The way we lock our home and keep it secure has changed almost beyond belief since the introduction of door locking systems.
This in depth guide will cover the topic in detail and look at how effective electronic door locks are in comparison to traditional locks to help you keep your property as possible.
Door Locks: The Origin
Did you know that one of the earliest products of the industrial revolution was the key entry safe? The first generation safes that required a key entry were introduced way back in the early 1800s and that was the beginning of a sub-branch of an industry that continues to grow well in the 21st century.
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and these tough to crack safes were invented out of need.
At that time there was a highly publicized burglary that occurred in England leading the government to sponsor a contest.
The objective was to create a safe that can only be opened by only one key. The Chubb brothers were awarded the prize for their tumbler lock with relocker. Their lock jammed every time a different key was inserted.
Of course, nowadays there are a number of different types of lock. This guide will look into the more advanced types of locks available today which includes fingerprint door locks, electronic dock locks, and keypad locks.
Digital Versus Mechanical Locking Systems
In this section we’ll look at some of the best digital door locks available in the market today. However, before we get on to that, let’s go over the difference between traditional deadbolt door locking systems versus digital door locking systems.
- Mechanical Locking Systems
Traditional locking systems are definitely cheaper by comparison. If you are burdened by the cost of these things then consider a traditional locking mechanism for now. Just aim to upgrade later. These locks are also easy to install and there are a lot of style options available.
Unfortunately these locking systems can lead to you getting locked out easily – do you remember the last time you left your keys inside the house or forgot where you put the keys to the safe? It is also quite difficult to control the access with these locks. If you guessed it has something to do with being weighed down by the keys, then you are spot on.
- Digital Locking Systems
Digital locking systems may be more expensive but they give you that key less convenience. Armed with a unique pin, you can easily control who gets access to which door.
Installation is also easy with digital locks. Aside from the cost, the only downside to digital locks is that you may forget the pin and you will have to change the battery after some time.
What are Electronic, Fingerprint & Combination/Keypad Locks?
- Electronic dock locks – these door locks are a type of digital door lock that does not require any keys. All you need is a numerical code to open them. Some may even have alpha-numeric code support. They’re pretty versatile and if you want to grant access to someone else you can just program other codes.
- Combination door lock – this type of locking mechanism introduces the use of a rotating dial. Some combination locking mechanisms include the use of backup or emergency keys and time delays, which is the type of lock used for the safes you see in banks.
- Fingerprint door lock – judging by the name, you can tell that locks of this type are biometric. In this case, you need a matching finger print to open the locks – and yes it will feel like you’re in a spy movie while you’re at it.
Pros and Cons of Electronic Door Locks
Now, here’s a huge question asked by some folks looking to buy a new lock for their home or even for a safe.
Often homeowners ask if a keyless lock is any good or if it is just as secure as traditional locks with keys.
To help you decide for yourself, here are the pros and cons of using these kinds of door locks. Let’s begin with the pros:
- There are no keys needed. Keyless locks are convenient in that you don’t have to worry about any keys. No one else can open the door because ideally you’re the only one who knows the key combination. In case you forget, most of these locking systems have a cylinder override, which serves as a backup system. This is also a safety feature in case the battery dies.
- Since you have no need for a key, then there is no key to lose or misplace. There is also no need to hide the key in an easy to find hiding place that professional burglars already know about.
- You don’t need to bother with making duplicate copies of your keys and in case you are away and you want to let your friends or cleaner in, all they need is to call or text you and you can give them the code to let them in. You can always change the code later when you get back.
Now for the Cons
Perhaps the biggest downside of door locks of this type is the fact that they are pricey. These locks are a lot more expensive compared to your traditional deadbolt, which would only cost somewhere between £15 and £38. An electronic model will cost you anything from £114 to £190.
Apart from the cost, there are security threats to this system as well. For instance, it’s very easy for people to go shoulder surfing without you noticing it. They could observe you while you are entering the lock code, commit it to memory, and use it later. However this can easily be avoided to ensure no one is behind you when you enter your home.
Regular wear and tear will also require you to clean and later on replace the keypad and other parts, which can also be expensive. You will be obliged to replace those keys or the touch screen simply because people can figure out the code you have been using by observing which keys have been worn out quite well compared to the others. Regularly changing your key code will obviously allow you to avoid certain keys being used too much and becoming worn.
