For most people, the traditional lock-and-key system of keeping your security is enough – your deadbolt keeps unwanted people away, and keeps you safe in your home. However, you may be among the unfortunate individuals to lose your keys or misplacing them, or opting to leave the keys under your mat; in this case, installing a smart lock is a great solution.
Some factors to consider are whether you want to replace or keep your existing deadbolt, the protocol you want to use, integration with existing hubs, geofencing, power backup, and features it offers in relation to guest access.
While using a smart lock does not automatically mean your home is under more protection, they will provide you with greater control over who comes in or out of your house. They will also allow you to create ‘digital’ keys, which you can extend to anyone who is a frequent guest in your house, including caregivers, family members, and friends.
With that in mind, not all smart locks are created equal. You can choose one that uses your fingerprint, Bluetooth options, keyless ones, retrofit types, and even complete deadbolt replacements. If you are new to this technology, it may be challenging to find what works for you; but here is a guide outlining what you should look for.
Do you want to replace or keep your existing deadbolt?
You do not always need to replace your existing deadbolt when installing a smart lock, since some models allow for retrofit use; this makes them great for you if you do not want to change your keys, or you are a tenant.
When setting up a retrofit smart lock, you can keep the present hardware you use in your locking system, and add extra connectivity to it. Additionally, it allows you to keep your physical keys as a backup.
On the other hand, many smart locks will require you to replace the whole deadbolt. However, these take up more installation time although you can achieve this on your own. They will allow for more options in the type of locks you want if you choose this option, as long as you ensure the lock is compatible with your door.
The protocol you want to use
The essence behind smart locks is their ability to communicate with your phone, as well as the entire smart setup in your home. They will achieve this through one of three methods: Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, or Bluetooth; each protocol has its disadvantages and advantages, so ensure you do plenty of research before installing any of them.
Some locks will include Wi-Fi as an extra add-on and allow you to control your lock anywhere. It allows you to control your lock remotely, view the lock’s activity logs and status, access codes anywhere, and create new users. It also includes voice assistant capability, as many locks also include Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration. However, it will drain the lock and phone’s batteries quickly.
This does not require direct integration with your phone – instead, it connects to a hub that is Z-Wave compatible, which will then translate the signals from the lock into something your router understands, then connects to your phone.
While Z-Wave connection ranges are at a maximum of 120 feet and requires the hub and lock to be close, any additional Z-Wave device can function as a range extender; the signal can bounce up to 4 times and extend the total range to about 600 feet if there are no obstructions.
The biggest disadvantage with Z-Wave is that it needs an extra hub to communicate with your Wi-Fi router. However, its ability to accommodate more third-party devices is a major advantage and will work for you if this is your goal.
Most options in the market use Bluetooth because it is not as battery-draining as Wi-Fi, and it allows your smart lock’s batteries to last for at least one year. It offers interesting integrations as well, such as an auto-lock that syncs with your device’s Bluetooth. Its main drawback is the limited range; the best options will likely have a 300-foot range, and this can lessen significantly depending on the layout of your home.
Additionally, Bluetooth locks will directly connect with your tablet or phone, which eliminates the need of an additional device to function as a hub. While this is very convenient if your lock is the end goal of your smart-home aspirations, you cannot control multiple connected devices from one app.
Integration with existing hubs
Alongside protocols in use, you need to know its ability to connect to third-party devices. In the case of Z-Wave locks, they have in-built third-party integration, as long as you have smart gadgets that can integrate with the lock.
On the other hand, numerous smart locks come Bluetooth support that allows them to work alongside your phone, but they do not have the technology to connect with your home network unless they include a radio module add-on.
If you routinely forget to lock the door manually when you leave your house, it is a relief to use a lock with a geofencing system to lock your door automatically when it senses that your phone has left the area. It will also unlock the door automatically when it senses your phone is near, as it assumes you have arrived.
If you happen to experience a situation when the lock’s batteries die, some locks will allow you to use emergency power while others use the traditional key cylinder as a backup method.
Many smart locks will allow you to create temporary keys for your guests such as family members, which you can delete after they leave. Additionally, some locks will let you set up timing restrictions, allowing for your visitors to use the access codes for a certain period.
When choosing a smart lock, there is no singular answer to the model you should get, but it is best to consider what works for your needs to help you narrow down the vast number of options.