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Smart Locks: Which Type is Right for Your Home?

Key features to look for in a smart lock for the best protection and convenience

Smart Locks: Which Type is Right for Your Home?

Thanks to technology, our pockets and purses are a lot lighter these days. We no longer carry appointment books to keep track of our schedule and paper maps are mere curiosities. We turn to our phones to check plane, train and bus timetables; store our family photos; read the news; find a restaurant and so much more. And with Apple Pay and Google Wallet, cash and credit cards can now be left behind. So it’s only natural that many people are exploring the possibility of ditching another relic of the mechanical age – the house key – and replacing their home’s conventional deadbolt with a smart lock.

Smart locks offer many benefits over an old-fashioned deadbolt. For one, scrap your house key and you’ve one less thing to carry around and worry about losing, you never again need worry about who else might have a key or about the kids being locked out of the house. Then there’s the convenience that comes with integrating a smart lock into a home automation or alarm system – lock and unlock doors from your smartphone, keep track of who comes and goes, easily share and revoke entry privileges, and more.

Important Features

There’s no one-size-fits all in smart locks, so before taking the plunge, let’s take a look at some features to consider when shopping for a smart lock.

First and foremost, let’s not forget that we’re talking locks – their primary purpose is to protect your home or business. Too often when talking smart locks the focus is entirely on technology and smart features and the security aspect is ignored. But locks are deceptively hard to make. Just think about what they have to endure: freezing cold, heat, rain, and sunlight, and at the same time they have to resist tampering and survive a good bashing! Most importantly, be sure that whatever lock you buy has an ANSI/BHMA rating. These ratings are based on the lock’s longevity, toughness and security. Grade 2 (vs. Grade 3) is the stronger of the two residential grades. Grade 1 locks are typically for commercial applications.

Every smart lock works in one way or another with a smartphone. But what you need to consider is whether all you want is a smartphone-controlled lock and nothing more, or whether you want to integrate the lock into a home automation or alarm system. The advantage of the latter approach is that it usually means just a single app to control your home’s automated functions, and most systems allow you to program “scenes” where activation of one device automatically triggers other devices. For example, unlocking the deadbolt automatically turns on lights and adjusts the thermostat.

If all you’re looking to do is replace your key with a smartphone-controlled lock, there are several Bluetooth deadbolts available that use an app to turn your phone into your house key. These could be the best option if you’re not interested in a home automation system. In addition to the convenience of not having to fumble with a key, most Bluetooth locks currently available allow you to share digital keys with others, restrict access to certain time periods, and easily revoke access at any time.

Operational details vary with each lock manufacture, so be sure that you’re familiar with how each Bluetooth deadbolt functions before making a purchase. Most importantly, consider how you’ll operate the lock if for some reason you don’t have your phone. Some offer a key override, but you’ll have to be sure to carry your house key or have one hidden somewhere – which tends to defeat the purpose of purchasing an electronic lock. Others offer a keypad so all that’s needed is a four-digit code. This option also allows you to provide codes to family and friends who don’t own a smartphone. And in the inverse scenario, the best smart locks have a failsafe option like a 9V battery override if the owner doesn’t change the batteries when they’re low.

Another consideration is upgradeability. Some Bluetooth deadbolts can be upgraded for use with home automation systems that operate using Z-Wave or Zigbee, two of the most popular home automation technologies.

If you want a deadbolt that integrates with a home automation or alarm system, the challenge will be sifting through all of the options. Naturally, if you already have a system and want to add locks you’ll want to research which smart locks are compatible because not every smart lock works with every system. If it’s a platform that uses Z-Wave or ZigBee technology, you’ll have plenty to choose from. If you have an alarm system or are thinking of having one professionally installed, we at IHAAVS, LLC offer smart locks and can install them when installing or activating your alarm system.

It’s when a smart lock is part of a home automation system that you’ll truly appreciate all that it can do. Specific functions vary depending on which system you’re using, but possibilities include receiving a text message when your child arrives home from school and unlocks the door, audit trails so you know who comes and goes and when, the ability to set “scenes” that trigger other devices and systems when a door is unlocked, and remotely allow maintenance or cleaning crews to enter your home. These are just some of the possibilities, but before investing in a home automation system make sure that you clearly understand what it can and can’t do so there are no surprises.

Though traditional mechanical deadbolts have served us well for many years, so making the transition to a smart lock can come with plenty of anxiety. My final advice to help relieve you of that anxiety is to first, have confidence in the lock itself – in its ability to resist tampering and secure your front door. And second, be sure that you’re comfortable with the options available for unlocking your smart lock when there’s no smartphone available.

If you need assistance in choosing a new smart lock for your home or business, or would like to discuss how your lock can be integrated with your home automation system or alarm system, call us at 214-396-5858.