Cody Horchak 5 min read

Retrofitting Access Control Part 1: The Real Pain of Pricing

This is part 1 of a daily series on challenging conventions in the access control world and retrofitting our perspective on what’s best for people, businesses, buildings, and the world. Stay tuned for part 2 on time coming tomorrow. 


Access control is one of the most important components of building management and operation. It influences security, user experience, building optimization, and more. So when the time comes to implement a new system, owners and operators are faced with a critical question: should they completely replace what they have, or try to modernize their outdated system? 

There are a lot of important considerations when making this decision that I’ll be covering over the coming weeks. The first is one of the biggest, most top-of-mind factors for property and portfolio owners: cost.

In this case, the bottom line is your bottom line.

The Acute Pain of Access Control System Pricing 

For a frame of reference, a typical new entry system with a reader activated by a magnetic card or fob will typically cost from $1500-$2500 per door, according to VIZpin. New fobs and key cards and the like can cost $3-7 each and have to be regularly replaced as they’re lost or damaged.

That’s a staggering cost, especially for buildings and portfolios with multiple access points and tenants, guests, or employees. It’s no wonder Allied Market Research estimated the global sensor market will reach $345.77 billion by 2028.  

It gets worse. There’s a lot of hard-to-quantify yet very real costs from the disruption of an installation or rip-and-replace approach. Unhappy customers and tenants who temporarily lose access, lost revenue from facilities that have to be briefly closed, heavier demands on security and support staff through the turnover, permitting, and licensing fees — the list goes on. 

Modernizing at a Fraction of the Cost 

Given the intimidating price tag attached to getting a new access control system installed, it’s no wonder many owners and operators prefer to keep pushing back updates to their access control systems, even if it means preserving a stone-age ingress and egress experience in otherwise cutting-edge buildings.

Fortunately, it’s no longer necessary to buy a brand-new set of hardware and software and painstakingly replace your old system just to enable modern essentials like mobile access and biometric credential validation. 

Innovative retrofit access control solutions can renovate your aging system into a cutting-edge access experience with minimal costs and disruptions. Instead of thousands of dollars per door, a retrofit update can cost less than $100 and eliminate the ongoing money pit of fobs and magnetic keys by replacing them with digital credentials stored on a mobile device. A retrofit install occurs on a timeline of minutes — not days or weeks — meaning you and your tenants can get back to business faster.

Why Access Control Is Uniquely Perfect for Cost-Effective Retrofit 

Not all equipment is cost-effective to retrofit. You can only maintain a car for so long before the wear and tear make it more expensive to keep than to replace. A coat can only be patched so many times before it’s literally coming apart at the seams and failing to keep you warm anyway, at which point your efforts are better spent getting a new one.

This isn’t true in the world of access control; at least, not nearly to the same extent. Most access control components experience relatively little wear and tear, and their job is usually a simple one. If they can be effectively repurposed and made ‘smart,’ they can continue doing that simple mission for quite a while and even learn some new tricks. This is one area where it can definitely be more cost-effective to keep what you have and get only what you need. Want to learn even more about the true potential of retrofit access control systems? Zerv has you covered.