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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.


Tamara Sullivan said...

Thank you for your post about the Schlage Keypad Locks you just purchased. I'm very happy to hear that Factory Locks did a great job helping you out.

In your blog you mentioned a couple issues of concern. The numbers wearing out shouldn't be a problem as we make sure the keys are designed to prevent wearing over time. Also, the battery life should be approximately 3 years. If the battery life is getting low (about 10% left of battery life) after you enter your code the Schlage button will flash red and will omit a sound to let you know. If it gets critically low the red light will flash all the time and then at that point will not let you enter a code.

I hope to hear more good things about your Schlage Keypad Locks. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or problems.

Good luck with your move this weekend,
Tamara Sullivan
Residential Web Analyst

Piaw Na said...

Talk about amazing customer response! Thank you for your comments, Tamara. We're looking forward to using the locks on a daily basis and will probably install another one on the secondary unit when we get around to renting it out.

Unknown said...

HI, is there a way to disable the key portion of the lock? It seems to me that these locks can easily be bumped which kind of rules them out for me??

Piaw Na said...

Yes. Any locksmith can push the pin inside the lock to disable keying. The problem is, if you're not diligent about replacing the battery, then you could get screwed, so I didn't do it.

Tamara Sullivan said...

Hi Kevin, Thank you for your concern about lock bumping. We would like to assure you this product is no more accessible to bumping than any other traditional mechanical Schlage product. I agree with Piaw that disabling keying could be detrimental if your battery ever dies completely.

Tamara Sullivan
Interactive Manager

Piaw Na said...

Thanks Tamara. I just bought another one of these since my renter's moving out and I'm going to stop re-keying the door of her unit and switch to the pin system.

Tamara Sullivan said...

That's great Piaw. You may also want to check out a new re-key technology that we're starting to role out on our keyed products into retail called SecureKey. It's an easy to re-key solution. Check out

Jack said...

I had a Schlage dead-bolt keyless lock installed in February, 2009. There were other numerical locks on the market, but the main difference was that they had a built-in motor which automatically moved the deadbolt to the desired position. However, I found such a feature totally unnecessary: motors are prone to break-downs and drain a lot of battery power, as I found out from people who had them. So, the Schlage numerical lock became the natural choice
Since the installation I haven’t had any problems and even though the lock has been used, on average, about 25 times per day, I still haven’t replaced the original battery (20 months). If it were not for the rather hefty price, I’d love to replace my other keyed locks with Schlage’s keyless locks!

Unknown said...

Great blog! Unfortunately, other traditional mechanical Schlage products are quite accessible to bumping, as are most of the residential locks on the market. (The Schlage Primus is much more resistant). I do have the Schlage keypad locks on all 3 of my entry doors. I did disable keying to prevent bumping. I've had them for 2 years and have replaced the batteries. It was not a problem as the low battery warning provides ample warning. As far as locks with motorized deadbolts, most of them will lock automatically. This may be helpful if you have family members who occasionally forget to lock the deadbolt.