In this article, we cover what a smart lock is and what to expect from smart locks.

As you have probably imagined, there are many different types on the market.

The goal here is to focus on the features you need and to equip you with a better understanding of these products, without being biased towards one specific make or model.

As with most products, the feature list is growing, as they are becoming more refined and improved. 

What is a smart lock?

smart lock illustration - symbolic representation

With a smart lock, you can lock or unlock your door in many different ways, not just by using a key. It can accept commands from your smartphone, tablet, computer or voice assistant like Alexa or Google Home using WiFi.

Although an ordinary key can be used, other ways to unlock your door could be by fingerprint scan, keypad password or pin.

How does a smart lock work?

They contain a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering. A motor to operate a release mechanism and some electronics to interpret when to activate the motor to lock and unlock your door.

The embedded electronics can process input from sensors or WiFi which acts as a cryptographic key to ensure security demands are met before activating the release mechanism of it.

What happens to a smart lock if the power goes out?

dark room with no power and candlelight

Most electronic locks are battery operated. So just keeping your batteries fresh will ensure normal operation all the time.

A newer method of using solar power is arriving on the market. This may very well be the best solution for self-sustaining power for a product such as this.

With all that being said, have a look at the feature list further down, where I mention about a key, to avoid unnecessary situations of being locked out of your house.

What to expect from smart locks

Here are some of the advantages:

  • Effortless Entry: You don’t have to fumble with your keys to open your door.
  • Lockouts Are Rare: It’s a lot harder to get locked out of your house.
  • Best of Both Worlds: It does what an ordinary one does, plus all of the extra smart features through your phone, etc.
  • Integration: It can be controlled or used to control other smart devices in your home to trigger multiple tasks.

Important features

It’s important to know what you should expect out of the various makes and models out there.

Here are some considerations when looking for the right product and what to expect from smart locks:

  • 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.
  • Smartphone Connectivity: Have a look to see which types of phones it can connect to. Some of them 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 smartphones. 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.
  • Key Access: This is one of the absolute essentials. Make sure that the product includes a key so that you can open it in a conventional manner, in case of power loss.
  • Fingerprint Scanner: This is great for getting into your home without having your smartphone or keys on you. 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 one

Here are some pre-purchase action steps:

  • Price Range: I thought it was worth mentioning that any of these products 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, 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 product.
  • Make sure it’s reputable: A well-known brand name, in my opinion, has refined its 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 wireless technology as a feature and giving this serious consideration when choosing one. More automated operations can be added later to this network.

The way smart bulbs work allows you have them activate when you unlock your door coming home at certain hours.

How to choose a smart lock

Out of all the different types, there will be something suitable for your budget and functionality. Here are some buyer’s guide tips to help you choose one a bit more wisely.

Purchase something that’s as similar to your old lock for an easier retrofit.

Firstly I should mention that you might want to stick to the original style of the one you want to replace.

This will keep down the number of alterations you have to do to your door and door frame, translating into having to do less work.

Parts like the type of door latches could be compared with the original, so you can improve your chances of selecting a close to original, in terms of its direct replacement.

Be careful when dealing with no name or new unproven models

As you probably know, look for a product that has stood the test of time. Don’t buy something that has been newly released and has no user rating or issues posted around the internet.

Security flaws are detected and solutions are created to combat these specific issues. After some time passes, there will be little left in terms of flaws or loopholes.

And if it doesn’t evolve, the buyer ratings and feedback will soon reflect that.

Do your research before buying

The last tip was intended as a segway into this important step. Do searches around places like Google, Reddit, and other smart lock forums. 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.

In conclusion

I hope this has provided you with the information you wanted to know about smart locks in this guide.

I think it’s a technology that should be considered, seeing as everything is moving in this direction. Soon it will be the commonly installed thing in most new homes.

Convenience and multiple ways of accessing your home in conjunction with other integration features are all examples of why this is becoming such a popular bought item.

There is often a debate on whether or not smart locks are secure enough, I guess arguments could be made for anything in either direction.

Having one to gain access to your home is not only convenient but very also very practical, wouldn’t you agree?

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