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Electric Strikes: Everything You Need to Know

We've all heard the sound.

The buzz that tells you a door has been unlocked.

Ever wonder how someone can open a door by simply pressing a button?

It's called an electric strike.

What exactly is an electric strike and how does it work?

This article will tell you everything you need to know. And then some.

Let's get started...

What is an Electric Strike?

Before we explain what an electric strike is, we must first understand the term, "strike."

When discussing door hardware, a "strike" or "door strike," refers to the metal plate or assembly that's installed into or onto a door frame to "catch" the latch or bolt to hold the door closed.

You've seen thousands, maybe millions, of door strikes in your lifetime.

Here's one more picture of a door strike to just make sure we're all on the same page:

OK. Now Let's Discuss What's an Electric Strike.

You've seen them everywhere, including:

Electric strikes replace a standard door strike and is connected to a power supply.

When an electric strike is activated, it releases the latch, unlocking the door.

Electric strike locks remain locked from the outside at all times. When the door closes behind you, it automatically returns to a locked position. Electric strike locks are opened from the inside by pressing a panic bar or other manual release device.

What's the difference between a fail-secure Electric Strike and fail-safe Electric Strike?

Fail-secure Electric strike: A fail-secure electric strike is required for a fire rated opening and will remain locked during a power outage. This is the safer of the two options since it will keep the building secure and will not allow entry into the building if the power goes out. Of course, exiting from the inside is always possible with a panic bar or other exit device since the electric strike is only locked from the outside.

Fail-secure Electric strike: A fail-safe electric strike will unlock in the event of a power loss, allowing everyone free access.

Magnetic locks, in comparison, are all fail-safe. Therefore, in a power outage, a magnetic lock will remain unlocked and not function. This creates a serious security risk for a building that needs to remain secure in the event of a power outage. For this reason, electric strikes are recommended over magnetic locks.

Benefits of Electric strikes

  1. Security: Electric strikes are a very secure and safe option for latching a door since they can only be activated with a card, pin or remote device that is associated with the strike.
  2. Convenience: When it is connected to a remote system, you can simply allow someone entry from the comfort of your desk or bedroom by the push of a button. An electric strike attached to a pin code can also be useful, since no key is necessary and you can choose who to share the code with.
  3. Easy installation: Installation of electric strikes is quicker and simpler. That's because electric strikes are mounted only on the frame, installing them requires only cutting at the frame. Electronic locks, on the other hand, require prep on the door itself which can complicate
  4. Low cost installation: Because electric locks are easier to install as explained above, a hired contractor or handyman should take less time to install them; therefore, your labor and materials cost should be similar to a standard strike installation.

Two Common Mistakes When Installing an Electric Strike

The most common (and expensive) mistake is to use electric strikes on interior stairwell doors.

This presents a problem because in most jurisdictions, stairwell doors must be unlocked and positively latched when during a fire alarm or power outage.

If the strike is fail secure, the door will not be unlocked. If the strike is fail safe, the door will not be positively latched, meaning it will be stuck in a latched/locked position.

Your AHJ (authority having jurisdiction), such as OSHA would be fully within their rights to have you replace all the electric strikes. It's obvious to see how quickly this type of repair could add up to a large expense

Another common mistake is installing an electric on vertical rod exit devices.

While there's no law prohibiting this type of installation, the door operates so poorly, it's hard to justify.

First, you must remove the bottom rod from each exit device that will be released by the electric strike.

This presents a problem.

With the bottom rod removed, you may be able to pull the door out a couple of inches. When you factor in that the electric strike will also add a certain amount of mobility, you've got a door that feels very insecure.

And if that wasn't enough, over time, the door may sag, which may render the door completely insecure.

Two Challenges of Electric Strikes

Don't lose your card!

If you've using an electric strike that requires a card for access, be sure you keep your card in a safe place. These cards are sometimes expensive to replace. More importantly, you may not be able to enter your home or office building after hours.

Visible

The keypad or card reader used to activate the electric strike is quite visible. This, of course, is necessary in order for people to be able to enter the building quickly after entering a code or swiping a card. However, since it is visible, it may be more prone to tampering or vandalism. However, most electric locks sold today are very safe and "hacking" a code presents too big of a challenge for would be burglars.

