Gadgets

Upgrading your home to electronic locks, finding the right fit

After almost forty-years and five children later, my parents were finally alone in their house, and for the first time I was actually a little worried about the idea. Growing up in the outskirts of PA there isn’t any real-crime to speak-off, and break-ins or thieves are more rare than hitting a deer with your car, but I still didn’t like the idea that they were all alone.

We didn’t lock our doors growing up, many of us never even had a key to our own house, so I knew home-security could use an upgrade, and with the kids gone now would be the perfect time to do so. After I came across the idea of upgrading to electronic locks, I had to find something that was both easy to use, and extremely easy to maintain. That’s also when I learned that there isn’t just a few types of electronic lock manufacturers, there are dozens; and even more options to consider once you find a e-lock company that you prefer.

Modern day electronic locks are much easier than you might think to install, and although they look like the same locks used in 1980s or early 90s military films (the ones that James Bond would have to crack with his watch, or a hacker from ‘Sneakers’ would open with a laptop and a ribbon-cord) they are actually really easy to install and even easier to use.

First you have to find a brand, and I ended up loving Schlage, not only are they sold nationwide at stores like Home Depot, they offer a ton of options. Finding an option that is sold in stores is great if you have questions, need to return anything, or eventually would like to upgrade or replace your locks. Now if I was choosing a lock I would love to have an option that unlocks the door via bluetooth, which is available, but my parents are in their 70s and are still mastering Facebook, so I thought the keypad version (the Schlage Touch) would be perfect for them.

There are three main types of electronic locks that you can pick-up:

A simple keypad version with actual buttons, an advanced keypad that works via touchscreen, and some companies offer a keyless option without a touchpad that works with just a lock and a mobile device. All of these options can be outfitted with a keyless entry via smartphone or mobile device (in most cases by bluetooth) but it’s not necessary. In my case I needed the touchpad and a regular key-entry option. Almost every lock combo that you pick-up will have a standard key option available, for the off-chance that there is a problem and you need to gain access manually.

Since these locks have an on-board processor, they can do many things that your old locks couldn’t, and you will want to look for these extras when you’re shopping around.

First, almost every lock will have some version of an ‘Anti-pick shield,’ which protects the more delicate mechanics on your lock so that unwanted entry isn’t allowed. Second, check to make sure your lock-option will fit on your door securely. Older wooden doors may bend or warp from years of use and being exposed to the elements, so if you are going for a large keypad device, make sure you will be working with a nice even surface above your deadbolt or doorknob.

Many e-locks offer a built-in alarm, which is a great feature to have and should be a new upgrade if you are moving-on from traditional locks. Many of the new e-locks offered nowadays have a movement sensor built inside them, this can be set to alert you if someone is at the door. You can turn this on or off of course if you choose a good manufacturer, but it’s one of those nice features to know about when you are shopping around.

The Schlage Connect version that I picked out had three different alert settings, (activity, tamper alert, or forced entry alert) and they were customizable and perfect for my needs.

When you think of electronic locks you might think of costly wiring, or confusing diagrams on folded instruction sheets, but if you choose a good company it’s actually it’s just as easy to install as a regular lock. There’s no wiring-needed in most of today’s electronic locks (at least the good ones, so be sure to check if the company tells you that no wiring is needed) and in my case all I needed was a screwdriver and about an hour.

As silly as it may sound when you’re thinking along the lines of home-security, choosing the right company also helps in the design department. Finishes might seem trivial, but this is going on your front door, and I knew if I didn’t get the right finish these locks would end up in a box, or I would know that my mother was telling herself that, “the gold ones would have looked so much nicer,” every time she opened the door.

If you go with Schlage, or another manufacturer that is sold nationwide, odds are they will have the option that you are looking for. The Schlage Connect for example came in gold, stainless steel and a sort of rustic bronze finish, so I could match the same locks they had before and sleep soundly knowing that I didn’t upset the local decor of rustic Pennsylvania.

There are some technical factors that everyone should consider as well, and some you may not have thought about.

First of all, locks come in standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association. They are sorted into three Grades, from Grade 1 being the highest to the lowest being Grade 3. All locks should have the rating on the box, so make sure to buy a Grade 1 lock and that is rated by the ANSI/BHMA.

Almost every front-door fits a standard, which is 1-3/8” to 1-3/4”, but if you think your door may fall outside of this range (either handmade or custom built) measure it to make sure standard locks will fit. This is a rare case, but it only takes a moment to measure the depth of your door, and you can write it down otherwise and check the back of boxes to find one that will fit your special door.

If you live in an extreme climate, think about the lock you are choosing. Most keypads will operate from -31F to 150F, perfect for almost anywhere in modern America. If you happen to live in a place like Phoenix, Arizona though, and your gold-plated doorknob will be in direct sunlight all day, then you might want to go with a push button operating system not a keypad.

In the end switching to an e-lock should be one of the easiest upgrades you can do for your home. Most professional locks are pre-wired, self-contained, and run on a few AA batteries that can be easily changed on ‘your side’ of the lock itself. When shopping you want to look for ‘no wiring,’ ‘grade 1’ locks that have the extra options built in, or a wireless upgrade if you think that’s something you may want, or need right away.

If you need tips, want to checkout the lock that I chose, or want more information on e-locks in general, you can visit Schlage.com for more details.

 

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