Design & DIY

Why you should ditch your spare key for an electronic lock

electronic lock installed on a wooden door Photo by Liam Mogan

Adding an electronic lock to an entry door is a fairly easy upgrade that makes a lot of sense at the cottage. There are a ton of choices, ranging anywhere from $60 to $600. On the lower end, you get a simple keypad that activates a motor-driven bolt in and out of the door frame. Higher-priced models can have features such as smartphone and Wi-Fi connectivity, and they can even be controlled with smart home devices. Since there’s no Wi-Fi at my cabin, I chose one of the simpler options. While most of the name-brand locks are reliable, choose a model that also operates with a manual key so you won’t be locked out if there’s a malfunction or if the batteries quit. 

Big Benefits
If you share your cottage with others and don’t want to cut and keep track of extra keys, you can add multiple codes to grant access. A digital lock can also replace your current security strategy of hiding a spare key in the pumphouse and then cursing when it’s not returned to its hanging nail (guilty!). Lastly, you don’t have to be around to let in a repairman or your friend who plans to arrive an hour before you’re going to be there. Most locks also allow for easy code changes for added security (perfect for renters).

What’s Involved
If you already have a deadbolt in your door, swapping it out for a digital one is a breeze—most doors have standard hole sizes (2 1/8″ for the lock body and 1″ for the bolt). However, if your door doesn’t already have a deadbolt or if the holes are weird sizes, you’ll need to make new ones. Deadbolt installation kits with hole saws and guides are readily available and make boring these holes much easier. My installation took about 15 minutes and required only a Phillips-head screwdriver. Finally, while the electronic lock I installed touts a 12- to 16-month battery life, I upgraded to lithium batteries. My interior space is unheated, and lithium batteries are not as sluggish in frigid temperatures.

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