[Sponsor] Yale Keyfree & Keyless connected smart Locks – full review

At Vesternet we’ve never been a fan of automated locks – they’ve either been absolute monstrosities that even the most ardent of DIY’ers would struggle to fit or they’ve required a particular type of door and lock mechanism to work with.

Support in the common home Automation controllers such as VERA and Fibaro has also been patchy at best, with some devices working perfectly out-of-the-box and others requiring a substantial amount of fettling to get up and running.

Bottom line in our opinion is that any time you are handling safety and security devices you need them to work perfectly and to have confidence in them protecting your house – after all, who wants to spend a chunk of money on something that ends up making your home less secure!

So we were extremely thrilled when Yale contacted us earlier in the year to announce that they were bringing some of their us Z-Wave locks to the EU.

We’re sure that you’ll all have heard of Yale – they’re pretty much the most significant lock producer on the planet!

Check out our findings below on the Yale Keyless connected smart Lock and the Yale Keyfree connected smart Lock – could we finally be seeing automated locks that meet our high expectations?

Yale Keyless connected smart Lock

Most of us will be familiar with the “night-latch” style of lock which is still in use on millions of doors around the world.  The Yale Keyless is an easy to install retro-fit electronic “knob” that can be installed in place of the existing essential barrel.

The Keyless has an extraordinary quality feel to it with a black touch-screen that shows a glowing keypad when woken up.  It comes with an RFID essential Card and an RFID essential label in the box and our test device was also fitted with the Z-Wave home Automation Module (you can alternatively choose the Yale CCTV / Alarm Module or Yale Remote Keyfob Module).

It’s worth noting that the device is, as its’ name suggests, completely key-less, there’s absolutely no fall-back if something fails with the device or the batteries go flat while you are out of the house.  Connecting terminals on the bottom of the keypad are available for a 9V battery which can be used as an emergency power source, but it would be quite extreme to carry a 9V battery around “just in case”.  There ought to be plenty of “low battery” warnings beforehand though, so we suggest taking note of these and not ignoring them

Installation only took half an hour or so – we installed our device onto a “lock block”, essentially a chunk of wood set-up like a door, simply removing the existing essential barrel and following the instructions to make sure everything was in the best place.  Incidentally, if you don’t already have a compatible night-latch then one is available as an optional extra.

Once powered up, the out-of-the-box operation is intuitive and easy to get to grips with – place your palm on the screen to wake the lock, enter the PIN and press “*”.  This makes the knob become “engaged” and allows you to turn it, which in turn opens the latch and allows the door to open.   even my kids could figure it out from me saying “the code is 123456, open the door” …. a minute of prodding and twisting and they had it sussed!

The Keyless has an interesting design concept, although it’s product name has “Lock” in it, it’s technically not actually a lock – it doesn’t physically lock or unlock the door.  As discussed above, the knob is engaged, allowing it to be turned, or disengaged, which prevents it from being turned.  This is actually a really smart idea as we would think of that this uses much less power than having to turn a locking mechanism – and it strengthens Yales’ claims of 10,000 operations on a single set of AA batteries!

It ought to also be noted that if your night-latch has a button or slider that physically locks the latch then certainly the Yale Keyless won’t be able to un-lock it – the knob will still engage when somebody enters a PIN or uses and RFID essential Card or RFID essential Tag, but the device but won’t be able to turn the latch as it will be physically locked on the inside.

We also wouldn’t recommend using the Keyless as the sole safety and security on a door because it only works with a night-latch.  Most doors will need an additional lock such as a mortice lock or dead-bolt lock.

Basic user-friendly operations now evaluated we were keen to see what configuration options were available – the RFID essential Card and RFID essential label didn’t work out-of-the-box so we assumed that we’d have to program them or something.  A quick read through the comprehensive user manual shows that Yale have really put some thought into how the device will be used in the real-world – there are a whole host of settings to play with and all are programmed from easy essential press combinations on the touch-screen.

First up we played around with adding and deleting user PIN codes (up to 20) and RFID essential Cards and RFID essential labels (up to 20).  These are all really easy to add and delete, but it’s worth noting down which “slots” correspond to which PIN / Card / Tag.  If you have the Yale Remote Keyfob module installed then you can also add up to 5 Remote Keyfobs.

The RFID Card and RFID essential label worked well, but did need to be placed practically within direct contact of the screen.  To be truthful we’re not really sure how much we’d use these – with a PIN code entry it’s a one-handed operation, enter the pin, turn the knob, push / pull door.  With the RFID Card or RFID essential label you have to hold that in your hand and touch it to the screen and it then proves quite challenging to turn the knob while holding either of them.  This makes it much more of a two-handed operation, one hand to touch the RFID Card or RFID essential label on the screen and the other hand to turn the knob and open the door.  Perhaps some much more experimentation is required here to get a one-handed technique that works

Advanced options are also easy to configure on the touch-screen – you can change the volume of the keypad beeps and can change the PIN re-lock and Remote re-lock times so that the knob is automatically disengaged after X seconds.

You can also disable the re-lock entirely, but it’s essential to understand that this implies the device will not disengage the knob unless you manually lock it again by placing your hand over the touch-screen.  Obviously you can’t do this from the inside, so there’s the potential that you end up leaving the Keyless with the knob engaged, thus leaving the door permanently open-able from the outside.  We for that reason recommend leaving automatic re-lock turned on!

Rounding out the feature list are on-screen low battery warnings and a safety and security intrusion alarm if the outer part of the device is damaged.

