There are many things to consider when selecting a lock for your home, and the type of lock you choose can make a big difference in how secure your house is. The following article will provide some helpful information on different types of locks that are available as well as their benefits and drawbacks. You’ll be able to decide which is best for you!
Basic pin tumbler locks
To start off with, there’s the basic pin tumbler lock, which has been around since 1848. It’s hard to pick these without knowing exactly what pins need to be pushed up so they’re quite secure against most amateur burglars. They come in both keyed and keyless varieties:
The key version of the pin tumbler lock is just that – a lock with a key. You can use your existing house key in most cases to open this type of lock, making it relatively simple to operate even if you do come home and find yourself locked out. Here’s what one looks like:
This basic lock can be opened by inserting the correct key into the bottom of the plug, which will lift all the tumblers to a “neutral” position. The tumblers allow the cylinder that contains them to turn within the door hardware, thus opening the lock.
A keyless version uses an electronic lock that opens with a 4-digit code or a small wireless remote control. This makes it nice and easy to open the door when you have your hands full or are immobilized by bad weather, without having to fish around for keys. It’s also handy if you have kids who are prone to losing their house keys, making them far less likely to lock themselves out.
Another popular type of lock is the key-in-knob lock that uses a knob instead of a handle to turn when unlocking. Here’s what this looks like:
In these types of locks, the flat bit at the bottom is pushed in by the key while turning it slightly to align all the vertical pins with the edge of the plug. This allows you to turn the lock freely by turning the doorknob while keeping all of the tumblers in their “neutral” position.
Lock bumping is a relatively new technique that takes advantage of low-security locks, which are becoming more and more common due to their lower cost. It takes just a few seconds to open, and all you need is a bump key: A bump key is simply a regular house key with teeth filed down so it can move freely in the lock when bumped from the back by another object such as a screwdriver or small bar of metal.
It’s easy to make a bump key – you just need a regular key and a file or Dremel tool. Turn the teeth of the key down until they’re all even, then use it in your lock to test whether bumping works before doing any filing.
Spherical locks are often used on exterior doors for additional security since they can’t be picked with a regular key – you need to use a special tool that comes with the lock. Here’s what this looks like:
This type of lock is very hard to pick because it has 6 pins instead of the usual 4. The position of all 6 pins is varied during each attempt at opening the door, which makes them much more difficult to open without knowing the correct sequence.
It is similar to a spherical lock, but instead of rotating as it opens, the bit at the bottom pops up and prevents you from turning the knob. This type of lock gives you more flexibility with door furniture such as levers because they can be on either side of a door:
Still another option for extra security is the deadbolt. Deadbolts can’t be opened without knowing the right combination. This means it’s impossible to pick them open while locked, and they’re a great deterrent against forced entry. It also makes it very difficult to accidentally lock yourself out because all you have to do
To open a deadlock, there’s either a thumb turn or a keyhole at the bottom of the cylinder. You can see how the tumblers are arranged by looking at the direction in which they’re pointing.
Most locks can be opened with either a key or a combination, but deadbolts operate like this: You need to know both the correct sequence and the correct shape (bit) for your key before you’ll be able to open it. For example, if your door has a cylindrical lock that takes a knob key, then you’ll have to have both the right sequence and the right bit.
A very popular option in recent decades is a combination lock. It’s essentially just a password that’s been converted into the shape of a key. This one below has four wheels with numbers on them, and when they’re aligned to a specific number the door opens:
It opens by rotating each wheel until it aligns with a number that’s part of the combination. When you turn each wheel to align with a different number, it changes what they all add up to so there’s no way to know which numbers correspond with which numbers without knowing the combination.
Combination locks are the simplest example of an electric door lock, but some models support other types as well:
Keypads are one of the more conventional types of locks since you can open them with a code without having to carry around a key or remember a separate combination. They’re often used for exterior doors because they don’t compromise security much but still provide some convenience:
The newer ones have touch-sensitive screens instead of buttons, but they operate in the same way. Like most other locks, they’re operated by rotating tumblers inside with certain shapes.
A little history: Electric door locks were first used in the 1960s and became especially common after 1990 when more people started using electronic locks.
How they work: They’re like electric deadbolts (see above) except that they don’t have a keyhole. The way they work is that you enter your combination on a keypad and it unlocks for you, just like a lock with a numeric code where each number opens a separate tumbler:
Advantages: The main advantage of an electric door lock is convenience.
Electric locks are another option that’s growing in popularity because you don’t need any physical key to open them – just a code or swipe card. They can be opened remotely too since they communicate with an access control system.
