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Guestroom Locks: How Do You Know Whether To Upgrade or Replace?

Adding mobile key to your hotel doesn’t always require replacing your locks. Often you can add keyless entry to the locks you already have!

Every hotelier knows that lock hardware is one of the most critical and expensive elements of a lodging property.  New guestroom locks routinely cost as much as $300 per door once installation is factored in – which can easily result in a six-figure capital expense.  No wonder hotel operators are keenly interested to know whether they can accommodate new technology initiatives with existing hardware instead of having to replace it.  The question of upgrading or replacing guestroom locks usually arises when hotels explore adding mobile keyless entry to their guest experience.  Motivation for doing so differs by property and operator – some want to evolve to digital key to allow guests to bypass the front desk – some are looking for the cost savings of eliminating plastic keycards – some for the environmental benefit.

The huge proliferation of brands is driving a trend towards mobile key adoption and creating what could be considered premature CapEx – where hotels are forced to replace items in order to stay competitive before they are worn out.  With an expected useful life of between ten and twenty years, there are millions of hotel locks that have become functionally obsolete before becoming worn, damaged or starting to have maintenance issues.  That functional obsolescence is due to the need for a guestroom lock to have Bluetooth communication capability in order to work with a guest smartphone for keyless entry.  Fortunately, new technology has been developed to upgrade even the oldest guestroom locks to add digital communication.  That new technology takes the form of a Bluetooth upgrade module that is inserted into the existing lock and connected to the lock battery and motor.

ust because a guestroom lock can be upgraded doesn’t mean it should be.  Locks age differently based on type, brand, usage and location.  Exterior facing locks in any location will age faster than locks on interior doors.  Rooms in a seaside motel with outward facing doors age at a much faster rate due to the saltwater in the air.  Upgrading a guestroom lock won’t fix maintenance issues related to the lock hardware such as the clutch or handle.  Signs that a guestroom lock has reached its useful life limit and should be replaced include recurring lockout issues due to hardware failure and drooping door handles – both inevitable outcomes for hotel locks over time.

The good news is that in 2020 hotel operators have more options than ever before when it comes to the question of whether to upgrade or replace door hardware to facilitate new technology like digital key.  Upgrading options are typically less than half the cost of replacement and can be used to extend the life of expensive door hardware to achieve the full extent of depreciation.  Determining whether to upgrade or replace hotel guestroom locks is now fully in the hands of the hotelier to decide – and proof that improving a hotel through adding new technology doesn’t need require an expensive CapEx commitment.

By Brian Shedd, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, OpenKey