I researched, bought and installed an electronic front door lock to go with the home automation & security system for under NZ$200 in 2017.
I looked for one with these features specifically as it was a free egress handle, would lock on door close (not a deadlock) and had a wireless RF remote… which is an easy way to connect it to a home automation system without wiring though the door with a power transfer… or wall (for an electric strike).
Access Tags: These are the tags I bought (if you want keyring tags). They are Mifare-1 and you need to order with the lock for this supplier. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/This-ID-Card-for-Our-Lock-SL16-073S/32745201036.html
- Approx NZ$160 landed when I bought it, but I see it has gone up slightly (freight is about $40 of that). I see you can get in a silver and bronze colour now.
- RFID Tag/Card access and PIN access. You can get keyring tags or wallet cards in Mifare-1.
- Physical Key access (this is really for override/emergency access, I’ve never needed to use it)
- Most importantly to me, it has an RF remote also, so you can control from a home automation system in future by connecting the remote buttons to relays/mqtt etc
- Battery operated (no hard wiring or door core drilling needed). Takes 4x AA, which seem to last more than a few months with decent alkaline batteries.
- Replaces standard latch set (60mm from door edge).
- Free handle exit (physical) and door can be pushed closed (ie the latch does not need to be in to close, as with many motor driven or deadlocks)
Issues & Notes:
After over a year of use it has held up pretty well apart from a latch breakage. The internal door tongue mechanism that was supplied broke once (after about 6 months) but it is a generic part and I got one from a locksmith. Possibly the spring had just fallen out of it, not sure.
The front plastic clear cover was looking a bit manky, but didn’t realise it had a clear cover on it which I removed after the first year. People like the tags, and having a PIN as a backup is useful if you go for a walk and want to leave your keys behind. I haven’t actually hooked it in to MQTT yet, but I do use the remote to unlock the door from a distance (it sits at my desk in the lounge currently…)
Mine is well undercover, but it looks relatively sealed for a bit of splash resistance. I don’t think I’d install it exposed to weather.
Remember to put a number/ID on all the tags you hand out (I engraved mine – they come with no markings at all). If one gets lost, you will need to remember which programming slot it was in so you can delete it.
Also, I recommend handing out different PIN numbers to people… so if you think one has been give out, you can delete it. Create a few PIN numbers in advance so you can give it to a contractor at short notice (then delete it)
It gives you a decent warning on the display if the batteries are running low, it will flash a light and give at least a week to change out the batteries.
A minor annoyance with the lock, that it appears you can’t change… it takes 9 presses to unlock with a pin number. A two digit ID followed by a 6 digit PIN then the ‘#’ key. The instructions seem to suggest you can change this to 4 digits, but a quirk in the programming stops this… and the supplier doesn’t seem to know what I’m talking about. You need a 6 digit PIN to change to 4 digits, and when you change… your programming PIN is still 6 digits, so you can’t enter it! Trust me, I tried to figure it out for hours.
Electric Lock Security Notes
People do worry about using smart locks due to inherent security concerns.
I personally would never use one that has a cloud service (eg Ring or similar system), but I think the risk of issues even if you do this is pretty low. The reality is that people are more likely to break in to you house by means other than infiltrating an electric lock if they really wanted to get in. Anyone breaking in to a cloud account is more likely to not be in NZ and cause havoc by making the door unlock/lock in the middle of the night – rather then getting in your front door.
Wifi & Bluetooth?
Locks with Wifi and Bluetooth are relatively secure too, but remember the more likely scenario is people getting access to your phone and using it to open your door. Pretty unlikely with a modern smartphone that you keep locked though.
The physical security side of a lock is just as good for a reasonable electric lock as a domestic key lock. Neither are really that great. Again though, there are weaker parts to accessing a house.
The biggest thing to think about is convenience. If people have to get a phone out to open their door it is unlikely to be used much. PIN numbers and bluetooth are useful, especially if you want to go out to walk the dog without taking your keys (or phone). Be aware though that someone can see you type in a PIN, or work it out with worn keys. Also, if you give a PIN to a child, you have little way of knowing who else they have mentioned it to! When younger, my kids had tags attached on a string inside their school bags. When one was lost, I just deleted it.
Emergency Key Override?
Having a key override is good if you really have no other way to get into the house if you have a problem with it and fails for some reason, but I’ve never had to use mine.
Manage your Tags and PINs!
And see above for PIN and tag management, like a password change PINs regularly and hand them out sparingly. If a contractor or ex-friend has a PIN, you have no way of knowing when or if they have been used. For me, this is by far the best feature of an electronic lock – you can have multiple access methods and no re-keying is required if one gets lost or compromised. Finally… good management means – never write your address on a tag (or any key ring) that you give to someone, eg parents/neighbours.