There is one must-have appliance for any electric vehicle (EV) owner — and anyone intent on getting an EV soon. A home charger is simply the most convenient way to keep your battery topped up.
EV charger installation isn’t always straightforward and can even require equipment upgrades, so we asked an electrician to answer the common questions of first-time buyers.
Home chargers will soon be commonplace
If EV sales continue their upward trend, the intricacies of Level 2 EV chargers are likely to become common knowledge. Parents will teach their children about 240-volt circuits, and your grandkids will wonder how you ever got by with an EV that accepted a maximum charge rate of just 28 amps.
But as it stands, you are among the first generation of people who have the option to refuel their cars at home, so we’ve gathered some information to help you as you head into mostly uncharted waters. According to Kyle T. Roberts, general contractor and owner of Bay Area alternative energy installation company PAS Inc, most people don’t know where to start. Some already have the charger in hand, but don’t have the skillset to install it. Others just want to go on vacation and find a freshly installed EV charger upon their return. “Most people don’t even know where to go to put in a 50-amp charger or anything to do with electrical,” says Roberts. “I think it’s important that people understand that it’s not a DIY project.”
Hire an expert
That’s why hiring an electrician or certified installer to help oversee the project is a no-brainer. These professionals are familiar with all local electrical codes and guarantee an aesthetically pleasing, trouble-free, and most importantly, safe EV charger installation.
Here’s what to expect: After a quick initial phone call, the installer will ask you to send them information about your home’s electrical panel and desired installation spot. They may require a site visit, and by the following week you should receive a proposal. The installer is simultaneously keeping a record of the project, which will be sent to the permitting office — in California, for example, Roberts says that any work exceeding $700 has to receive a state permit — and finally your installation date can be scheduled. Installers are in high demand these days, and Roberts estimates that the entire process can take two to four weeks.
Service panel requirements
Think of your service panel as the electrical nerve center of your home. The main obstacle to overcome when installing an EV charger at home involves getting a large amount of power channeled from your service panel to the Level 2 charger, which demands double the typical 120 volts and 15 or 20 amps of electricity supplied to nearly every home outlet.
With Level 2 charging, a 240-volt power supply is non-negotiable, but the amperage is flexible. For instance, if you have an EV that accepts a maximum of 32 amps during charging (like most EVs on the road), and you’re not planning on trading it in for a newer model anytime soon, having an electrician install a 32-amp charging station with the corresponding 40-amp circuit breaker could save you some money. Why a 40-amp breaker? Circuits should never be used to full capacity, as per national standards.
CNET recommends most people opt for a home EV charger that delivers at least 40 amps of power, because even as technology improves and vehicles accept more power during charging, 40 amps provides an ideal amount of energy for productive overnight charging sessions. Eight hours of charging at this rate will add over 300 miles of range to your EV battery.
How charger output affects the rate of charge
|Amps||Kilowatts||Miles of range added per hour (approximate)|
|40||9.6||38 (if supported by vehicle)|
|48||11.52||46 (if supported by vehicle)|
|80||19.2||77 (if supported by vehicle)|
What will happen on installation day?
When the licensed installer arrives to wire in your new EV charging station, the scope of the work will determine how long it takes and whether your home will be disconnected from the grid for a while. If your service panel needs to be replaced with one that’s more robust, Roberts notes that power will be shut off for the day. But if your current panel was okayed, wiring in the EV charger is a four-hour job.
A home EV charger can be hardwired or plugged into a special outlet (like the kind you would use for a dryer). “The plug-ins are harder because you have to make sure you match the charger,” says Roberts, referencing the various types of 240V plugs on the market. “We hardwire for a clean look.” Ultimately, the decision is made based on photos and information sent during the initial consultation that the contractor uses to determine which installation options are in sync with local code.
Many chargers can also safely be installed outdoors, if that’s where you plan on recharging most of the time. Just take some quick measurements to verify that the charging cable is long enough to suit your situation. Finally, when all is said and done, don’t forget to check for tax rebates and other incentives that may apply to you. You can claim 30 percent of the installation cost on your federal taxes, and a similar credit on your state return if applicable. This online database can help you determine which incentives are available in your area.
Installing an EV charger at home is the only way to ditch the hassles of regularly visiting a refueling station. You’ll have your own private station, removing any anxiety associated with searching for open public facilities, and with an EV that charges while you sleep, you’ll always be ready to hit the road. By choosing a smart charger with scheduled charging capabilities, you can plug in at times that coincide with economical time-of-use rates and save money with every session.
According to Roberts, installing an EV charger at home is the right thing for any EV owner to do. “The sooner you contact somebody, the sooner you can get scheduled.”