Tech review: Unlock your front door without a key

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We’ve had a smart lock on our front door for about seven years, and I’ll never go back to using a traditional deadbolt.

It makes me smile every time I press a code to open my door.

I’ve been testing the Kwikset Halo Wi-Fi Enabled Smart Door Lock ($229) for the last few weeks, and I’ve been pleased with how it has worked so far — with a few little nitpicks.

The Halo’s main feature is letting you unlock the door without a key (although there is a key you can use as a backup).

There is a keypad on the outside that you use to unlock the door. The Halo also has a smartphone app that connects to the lock via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so you can also unlock the door with the app.

The app also lets you set and administer unlock codes.

The Halo can handle up to 250 separate codes, and you can set limits depending on the situation. You can set codes that only work during certain days and times, perhaps for a housekeeper or dog walker. You can also set one-time-use codes that might be handy for letting a workman into your home.

You can also set the app to disable the keypad entirely, which you might want to do if you’re going out of town and worried that someone might try to get in by guessing the code.

Speaking of guessing, the Halo can be set to sound an audible alarm if someone enters three incorrect codes in a row.

The app also keeps a log of all the times the door is locked and unlocked, and it can send you notifications. You can give your kids their own codes, for example, so you can get a notification when they get home from school.

Getting it installed

Installing a new deadbolt on your door is a moderately advanced DIY project.

If you are not comfortable disassembling and removing the entire deadbolt from your door, you’ll want to call a handyman for this install.

There are printed instructions, but you’ll need to download and run the installer step-by-step guide in the Kwikset app.

First you’ll remove all the parts of your current deadbolt. You’ll need a screwdriver for this.

Once the old deadbolt is out, you insert and fasten the new bolt into the door, slide the pin on the keypad through the bolt and then attach the rear mechanism that houses the motor, logic board and batteries.

The kit works with common deadbolt holes from 1 1/5 inches to 2 1/8 inches.

The instructions were easy enough to follow.

I had been having a few issues with my old smart lock, I guess because my house was settling.

Sometimes the bolt coming out of the door would catch on my doorframe and I’d have to put pressure on the door to get the bolt to fully extend.

When I removed the old lock to install the Halo, I took the time to remove the strike plate on my door frame so I could enlarge the hole with a chisel and make a small adjustment to the plate’s position when I put it back on the door.

The strike plate is the metal plate that surrounds the hole in your doorframe that the bolt extends into. You might be able to use your existing strike plate, but I installed the one that Kwikset included, along with the longer screws, for a more secure installation in the door jamb.

This adjustment took about five minutes, but when I was finished, the bolt extended and retracted with no resistance at all, and the lock worked perfectly.

After the Halo is installed, insert four AA batteries and see if the bolt retracts and extends. This is crucial to get the lock to work.

My first attempt didn’t work, so I had to call the Kwikset support number. A very nice representative walked me through resetting the lock in about five minutes.

A set of four AA batteries should last about six months.


Once the lock is installed, you’ll use the app to create an account, set up a “house” inside your account, get the lock to talk to your Wi-Fi and, finally, set the codes.

Kwikset uses two-factor authentication for logging into the app, which involves texting a code to your phone.

My biggest gripe about the Halo is with the touch screen. It’s not the most responsive.

To unlock the door, you have to touch the screen to activate the keypad (it will light up when it’s active).

Just a quick tap on the screen does nothing. I find I have to touch and hold the screen until it lights up — just a second or two. Once I figured out that I had to wait an extra second, I haven’t had a problem, but it is a bit slower to respond than I’d like.

Once you enter the code, you’ll hear the motor engage and the bolt will open. When you leave the house, touch the screen and press the lock symbol to lock the door.

One thing to know: The Halo doesn’t have a key on both sides — only on the outside.

Some people need a deadbolt with a key on both sides for safety, especially if they have windows close to their doors.

Smart Home and other features

The Halo can integrate with your smart home system without a hub. You can use your Amazon Alexa device or Google Home device to lock or unlock the door.

To unlock the door with your voice, you have to set up a voice PIN in the Alexa app. When you ask Alexa to unlock the door, she will ask for your voice PIN.

The Halo has an auto-lock feature that will help if you tend to forget to lock your door. If you enable it, auto-lock will lock the door if the lock is left open after a preset time (30 seconds to 10 minutes).

There is also a feature called Secure Screen that lights up a few random numbers when you touch the keypad. You have to touch each number to unlock the entire keypad.

Since a touchscreen picks up fingerprints, it might be possible for someone to figure out your code if you touch the same four numbers repeatedly. This method puts fingerprints on more than just four of the numbers, which makes it harder to see what your code numbers might be.

And if you’re managing a rental and need to change the keys when the rental turns over, Smartkey Security also allows you to rekey the Halo to use an existing Kwikset key. You get a small tool to help you rekey the lock yourself.

This is also handy if you use the same key for all of your exterior doors and don’t want to change them all.

The Halo is one of those “set it and forget it” gadgets.

Get it installed and set up and it just works — reliably.

I had a pretty smooth setup with one five-minute phone call to Kwikset support. After everything was configured, it worked without a hitch.

Pros: Good app control, ability to rekey it yourself, voice-controlled from Alexa or Google.

Cons: Touch screen is slow to respond.

Bottom line: Solid lock with easy-to-set codes and good notifications.



Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at


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