Today, we’ll give you a broad overview of 10 things to consider if you’re pondering a smart lock. We’ll then round out with a look at 5 of the strongest smart locks on the market.First thing’s first, though. What is a smart lock exactly?
What Is a Smart Lock?A smart lock is simply an electronic lock that uses Bluetooth, WiFi, or Z-Wave communication 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 automatically. With some smart locks, you’ll need to enter a code or use fingerprint recognition. The one constant is access that doesn’t call for a key. The smart nature of these locks allows them to relay messages to heating systems, so the thermostat goes on standby as you head out the door. They also work with lighting, so you enter a nicely-lit house rather than stumbling into a dark hallway. So whether you simply want to streamline the way you enter your home, or you want a device to automate in line with other smart tech, a smart door lock is a versatile addition to your home.
10 Things To Think About When You’re Buying Smart Locks
- Deadbolt: To Upgrade or Replace
- Do You Rent Or Own Your Home
- Type of Lock
- Type of Entry
- Protocols: Bluetooth, WiFi or Z-Wave
- Interoperability: Communicating With Other Devices in Your Smart Home
- Digital Assistants
- Battery Life
- Does The Smart Lock Fit Both Sides of The Door
1) Deadbolt: To Upgrade or Replace?Some smart locks allow you to work around your exisiting deadbolt, while others call for a replacement. Locks like those from August fit over the hardware in place, meaning you can achieve connectivity without the expense of a total deadbolt refit. You can also keep your keys as a back-up. Most electronic locks, though, require a new deadbolt. You’ll need little more than a screwdriver and 30 minutes, but there are a couple 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 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 the best match 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. It’s always worth trying before you buy.
2) Do You Rent or Own Your Home?If you’re a homeowner, any changes you make to the 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. The type of lock you buy will be dictated by whether or not you’re in the position to sanction structural changes to your home.
3) Type of LockWhile you can get keyed smart locks, the majority of these electronic systems are now keyless. Keyless smart locks fall into 3 main categories:
- Touchscreen: Touchscreen smart locks ID your fingerprints much like a biometric reader. You can use a back-up code in the event of any system malfunction
- Keypad: With push button keypads, 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 door in-app on your phone.
4) Type of EntryAlthough there are many variables with electronic locks, they all perform the same basic function of giving you remote access to your home. The majority of smart locks have keypads. This means if you don’t have your app open, you can just punch in a code and you’re in without needing a large bunch of keys. While permitting coded or in-app access, many smart locks also let you use your key when required. Others eliminate keys entirely. Only you know what makes 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.
5) 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 common communication protocols.
BluetoothOne 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 lock under normal conditions with a reasonable number of entries and exits, batteries should last 1 year with Bluetooth. Another key benefit is the way Bluetooth locks integrate seamlessly with your smart phone without calling for any kind of 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 a smart choice. The downside of Bluetooth as a communication protocol is extremely limited range. While you might at best get a reach of 300 feet, in reality it’s often much less. You’ll need to think about how your home is configured and what impact this has on range.
WiFiMany 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.
Z-WaveWith 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. Range is restricted with Z-Wave so the connection is only good 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 devices 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.
6) Interoperability: Communicating With Other Devices in Your Smart HomeWhile 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 built in. This allows you to set up small but valuable processes like the lights activating as the door unlocks. Think closely about intended usage and make sure the lock you’re considering has adequate smarts and is compatible with any tech you already have in your home.
7) Digital AssistantsSince digital butlers are integral to the modern connected home, many smart locks let you interact using your favorite voice assistant. Locking and unlocking is restricted and also requires a passcode due to security concerns.
- Alexa: Amazon’s famous virtual assistant Alexa was first used with the August 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 and Nest is owned by Google, so you won’t be left out if this is your preferred digital assistant
8) Battery LifeBattery 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.
9) 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.
10) GeofencingWith geofencing, your lock will automatically lock and unlock based on the position of your cell phone. This has obvious security concerns, so make sure you’re comfortable with this level of tech. If you are, it’s a wonderful shot of convenience to automate your entry system completely.
4 of the Best Smart LocksNest Yale Lock, and you get all the reliability you’d expect from Yale. You’ll get a capacitive touch screen finished in black glass, and the white keypad is nicely backlit. It comes in 3 colorways to fit with any exterior décor. The keypad means you can still use a key with this unit. While this is a design-driven lock, it’s certainly not a case of form over function. The tamper-proof keyless deadbolt and unique passcodes combine to keep your home completely safe from harm. Installation couldn’t be more simple. Download the Nest app and set up an account. Go to Settings / Add Product / Nest x Yale lock. There’s a video included to help you with installation. You should be up and running in 15 minutes. Once you’re connected to the app, you’ll be able to unlock your doors using your phone. You can also create passcodes for friends and family and manipulate the times those codes are valid for. This smart lock is designed to work well with other Nest mobile and web-based devices from security cameras to doorbells. Integration sadly doesn’t extend to many other smart home systems. If you’re using SmartThings, HomeKit or Wink devices, your lock won’t communicate with them. If you’re already invested into the Nest ecosystem, this is arguably the best smart lock at your disposal.
- Sleek, minimalist aesthetic
- Extremely easy installation
- Intuitive and user-friendly app
- Keep all existing locks and keys
- Streamlined and effective app
- Convenience of automatic locking and unlocking
- Huge choice of entry methods so ideal for all tech levels
- Knock to open with smart phone for the ultimate convenience
- Anti-peep technology keeping security uppermost
4) Baldwin Hardware Z-Wave Keyless LockA lesser-known but highly effective smart lock, this keyless model from Baldwin is not cheap but what makes it any good? You can install this lock in minutes flat with absolutely no need for rewiring and no need to call in an electrician. This makes it great for anyone renting or anyone looking for a plug-and-play solution. Punch in your code using the backlit keypad. You’ll be able to create 2 codes of 4 to 8 digits. While this gives you nothing like the scope extended by the Ultraloq, it’s fit for most purposes. As an inbuilt safety precaution, 30 seconds after unlocking, the door will automatically lock. You’ll also be able to use an existing key with this lock making it great if you have anyone in the house not too comfortable with tech. Z-Wave technology onboard allows you to control your lock remotely in-app. You’ll also enjoy great interoperability with other smart devices. Get everything singing in harmony with Baldwin. You’ll require 4 AA batteries to get going and these should give you a year of normal access.
- Broad interoperability with Z-Wave
- Super-simple installation with no hardwiring
- Passcode lockout feature if security compromised