How does a code lock work?
A code lock is a type of lock that uses a preset numerical code rather than a key. Instead of inserting a physical key into the lock to unlock it, you enter a series of digits using a push button keypad or digital display built into the lock. If the combination you entered matches the lock’s preset code, it will unlock, allowing access to the locked door or object.
These locks are commonly used in various contexts, such as:
- Entrance doors: they can be very handy, especially for securing access to offices, a block of flats or any other building where several people need to enter without having to worry about keys.
- Safes: they are often used to secure safes, safety cabinets or lockers.
- Vehicles: some models of cars and commercial vehicles are equipped with coded locks so the user has no need of a key.
- Suitcases and luggage: some suitcases and travel bags are fitted with coded locks to protect travellers' personal belongings.
What are the differences between mechanical and electronic code locks?
These locks can be divided into two main categories: mechanical and electronic. Let’s look at the main differences between these two product types.
- How it works: A mechanical or push button code lock uses mechanical parts, such as cogs, to activate the locking mechanism when the correct combination of digits is entered.
- Power supply: a push button lock works without the need for an external power supply, which means it doesn't require batteries or electricity to function. This makes it autonomous and reliable in situations where power may be limited.
- Security: These products are generally considered more secure, as they are less vulnerable to hackers, for example.
- Programming: the code is usually set by adjusting the positions of the cogs or pinions to set the chosen code. It’s a manual process, offering less flexibility than an electronic product.
- How it works: An electronic or digital code lock uses electronic circuits and a digital keypad to register and verify the code entered. When a valid code is entered, the locking mechanism is activated electronically.
- Power supply: this type of lock usually runs on batteries or electricity. So you have to be careful the lock doesn’t run out of power.
- Security: Digital locks can offer a high level of security, but they can also be vulnerable to computer attacks or hacking if they aren’t properly protected.
- Programming: the code is usually set using a digital control panel, allowing greater flexibility in the management of codes and authorised users.
To recap, mechanical or push button locks offer a traditional approach to security, while their digital counterparts offer greater convenience and flexibility in code management. Which of these two options you choose will depend on your needs and specific requirements in terms of security and practicality.
What are the advantages of a code lock?
These products offer several advantages over traditional locks that use physical keys:
- No keys to lose: With a code lock, you no longer need to worry about losing your keys. So there’s no risk of getting stuck outside or having to call a locksmith if you lose your key.
- Quick and easy access: Simply enter the code to unlock the door. This is often quicker than inserting a physical key and turning it to open the door. What’s more, you don’t need to carry any physical keys with you, which can be particularly helpful when you have a lot of keys to manage or need to give access to several people.
- Enhanced security: Coded locks offer additional security, as it’s harder for burglars to use traditional techniques such as drilling or lock-picking, like they would with conventional locks. Modern ones are generally equipped with advanced security features, such as intrusion detection or a temporary block after the wrong code is entered a certain number of times.
- Access control: Coded locks make it easy to control who can gain entry into a restricted area. You can share the code with authorised users and revoke access by simply changing it when necessary.
- No illegal copying of keys: Traditional keys can be copied illegally without your knowledge. With a code lock, there’s no risk of unauthorised duplication.
- Code flexibility: With many models, the combination can be changed at any time. This means you can regularly change it for greater security.
- Integration with other security systems: Some coded locks can be integrated into comprehensive surveillance systems to enhance a building’s overall security.
What are the disadvantages of a code lock?
Despite their many advantages, these locks also have some potential drawbacks. Here are some common disadvantages of this type of product:
- Forgotten code: If you forget the combination, you may find yourself shut out of the locked premises. So it’s important to choose a series of numbers you can easily memorise, and to keep a backup copy in a safe place.
- Easy-to-guess codes: Choosing a code that’s too obvious or easy to guess (such as 1234 or your date of birth) can compromise the lock’s security. It’s essential to choose a complex code that’s difficult to guess.
- Unauthorised access if the code is disclosed: If you share the code with someone you trust, but that person accidentally or intentionally discloses it, this can lead to unauthorised entry.
- Limited number of combinations: Depending on the number of digits in the code and the maximum length allowed, there may be a limited number of possible combinations, which can make the code lock vulnerable to brute force attacks, where an intruder tries every possible combination until they find the right one.
- Power supply: Some digital models need a power supply to work. If the batteries or power supply fail, you could find yourself locked out.
- Cost: Heavy duty models offering a high level of security can be more expensive than conventional key locks.
- Maintenance: Keypad locks require regular maintenance to keep them working correctly and to prevent any build-up of dirt or dust in the keypad.
- Vulnerability to electronic attacks: Electronic locks can be prone to computer attacks or hacking if they aren’t secure enough.
It’s essential to take these drawbacks into account when choosing a code lock, and to select a quality model with advanced security features to minimise the potential risks. Sometimes it’s a good idea to combine a code lock with other security systems to enhance your overall protection.
How much does a code lock cost?
The price depends on the model and range of the lock chosen. Well-known brands include Codelocks, Briton and RS PRO, and you can choose from a variety of latch types (mortice for example) and finishes (such as chrome or satin) The cost of a push button lock can range from around 40 to 90 pounds. An electronic lock can cost somewhere in the region of 900 pounds.
There are many factors to consider that will affect the price of the product. Would a medium security model be enough to meet your needs, or do you operate in a high security environment that merits a heavy duty lock? Will you need to purchase any accessories with it, like spare keys? And don’t forget to take VAT into account.