Electric Strikes vs. Electrified Locks

Because electric strikes and electric locks operate in the same manner (opening a door from a remote location with special access equipment), they are often confused with each other. Many people even use both terms interchangeably. However, electric strikes are very different from electric locks.

Here's a chart to help you sort out the differences:

 

Electric Strike

Electric Lock

Visual

 

 

Definition

Opens a door from a remote location. Often accessed with special control equipment such as a keypad or card reader. Replaces a standard, fixed door lock.

Opens a door from a remote location. Often accessed with special control equipment such as a keypad or card reader. Replaces a standard, fixed door lock.

Functionality

Activating the electric strike releases the strike keeper, opening the door and allowing entry.

Activating the electrified lock allows the user to turn the door handle and retract the latchbolt.

Installation

Typically used on single door entrances. Electric strikes are installed in the frame. Wires are generally stored inside the frame. Certain types can be installed in a door for paired openings.

Installed on the door like a regular lock. Requires a "raceway" (enclosed pathway for electrical wiring) through the door and a power transfer device such as an electric hinge or door loop to transfer the electric current from the back side of the frame to the lock.

Applications

Can be used on interior or exterior or security doors, new construction or remodels.

In-field alterations of fire rated doors may require prior approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Can be used on interior or exterior or security doors, new construction or remodels.

In-field alterations of fire rated doors may require prior approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Pros

Because they're mounted on the door frame, electric strike installation is typically easier and faster than an electrified lock.

 

Lower cost of installation due to ease of installation.

 

Since it acts as a release, it can also be used on doors that use an automatic door operator.

 

Lockset can stay locked but the strike releases to allow the power operator to freely swing the door open.

Offers a cleaner look than an electric strike.

 

It can be argued that electrified locks are more secure, since electric strikes are more visible and accessible for tampering.

 

They can be used on fire rated security doors that also require a "fail safe" power mode due to building codes.

Cons

Noticeable to the door user and thus does not provide a "clean" look when compared to a built-in electrified lock. This visibility can make it more susceptible to tampering.

Cost is a factor since electric locks are more expensive than electric strikes and installation charges are usually higher because installation is more involved, such as prepping the door for a raceway and accounting for the added power transfer device connecting the frame to the door.

 

Cannot be used on automatic door operated openings.

 

The latchbolt does not electrically retract, prohibiting the operator to freely open the door.

Power Requirement

Can be either 12V or 24V. They are usually DC current but may be available in AC current. Some models allow in-field selection while others must be ordered with the specifications pre-determined.

Can be 12V or 24V. They are usually DC current but may be available in AC current. Some models allow in-field selection while others must be ordered with the specifications pre-determined.

Power Fail Modes

Can be "fail safe" or "fail secure." Some models allow in-field selection and others must be ordered with the preference pre-determined.

Can be "fail safe" or "fail secure." Most models must be ordered with the preference pre-determined.

Fire Rated Doors

Must be used on "fail-secure" fire rated doors. Meaning, if the power is cut, the latch will be securely captured behind the strike keeper.

 

A "fail-safe" electric strike is not allowed on a fire rated door because no latching support is provided during a power outage.

Can be used on fire rated doors in either "fail safe" or "fail secure" mode, as the lock always maintains positive latching.

 

However, additional safety codes may determine which mode of lock can be used.

 

Check with your local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) for requirements.

What's the best brand of Electric Strikes?

That's a tough question.

There are many brands of electric strikes to choose from. Choosing the right one will depend on your application, budget and time frame.

Here are some of the most popular electric strike brands:

CONCLUSION

Electric strikes are an easy-to-use, easy-to-install, low-cost solution to keep your home or building safe.

Problem, is, there a lot of electric strikes to choose from.

Some are good.

Some you should stay away from.

With so many choices, the best choice you can make is to contact us. We've been selling door hardware for nearly 100 years and can help you choose the electric strike that's perfect for your situation.

Resources

Electric strike installation videos

Electric strike accessories