How to Pick the Best Keyless Entry Deadbolt

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Is this the best keyless entry deadbolt for you? Maybe... Maybe not... Schlage Smart Connect Deadbolt

Is this the best keyless entry deadbolt for you? Maybe… Maybe not…

The idea of waltzing out the door without an anchor weight of a key ring is more of a reality than just a dream.

In all reality, it’s been here for more than a decade.

So you might be thinking…Margaret…aren’t you a little late to this party?

Actually, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the convenience of using a keyless deadbolt on my own home as well as my rental property for over ten years. I absolutely love the lack of a key and will continue to do so. However, I’ve recently experienced living with a different style keyless deadbolt…and now I’ve got something to share with you!

Wouldn't it be nice to leave home without any keys? With a keyless entry deadbolt, here is the minimum I have to take when I walk out the door.

With a keyless entry deadbolt, here is the minimum I have to take when I walk out the door.

Observation #1: Electronic deadbolts are manual or motorized.

Specifically, tumblers can be opened manually or motorized. This means you either punch the keycode and:

  • Manually flip the tumbler, or
Manual moved tumbler example: Schlage Keypad Deadbolt

Manual moved tumbler example: Schlage Keypad Deadbolt

  • A motor moves the tumbler for you.
Automatically moved tumbler example: Schlage Smart Connect Deadbolt

Automatically moved tumbler example: Schlage Smart Connect Deadbolt

Here’s what that means for you:

Do you have arthritis or difficulty twisting objects? If so, a motorized tumbler is the perfect solution for you!

Observation #2: Sound.

A motor creates noise.

Keyless deadbolts require motors to unlock or move the tumbler, depending on which style you choose.

So a keyless deadbolt is going to make noise. ←deductive reasoning for the win!

This is one of those often overlooked issues that you may not expect.

Let’s be real. When it comes to shopping for a shiny new electronic deadbolt we are judging based on looks and perceived convenience.

Schlage Smart Connect Deadbolt looks pretty on this gorgeous door with the iron nail heads.

This one looks pretty on this gorgeous door with the iron nail heads. Then again, a shoebox would look gorgeous on a door like this! I’m a sucker for nail heads.

I specifically chose the word “perceived” because how would you feel when you install your shiny new smart home device and find it makes so much noise it will wake up someone in the next room…this is NOT a convenience.

When you look at those slick displays at the store they look beautiful.

Home Depot display of automatic keyless deadbolts. I'll take one of each!

I’ll take one of each!

But you can’t try them out. They either:

  1. Have no batteries (makes sense so they can sell the displays later and not have any battery explosions inside).
  2. Have batteries, but they are dead.
  3. Or have batteries, but you don’t know the passcode.

You don’t want to find out a keyless lock is too loud after you’ve installed it.

Video proof starting at 2:34:

Need a way to sneak into the house (without using the key because that kind of defeats the purpose of this lockset)? Not so much with this Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt. Of course, you can use the key when you REALLY need stealth…

Compare this to the Schlage Keypad Deadbolt where you can easily control how loud or quiet you lock or unlock the door: slamming it open to announce your presence or using a ninja technique turning the knob oh-so-gently-and-silently.

At the moment I can only give you two samples of sound, but I have a plan to get more. I’ll be visiting with different lock companies with the intention to see how loud their deadbolts sound to make another video. Consider subscribing to the JustNeedsPaint YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss the next keyless deadbolt video. I plan on collecting a bigger sample of the sound coming out of more than just these two deadbolts.

Observation #3: Your home’s floorplan matters.

What is the layout of your house?

If you have a front door right next to a bedroom, even a white noise Dohm may not entirely cover the motor enthusiastically opening the front door.

If your door enters into a shared space like a living room or kitchen, the sound emitted by the lock will not make a difference at all.

Video proof starting at 4:02:

Observation #4: Battery usage

The same can be said for battery usage and lifespan of a door handle with a motor. The newer sets will not keep a charge as long with the keypad and motor using juice. In addition, the motor may not last as long with more demand on the electrical parts.

I cannot speak to any lock other than the Schlage Keypad Deadbolt. We go through one 9V battery every three years or so. This is on a south facing door in the desert so it gets some heat transferred through the door in the summer and not much cold in the winter. YMMV.

Observation #5:  Detecting the problem when the door goes out of plumb and the tumbler does not deploy all the way.

This was a great observation from a viewer on the my YouTube video:

What if the door settles a bit in the jamb and the latch does not fully go in? How would you know with one of these?

As a carpenter, readjusting doors that go out of plumb is something he corrects every day.

This is a good observation. One I hadn’t thought about because having lived with the keypad deadbolt for over 10 years–having to turn the tumbler myself. I hadn’t had to deal with before now because I could feel it go in to place all the way, properly locking the house.

Right now all of these deadbolts are manual on the back side. As long as you lock your house on a regular basis, you have this same feedback every time. Just as when you use a key, with a motorized keypad you get used to the sound on the outside and feel on the inside.