Are Electronic Door Locks As Safe As Traditional Locks?
One of the most common questions asked about these high tech locks is if they are as safe as the traditional locks that we’re all used to. The short answer is yes, they are as safe as traditional locks. But the devil is in the details, as the saying goes, so let’s look at several important highlights of the discussion so you can ultimately decide whether to get one or not.
- Tech Savvy Family
Is your family tech savvy? Does mum have any issues with using a glowing, touch screen enabled, finger sensor, biometric door lock? Will grandmother be the first to run for the hills at the sight of these things?
One of the factors that you have to consider is the level of tech savvy-ness of your family (or maybe your roommate or whoever it is living with you). You definitely don’t want to surprise them coming home one day only to find out that you replaced the locks with some high tech MI6 enabled door that they can’t open.
If you or a member of your family is still working hard at figuring out how to work an iPhone then getting one of these locks may be quite challenging for them. Sure, you can say that there’s an app on the phone for the lock – but they’re still figuring out how to launch an app.
- Do You Lose the Keys a Lot?
If you do lose your keys a lot of or maybe a family member is a professional at misplacing them, then a keypad lock can be such a huge convenience. That is one of the biggest reasons why a lot of folks out there have gone keyless. Imagine the freedom of not having to carry a bunch of keys in your pocket, now that is the future.
- Batteries and Weather
One interesting detail that you should keep in mind is the fact that a lot of these high tech lock systems are battery operated. After a year of use, you will have to replace the battery in these locks. Yes, that’s the usual battery life for such devices.
Another detail that you should think about is the fact that the weather in your area can affect the performance of these electrical devices. They have circuit boards, remember? They can give pretty much as any other electrical gizmo when it gets too cold, when exposed to too much sunlight and heat, and other weather conditions.
The good news is that these high tech locks have a backup system – a failsafe in case something goes wrong. They usually have an override key. Oh jolly good; you’ll never be left out in the cold.
- Burglars Won’t Mess with Them
Do you know what is currently the number one burglary deterrent in the world? If you said smart locks then you’re wrong. It’s actually a CCTV camera. Yes, the common crook won’t mess with your house if they notice that you have a security camera system installed.
Why? Well, according to crooks themselves, they won’t even bother to fool around with an electronic lock or even a traditional deadbolt. It just takes too much time and they are too much of a hassle. What these guys want is a quick way in and a faster way out – and that usually doesn’t involve the front or the back door. Yes, they’d rather force their way through a window so remember to secure your whole property to be extra safe.
Are All Electronic Door Locks Smart Locks?
The answer to this common question is no. A smart lock is a type of key less door lock. Smart locks have the usual features of an electronic door lock, yes. The big difference is that these locks can be operated remotely.
They offer owners several authentication methods (i.e. how you lock and unlock them).
First off, they also have pin codes that you can program into the system. Others may also incorporate the use of security tokens like proximity cards and what not.
Finally, they may also have some biometrics – think along the lines of finger print scanners, facial recognition, and retinal scanners (although you’ll find that finger print recognition to be more common).
If you’re really looking to improve the functionality of your front door you should check out our wireless doorbell guide while you’re here.
How to Install Electronic Door Locks
Are you looking to install or maybe upgrade your traditional combination door lock to something more high tech? Note that some models are easier to install than others and you generally would need some carpentry and electrical skills to get it done.
The good news is that electronic door locks can be installed on pretty much any door that has a deadbolt lock installed on it. More good news is that they are also pretty easy to install – it only takes about 10 minutes to install one; well some more complicated models will require more time and tech experience however none are impossible to fit and even you can do it.
Without going too technical about it, here are the steps on how to install an electronic door lock.
Step 1 – Mount the keypad
The first step is to mount the keypad – that means you may need to drill a hole about three quarters of an inch. Of course, before you can start drilling you need to remove the old dead bolt first. If the size of the new bold matches the size of the old one then you won’t need to drill a hole and can just use the existing space instead.
Reminder: You should make sure that the bolt is fully retracted and the part that is labelled as “top” is facing upwards.
