Smart Locks and Smart Doorbells are one of the easiest “gateway” smart home products out there. By starting with locks and doorbells (or even having it be a second product in a growing smart home), you add security, ease, and convenience to those in your household, and even guests. In this blog, I’ll discuss expanding your smart home universe with smart locks and smart doorbells and what benefit they bring to your home.
Why Should I Consider Smart Locks and Smart Doorbells?
Smart Locks are probably the easiest major smart home product to install. They don’t require much in the way of handyman skills, and, because they’re battery powered, they don’t require you to have any knowledge of wiring.
Just about every major smart lock available in Canada also has some sort of affiliation with a partner network, in which case your lock can partner with other smart home gadgets around the house to do helpful things.
For example, an August Lock (or a Yale Lock with the Connected by August Kit) can partner with the Nest Learning Thermostat so that when you leave home through your smart locked door, the thermostat goes into away mode, allowing you to save on your heating bills if you often forget to turn it down before you leave home.
Smart Doorbells require a little bit more knowhow when it comes to wiring, including shutting off your circuit breakers, and, in some cases, installing an accompanying device in your electric chime itself.
However, they’re not expert level installation by any means. In fact, at one point Ring claimed that their installations were so easy that they’d guarantee you could do it yourself or else they would foot the bill for somebody to come in and install it for you.
Smart Doorbells typically feature a video camera with two-way communication and sensitivity settings so that you can set up how often you want to be notified about activity at your front door.
Should I get Bluetooth or Wi-Fi Devices?
Here’s where things get a bit tricky to figure out. Smart Locks have traditionally worked with local Bluetooth, while you’ve needed Wi-Fi for a smart doorbell.
If you’re in the market for both at the same time, I would really recommend going with something that connects to the other one and allows for simultaneous Wi-Fi connectivity. With the two products supporting each other, you’ll get perks that you wouldn’t get from two separate products.
For example, a Ring Video Doorbell and a Yale Assure Lock would function separately from each other.
However, An August Video Doorbell and Smart Lock together (pictured at right) would allow you to greet someone at the door through the video feed and then unlock the door to let them in from the same app and screen.
The same goes for any Yale lock that has the Connected by August Kit I spoke about earlier and the August Doorbell.
As with having any continuously connected Wi-Fi device in your home, you need to make sure that the signal strength near the affected device is strong enough that you can support its features.
If you have a weak signal around your devices, you’ll have tons of trouble with any remote connectivity. Video feeds will be spotty (if they even work at all), and you won’t be able to unlock your doors remotely (if you choose a Wi-Fi lock).
Expanding on Smart Security through Smart Locks and Smart Doorbells
There are some security kickbacks that you’ll receive through your smart locks and smart doorbells too.
Since all doorbells typically come with some sort of video camera attached, you can use your doorbell as a means of security for your front door since it can alert you to when the bell is ringing and send you a live feed of who is at your door and what motion is ongoing.
If you properly configure your smart lock’s feature settings, you can have it trace timelines around when the door has been locked and unlocked. Certain features with the August Lock, for example, will allow you to trace a timeline of when the front door has been locked and unlocked.
August’s DoorSense sensor (which is included with their more comprehensive lock packages) can tell you when the door itself is open or closed (since the lock itself can’t do that).
Many lock apps also allow you to hand out guest keys to family members, house sitters, etc. This will give you better control over understanding who is coming and going, and, since you can enable and disable these keys at any point, it will also give you full control over who has access to begin with.
This should effectively get rid of the idea of cutting and giving out extra keys. Speaking of which, if you just want to do away with keys altogether, there are some completely keyless smart locks from Yale that feature numeric keypads on the front. Without a keyhole, this makes your front door effectively bump proof.
Smart Doorbells also feature two-way communication and some range of night vision, so you can speak with whoever is at the door in real time if you need to.
I just saw a compilation video a few days ago of various porch pirates (package thieves) caught in the act by homeowners. One video actually featured the owner telling the would-be thief (loudly) to get away from the package, resulting in the unwelcome visitor running at full speed back to their car and taking off.
Different doorbells also feature different options around video recording, but just about all of them feature some form of subscription based cloud storage service (in case you want to record beyond any period of time other than real time).
Should I Start with Smart Locks or Smart Doorbells at First?
The answer to this one is simple in my opinion: Always go with the Smart Lock first.
Make sure you do your research beforehand to find out which doorbells are compatible with the lock to get the most out of both, but the smart lock is something you can pick up and install over a cup of coffee in the morning, while you’ll have to put a little bit more time aside for the doorbell.
There are some things you need to understand a bit further too, so I’d recommend reading my blog on things to know before installing a smart doorbell before jumping in.
The most common smart locks are compatible with about 90% of doors and lock sets out there, so there’s very little you’ll need to do outside of following the applicable instructions.
While working on your smart lock, make sure that you check the signal strength around wherever you’re eventually installing the accompanying doorbell and deal with any issues you may discover at that time, whether it be through range or mesh Wi-Fi extension.
When it comes down to choosing a brand, thankfully there isn’t much that separates locks and features anymore (since they’re all basically compatible with a lot of the same partner networks, such as Works with Nest).
I currently have this August Lock on my front door, but I’ve also cycled through about 4 different types over the last few years. The Yale Assure SL Lock is the way to go if you want to ditch keys altogether, and I’ve mentioned a couple of times throughout the blog that you can buy a plug-in to give it August connectivity.
Nest also has a bump proof smart lock which is powered by Yale technology (if you have a lot of their products already too). With doorbells, I’ve had both Ring and August, and I’d be comfortably fine with either one.
Speaking strictly on aesthetics, I think Ring and Nest’s doorbells look better than August’s, which doesn’t do much to disguise the fact that it’s a smart doorbell with a video camera attached.
Really, you can’t go wrong with any option these days as long as you pick up the newest technology out there. Check out all that new technology, and more, available now at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca
Which smart locks and doorbells are you using in your home right now? Which combinations would you recommend to your fellow readers? Tell us below.