Is a Keyless Lock as Good as a Regular Deadbolt?

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated July 19, 2021
Keyless door lock
Titikul_B/ Shutterstock.com

If you’re constantly losing your keys, maybe you’ll want to consider replacing your door’s deadbolt with a keyless lock system

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Although the locks used in keyless door entry systems and regular deadbolts are often the same, one uses smart technology or a keyless pad and the other relies on a physical key to unlock them. If your kids are always locking themselves out of the house and you don’t want to have to leave a key for them under the mat, maybe you're wondering if a keyless lock is a worthwhile investment. Find out the pros and cons of each lock type and whether a keyless lock works as well as a deadbolt.

How Do Keyless Locks and Regular Deadbolts Differ?

As the name suggests, the big difference between a keyless lock and a regular deadbolt is that you need a key for a deadbolt, while a keyless lock relies on a pin code, fingerprint scanner, or smart technology to unlock the door.

They also look different. A traditional lock fits into the door frame, while a keyless system sits outside the door frame. Keyless locks typically require batteries and often have a keypad on the front.

Which is Better: Keyless Locks or Regular Deadbolts?

Whether you opt for a keyless lock or a traditional deadbolt will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and lifestyle. Outlined below are some pros and cons of each style.

Convenience

When it comes to convenience, keyless locks have the upper hand. There’s no need to worry about losing your keys or having them clang around as you go for a run, and you won’t have to rake around in your bag or pocket to find them if you have your hands full with dogs, kids, shopping, or other bulky items. Many keyless systems light up, too, so you won’t struggle to find the key entry point when returning home in the dark.

Keyless locks aren’t foolproof, though. If they’re pin activated, it can be an issue if you or a family member forgets what the code is. Plus, if the battery runs out or a software update fails, you could be left out in the cold.

Ease of Access

Do you have a trusted dog walker, babysitter, cleaner, tradesperson, or friend who needs to access your home when you’re working or on vacation? Normally, this involves having a spare key cut or hiding the key somewhere outside the home. You also have the hassle of getting the key back when it’s no longer needed.

With a keyless locking system, you can provide them with the code for easier access. With some smart key technology, you can even supply different codes for each person via an app, and go a step further and program the times of day that specific codes allow them entry. You can then cancel them when individuals no longer require access to your home.

Some of the more sophisticated keyless lock apps also allow you to lock and unlock your door remotely. This is ideal if your kids have gone out of the house and forgotten to lock up, or you have an unexpected visitor and you want to let them in while they wait for you to return.

For homeowners with disabilities or dexterity issues, a sophisticated smart lock system can also be easier to use than a traditional key.

However, if you aren’t a tech fan, all these additional access features could be overwhelming. Sticking with a few spare keys may be an easier option.

Security: How to Determine the Quality of a Lock

Ensure that the quality of the lock, whether or not it’s a keyless system, is high. The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) certifies hardware that meets their standards and safety regulations. They also use a grading system to rate the hardware in terms of durability and security. All certified products are rated 1, 2, or 3 (with 1 being the highest rating). 

While many residential locks are grade 3 or 2, you could opt for a higher grade 1 rated industrial or commercial grade lock if you want additional peace of mind.

In reality, however, no lock is going to be a huge deterrent to a determined burglar. They’re usually opportunists and will look for an unlocked door or window, and they can force a door open. For serious deterrence, opt for camera surveillance security systems.

Security: Potential Problems with Keyless Locks

Smart locks often seem more secure than traditional deadbolts, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Some electronic keyless systems have a chamber to store a backup key if there is a power outage, which someone unwelcome could potentially access. 

Plus, if you use the same code for many years, the keypads could become worn, making it obvious which buttons to press. Someone could also observe you inputting the code, so you should shield this when entering as you would a pin at an ATM. Sophisticated burglars could even hack into systems using online software to access codes.

However, some keyless locks offer appealing security features. Some have built-in alarms that alert you if the lock is being tampered with or if someone has attempted to enter a code. The ability to lock the door remotely is also helpful if you have trouble remembering whether you locked up before leaving. Some Bluetooth-operated smart locks will even automatically lock if they detect you’ve left the house or lock the door behind you on entry.

Plus, a keyless locking system means you’ll no longer have to hide a spare key under a mat or in another not-so-secretive hiding spot.

Cost

In general, regular deadbolts are considerably less expensive than smart locks. Depending on the quality, you can expect to pay around $30 to $50 for a deadbolt. Keyless systems range from about $100 to $250.

Ease of Installation

Most regular locks and keyless varieties are relatively simple to install. With many, the only tool needed is a screwdriver, making it possible to do it yourself.

Unless you install keyless locks as part of a complex in-home security system or have a high-tech wired variety, they shouldn’t be all that more difficult or costly to install than a traditional lock. They are typically battery-operated, so there is no electrical wiring required.

You may want to call out a locksmith to install any new lock for additional peace of mind. They will ensure the job is done to a high standard and spot any problems with door maintenance, hinges, and fittings.

Appearance

If you want your door to have a sleek, streamlined finish, then a traditional lock is the way to go. Keyless systems are bulkier, there are fewer finish choices, and they may date more quickly than a classic lock.

Power Issues

Some keyless locks are hard-wired to your home’s electricity. This can render the locks unusable if there is a power outage. However, most of these systems have backup batteries or a backup key option.

You can also find yourself locked out if you lock your home remotely via Wi-Fi-enabled apps or Bluetooth technology.

Is a Keyless Lock or a Regular Deadbolt Right For Your Home?

If you’re on a limited budget, aren’t a tech fan, or just want a simple design, then opting for a regular deadbolt will probably be the preferred choice. For homeowners who want more flexibility and convenience, providing you don’t mind paying a bit more, a keyless lock could be the way to go.

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