Yale Keyfree connected smart Lock

While the Yale Keyless is developed for easy retro-fitting, the Yale Keyfree is certainly not!  Designed to fit modern “multi-point locking” doors the Keyfree is only available as a professionally installed solution, you can’t purchase and install it yourself unfortunately.

To be fair, having seen one of these fitted ourselves, even the most experienced DIY-er would be crazy to attempt it.  The internals of a multi-point door aren’t for the feint-hearted and we would suspect a pile of screws and levers on the floor and a door that no longer works would be the end result of a self-install!

After the installation we started to play with our new device and, as with the Keyless, the Keyfree is exceptional quality – both these devices really do put every other lock we’ve seen in the past to shame.  Our device came with the Z-Wave home Automation Module already fiited (you can alternatively choose the Yale CCTV / Alarm Module or Yale Remote Keyfob Module).

Unfortunately there’s no RFID capability with the Keyfree, we’re guessing that this would have been challenging to squeeze in to the sleek form factor.  Unlike the Keyless though, the Keyfree does actually come with keys – 2 of them are included in total. These can be used in an emergency as an alternative to the 9V battery terminals which are also present on this device, hidden away under a sliding panel at the bottom.

First impressions were excellent, the Keyfree operates in a very similar fashion to the Keyless – entering a PIN engages the deal with which allows you to push it down to open the door.  If the door is locked then pushing the deal with down retracts the multi-point locking mechanism as well as the latch.  If the door is un-locked then pushing the deal with down retracts just the latch.  After a short period of time the deal with is then automatically disengaged.

To lock the door from the outside you simply enter the PIN and then raise the handle.  From the inside you just push the button and then raise the handle.  Simple!  Oh and the Keyfree also talks to you as well, giving you directions and status updates – it’s a really good touch and certainly helps with the end-user experience.

At this stage we understood that installing the Keyfree had actually improved how our door worked – previously to avoid the door from being opened from the outside, you had to physically lock the door from the inside by raising the deal with to engage the multi-point locking mechanism and then turning the essential in the internal barrel.  But now, because the Keyfree disengages the external deal with automatically, we efficiently have two levels of safety and security – “locked” (handle disengaged) and “securely locked” (handle disengaged and multi-point locking mechanism active).

Adding and deleting user PIN codes (up to 20), registering Yale Remote Keyfobs (if you have the suitable Yale Remote module fitted) and configuring the Keyfree is the same as on the Keyless – easy and painless – you just use the keypad to access the various menu sections following the comprehensive instruction manual.

The Keyfree has the same settings available as we already comprehensive above for the Keyless, so we won’t review them again here.  A few additional options are available including the ability to set the lock to “passage” mode whereby the deal with is permanently engaged or setting the lock to “child” mode which makes an alarm sound for 10 seconds if the internal deal with is used to open the door.

Finally the Keyfree also has an audible low battery warning, a safety and security intrusion alarm if the outer part of the device is damaged and battery life is quoted as being roughly 1 year based on 10 operations a day – pretty good in our opinion!

Z-Wave Compatibility – Hero or Zero?

OK, so we know that the hardware is exceptional and as a stand-alone service both devices work very well, but what about that all essential Z-Wave compatibility?  Do the Yale devices play well in the common Z-Wave controllers?

Fortunately Yale have a lot of experience with Z-Wave as they’ve had Z-Wave devices available in the us for numerous years.  So it’s no surprise that their Z-Wave implementation is robust, stable and well thought out.

The Z-Wave home Automation Module allows you to engage and disengage the knob / deal with remotely, configure user PIN codes (including setting access schedules) and adjust device settings.  Instant status change and event reporting are also supported with pretty much all aspects of the device covered, for example “bad pin entry”, “low battery”, “lock button pressed”, “lock fails to operate”, etc.

One thing to note is that only PIN code operations are reported over Z-Wave, RFID and Remote Keyfob events aren’t reported, neither can you manage those user types from the Z-Wave controller.

Obviously the Z-Wave features and functionality are also mostly dependent on what the Z-Wave controller supports, so we took the opportunity to carry out some basic testing in the Vera edge and Fibaro HC2 Z-Wave controllers.

VERA has supported lock devices because the early days of their UI5 firmware so we weren’t expecting any problems when testing in their newest Z-Wave controller edge using version 1.7.1419 firmware.

Both Keyless and Keyfree include easily and are recognised by edge as “Yale Touchscreen Deadbolt” devices – this is probably due to Yale reusing a producer ID and product code from the us devices.  This implies that some Z-Wave Parameters are set already and they don’t quite match those supported by the EU variants, so check the manual to make sure the Parameters get set to suit your requirements.

From the edge UI you can now remotely lock / unlock the device, but note that these terms are reflected as engage and disengage on the device itself as discussed above.  Local operations on the device are also reported quickly to edge too and the UI shows status messages, for example which user PIN code just locked the device.

User management is also well catered for, you can add and edit user PIN codes best from the UI, including the ability to set schedules when the PIN code is active.  One-time PIN codes are also possible, optimal for allowing a delivery chauffeur to open the patio door to leave a parcel for example, the PIN code is then automatically deleted once the schedule has passed.

One thing to note with the user management is that the PIN codes are sent to the device so that they fill up the user position slots sequentially so if you’re going to manage these over Z-Wave you will overwrite any that have already been created on the device.

Finally, a whole host of Scene Triggers are available, but it’s worth testing these before depending on them as some of them don’t work or give spurious results.

Fibaro HC2
Lock device support in the Fibaro Z-Wave controllers is still very much in its’ infancy and was only introduced in the version 4.x series firmware.

We evaluated both devices in Fibaro HC2 using version 4.056 firmware and sadly found that only the very basic features were availa

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