The days of locking your keys in the house or forgetting to lock the door can be a thing of the past, thanks to the variety of affordable electronic door locks on the market. Once the domain of the wealthy for entry to their multimillion dollar estates, an electronic door lock can now grace your front door for a few hundred dollars.
Before we explore the features on some popular electronic locks, let’s learn more about how they work.
Entry Methods: RFID, Keypad, Biometric, and Bluetooth
Most electronic door locks come with one or more means of entry, which include RFID, keypad, biometric (fingerprint), or Bluetooth.
Early electronic locks used keypads with a pin number for entry. Keypads are still popular, although newer models use touchscreen panels instead of buttons and include security features to help prevent burglars from figuring out the code.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) locks use a key fob or card for entry. With RFID technology, you may not have to remove the key fob from your pocket or purse, meaning no more fumbling in the dark or trying to find your keys when your arms are full to enter your home.
Bluetooth-enabled locks operate in a similar way, sensing your smartphone’s Bluetooth ID and opening when you approach. Most Bluetooth and RFID locks also use a secondary means of electronic entry, in case your battery dies or you lose your key fob or cell phone.
Biometric entry uses fingerprint identification to open the lock. If you’ve used this feature on your smartphone or laptop, you understand how it works. All you do is program your fingerprint, or those you want to have access to your home, and the system knows this is an acceptable person to unlock for.
When Electronic Locks Get “Smart”
Some electronic locks can open remotely via an app and can integrate with your home automation system for added security and protection, placing them in the category of “smart” technology.
For example, if your alarm system detects a flood in your basement while you’re on vacation and sends you an alert, you can call your neighbor to go check on the problem. While you’re sitting on the beach, you can unlock the door for the neighbor and lock it again after they’ve remedied the situation and left. By the time you get home, you hardly realize there was a problem.
These electronic door locks could mark your first foray into building a “smart home” or they may connect to and complement existing smart devices in your home for added convenience. Here are six of our favorites.
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Kwikset is a well-known name in home locks, and their new keyless smart lock combines the look of their conventional keyed locks with high-tech functionality. The Kevo was one of the first smart deadbolts on the market and uses both Bluetooth and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, so users can unlock the door via their smartphone or with the included keyfob.
The lock is iOS and Android compatible using Bluetooth technology, which means no Internet access is required and your lock doesn’t live “on your network.” With Bluetooth enabled, the lock can even sense when your smartphone approaches and unlocks the door for you – no more fumbling with keys when you’re in a hurry or your hands are full.
You can grant two devices with full access eKeys and share an unlimited number of guest eKeys. The Kevo Mobile App lets you monitor lock activity and manage the eKeys, but it isn’t necessary to unlock doors. A “Lost Phone” reset option disables access to your lock from your phone, should anyone with one of your eKeys lose their device.
Kevo also integrates with the Nest Learning Thermostat, a programmable thermostat that provides remote control and automation of your home’s heating and cooling system. You can use this to set your temperature preferences and optimize your energy usage.
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If you’re looking for maximum flexibility in connecting your smart lock to your home’s other smart devices, or even a whole-home automation system, the Yale Real Living lock is a strong contender. The lock features the luxury look of other high-end Yale locks, with the choice of a push button keypad or a modern capacitive touchscreen, in deadbolt or lever lock designs. The lock holds up to 250 user-selected codes, and also provides entry via a conventional key.
The Yale lock is compatible with Zigbee and Z-Wave independent mesh networks, as well as Crestron’s proprietary mesh network, infiNET Ex, and the user-friendly Crestron Pyng hub. By controlling the lock through an independent mesh network, the Yale lock connects to your smartphone, tablet, or PC without using your Wi-Fi bandwidth. Yale also integrates with Honeywell, Control4, Alarm.com, Elk, and a number of other home automation and home security systems. The features vary depending on which Yale partner system you have.
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The SoHoMiLL YL 99 Keyless Electronic Keypad lock is as simple as they get and, with a price tag of just $50, is the perfect “starter” electronic door lock. While it doesn’t offer Bluetooth connectivity or “Internet of Things” compatibility, it is a highly rated lock (4 stars on Amazon). It easily replaces most standard door knobs and holds eight user-programmable passcodes, which you control from your original, master code. It has a low-battery indicator so you will know when it’s time to replace the batteries and it can automatically lock from the outside after three seconds.
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Don’t let the name fool you – there are no keys involved. No access codes either, so a thief can’t use a key logger to copy your code and then sneak in when you’re not home. The August Smart Key lock discretely replaces most single cylinder deadbolts to provide secure access to your home via iOS or Android devices. The August Smart Key lock works independently, via a secure BlueTooth connection or over your home’s Wi-Fi. The app sends a reminder if the lock’s AA batteries are low so this lock keeps working, even if your power goes out.
Issue “virtual” keys to family, friends, and service providers as needed. Maybe your housekeeper’s key only works for three hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while your child’s key works all the time. Log records show you who entered and left your home and when. Teenagers can’t sneak in after curfew and the cleaning lady can’t stay for one hour but bill you for two.
Coupling the August Lock with August Connect, a smart device that allows you to access the lock from any Internet-enabled device, provides additional features. Rather than simply referring to a log of activity over the past week, you’ll receive real-time notifications of who accessed your lock and when. You’ll also be able to lock and unlock the door via any Internet-enabled device and connect your lock with other smart devices in your home.
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Samsung offers several IoT items, including Smart TVs, refrigerators, and washer/dryers. As a result, their smart lock can be used as part of a complete Samsung smart home system. The lock integrates with Samsung’s smart home solutions, including video cameras, security sensors, and more. Gain access to remote entry functions, event notification, visitor check and more by connecting the system to your smartphone.
If you’re using it as a standalone lock, you’ll still enjoy a variety of options and features. It can be unlocked via passcode, RF card, finger print (with the top tier model), smart tag, or via a conventional key. For added security, users can select two options (passcode plus finger print authentication) for access. The door locks automatically when users leave, because even the strongest, safest door lock isn’t effective if you forget to use it.
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Schlage also manufactures RFID, keyless entry door locks, which use a keyfob containing a user-specific radio frequency chip for entry. But the touchscreen model means there’s no app to install and no keyfob to carry (or lose). For users who want convenience combined with security, the Schlage Connect Camelot delivers.
Schlage locks boast BHMA/ANSI Grade 1 certifications. This is the highest lock security rating available on the American National Standards Institute grading system developed by the Builder’s Hardware Manufacturers Association. This rating system applies to electronic and mechanical locks, and measures lock longevity, toughness, and latch length.
This rating, combined with the other security features of the Schlage Connect Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt, makes this one of the most secure locks on the market. The lock features an audible alarm sensor that lets you know when someone opened the door, even if you’re across the house. A fingerprint-resistant touchscreen prevents unwanted guests from detecting your code and the deadbolt can be set to lock as soon as you close the door. Whether you’re safe inside or heading out for the day, the lock will help protect you and your belongings.
Schlage integrates with Z-Wave home automation products for remote management and monitoring capabilities. To use this, you have to purchase the Nexia BR100NX Z-Wave Home Intelligence Bridge and pay the monthly service fee. Products can also be automated via Z-Wave, so you set up IFTTT recipies, like turning on your kitchen light when you unlock your door. You can use the Z-Wave service to interact with your lock online, program multiple codes for entry, and track who entered/exited and when. You can also program codes that work only at specific times or on specific days of the week, allowing entry to service providers.
Adding an electronic door lock to your home security is a great additional step to take to keep your home secure, all while making your life a bit easier. To compare electronic door locks and other home security options, take a look here.
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