How Do Electric Strikes Work in Secure Building Systems?

Door with an electric strike controlled by an access cardModern access control is much more than a traditional lock and key. One of the critical elements is the electric strike. So, how do electric strikes work, and what should you consider when installing an electric door lock system in your building?

How Does An Electric Door Strike Work?

In a conventional mechanical lock, the door is equipped with a fixed strike faceplate. This attaches to the door jamb and has a hole through which the door bolt passes.

Instead, an electric strike has a ramped surface that closes and latches the door. When the proper signal is received, the latch pivots away from the signal. Someone can then open the door from the outside without needing to turn the door knob. A solenoid, or a small electromagnet, is used to move or pivot the strike, so these locks are sometimes called electromagnetic locks.

When a reader on the door scans a card, fob, or phone, the electric strike will turn. But it will not operate without the proper signal and is no easier to physically force than a traditional door.

When the door closes behind the person, it locks automatically, meaning it is always locked from the outside. It will also re-lock after about 30 seconds. This eliminates issues that can happen if a member or employee leaves a door unlocked. In order for the door to be kept open, it will need to be intentionally propped, which is clearly visible.

Electric strikes are affordable and durable—often more durable than the mechanical locks they replace due to the smaller number of moving parts that can wear. 

Can an Electric Strike Be Fail-Safe?

How do electric strikes work in a power outage? Manufacturers design electric strikes to stay as fail-safe as possible. Their default settings play a key role in this. There are two kinds of electric locks:

  1. Fail-secure locks are designed to lock—and stay locked—if the power goes out. They can only be opened when electrified. Facilities managers can use fail-secure locks to protect valuables. The doors to vaults, server rooms, and similar environments use these fail-secure locks to protect the interior spaces.
  2. Fail-safe locks are designed to unlock if the power goes out and can easily be manually opened from the inside. Fail-safe locks should go on external exits and any areas where people spend extended periods of time. This ensures that people can still safely evacuate in the event of a fire or power outage.

You should consider carefully which type of lock to use on any given door. Also, an electric door lock system can mix the two types as needed. However, this does impact how the locks can be powered.

Note that double doors and doors to auditoriums or other crowded areas should always have panic hardware. Then, in the event that rapid egress is needed, the doors can easily be opened by pressure from the inside.

How Are Electric Door Strikes Powered?

Does an electric strike need a power supply? Yes! In fact, electric door strikes can use two different power sources. Fail-secure locks can use either DC or AC. 

If you unlock a door and it buzzes slightly, the strike uses AC power. DC-powered strikes are silent, which can be vital if you want a “smooth” operation. Also, fail-safe strikes only operate on DC power. Therefore, hybrid systems generally use DC (direct current) power sources.

How Do Electric Strikes Work Alongside Deadbolts?

It is possible to use an electric strike in combination with a deadbolt if you need systems that provide extra security. These strikes typically have a monitoring switch that reports the position of the deadbolt to the access control system.

However, the electric strike will hold the door closed regardless of the position of any mechanical lock unless it is in a fail-open position. This means that both the electric lock and the deadbolt will have to be in the open position before the door can be opened. The use of deadbolts can make the system less convenient by requiring both a card and a key for access. But it can also allow your team to lock doors after hours so that even somebody with a card can’t get through them.

How Do Electric Strikes Work With a Modern Access Control System?

Door with an electric strike activated by an app

Electric door strikes can connect to a full network that monitors the status of every lock and allows you to monitor who enters your building. These systems also allow a doorman to grant access remotely with the click of a button.

This allows for:

  • Higher security
  • Smoother admission for guests
  • Analytics of when guests, occupants, and employees use, enter, or exit your facilities

In addition, as electric strikes can be used on most types of doors, you can set up an access control network that is seamless and allows for easier access. The system is also completely scalable, and you can add new doors and buildings at any time.

The system can use smart cards, phone apps, or a combination of the two for flexibility that doesn’t sacrifice security. Many people forget cards, which can make phone-based solutions a better option. Facilities managers can also allow easy but secure visitor access through a downloadable app.

How Do Electric Strikes Work With Fire-Rated Systems?

Standard electric door strikes do not work with fire-rated door frames. However, we offer electric strikes that are suitable for fire-rated applications, as well as for rim exit devices. We can work with you to ensure that your fire-rated door frames and stairwell access doors balance the need for convenient access with maintaining safety for everyone in the building.

Fire exits should not use fail-secure locks. Because of this, a backup mechanical lock that prevents someone from entering from the outside during a power outage but still allows egress is sometimes a better solution. Again, we can work with you on the best solutions to combine convenience of access with compliance with fire and safety codes.

Understanding how electric door strikes work is important for implementing a modern access control system. Card Lock can help you install modern access control on both existing buildings and new constructions. Contact us to find out how we can install electric door strikes and systems that improve security and convenience.

Access Control, Smart Cards
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