Which smart lock is right for me?
May 1, 2020 7:47 AM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I just bought our first house! We want to add some safe, secure smart house tech to the house as time goes on and trying to research this stuff is overwhelming. There are too many options and all of the reviews I read are mealy-mouthed and seem to exist just for the affiliate referral links. Help me out, Ask. What is the best smart lock for our needs?

I don't trust the tech to be secure enough for the front door, but I'm thinking that a smart lock in the garage entry door that detects our phones coming and going via Bluetooth and unlocking or locking automatically would be nice. Someone would have to break into the garage first to get at it. A lock that can be opened via an Internet-enabled app feels like asking for trouble (including voice control over Alexa/Siri), but put my fears at ease if you can on that one. Does anyone have a recommendation for me? Any advice? If the lock will be useless if the company behind it goes out of business, I'm not interested. There should be a traditional physical key as a backup.

Over time we want to add a smart thermostat and replace the house's existing old intercom system with something modern, so a lock that's in the same ecosystem could be helpful.
posted by Servo5678 to Technology (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When we looked at this with our current house, I decided that the risk of most of the options far outweighs the benefit.

We ended up picking Schlage locks that had keypads with key backups, and no wireless/Bluetooth/internet connections. You can program up to 10 combos at any time, so everyone in the family can have a unique code, and you can have some spares programmed if you need to give someone one-time access.

Simply not having to carry and use keys has been an overwhelmingly positive change - I really can't imagine needing any other bell or whistle, nor can I imagine any reason I would need to tie it in to a thermostat or similar.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:09 AM on May 1, 2020 [8 favorites]

+1 vote for an electronic (but not smart) door lock. If your heart is set on a shared ecosystem with a thermostat, I might start there and figure out if Ecobee or Nest would be my direction. The Yale smart lock is on the Nest ecosystem. Ecobee (which is a great thermostat) does not have a door lock yet (though there is probably some kind of z wave / Google assistant / Alexa type solution that is over my head, to consider.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2020

I loved those Schlage locks at our old house. Not a fan of the smart lock concept myself (for security/privacy reasons), but those were a huge upgrade from keyed-only entry.
posted by nosila at 8:27 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

On the front door lock please look for a graded commercial lock. These are built to a much higher standard than any residential lock, and will provide better resistance to lock bumping. You likely don't need a grade 1 (super tough but very expensive) but any with a proper BHMA certification will work.

Additionally I suggest adding a 1/2 deadbolt for security on all exterior doors on your house - these are locked only from the inside.
posted by zenon at 8:32 AM on May 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

We use two of the same Schlage locks that notmyselfrightnow links to; one on our garage door (we have carriage style doors) and one on the front door. They're replacements for a deadbolt, run off a 9v battery; they're not smart at all but you can program several codes for them (like, I program a new one in for house-sitters; one of our trusted awesome neighbors has a separate code...it works well). Not ever being locked out is pretty fucking fantastic, and reductions in keyring size are pretty dope too.

I will say that there is one problem that we've run into with them (and my folks use the same one and are starting to have the same problem) In each, after about 2 years of use, there's a little actuator that bends out of place. If you're into such things, bending it back is really easy, but it does prevent the door from opening with the code, so having a backup key somewhere else is important (and would be important with any kind of lock).

So, I used to be in camp "Never smart locks ever, they're not secure" but I've slowly migrated over to "Locks are not really all that secure." I still avoid smart locks for privacy reasons; tech companies just have such a shitty track record of dealing with that kind of thing, I still think it's smart to avoid smart technology for 'critical' home infrastructure. Even with regular locks, hop onto youtube, type in the make and model of just about any deadbolt you're looking to install, and the likelihood is extremely high of someone illustrating how to crack it really fast. For example, how to crack a schlage keypad deadbolt.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:36 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I figure your average burglar is way more likely to smash a window or pick or bump the lock than hack the smart part of the lock. Even so, the two main lock manufacturers Yale and Schlage both make smart locks -- I'd stick with those.

I believe Yale has a bluetooth lock that will unlock when your phone gets near it. It was the Wirecutter recommended pick when we were looking at smart locks, but I wanted one with a keypad we could use for house sitters and visitors (without making them download the app).

We have a Schlage Zwave smart lock. It has a keypad and a backup key. I have it connected to a smart home controller that operates on a PC (HomeAssistant on a Tinkerboard if anyone's curious) in my house, so I don't have concerns about privacy or "what happens when that company goes out of business?" I will say, my solution is pretty hobbyist and has taken a fair amount of technical effort for me to get it stable -- it's not for everyone.

