Google and Amazon have both created amazing smart home platforms, but I don’t want to have anything to do with either of them. I don’t want them to have my data, and I don’t trust them to respect my privacy.
Since Google and Amazon aren’t smart home options for me, that leaves Apple HomeKit. HomeKit is an excellent platform, but it’s not as sophisticated as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Google and Amazon also have Apple beat on the number of products available for their platforms.
Even with HomeKit’s deficit in sophistication and available products, I’ve chosen to wait it out for the right HomeKit-enabled products. The Level Bolt is one of those products that was well worth the wait.
What is Level Bolt?
Level Bolt is a smart home lock that is similar to the Yale, Schlage, and August smart locks, but with one big difference. The Level Bolt is the only smart lock that doesn’t make you replace all of your deadbolt hardware.
The beauty of Level Bolt is that it works with all standard deadbolts. All you have to do is take off the outer plates and replace the internal locking mechanism with Level Bolt.
Once Level Bolt is installed, it can be used manually, as before, but can also be controlled using Apple’s Home app.
Installing Level Bolt
If you know how to install a deadbolt, then you know how to install a Level Bolt. First, you remove the outer plates, and then you remove the internal locking mechanism. Next, you insert the Level Bolt hardware and then reattach the outer plates. It’s that simple!
If you installed it correctly, you should be able to use the deadbolt as you did before. To make the magic happen, you have to install the battery. Level Bolt makes adding and changing out the battery incredibly easy. Lock the bolt to extend it from the door and unscrew the end cap.
After you insert the battery, install and open the Level Home app and follow the setup instructions. There’s a good chance the lock will need a firmware update like mine did. The app will automatically update it for you, and it only takes about 1-2 minutes.
The final step is to add it to the Home app so you can remotely control it and create an automation. You will need to scan the HomeKit code, which can be found on the back of the Quick Start guide that came with the packaging.
Using Level Bolt with HomeKit
The Level Bolt can be controlled and managed using the Level Home app, but the purpose of getting a HomeKit compatible smart lock is to use it with Apple’s Home app, so I’m only going to review using that.
Virtual lock switch
The Level Bolt virtual switches are available on the main screen in the Home app. Unlocking and locking a door in iOS 16 is as simple as tapping the lock button and sliding the toggle.
Since the Level Bolt works with HomeKit, it can also be controlled via Siri. For example, I can unlock my back door by telling Siri, “Hey Siri, unlock the Back Door.”
Automating Level Bolt
Remote controlling deadbolts is cool, but using HomeKit automation with them is even cooler. If you take advantage of location tracking, you can automatically have the deadbolts lock when you leave. You can also have them unlock when you arrive and then auto-lock soon after that.
The automation that I use is time-based. Sometimes we forget to lock the front or back door at night. The Level Bolt, coupled with automation, fixes that. I set an automation that locks the front and back door at a specific time in the evening if they aren’t already locked, and so far, it’s worked perfectly.
When you add Level Bolt to the Home app, it turns on notifications by default. It will tell you each time one of your locks is unlocked or locked. That includes when people manually lock or unlock it. It can get annoying quickly, especially when you share the Home app with your family, and it notifies all of them.
Fortunately, the Home app provides the ability only to notify you during certain times. For example, you can set it to only notify you during the hours you typically sleep. That way, you can be notified if someone has compromised the lock, or if one of your kids is trying to sneak out of the house.
Matter and Thread support
As reported by Nathan Edwards in The Verge, the Level Bolt has
had hardware support for Thread this whole time and will soon be updated to support Matter over Thread.
That update means that Level’s locks will no longer be limited to Apple Home and Ring. As long as you have a Thread border router, they’ll work with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, and any other Matter-compatible smart home controller.Nathan Edwards, Level locks had a secret Thread radio this whole time via The Verge
Should you buy a Level Bolt?
If you are committed to the HomeKit platform like I am, and you’ve been waiting for the perfect smart lock, the Level Bolt is about as good as it gets. I’m giving it a 4.6 out of 5 because the build quality is high, it’s easy to install and maintain, I get to keep my existing hardware, and it does everything I need it to do with the Home app. The only downside to Level Bolt is the price. It retails for $199, but I still think it’s well worth it. Especially with the peace of mind it brings me at night when it automatically locks my doors.
Level Bolt can be purchased directly from their site at level.co or from Amazon.com.
Updated November 3, 2022, to include a section about Level’s retroactive update for Bolt that supports Matter over Thread.