The idea of not using physical keys is great. If only it worked.
Yale’s Assure Lock with Bluetooth and Z-Wave (YRD4) aims to rid your pocket of jangling keys, promising a world where you only need to twist your phone to unlock your front door. Unfortunately, it fails miserably.
I had the opportunity to install this so-called smart lock — replacing a traditional deadbolt — only to find myself sometimes locked out of my own house. Here are four standout issues that you need to know if you’re thinking of buying a Yale Assure smart lock.
1. Wireless Connectivity Means Lots of Troubleshooting
The model I purchased for testing has both Bluetooth and Z-Wave connectivity (model number YRD446ZW2619, to be exact). I initially thought this was great because it would support two operation modes: standalone through Bluetooth or connected to a smart home hub through Z-Wave.
However, the Z-Wave signal from my Samsung SmartThings hub in the living room could barely reach the front door, due to the walls and furniture in the way. I had to place my hub within three feet of the lock in order for it to register.
In hindsight, I should have ordered the Zigbee version because Z-Wave doesn’t operate on an international standard — there are various frequencies for different parts of the world:
- 921.4; 919.8: Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia
- 921.4: Brazil
- 868.42; 869.85: CEPT Countries (Europe and other countries in region), French Guia
- 919.8; 921.4: Chile, El Salvador, Peru
- 868.4: China, Singapore, South Africa
- 919.8: Hong Kong
- 865.2: India
- 915 to 917: Israel
- 922 to 926: Japan, Taiwan
- 869: Russia
- 919 to 923: South Korea
- 908.4; 916: USA, Argentina, Guatemala, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Mexico, Bermuda, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Panama, British Virgin Islands, Suriname, Cayman Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, Colombia, Turks & Caicos, Ecuador, Uruguay
Due to these variations, a Samsung SmartThings hub from North America will not connect with a Z-Wave light bulb from Australia, for instance. And this is why I couldn’t purchase a Z-Wave network extender to boost the signal: The Yale Assure Lock was designed to work in the United States on U.S. Z-Wave frequencies, as was my SmartThings hub. But I’m based in Australia and if I were to purchase a Z-Wave network extender locally, it wouldn’t be the right frequency, while an American model would burn to a crisp with our 230V 50Hz electricity supply.
Zigbee, on the other hand, is maintained by a global standard, much like Wi-Fi. As long as the smart device you’re looking to add to your network is released with the HA 1.2 specification (or earlier, since it’s backward compatible), it will be compatible with any Zigbee-enabled smart home hub. My colleague Bryan Wolfe wrote an extensive article on the differences between Zigbee and Z-Wave with everything you need to know about the two protocols.
So what did I learn from this Z-Wave kerfuffle? I learned how important it is to plan out my smart home strategy properly. In the future, I’ll carefully consider the devices I’d like to add and choose between Zigbee and Z-Wave. Every powered (or plugged in) Zigbee or Z-Wave product introduced to a smart home will act as a repeater in their mesh network, enhancing the signal strength and connectivity to the hub.
2. Bluetooth Connectivity Problems
Even though this Yale Assure Lock advertises Bluetooth capabilities, I could never get it to pair with my iPhone. So much for Twist & Go. And before you ask: yes, I did perform a factory reset on the lock. Unfortunately, no amount of fiddling could get the lock to connect to my phone. Trust me, I tried for a good hour.
The lack of Bluetooth connectivity also meant that I could not manage my keys through the Yale Connect app or assign temporary keys to guests. Without Bluetooth, the lock immediately loses much of its functionality. While it’s possible I received a faulty unit, that reflects negatively on Yale’s quality control of this $200 lock.
3. Reporting the Wrong Locked Status
It would be a little worrying if your smart lock consistently reports that your front door is unlocked, wouldn’t it? That’s exactly what I’ve been facing.
This Yale Assure Lock never reported the right locked status back to my smart home hub. In fact, it always displayed the “unlocked” state. Research and discussions with an expert in Z-Wave revealed two possible reasons:
- The Z-Wave network isn’t strong enough to properly ping the lock. The suggested solution? Repositioning the hub.
- The lock’s Z-Wave module is faulty and isn’t sending the right lock status to the hub.
Personally, I tried using different device handlers, moved my hub around, and repaired my Z-Wave network multiple times. I still couldn’t get it to report the correct lock state.
4. A Jammed Bolt
This issue was quite a serious one because I actually got locked out of my own house because of it. As of today, I still haven’t figured out the cause or how to rectify it. Living dangerously, I know.
The bolt sometimes jams and not retract, causing it to remain locked even after entering my PIN code. The 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 digits would light up, and initially I thought it was some sort of error code. Then I realized it was just trying to display an “X”. Funnily, this Yale Assure Lock has a speaker and a voice that guides the user through the different menu items. Why couldn’t Yale program a voice message for the error?
Kinks to Work Out
The Yale Assure Lock has caused more stress for both me and my family members than any traditional deadbolt. Rather than providing peace of mind, it has made us feel more insecure, fearing we’d be locked out of our own house. Although I was able to control it from my smartphone to some degree, the reliability issues trumped any convenience it brought to the table.
Needless to say, I’ll be returning it — it’s nowhere ready for prime time yet. And I’d approach other Yale smart locks with extreme caution.
Update: It’s Finally Working
Not to long after this article was published, I received a replacement unit from Amazon and purchased a ZigBee network module from Yale’s online store (which is down at the time of writing). I’m happy to report that with the help of the ZigBee module, my Yale Assure Lock no longer suffers from connectivity issues and networks seamlessly with the Samsung SmartThings hub. Let this be a lesson to Amazon US shoppers located outside of the US: when selecting smart home products, try to pick one that supports ZigBee.
As for the jammed bolt, I realised that the bolt recess wasn’t deep enough. Drilling away an additional quarter of an inch gave the bolt sufficient room to travel and alleviated that issue.
Overall, even though the Yale Assure Lock works perfectly now, it certainly wasn’t the case at the start.
Have you experienced any issues with your Yale Assure Lock? Let us know in the comments.