Smart locks are one of the most important smart home devices you can own. Having a smart lock means you never have to look for keys or be locked out of your house again. They are also a great option for rental properties because you don’t have to change the lock, you can just change the entry code. There are a lot of options when shopping for a smart lock, and to get the most out of the model you choose it’s important to choose the right type for your home.
Smart Lock Buying Guide Quick Reference Handout
Table of contents
What is a smart lock?
If you’ve ever dug through your bag or lost your key chain and had to crawl through a window to get into your house, you’ll love having a smart lock. A smart lock is a door lock that lets you lock and unlock your door from an app on your phone or a keypad on the lock itself. You won’t need physical keys to use this kind of lock, but some types do offer a physical key you can use if you’d like to.
You can set your smart lock to automatically open when you are near it or tap to open or lock it when you’d like to let someone else into your home. You can also send other people digital keys or grant them access so they can enter your home too.
Types of smart locks
There are many different options when choosing a lock for your smart home, and the type you choose will depend on where you are placing the lock and what type of lock you’d like to install. Most smart locks will install in half an hour or less and all you’ll need is a screwdriver.
1. Smart locks to fit your existing deadbolt
You can choose a smart lock that works with your existing deadbolt. You install this type of lock over your own hardware on the interior side of your door and leave the exterior keyhole in place. Also known as retrofit smart locks, this lock works by physically turning the deadbolt for you. Depending on the brand, you’ll need to check to see if the lock you’re interested in is compatible with your existing deadbolt.
Available from brands like August, a retrofit smart lock is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to change out their existing deadbolt. Because you are only adding the lock to the inside of your door, you can still use your physical keys to unlock or lock your door if you’d like to. It’s also a great choice for a rental property so you can restrict access but not have to go through the process of changing the locks every time you have a new tenant.
2. Smart locks with their own deadbolt
Some types of smart locks are packaged with their own deadbolt or other hardware. The process to install this type of lock is slightly more complex as you’ll have to switch out your door’s existing deadbolt for the new deadbolt.
One of the best benefits of this type of lock is that you can install it on almost any door. Available from brands like Google Nest x Yale, Alfred, and eufy, you can choose from a number of different types and styles to suit your door.
Connection options for smart locks
Once the smart lock is installed you’ll need to connect it to your home network so you can control it via an app. Depending on the type of smart lock you’d like, it will connect in one of three ways.
1. Wi-Fi smart locks
A Wi-Fi-connected smart lock connects to your home’s Internet network. Some models of Wi-Fi lock have software that connects directly to your Wi-Fi network while others offer Wi-Fi connectivity as an add-on option. With add-on Wi-Fi connectivity you’ll use another device called a bridge or a device you plug into a wall near the lock itself. Once connected you can open your app or web browser and lock and unlock your door from anywhere in the world.
Wi-Fi locks are a good choice if you want your lock online and your door accessible at all times, and this type of smart lock may offer you more options including voice control via your voice assistant or connecting it for custom control using third-party services like IFTTT. You can give multiple users access to your Wi-Fi lock. Having your lock connected to a Wi-Fi network also means you can open and close a door on a rental property or your Airbnb, letting you manage your property without physically being there. Just keep in mind that having your lock connected to Wi-Fi can drain your lock’s battery faster than if you have a Bluetooth lock that only opens and closes when you’re nearby.
2. Bluetooth smart locks
Some types of locks connect to your phone via Bluetooth. A Bluetooth smart lock will connect to your phone when you’re within range of the lock. The range will depend on the lock itself, but most can connect within 200 to 300 feet. Bluetooth smart locks have a longer battery life because they only connect when you’re near them. You can add multiple users to the compatible app of your Bluetooth lock so more than one person can open the door. The only downside of this type of smart lock is that you can’t open the door remotely as your phone will need to be near the lock to unlock it.
3. Z-wave locks
A Z-Wave smart lock is a lock that doesn’t connect to your phone or a compatible app. To use this type of lock you’ll install the lock and a Z-Wave hub that will transmit data from your lock to your home’s Internet router. A Z-Wave hub is a device that becomes the central hub of your smart home, and it connects other devices like your smart lock, smart doorbell, or smart appliances. To lock and unlock your lock you’ll open the Z-Wave app and control it from there.
There are a few types of Z-Wave hub you can choose including Wink and Samsung SmartThings, and some brands that offer Z-Wave smart locks are Yale and Alfred. Although the lock can be controlled remotely, it will need to be placed within range of the Z-Wave hub. Most Z-Wave hubs have a range of around 100 feet, but you can add a Z-Wave extender to boost the distance between your lock and your hub.
How secure is a smart lock?
Smart locks offer you a very secure way to lock your door. Although a retrofit smart lock will use your existing deadbolt, most locks have a touch screen or plate on the front of the door for added security. They will also track any attempt to log in to your brand’s app and tamper with your lock, and you can always change the keycode if you’re concerned someone may gain access to your home.
Here are a few tips to keep your smart lock secure.
