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Choosing the Best Lock for Your Home

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There comes a time where we all need to call a locksmith, and there’s a good reason for that—there's a lot to know about locks. Different types, purposes and mechanisms have always Now, thanks to the Internet of Things, there are far more options than before.

Mechanical Locks:

When you think of locks for your home, you're probably thinking of the standard set. There's the knob lock, the kind of lock that comes with a door knob you purchase. There are a bunch of different mechanics these could contain—a warded lock, for instance, uses a set of obstructions (called "wards") to prevent the bolt being turned unless the correct key with the shape to get around those wards is inserted and turned. They are not the most secure: a well-designed skeleton key can operate most warded locks. Pin tumbler locks use a set of cylinders (pins, in fact) of varying lengths—when the correct key is inserted, the cylinders are pushed up so that they align and the mechanism can be turned. When an incorrect key is inserted, the cylinders cannot be pushed up to align and the device cannot be turned. Its close cousin, the wafer tumbler lock, operates on a similar principle except where the pins are made of two or more pieces in a pin tumbler lock, the pins (or wafers) in a wafer tumbler lock are each one piece. A disc tumbler lock is made up of a series of rotating discs, making it extremely difficult to pick. Conversely, a lever tumbler lock is very easy—the lock uses a set of levers to prevent the bolt from moving in the mechanism, and in many cases the levers only need be lifted a certain height to permit the bolt to move.

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You probably know about the tougher looking and sounding deadbolt (called "dead" because they contain no springs), but did you know there are three kinds? Single cylinder deadbolts operate with a key on one side and a twistable knob on the other. Double cylinder deadbolts take keys on both sides of the door, so they don't have any knobs to speak of. Vertical deadbolts are a variation on the deadbolt that resist being pried open.

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Electronic Locks:

Now for the truly fun ones—now where locks with grand keys and stately tumbler-shifting noises recall nostalgic visions of eras past, electronic (often keyless) locks call up Jetson-esque dreams of the future. Mechanical locks are rarely about brand and more about categories of mechanism, but this is the first way electronic locks differ. We live in the age of intellectual property law—often electronic locks are less a part of a category and more an individual device called by the name its inventors gave it and sold only by them.

Kwikset SmartCode with Home Connect gives you the best of all worlds—keyless entry with a code, keyed entry and connection to your smartphone and other internet-connected devices. Get a text when someone uses an entry code, set temporary entry codes for maintenance workers and pet sitters, even use locking the door to trigger other actions like turning on an entry light or adjusting the thermostat. Plus you can remotely lock your door, so no more worrying if you did or not—and no more getting out of bed if you neglected to lock before you got cozy.

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August is an installation lock that replaces the guts of your existing deadbolt and is only visible on the interior side of your door. Instead of keys, your smartphone does the locking and unlocking for you, and it does it as you approach the door. Access can be given to certain individuals (and revoked at any time). And even in a power outage, August won't have any downtime—it's not connected to your electrical system or your wireless router. Aesthetically, it's very similar to Nest thermostat.

Goji is very similar to August, except for one key (pun intended) difference—it installs on the inside and outside of your door. The cool thing about this is that Goji can therefore send you picture alerts solving the quest “who's at your front door?” Bam. The smartphone camera tells you. It also replaces the guts of your existing deadbolt and is also easily user-installed.

If you're not looking to replace the guts of your deadbolt, Lockitron might be your better option. It fits over existing deadbolts (and they have compatibility template to make sure it will fit on your door before you purchase), making it perfect for renters to whom the word "replacement" is anathema. It's triggered by a smartphone app (and even automatically by blue tooth as you walk up to your door), but can also be set up to be triggered by text message for visitors with dumb phones (parents, grandparents, writers pulling a Thoreau).

The one thing all these vastly different locks have in common is that not one of them is entirely pick-proof. Yes, the lock on your door is your first defense and a locked door is a great deterrent (and perhaps some of the smarter electronic locks will make burglars fear getting Space Odyssey-ed). But simply putting a lock on the door should not be the only thing you do to protect yourself and your home—even the toughest disc tumbler lock can be taken out of commission with a simple power drill. Remember to get yourself a great security system (and perhaps a furry friend) to compliment the locks you've got.