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The best smart lock for a keyless home

While traditional lock-and-key systems have improved over time, the basic mechanism hasn’t really changed since the first lock was invented more than a thousand years ago: A piece of metal that is just the right shape pushes pins inside a lock into the proper position, allowing the lock mechanism to turn. As a society, it’s been tough to replace a system that has worked reasonably reliably for literally a millennium.

Updated September 1, 2021 to add a link our news story covering Yale Home's announcement that it was upgrading its Yale Assure line of smart entry locks to the Z-Wave 700-series. 

You can thank the hospitality industry for finally pushing locks into the digital age. Hotels learned long ago that keys are easily lost, expensive to replace, and simple to bypass, as thieves can pick locks or simply make copies of a key to allow for unfettered future access. On the flipside, hotel guests have readily accepted key cards (and in some cases, smartphone-based solutions) as the primary means of getting into their room. The electronic solution is just so much simpler. Lost hotel key card? Replacing it is no big deal.

But the biggest benefit of electronic entry systems is that they are highly configurable. Digital locks can be changed at a moment’s notice (which is why that old hotel key card in your wallet isn’t good for anything), and the property owner can generate a record of when each door was opened. In a more advanced setting, different keys can be generated for the same lock, so a homeowner can tell when each member of the family came in, or when the housekeeper arrived.

Whether you have a teenager who tends to break curfew or merely want to give temporary access to houseguests, service providers, or Airbnbers, home use fingerprint lock are an incredible upgrade over the old way of doing things. Ready to make the jump to smart lock technology? Here are our top picks of the market at the moment. 

Some will argue that we should have named the Level Touch our top pick in this category—it earned a higher score, after all—but Level treats iOS users better than it does Android users. Kwikset also ditches the old familiar keypad in favor of a fingerprint reader on its latest smart losck. This enabled the company to dramatically shrink the footprint the lock presents on the exterior side of your door. Kwikset also gives you the option of opening the lock with a conventional key, in the event the reader won’t recognize an authorized fingerprint (should your skin prune up after a dip in the pool, for instance). 

Remember all those times you've reached your front door only to spend the next few minutes fumbling around for your keys? It's frustrating and it happens to us all. But if you're looking for easier ways to get in and out of your home, you might want to buy a smart lock.

These smart home devices allow you to unlock doors from anywhere through an app on your phone, or they can open when you're in close proximity to your front door. While smart locks won't necessarily make your home any safer, they do allow for more control and efficiency. Not only will they make sure you never again have to drop everything in your hands to look for keys, but tuya smart door lock can lock and unlock your door from anywhere and extend digital "keys" to friends, family, caregivers or anyone else who regularly visits your home. 

Sure, you can still use a regular ol' key to open a smart-lock-equipped door (or most of them, anyhow), but don't be too quick to discount the convenience of connectivity -- especially when your hands are full of grocery bags, squirming tiny humans or anything else that makes it tough to rummage around for your keys. And when you crawl into bed, only to second guess whether you locked the door or not, you won't need to throw on a bathrobe and stumble to the front door. You can just pick up your phone and check the lock status. 

That said, not all smart locks are the same. There are keyless options, Bluetooth options, locks that use your fingerprint, locks that fit on your existing deadbolt and complete deadbolt replacement locks. It can be tricky to navigate if you're new to smart home tech. Here's a look at today's smart lock options, what you need to know before buying one and how to choose the right lock for your needs. 

Models like the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, Kwikset Kevo Convert and Sesame TTLOCK Smart Door Lock are designed specifically to clamp in place over top of your existing deadbolt hardware. All three work with a lot of standard deadbolt brands. In August's case, the compatibility ranges from Arrow Hardware and Baldwin to Defiant, Kwikset, Schlage and many more. (Here's August's and Kwikset's deadlock compatibility charts for more details.)

With these retrofit setups, you get to keep the hardware already defending your door and add a layer of connectivity over top of it. This also means you get to keep your physical keys. Retrofit smart locks are the simplest way to add connectivity to your door without replacing your entire deadbolt system.

The other option is to replace your existing deadbolt altogether. The majority of smart locks take this approach, including the Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt, the Kwikset Kevo and the Yale Assure SL Touchscreen Deadbolt. There's even an "invisible" smart lock called Level Lock that is just a deadbolt replacement, so you can keep your existing hardware.

Locks like these will take a little more time and effort to install, but it's definitely doable for a novice DIYer. Since most locks are entire deadbolt replacements, you're going to have significantly more options if you go this route. Similar to the retrofit versions, you just need a screwdriver and about 20 minutes. Just remember to make sure that your door is smart-lock compatible before buying in. 

