Biometric Locks: What are They and How Do They Impact Homeowners Insurance?

Biometric door locks—or smart locks—are devices that allow you to unlock your door with the combination of a fingerprint and PIN. Smart locks typically cost a few hundred dollars and allow you to authorize several people to unlock your door. They don't add much to your home's security, so they won't have much of an impact on your homeowners insurance premiums.

What Is a Biometric Door Lock?

Biometric door locks use personally identifiable information in lieu of a traditional key. They use a thermal or optical scanner to store the fingerprints of anyone authorized to unlock your door. Once the scanner determines that you are an authorized user, it will prompt you to input a pin code to unlock the door. These locks are meant to provide convenience, since you don't have to keep track of a key, more than additional security. However, smart locks do come with a fail-safe key, in case the batteries or electricity powering the lock fails.

Other Types of Smart Locks

In addition to biometric locks, there are several other types of smart locks that enable you to unlock your door without a physical key. Of these types, biometric locks are probably the most secure, since they require your physical presence to unlock the door. We've highlighted three categories below.

  • Keypad locks: Require you to enter a pin code to unlock the door.
  • Proximity locks: Enable you to unlock the door once a wireless key fob comes within a specified distance from the door.
  • Wi-Fi or Bluetooth locks: Connect with your phone wirelessly, so that you can unlock your door with an app.

Are Smart Locks More Secure?

It's doubtful that smart locks offer more home security. The security of any given smart lock depends on the quality of its hardware and software. If a biometric lock is easy to physically defeat, then it doesn't offer any greater security than a traditional lock. Additionally, if the software built into a digital lock has a defect, hackers might be able to take advantage of that error to unlock your door as if they were you. And since smart locks usually come with a physical key—in case you forget your PIN or the lock's power supply is cut off—any stranger with the key can gain entry.

Finally, most burglars don't enter your home through the front door anyway. They look for unlocked back doors or windows they can force open. Smart locks offer convenience, since you can choose to enable multiple people, such as a friend or dog sitter, to open the door.

Do Smart Door Locks Impact Homeowners Insurance Costs?

Smart locks don't offer a substantial increase in security, so they won't make any meaningful impact on your homeowners insurance policy. When we reviewed discounts from major insurance companies, we did not find many references to smart or biometric locks. We only found one insurance company that offered reduced premiums for having a smart lock. If Liberty Mutual is your homeowners insurance provider, you could receive savings of up to 5% for installing the August Smart Lock in most states (California, New York and Florida are three examples of excluded states).

While other insurers don't currently offer a discount for locks, they are interested in smart devices in general. You can lower your rates if you have other connected or networked features that enhance security or otherwise protect your home. Here are a few examples that are commonly eligible for discounts: security cameras, centralized alarm system and smart thermostats (which can prevent frozen pipes).

As the technology and security continues to develop, more insurance companies may offer discounts for biometric locks as well. For now, their value lies mostly in convenience, enhanced curb appeal and resale potential.

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