Shop Smarter: Keyless Locksets
Entering without a key should make life easier for everyone, so look for the right bells, whistles, flashing lights-—and looks—before you buy
If "hiding" a spare under the mat no longer seems like the answer to misplaced keys, consider a lockset that responds to the touch of a number pad. Punch in a PIN and an electric motor slides open the bolt; close the door and the bolt slides back. These locksets come in both mortise and tubular styles; replacing like with like can ease installation. That said, the owner's manual, complete with minuscule illustrations of telescoping parts, may send you into the arms of a pro. Whether or not you DIY, these five considerations are key.
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Look for backlit numbers—helpful at night—and listen for confirming beeps. Reprogramming the PIN should be easier than working a remote. Also helpful is the option to create two PINs, one for temporary use by a guest or repairman. The keyhole ensures access should the batteries fail; just be sure to remember where you put the key.
Keyless locksets tend to be boxy, but traditional styles do exist. What's more, you may be able to replace just the lock cylinder if your existing set is two pieces, like the one shown. Better-made sets have the heft of solid brass and the luminosity of a hand-polished finish. Details such as a discreet number pad and forged-brass trim may drive up the cost. Read the warranty; it may not cover the electronics for more than a year.
Batteries are a great way to avoid hard-wiring, but make sure they will last at least a year and will be easy to replace—a type available everywhere and designed to slide out and in without a hassle.
If the lock isn't working, will it let you know? Some sets have a tiny LED that changes color if the door is unlocked and that flashes to indicate problems, such as worn batteries. Some locksets beep and sound an alarm if you keep entering the wrong PIN.
As with any set, you can choose a handle for a right- or left-side door swing. Other options may include a way to turn off the automatic relock—when you're outside grilling, say, and want to run in without the door locking automatically behind you. If beeps make you crazy, see if there's a way to turn them off.