What features to look when buying a smart door lock?
10 features to consider before buying a smart door lock
1. Battery life
The majority of smart locks operate on either multiple AA alkaline batteries or a rechargeable lithium-ion cell. Whatever type of battery your smart door lock uses, you’ll still get an alert on your app when battery power gets low. Moreover, the housing mounted on the inside of your door will often include an LED that will flash red when the battery needs to be replaced or recharged. How long do these batteries normally last? Well, it all depends on the smart door lock and its functions. Many companies rate their battery life in terms of the number of “cycles” — that is, the total number of physical locks and unlocks — and power usually lasts anywhere from three months to a year, depending on the type of lock and the functions it performs.
2. Alternate unlocking way
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi may be great, but they are none the less occasionally unreliable. Even technology companies whose job it is to manufacture smart door locks are aware of this potential problem. So, they’ve come up with alternative ways for locking/unlocking smart door locks. As well as wireless unlocking techniques, more and more practical smart locks now offer alternative physical or electronic entry options, including PIN codes (sometimes with an add-on keypad, also Bluetooth-connected) and/or a physical key. A small number of smart door lock suppliers also offer a key fob to wirelessly unlock a door if you don’t have your smartphone with you.
3. Auto lock/unlock
Bluetooth enabled door locks usually provide keyless or PIN-less entry. When you’re carrying your smartphone, a smart door lock — particularly a retrofit lock — may let you auto-unlock your door when you are a prescribed distance away, and auto-lock behind you after a user-prescribed period of time. However, this prescribed distance is usually limited to around 30 feet, and it has to be remembered that you can only carry out this function from outside the property. A best smart door locks with keypads generally won’t include proximity auto-unlock capabilities for sound security reasons, like preventing an intruder or thief from entering a property using a lost or stolen phone.
4. Guest keys
Smart door locks, particularly retrofit models, let you assign “keys” for visitors who you’re happy to let into your home in your absence: visitors like out-of-town friends or family members, service workers or delivery people, or neighbours watering the plants, taking in the mail or or feeding the cat while you’re away. You may have come across this particular practice if you’ve ever stayed in an Airbnb property. Entry ‘keys’ are sent via a text or email code through the smart door lock app, and these keys give your visitor wireless entry capabilities for a prescribed period of time or a prescribed number of entries. Replacement smart locks with keypads allow you to simply assign temporary passwords, timed for single use or for a specific number of hours or days. Most smart door locks also track who comes and goes, and smart locks with Wi-Fi can send an alert to your phone when someone comes or goes, so even when you’re still at work you’ll be able to find out whether the kids have returned home from their schools.
5. Weatherproof rating
Smart door locks are complicated pieces of kit, housing not just the traditional metal pins, tumblers, gears and other standard lock mechanics, but also sensitive electronics. Thus they need to be able to withstand extremes in weather conditions to function properly. Complete replacement smart door locks will indicate what temperatures the door lock is designed to withstand and often have an IP water/dust-proof rating. However, not all smart locks are born equal: not all can withstand adverse weather conditions over a prolonged period. If you want to ensure that your smart lock is up to the job, no matter what the weather throws at it, then only buy from a reputable lock manufacturer with a long and proven track record of testing for such conditions.
6. ANSI lock quality
Most physical door locks will have their own distinct specifications and idiosyncrasies; so it’s difficult to establish whether the smart lock you’re considering buying will be up to the job. In order to make that choice a little easier, 3 standard lock designations have been introduced by the ANSI/BHMA (American national Standards Institute/ Builders’ Hardware Manufacturers Association). These designation tests judge locks on their robustness and security against picking, bumping, other physical attacks along with the longevity of the locking/unlocking mechanism. The 3 designation grades are:
The strongest grade, usually reserved for commercial applications
The most common residential lock, and most commonly bought ANSI-approved lock
Usually a secondary lock to supplement a grade 1 or 2 lock.
7. Wireless security
Security is always a concern, especially when you constantly hear and read about hacking attacks. That concern is no different for Wi-Fi security. Most smrt door lock manufactures will publish the technical specification of their locks and tell you just how secure their W-Fi security is, but it should be remembered that there is no ‘best’ wireless security scheme or standard for smart door locks. The best smart lock you can hope to discover is just how high a priority the smart door lock manufacturer places on the issue. The only way you’ll discover that, unfortunately, is through extensive research. What can be said with some sort of conviction, however, is that the best keylss door lock – that is the most hack-proof – are keypad-enabled models that don’t use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi as their primary entry method.
8. Smart home compatibility
Most smart door locks can be integrated into an existing smart home environment — using Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT (If This Then That), Z-Wave, ZigBee, Samsung SmartThings — so it’s easy enough to incorporate the locking of doors, turning on lights and adjusting temperature controls into your smart routine. However, as things currently stand, very few smart door locks are compatible with all smart home technologies.
9. Voice control
An increasing number of smart door locks that are compatible with Amazon and HomeKit also provide Alexa and Siri voice control. However, this voice control capability is usually limited to locking the door when you’re inside your home. Amazon recently approved an unlock voice control protocol which requires the user to provide a spoken password after a spoken unlock command. A growing number of lock makers are also just beginning to implement this new Alexa Key “speak to unlock” feature.
10. Fit and finish
Traditional door lock vendors with a vaulted pedigree offer a wide variety of smart door lock hardware finishes and trims and matching latch mechanisms, including variations of silver, bronze, brass and black. Newer tech-focused smart lock providers, however, do not offer such choices. Hence if aesthetics is important to you, your digital door lock purchase options are limited.
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