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SENSIBLE HOME

Keyless Entry Systems Open Door to Safety

April 15, 2001|JAMES DULLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: We have three cars, so whoever gets home last has to walk to the front and fiddle with keys in the dark. We try to keep the outdoor lights off to save electricity. Do keyless entry systems really work well?

Answer: Your concern about leaving outdoor lights on is reasonable. Not only is it costly on your monthly utility bills and the environment, but there is not enough electricity available for essential uses in the United States.

There are two good options for safety and convenience that are much more efficient than leaving outdoor lights on.

The first, motion-sensing lights, come on only when they sense motion. Some have efficient low-intensity night lights that switch to full brightness when motion is detected.

The other option is a keyless entry system, with or without a remote-control lighting system. From a security standpoint, the longer you stand at the door fiddling with your keys, the more time a thief has to attack.

A combination-type keyless entry system is effective and easy to operate. Most electronic keyless entry designs are powered by four AA or a single lithium battery that lasts up to five years before replacement. All models come with keys to open the door if the electronics malfunction.

Many designs use a push-button combination that you preprogram with the numbers. The keypads usually light up when you input the combination, but you will quickly become familiar enough with its feel to do it blindfolded.

Other designs look like ordinary doorknobs. An LED display is hidden in the top of the lockset. To input the combination, turn the knob until the correct number is displayed. Turn it the other way for the next number and so on. There are also reliable mechanical (no battery) models available.

Many electronic combination units have a security feature that sounds an alarm or flashes lights when the incorrect combination is input several times in a short time period.

These also can be programmed with an extra temporary combination to allow access for cleaning people, service calls, etc.

Remote-control keyless entry systems are becoming more popular. Select one that has a random-changing code so a would-be thief cannot grab the access code with a special electronic device. If you live alone, a model that also allows you to turn on your indoor lights remotely is a comforting feature.

If you are replacing your entire front door, consider one with a built-in keyless entry system, night lights and security motion-sensing lights. The efficient lights are hidden in the top of the door frame. It operates on a low-voltage (24-volt), doorbell-type transformer for safety and reliability.

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Write for (or instantly download at http://www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 620, a buyer's guide of 10 keyless entry system/door manufacturers listing the models, design type, security and convenience features and prices. Please include $3 and a business-sized, self-addressed stamped envelope and mail to James Dulley, Los Angeles Times, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

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