What with friends, contractors, pet sitters and others, it's easy to lose track of extra house keys. For better control of who can get in and out—and a permanent solution to the lost-key problem with kids—replace one of your dead bolt locks with an electronic keypad entry ($100 to $200 at home centers). Instead of using a key, you just punch in a four-digit number, so you don't have to worry about being locked out. You can pick your own number and change it anytime. You can also program in additional four-digit codes for visitors, then delete them later.
Start by removing the old dead bolt (and the handle if you're replacing it). Set the new dead bolt to match the existing 2-3/8-in. or 2-3/4-in. “backset” (measured from the door edge to the center of the dead bolt hole), then install it in the deadbolt hole. Make sure that “TOP” is facing up and that the bolt is fully retracted.
Install the outside keypad first (Photo 1), then secure it in place with the inside mounting plate (Photo 2). Connect the wires to the battery and tuck them out of the way before attaching the inside cover plate (Photo 3). (Note: We used a Schlage lock; other manufacturers may have different installation procedures.)
With the door open, check to make sure the dead bolt extends and retracts smoothly. If it doesn't, disassemble the lock and make sure the parts were installed correctly. To unlock the dead bolt, just punch in the code and turn the latch.
The lock we installed comes preprogrammed with two unique user codes. To change them or add more, follow the lock's programming instructions.
The lock will send a signal when the battery needs replacing. A key is also included in case the lock ever malfunctions or loses battery power and needs to be opened manually. One big caution: Don't lose the programming guide. It contains the user codes, programming codes and instructions for changing codes.