Mechanical or electronic? Choosing the best push-button lock

by Grant Macdonald, Managing Director, Codelocks

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]attery powered push-button locks have been on the market for several years. There are now many different products available to suit a variety of access control needs. Despite the ready availability of electronic locks, our survey of buying habits found that the sale of mechanical push-button locks still outweighed the sale of electronic locks.

So why in this digital age do customers not buy more electronic locks? Cost is a possible factor. With additional functionality, stand alone electronic push-button locks are typically 20% more expensive than mechanical locks. But users should evaluate the overall cost of purchasing the lock and decide if the extra features really do provide good value for money.

On-door code change

The most obvious benefit of an electronic push-button lock over a mechanical lock is the way in which the code is changed. Most mechanical push-button locks have to be removed from the door before the code can be changed, which could take about 20 to 30 minutes. This may not be an issue if there is only one lock, but what if the building has tens or even hundreds of locks that need a code change on a regular basis? Because it is a time-consuming task, it might even delay the code being changed altogether. If maintaining levels of access control in a building is an important part of the health and safety routine procedure, as it would be in a hospital for example, then it is important to change the codes on a regular basis.

Codes on electronic push-button locks can be changed while the lock is in situ on the door and the task can be completed in seconds, saving time and without the disturbance of having the door out of use for any length of time.

Greater code options

Mechanical locks only allow each digit to be used once, so, for example, the code 1122 would not be possible. Electronic push-button locks have the ability to repeat numbers in a code. The number of code permutations available for mechanical push-button locks is counted by the thousand, electronic locks provide over a million four, five or six-digit length codes. Importantly electronic locks allowing for multiple codes to be entered into a lock with the ability to delete, suspend, and restore these codes via a master code. This gives a more convenient way of controlling access over a single code mechanical lock. Additionally, electronic push-button locks will shut down for a short period of time after three incorrect code attempts – a feature that helps to frustrate the opportunist who might stand at a door tapping in multiple codes in the hope of getting lucky. The very nature of having so many code options and the incorrect code function reduces the chance of anyone guessing the combination, making electronic push-button locks the more secure choice.

Release functions

It is possible to connect an electronic push-button lock to a building’s alarm system to automatically free the lock so the door can be opened without the code in an emergency situation. This is often a requirement in public buildings like schools or colleges so that rooms can be quickly checked for occupancy in the event of an emergency. Electronic locks can also be connected to a release button to allow staff to ‘buzz’ in a visitor. This feature can be useful in a reception area of an office building that uses an intercom system on the front door.

Standalone scalable solution

Even if there are plans to increase the security in a building at a later date by adding a biometric or card-based access control system, electronic push-button locks offer a cost-effective standalone solution without complex wiring and can be added to one door at a time if need be.

Flexible access control

For applications where a large number of push-button locks are needed, and where safety concerns are high, electronic locks will save a lot of time, give a greater number of code options and the extra functionality will allow them to be integrated into existing alarm systems. And as electronic push-button locks don’t have to be removed from the door to change the code, they also have a lower total maintenance cost over the lifetime of the lock. The installation of electronic push-button locks is not too different to mechanical ones – the only additional task is to connect the battery cable. Once the lock is on the door it need never come off and will be more effective in helping to deter unauthorised entry.

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