We’ll lead off by making it clear that the core purpose of smart locks is making things easier for you not necessarily safer. There are safety benefits like remote access to your property and doors automatically locking behind you, but smart locks are mainly about convenience.
Don’t underestimate what the convenience of a keyless electronic lock can mean. Whether your hands are full of groceries or you frequently lose your keys, electronic locks allow you to enter your house without breaking a stride.
What Is a Smart Door Lock?
A smart lock merely is 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 for you saving you from fumbling for your key or, even worse, finding you left your keys at work.
The smart nature of these locks allows them to relay messages to heating systems, so the wireless thermostatgoes on standby as you head out the door or remote lighting so you enter a nicely-lit house rather than stumbling into a dark hallway.
Deadbolt: To Upgrade or Replace?
Some smart home door locks allow you to work around your existing deadbolt while others call for a replacement.
Smart locks like those from August fit over the hardware in place meaning you can achieve connectivity without the expense of a total deadbolt replacement while also keeping your keys as a back-up.
Most electronic door locks, though, require a replacement 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 door 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 ideal 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.
Do You Rent or Own Your Home?
If you’re a homeowner, any changing and making the switch to the electronic door 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.
Type of Lock
While you can get keyed electronic locks, the majority of these electronic systems are now keyless.
Keyless smart locks fall into 3 broad categories:
- Touchscreen: Touchscreen smart locks ID your fingerprints much like a biometric reader. You can use a backup 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 day in-app on your phone.
On many commercial buildings, you’ll see fob-enabled smart locks that you can unlock without using a smartphone. These can be found for home use. A single fob will typically open and close all locks on that system simplifying things for you.
Other Types of Smart Locks
You can also find smart padlocks which are as tough as regular padlocks but also Bluetooth-enabled. Use an app to grant either permanent or temporary access to visitors without the expense of a dedicated smart lock.
Smart Door Lock 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.
One 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 smart lock under standard 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 smartphone 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 an intelligent choice.
The downside of Bluetooth as a communication protocol is extremely limited in range. While you might be 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.
Many 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 large hub, this bridge is not multi-purpose like a hub, so you’ll only be able to use it for your smart lock.
With 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.
The 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.
Interoperability: Communicating With Other Devices in Your Smart Home
While 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.
Since digital butlers are integral to the modern connected home, many smart locks let you interact using your favorite voice assistant.
Locking and unlocking are restricted and also requires a passcode due to security concerns.
- Alexa: Amazon’s famous virtual assistant Alexa was first used with the August Smart Lock. Partnerships are now in place with most other leading lock manufacturers, so it’s getting more accessible 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 door locks are compatible with Google Assistant while Nest is owned by Google so you won’t be left out if this is your preferred digital assistant.
How Do Different Electronic Locks Work?
Although there are many variables with electronic locks, they all perform the same primary function of giving you remote access 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.
Many smart locks, while permitting coded or in-app access, also let you use your key when required. Others eliminate keys entirely. Only you know what makes the 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 particular time, ideal if you rent out your property on Airbnb.
Battery 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.
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.
3 of the Best Smart Locks
Nest delivers connectivity using the Nest Connect bundled with this smart door lock while you get all the reliability you’d expect from Yale.
You’ll get a capacitive touchscreen 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 straightforward. 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 the 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 home automation door 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. At the time of writing, it’s still not possible to use Google Assistant with the Nest x Yale lock either.
If you’re already invested into the Nest ecosystem, this is arguably the best smart lock at your disposal.
- Sleek, minimalist aesthetic
- Straightforward installation
- Intuitive and user-friendly app
- Smart home integration is underwhelming
With straightforward installation and a very reasonable price tag, the August Smart Lock makes keyless lock technology available even if you’re working on a limited budget.
If you don’t want to start replacing your hardware, this lock retrofits neatly over almost all standard single-cylinder deadbolts. Keep your existing keys while enjoying all the benefits of connectivity.
You’ll need either the August Connect WiFi Bridge or the Doorbell Cam Pro to take advantage of the auto-lock and auto-unlock feature. With this bridging system in place, your doors will lock as you leave for your complete security. August’s patented DoorSense lets you know your door is completely secure. This comes in the form of a small module you need to calibrate and stick on the doorframe.
Everything you need for installation is included. Unscrew the back half of your deadbolt, attach the adapter plate, raise up 2 arms and snap into place. Pop in the batteries then connects to your WiFi network using the app.
The basic operation is designed to be as simple as possible while the deeper settings let you customize alerts, door timings, and any recalibration if your lock starts playing up.
If you want to interact with your lock using Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, consider the Smart Lock Pro instead.
For a flexible smart lock that has wide-ranging interoperability, the inexpensive August Smart Lock but if you want even more convenience, invest in the pricier Pro.
- Keep all existing locks and keys
- Streamlined and effective app
- Convenience of automatic locking and unlocking
- No alarm
If you want to see who is knocking at your door even if you’re not at home, the August Doorbell Cam Pro makes this possible with live streaming in full HD, motion detection and an integrate floodlight for when it’s dark.
Download the August app for iPhone or Android then follow the instructions to configure your lock. You’ll need to connect to your WiFi network before installing the lock outside. Once you’re done with this simple process, you can easily pair your Smart Lock or Smart Lock Pro allowing you to lock or unlock your door in-app.
The onboard LED floodlight does allow you to see when it’s dimmer but the resulting video quality is weaker than with full night vision.
For cloud storage, you’ll need to invest in a monthly subscription which is a little more expensive than some competitors.
The squared-off lock is almost 3 inches wide and won’t fit on all door frames so check for compatibility before purchase.
You can communicate with your visitors using the 2-way audio, but your privacy is protected since the video is only 1-way. See without being seen.
For anyone who spends lots of time away from home but wants to remain connected to anyone visiting, the Doorbell Cam Pro is a smart choice for your smart home.
- 2-way audio and HD video to communicate with visitors
- Live remote video feed available in-app
- Control your Smart Lock Pro with Alexa
- Only works with mechanical chimes and some door frames
If you’re at all reluctant to invest in a smart lock due to safety concerns, don’t do it. You should be getting an upgrade regarding security, so it’s no use if you’ll end up worrying about someone gaining entry. However, what might help you keep your peace of mind is knowing you can disable codes to ensure people you don’t want to come in, don’t.
If you need to let someone in when you’re away from home on a regular basis or you frequently arrive home with a baby in one hand, and shopping bags in the other, smart locks are a super-convenient way to make your life much more comfortable. You’ll also enjoy the peace of mind of receiving alerts notifying you of any entries to your property triggering the tamper alarm. Make sure the kids are home from school and that they can get in even if they often used to lose their keys.
For the ultimate in convenience along with a handy additional layer of security, it might be time to treat yourself to a smart lock whether for your home or business. There’s no right or wrong answer to getting a smart lock, but if you take the factors above into consideration, you should easily find one tailored to your specific needs.