By Joseph Truini
There’s no escaping the ever-expanding world of smart technology. From cellular phones and wireless speakers to interactive refrigerators and cars with collision-avoidance systems, smart-tech devices have become an integral and, in most cases, important part of our daily lives.
Electronic deadbolts are certainly one of the most practical and beneficial applications of smart technology. They provide the same level of security and protection against break-ins as traditional mechanical deadbolts, but are much more convenient to use and easier to operate. Plus, electronic deadbolts satisfy our undying love of gadgetry.
Before getting into any specifics, let’s take a quick look at how electronic deadbolts work, and why you should consider them for your home.
How It Works
Every major residential lock manufacturer now offers a line of electronic deadbolts, and each has its own unique design and mode of operation. However, most models are comprised of two main components: an exterior entry unit and an interior electronics unit.
The exterior unit has a pushbutton keypad and usually a key slot, as well. The interior unit houses the electronics that operate the lock; it typically also has a thumb lever for manually throwing the bolt.
One of the key features of an electronic deadbolt is that it’s keyless. That’s right, there’s no need to find or fumble with keys to order to open your front door. Simply enter a personal passcode and the deadbolt will automatically unlock.
The electronics unit mounts on the inside of the door and has a tiny battery-powered motor. When you enter the proper passcode, the motor automatically retracts the bolt, unlocking the door. Upon exiting, you either reenter the code or simply press your palm against the touch screen, and the motor throws the bolt and locks the door.
It’s also worth mentioning that electronic deadbolts are designed to replace traditional mechanical deadbolts. So, there’s no need to drill new holes, replace the existing lockset or alter the door in any way. Most do-it-yourselfers can install an electronic deadbolt in less than 20 minutes using standard hand tools.
Benefits and Features
The first thing you’ll notice when shopping for electronic deadbolts is that they come in a wide variety of designs and finishes to complement any architectural style, so you’re sure to find one to match your personal preference.
There are two basic styles of entry pad. Some electronic deadbolts are equipped with pushbutton keypads, while others have illuminated touchpads with smooth, flat surfaces. Both types work well, but many people prefer the sleeker, cleaner look of the touchpads.
Passcodes can be assigned for each family member, and separate temporary passcodes can be programmed for babysitters, dog walkers, contractors and houseguests.
As mentioned earlier, most electronic deadbolts can be operated by entering a passcode or using a key. The key is useful should the battery die, preventing electronic entry. But newer, ultra-smart models with Bluetooth connectivity allow you to operate the deadbolt remotely via your smart phone, tablet or iPod Touch. From virtually anywhere in the world, you can lock or unlock the door, change passcodes and issue new passcodes.
When shopping for an electronic deadbolt, check to be sure it has a weak-battery indicator light, which will warn you when it’s time to install a fresh battery. This is an especially important feature if the deadbolt doesn’t have a key slot.
Electronic deadbolts prices vary widely, ranging from about $30 to more than $250. However, a vast majority of models cost between $150 and $200, and as with most electronics, price is a good indication of quality.
Once you’ve decided on the electronic deadbolt that best suits your lifestyle, family and budget, consider installing one on all exterior doors.
Home improvement expert Joe Truini is the author of many do-it-yourself books, and writes on home improvement and DIY for The Home Depot. Joe has many years of hands-on construction and carpentry experience. For more research information on door locks and deadbolts, you can visit www.homedepot.com.