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Security has come a long way since the days of traditional metal keys and locks. Now, commercial smart locks and electric door lock solutions are a common occurrence in most commercial settings. However, like most advancing technology, there are many variations of electromagnetic locks for doors.

For maximum security in larger scale commercial and residential properties, the two obvious choices are electric strike door locks and magnetic door locking systems. But how do maglocks work, and what’s the difference between electric strike locks and magnetic strike locks? 

This guide will explore the most popular and effective electromagnetic door locking systems on the market, and how they work with building access control systems. You’ll also learn about the best use cases for electric strikes and electromagnetic locks, and how to weigh the benefits, drawbacks and costs, so you can come to a confident decision about which solution is best for your needs.

Basics: Magnetic locks vs. electric strike locks and how they work

Before we go any further, let’s get clear on the main differences between mag locks and electric strike locks for doors. 

An electromagnetic lock, also known as a mag lock, uses a security magnetic lock mechanism to hold the door in place, while a door electric strike lock relies on a solenoid to hold the door in a locked position. 

Both need a power supply to operate. The main difference is that a magnetic lock is generally fail-safe, meaning it relies on power to lock the door, whereas an electric lock is generally fail-secure and relies on power to unlock the door.

While both are used in access control applications, electromagnetic locks tend to be used on doors that automatically lock and open, such as security gates and automatic doors. Whereas door lock electric strike systems tend to be the option for manual usage, or where keypads or key fobs are required to enable entry.

How does an electric strike door lock work?

An electric strike uses a hinged piece of metal to latch the door into place. With this metal in a locked position, the door cannot operate without an electronic signal. The electronic signal works to move the metal release latch installed inside the door frame, opening the door. The door electric strike lock is triggered by an external wireless item such as a fob, card, key fob or keypad PIN. Electric strike door locks are commonly used on doors that require access control to limit who can open them. 

The internal electric strike plate mechanism works with a lock and bolt and an actuator which is responsible for controlling the lock of the door. This moves the metal hinge into place and secures the lock. The electric strike plate is then responsible for triggering the actuator to move and unlock the door, which relies on a power supply. 

The difference between electric strike vs. electric locks

It’s also important to distinguish between an electric strike vs. electric lock system. An electrified door lock strike plate is common for wood or metal doors, and can be used in conjunction with a deadbolt. However, an electric latch is often a requirement for fail-safe or emergency doors. For doors that have a push bar or exit bar, you’ll likely be required to install an electric latch vs. electric strike to comply with building codes for emergency exits and similar applications.

How does a magnetic lock (maglock) work?

So, how do mag locks work? A magnetic door strike relies on two parts: a magnet that is mounted to the door, and an armature door lock strike plate that is mounted to the door frame. With an electric field energizing the magnet in the door lock, a magnetic field is created that secures the armature lock and magnet in place. The magnetic door strike must be de-energized to open the door and fire the magnetic release latch, which breaks the field and moves the plate away from the mechanic. This can be achieved by a variety of methods including a card reader, keypad or key fob. 

You can also compare a mag lock vs. shear lock for door security. A shear lock is simply a concealed magnetic lock installed into the door and the frame and is mounted differently to the surface in comparison to the usual magnetic deadbolt lock. The primary difference however, is in their force. While a mag lock gives a force of a direct pull, a shear lock gives a pull force in a shear direction.

When it comes to an electric strike vs. electric lock for doors in your building, it mainly depends on the available power supply, type of door installed and how you want to secure the property.

Benefits of electric strike door locks

The above should provide some clarity into the differences when it comes to an electric release latch vs. electric strike system for doors. There are key benefits to installing electric locking systems in commercial properties like offices, schools and residential complexes.

  • Improved security from the outside: Because of their fail-secure nature, a door lock electric strike can help prevent unauthorized access during a power outage by locking from the outside. Electric strike door locks also allow users to exit from the inside in the case of a fire or other emergencies. Since they only allow authorized users access into a building and it’s difficult to override or bypass an electric door lock strike, they are especially common systems in healthcare facilities and schools.
  • Remote updates can be made to the system: A remote access management platform can be connected to the electric strike door lock system so that updates can be made from anywhere in the world. In the event of a new feature rollout or a need for security updates, these can be performed via a secure Internet connection for maximum efficiency.
  • No more lost keys: If you opt for a keypad system for electric strike door locks, this completely eliminates the need for a key. If you have many users, keys are easily lost or stolen, leading to security concerns and higher lifetime costs.
  • Visual deterrent: Electric strike locks can act as visual deterrents, too. Opportunistic criminals are put off by electric door locks, which are harder to break into than mechanical locks. The electrical system also hints at additional surveillance systems, letting them know their activity won’t go unnoticed for long.
  • Compliance: Electric latches and strike plates ensure property owners comply with local building and safety codes. In addition, electromagnetic door lock systems can help businesses better protect data and information stored in on-site servers or computers.

Drawbacks of electric strike door locks

While there are many benefits to door lock electric strikes and latches, they are not foolproof or right for every installation. Before installing an electric strike plate lock for your doors, consider the following drawbacks, too. 

  • Complex installation: Electric strike plates are complex and require a lot of skill and accuracy to install effectively. An electromagnetic door latch must be compatible with the existing lock bolt on your door, so there is a lot of due diligence to be completed before you make the investment, and you’ll most likely need a professional to assess your door systems before you can confidently choose an electric strike plate.
  • Additional hardware required: Because electric strike door locks only secure one side of the door, you’ll need to invest in panic bars or exit hardware for the other side. This ensures that people inside the building can easily and quickly exit in the event of an emergency. 
  • Limited application: Electric strike locks aren’t as easily configured to all types of doors. For example, electric strike plates aren’t compatible with doors that have an aluminum frame or a hollow structure.

