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Guide to Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging at Home

Summary

 

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more common and affordable every year. For many car owners, an EV makes practical and economic sense. Adding a charging station to your home lets you get the most out of your vehicle. This article looks at the basics of EVs, and examines the different types of chargers, installation decisions, and provides some criteria to help you pick a charger that meets your needs.

Guide to Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging at Home

There’s a shift taking place in where Americans get their energy from, and in how we use energy. The proportion of renewable energy in our electrical grid has increased over 100 percent since the year 2000, and renewable energy, like wind and solar, now make up 17% of electrical generation. And that number is rising fast. It’s projected that solar electricity generation will increase to nearly half of the renewable energy produced in the US by the year 2050, up from around 10% now.

Along with the shift towards renewable energy in our electrical grid, there’s a shift taking place in how we consume energy. One of the most significant changes is in the use of electric vehicles. Over one million electric vehicles (EVs) are on the road now in the United States, and the number is projected to increase to nearly 20 million by the year 2030. With this shift in vehicle energy use will come changes in the infrastructure necessary to keep these cars on the road. In particular, there will be a great need for homes equipped with EV charging stations to quickly and safely charge up their batteries.

EV Chargers

Common Questions About EVs

Making the change from conventional gas and diesel vehicles to electric cars may seem like a big jump. And you can be forgiven for having a lot of basic questions about how well an electric vehicle will match your lifestyle. Let’s examine some of the common questions about EVs.

Is it more expensive to operate an electric vehicle?

Most American households spend about 20% of their income on transportation-related costs, with a big slice of that amount going towards fuel. And you know how much that amount can vary depending upon the cost of fuel at the pump. The cost of electricity is much more stable, and the US Department of Energy estimates that the cost of an eGallon (the electrical equivalent of a gallon of gasoline) is about one-half the cost of gasoline. You can lock in even more savings if you charge your EV on off-peak times, like at night.

How far can I drive with an EV?

That will vary, depending upon the vehicle. However, EV range is improving with each new generation of vehicles. The average electric car will need to be recharged every 100-150 miles, although some models have ranges exceeding 300 miles or more. If that range concerns you, consider that most Americans drive less than 30 miles per day, making an EV a practical choice for almost all applications.

How long does it take to charge an EV?

Charging time depends on the size of the vehicle’s battery, the current level of battery charge, and the speed of the charging point. There are three basic kinds of chargers: 110-volt, 220-volt, and high-voltage rapid chargers. The first two are used in home applications, with rapid chargers requiring a more robust electric infrastructure and are found in public and commercial locations.

To generalize, most owners won’t need to charge their EV fully each day, so topping up using a basic 110-volt charging station might be all you need. With 110-volt chargers, it could take 14-20 hours to get a full charge on an empty battery. But if your usage is heavier, you may want to take advantage of faster charging options. 220-volt chargers can fully charge most vehicles in a shorter time, ranging from 4-8 hours. We’ll discuss home charging in much more detail later on.

How about maintenance?

All-electric vehicles require quite a bit less maintenance than conventional gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. The electric drive, battery, and electronics require little scheduled maintenance, and you don’t need to worry about fluids like oil, with the associated filters and fluid lines.

Will I need to replace the batteries eventually?

If you’ve experienced the gradual deterioration of your smartphone’s battery, you can be forgiven for worrying about how long the battery pack in an EV will last. And, granted, replacing the battery pack in an EV can be an expensive proposition.

Real-life experience has shown that there’s not much to worry about. Most EVs will lose a very small percentage of their battery capacity over the lifespan of their vehicle, and most EVs come with specific warranties to protect you from premature battery failure.

Doing the Math

It seems clear then, that there are some real advantages to going electric. The final piece of the puzzle is the financial equation. Early electric vehicles were priced at a premium, and the impression that they’re a toy for the wealthy has stuck to EVs to some extent. But when we crunch the numbers the picture looks pretty positive.