Step 2 – The wiring
This is the part that can get a bit challenging. Seeing all those wires can stress you out but don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it looks. One of the wires you need to pay attention to most is the one for the battery. You can trace it backwards from the battery going to the lock assembly with all the buttons on it.
You need to fit the wires through the available space on the door. Make sure to remove the battery first. Now, some models have more wires like a solenoid relay, which goes to the solenoid lock, and the suicide circuit, which is an added protection in case someone decides to unscrew the lock and poke around.
Step 3 – Battery
Next you need to attach the battery and tuck it out of sight.
Step 4 – Testing
Screw everything tight and make sure that the keypad is well mounted and the cover plate is secured. Test if the bolt goes in and out smoothly. Test the functionality of the lock by typing in your code.
And that is pretty much it.
Yale Keyless Non-Connected Door Lock
Yale is one of the oldest and one of the most trusted names in the locking industry. The Yale Keyless Non-Connected Door Lock is a modern and high tech offering. Given its most basic functionality, you no longer have to fumble through your keys when your arms are full.
- This lock comes with a low battery indicator
- Outfitted with an emergency battery connection
- Features touch screen keypad
- Highly programmable using a PIN code range of 4 to 12 digits
- Unit can be retrofitted with night latches
- This digital lock can be reprogrammed as often as needed
This Yale digital door lock is relatively easy to install; it can be fitted into 46 mm doors without any problems and it can also fit on composite doors. The only catch is that for it to be insurance approved it should be fitted with a Maximum Security BS3621 Mortice Lock.
Yale Conexis L1
The Conexis L1 is a true blue smart lock that allows you complete control over your door. It allows you to control access into your home remotely turning your smartphone into a digital key.
Here are its best features:
- Mobile door control via the Yale lock app
- Send mobile keys to everyone in the family
- Works in tandem with key tags, key cards, and phone tags
- You get a notification regarding who comes and goes
- This unit is compatible with most multipoint locks
- The unit is compatible with leading smart home systems
Note that the package for the Yale Conexis L1 includes a key tag and a key card. Phone tags are sold separately. Installing this smart door lock is relatively easy – if you have DIY skills then it should be a cinch. The pairing process with phone tags and smart cards is also not a problem. You can even pair multiple tags as needed.
Also known as the Hoppe Arrone AR/D-195 is part of a family of products that were designed for simplicity and convenience. Note that this particular digital locking system is primarily designed for low to medium traffic areas like offices, storerooms, and workshops.
- This digital lock is designed for indoor and outdoor installation
- It can be installed on both left handed and right handed doors
- Features dual function holdback
- Outfitted with a 14 digit keypad that allows up to a total of 8,000 codes
- Changing the codes is rather simple
- Unit is designed for 33 to 55 mm thick doors
Note that the code combinations that you are allowed to make with the Hoppe 87128205 should have 4 to 7 digits. The only downside about this product is in the installation. You need a bit of DIY skills since the entire assembly can be a little bit difficult to fit. But once you have that done it fits snug as a bug.
You can say that the SAMSUNG SHS-H700 is brilliantly designed, which is why it is quite popular. This smart lock is designed to handle high voltages so anyone trying to break in can’t short circuit the unit.
- Fast and secure finger print recognition system
- Left and right handed design
- Features one 4 to 12 digit password
- Dual way security
- Outfitted with a touch screen key pad
- Allows several access methods which include credit cards, key tags, passwords, and others
- Fire detection sensor
- Manual switch gear
- Auto lock feature
There are only a couple of drawbacks about this digital lock system. First off, it can be a bit pricey. It is within the £200 and above price range. The other drawback is the fact that you need to hire a tradesman to get it installed. Even if you pay attention to the instructions (some of which is in Korean) it can get quite technical. Save yourself the headache – get help with the installation.
August Smart Lock
The August Smart Lock is a complete key less system that includes a robust set of security features. This smart lock integrates with the current deadbolt mechanism installed on your door. Simply put, it replaces everything where your key should go in and every part associated with.
- Key less locking and entry system for any smart home
- Easily attaches to the current deadbolt already installed on your door
- Complete key less access for security management – you keep track of who goes in and out of your door through your phone
- Automatic lock and unlock feature – the door locks when you leave home and it automatically unlocks when you arrive home
- DoorSense feature – tells you whether your door is closed and unlocked or not
- August app supports temporary virtual keys
It’s a cleverly designed locking system that integrates with a smart home setup. It is very easy to install with or without any tradesman skills.
