Questioning Reliability Of Electric Strikes

We recently discussed electric strikes in IPVMU's Access Control Fundamentals class. One of the enrollees sent in an interesting question:

Which is more reliable? An electric strike, or an electrified panic bar?

In my experience, electric strikes are far more reliable than exit devices, or any surface mount hardware. This isn't to say that strikes are maintenance or trouble-free, but I've seen exit devices of all types nearly torn off doors due to normal wear & tear.

However, what do you think? If you had the option, which hardware would you recommend and why? Also, what specific reliability issues have you seen with strikes?


Here in a Canada, weather is always an issue with electric strikes and mag locks. We use rutherford controls and hes innovations for our product. I agree everything will fail eventually, but I think maintenance is a big factor in life of equipment. Being as doors ice here in the winter time, maintenance is definitely a big thing to keep in mind for us canucks. Also how often a door is used affects the life of product as well.

My preferences for electrified locking hardware are as follows (listed in order of preference) :

1- Electrified mortise lock (single doors)

2- Exit device with electrified trim (single or pairs of doors)

3- Exit device with electric latch retraction (single or pairs of doors)

4- Electric strike (single doors)

5- Surface-mounted electromagnetic lock (single or pairs of doors)

6- Shear-mounted electromagnetic lock (single or pairs of doors)

7- Electric bolts (single or pairs of doors)

My first preference is always to use an electrified lockset. I have found these to provide the highest level of security and to be the most reliable over time. I feel that adding an electric strike introduces another point of failure into the door's locking system and I only specify them in special cases, such as when a door has an automatic opener.

I feel that the proper installation of electrified locking hardware is a specialty in itself and beyond the skill set of most security/surveillance systems installers. In many cases, the wrong type of electric hardware is used on doors simply because the installer is ignorant of the full range of other options. For example, electromagnetic locks are overused by many integrators simply because they may be the only type of hardware that they feel comfortable installing.

I recommend that integrators who don't have qualified hardware installers on staff sub-contract that portion of the work to a qualified locksmith or electric hardware installation company.

Whats an electrified mortise lock. Isnt it the same as the strike?

Hello, Wassim:

No, an electrified mortise lock is different than an (mortise-style) 'electric strike'. The image below shows an example electrified mortise lock:

Hope that helps!

Thanks Brian,

The picture you post of this MORTISE LOCK, is that mounted onto the door (leaf)?

Yes sir, that is correct. There are some trim pieces missing from the example above. When installed, it looks similar to this:

Thanks Brian.

As for STRIKES, they simply go on the frame. The door (leaf) is not any different from a standard door, correct?

Hello Wassim:

The door leaf itself is a typical door, but the 'door prep', or the way the door is cut to accept a particular style of lock differs. See the image below for detail:

A standard leverset is a 'cylindrical' bored style lock, while mortise locks require a special pocket (cutout) in the door.

Electric strike is much more reliable than a panic bar. If a door is heavily used those panic bars can take a beating and the wiring gets loose or broken. We only use an electrified panic bar when we absolutely have to.

Being on the administration side, I have no comment but to agree with Michael where we would get a a qualified locksmith or electric hardware installation company involved early on. This fundamentals class will allow me to better converse on issues with the different individuals involved.

I also agree with Mr Silva on the hierarchy of door locks. The one thing that mortised locks have against them is adding them to a fire rated door. Any drilling of the door to run wire is a violation of the fire rating.

Electtric strikes, crashbars, might also require an antipick guard for additional security.

Scott is right, drilling through an existing fire-rated door to install wiring for an electrified lockset can void the door's fire rating. However, there are programs that allow for the field drilling of doors while at the same time maintaining the door's fire rating. One such program is called "Perfect Raceway." Installers who have received certification through this program can legally install electric hardware on fire-rated doors and apply a new fire-rating label.

Excellent feedback, everyone.

Mr. Silva: Have you taken a similar cert/course to PerfectRaceway? I know that Intertek has offered firedoor recertification programs in the past, but I am unclear on who/how often installers become certified. Can you share any details?


Since I just talk big and don't do any actual physical work :), I haven't personally taken a course of this type. However, several of the electric hardware installation specialists that work on my projects have taken the PerfectRaceway course and apply labels to doors on a regular basis.

In the Pacific Northwest where I do most of my work, inspectors are fairly rigorous about checking for labels so anyone who modifies doors regularly will eventually get caught. By the way, ratings apply to both doors and frames, so any modification of a frame (such as cutting in an electric strike) technically also requires require re-labeling.

Thanks for the insights, Mr. Silva!