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What Is a Smart Door Lock—and Do You Need One?

When it comes to securing the front door, a well-made conventional front door lock does the job just fine. Tried and true, its inner workings have been perfected for nearly two centuries. But consider this: Thanks to technology, a “smart door lock” can add entirely new dimensions to a lock’s convenience, utility, and security.

smart door lock

A smart lock pairs with your smartphone to unlock a world of convenience.

Why might you want a smart door lock? Picture this: Your arms are loaded with groceries and, as you approach the front door, the door lock recognizes your smartphone and automatically unlocks. Or maybe you want to grant access to family, friends, guests, Airbnb clients or service providers when you’re not home—so you just text them a code. Or maybe you’re away from home and want to keep track of who opens the door, or be alerted when they do.

A smart door lock accomplishes all of these advanced functions and more thanks to a combination of wireless technologies including Bluetooth and WiFi that give you control over your smart lock from anywhere you can connect to the Internet via the lock’s smartphone app.

You may not need a smart lock, but it’d sure make your life easier and heighten your sense of control and security over your abode when you’re not home.

A Whole New Way to Open Your Door

Once installed and paired via Bluetooth with your smartphone, a smart lock can be locked and unlocked without a key. Depending on the make and model and its feature set, a smart lock can be opened by waving or turning your smartphone in front of the lock, touching the lock with your finger, tapping a control in an app, approaching your door, or even talking to your lock. Some locks can also be programmed to automatically bolt behind you as you leave. Smart locks offer one or a combination of these keyless lock/unlock options.

All smart lock apps also allow you to send virtual “keys” that can be used by family, friends, visitors or service workers only for a specified period of time (the recipient must download the lock’s app to their phone). The app can also alert you about who’s coming and going, and keeps a history of who goes in or out and when.

If your home is equipped with a video doorbell, you can also grant entry to unexpected visitors you can visually vet through real-time video chat.

A smart lock is designed to replace the bolt lock on your front door. Installing it is a DIY process that’s easier than you might expect—usually involving just a few screws. Typically, it can be done in less than an hour. Surprisingly, smart locks don’t cost substantially more than a premium standard key lock—usually from $200 to $250.

Smart locks are battery operated; batteries normally last from six months to a year. You’ll get an alert when the batteries need to be replaced so you don’t get locked out because of no power. New smart locks made by Yale even have external jacks to hook up a 9-volt battery, just in case the internal batteries die unexpectedly.

Smart Lock Differences

The whole idea of a smart lock is only about two years old, and many of the pioneering smart lock makers such as Kevo, August and Goji are start-ups whose initial focus was more gadget innovation than real-world utility. Since the idea is still so new, all smart lock sellers, including traditional lock makers such as Yale, Schlage and Kwikset, are still figuring out the features and functionality we want.

As a result, while smart locks share many functions and virtues, most differ wildly in design and operation.

Some smart locks, like the August, for instance, present a totally blank face to the outside, and can be opened only if your smartphone is deployed or on your person.

Wifi-enabled smart lock installs in minutes with just a screwdriver. Buy on AmazonKwikset

Wifi-enabled smart lock installs in minutes with just a screwdriver. Buy on Amazon

Yale’s [easyazon_link identifier=”B01JUBS0Q0″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]WiFi plus Bluetooth Assure[/easyazon_link] and the WiFi-only Linus both include a touchscreen keypad for alternative entry.

The [easyazon_link identifier=”B01JJ0YYWG” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Kwikset Kevo[/easyazon_link] powered by Unikey ($199.99) looks like a normal lock and can be opened with a traditional key. However, if you’ve got your paired smartphone in your pocket, you can also open it just by touching the lock.

Both the new August ($229) and [easyazon_link identifier=”B00YUPDUYE” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt[/easyazon_link] ($229) are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, which means they can be opened via Siri voice command from an iPhone or Apple Watch. The Schlage also includes a keypad.

Adding a key option like the Kevo, or a numerical keypad, can be a comforting option to the tech-suspicious. We’ve all experienced wireless connectivity issues, and none of these mishaps could compare with an outage locking you out of your own home. To allay this fear, some smart lock makers are augmenting their wireless-only entry with optional keypads. [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LBGVQ9K” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]August[/easyazon_link] is adding a two-column keypad strip, for instance, and Danalock will soon start selling its circular Danapad keypad (price to be announced).

