Everything You Need To Know About Smart Locks – Review Geek

A Schlage smart lock on a white door
wadstock / Shutterstock.com

Smarthomes are becoming increasingly popular, and one of the areas you can smart up is your door locks. But what are the benefits? Is it safe? And if your phone runs out of battery, will you end up sleeping in the garden shed?

The global market for smart locks was worth $ 1.4 billion in 2020, and that number will grow by 20% a year between now and 2028 – so it’s safe to say that many people feel safe on smart locks. But they are not something completely new – they replace something that every home in the developed world has. And spending a few hundred dollars on making a door more intelligent may not be a priority.

But if a smart lock makes your life better, it may be worth the upgrade. Let’s take a deeper look at smart locks and what they can do for you.

What is a Smart Lock?

A Wyze smart lock and keyboard
Wyze

A smart lock is quite a broad concept that encompasses many devices. At its most basic level, a smart lock is just an electrically powered lock that can work wirelessly. If you’ve checked into a hotel in the last few years, you’ve probably used a smart lock.

You can operate a smart lock in several ways: including with a key card, a code, your fingerprint, an app, a home assistant, or any combination of these things. Some even accept a default key.

They also do not have to go on the front door – smart locks replace almost any regular lock and come in many forms. For example, standard deadbolts, padlocks and drawer locks are all available. Devices intended for doors tend to have more features and are generally more secure.

How do they work?

Most smart locks are battery powered. These batteries last between 10 months and a year depending on the battery you use, the smart lock it is inserted in and how often the door is locked or unlocked. The electronics accommodate a motor that performs the action of turning the inner lock for you, just as if you were using a key or using your thumb.

If the lock has a keypad, you can set a code. Most modern smart locks will connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network for smart home integration. Bluetooth connectivity is also a feature of many smart locks so you can connect directly to your mobile phone.

Most smart locks also include backup systems such as a manual keystroke or the ability to connect a nine-volt battery should the lock’s internal battery fail.

What are the benefits?

Schlage Encode Plus smart lock is unlocked by an iPhone's Apple Wallet app.
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The ability to lock or unlock your front door from anywhere is a big plus. Do you need to close a plumber into your house but are stuck at work? No problem, there is an app for it. Are you expecting a parcel delivery? Same deal. You can even pair your smart lock with a doorbell camera so you can be sure who you are locking in to and when they go.

Are you coming home with big purchases and do not want to mess around with a key? Unlock your door from the car. Likewise, if you are guessing at their ability to unlock before they go for the day – you can double check your door status on your phone and remote lock it if necessary. Many locks also allow you to schedule a re-lock, either after a certain number of minutes since you unlocked the door, or at specific times. With planning, you do not have to worry about forgetting to lock the door.

Are they less secure than regular locks?

A Schlage Encode lock on a green door
Josh Hendrickson

While easy to believe the opposite, smart locks are potentially more secure than standard locks. There are probably more criminals who are able to pick a traditional Yale lock than are able to hack into your Wi-Fi network. Lockpicking is a skill that anyone can pick up with Youtube and a little practice.

In addition, you can have an almost impenetrable door in the style of a safe deposit box at the front of your house. That door will only be as effective as the nearest glass pane. The bottom line is that if someone is not too worried about things like laws and wants to get into your house – they probably will. But most thieves do not want any trouble; they are opportunists looking for an easy score. So if your smart lock locks your door, it is just as effective as a standard lock would be.

The ability of a smart lock to interact with the security system of your home and its remote functions is a game-changer. If you have a home security system and a doorbell camera connected to your smart home network – your smart lock may be able to turn both of these off if someone tries to force their way in. You will receive a warning, a look at the burglar and your alarm system will inform the authorities.

Likewise, it is risky to leave a key under a garden gnome. The same goes for leaving a suite on your porch. It is much safer to remotely lock your door for someone who needs to be in the house for a short time.

Are there any disadvantages?

A big ugly smart lock on a brown door
Josh Hendrickson

There are a few flaws that are unique to smart locks. You will need to replace the lock batteries at some point. If you are not the kind of person who stays on top of that kind of maintenance tasks in the home, you probably will not have a nine-volt backup battery tucked away in an emergency. Next thing you know, it’s 2am and you’re at a Walmart buying a battery so you can get back into your house. That said, most smart locks will emit warnings when the batteries are running low. You will probably also notice that the motor rotates more slowly as the power decreases.

Smart locks can also be expensive and are not one of the things you would like to save on. You can buy good, cheap, smart products. But the consequences of a smart light bulb not working and your front door deciding to do something strange at the wrong time are drastically different.

And if you live in a Home Ownership Association (HOA), you may find local regulations a barrier to installing a smart lock in the first place. Most smart locks are visible even on the outside and some will describe them as ugly. Some HOAs prevent visible changes like the one on the front door. In that scenario, however, you could go for a level lock that hides inside the door. You do not get a keyboard, but it must fit within the rules. And it should go without saying that if you do not own your home, you probably can not install a smart lock.

Most other negatives are offset by the fact that a good smart lock is a series of backup systems that are interconnected. If your Wi-Fi fails, you have Bluetooth or a keyboard. So when you buy a smart lock, remember, the more features it has, the better.

The 5 best smart locks for 2021


Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt with Camelot Trim in satin nickel

Wyze lock

Wyze lock keyboard

August Wi-Fi, (4th generation) Smart Lock – fits your existing locking bolt in minutes, silver

August Home AK-R1 August Smart keyboard, dark gray

Yale Assure Lock SL, Wi-Fi Smart Lock – Works with the Yale Access app, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, Phillips Hue and Samsung SmartThings, Satin Nickel

SCHLAGE BE469ZP CAM 619 Connect Smart Deadbolt with alarm with Camelot Trim in satin nickel, Z-Wave Plus activated

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