How to choose your smart lock and what to look for
I’d like to help you choose the ideal smart lock for you and provide you with some helpful insights into the smart lock world.
There are many different smart locks on the market. The feature list is growing, as these products get refined and improved. One cool feature is to give a voice command to your lock, using a voice activated home assistant to unlock one of your smart locks right away.
How does a smart lock work?
Simply put it’s just combing some electrical and mechanical engineering, like a motor to operate a release mechanism.
This operation is linked up to a small embedded micro-controller or computer which can process input from sensors or WiFi which acts as a cryptographic key once the information is processed by the electronics inside the lock.
What happens to a smart lock if the power goes out?
Most common smart locks are battery operated. So just keeping your batteries fresh will ensure normal operation all the time.
It takes a bit of extra work to wire power to a door lock. Getting cables to hinge with the door is possible, but not the easiest thing in the world to do while making it look decent. The better way would be to get your hands on some power transfer door hinges. This would obviously mean that you would have to replace your door hinges too. This would give you the capability to run power to the smart lock and have it recharge it’s cells when power is available. The other precaution is to always replace your rechargeable cells about once a year, to ensure that they are capable to hold charge, so when the power goes out, they can sustain the locks power requirements for long enough.
Which all that being said, have a look at my feature list, where I mention about a key, to avoid unnecessary situations of being locked out of your house.
Which smart lock should I buy?
Out of all the varieties that are out there, hopefully I can give you some insight into which smart lock would be something suitable for your budget and functionality.
Firstly I should mention that you might want to stick to the original style of lock that you want to replace. This will keep down the amount of alterations you have to do to your door and door frame, translating into having to do less work.
If you aren’t a very tech savvy person, I’d recommend that you stick to a good quality, simpler model. The more features that you have, the more potential problems you could have in setting it up, or resolving any issues with it not working properly. If you are ever in doubt as to which features want, rather keep it simple. It will be easier to operate and setup.
As you probably know, look for a smart lock that has been time tested. Don’t buy something that has been newly released and has no user rating or issues posted around the internet.
Which brings me to my next point. Do searches around places like Google and Reddit etc. to find out whether there have been any repeated issues with the product. If something turns up on blog posts or threads more than a couple of times, I’d say there is a likely problem with that particular product and it’s time to look at another.
What are some important features of a smart lock?
- Pin Access. While this isn’t mandatory, it is something I like to have. If I don’t have my proximity device or my phone handy, it’s still nice to know that all I have to do is enter a combination code into the keypad to get into my house.
- Smart Phone Connectivity. Have a look to see which types of phones the smart lock can connect to. Some locks have Bluetooth connectivity so it isn’t an issue. Z-Wave is another option, however, it requires a separate device to connect up to your Wi-Fi router. This may be preferred if you don’t mind the extra hardware, as it’s a way of having more of a universal wireless approach to different smart phones. The other advantage is that Z-Wave is a very low power method of wireless communication.
- ZigBee Communication. This is just something I’ve listed as a slightly more personal preference thing. ZigBee has been around for a while in many areas of wireless communication for industrial and commercial applications. It’s secure, low power consumption and allows you to gain access to many features, just like Z-Wave I mentioned above.
- Smart Key Access. This is one of the absolute essentials. Make sure that the smart lock includes a key that you can use as a conventional lock, in case of power loss.
- Fingerprint Scanner. I myself am not a huge fan of a fingerprint scanner as a security device to gain access into my house. It is rather convenient, however, I tend to be a bit more paranoid about these kinds of technologies and recommend opting out of this feature, if you can. Otherwise, if it doesn’t bother you, go right ahead. It will make access that much quicker and easier for anyone’s fingerprint that has been programmed into it.
What to look out for before buying a smart lock
- Price Range. I thought it worth mentioning that any lock priced below $100 should be avoided. The quality is likely to be an issue, especially from the vandal proof and reliability aspect of it.
- Read The Manual. Before committing to a purchase of a smart lock, download or read the manual of the product. If you can get access to the installation procedure in the manual, look out for installation procedures that seem too confusing. Also make sure the feature list has the features listed that you want. Sometimes a mistake can be made on the website relating to the products’ features. Also, you may not like how something gets operated. In that case, go and look at another lock.
- Make sure it’s reputable. A well known brand name, in my opinion, has refined their product over time. It takes a good product that always evolves, to keep competing in quite a competitive market. Brands like Yale and Schlage for example are some of my favorites. By having a well known product, you stand a much better chance to get support, like installation videos and setup videos that people have done. This makes things easier for troubleshooting any kind of problem.”
I would think about including the wireless technology as a feature and giving this serious consideration when choosing a lock. More automated operations can be added later to this network. One example is having certain lights activate when you unlock your door coming home at certain hours. These are things that will hopefully be covered at some stage on this website.
I thought I’d recommend one lock that I like that has a good variety of features that isn’t too pricey and is really decent quality.
You can take a look at it on Amazon: Kwikset Lock.
There is plenty information about it online. You can also download the installation guide from the Amazon listing along with the manual.
Here is a basic outline on how to install your new smart lock
- First off, you need to remove your old lock. remove the screws holding the handle or plate on the back of the door. Depending on which lock you purchased, you have to leave the existing barrel in the door for the new lock to use. If you need to replace it, then remove the two screws on the door edge that holds the barrel in place.
- Unpack your new lock’s package and have a good read through the installation guide.
- Install your new barrel if you have one supplied with your new lock. Make sure the torque hole is in the center of the cut out hole in the door.
- Make sure you attach any adapters if necessary, depending on your lock’s housing vs the size of the cut out hole in the door.
- Connect any wiring if necessary, if shown. Make sure not to get any cables pinched when you assemble the housing to the door.
- Secure the lock itself by first inserting the torque plate into the barrel.
- Screw the lock onto the door. Make sure it is level. It looks terrible when a lock is skew!
- Setup the device once you have installed the batteries.
- Don’t forget to pair your smart phone with the door lock system, if available.
If you get stuck with the setup process and if you have followed my advice and purchased a reputable lock, finding a YouTube video on setting it up will be easy to find.
The whole process should be really easy to do. I have faith in you, Good Luck!