Smart locks don’t provide much of an advantage for apartment dwellers, however, since an outside buzzer limits a smart lock’s remote entry attributes. To help solve this, a company called Ikilock has unveiled its “remote doorman” Ikiplug box, which can remotely trigger your intercom to open the outer building door.

If you’ve got a household with a plethora of comings and goings, the right smart lock may be a smart idea.

Stewart Wolpin is a consumer electronics expert and a contributing writer for eBay.com, a great place to find technology to improve your home.


How to Clean Tarnished Brass Hardware

Is your brass door hardware looking brown and tarnished?

brass copper cleaner

You can buy any of several types of brass and metal cleaners online.

Brass can be beautiful, but when it begins to show the signs of age and use, it’s time for a little tender loving care.

To restore the beauty of brass, begin by either removing or masking-off the hardware to protect the door’s surface.

Restore the brass’s shine with a good brass cleaner, applied with a soft cloth (protect your skin by wearing latex or rubber gloves when working with this type of chemical).

Next, it’s time to buff and polish. A soft buffing wheel, fitted into an electric drill, speeds polishing. Protect the finish by spraying on a light coat of clear lacquer or brass sealer.

If your hardware is beyond this type of simple cleaning, you’ll need to step-up your approach. Remove badly tarnished hardware and place it in undiluted ammonia for about an hour. Rinse with clear water, then polish as directed above.

Quiet a Door Hinge Squeak

Are you tired of hearing your door squeak every time it is opened or closed? If so, read on because this is one of the simplest of all household fixes. Squeaks are caused by friction, so repairing them is simply a matter of lubricating the hinge.

Silence a squeaky door by lubricating the hinge with WD-40 or penetrating oil.

Silence a squeaky door by lubricating the hinge with WD-40 or penetrating oil.

First try spraying the butts of the hinges with a light coat of penetrating oil (such as WD-40). If that doesn’t work, pull out the hinge pin from the squeaky hinge. To do this, use a screwdriver to pry up the top of the pin or, if necessary, drive a punch or long nail up from the bottom of the hinge barrel with a hammer to pop the pin out of the top of the hinge). Be ready to support the door when you pull out the hinge pin, particularly if the door is a heavy one.

Next, lightly scrub the pin, barrel, and hinge leaves with steel wool. Coat them with a thin layer of silicone spray or a light penetrating oil, and replace the pin.[GARD align=”left”]

Keep a door working well by periodically lubricating the hinges with silicone spray or a light penetrating oil. But don’t spray this type of lubricant into a lockset—it will gum it up.

How to Quiet a Door Hinge Squeak

Are you tired of hearing a door’s hinge squeak every time it opens or closes? If so, read on because eliminating a door hinge squeak is one of the simplest of all household fixes. Friction causes hinge squeaks, so repairing a hinge squeak simply means lubricating the hinge.

spray hinge squeak©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Silence a squeaky door by lubricating the hinge with WD-40 or penetrating oil.

First try spraying the butts of the hinges with a light coat of penetrating oil (such as [easyazon_link identifier=”B00HEVD7QM” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]WD-40[/easyazon_link]).

If that doesn’t work, remove the hinge pin from the squeaky hinge. To do this, use a screwdriver to pry up the top of the pin or, if necessary, drive a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00QKOKA82″ locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]nailset[/easyazon_link] or long nail up from the bottom of the hinge barrel with a hammer to pop the pin out of the top of the hinge). Be ready to support the door when you pull out the hinge pin so the door doesn’t fall, particularly if the door is a heavy one.

Next, lightly scrub the pin, barrel, and hinge leaves with [easyazon_link identifier=”B001JYVDSE” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]steel wool[/easyazon_link]. Coat them with a thin layer of [easyazon_link identifier=”B000ABE98I” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]silicone spray[/easyazon_link] or a light [easyazon_link identifier=”B00200MR8Q” locale=”US” tag=”hometips”]penetrating oil[/easyazon_link], and replace the pin.

Keep a door working well by periodically lubricating the hinges with silicone spray or a light penetrating oil.

Note: Don’t spray this type of lubricant into a lockset—it will gum up the workings.

