real estate

Finding a Smart Lock That Clicks for You

Lock and unlock your door with your smartphone, no matter where you are.

Smart locks are slowly becoming a smart-home staple. Install one of these devices on your entry door and you’ll be able to lock and unlock the door with a smartphone app or a keypad. Some models lock and unlock the door automatically as you (and your smartphone) leave or approach the house. They’ll also allow you to check remotely to see whether the door is locked, as well as use a virtual assistant to lock the door. And some let you create a digital key for one-time use or for use during a specific time frame.

Key or no key?

Smart locks are available with a variety of features and in a plethora of styles, says Molly Price, associate editor of CNET.com. You can choose a lock that either works with the existing hardware or replaces it. Many smart locks don’t have a slot for a traditional key, but you may want one that does if you have a family member who isn’t comfortable with technology. Do-it-yourselfers can install smart locks on their own; professional installation will likely cost $50 to $200.

If you already have an Alexa or a Google Home smart speaker, you’ll want a lock that’s compatible with the system. Some smart locks have features that only work when your smartphone is within about 300 feet, but others allow you to check on the status of your lock from anywhere. To get a smart lock with the most-robust features, look for one that uses Wi-Fi—or comes with a hub that ties in to your Wi-Fi network—instead of relying only on Bluetooth.

August’s Smart Lock Pro + Connect ($279) packs a lot of features into a small unit and gets strong reviews from CNET and other tech sites. The hockey-puck-shaped smart lock sits on top of the dead bolt you already have in your door. Use your key, or use the August app (which works with Apple and Android systems) to lock and unlock the door remotely, create virtual keys for others (by sending them an invitation to use the app), and see a list of who has used his or her smartphone to enter.

The lock also pairs with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, so you can trigger the lock with your voice. You can set the door to lock and unlock when you (and your smartphone) leave or return home. It can also be paired with August’s Doorbell Cam Pro ($199), which lets you see who’s at the door, and a keypad ($79), which lets you unlock the door without a key or a smartphone. The lock’s four AA batteries should last several months.

If you’re ready to ditch your key, consider Yale’s Real Living Assure Lock SL Key Free Touchscreen With Network Module ($219). The lock replaces your existing dead bolt with a slim touchscreen keypad outside and a box with a dead bolt and space for four AA batteries inside. You lock the door with a quick tap and unlock it by entering your four- to eight-digit code. Apple users can ask Siri to unlock the door, or they can use the Yale Secure app to lock and unlock the door remotely and manage up to 250 PIN codes. You can also control the lock with Alexa or via the Amazon Home app.

To minimize the possibility of giving a hacker access to your home, choose a smart lock from an established company that’s up front about its security and encryption policies. You’ll also want a lock that has received a rating of 1 or 2 from the American National Standards Institute, which grades locks on a scale of 1 (highest) to 3 (lowest) for physical strength and ability to withstand vandalism and heavy use. Also use a custom password on your home’s Wi-Fi network and your smartphone and run regular app updates.

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