyway. First you’ll need to find out the lock’s Grade according to the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) or the BHMA (Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association). This grade is the lock’s ability to resist lock-picking and break-ins. There are three grades, with Grade 3 as the very minimum standard for home deadbolts and Grade 1 as the most secure.
Most of the time, a lock can be opened with a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. For extra security, it can be opened using a key fob, which you can deactivate if you lose it or have it stolen. A keypad can also be convenient, especially for guests who may not have a compatible smartphone.
Other locks have alerts and sirens too. You can get emails or text messages if you fail to lock a door or if someone tries to gain access through your lock.
- Key fobs are convenient backups, as you can use them when your smartphone battery has run out of juice. You can also give copies of these for people in your home who doesn’t have a smartphone.
- Try to get a smart lock that keeps track of everyone who opens the lock. Some smart locks only track smartphone users, but if possible you should get a lock that also tracks people who use a key fob or a keypad.
2. Ease of use. For this factor, you need to take 4 things into account. One is its simplicity, which basically means you need to note just how many steps you have to take to lock or unlock the device. Some locks can be programmed to auto-lock after a set number of minutes, while others can also automatically open when your smartphone’s GPS feature shows you’re near the lock.
Then you should consider response time, which refers to how quickly the lock reacts to your smartphone or key commands. If you’re running away from an intruder and you get to a door, you’ll want it to unlock and lock behind you very quickly indeed.
Then there’s guest access, which is how you can grant temporary access to a guest. Then there’s lock access, which include smartphone controls. In some cases, you may need an override by using a traditional key, when your smartphone has run out of battery power.
- It’s great if you have a door that can lock itself automatically, although you should have the capacity to set how long the lock has to wait first before it automatically locks itself.
- Pick locks that allow you to send guest keys to as many people as possible. Some locks don’t even limit the number of people who can get a guest key from you.
- Keypads are also a great option, especially if the app goes buggy or the smartphone loses battery power. Keep in mind that many locks with keypads let you make only a limited number of guest codes.
3. Design. In general, a home automation lock can either use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Most of the time a smart lock needs to connect to a home network to use Wi-Fi. This can be an option for which you’ll need to pay extra, but some locks may require you to agree to a subscription plan.
It may be self-contained (meaning it can work independently of a hub) or you may have to use a hub to enable its smart features. A lock may also be a new one that replaces old deadbolts, or it can be a retrofit lock that you can attach to an existing deadbolt, when you can’t replace them because you’re renting your home.
In general, locks of this type can last for an entire year. But they can vary as to the finish. The usual options include brass, nickel, and bronze, but sometimes you can find chrome and other finish options. Some locks can come in just one finish, while others can let you have as many as 4 or even 6 finishes to choose from. Typically, you’ll want to match the door lock finish with the finish of the doorknob.
- Bluetooth can be more secure, but it can generate an annoying lag when you’re unlocking the door.
- With Wi-Fi, you can get more features, but the permanent Internet connection makes these locks vulnerable to hackers.
- Most of the time, you can install these locks yourself. But you can always get a locksmith so that you know for sure that the installation was done correctly.
4. Control. Some locks may need to be connected to a home automation platform, and you’ll need to make sure that your hub or platform supports the protocol used by the smart lock. Some locks can be used by Android, iOS, or both, and most of the time they also use Bluetooth. In some cases, the lock can also integrate with video doorbells instead of just a regular doorbell sound.
- Don’t forget about compatibility issues when you need to connect your smart lock to a hub. It should use a protocol that allows you to communicate with your hub and with other devices.
- Integrating a lock with your security cameras can be very helpful. You can then make sure that the person who rings you up and who asks for a guest code through your door is who they say they are.
5. Customer support. In some cases, connecting a lock to your smartphone is very simple. But sometimes, connecting your locks to your home network hub or to your smartphone can be somewhat complicated. So you should at least get access to well informative FAQ pages, installation and user manuals, and video tutorials. As much as possible, there should also be customer support via telephones, email, and live chat. Here you’ll also need to check out the warranty, although in most cases the warranty is only for a year. However, some companies offer warranties for the finish as well as for the locking mechanism itself.