How to Repair Door Locks

Door latches and locks are somewhat complex pieces of hardware with several working parts that can go wrong and cause them to be unworkable or balky. Here are some helpful do-it-yourself repair techniques for fixing common lock and latch problems. how-to-repair-door-locks

Door Key Doesn’t Work

If your door key doesn’t work right, the first and most obvious step is to be sure you’re using the right key. Once you get the door open, try the key again. If it works easily, the deadbolt isn’t engaging the strike plate properly. If it doesn’t work any easier, lubricate and/or clean the lock. Then spray a little graphite into the cylinder and try the key several times.[GARD align=”left”]

If the key turns but doesn’t unlock the lock, disassemble the lock so that you can be sure the cam or tang is properly engaged with the bolt. Replace any broken parts and reassemble the lock.

If the key won’t go into the lock, ask yourself if the weather is cold enough for the lock to be frozen. If it is, heat the key and insert it gradually into the keyway. Repeat heating and inserting the key until the ice has melted.

A new key that won’t go in or work properly may have rough spots that need to be filed off. To find them, hold the key over a candle to blacken it with soot and then turn it very slightly in the lock and remove it. File down any shiny areas where the soot was removed by the rough spots.

Door Lock Works Slowly

Exterior locks can freeze, interior locks get dirty, and small internal parts eventually wear out or break. Before you buy a replacement lock, try some quick remedies:

Put some graphite into the keyhole, either by squeezing it from a tube or dusted onto a key, and then operate the lock a few times to work the graphite into the mechanism. Lock de-icers contain alcohol and other lubricants that help to dissolve gummy, dirty deposits. The last resort is to disassemble the lock to see if something has jammed or is broken—you may be able to set it straight or replace the part without buying a whole new lock.

Entire Lock Cylinder Turns

A cylinder turns when the setscrew(s) meant to hold it in place become loose or broken.

Mortise lockset: Remove the faceplate (if there is one) at the door’s edge and locate the one or two cylinder setscrews. They should be in line with the center of the cylinder. Tighten the setscrew(s) by turning clockwise—be sure they engage the slot that runs along the edge of the cylinder (the key slot should be perfectly vertical). Replace the faceplate.

Surface-mounted rim lock: Unscrew and remove the cover, called a “case.” Tighten the cylinder setscrews. Replace the case.

Lock Doesn’t Latch Properly

When a door latch doesn’t click into position, it usually means the latch and the strike plate are out of alignment. Tighten the hinge screws and then try adjusting the strike plate by loosening its screws and shifting it slightly.[GARD align=”left”]

When possible, it’s easier to file the slot in the strike plate a little bit so that it will receive the latch. Shifting the strike plate’s position usually involves mortising the jamb, filling part of the old mortise, and so forth. You can also solve misalignment by replacing the strike plate with an adjustable one.

A latch can stick for many reasons, most of which are easily fixed. Check that the hinge screws are tight. If the door is out of alignment, the latch will bind. Also check the knob and lock assembly for loose screws or misalignment. Finally, look closely at the strike on the door jamb—if it’s blocked or out of adjustment, the latch won’t run freely in and out.

Deadbolt Is Stuck

The chances are good that the bolt is having a hard time finding the throat in the strike plate. Be sure the strike plate is secure and in reasonable alignment with the bolt. You can file the edges of the strike plate a little, and even slightly round the edges of the deadbolt’s end. If this doesn’t work, you’ll probably have to remove the strike plate, fill the screw holes with glue and wood matchsticks, reposition it properly, and rescrew it in.

Key Is Broken Off in Lock

Using pliers, try to grip and pull the key straight out. If you can’t get a grip even with needle-nose pliers, cut off a coping saw blade and, with the teeth pointed outward, insert the blade into the keyway and try to hook and drag the key out. As a last resort, remove the cylinder. Insert a stiff wire into the cam slot at the back of the cylinder and push the key out. Or take the cylinder to a locksmith.

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[telnumlink] 1-866-342-3263[/telnumlink]

Doorknobs Buying Guide

When choosing a doorknob or lockset for your home’s exterior or interior doors, it pays to have a clear understanding of the differences between various types. This expert guide will help.

Mortise lockset for an exterior door is made to insert into a rectangular cut-out in the edge of the door.©Nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

Mortise lockset for an exterior door is made to insert into a rectangular cut-out in the edge of the door.

