Smart Locks have been on the market for about 5 years, but only increased in popularity recently as more consumers invest in other smart home devices. While many people are comfortable installing video doorbells, or Internet-connected thermostats, the lock might be the last step as it’s always been seen as the most important barrier to entry for break-ins.
A recent study suggests that 1 in 4 U.S. households plan to buy a smart lock in the next year. Is this technology just an added convenience, and can it also help you save on your home insurance rates?
What is a Smart Lock?
A smart lock replaces your standard key and deadbolt on main entry points into your home such as the front or side door. You can unlock the door using your phone. Sometimes, simply being near it can unlock it, or it can be unlocked remotely on you phone to let guests in. A smart lock can connect to either a wifi network, Bluetooth or both. Some locks don’t even have a traditional key system to make a sleeker design, removing the possibility of lock picking. Additionally, some models allow you to leave your existing deadbolt in place, and only replace the mechanism that locks and unlocks the deadbolt. This is useful for renters who might not be able to change the entire lock system.
Smart locks are typically powered by AA batteries, and many devices give ample notification before they need to be replaced.
The Benefits of Smart Locks
At the present time, smart locks are more a matter of convenience than security. If you’re coming home with your hands full of groceries, just having your phone in your pocket can open the door.
Depending on the product, you’d be able to see who is coming and going, such as various members of your family. You can also grant guest access which is useful for working with trades or AirBNB guests. This makes it possible for people to deliver packages without the risk of them being stolen.
A smart lock can also remove the scenario where you hide keys around the outside of your house, or have copies floating around amongst friends and family.
And finally, a smart lock would be very convenient in the event of being locked out of the house. In this scenario, your phone can unlock it, or a family member can unlock it remotely for you.
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Is a Smart Lock Safe?
At the current time, the jury is still out on whether or not a smart lock is more secure than a traditional one. While removing the option for a key can decrease the possibility of someone picking the lock or obtaining a copy of your key, there are other security issues at hand. The first is someone hacking the lock to open remotely, which MIT professor Stuart Madnick believes will always be a possibility. Like many other smart home devices, the possibility of getting hacked is often preventable by adopting good digital security habits such as strong passwords.
The other shortcoming of a smart lock is that since the presence of your phone is able to unlock the door, someone could enter your home by obtaining your device. For most products, you would be able to deactivate a phone from opening locks if this happens though.
Like with most emerging technology, the security of smart locks will only increase over time to the point where it’s most likely the standard.
A Few Smart Locks to Consider
The Yale YRD256 combines two of the top name brands in traditional locks (Yale) and smart locks (August). However this model doesn’t have a keyway, so you’ll need another lock on your house with a key in the event of the batteries running out. You can also look at the YRD226 which does have a keyway on it.
If you already have Nest products in your home, you might want to look at the Nest x Yale lock. This one looks nice and comes in a variety of trim styles to match your home. If the batteries die on this one, you can take a 9v battery to temporarily charge it up and let you in the house. It’s also a quiet device and works more seamlessly than other models which sometimes have delays in locking and unlocking.
Another popular option and familiar name in the lock business is the Schlage Sense. This is a large design with a full keypad and traditional keyway. It operates over both Bluetooth and Wi-fi for reliability.
Can Smart Locks Help You Save on Home Insurance?
Unlike water leak detectors and security systems which many insurance companies have identified to be beneficial in minimizing damage to homes, at the moment there are no real incentives to having a smart lock from the perspective of insurance companies and lowering home insurance rates. One potential reason for this is that there are still lingering fears that smart locks can be hacked, which means they are not categorized as improving home security, as an article in the Financial Times uncovered after speaking with insurers. They do however help increase the security of your home by removing the age-old ‘key under the doormat’ scenario as previously mentioned.
However, if you’re in the US and Liberty Mutual is your homeowners insurance provider, you may be eligible for savings of up to 5% for installing the August Smart Lock in most states (excluding California, New York and Florida).
The bottom line
Smart locks are more of a convenience than a safety measure at this point. In the coming years ahead you will likely see many of your neighbours have them, to the point that they will likely become the norm. Whether or not you should get one now is really dependant on your tolerance for security issues and can see yourself benefitting from this technology. Just don’t expect a smart lock to lower your home insurance any time soon.