Smart locks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to home automation — and their work goes beyond merely locking doors. They offer remote control, voice control, geofencing, access control, and other smart features, which add to the convenience of your smart home.
You’ll receive notifications on your smartphone any time they’re unlocked or locked, and can connect with other smart home appliances, like video door cameras. Link your doorbell to Homekit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home and you can ask the voice assistants to lock your door from the comfort of your office.
Safety, security, and a house run smoothly all with a SmartHome monitoring system.
But on the other end of the spectrum comes the difficult part—finding the right smart lock. There’s no shortage of options—hundreds of smart locks from reputable brands like August, Yale, and Schlage. You’ll want to compare each lock’s strengths and weaknesses in the face of a forced breach, investigate additional features like smartphone alerts, voice control, and remote locking among others, and compare pricing points to get the best value for your money.
Wading through this can be overwhelming if you’re not knowledgeable—and even then, with so many variables it’s possible you could end up with a sub-optimal lock.
If you’re in the market to install a new lock or replace your old one, the experts at WirelessWizard have created a comprehensive question-based buying guide that should make your buying decision easier by addressing some of more frequently asked questions. Let’s get started!
What is a Smart Lock?
A smart lock is a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled smart home accessory that offers a keyless replacement to your conventional door locks. Once installed, a smart lock connects to your Bluetooth or home’s Wi-Fi network, letting you lock and unlock doors with a simple voice command or the tap of a finger. Smart locks also allow remote access—you can unlock your door to let in your dog walker while you’re in your office, for example.
Smart locks exceed the capabilities of traditional locks — they’ve created an entirely new security experience with convenience, functionality, and customization features designed to give you full control over your home. Here’s what you can get out of a smart lock:
- App support. Most smart locks are compatible with Android and iOS apps that let you control them remotely from your smartphone, monitor comings and goings, and alert you to any unusual activity.
- Multiple keyless entry points. Smart locks offer multiple keyless entry options—remote unlocking, proximity unlocking, custom code numbers to gain entry, and fingerprint recognition.
- Wi–Fi connectivity. This feature lets you view all exit and entry logs in real-time—you’ll always know who’s come or left your home, and when.
- Bluetooth connectivity. With Bluetooth connectivity, your smart lock recognizes you, connects with your smartphone, and unlocks your door when you’re in close proximity.
- Auto–locking. You can set your smart lock to lock your door automatically if left unlocked for a specific period. For instance, you can set the August smart lock to activate after 30 seconds closing the door.
- Alerts on your smartphone. You’ll receive a notification if someone tampers with your smart lock or attempts to break in.
- Integration with your smart home ecosystem. Integrate your smart lock with your smart home ecosystem to activate other smart home gadgets when you unlock the door.
What are the Benefits?
Here’s how smart door locks will benefit your home security system:
- Keyless entry. While some smart locks also accept physical keys, they really don’t need them. You no longer have to worry about losing your keys.
- Remote access/control. From delivery workers to dog walkers, you can remotely control your lock to grant them access to your home—and lock it when they’re gone.
- Smart device integrations. Smart locks come with the ability to integrate with voice assistants like Alexa and Siri—you can open your door with a voice command.
- Extra security. You can sync your smart locks with your video doorbell and other indoor cameras for additional security. View and record anyone who intrudes your home—or makes an attempt.
- Access limitations. Unlike traditional locks, smart locks let you set access limitations for each entry code. These limitations may include specific hours to ensure code holders access your home only at approved times.
- Stylish first impression. Smart locks aren’t clunky or oddly shaped—you can easily create a stylish modern or classic look on your home’s first point of entry.
What are the Drawbacks?
Here are a few concerns many people have about switching to smart door locks:
- Power or Wi-Fi dependent. Smart door locks often rely on electric power or Wi-Fi—the absence of either may render your lock non-functional.
- Susceptible to hackers. Similar to other automation devices, smart locks are prone to hacking if proper digital security measures aren’t in place.
- Difficult installation. Some smart door locks are difficult to install, especially if you must replace the deadbolt.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Lock
Looking to upgrade your old lock or thinking about buying your first smart door lock? Here are attributes to consider as you narrow down your search options.
Smart Home Compatibility & Voice Control
Smart voice control is a new frontier that’s pushing convenience to a new level—you’ll hardly walk into a house where someone isn’t asking Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant to turn the thermostat on. That’s why you need a smart lock that supports the top three widely-used voice assistants.
Some smart lock manufacturers let you control your voice activated lock using AppleKit and Siri. You can do this through your Apple iPad, Home Pod, Apple Watch, and all iPhones. Just install your compatible smart lock and connect to your Apple gadgets without any hard wiring or permanent installation. You can use Siri with your voice activated smart lock to latch, unlatch, and confirm the status of your door.
A smart lock may also integrate with your Google Home or any Google Assistant enabled device—but it must connect to the same Wi-Fi network as your existing Google Home setup. To set up your voice activated lock, launch the Google Assistant app and add the device in your home control settings. Once the device is added, you can control your smart lock using any Google Assistant device.
