Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review:Schlage Keypad Locks

We've had contractors in and out of the house to remodel it before moving in on Saturday. One of the last things to do would have been to change the locks. Then on Sunday I saw Amazon advertise a fingerprint door lock, and thought, hey, that's not a bad idea --- I can go key-less, and then authorize or de-authorize users as I please.

I quickly ruled out fingerprint readers, however, since all it would take is one flat tire on the way home from work and I would not be able to get into the house on account of dirty fingers. A keypad system, however, seemed to be the ideal compromise. For the front door, I chose the dead-bolt, because I wanted locking to be an explicit decision --- I didn't want to walk out to fetch mail and then end up having to press four buttons to get back into the house. For the back, I had no choice but to go with a self-locking handled setup, since the back door didn't have a dead bolt.

Incidentally, the place to order from is factory locks. They charge a bit more, but if you order more than one lock, they'll automagically key all the locks to the same key, which is very nice. Furthermore, if you order more locks in the future from them, you can give them your order number, and they'll key the new lock to the same keys! That's worth the extra cost in my opinion. They also ship extremely fast --- I got mine in 3 days.

I got the locks today and they were installed immediately by one of our contractors. The system works as described by the manual, though programming it is a little tricky because you really have to wait for the interface feedback before proceeding --- since there's no LCD display, you have to wait for the buttons to flash or change color before you start the data entry. But the results are very slick! It's amazing how freeing it is to not have to worry about keys when I leave the house any more. It's also nice to give each contractor and/or cleaning person an individualized pin that you can then enable just for the day of their visit and delete after they're done.

One potential flaw that someone pointed out to me was that the keypad itself could become worn down after a while, and if you stick to using the same pin over and over again, it suddenly becomes apparently which keys are frequently used, so you should switch pins every so often. And then there's the problem that there's a manual key override. What this means is that the lock system combines the security flaws of both the physical keys as well as the security flaws of the keypad system. You could disable the physical key system, but then now you have no backup override if you went for a vacation and the battery on the system drained while you were gone! My take on the whole thing is that security is a massive boondoggle anyway, and the real security you have is to buy in a neighborhood with low crime, because if a really determined person wanted to take your stuff, they'd just break a window and climb in. So I'll just not worry about it.

The big flaw I can see in the system so far is that the batteries will have to be changed, and it's not an easy battery change. You basically have to unscrew the whole door knob or dead bolt to put in a new 9-V battery. If the batteries last for the specified 3 years that's not too annoying, but it does mean that you should leave a manual override key with a relative just in case you go on vacation and come back to find yourself locked out.

Despite all these flaws, this is an incredibly slick system. I really like it, and it's the first thing about buying a house that hasn't been incredibly costly and a major pain in the neck. That makes it highly recommended.
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