  • EVs are affordable to run. As we noted earlier, the cost of an eGallon is about one-half that of gasoline. That means you don’t have to pay as much to keep “fueled up,” whether it’s at a pump or a plug. In fact, myev.com estimates the average driver will save $4000-5000 in running costs over five years.
  • Prices are coming down. Tesla’s affordable Model 3 has gotten a lot of buzz, but more manufacturers are producing affordable EVs, including the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt. And there are tax incentives in place for people to buy electric EVs. It’s also worth considering that an increasing number of EVs are entering the used car market as well.

But what about the cost of adding a charging station to your home? There’s good news there, too.

Earn a tax credit when you install a home charging station

Home charging stations that allow faster charging usually cost in the $500-1000 range, not including installation. That’s an extra cost that you’ve got to factor into the EV equation if you want the most convenient and seamless EV experience. But there’s good news available, in the form of a bill passed by Congress in 2019.

Consumers who purchase qualified residential fueling equipment prior to December 31, 2020, may receive a tax credit as follows:

  • Home and business owners receive a 30% tax credit for EV charging hardware and installation.
  • Homeowners can claim a credit of up to $1000.
  • Business owners can claim a credit of up to $30,000.

Best of all the credits are retroactive back to 2017. So if you were an early adopter, you’ve got a tax credit waiting for you. To find out more, talk to your tax professional, or take a look at this information from the US Department of Energy.

Types of Home Charging Stations

If you’re going to invest in an EV, you’ll probably want to install a home charging station. The ability to quickly charge your car at home adds more utility to your purchase and lets you quickly top off the batteries each day when you’re home. We’ll look at the different types of chargers, installation decisions, and give you some guides to help you pick a charger that meets your needs.

EVSE levels

We’ve talked about charging stations and chargers so far, but the actual terminology for what you’ll install in your home is EVSE — Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment. For purposes of simplicity, we’ll consider terms like “charging station” or “charger” to be the same as EVSE. There are two types of EVSE you can use in your home, Level 1 EVSE and Level 2 EVSE.

  • Level 1 EVSE equipment is the simplest to use, and they are usually provided with an EV when you purchase it. A simple Level 1 charger will have a male, three-pronged 110-volt plug on one end and the vehicle-specific plug on the other. To use it, you simply plug it into a convenient wall outlet and then plug it into your car. Level 1 is convenient and easy to use, but the slowest option available. If you only need to top off your battery Level 1 may be fine, but if your battery is nearly empty a Level 1 system may take 14-20 hours to provide a full charge.
  • Level 2 EVSE provides a much faster charge, but this equipment requires a dedicated 220-volt electrical supply. Most homes are only equipped with one or two of these outlets, usually for a clothes dryer and an electric range, so if you want to hardwire the charger you’ll need to have a circuit added and wiring run to the location where you plan on installing the charging station. The benefit of a Level 2 system is speed. Most vehicles will fully charge in 6-8 hours from a fully-discharged state with a Level 2 charging system.
  • Level 3 EVSE is designed for fast charging at commercial locations. Level 3 systems require a 440-volt DC power supply and aren’t an option for home use. .

How fast a charger do I need?

As noted, Level 2 chargers are significantly faster than Level 1 units. You should evaluate your specific needs when deciding whether you need to invest in the extra expense of a Level 2 charger. Consider these questions:

 

  • Will you require fast recharges? Think of your EV like your smartphone. Most people are fine with plugging in their smartphones overnight to top off the battery. Others need much more frequent recharging for their device because they use it more frequently. If you make short daily trips, a Level 1 charger may be more than adequate. If you have long commutes and make frequent trips throughout the day a Level 2 device might better serve your needs.
  • Does your EV have a large battery capacity? Cars with a longer range have larger batteries and require more charging time. A faster charger may be more convenient for you in that case.
  • Planning on more than one EV? If your household will have more than one EV you might be able to get along fine with a single high-speed charger, rather than two slower units.

Installing a Home Charging Station

Level 1 chargers will work in virtually any home that has a standard electrical system. Level 2 charging stations have more specific requirements. It’s important to evaluate your home’s readiness for a Level 2 charger.

