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Smart Door Locks: Your In-Depth Guide

By Laura Bourland Rise Writer
Aug 20, 2021

Have you ever locked yourself out of your own home? How frustrating! There you stand, on the new doormat you just put out, staring at your keys through the window. So close, yet so far away! What do you do? 

Do you try to break into your own home? Call a friend that has a spare key? Or do you wait around for a locksmith to show up and let you back in? 

Door locks secure our belongings and loved ones, but they can also be incredibly inconvenient. Luckily, door locks have gotten smarter, along with many other new smart home technologies.

Table of Contents

  1. What Are Smart Door Locks?
  2. Can Smart Door Locks Be Accessed Remotely?
  3. What Smart Door Lock Is Best for Me?
  4. Can You Have a Smart Lock Without a Deadbolt?
  5. How Do Retrofit Smart Locks Work?
  6. Do Smart Lock Replace Regular Door Locks?
  7. Do Smart Door Locks Integrate With Smart Homes?
  8. Do Smart Locks Need Power?
  9. How Do Bluetooth Smart Locks Work?
  10. How Do Z-Wave Smart Locks Work?
  11. How Do WiFi Smart Locks Work?
  12. Do Smart Door Locks Require a Key?
  13. How Can I Unlock My Front Door With My Phone?
  14. What Are Keyless Door Locks?
  15. What Is a Key Fob Lock?
  16. What Are Biometric Locks?
  17. Do Smart Door Locks Work for Sliding Glass Doors?
  18. Can Smart Locks Be Hacked?
  19. Is a Keypad Door Lock Safe?
  20. How Long Do Smart Lock Batteries Last?
  21. Is a Smart Door Lock Right For You?

What Are Smart Door Locks?

Smart door locks provide the same security and function as a traditional door lock but with added features to fit our modern lives. They still rely on a deadbolt to keep your door safely locked, but with added conveniences. They control the lock from your smartphone with smart assistants, passcodes, fingerprint readers, fobs, and above combinations. With a smart lock installed, you're never truly locked out of your home. 

Can Smart Door Locks Be Accessed Remotely?

Smart door locks also make it possible to lock and unlock your door remotely. Depending on the lock you choose and how you configure it, you can check your door from your smartphone or even verbally ask your smart speaker if it's locked.

What Smart Door Lock Is Best for Me?

There are a variety of smart lock options available, all with unique features and requirements. Take a moment to think of some features that are important to you. For example, you might prefer a smart door lock that works with your existing deadbolt and can be controlled with your Alexa or Google smart voice assistant. Taking these personal considerations into account will help you find a smart lock that fits your needs.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Should your door automatically unlock when you walk up to it?
  • Would you prefer to open your door with a code or a fingerprint?
  • Do you want to be able to manage your door while you're away from home?
  • Is it essential your smart door lock be compatible with a smart voice assistant?
  • Do you need a built-in camera? If so, do you require two-way talk?
  • Are anti-theft or intruder notification features important to you?
  • How many people should have access to unlock the door?
  • Do you want the option of using a traditional key?

Can You Have a Smart Lock Without a Deadbolt?

The deadbolt on your existing door lock is the primary security feature that stops intruders from walking right in. Smart door locks still rely on the deadbolt, but some retrofit your existing deadbolt while others replace it entirely. Which would you prefer?

How Do Retrofit Smart Locks Work?

Smart door retrofit locks like the August and Sesame Smart Lock can be installed in minutes. They simply attach to your existing door lock and add smart options to unlock your door and view activity logs remotely. If you choose a smart door lock that also has a key option, you can likely continue using your existing key.

Schlage Sense
Schlage Sense. Photo Credit: Schlage

Do Smart Lock Replace Regular Door Locks?

Other smart door locks like the Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt and the Yale Assure SL Touchscreen Deadbolt are designed to replace your existing door lock. These smart door locks take just a little longer to install (roughly 20 minutes) and will require a new key if there is a key option. Whole door lock replacements are more common and easier to find than the smart lock retrofit options above.

Do Smart Door Locks Integrate With Smart Homes?

Smart door locks will work with or without a smart home, but you need to decide how smart you want your home to be before switching out your locks. Perhaps you are just beginning your journey to a smart home and foresee yourself adding smart devices in the future. If this is the case, be sure to choose a smart lock that's compatible with your preferred smart home hub or assistant. For example, if you have your eyes on a Google Home system, you'll want to choose a smart door lock that works with Google Home smart speakers.  

