5 steps to set up your new smart lock

Here's how to get the most out of your new smart lock.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
4 min read
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

So, you're a proud owner of a new smart lock. And you've already tackled one tough challenge, installing it on your front door. Now what?

It's time to tweak your lock's settings to serve you best. Not sure where to begin? You've come to the right place. Here we'll lay out key (pun intended) ways smart locks make life easier, plus how to enable these abilities. 

Read more: The best smart locks of 2019

Watch this: Your guide to buying the right smart lock

1. Set up auto-lock and auto-unlock

Because smart locks are motorized and battery-powered, they can open and close by themselves automatically. Typically auto-lock is enabled by default, to always lock things up even if you forget.

The Nest x Yale smart lock, for example, cycles closed when left unlocked for either 10 seconds, 1 minute or 5 minutes. The August smart lock does the same, but has a more adjustable timer (between 30 seconds and 5 minutes). In both cases you access these settings within their respective apps.


Check if your smart lock's auto-lock feature is enabled, and adjust it if you'd like.

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

For Nest, go to: Home > Settings > Locks > Home/away assist.  In the August Home app, go to Home > Settings then select your lock. You'll find auto-lock and auto-unlock options listed under "Automation."

Some smart locks also use your phone's location and input from in-home sensors to automatically lock when you leave. For example, you can set Nest-compatible deadbolts to lock when you leave the house, triggered by the app's home and away modes.

Likewise, the August lock's geofencing feature can unlock your door as you arrive and lock it when you depart. You can set this up in the August Home app.

2. Set up guest access

Smart locks are great for letting in a neighbor, cleaning service or house sitter when you aren't there. You can even set time limits, so that for example, the housekeeper can enter your home from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

In your lock's app, look for a feature called Guest access, or something similar. In the Nest app you'll find it under Home > Settings > Family & guests. Here you'll be able to add people, and provide limited or full access. You can also assign passcodes (keypad combinations), plus scheduled, recurring or temporary access.

For an August smart lock, navigate to the app's home screen, then tap Settings > Guest list. Here tap the "+" icon to invite a new guest. During this process, you can set their level of access, and whether they have temporary or recurring entry.   

3. Use your lock with Alexa or Google Home

Most smart locks work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to lock or unlock them with verbal commands. The degree of voice control you can exert depends on a few factors. One is the brand of your lock.

August smart locks support both Alexa and Google , but require the separate Connect Wi-Fi Bridge to do so. The Yale x Nest is compatible with Google Assistant only, but right out of the box (no extras needed). Kwikset Kevo products can talk to Alexa (but not Google Assistant), but only through the Kevo Plus accessory, sold separately.

Typically, smart locks operate with Alexa via an Alexa skill. When enabled, you can ask your Echo devices things like, "Alexa, ask August to check the front door." or, "Alexa, ask August to lock my front door." Alexa can unlock smart locks too, though only if you also supply a PIN code. You'll need to use the Alexa app to create a PIN first.    


Add your lock to routines, a series of actions linked to one Google Assistant voice command. 

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

If your smart lock supports Google Assistant, you can say, "Hey Google, lock my front door" or ask, "OK Google, is my front door locked?" Head to the Google Home app and tap Add to get started connecting your smart lock to Google Assistant.

Your smart lock can also be part of an Alexa routine or Google Assistant routine. Routines are a set of multiple actions that happen with a single voice command.  For instance you can create one that when you say, "Hey Google, I'm leaving," would turn off lights, arm the security system and lock your smart lock.

4. Set up notifications

Receiving alerts regarding smart lock activity is crucial to knowing what's happening when you're not at home. With today's smart locks, you can get notifications when your door is locked and unlocked (expected or not) on your phone. 

Typically, notifications in most smart lock apps are switched on by default, but check after you've set up your lock.


Enable smart lock notifications to get alerts for activity at home as they happen.

Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

5. Consider getting a Z-wave or Zigbee hub

While many smart locks can connect to your phone to give you info from far away, some locks need a separate hub to make this possible. If your device falls into the latter category, consider buying a Z-wave or Zigbee hub.

These products link short-range Bluetooth devices to your home Wi-Fi, and ultimately the cloud. That in turn lets you access and control them anywhere you enjoy an internet connection.

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Hubs can also allow your lock to work with Alexa or Google Assistant, if that feature wasn't already available.

The SmartThings hub speaks both Z-wave and Zigbee wireless smart home protocols. It also works with a wide range of products. This includes smart locks such as the Yale Assure, plus Kwikset's Convert and Obsidian.

Both August and Kwikset sell their own wireless hub gadgets (August Connect, Kevo Plus) These add-ons enable remote access and voice assistant control for their Bluetooth-only locks. Look into those if you own one of their smart lock models.

The CNET guide to smart living: Everything you need to know to live smarter.

Smart Home 101: How to create your own smart home.