Living In a Smart Home Part 4:

The Smart Lock –  A good idea?

My significant other mentioned to me some time ago that the front door lock wasn’t engaging fully and freely. Indeed, when I went to turn the lock, it seemed to snag before the lock fully engaged. Also, our handle button is a bit sticky too. This seems to be a common problem as even in our old house, (in addition the the golden-brass color) also had the same problem. “Great! I said, “I’ll get a smart lock!” Then, quick as you could say “Alexa, buy me a smart lock” I was off researching which one was the best for my needs.

There are many advantages to a smart lock, and like all things, there are some disadvantages. We’re going to go over some of the key features I believe should be on your smart lock and I’ll give the recommendations I have if you’re looking for some. Once again, my buying-decisions are mainly based off of SmartThings compatability, so always do your research first.

First, my “Golden Rule”, it has to work for my wife. Meaning that my wife needs to be able to operate it and integrate seamlessly with her life. Understandingly, she gets frustrated when lights that she expects to perform automatically do not and also if there isn’t a button or switch to fix it immediately, it doesn’t make sense for it to be smart at all. With that being said, any smart lock I thought about had to have some key elements:

  1. It has to be aesthetically pleasing. (Rubbed-oil bronze in our case)
  2. It had to be able to be to work with a key. (Let’s face it, technology fails us)
  3. It needed to have a touch-pad with assignable codes, multiple even.
  4. It needed to integrate natively with SmartThings on the Z-wave protocol.
  5. It needed to be affordable.

My web search landed me in a place of somewhat confusion. Mostly, due to the word “Smart” now being a key-phrase in advertising. To me, “smart” means connected and programmable. As a buzz-word, it can mean something that ranges of “Clever-design” to “fully automated you’ll never need to touch your door”. Not to mention, going down to your local hardware store, you’ll need words like “Bluetooth” and “Wi-Fi” but the more important “Z-wave” or “Zigbee” phrases hidden behind “Wireless”. I’m not sure if this is because manufactures want to construe how these devices work so they can relate to terms people know. (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, one could argue, are in everyone’s vocabulary.) What I found was that there’s a lot so it was important that I ensure, once again BEFORE I bought something, that it fit my criteria.

Aesthetics of course being number 1, but also the most important aspects. This is my front door handle. It’s where people are greeted and arguably the first thing they see when they get to my doorstep. I didn’t want some gangly-box with glowing neon lights and retina scanner, I wanted something that says “oh, that’s an attractive door handle, and look you can enter a code in.” (Things you say as a suburbanite in their 30s.) I found that companies like Schlage and Yale all have pretty attractive handles so there was an easy path.

The second stipulation, the use of  a key, sounds like a no brainier but there are actually a few locks that eliminate the use of a key. While this sounds like a great idea at first, (No one likes a dangly-key-chain) the problem I would have is if the touch screen failed to work. I’m not sure what happens if it does and quite frankly I didn’t even want to find out. In addition, there are other”Smart locks” that only have a key and no touch screens, like the Kwikset Kevo. in fact I found one that isn’t really “smart”, you can just re-key it yourself. That gets me into the next point:

One of the biggest reasons I wanted a new lock, is: I tend to go out and in different doors. Living on a farm, sometimes I’ll walk out my front door and go in the side door which had yet to be unlocked. I don’t normally carry my keys so I wanted to be able to input a code to unlock the deadbolt. These type of locks have been around for awhile and isn’t necessarily a “smart” feature. However, like I mentioned above, the Kwikset Kevo doesn’t have one and it’s possible I don’t have my phone on me to unlock or “touch it”. The multiple-code feature is also good. That way I can give my farm-sitter a code and they’ll be able to come in and out securely, rather than give them a key.

The other elephant in the room is connecting with SmartThings and not necessarily an app. (I tend to hate single-purpose apps.) With the Kevo being bluetooth and the August being WiFi I’m sure some hackery can be done to get them integrated with SmartThings, but I’ve never really liked how things integrate with SmartThings when they’re not supposed to. As I said in my first article, it is best to make sure everything you buy is compatible with your unit, in this case Z-Wave is my go-to protocol and checking on the SmartThings app, I found the Schlage Camelot integrated well via Z-Wave. Why? Well really it’s the automation side. For example, when my security system arms every evening, it automatically locks all my locks. If my smoke alarm goes off and we’re not home, all the doors unlock making egress easier. If my wife and I are away the doors automatically lock (and we can check the current state of the lock) so there are lots of reasons this adds convenience. However, if it does fail, we still have 2 manual controls to lock and unlock (the touch pad and a key).

The final decision, price. When I found the door handle set I wanted: Schlage Connected Camelot with handle, I was kinda shocked to see the price at a bit north of $300 dollars. As a man on a budget I couldn’t really justify that cost immediately since my lock was still functioning and even though it was kinda janky. Luckily, Home Depot seems to put it on sale from time to time between $180 – $200 dollars. (In fact, depending on when you’re reading this article, it’s on-sale now until April 9th for $200.) This was a decent price since the same oil-rubbed non-smart non-touchpad designs usually run around $110-$140. So, if you’re going to get one I highly suggest putting an alert on SlickDeals.net for one using keywords smart lock, dead bolt, or the brand names like Schlage.

As you may have guessed, I found Schlage Connected Camelot and purchased it as my ultimate decision. I’m still waiting for the standard deadbolts to go on sale to replace them at the other doors. They’re going for $120 and I’m gunning to get them around $60-$80. While this one works great, there are plenty of locks out there that may suit your needs greater than this one so I’d really recommend making a list of features you want and TAKE YOUR TIME. Luckily I wasn’t in a rush and that saved me $110 dollars. If you’re curious about the Schlage Connected Camelot, a review of the unit will be going up soon.

Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful. As always, feel free to send me an email at manbeertech@gmail.com, via comment, or even on Reddit directly at kaizokudave. Till then, See you next time!

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