Once you install your smart lock, you can give voice commands to your smart assistant. Being able to have Alexa unlock the front door when your friends arrive for dinner or lock it as you put your little ones down for the night can make life so much easier.

Depending on the smart door lock you choose, you might even be able to set up reminders that alert you if your door is unlocked at a time that it is typically locked. Some smart door locks will also lock automatically at a scheduled time. The options are endless!

Do Smart Locks Need Power?

Yes, all smart door locks require power to function, but some types require more than others. The three most popular are Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and WiFi. 

August Smart Lock
August Smart Lock. Photo Credit: August

How Do Bluetooth Smart Locks Work?

Smart door locks powered by Bluetooth technology offer the most extended battery life and have a limited range. These smart locks require you to be about 300 feet or closer to unlock. They can use geofencing to unlock when you're within range automatically. These features can be incredibly convenient if you're juggling cranky kids or have your arms full of shopping bags. 

Bluetooth door locks are excellent for homes with open floor plans, but if you have many walls that could block the signal, you might want to consider another type of door lock. 

If you're not into the whole smart home trend but want to take advantage of smart locks, Bluetooth may be the best option for you. They don't require a hub to work. However, you can't manage these locks outside your home should you leave for work and forget to lock the door.

If you decide to buy a Bluetooth-powered smart door, you might consider the August Smart Lock, Friday Lock, or Kwikset Kevo.

Danalock Smart Lock. Photo Credit: Danalock

How Do Z-Wave Smart Locks Work?

Smart door locks powered by Z-Wave offer more connectivity options than Bluetooth door locks but require both a hub and WiFi. Should you choose a Z-Wave smart door lock, be sure to choose one that's compatible with your preferred hub. Popular options are Samsung SmartThings and Wink Hub. 

To work correctly, you'll need to place your hub within 120 feet of the smart door lock. However, extending the range up to 600 feet with a compatible extender or additional Z-Wave smart lock is possible. Once connected, you can remotely control your door lock with your hub app.

Popular Z-Wave powered smart door lock options include the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt or Poly-Control's Danalock (Z-Wave).

How Do WiFi Smart Locks Work?

Smart door locks powered by WiFi offer the most versatility but the shortest battery life. 

You can control WiFi door locks from anywhere in the world with a WiFi connection. Meaning - you can lock your door while on vacation and let a delivery driver in when you're at work. 

These smart door locks are the preferred choice of homeowners using multiple smart home devices, as compatible devices can all be connected and controlled simultaneously. For example, you might create a bedtime setting that locks your front door, turns the lights off, turns the heat down, and plays your favorite calming music, all with the spoken words, "Goodnight Google." If you plan to connect your smart door lock to other smart devices, be sure you choose compatible devices.

If you think a WiFi-powered smart door lock is for you, you'll want to take a closer look at the August Connect and Kwikset Kevo Plus. Some Bluetooth and Z-Wave smart locks also offer the ability to add WiFi connectivity.

Door Key

Do Smart Door Locks Require a Key?

One of the most popular features of smart door locks is opening a door without a key. This technology has become increasingly common in cars. Like in cars, smart door locks have options to unlock with a smartphone app, a passcode, a fob, or a fingerprint. Which sounds the most attractive to you?

Keyless entry means you'll never accidentally lock yourself out of your house again. It also means you can take a walk without having to carry your keys. Smart door locks are incredibly convenient if you ever hire home help. Imagine granting access to your housekeeper, dog walker, or babysitter without having to cut them a key. You can even pair your lock with a smart camera to see when a delivery driver arrives and ask them to place the package just inside the unlocked door. Keyless smart locks are also extremely popular with homeowners who rent out rooms or exterior dwellings on Airbnb. You'll never have to leave a key under the mat again!

Not ready to give up your key entirely? As we mentioned above, you can still use a standard key with some smart door locks. 

Sesame Smart Lock
Sesame Smart Lock. Photo Credit: Candy House

How Can I Unlock My Front Door With My Phone?

