When considering door locks, I came up with a list of door types in the Smart Home, differentiated by their functions. Then I selected the adequate lock after analysing usage habits. The types are:
- interior doors with normal catches
- interior doors locked to keep children out
- interior doors allowing entry for me only
- garage gate
- yard gate
- front door
For the first type, in order to enable easy opening, I wanted no lock, only a handle.
Interior doors with locks
For the second and the third types, the goal was to find a solution that allows you to open them without having to carry anything with you. This ruled out keys right away. You have to keep an eye on keys, and sooner or later you’ll misplace them. Modern, touch-enabled locks will not work, either, because you’d have to take a sensor or a phone with you. This just isn’t practical. And I’ve found finger print-enabled solutions too expensive. So what’s the solution? Code handles. You won’t be flooded with options for this one. I’ve found the manufacturer of the perfect handle for interior doors with locks, and this is the Assa Abloy code handle.
Its operation couldn’t be simpler. When you hold the handle, the keypad is at hand, and you can enter your 5-digit code in seconds. For us, the only problem was coming up with several codes that are easy enough to remember. Finally, I’ve taped a number to every handle, and used a particular logical sequence to work out a code from that. For example, you press that number twice, then press the number to its left twice. This gives you a combination that’s different for every door yet easy to remember. This works best as a way of childproofing, but only until about the age of 10, when it doesn’t keep the kids out any more. This means that, unfortunately, for the rooms where I want access only for myself, I had to come up with a unique code that I had to memorise. The batteries in the handle last for over 6 months even with intensive use. Since we installed these handles two years ago, they’ve never stopped working. They also come with an automatic locking function. With this, you’ll never leave the door unlocked because it automatically locks after 30 seconds. Of course, the door is only locked from the side of the code handle. From the other side, you can simply open it. This answers the frequently asked question of what happens if your child accidentally locks himself/herself in: nothing, because he/she can simply come out by pressing the handle on the inside.
In addition to the usual remote-control operation, you should enable controlling the garage door via the Smart Home system. This comes in handy when, for example, the remote is on the car key but you’re taking the bike and not the car. In this situation, all you need is your cell phone. We also put a button for the garage gate on the wall inside the garage for the kids. This way they can open and close the garage gate without a phone.
From a functional perspective, it’s very similar to the garage gate. The most important difference is that the garage gate is an entry to your house while the yard gate only allows visitors in the yard. Our yard gate can be opened with a proxy key and through the Smart Home system. The proxy is a type of key you can give to your children before they get their first cell phone. You can also give the gardener a sensor, so he/she can work even when you’re away. You’ll need the Smart Home control here because once you decide that you’ll let in the person at the gate, you should be able to open the gate from inside your house. And finally, all you need to gain entry to your house is your cell phone.
I’d like to briefly address the weakest link in controlling the house from the street: the Wi-Fi signal. There are three options to access the Smart Home system when you’re standing outside:
- running outdoor Wi-Fi if the Wi-Fi signal from the house can’t reach the gate
- logging into the Smart Home system via VPN and opening the gate from there
- opening up the house to the Internet (not recommended)
Regarding the front door lock, the main issue was the cleaning staff. As we didn’t use locks that opened/closed with keys, I couldn’t simply give a key to the house to the cleaning lady. The sensor that opened the yard gate could have been set to open the front door, too, but as such gadgets are easy to misplace, this solution would have been a security risk. I ruled out a Smart Home-linked lock because one, I didn’t want to give the cleaner access to the Smart Home system, and two, what if she doesn’t have a smart phone. After much searching, I’ve found a lock that works with a code and a fingerprint: Burg Watcher. The lock uses batteries both for the lock and on the keypad side. In our experience, the batteries on the keypad side lasted for 6 months, while on the lock side they worked for more than a year. The only downside of this lock is that it’s affected by dew. Under dewy conditions, the fingerprint scanner becomes unreliable. When this happens, you must use the code to get in.
Other things I wouldn’t mind trying
I’ve looked at many a smart lock but found no distributor for them in Europe. For some reason or other, the Apple Store, for example, sells smart locks only on its American site. Looking further, I’ve found this article that compares locks that are available in the market. You’ll find further ideas and aspects to consider here.