Benefits of magnetic locks 

Magnetic door locks are a popular choice for security for a reason. There are many benefits to installing a maglock door system for your business. Consider the following when weighing the benefits of a mag lock vs. electric strike door lock. 

  • Low maintenance: Commercial magnetic door lock systems, once installed, are incredibly reliable and require little maintenance. Because they leverage electromagnetic energy, there’s often less wear-and-tear on the magnetic locking mechanism when compared to electric strike plate locks.
  • Strength and durability: Magnetic lock systems and electric door magnets are known for their incredible durability and strong holding force. They are very difficult to manually force open and can withstand wear and tear from thousands of uses.
  • Easy installation: Compared to electric strike locks and some types of mechanical locks that require specialist skill, an electromagnetic door lock system is relatively simple to install. It is still recommended to work with a professional for installation, but the straightforward configurations can help reduce costs.
  • Compatible with most types of doors: Magnetic locks are flexible and can be configured to most types of doors, unlike their electric counterparts. One of the best use cases for a mag lock door system is for securing glass doors.

Drawbacks of magnetic door lock for business

In terms of building security, magnetic lock systems still come with challenges that should not be overlooked. If you’re comparing electromagnetic locks for doors in your facility, remember the following drawbacks to installing mag lock systems.

  • Security limitations: While magnetic locks are extremely strong, they may be more susceptible to tampering in comparison to other options because of their power supply. If you install these locks, make sure you have backup power and added surveillance in place to keep your electromagnetic door lock systems secure.
  • Dependent on constant power supply: A magnetic lock system is entirely dependent on a constant power supply to maintain the magnetic field which holds the lock in place. In the event of a power outage, the system is compromised and the door will unlock, which could be a security risk. The constant drain on power can also affect the lifetime cost of magnetic locking mechanisms.
  • Cost: The hardware for magnetic locks for businesses tend to be more expensive than other options. When comparing different electromagnetic lock systems, budget can be a deciding factor, which could be a drawback to choosing magnetic door lock for business systems.

Applications for electric strike door locks and electromagnetic locks

Both electric and electromagnetic locks are incredibly versatile. But to understand which is best for your business needs it is important to look at the best applications for both types of mechanism. Each has their own unique advantages and disadvantages, as well as installation limitations, so assess the following applications before making your final decision.

Best applications for electric locks and strikes

  • Access control — Electric strike door locks can allow or restrict access based on specific identity requirements, credentials or schedules. This makes them a popular option as part of wider access control systems and in buildings where maximum security must be maintained.
  • Security gates — Since electric strike locks can work to prevent unauthorized access on one side of an entrance, they are a popular option for businesses and organizations with security gates upon initial entry to the premises.
  • Automatic doors —- A common application for electric locks is on automatic doors since they control access and ensure the doors remain locked when not in use. These are often used in offices and healthcare facilities to allow frictionless and touchless access throughout a property.
  • Less trafficked areas — In buildings with side or back doors that are not as frequently monitored, door strike electric locks are a viable option to keep unauthorized individuals out. Since they work to keep the doors locked from the outside, building managers can be sure unauthorized access is not obtained without the right credentials.

Best applications for door magnetic locks

  • Commercial properties — Magnetic locks are great for hotels, commercial properties and residential buildings due to their reliability and durability. Their strong holding force means they are generally very secure against intruders.
  • Interior doors — Magnetic locks are great for interior doors in offices, laboratories and nursing homes where you want to limit access, but allow for fast and easy egress in an emergency.
  • Security doors — Magnetic locks security doors add an extra layer of security and prevent unauthorized access. In these applications, backup power is recommended to maintain security in the event of power loss.

How to choose the right electromagnetic door lock: Electric strike vs. magnetic door lock systems

Choosing the right electromagnetic lock system for your building can depend on a number of factors. One of the most important factors to consider is the fail-safe, fail-secure mechanisms. In addition, the location and type of doors that need to be secured can influence your choice between an electric strike door lock or magnetic door locking system.

Electric strike door lock systems are fail-secure

Electric locks are fail-secure, meaning they rely on power to unlock. Electric strike lock doors are an incredibly effective component of a wider security system, and can be configured to work with access control systems such as keypads and key fobs which trigger the power supply that unlocks the mechanism. These are great where authorized access is required, and stricter security is necessary. 

Door electric strike locks however are complex to install and may require a specialist to assess the building and its doors to confirm whether installation and configuration is possible. In the event of a power outage, all doors will remain locked until power is restored. 

Magnetic door lock system are fail-safe

Magnetic door locks, or electromagnetic locks, rely on a magnetic field to hold the door in place. This is energized by a power supply. Commercial magnetic door lock systems are fail-safe, which means in the event of a power supply, the lock is compromised and cannot maintain its power. This does however mean that users can exit the building so they are an excellent option for fire exits in schools and healthcare facilities where users may need to exit the building in the event of an emergency. Their security is however limited in that they are susceptible to tampering, but they generally promote a strong magnetic force that is not able to be forced open manually. Magnetic or mag locks are durable, reliable and low maintenance.

It’s important to also consider the nature of the door in the event of an emergency. Electric mag lock door systems are well suited to emergency fire exits as they will allow users to leave the building easily in the event of an emergency or a fire, even without power supply. 

Which electromagnetic lock is right for your business?

Assess the overall requirements and applications for your electromagnetic door release systems to ascertain whether a magnetic security door or electric strike door lock is the best option. Security and protection will play a big part in determining this decision too. Overall, it’s best to weigh up the pros and cons of a mag lock vs. electric strike including their applications and installation costs. This should help you to build a picture of which is a greater investment for your business or commercial needs.

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