Almost everyone carries a smartphone nowadays, which makes smartphone entry incredibly convenient. Depending on the smart door lock you choose, you can unlock your door by tapping the app, by knocking on your smartphone, or by merely having your smartphone within range of the door. The "Knock to Unlock" feature is integrated into Poly-Control's Danalock and the Sesame Lock, among others. Like the keyless options, you can also grant temporary access to guests, friends, and hired help at a moment's notice using your smartphone app.

What Are Keyless Door Locks?

Keyless or passcode locks make it possible to ditch your keys and unlock your door with a self-chosen alphanumeric code instead. Multiple codes can be programmed into many locks so that you can give different codes to each person. Unique codes offer added security by allowing you to view activity logs and receive instant notifications each time a code is used. For example, you might give each of your family members their code so you can see when each child gets home from school. Codes can also be scheduled to expire at a set time or be one-time-use.

What Is a Key Fob Lock?

Smart door lock key fobs work with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and an electromagnetic system to sense a fob buried deep in your purse or pocket. This technology makes it possible to go keyless and maintains the utmost security since the door can only be unlocked if the fob is within a certain distance. 

You might consider a double authentication lock, like the Samsung Digital Door Lock, that requires both RFID and a passcode to unlock for added security.

Samsung Fingerprint Smartlock
Samsung Fingerprint Smartlock. Photo Credit: Samsung

What Are Biometric Locks?

Biometric locks are the most futuristic smart door lock option. These smart door locks feature a built-in touchscreen or scanner to read your fingerprint, eye, voice, or even your DNA before granting access to your home. Like the Samsung Fingerprint Digital Door Lock, most biometric locks will recognize multiple different fingerprints so everyone in your family can have access. You can even remotely remove access if, for example, your babysitter quits last minute. Many of these locks are also available with double authentication protection.

Sliding Doors by Synthesis Design
Sliding Doors in Modcube. Photo Credit: Synthesis Design

Do Smart Door Locks Work for Sliding Glass Doors?

Unfortunately, there aren't many options for smart door locks in sliding glass doors. While the need is certainly there, sliding glass doors don't maintain a single design as front doors do. Smart door locks require a deadbolt to maintain the security of your home, which most sliding glass doors lack.

However, there are some workaround options. 

  • Install a smart camera and door alarm that you manage from your smart home hub
  • Add-on locks like the Lockey 2500 
  • Automatic sliding door openers like the Autoslide
  • Replace your sliding glass door with double hinged deadbolt doors

Can Smart Locks Be Hacked?

Because smart door locks use a digital system, they are susceptible to hacking attempts. And, while smart door hacking isn't frequent, we recommend you take precautions to keep your family safe and secure.

How to Protect Your Smart Door Lock From Hackers:

  1. Buy a trustworthy lock: Choose a smart door lock made by a well-known company that regularly releases system updates.
  2. Check your door: Smart locks are ineffective if the door itself isn't strong. Ensure your door closes completely without being forced, and the deadbolt extends fully.
  3. Get an alarm: Install an alarm system or choose a smart door lock with a built-in alarm.
  4. Update your apps: Make sure your smart door lock app is always up to date. You may need to enable automatic updates or manually check for them.

Is a Keypad Door Lock Safe?

Yes, keypad smart door locks can be very safe if set up correctly. Like any passcode, you must choose a strong code and change it often. Never use easy-to-crack passcodes like "1234," "abcde," your address, or your birthday. Since four-digit codes are commonly used, consider using five or more digits. It would help if you also planned to change your code regularly.

Most keypad door locks will allow you to change your code from the smartphone app to make it easier to manage. You can also use the app to delete codes. For added security, look for a keypad door lock that will block entry after a certain number of failed attempts and those with double authentication.

How Long Do Smart Lock Batteries Last?

Most smart door lock batteries will last about a year. WiFi smart door locks have the shortest battery life, and Bluetooth smart door locks have the longest. Of course, battery life is also dependent on your use and the door itself. A door that closes and locks easily doesn't put extra strain on the lock, while a door has to be forced will. Batteries will also drain faster on doors that are used more frequently. To keep your smart door lock working effectively, be sure to check the battery life regularly.

Door Keys

Is a Smart Door Lock Right For You?

If you're tired of constantly searching for your keys, it might be time to consider a smart door lock. Smart door locks will maintain the security of your home while providing all kinds of extra conveniences. Are you ready to make the switch?

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-08-20T19:33:52+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.