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Keeping Your Home Safe: A Look at Locks and Keys

Intelligent Keys
Smart locks and keys are gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional means of entry to secured doors. They permit only authorized people into certain doors, at certain times. You’ve seen them if you’ve visited a hotel and been given a key that looks like a credit card. These keys are programmed at a central computer to permit you, and only you, access to your door. They are individualized and cannot be reproduced on blanks at the local hardware store. As with traditional keys, however, you must keep a spare in a safe place in case you lose your smart key. Should you lose one, all you do is re-program new keys on your computer; they cannot be duplicated by anyone but you.

The combination keypad-electronic deadbolt is another alternative to the traditional lock of old. It replaces the deadbolt in your door to provide keyless entry. To lock the door, simply touch the lock button on the keypad, and the deadbolt slides into place. To unlock, enter your combination, and the deadbolt slides into the locked position. You can change your security code as often as you like, and can program a secondary list of access numbers for service people who may need entry to your home. Since this lock runs on batteries, no external wiring is required, but you’ll want to keep your batteries fresh. An alarm can be added, and will sound after 3 consecutive incorrect codes are entered. These locks retail for around $200, and will pay for themselves through increased peace of mind.

Modular Monitoring

Keys to the Future

Keys themselves are changing rapidly, and the next generation of programmable keys permits you complete control over access to your home or business. One manufacturer, E-res, has a key that you can program using a small computer inside the key! You can keep track of who enters, which door they used, and when they came in. The biggest advantage is that if you lose the key, it cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

Compared to an installed, hard-wired system, you can get started for under $200. The beauty of this technology is that all X10 compatible products can be freely swapped with no problem, so a product purchased online or at a local retailer will be compatible with each other as long as they carry the X10 label certifying that they are X10 products.

There are alternatives to permanently installed, hard-wired systems. You can install systems that sound an alarm in the house, notify pre-programmed phone numbers of an emergency, or signal a central command station that there has been a breach in the system without hiring a professional security firm.

X10 wiring enables these systems. X10 is a communication language that allows compatible products to communicate via your home’s existing electrical wiring, without affecting the regular function of the power lines. Installation of X10 products is easy; you need only install the X10 modular receptacles and program a keypad to control the products you want on the system. The performance of an X10 system depends on the number of devices you have in your house: surveillance cameras, security alarms, door and window locks, security lights, for example, are devices you can place on a house-wide X10-controlled system.

Each device is plugged in to an X10 module or switch. Then, using a control pad or your home computer, you can create scenarios for the optimal performance of your X10 system. If you want lights to come on for security purposes, you plug each lamp into a lamp module and change traditional wall switches to X10 switches. Then, using a control pad, or a wireless remote, you program the lights to come on at the desired time and to go off as programmed. This simple application will run about $13 per wall switch and $5 for each lamp module. The controller costs about $8, and can control up to 256 devices, called addresses. Any device that is powered by electricity can be programmed through your X10 system. As long as you have electricity, this technology is available to you!

The advantage to X10 technology is that you achieve a high level of control without re-wiring your house. All it takes is a remote control that can be programmed to arm the security system, turn on the lights, lock and unlock the front door, or control the perimeter cameras that monitor the yard. If you do use a key chain remote, make sure that you have a spare somewhere, in case you lose the one you use regularly. And keep the batteries fresh at all times to prevent failure.

Credit: Renovate Your World