Keyless deadbolts eliminate groping for keyholes

By James Dulley, Special to the Times
Published December 8, 2007

Q: I have trouble finding the keyhole quickly at night. What types of keyless or other secure locks will get me in the door quickly in the dark?

A: Keyless deadbolts for your front door are quick to operate and reliable. They are particularly helpful if you have children who often lose keys. Most of them are designed to be easily installed by the homeowner.

I prefer the all-mechanical keyless deadbolts over those that use batteries. Mechanical deadbolts often are larger and not quite as decorative, but there is no operating cost or batteries to dispose of. The do-it-yourself kits include a template to precisely cut the mounting hole in the door.

The numbered buttons are fairly large because they operate mechanically and the entire unit is very strong. You will quickly become accustomed to the location of the buttons so you do not have to see the numbers on the buttons to input the access code. Push a final large "enter" button or turn a knob to open the deadbolt. The code can be changed by taking the unit apart.

For the most convenience features, an electronic keyless deadbolt is good. This is particularly true if you want to include a second or third code for household workers to enter. On some of the keyless deadbolts, the electronics provide the option of setting a given time range. For example, a maid service might have a code that works only between 8 and 10 a.m. Fridays.

The newest electronic keyless deadbolt, Smartscan by Kwikset, uses a biometric sensor to read fingerprints. It scans a person's fingerprint through a tiny scanner on the bottom of the deadbolt. A subdermal sensor can read even dirty fingers.

The next step down in electronic keyless deadbolts is one with buttons. These usually operate on four AA batteries and allow for a second security code for household workers, but without the daily timing feature. Select one with a low-battery-power indicator light so you know when to replace them. Even though it has a key slot as a backup, you probably won't carry the key with you.

James Dulley is a mechanical engineer and do-it-yourselfer. Send questions to James Dulley, The Sensible Home, St. Petersburg Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244. Visit his Web site at www.dulley.com to tour his energy-efficient home, post questions for other readers and find other information.


Keyless facts

The following companies offer keyless deadbolts:

- Domino Engineering, toll-free 1-800-736-6466q, www.dominoengineering.com.

- Kwikset, toll-free 1-800-327-5625, www.kwikset.com.

- Lockey Systems, (989) 773-2363, www.lockeysystems.com.

- Preso-matic,(303) 762-7373, www.presomatic.com.

- Skylink Technologies, toll-free 1-800-304-1187, www.skylinkhome.com/us/.