Smart locks have become increasingly popular in recent years as homeowners look for ways to make their front door security part of their smart home setup. Smart locks provide a seamless and accessible way to lock and unlock your doors with the use of a smartphone, key fob, or even a voice command.
But smart locks are considerably more expensive that traditional locks and many homeowners may wonder if they are worth the investment.
In this article, we examine the pros and cons and ask the question are smart locks worth it? By the end of this article you will be able to decide for yourself if a smart lock is a worthwhile addition to your home security system.
- What are smart locks?
- How do smart locks work?
- Are Smart Locks Worth It?
- Advantages of smart locks
- Disadvantages of smart locks
What are smart locks?
Smart locks are WiFi or Bluetooth devices that allow you to lock and unlock a door without a key. They come with a variety of different technologies. These include electronic keypads, biometric sensors, access cards, and smartphone apps.
Image credit: schlage.com
What they all have in common is that you will never again have to leave a key under a flower pot or doormat.
How do smart locks work?
Smart locks are connected to WiFi networks, which allows them to send and receive commands to open or close.
Access via smartphone
Because they are connected to your WiFi network, you can control them from anywhere, using a smartphone app.
For example, you could let your child into your house while you are at work.
With a smart lock, you can give people access to your house through a smartphone app. Instead of having extra copies of your key cut, you can simply give someone access through the smartphone app. And you can revoke the access whenever you want. That’s like asking the person to give you back the copy of the key (but much less awkward!).
With a smart lock, you can open or close your front door with a voice command.
Multiple entry methods
Most smart locks give you multiple entry methods. Here are some of alternative entry options offered by smart locks:
- fingerprint sensor
- code (used on a keypad)
- key fob – the fob uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to authenticate you
- smartphone app (open and close the smart lock from your mobile app)
- voice command – connect your smart lock to a smart speaker such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
- physical proximity – some smart locks have a geofencing feature that detects when your your phone enters or leaves your house’s perimeter.
- manual key – many smart locks still have a keyway for manual operation
Image credit: Smart Door Locks
Thirteen useful smart lock features
Each brand of smart lock will have its own set of features, but here are the features that are often available in top tier smart locks:
- Touch – open the lock with your fingerprint (just like the fingerprint sensor on your smartphone)
- Key cards – these cards are like the ones you get at a hotel. Tap your key card against the smart lock housing and the door will open. You can program key cards using the manufacturer’s app on your mobile
- Mobile app – control your smart lock from the manufacturers’ app on your smartphone
- Auto-unlock – your smart lock unlocks when you are within your home boundary
- Auto-lock – your smart lock automatically locks after a certain amount of time
- Sharing – create a multi-person pass and share it via text or email
- Activity – view an activity log that shows you when your smart lock was opened and closed and by whom
- Passes – create a party pass that allows anyone with the code and a mobile phone to unlock and lock the door
- Keypad – open your smart lock with a digital keypad
- Remote connectivity – control your smart lock remotely, from anywhere in the world
- Automations – when used with a smart home hub, such as HomeKit, you can program your smart lock to open or close at set times of the day
- Voice control – in conjunction with a smart home hub such as Alexa, you can open and close your smart lock with a voice command
- Notifications – get notifications by SMS or email every time your smart lock is opened or closed
Are Smart Locks Worth It?
While smart locks are a great addition to an automated home, they have advantages and disadvantages, like anything else.
Are smart locks worth it?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of smart locks.
Advantages of smart locks
1. No more keys under the doormat
People often worry about smart locks and how secure they are. But nothing is riskier than leaving a copy of your front door key underneath the doormat.
With a smart lock, you will never have to do this again. You can give your teenager a pin code to open the front door or grant them access through a smartphone app, or simply open the door for them, from wherever you are.
Image credit: Etsy
2. Eliminate the problem of duplicate keys
If you have friends staying with you, and you have a traditional lock, you’ll probably get a copy of your front door key cut and give it to your friend.
But will you ever get it back?
After a number of years, there might be numerous copies of your front door key floating around. And that’s not ideal from a security perspective.
With a smart lock, you don’t need to do that. You can give your visitor access to your font door through a smartphone app. And once they have left, you can revoke that access.
3. Impossible to pick
Any keyed lock can be picked by someone who knows how. But many smart locks have no keyway at all. And that removes a vulnerability that all keyed locks have.
Of course, smart locks can potentially be hacked, but a run-of-the-mill burglar is unlikely to know how to do that. And in any case, the protections built into smart locks are making them ever more difficult to hack.
4. Automatic locking
Most smart locks can be programmed to automatically lock after a set period of time. This means that you will never again accidentally leave your front door unlocked.
Smart locks can also be set to lock once you and your smartphone are a certain distance from the house.
5. Security alerts
Most smartphones have built-in alerts that help keep your home more secure. If you accidentally leave your front door open after returning from grocery shopping, an alert will let you know.
6. Detailed activity logs
Activity logs are another security feature in many smart locks.
Every action performed by the smart lock is recorded in the activity log. This means that you can go back and see exactly who entered or exited your house and when.
Disadvantages of smart locks
1. Cost of smart locks
Smart locks are more expensive to purchase than keyed locks. The average cost of a smart lock is $200. If you are considering changing all the locks on your house to smart locks, this can quickly add up to a sizeable sum of money.
For many people cost will be the single biggest drawback to smart locks.
Installation can also be expensive.
Keyed locks are mostly DIY projects: the average person can install them without hiring a handyman. But smart locks are more complex to install and may require a technician.
2. Smart locks are battery operated
Smart locks are battery-operated which means that they will still keep working during a power outage. But it also means you have to replace the batteries before they go flat. With most smart locks, the batteries will last 6 to 12 months.
Replacing batteries is a clear downside to smart locks when compared with keyed locks. But on the plus side, many smart lock apps monitor battery life and send you alerts when you need to replace the batteries.
3. Smart locks are potentially hackable
Like anything connected to the Internet, smart locks can potentially be hacked. But if your smart lock has been properly installed and has the latest firmware, hacking a smart lock is extremely difficult.
The bottom line is this: if someone really wants to get into your house, it would be easier and simpler to break a window.
4. Smart locks require a WiFi network
Smart locks rely on a WiFi connection: this is what allows you to operate the smart lock remotely when you are away from home. If there is a power outage in your area, your WiFi network will stop working and you would lose the remote capabilities of your smart lock.
That’s why you should make sure your smart lock has at least one of these alternative entry methods:
- Some smart locks have terminals to receive a charge from a 9V battery – you could then make sure to always carry a 9V battery in the glovebox of your car
- Many smart locks come with a digital keypad – this means that you will still be able to open your door, even if the WiFi network is down.
- Some smart locks still have a traditional keyway – so even if you lose the WiFi network, you can still open or close the lock.
So are smart locks worth it? Let’s summarize the pros and cons.
Smart locks offer some clear advantages over traditional keyed locks.
For example, not having to cut copies of your front door key for your child or a guest. And never again having to leave the house key under the doormat.
Automatic locking and alerts when the door has been left open are features that will make your house more secure.
The ability to check on your front door and lock it while you’re away from home will give you peace of mind.
But there are also disadvantages.
Having to monitor batteries and replace them every 6 to 12 months could be an unwanted chore for some people. And then there’s the cost of converting your house from keyed locks to smart locks.
But on balance, the benefits of smart locks outweigh the drawbacks.
You’ll never again spend valuable time searching for your house keys. And you can say goodbye to the hassle and expense of getting extra keys cut for kids and guests.