The lock itself is only connected to the controller. I can setup all sorts of automations to control the lock, but the only one I have setup is that all my lights turn off and our front door locks when we go to bed. We could have the controller unlock our door when our phones get in range of the wifi, but I haven't set that up.

Generally, with smart home stuff, you have a choice between user-friendly-but-relying-on-the-cloud (with all the privacy and security concerns that entails) or more-secure-but-harder-to-manage. The Wirecutter has a lot of smart home reviews, though they do err on the side of "user friendly" and don't really ding anything for relying on a cloud service.
posted by natabat at 9:13 AM on May 1, 2020

This doesn't address some of your concerns but I already had Kwikset locks with the little tool that lets you rekey them at home, so I got a kwikset keypad lock with a motorized bolt. I really like it because it can be set to automatically lock again after 90 seconds, and if it can't lock, it complains. So you never have to worry if you locked the deadbolt. I'm sure some of the smart ones can do same but I too didn't want an internet enabled device.

I did get a nervous look from the Ikea delivery guy that asked to use my bathroom when the door ominously locked behind him but what are you gonna do.
posted by ftm at 9:48 AM on May 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I use the same Schlage locks at the first answer on this question and can wholeheartedly recommend them. Just keep the programming code secure (its on a sticker on the front of the manual booklet) since if anyone has the programming code they can change the unlock code.
The fact that they don't connect to the internet is a plus, it means less can go wrong.
posted by zdravo at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The state of smart home devices at the moment are such that I would not ever use an internet-connected lock. There are no standards for smart home security (that I'm aware of at least), and ultimately you're putting a lot of trust in the lock maker to ensure that everything runs correctly and that they aren't able to inadvertently or maliciously compromise your physical security, since lockmakers aren't generally super open about their tech. It may be unlikely that they're insecure, but it's difficult to verify that in any meaningful way. Mechanical and electronic locks are a known quantity; I'd stick with those.
posted by Aleyn at 10:48 AM on May 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've had the Yale/Nest Lock on my front door for almost the last 2 years and I like it. It does not automatically unlock when you are nearby - you either have to use the app or enter your code on the keypad. Similarly you can't use your assistant to unlock the door, only to lock it. To be honest we use the keypad way more than the app to open the door because it is more work to open up your phone and go to the app then to key in the code. The keypad doesn't require an internet connection to work so if internet is down you can still get into the house. If the lock battery dies it has leads you can attach a 9V battery to on the outside in order to charge the internal battery enough to power the lock but I've never had to do it yet because you get a lot of warning to replace your battery ahead of time. I'm kind of worried that Google will just drop support unexpectedly at some point in the future but the lock does still work without the app so I wouldn't be totally out of luck.

I've also got the Nest doorbell and the two work well together. If friends are at the door I can see who it is, unlock it and tell them to come in - this is useful in our house because we spend all of our time on the 2nd and 3rd storeys of it and running down the stairs to check and open the door is a bit of a pain. I also have a bunch of smart speakers in my house and it is nice to be able to ask if the door is locked or to ask it to lock the door before going to sleep at night.

I've got enough other doors with regular locks and windows at ground level that if someone wanted to break in they could. So the lock is more for convenience than anything else.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:52 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

We have both the Schlage (manual) and Weiser (Motorized) keypad deadbolts. We much prefer the Schlage locks as the motorized lock cranks through batteries and not infrequently doesn't lock (defect maybe, We've moved it to our rear garage door so I haven't investigated it).
posted by Mitheral at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2020

I have one of the Schlage Touch keypad lever locks, I'd say maybe a third of the houses on my street have the same model as NotMyselfRightNow and zdravo. I recommend a Schlage Touch over one of their other keypad locks because of the completely keyless entry. They're not true smart locks, though, so I don't have to worry about someone internetting their way into my home. I change the codes pretty frequently for security's sake, and also have a half-deadbolt on the inside.

The downside with them is that I've found that they burn through batteries really fast, and their cold weather performance (as in -30C, which is probably not an issue where you live) stops being reliable before the low battery indicator kicks in. I have another external door with a non-electronic lock so I have a way of getting in if the touchpad lock screws up, though.
posted by blerghamot at 2:42 PM on May 1, 2020

Response by poster: In the end we went with traditional locks. None of the smart locks do exactly what I want them to do and I don't trust the ones that go above and beyond with features that open them up to attack. Thanks for the input, everyone.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:36 AM on May 4, 2020

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