Four Types of Commercial Electronic Locks

Many businesses opt for electronic locks as part of their access control system. These locks can help your business be more secure, and it’s easy to customize them as part of an access control system. Whether you’re starting from scratch with your building security or you’re upgrading from a traditional manual lock and key, electronic locks are a popular and wise choice. 

The four main types of electronic door locks are magnetic locks, electric strike locks, electric cylindrical and mortise locks, and electric push bar locks. Choosing which type of lock is best for your commercial property depends on many factors, including your budget, your security needs, and what type of doors you have. Learn more about the different types of electronic locks so you can make an informed decision regarding which one is best for you. 

electronic door locks

Fail-Safe vs Fail-Secure Locks

Before we get into the details about each type of lock, it’s important to understand the difference between fail-safe and fail-secure locks. All electric locks use electricity to either engage or disengage the lock. The main difference between a fail-safe lock and a fail-secure lock is whether electricity locks or unlocks the door. 

Fail-safe locks engage when the lock has power. When power is lost on a fail-safe lock, the lock is unlocked. Fail-secure locks disengage when the lock has power. When power is lost on a fail-secure lock, the lock is locked. During a power outage, a fail-safe lock will unlock while a fail-secure lock will be locked. 

Electronic Door Lock Safety

It’s very important to consider both safety and security when choosing an electronic lock for your business. Buildings that house sensitive material or businesses where security is of utmost importance may be more inclined to opt for fail-secure locks so the doors can remain locked in the event of a power outage. However, even the most secure door needs to be able to be unlocked in an emergency situation. 

When you’re choosing a specific model for your electronic locks, be sure to inquire about the manual override options. Once you choose a lock, take time to learn how to complete a manual override and practice unlocking the door so that you are able to override the lock swiftly if necessary. 

Magnetic Locks

Magnetic locks work via an electromagnet and an armature plate. Electricity activates the magnet and causes the door to be locked, which means all maglocks have to be fail-safe. Typically installed at the top of the door, the magnet is installed on the door frame and the armature plate is installed on the door itself. 

Magnetic locks are very common in modern office buildings and businesses, particularly because they look great on glass doors. 

trine magnetic door lock

Electric Strike Locks

Electric strike locks are often used on metal and wood doors. They consist of a bolt that comes out of the lock and into the strike plate installed in the door frame. When access is granted, the electric strike releases a latch that allows the door to open. Electric strike locks can be fail-safe or fail-secure. They are typically an incredibly affordable and easy to install option for most businesses because they only require a simple installation of the strike in the doorframe. 

Note that there is a difference between electric lock vs electric strike. When an electric strike is activated, the latch is undone and the door automatically opens. When an electric lock is activated, the user then must turn the handle to open the door. 

Electric strike

Electric Cylindrical and Electric Mortise Locks 

Electric cylindrical and electric mortise locks look similar to traditional mechanical locks, but they are powered by electricity. Mortise locks sit inside a recess or pocket in the door (which is called a mortise). Cylindrical locks are simply mounted onto the door. 

Both types of locks are connected to a power supply, and the wire needs to run through the door itself and then through the frame to eventually be connected to the power supply. Both electric cylindrical and electric mortise locks can be fail-safe or fail-secure. 

electric strike door lock installation

Electric Push Bar Locks 

Installed on the surface of the door, electric push bar locks are often installed as a safety feature. They also meet fire codes and can serve as emergency exits. While they’re not as often installed on main front entrances, they can be. You’re more likely to use them as side exits or on stairwell doors.  

Electric push bar locks can also be installed as panic bars that are designed to only be used as a fire exit or in case of emergency. You can use these panic bar locks along with a credential reader or keypad. Making a push bar lock electric allows you to electronically release the strike with a keypad or by other means. Electric push bar locks used as emergency exits in stairwells should be fail-safe. With the exception of that use, electric push bar locks can be either fail-safe or fail-secure. 

electric panic bar

Which Type of Electronic Lock to Choose 

When making a decision between the four types of electronic door locks for your business, first consider whether you want a fail-safe or a fail-secure lock. If you want a fail-safe lock, you can choose any of the four types, and if you want a fail-secure lock, you can choose any type except a maglock. 

From there, consider the application and the type of surface you need to install your lock on. Maglocks are best for glass, and electric strikes, electric cylindrical, and electric mortise locks are common on wood and metal doors. Electric push bar locks are often installed on metal doors that are not main entrances. 

Finally, look at the options available to you after you’ve narrowed down your choices. You will be able to eliminate more options after taking your budget into account. Once you’ve done that, you can choose locks that fit the aesthetic of your building, and you’ll be able to help keep your building and its occupants more secure.

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