Electric locks only require electricity to function, so they don’t need any other power such as batteries or wired connections. They can be battery-operated though if it’s more convenient:
Electric locks are very convenient to use and you can open them remotely since you just need a code or swipe card.
You don’t have to fumble with your keys in the dark or in bad weather, and you can open it from a long distance away so you don’t even have to be near the door when you want to unlock it. Some models also support “key fobs”, which are little wireless devices that you can carry in your pocket or on your keychain. They make the lock even more convenient because you don’t have to pull out your keys (and risk dropping them) when you need to open it.
Disadvantages: Electric locks are more expensive than the usual lock and key for two main reasons.
The first reason is obvious – The main disadvantage of electric locks is that they’re more expensive than the traditional lock and key system because, without having to physically turn anything on the inside, you need to purchase exterior equipment that’s compatible with a specific access control system. You also usually have to pay a monthly fee if it transmits data wirelessly, which is another cost on top of the initial installation costs.
The second reason is a little more subtle: Electric locks usually require an electric power supply to operate, so they need either batteries or a wired connection. Even “battery-operated” locks that don’t appear to have any wires still require them to be installed and connected.
They also cost more initially because they’re newer products and it’s harder to get the technology right. Many models use fingerprint sensors since they’re fairly secure and increase convenience too:
Biometrics like fingerprints are more secure than traditional access control cards, but some devices aren’t able to read multiple people’s fingerprints at once. That usually isn’t a problem for homes or smaller offices, but large corporations might want something more advanced.
Electric door locks have been around since at least the 1960s, but there are two different types – electric strike and electric latch:
Electric strikes are more common because they require less installation work. In this system, an electric strike is installed on the door frame and a hole is cut in the door for the lock to protrude through. Here’s what it looks like from inside:
The bottom bolt goes into a box fixed to the door frame while a metal plate on top of it locks into place when you turn the knob. If there’s a power outage or the lock fails for any reason, you can unlock it from the outside using a key.
The main downside of electric strikes is that they can be temperamental and if there’s a power outage or anything else goes wrong, you’ll need to unlock the door from the outside with a key.
What separates an electric strike from an electric latch? They both use electricity to operate, so what gives one the edge over the other?
An electric latch is a deadbolt that can be locked or unlocked with remote control on your keychain or by pressing a button on the door itself. It’s a great way of securing your home without the need for keys. Here’s how it looks from behind:
The hardware is installed on the door frame while a lock fitted to the door handles unlocks when you press a button, both on your keychain and near the door itself.
If you want a little bit more security than just electric strikes or electric latches, you might want to look at electronic locks. The term is very broad and includes a variety of different types but typically they’re more expensive than the other two options mentioned.
A cylindrical lock is the most basic type of lock that you can get, and it’s the one that most people think of when they hear the word “lock”. New cylindrical locks have a keyway on the exterior to insert a key and an internal mechanism to turn.
When you place your key in the keyway, it pushes four small levers away from the plug so that you can turn it. Once the plug is turned, the levers return to their original position and push a metal bar back into place that locks your door:
The internal mechanism of the lock is what keeps your door closed securely. The basic design hasn’t changed in hundreds of years because it works well using standard parts and doesn’t require advanced engineering.
It’s also fairly cheap and easy to install. If you’re around the same age as me, you’ll remember that keyed cylinders were installed on most doors from the early 90s until a few years ago.
A lot of people still think that cylindrical locks are more secure than their alternatives, but that isn’t true for two reasons:
1) They’re easy to pick, and almost everybody has the skills and tools to do it. You can’t buy a cylindrical lock that can’t be picked in seconds with a simple set of lockpicks (or even a bent paperclip.)
2) Key copies are easy to create for an experienced locksmith. All you need is information about the lock, like when it was installed and what brand it is. If you don’t want anybody to make copies of your key, make sure that they can’t find any of this information about your lock in the first place.
Safer cylindrical locks exist that are much harder to pick or copy; you should make sure to only buy those if you want a cylindrical lock. In fact, it’s safe to say that these locks are as secure as many standard pin tumbler locks:
Many people underestimate the power of a high-security cylindrical lock because they’re not very flashy and nobody really knows what makes them special. That isn’t a problem at all, since they’re very secure and affordable.
Simple door locks are often combined with deadbolts for extra security, which means that if you lose your key then they’ll need to be drilled open. If you’re looking for a door lock that’s more secure, then you should consider one of the electronic locks mentioned above or else get a deadbolt installed on top of your current door lock.
It all comes down to what level of security you want and how much work it’ll be to install.
All of the types of locks mentioned above provide a certain level of protection, and the choice of which is best for you depends on your personal circumstances.