Satin nickel lever-style lockset secures a door with beauty, style, and security. Photo: Andersen

Because doorknobs (also called “locksets” by the trade) must open, close, and lock doors on a frequent basis, it’s important that they work smoothly, efficiently, and securely.[GARD align=”left”]

And because they are also a highly visible part of your home, doorknobs should be chosen with an eye toward quality and style.

Prices for doorknobs are all over the map, running from a low of about $30 to $800 or more. In most cases, you get what you pay for. Quality locksets are finely machined from high-quality steel and brass and are beautifully plated with brass, bronze, chrome, or similar finishes.

When buying a new lockset, you must distinguish between several variables. Most notably, you must choose whether:

1) It is for an interior or exterior door

2) It will include a lock, and

3) It will be a cylindrical or mortise lockset.

Doorknobs and locksets are readily available online.

Interior Door Doorknobs

Interior locksets may be referred to as interior knobs, passage locksets, spring-latch locks, or tubular locks.

Conventional interior lockset has a cylindrical body that fits into holes bored into the door.©Nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

Conventional doorknob has a cylindrical body that fits into holes bored into the door’s edge and face. This type, with a thumb-twist knob, offers only minimum security.

The most familiar type that has a push-button lock on one side, often used on bathroom and bedroom doors, is called a privacy lock. Privacy—not security—is the operative term. It is not meant to be used as an exterior door knob. This type of lock is easy to release from the outside by pushing a thin nail or sturdy wire into the hole at the center of the knob.

Interior locksets come in chrome, bronze, brass, and other finishes. In addition, they may have round or oval-shaped knobs, or straight, curved, or ornate levers. Prices typically run from $30 to $100.

Though some older homes may have doors equipped with old-fashioned mortise-style locksets, nearly all contemporary interior doors utilize cylindrical locksets because they’re easier to install—in fact, many new doors are pre-bored to receive cylindrical knobs.

Exterior (Entry) Doorknobs

Locksets for exterior doors are also called entry locksets, exterior locks, or keyed locks. These are heavier, more durable, and lock far more securely than doorknobs made for interior doors.

Exterior knobs typically come as a standard keyed entry set, an emergency exit knob (these can be opened from inside without unlocking the latch), and a dummy set (a fixed knob meant to be paired with an active knob).

Lever-style lockset has cylindrical workings. A lever is easier than a knob to operate, particularly for children and the elderly.©Nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

Lever-style lockset has cylindrical workings. A lever is easier than a knob to operate, particularly for children and the elderly.

Entry locksets can be locked or unlocked from both sides of the door using a key, a button, or a throw latch, depending upon the type.

If you are concerned about security, be sure your exterior doors have deadbolts that are either part of the lockset or installed as a separate lock.

High-security mortise-style locksets can have multiple bolts made of case-hardened steel.©StudioSmart / Shutterstock.com

High-security mortise-style locksets can have multiple bolts made of case-hardened steel.

A keyed deadbolt adds a higher level of security to an exterior door. Photo: ConstructorConstructor

A keyed deadbolt adds a higher level of security to an exterior door.

A deadbolt should have a minimum 1-inch “throw”—meaning it extends a minimum of 1 inch beyond the door’s edge—and be made of case-hardened steel.

For a double-cylinder deadbolt, you must use a key from both sides of the door. This is the safest type to use for doors with windows (or else a burglar can just break the glass and reach in to turn the bolt). When people are in the house, however, the key should be left in the interior lock to provide for quick exit in case of a fire or other emergency.

 

Before You Shop

Before you shop for a lockset for a door, be sure to make note of the following so the knob you buy will fit:
1The door’s thickness. Doors are typically either 1 3/8 inches or 1 3/4 inches thick. The thicker doors are usually, but not always, exterior models. Be sure to buy a lockset that will fit your door’s thickness.[GARD align=”right”]

2The “back set” dimension. The back set dimension is the measurement from the edge of the door to the center of the hole that is bored for the knob.

3The type of lockset. Note whether the lockset is a cylindrical model or a mortise lockset.

4The “handing” of the door. A door that opens toward you and has its knob on the left side is a left-hand door. A door that opens toward you and has its knob on the right side is a right-hand door. Though some locksets are reversible, those with curved levers instead of knobs are not.