Home Keyless Options and Risks
March 26, 2019 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Keyless home entry! It's been a decade since this last came up, so the tech may have come a ways, but I'm looking to upgrade the locks on a new home purchase and possibly get a little fancy. Tell me what's great and what's terrible about this idea, and what things I should look for!

So my dream lock set would have both manual lock (in case battery dies), as well as keypad or in a perfect world fob or something like keyless car entry, so if you got the dongle in your pocket you can just walk up and open the door. Things like this Kevo Touch-to-Open seem like the closest match (one-touch plus manual key backup), but most of the reviews seem to indicate it is buggy junk that eats batteries nearly monthly.

Is there anything that comes close to my keyless one-touch entry dream without being an unreliable bit of junk? And how frequently are the wireless security portions of this system a tremendous weak spot?
posted by FatherDagon to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have the Schlage Sense, and I like it. It’s been reliable as a lock, and the model I have connects to the internet via a Bluetooth connection to a nearby Apple TV. They now how a WiFi version that I’m certain is better than connecting via Bluetooth, which I find slow.

I know people don’t like smart locks, but if someone wanted to break into my house they’d just punch through the glass panes on the door. I have zero fear of someone hacking my lock compared to someone breaking in through the glass.

FWIW, batteries last forever, at least on the Bluetooth version. Like a year maybe? Possibly more?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:36 PM on March 26, 2019

I have a Schlage with real buttons. I love it a lot.

Except when I didn't pay attention to the working-harder, slower sound of the lock that clearly indicated battery decay. That was a $200 mistake and 4 hours of waiting for the "there in 40 minutes!" locksmith. Don't be me. Bury or hide a spare key somewhere.

The battery pack does last years in our hands. Just ... don't ignore it when it starts to die.
posted by Dashy at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a Yale/Nest lock. It doesn't have a physical key. If the battery dies it has prongs for you to attach a 9V battery in order to power it. You either have to type in a code or use the app to unlock the door however you can lock it using a Google Home command. My main worry is planned obsolescence. A regular lock will last decades, I doubt I'll get that much life out of mine, I just hope I get to use it for a reasonable timeframe.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:46 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a Kwikset powerbolt which is just a keypad; and an August Smart lock (on different doors). I actually prefer the dumb keypad to the smart lock, because it's reliable enough that I basically don't use my key.

The August lock is pretty neat when it works, which is about 95% of the time now. When you get near your house the app is supposed to start sending bluetooth to the lock to unlock, and it's like magic in that you just open the door. But when it doesn't work, you have to fire up the app, wait for it to load, and usually, repair the bluetooth connection (it's almost always a failed connection otherwise it would have already unlocked), then unlock the door with the app.

I'd lean towards keeping a keyed entry. The Yale/Nest lock looks nice in that it has a keypad as well as a bluetooth, but it's not like you are carrying around a 9V battery. What the august lock has taught me is that the failure modes matter way more than the success mode, even if the failure mode only happens 1 out of every 100 or 1000 times.

In that light, we also have a lockbox with a spare key hidden, so even in the event of total electronics failure, we can still get in our house.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 3:12 PM on March 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: When you get near your house the app is supposed to start sending bluetooth to the lock to unlock, and it's like magic in that you just open the door. But when it doesn't work, you have to fire up the app, wait for it to load, and usually, repair the bluetooth connection

See, that 'working' scenario is definitely what I want, without the nonsense of app flakiness. These keyfobs seem like the best solution, but the locks they work with specifically appear to be junk so I'm skeptical.
posted by FatherDagon at 3:34 PM on March 26, 2019

I also have this August lock -- the kind you can non-destructively attach to your deadbolt, and still use as a "dumb" lock with your existing keys. This is a good failure mode, since the key still works even if it's totally dead.
- works with Siri, Alexa, and the August app on my iPhone
- since I had an AppleTV, which automatically works as a 'hub'/wifi bridge for it, I can control from anywhere
- automatically locking itself after (x) minutes of being unlocked is totally consistent and wonderful peace of mind. It's impossible to accidentally leave the house unlocked all day or night. I get a notification if it's ever unlocked when I'm not home
- automatically UNlocking when I cross the geofence is... inconsistent. I can say "siri, unlock the door" to my phone or watch, which always works, but I usually just use my normal key frankly.
- you can issue temporary or time-specific access to anyone with a smartphone who's willing to download the August app. Could be handy for houseguests, dogwalkers, airbnb residents, whatever. I haven't really tried it
- the thing devours batteries and seems perpetually to think it's at less than 20% battery life even with new batteries. It hates rechargeables so buying new batteries a lot is an unfortunate fact of life
- I had to put a sticker with an arrow on it so people knew how to unlock it. Everybody's baffled the first time they see it.

Sorry I haven't had experience with the specific Bluetooth FOBs you're looking at but hopefully that's a little helpful
posted by churl at 4:30 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a Schlage Sense that’s been great. Currently a 7 digit code or one or two taps on the phone or Apple Watch.
posted by supercres at 5:12 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Schlage Camelot

I know this isn't what you asked, but this is the lock I would buy if I were you.

Why you shouldn't get a bluetooth lock/fob lock
1. Bluetooth is a little unreliable for this. It will never work perfectly.
2. Bluetooth searching locks take more batteries and need more frequent replacements.
3. If you have a fob you might as well have a key.

This lock has a LOT going for it.
1. When you haven't entered the code, the key mechanism spins loosely. This makes it one of the hardest locks to pick by an intruder.
2. You can program in lots of codes to give to people.
3. The battery lasts a long time, and gives clear beeping indication of when you should change it. In my experience, about 3 years. It's a standard 9 volt.
4. It's fast - those bluetooth ones open all slow and unsatisfying. With this one, you punch in your 4 digits and twist. You are actually twisting the lock yourself, not a painfully sad gear noise.
5. It's cheap - $80 on amazon.

There you go :)
posted by bbqturtle at 6:10 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Schlage locks. If you connect it to a SmartThings hub or similar, you can setup geofencing so it unlocks when you come home. You can use the keypad if you go out without your phone or did give a code to your dog walker or house cleaner or whomever. And you still have the dead simple reliability of a hard key.
posted by natabat at 7:26 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: With the Geofencing unlock - does that just keep it unlocked the entire time I'm home? Or unlock when I first get into the territory and then relock after x minutes?
posted by FatherDagon at 10:07 PM on March 26, 2019

Nthing the Schlage connect/Camelot. I just punch my code into the keypad, and it's awesome. I have it set up with a Zwave base so that I can open it with my phone, but I rarely use that feature.

Note on the battery life: My model takes 4 AAs, and because I use the radio signal, it lasts a bit less than 6 months. If I didn't use the Zwave, it would probably last a lot longer.
posted by Citrus at 10:32 PM on March 26, 2019

I disagree with bbqturtle on:

>3. If you have a fob you might as well have a key.

I don't have to dig a fob out of my purse, especially if I'm already carrying bags or something. A fob solution would be perfect. That's how push-to-start cars work, after all.
posted by timepiece at 6:49 AM on March 27, 2019

I absolutely would not buy any lock that is connected to the Internet or comes with an app. That way lies madness and insecurity.
posted by uberchet at 7:26 AM on March 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

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