A Smart Approach to Security
A smart lock is arguably the most important part of a truly smart, connected home. Not only will it allow you to come and go as you please, it will also monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you’re away. Some models simply let you use your phone to open and close doors. Some let you assign special privileges to friends, family members, or maintenance staff. Others can be activated using voice commands or triggers from other smart home devices and services. Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a smart lock, along with reviews of the top models we’ve tested.
What to Look For
One of the first things you’ll want to consider is how much it will cost to upgrade your traditional lock. After all, a smart lock costs a heck of a lot more than the standard-issue lock you can pick up at the local hardware store. You can find a few smart locks out there in the $100 range (not many of which made the cut for this list), but if you want a lock that you can control from anywhere, with features such as voice commands, push and email notifications, and tamper alarms, expect to pay somewhere in the $200-$300 price range.
Many smart locks offer a mobile app that allow you to lock and unlock doors with a simple icon tap. Some offer a web app that lets you control things from your desktop or laptop PC. Most apps let you add permanent and temporary users and set access schedules for specific days and times.
If the lock is Bluetooth-enabled, you’ll have to be within range (around 40 feet) to communicate with it, while locks with built-in Wi-Fi circuitry or a Wi-Fi bridge can be controlled from almost anywhere as long as they are connected to your home router. Make sure your smart lock offers activity logs so you can go back in time to see who has entered or exited your home and when the activity took place.
The latest smart locks offer things like voice activation, geofencing, and auto-locking features. With voice activation, locking and unlocking doors is as easy as it gets; simply tell your phone to “unlock the front door,” and the lock will disengage. With geofencing, you’ll never have to worry if you locked up before you left the house; just use the mobile app to set up a perimeter around your house, and use your phone’s location services to pinpoint your exact location. When you leave the perimeter, you can have the lock automatically engage behind you. Similarly, an auto-lock feature will have the lock automatically engage after it has been unlocked for a specific period of time.
Other features to look for include keyless touchpads for those times when you don’t have your phone or your keys, tamper and forced entry alarms that warn you of a possible break-in, and push, text, and email notifications that let you know who is coming and going in real-time.
Easy to Install
None of the locks we’ve tested are especially difficult to install, but some are easier than others. If your new lock comes with both an interior escutcheon (the housing you mount on the inside of your door) and an exterior component (usually a touchpad or a keyed cylinder), you’ll probably have to completely remove your old lock, including the deadbolt mechanism and strike plate, before you can install the new device. This is simply a matter of removing the two bolts that attach the interior escutcheon to the exterior component and removing both pieces. The deadbolt is also held in place by two screws.
The good news is that most smart locks use the standard pre-drilled holes so you don’t have to worry about drilling new ones. Additionally, there are smart locks available that attach to the inside of your door and are designed to use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware, which means you only have to remove the interior escutcheon. Either way, you can count on spending anywhere from 10-25 minutes removing your old lock and installing your new smart one.
Smart Home Integration
Some locks integrate with other connected home devices, like the Nest Protect smoke alarm, and services, like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and If This Then That (IFTTT). For example, you can have your doors unlock when a smoke or CO alarm is triggered, or have certain smart lights turn on when a door is unlocked.
Depending on your home automation setup, you can even pair your lock with a connected doorbell cam, like the Ring, so you can see who is at the door before you unlock it, or have an interior camera begin recording when a door is unlocked. Just remember: The more features you get, the more you can typically expect to spend.
Other Kinds of Smart Locks
Keep in mind, there are also smart locks out there that aren’t necessarily door locks. Master Lock’s 4400D Indoor and 4401DLH Outdoor are both Bluetooth-connected padlocks, for instance. They’re built to be as tough as any standard lock, but use Bluetooth to unlock with the tap of a button when you’re nearby. They also let you grant temporary or permanent guest access on your terms simply by using an app.