If you are the owner or manager of an establishment that needs high-level security such as a school, hospital, or commercial building, then you probably already know that you need an access control lock.

For places like those, the typical doorknob lock doesn’t cut it. Keys can get lost, and it’s a security nightmare to look for a key that leads to a high-security area. Instead, you’ll want to invest in an electronically controlled lock that can reliably let in authorized persons.

For this article, we’ll be talking about two of the most common access control locks: magnetic strike locks and electric strike locks. You’ve probably heard of them before, but if you’re still undecided, we hope this article can help you understand which one is better for you.

Magnetic strike locks are fail-safe, while electric strike locks can be either fail-safe or fail-secure

You might have heard of “fail-safe” and “fail-secure” before because these two terms are commonly thrown around in the security industry. They actually have technical meanings and are not interchangeable.

The difference is in how the lock works when there is a power failure. “Fail-safe” means that electricity is used to lock the door. Therefore, when there’s no power, the door is unlocked.

On the other hand, a “fail-secure” door works the other way. It uses electricity to unlock the door, so if the power is out, the door cannot be opened. You might think that a “fail-secure” door is inconvenient, but there are specific situations that need a “fail-secure” door because it offers better protection.

At the end of the day, whether you should get a “fail-safe” or a “fail-secure” lock depends on your needs and where you will be placing the door.

Electric strike locks are like mechanical locks but with additional electronic functionalities

Electrics trike locks work like your typical mechanical door lock: a latch or a small metal bolt that sticks out of the door goes into a little recess on the doorframe called the strike plate. The difference is that instead of a conventional strike plate, an electric strike receives the latch and holds it in place.

Electricity is then supplied to the strike to hold the latch in place, and the lock is released only when the release system gets activated. You might have seen these kinds of locks on doors that are opened by a button, a keypad, or an electronic key card. The door only opens once the strike plate receives the signal to open the lock.

What makes electric strike locks “fail-safe” is that they can still be opened even without electricity, usually from inside. However, electric strike locks can usually be configured to be “fail-secure.”

Magnetic strike locks have a metal plate on top of the door and are fail-safe only

Unlike conventional doors and doors with electric strike locks, doors with magnetic strike locks usually do not have a latch connected to a door frame. Instead, there is a magnetic plate or strip on the door which aligns with a large magnet on top of the doorframe.

When the door is locked, an electric current is sent to the electromagnet in the door frame, keeping the door secure and attached to the frame. The lock is released when the door receives a release signal or when the power is cut.

Release systems for magnetic strike locks are similar to those in electric door locks: people can unlock the door by using a keypad, a scanner, or a keycard.

Despite working with magnets, magnetic strike locks are very powerful and cannot be opened by simply forcefully pushing the door. When the lock is activated, the magnets can create at least 1,000 lbs. of retention force.

However, the very nature of magnetic strike locks as dependent on an electric current means that they are fail-safe only. If the lock stops receiving electrical power, it is released, and the door works like any other unlocked door.

Choosing the lock that suits your needs

Now that we’ve talked about how magnetic strike locks and electric strike locks work, the next question is determining which one is better for you.

First, we should consider if you need a “fail-safe” or a “fail-secure” door.

The important factors to consider are door placement (interior vs. exterior) and purpose (what will be behind the door?). If the door will be used mostly by people coming in and out (like for confidential meetings), then a fail-safe would be better. You don’t want people getting locked inside a room just because the power went out, so you can go for either an electric strike lock or a magnetic strike lock.

However, if you plan on storing valuable items, then it might offer you better peace of mind to use a lock that does not go out if the power is gone. For these cases, you will want an electric strike lock.

You should also consider that with electric strike locks, their installation is complex because of how many wires go into the door frame. If you already have a door that you just want to secure, it might take longer to install an electric strike lock.

On the other hand, a magnetic strike lock is easier to install because of how much simpler it is compared to electric strike locks.

Another factor to consider is relevant laws, especially if you plan to put locks on public or commercial buildings. Depending on the kind of door, different laws may have different requirements on how easy they are to be opened.

Finally, you should also choose based on your budget. Electric strike locks are cheaper to buy but harder to install, while magnetic strike locks are more expensive to buy but are easier to install.

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