An Amazon Alexa compatible smart lock should work with all Alexa-enabled devices, including Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Dot as well as Alexa enabled Sonos devices. The Alexa app should let you connect your Amazon and smart lock accounts on your phone. Set up a security pin to enable smart unlocking, and you’ll have total control over your front door. And depending on your home setup, you may also pair your voice activated lock with your favorite doorbell camera.
How Long is the Battery Life?
Take the time to understand what’s the battery life for your smart lock — you don’t want to end up with a lock that uses an obscure battery or must be replaced every month. Smart lock batteries can last anywhere from three months to two years, depending on the communication protocol used, type of batteries, and brand.
Smart locks typically communicate with the entire home setup using three popular protocols: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Z-Wave. Bluetooth is a popular communication option since it doesn’t burn through your battery’s life as fast as Wi-Fi does. The average battery life for a Wi-Fi enabled smart lock is 1-3 months while a Bluetooth enabled lock can rack up 20 months of active life.
The type of battery your smart lock used is an equally important aspect to factor in. Most manufacturers suggest that lithium batteries can last twice as long as a regular alkaline battery. You’ll also want to consider the option of using rechargeable batteries.
And when the current battery life doesn’t suffice your needs, a few steps you can take to improve it include:
- Ensure your lock is installed correctly. Your incorrectly installed smart lock may force its motor to work harder, leading to reduced battery life.
- Reduce deadbolt friction. Ensure the deadbolt and strike plate in the doorframe are correctly aligned so that there’s no friction during deadbolt movement. Resistance to movement causes the lock motor to work harder, which drains more juice from the battery.
- Improve your Wi-Fi signal. A weak signal from your Wi-Fi access point strains the Wi-Fi chip as it works to maintain a good connection. The extra work by the chip may reduce battery life.
How Well Does the Auto-Unlock Work?
The smart lock auto-unlock is a popular feature among many users—it lets you enjoy the experience of having your door automatically lock and unlock when you’re in proximity. With most locks, the auto-unlock feature relies on various technologies in your phone to figure out its location—GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Your phone manages all these systems and with the help of the smart lock’s app, it determines your phone’s proximity.
But you won’t get the most out of the auto-unlock feature if it doesn’t work with utmost precision and safety. Typically, the auto-unlock feature is controlled by two smart lock app states—home and away.
When you’re at home, the smart lock app should enter home mode and deactivate the auto-unlock feature. As soon as you leave the house, the app should switch to away mode—usually when you’re further than 200 metres away from your home. This will automatically lock your door until you return home—when it unlocks again.
Make sure you assess how accurately your smart lock sees your phone—including the optimal distance for precise discovery. You don’t want to reach for your keys too soon just because your smartphone isn’t within “visible reach.” Keeping your smart lock app and phone’s operating system up to date ensures the best performance.
Does it Allow Guest Access?
Guest access is an important aspect to consider if your household has a lot of comings and goings but you don’t want to share your access codes or keys with everyone. This feature lets you give your visitors smartphone-based “keys” to your door and monitor their activity. But how does guest access work?
Once your smart lock is installed, you can use its associated smartphone app to grant access to visitors—from family members and babysitters to service people. To send an invite, just enter the person’s phone number and choose the type of access they should get. Your guest must have the smart lock app to use this feature. Some smart locks require that guest users create an account for proper sync.
Depending on the type of lock, you’ll typically have three access levels; temporary, permanent, and recurring. And you don’t have to worry about assigning the wrong access level — just go to your guests list and adjust the user settings. You can also revoke their access or delete them altogether.
Interface: Touchpad or Keyless
Think about how you want to unlock your door—using a key fob, touchpad or voice assistant. While you can have your regular key as a backup, we recommend that you consider a keyless lock. For starters, it eliminates the need for locksmith services if you misplace your key. Also, a keyless interface lets you use more secure unlocking mechanisms like your fingerprint or voice—which aren’t easy to replicate.
Does it Work with Any Smart Doorbells?
A smart lock may offer great convenience but its ability to sync with your smart video doorbell provides an extra layer of security. Smart locks that easily integrate with video doorbells will give you a real-time feed of what’s happening at your door. You can also record an intrusion or attempted break in to your home. Ease of integration and compatibility with various doorbells may vary depending on the brand and model, so be sure to weigh all your options.
Smart locks have the ability to turn your home into the ultimate, secure automated home. Similar to other smart home gadgets, smart locks need a bit more planning—from researching your options to installation. But once they’re in place, you’ll enjoy an unmatched level of convenience. Most smart locks should work with HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant — which lets you tie them in to other smart home appliances.
We understand that buying the right smart lock may be overwhelming, but the basics we highlighted above should help take the guesswork off the buying process. And you’ll be a step closer to creating a fully functional smart home ecosystem.