What to Know About Smart Locks

These locks can be controlled remotely and have many useful features.

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The smart lock is one of the handiest smart home devices on the market. Smart lock technology has evolved over the past few years to include more and more useful features, including built-in security cameras, alarms, intercom abilities and more. Here’s what you need to know about smart locks.

What Are Smart Locks?

A smart lock is a door lock that can be controlled remotely by an app on your phone. With the tap of a button, you can lock or unlock the door whether you’re at home, at work or on vacation. With these devices you’ll never worry again that you left the door unlocked, and you can let in a family member or roommate who forgot their key no matter where you are.

These locks can usually be controlled with voice commands through assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Some popular, high-quality smart locks include the Wyze Lock ($108), Yale Assure Lock ($230) and the Schlage Connect ($169).

How Do Smart Locks Work?

Smart locks replace your deadbolt lock or attach to the existing deadbolt in your door. They’re easy to install. The ones that attach to your existing deadbolt, such as the August WiFi Smart Lock ($250), are perfect for anyone who isn’t handy with tools. Installation takes about 10 minutes for the add-on smart locks and around 20 to 30 minutes for the type of smart locks that replace your deadbolt.

Each smart lock usually comes with step-by-step installation instructions in its app and helpful videos to make the process easier. Installation customarily only requires a screwdriver. If you don’t have a deadbolt lock, you may need to hire someone to drill holes in your door to accommodate your new lock.

Once installed, you connect the smart lock to the app using Bluetooth or your home’s WiFi. When that’s done, you can lock and unlock the door using your phone, and control any other features that the smart lock may have through the app.

Smart Lock Features

A couple of years ago, smart locks had limited features. Now the tiny devices are jam-packed with useful options.

Look for a smart lock that offers multiple ways to unlock the door. Besides the app, some do it with four-digit codes, fingerprint scans and digital keys. Some smart locks can even be unlocked with traditional metal keys. The Lockly Vision ($400), for instance, has six locking and unlocking capabilities.

The locking features you choose will depend on your lifestyle. If you hire a dog walker, you may prefer a smart lock with digital keys, i.e. codes that can be emailed to the recipient. Then when they’ve used the key code, you can deactivate it so the dog walker can’t access your home until the next appointment.

Other features include:

  • Built-in video cameras so you can see who is at your door through the app;

  • Two-way talk, similar to an intercom system, allowing you to talk to people at your door through the app;

  • An emergency siren to scare away intruders;

  • Anti-theft capabilities that prevent tampering with the lock;

  • An emergency button in the app that automatically calls the authorities.

Is There a Downside to Having a Smart Lock?

The only downside to smart door locks is that they need a power supply and won’t work without one. But if the smart lock also has a regular key, you can still operate the lock mechanism itself. Many smart locks use regular AAA or AA batteries, but some come with rechargeable battery packs. When the lock needs a battery change or charge, the device will send you a notification on your phone so you aren’t left with a dead lock.

Smart Lock Prices

Smart locks typically cost from $100 to $400. Cheaper ones come with fewer locking options and lack video or two-way talk capabilities.

All prices and links were accurate at publication.