Another tip: Snap a picture of your existing setup before you begin, so you can reverse the install if you run into any unexpected issues with the new smart lock. A new deadbolt may mean a new set of keys (unless you choose a keyless model), so everyone in your family who wants a physical key will need a copy of the new one.

A smart lock needs to be able to communicate with the rest of your smart home setup and with your phone. Most will do that using one of three common communication protocols: Bluetooth, Z-Wave or Wi-Fi.

There are pros and cons to each, so you'll want to be sure to understand the differences before making a purchase.

Bluetooth

Examples: August Smart Lock, Poly-Control's Danalock (Bluetooth version), Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt, Kwikset Kevo, Friday Lock

Bluetooth is a common smart-lock protocol because it doesn't burn through battery life as quickly as Wi-Fi does. After all, it's not like you can plug your deadbolt in, and who will remember to change the batteries on a door lock? With Bluetooth, your lock's batteries should last a year or longer.

The downside to Bluetooth is that your range is somewhat limited — roughly 300 feet in a best-case scenario, and probably a lot less than that depending on how your home is laid out. It's enough to control your lock while you're at home, but wander too far afield and you'll lose the connection.

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Something else to keep in mind is that Bluetooth locks will connect directly with your phone or tablet. You don't need any sort of hub device to act as translator, since your phone already speaks the language. That's convenient if your smart-home aspirations end at your lock, but hubs grant you the ability to control multiple connected devices from a single app, which can be more convenient than dividing home control among an assortment of device-specific apps.

There are still some neat integrations available with Bluetooth-only hotel smart door locks, though. For instance, the August lock has an opt-in auto-unlock feature that's tied to your phone's Bluetooth. Lock your front door, leave home, then return within Bluetooth range, and your front deadbolt will automatically unlock.

If you want to control your lock remotely, adding passcodes or letting people in while you're away, you're going to need a Z-Wave hub or Wi-Fi-connected smart lock.

Z-Wave

Examples: Poly-Control's Danalock (Z-Wave version), Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt, Yale Real Living Touchscreen Z-Wave Deadbolt

Z-Wave smart locks are available from brands like Schlage, Poly-Control and others. Unlike Bluetooth locks, Z-Wave locks don't connect directly with your phone. Instead, they'll need to connect to a Z-Wave-compatible hub. That hub will translate the lock's Z-Wave signal into something your router can understand — once it does, you'll be able to connect with your lock from anywhere.

Samsung's SmartThings and the Wink Hub are two examples of Z-Wave control hubs. SmartThings in particular works with a bunch of third-party Z-Wave locks, from Kwikset and Poly-Control to Schlage and Yale. (Here are the complete lists of SmartThings- and Wink-compatible locks.)

The range of a Z-Wave connection is about 120 feet, so the lock will need to be at least that close to the hub — though additional Z-Wave devices can act as range extenders by repeating the signal from the hub and sending it further. The Z-Wave signal can bounce up to four different times, for a maximum range of about 600 feet (walls, doors and other obstructions will all take a toll on range).

Some Z-Wave locks like the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt ($239 at Walmart) don't offer their own app — instead the interface for the lock will pop up in the app of whatever Z-Wave hub you use. This can either leave you feeling disappointed that you don't have detailed, dedicated settings for your lock, or happy to not be downloading yet another app with yet another log-in. Again, it's all about preference here.

Z-Wave's biggest setback is the requirement of an additional hub to talk to Wi-Fi. The plus side is that you can connect to more third-party devices than a standard Bluetooth lock — if you have SmartThings or another hub. But, if you don't plan to use a bunch of other devices in conjunction with your lock, Z-Wave may not be right for you. 

Wi-Fi is available as an optional add-on with some wooden door hotel locks. For August's line of locks, a $79 August Connect plugs into a power outlet and bridges the connection between the Bluetooth August lock and your Wi-Fi network. The same goes for the $100 Kwikset Kevo Plus. Once you've plugged in these accessory devices and made that connection, you can control your lock from anywhere with an Internet connection.

In 2020, August released a smart lock with Wi-Fi built in. Schlage and Kwikset are also ditching Wi-Fi modules, so I'd advise against filling up another outlet in your home with a Wi-Fi module if you aren't dead set on a specific smart lock. That said, built-in Wi-Fi will likely drain your batteries quicker than Bluetooth, so stock up on the required batteries. 

With Wi-Fi enabled, you can lock and unlock your door remotely, create new users or access codes from anywhere and view your lock's status and activity log. Connecting your smart lock to the internet with Wi-Fi is going to give you the most options for features, including integration with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. 

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