1. Update your smart lock software
Smart lock brands will update the lock’s software from time to time. Be sure to install these updates as soon as they are available as they may contain security patches or software to keep your lock up to date.
2. Use a strong password
One of the best tips for using a smart lock is to create a passcode that would be difficult for anyone to guess. Try not to use a passcode that’s also a birthday or special date, and be sure to switch your passcode from time to time to keep your home safe and secure.
3. Choose a smart lock with encryption
Some smart locks have technology that encrypts your smartphone and smart lock connection. Take a look at the features on the smart lock you’re interested in to see if it supports 128-bit AES encryption or Bluetooth SMART. This means that your smart lock may have the same encryption that’s used for online banking transactions.
4. Upgrade your router
A smart lock connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network so one of the ways you can make your smart lock more secure is to upgrade your router. The latest routers can block malicious threats to your network and the devices connected to it.
Things to consider when choosing a smart lock
Every home and family is different, so the best smart lock for your front door may not be the best smart lock for your rental property. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the best smart lock for your home.
1. Do you need a smart lock to work with your smart doorbell?
Some smart locks can be paired with a smart doorbell. When you pair the two devices together you have a security system that notifies you of who is at your door and gives you the opportunity to unlock the door and let them into your house if you’d like to. Nest Yale smart lock and Nest Hello smart doorbell are an example of smart doorbells and smart locks that work together. You can access both in one app, and you can see, speak to, and open the door for whoever is there.
2. Battery life of smart locks
There are a lot of variables that can affect the battery life of a smart lock including the temperature outside and how often you lock and unlock it, but you’ll find that most smart locks have a battery life of 3 months to 1 year before you need to swap out the batteries.
3. How does auto-unlock work?
Auto unlock is a feature on smart locks that lets you unlock the door without needing to pull out a key or tap on a keypad. Auto unlock can be activated by geolocation or Bluetooth access via the smart lock’s app or your smart watch. When you use geolocation, your lock will unlock or lock when you are nearby or when you. have left the area. Bluetooth access works when you approach the lock and are near enough that the lock detects your app or watch.
4. What happens if there is a battery failure?
Some smart locks have a backup if your battery fails before you can charge it or change it. There are certain types of smart lock that have a keyhole and keys in case you’d like to open them with keys. Some smart locks have a small spot you can touch with a 9-volt battery to give you enough of a charge to open it up and change the batteries. There are also smart locks that have an easy-to-access battery compartment inside your home so you can just open it up to switch batteries out.
5. Do you want your smart lock to allow guest access?
If you’d like to allow your delivery driver to put your packages inside your house or you have a rental and you’d like to let people in and out of the unit temporarily, you can choose a smart lock that allows guest access. Some smart locks let you set a pin code with date and time expiry so your guest can enter on a certain day or time. Other smart locks have guest access via their app or Bluetooth.
Features on smart locks
A smart lock can do much more than just lock and unlock your door. Here are a few features different models of locks will share.
1. Fingerprint scanner
Some types of smart locks have fingerprint scanners. You can train the lock to recognize your fingerprint and when you place it over the sensor your door will unlock.
2. Touch keypad
A touch keypad lets you enter a pin code to unlock your door. You can set up a pin code for yourself or create one for a friend, family member, or delivery person. Depending on the smart lock you choose you may be able to create pin codes with time expiry so someone can use the code once and that’s it.
3. Auto Locking
Auto-locking is a feature you can use to make sure your door is always locked. With Auto-Lock turned on your lock will lock within a set time frame. For example, if you’d like your door to lock after one minute of opening, you can set it to Auto-Lock and it will lock for you.
4. Geo locking
Geo lock and unlock is a feature that will unlock your door when the lock picks up that you’re within a certain distance or range. You can set your lock to unlock when you pull into the driveway or lock automatically when you leave the yard.
5. Voice control
Some smart locks are compatible with voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, or Bixby. You can add your lock to your home’s smart hub or speaker and issue commands like ‘Unlock my back door.’
6. Access log and history
Some lock apps will keep a history of who opened and closed the door or how the door was locked and unlocked. Whenever someone uses their code you’ll see a history of how many times your door was locked or unlocked. If you use remote entry by tapping the app you’ll see a history of the day and time the door was unlocked remotely.
7. Assign individual key codes
If you want to keep track of how often your teenagers open and close the door or you want to give someone temporary access to your home, you can program individual key codes in your lock. You can set the key code to expire after a certain period of time, making a smart lock the perfect choice for an Airbnb property or rental.
A few types of locks will offer a built-in alarm. If someone tries the key code to many times or they are attempting to remove the lock itself, an alarm will go off.
9. Lock with built-in video doorbell
You can find smart locks with built-in video doorbells. Having your doorbell right on your lock reduces clutter near your door and puts your lock and doorbell control in one app.
Take the next step
A smart lock offers you an easy way to open your door, and when you have one you’ll never have to dig through your bag for keys or crawl through a window when you’ve forgotten them somewhere else. Whether you’re looking for a smart lock for your home’s door or you’d like to choose one for your rental property, you can find the best smart lock for you by shopping at Best Buy.