- Don’t get locks without any warranties or with a warrant that only lasts for less than a year.
Smart Lock Brands
Now that you know what to look for in a smart lock, here are some brands that deserve your consideration:
1. Kwikset (Kevo and Kevo Plus). This works through Bluetooth, and it can work through touch alone as long as your smartphone or key fob is with you. You get two physical keys as backup, two electronic keys (eKeys), and an unlimited number of guest keys that will work for 24 hours as long as your guest has a smartphone too.
Through the app, you can also purchase extra eKeys. The app lets you add, disable, or delete eKeys, and through it you can receive notifications of your lock activity. You’ll be told who has entered your door by identifying the key used, and you can also unlock or lock the door remotely.
It looks like an ordinary lock, except that around it you can find a ring of blue lights. Available finishes include Venetian Bronze, Satin Nickel, and Lifetime Polished Brass.
2. August Smart Lock. This operates through Bluetooth, but the optional August Connect enables the Wi-Fi features like remote buzz-in and real-time alerts for every unlocking. It can lock or unlock the door depending on your proximity, but somehow it can detect when you’re just passing by the door instead of coming inside the house.
You’ll need 4 AA batteries to power the lock, and when the battery juice gets low you’ll get an alert sent to your smartphone. As it works with HomeKit, you can use the Siri feature on your iOS device to manage the lock. It also works with the Nest system too.
It comes in a variety of colors, including Silver, Champagne, August Red, and Dark Gray.
3. Lockitron Bolt. If your budget is limited, this may be your only option as it’s the least expensive smart home door lock that’s still reliable. You can find one for less than $100.
It’s a Bluetooth lock that replaces your current deadbolt, and you can use it for indoors or outdoors. The electronic components are protected by waterproof seals and the die-cast metal is quite robust. The setting of the physical lock can actually be matched to any key, which can therefore suit apartment dweller needs.
Even though it’s inexpensive, it does offer a lot of advanced options. It can open the door automatically just by sensing the presence of your smartphone. It also features anti-spy code encryption, a backlit keypad with lowlight readability, 1o changeable codes with up to 3 different levels, and low battery warnings.
With the optional Lockitron Bridge, you also get Wi-Fi features, including real time alerts sent to your phone.
4. Haven. This time, the lock is located at the base of the door. It functions much like a wedge that keeps the door closed even if intruders kick the door on. The wedge is made from steel, titanium, and nylon 66.
From the outside of the house, the wedge can be unlocked with your smartphone through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. From the inside, you can just step on the footplate to unlock it. It uses a rechargeable 3.7V 5000MAH Lipo battery, but it also has two alkaline AAA batteries as backup just in case.
It’s compatible with the Nest thermostat and Apple HomeKit, and soon it will also be compatible with Z-wave devices.
5. Genie. Like other smart locks, Genie can be opened by your smartphone and an app. It uses Bluetooth if you’re nearby, but with Wi-Fi you can remotely lock or unlock the door even if you’re in your office or out of town on vacation.
One advantage with the Genie is that it won’t drain your batteries as quickly. The typical smart lock can be used for a month before the batteries need recharging or replacing. But Genie is much more efficient, so that a single charge can get you an entire year of service. That’s because it uses BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy).
There’s also a traditional key that will open the lock just in case you still run out of battery juice. It’s very easy to install the lock, and you can also remove it and replace with a traditional lock without leaving any trace at all. This makes it very suitable for apartment dwellers.
The starter package includes the lock, the hub, 2 regular keys, 2 Bluetooth eKeys, and 1 Bluetooth fob. A more expensive package allows for unlimited eKeys which you can send to others you trust.
Any of these keys can really help you, but just make sure that the company is still stable. Also make sure you only give your eKeys to people you really trust, and it may be a good idea to just let them in remotely when they visit your home while you’re away.