A change as the door moves in the jamb will most likely be gradual. Whether you have a key, a manual tumbler with a keypad, or an automatic tumbler you still have to flip inside your home, you have to take note and also connect the dots.

While this is a sketchy predicament, it applies to all style locks. Gradual changes where logic has to be applied–“hey, if the door is harder to manually lock then maybe it isn’t locking on the outside”–are harder to catch. It is an issue with an automatically locking deadbolt.

Although, I will say, this seems like something that some of the newer, smarter deadbolts might have a warning–either by lighting up the keypad, or sending you an alert on your phone. I will be inquiring about a feature like this to the lock manufacturers at the International Builder Show this week. So check back next week for an answer to this issue.

This is a great argument for the keyless entry deadbolt where you have to turn it yourself!

Update on 2/1/2020: When you hook up smart locks to your phone you will get notifications if the door is not locked. Given you have to set up what it is you want to know about, but it is an option.

Observation #6: What happens to a keypad without a key?

There are some newer keyless entry locks without a backup master key.

Let’s say you go on vacation and the battery dies when you are gone. How do you get back in?

Let’s hope you have a back door key hidden.

There is no way for continuous power to a keypad due to the location–on a hinged door. So these all require a battery. Batteries eventually need replacing.

My gut tells me I want a backup key for the inopportune times the battery goes out (because we all know it is never a convenient time).

Playing devil’s advocate, you could also argue the backup key is a magnet for picking and bumping. While this may be true in the past, newer models have improved this weakness.

*Side note* This is a friendly reminder to clean off your keypad and change the code from time to time. You don’t want to make the code easier to crack because you made the numbers you touch obvious and worn. Alternately, you could intentionally make a couple buttons extra grungy to throw potential thieves off the correct numbers.

Updated on 2/1/2020: We discovered at least one manufacturer addressed this issue. Both the DB1 and DB2 on the Alfred has a micro USB jack that you can hook a power block up to charge enough to get in. This is a feature on all their locks, including the keyless entry locks with a backup key. This way even if you are locked out you can borrow a powerblock, or borrow a neighbor’s laptop and hook up a phone charger to the laptop and jack your way into your house. Heh…or pull the batteries out before going on vacation and keep a powerblock with you to get back in.

Observation #7: No more lost or stolen keys.

Forget about giving your neighbor a key. Those days are gone.

While we still rely on our neighbors to water plants and feed pets while we are on vacation, it is so much easier to give them a passcode or simply open the door for them through a phone app.

Observation #8: Improved safety and monitoring.

From a safety perspective, the smart keyless entry locks will send you updates on activity. Some also have the ability to detect and notify you if a lock is tampered with in the event of a break-in.

Some smart deadbolts also are compatible with Amazon Key. Amazon Key is a service where the delivery person has access to your home with a special code. So a package won’t be stolen on your front doorstep.

All that said…which is the best keyless entry deadbolt for you?

Everyone can enjoy a keyless lifestyle. However, some of these considerations are not necessarily something you think about when you go out and buy one.

  • Depending on your lifestyle a motorized tumbler may or may not be a good thing.
  • As with many things, this technology will only improve with time. They will get quieter and there will be more features we expect with smart devices.
  • While some of the newer models may be quieter, you’ll pay a premium.
  • If a motorized tumbler is not for you at the moment, a keypad deadbolt is a great second option!

The best keyless entry deadbolt is one that integrates itself smoothly into your lifestyle.

As I mentioned before, hit this post up again soon for an update on the noise level produced for different manufactures as well as other safety features such as tumble deployment detection.

Here are the two keyless locks described and photographed in this post:

Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt

Schlage Keypad Deadbolt

 

Just as a side observation, it is interesting to see the differences in what is displayed at different stores. The manual lever locks are circled and there are no manual deadbolts displayed.

Home Depot display of keypad levers and automatic keyless deadbolts.

While this other store has double the display and showcases both manual kinds of tumbler styles (twist the deadbolt or a lever / knob):

Menard's display of manual and automatic keyless deadbolts.

Menard's display of manual and automatic keyless deadbolts.

Also, I have to laugh and share a story behind the picture of the Schlage Keypad Deadbolt at the top of this post:

We were in the process of replacing the entryway ceiling along with upgrading the doorbell. A lot of painting was happening…new siding for the ceiling, stucco patches and replacing doorway trim for the doorbell replacement. So I piled on repainting the door since it was peeling terribly–AND it would look amazing for this blog post.

The Schlage Keypad Deadbolt against the peeling paint and partially stripped fiberglass door.

The Schlage Keypad Deadbolt against the peeling paint and partially stripped fiberglass door.

However, I didn’t realize how a beautiful paint job would make a 10+ year old Schlage Keypad Deadbolt look–well–like it had been baking in the sun 10 years.

It is not the best picture of a Schlage Keypad Deadbolt, but you *know* this is a real review.

Considering the other items I’ve actively baked purposefully for this blog like a Flo and sill sealer, I’d say it has held up EXTREMELY well. I’ve also only changed the 9V battery about three times in that amount of time.

Good job, Schlage!

How to Choose the Best Keyless Entry Deadbolt

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