Using Keyless Locks at Residences

Dear Jim: I am considering installing a keyless entry lock on my front door so I don't have to keep the outdoor lights on to find the keyhole. Also, my kids couldn't lose the keys then. Is one as secure as a standard lock? -- Lynn E.

Dear Lynn: A keyless entry system is a convenience and security feature for both your front door and your garage door. This is particularly true if you have children who lose keys. A keypad mounted on the garage comes in handy if you are doing some yard work and you don't have the remote opener inside the car.

You should try to use outdoor lights as little as possible to save electricity and eliminate light pollution. Some of the keyless entry systems have lighted keypads, but even without it, you quickly get the feel of pushing the proper button sequence. Certainly it's easier than trying to get a key in a lock with inadequate light. Motion-sensing lighting is excellent combined with a keyless entry system to save electricity. I have a motion-sensing floodlight directed toward the keypad at my garage door. No one can get to the keypad without the light coming on and it helps me see the keypad.

Keyless entry systems for your front door actually are more secure than standard deadbolts. They use a similar deadbolt mechanism that fits standard door cutouts, so they are as strong. When you leave your house, press the Lock button and the deadbolt always extends completely. Even if a thief totally destroys the keypad outdoors, the deadbolt will not open.

Several keyless deadbolts have electronic circuitry on the indoors side to sound an alarm if a thief tries to figure out the access code you set. After several incorrect attempts to input the code at the keypad, an alarm sounds. It will scare someone away and alert you indoors.

Many of the keyless deadbolts operate on battery power, so installation is quick because there's no wiring. My Powerlock unit uses four AA-batteries that last more than a year. A light comes on to alert you when the batteries are getting low. If the system does malfunction or you do not change the batteries, there is a keyhole and the package includes keys to unlock it.

If you have a cleaning service or some work being done in your home, electronic keyless systems allow you to set a second access code for others to use. You can reset new codes anytime.

Another option is a mechanical keyless deadbolt that uses no batteries or electricity. These are very secure and strong. They are somewhat bulkier indoors (due to space for the mechanism), but are stylish. From outdoors, once you push the last button of the code, the bolt retracts.