Last updated: September 13, 2016

Smart locks vary wildly in design, technology and functionality more than other smart home product. But all true Wi-Fi-enabled smart locks include remote capabilities – being able to email virtual "keys" to supply friends, family and home workers entry, remotely lock or unlock, and get alerts and a log reporting exits and entries.

Expect to spend between $200-$300 on a fully-featured smart lock.

Here are five questions to ask before you buy a smart lock.

  1. Who makes smart locks? Traditional lock companies make both true Wi-Fi smart locks and smart-ish locks that lack remote and virtual key options. The most innovative smart locks come from technology start-ups. But you may want to consider these start-ups' lack of basic lock experience and reputation for something so crucial as your home's security.
  2. Can I install a smart lock myself? Yes, usually with just a screwdriver and usually in less than an hour. Just make sure you have the right kind of bolt lock that a smart lock would replace.
  3. What wireless technologies does a smart lock work with? Smart locks use Wi-Fi so you can monitor entries and exits via the Internet. But some use Bluetooth to enable proximity lock/unlock features, some use NFC to respond to touch, some a combination of all three.
  4. How does it open? Some smart locks can automatically lock and unlock when it senses you're within a defined distance from it or after a predetermined period of time. Others are activated by tapping the lock with your smartphone, when you touch it with your finger, or when you punch in a passcode on a physical or touchscreen keypad. Many offer a mix of all of these methods, and some even open with a standard key. Which lock you choose should be based on your personal comfort and trust level with the varying keyless, or even key-centric, options.
  5. How do the remote keys work? You can assign keys to a limited number of people, and you can set parameters for usage of these keys, such as limiting virtual key activation to specific times and dates. Caveat emptor: some lock makers charge for virtual keys after of an initial included allotment. So read the fine print, and as usual, ask.
Also keep in mind you just one smart lock malfunction plants the seed for distrust in any "smart" security system. You should also take a look at GearBrain's Smart Locks Get A Backup Plan to learn why smart lock makers don't want that to happen and how important a back plan is to assure you don't get locked out of your smart home. Also, if you need help installing a smart lock, you can visit HomeAdvisor.com to find a trusted local professional to help you.