By Suzi Conner, Certified Self Storage Manager
The first step you take when choosing self storage is selecting the correct facility. You want your belongings to be safe and secure at all times. You look for security cameras, check to see if the property is well lit, confirm there is a fence surrounding the self storage units with an access gate and that there is a property manager on site regularly. One step many people overlook is choosing the best lock for your storage unit. Knowing the facility is secure is very important, but having the right lock is your last bit of protection against theft; so it should not be taken lightly.
You may think you can just bring in that lock from home that you used on your shed to save some money. However, that would be a big mistake. You need to keep in mind that if something bad were to happen and an unwelcome visitor wants to gain access to your unit, that lock is what will keep them out — or let them in if you choose poorly.
There are many different types and styles of locks that you can purchase. We want to help you choose wisely. Let’s go over some of the most common locks on the market, and give you some pros and cons of each so you can make the best decision.
First we have the Keyless Lock.
The name means just that, no key exists. Instead of using a key to open and close the lock, you will either punch in a series of numbers or dial a combination. These locks were originally developed for cars with remote entry systems, but have been modified for residential applications like the front door at your house, the lock for your gym locker or a bicycle chain lock.
The advantages of this lock are minimal – no key required and you can give others access at your discretion. Ok, so there is no key to lose, but so what?
The disadvantages are much greater; an intruder can guess the code or hack into the lock; you can forget the code; and many are powered through electricity and incorporated into a security system, which may not function when the power goes out. Also, a keyless lock such as a standard combination lock is not recommended for outdoor use. It can be easily cut open with bolt cutters or a hack saw and done so very quickly.
Next we have the Padlock.
Padlocks are also called cylinder locks, because pins inside the cylinder are manipulated to a specific position so the key that is cut to fit it can open the lock. You typically see these on outdoor sheds, lockers and for small items like your luggage and the gas meter at your home. Some of the advantages of this lock type can actually be viewed as negatives when you consider how they would be used at a self storage facility. They can be re-keyed very easily if you lose the key, without having to remove the lock. That may be great to get into your gym locker to retrieve your favorite shoes, but that also means someone with a little knowledge can get into the lock without your permission.
Again, the disadvantages outweigh the positives. These locks can be easily picked by burglars because it is surprisingly easy to get your hands on lock pick tools or “create” your own. Bump keys exist (provided it is the same manufacturer of the lock) and can provide quick access to open a padlock; just do a quick search online and you will be shocked at how fast a teenager can gain access from this method. I don’t know about you, but that does not scream “safety” to me at all!
Then we have the Disc Lock.
This lock type is considered the industry standard. There are many advantages of choosing a disc lock. To start, they were actually developed specifically for self storage facilities and are recommended across the industry as the go-to lock to use. These locks cannot be removed using bolt cutters because the hasp (which is the “U” shaped part of a padlock) is designed in such a way that it cannot be reached. Hitting one of these locks with a hammer will not break the lock, like it can on keyless locks and padlocks. Picking this lock type is also not an easy feat when compared to other lock types. To remove a disc lock without having the key requires a bit of time and tools. You actually need to grind it off. Someone who is not authorized to be on the property will quickly move on to an easier target (like a padlock or keyless lock) because grinding off a disc lock takes a lot of time and makes a lot of noise. These locks are also stainless steel, meaning no rust will form when being outside in the elements year-round. Another benefit to this style is that many insurance companies offer a zero deductible or lower premium if you secure your storage unit with a disc lock.
There aren’t many disadvantages of choosing a disc lock. So it will cost a little more than a standard padlock. But I think you would agree it is well worth the price to keep your belongings safe.
Besides the type of lock you choose, you also need to consider the size of the lock. They are measured across the width of the lock. The most common sizes of locks used for self storage are 1 3/4, 2 and 2 3/4. Anything larger than a 2 3/4 will not fit on the door latch. One thing to keep in mind is the smaller the lock is, the easier it will be for someone to remove it. So, you want to choose the largest lock you can for the latch, which will just add another layer of protection against unwanted visitors.
And lastly, if you have a storage unit with outdoor access, make sure you choose a lock designed for the outdoors. The direct sunlight, rain, snow and extreme temperatures from outside can affect the durability of the lock. Stainless steel is the recommended material for an outdoor lock because of its durability. If you have an indoor access storage unit, you can choose either an outdoor or indoor use lock, as it will not be exposed to the elements.
With this information in mind, it’s no surprise that we will always recommend a disc lock when using self storage. We want your stuff to be safe and secure just like you do. The lock you choose is the best defense against someone entering your storage unit without your permission. We offer disc locks for sale in our rental office, so you can easily get the best lock without having to shop around.
It may seem like a simple step; just buy a lock and you are good to go. However, all locks are not created equal and you want to be sure to purchase the correct size and style. If you have any questions about locks and how to choose the best one, you can contact any of our property managers or fill out our contact form.