The SCYAN x7 is a state of the art digital lock. The main access modes are via state of the art biometrics (finger scanner) and keypad entry. However, in case of emergency, access via a key override is equipped.
Note that key override can also be disabled. This system can store up to 100 user finger prints and also 100 user codes. The built in one touch active sensor makes entry quite effortless.
The SCYAN x7 is easily one of the most attractive products today. It is also competitively priced within the £100 and up range.
- Combination lock – mode of access combines keypad entry and finger scanner
- Features heavy duty construction
- Reversible handle – suits left handed and right handed door configurations
- The finger scanner features a self-learning ability – your finger template gets updated every time you use the scanner (reduces the rejection rate)
- Fits 1.25 inch to 2.25 inch thick doors
- Outfitted with removable cylinder, which allows you to make key copies conveniently
The Adel LS9 is a door lock system that was designed for interior security. Say you have an important closed door meeting and you don’t want unauthorized people just walking in unannounced. You can set the Adel LS9 to let an authorized person in and then lock the door after his/her entry. It also has other brilliant features, which include the following:
- Multiple access modes includes password, fingerprint scanner, and key
- Unit can store up to 120 finger prints max
- No external wiring necessary
- Reversible handle – supports both left and right handed door setups
- No computer programming necessary
- Features an independent clutch design
- Includes low battery indicator and low power alert (beeping sound)
- Setup includes emergency DC input (external)
- This digital locking system features several operating modes
Note that this unit is most useful as a biometric lock. Of course the other access features are included to expand on the flexibility of this digital lock. It’s also very easy to install since you don’t have to mess with any wiring.
ZKTeco Bluetooth Biometric Door Lock
This smart lock system is intuitively designed for the home owner. Completely keyless features (see below). It also records who goes in and out – up to 500 records. This unit is ideal for homes that have plenty of traffic.
- Complete keyless access features – also comes with mobile app for iOS and Android
- Features robust biometric finger print access
- Manage everyone’s access permissions via the mobile app. You can modify user’s access rights as well as delete finger prints on your phone
- Offers several safety level options, which include Bluetooth, application password, and supervisor passwords
- This product features the Time Zone Function: You can program access times and access permissions. The system allows you to set a time range when a user can be allowed entry and how many hours a security key can be valid.
Note that a super password should be set for this unit along with a Bluetooth pairing password. The unit also has the One Touch Open feature.
The ZKTeco RFID, also known as the TL100, is primarily a biometric fingerprint lock system. If you are looking for an anti-theft finger print locking system then this might be a good choice given its set of features, which includes the following:
- Synchronization of user data
- Features a smart alarm in case of illegal operation or when the battery is low
- The idle hand design of this smart lock is a safety feature that prevents any kind of forced entry
- The key pad is illuminated, which makes it easier to enter your pass code when it is dark
- Supports pass cards – the card capacity of this unit is 100 cards
- Supports up to two passwords (note that passwords can also be randomized)
- Features an anti-theft mortise design
The TL100 supports doors with standard thickness (45 to 50 mm thick). The package also contains 2 keys, 1 main and another spare. Note that there are separate units for left handed and right handed door configurations.
The aesthetics of the Anviz L100 is enough to convince people that this is a top notch digital lock. The exterior is sleek and has a nice professional touch to it. It could be a good option if you are looking for a compact security lock for sensitive areas in the workplace.
- Stylish elegant design
- Features a front panel made of durable zinc alloy – this digital lock system doesn’t only look good, it’s also tough
- Designed for indoor and outdoor use
- Waterproof design
- Supports left handed and right handed door configurations (handle is reversible during setup)
- Includes mechanical key for backup access and emergency use
Note that user enrolment is quick and easy – it usually takes only 5 seconds. This unit supports the use of RFID cards. The card reader access is best suited for kids and older folks; so they don’t have to fumble around with the biometric features – which means this lock system is also great for home use. It can also be a good option for high traffic areas since the unit is outfitted with a TI chip, which is a power saver.