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A Homeowner’s Guide To Door Locks

Electronic lock keypad

When it comes to protecting your home, a locked door is your first line of defense. (Having the right homeowners insurance can give you peace of mind, too.)

But studies show that a few good kicks or a couple of minutes with a power drill are often enough to break through most door locks. And more than half of burglaries in 2017 involved forcible entry.

So, while a dead bolt serves as a better deterrent than an unlocked door, a little education about locks can help you find better ways to keep your home safe.

To help you decide which upgrades might be worth the investment, we created a quick homeowner’s guide to door locks.

Types of Door Locks

  • Nonconnected dead bolt: These conventional models are often single-cylinder locks that sit 6 to 12 inches above a keyed entry. They’re typically paired with key-in-knob locks.
    • Pros: Nonconnected dead bolts are affordable, often rekeyable, and offer better security than key-in-knob locks alone.
    • Cons: Dead bolts are still susceptible to break-ins depending on their components, so look for higher-grade options when choosing a lockset.
  • Keyed entry and handle sets: Also called cylindrical and exterior door locksets, these sets include a doorknob or lever on the interior with a different style of handle on the exterior.
    • Pros: These locks are meant to work in tandem with dead bolts. They come in many styles and can elevate the look of your door.
    • Cons: Sometimes the bolts are not interconnected, meaning this set can be more difficult to unlock when making an emergency exit. When used by themselves without a deadbolt, they can be easily broken into with force or the right tools.
  • Key-in-knob locks or privacy locksets: Key-in-knob locks can be installed by themselves as a privacy lockset or in combination with a dead bolt. These locks are the main choice for preventing accidental entry on interior doors leading to bedrooms and bathrooms. You’ll either turn a center knob, push a button or use a key to lock and unlock them.
    • Pros: These models can lock with the push of a button and come in a variety of styles and materials for interior and exterior doors.
    • Cons: Privacy locks aren’t meant for exterior doors and key-in-knob locks without a dead bolt don’t stand up to forced entries.
  • Smart locks and keypads: These locks use passcodes and smartphone connections to securely lock your door. They can also come with features such as access logs and virtual keys.
    • Pros: Smart locks and keypads offer added convenience and flexibility that can’t be matched by traditional locks.
    • Cons: These models can be expensive and may require additional hardware. They can be vulnerable to digital hacks and are also susceptible to forced entry.

When to Replace Locks

  • During a home remodel: If you’re installing a new door, it’s a great time to replace your locks too. For increased security, choose a high-grade lockset and consider upgrading to a smart lock if keyless access is a priority.
  • After conducting a security audit: If you’re installing a new security system or cameras, you should also consider the security of your locks. Take note of possible entry points and change any locks that may be vulnerable to break-ins.
  • When buying a new home: When you purchase a home, it’s wise to replace the locks. This will ensure there are no copies of keys from previous owners.
  • After a break-in: If you or your neighbors have had a recent break-in, learn how the entry occurred and consider what you can do to prevent a similar burglary. Based on the information you find, take steps to protect your home against the method that was used.
  • If you lose your key: Whether it’s from a recent breakup or a lost key ring, there’s always a possibility that missing keys can end up in the wrong hands. To protect against unwelcome visitors, replace your locks any time you lose a key or are uncertain of who may have a copy.

Considerations When Replacing a Lock

  • Know your grades. Not all locks are created equal. Industry ratings for door locks range from Grade 3 to Grade 1 with Grade 1 being the strongest and Grade 3 or ungraded locks being the weakest. Grade 2 or 1 locksets are made to help withstand heavy blows on main doors.
  • Look for built-in features. Sturdier metals and improved design features can lengthen the life of a lock and reduce the chances of a successful forced entry. Look for added security features like a deadlatch to prevent burglars from jimmying the lock. Find sets with hardened cylinders, tarnish-free finishes, and mechanical guarantees to help ensure your lock is strong inside and out.
  • Protect against picking. With the right tools, like a bump key, burglars can successfully pick a door lock in short time. Invest in bump-proof locks and patent-protected keys to help deter lockpicks.
  • Reinforce locks yourself. A common culprit of weak locks are low-quality parts, namely the screws and strike plate. Switch out original parts and install 3-inch screws into a heavy-gauge steel or brass strike plate. This will secure the bolt into the doorframe and make it less susceptible to being kicked in.
  • Get smart. Smart locks are perfect for homeowners who may forget to lock the door or want an extra set of eyes on their home. They are more expensive than traditional locks, but what you sacrifice in price you’ll get back in convenience and peace of mind. Purchase smart locks to use features like keypad codes, access logs, alerts, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Whether you decide to add a new dead bolt or a smart lock to your front door, you’re taking steps to protect your home and what matters most to you. At Erie Insurance, we’ve studied the ways that a thief could enter your home to help you prepare for the unforeseen.

Like a high-grade dead bolt, homeowners insurance from ERIE is practical, reliable, and secure. And when you know your home is secure, you can spend your energy appreciating all of life’s pleasures. Talk to your local ERIE agent to learn how we can help make sure your home and its contents are covered.