 

  • Inspect your power panel. Your electrical panel must have the capacity to handle the current requirements of a Level 2 charger. Most newer homes have 100-amp systems, which are adequate, but many older homes may have panels with lower capacity. Consult with an electrician if you’re uncertain of your home’s electrical system capacity.
  • Evaluate your power usage. Even if your power panel has a high capacity, you should audit the power use of your home to make sure that you don’t overload it. A Level 2 charger will draw between 30 to 50 amps, which is a large added strain on your home’s electrical system. This Department of Energy guide has a useful explanation for how to conduct your evaluation and estimate your normal power use.
  • Consult a qualified electrician. Even if you’re certain that your home’s electrical system is up to the task, consult with an electrician or electrical contractor before you decide on the charger you want to install in your home.

Plug-in or hardwired?

Hardwired charging stations are a cleaner installation — there’s no need to worry about finding an outlet to plug into. And if you’re using a Level 2 charger you’ll need to plug into an existing 220-volt outlet, which may already be in use, or have a new outlet installed. One significant advantage of a plug-in charger is that you can take it with you. If you travel a lot for extended stays, like to a vacation home or to visit a family member, you may find it useful to take your charger with you, especially if you can tap into a 220-volt outlet at the location you’re going to visit.

Where should I install my charger?

The best location of your charging station depends on several factors, including access to existing wiring, convenience, and more. Let’s examine some useful parameters.

  • Consider how much wiring you may need to run.  If you’re installing a Level 2 charger you’ll most likely need extra wiring installed. If you place the charger in a location where it’s difficult to route the wiring back to your home’s power panel, you may end up with significantly higher installation costs. .
  • How long is the cable of the charging station?  Be sure to check the length of the cable that comes with the charging station when you’re shopping. A charger with a long cable will give you more options for where you can install it.
  • Indoor or outdoor? You don’t have to limit yourself to installing a charger in the garage. Many home chargers are rated for indoor and outdoor installation. You may find that putting the charger outside works to your advantage. Be flexible!
  • Where’s the charging port on your car? It seems a silly question, but if you’ve decided to install the charger on the right side of your garage and the car’s charging port is on the left, you’ll have some extra work to do when you plug in. Of course, you can’t guarantee where the port will be on subsequent purchases, but you might as well step off on the right foot.

Can I DIY?

A Level 1 system is a pretty simple install if you’re plugging it into an existing wall outlet. Your only concern is locating the wall unit near a plug and installing it on the wall. Some Level 1 units can be hardwired into your home’s existing wiring so a plug isn’t required. If you’re not completely confident in your ability to do this job, you should hire a qualified electrician.

Level 2 systems can present many more complications. As we noted earlier, Level 2 EVSE uses 220-volt power, and you’ll need to add a completely new 220-volt circuit. This work is best left to a qualified electrician who’s up to speed on existing codes and can do the job safely.

Can I use solar panels with my charger?

Absolutely! You can install solar panels that are dedicated to supplying power to your charging station. Or, if you already have solar panels, you can tie into your home’s inverter to provide power. Once you’ve accounted for the cost of the panels, inverter and charger, your power is then free. Of course, if you plan on primarily charging your car overnight, a dedicated solar charger may not be a wise investment. 

How fast a charger do I need?

Hardwired charging stations are a cleaner installation — there’s no need to worry about finding an outlet to plug into. And if you’re using a Level 2 charger you’ll need to plug into an existing 220-volt outlet, which may already be in use, or have a new outlet installed. One significant advantage of a plug-in charger is that you can take it with you. If you travel a lot for extended stays, like to a vacation home or to visit a family member, you may find it useful to take your charger with you, especially if you can tap into a 220-volt outlet at the location you’re going to visit.

 

Selecting a Home EV Charger

ev charger

Now that you’ve considered all of these issues, you’re probably ready to start shopping for a home EV charging station. Now the fun begins! While the simplest chargers aren’t much more complicated than an extension cord, there are plenty of features you can look for that will make your charging station work better and smarter for you. Besides, there are issues of capacity and safety that you should consider.

EV chargers and smart features

 

Maybe you already have a smart device in your home, like a programmable thermostat. If so, you’ve experienced the convenience these devices offer. Many charging stations now provide similar features. Here are a few examples of what a smart charger will allow you to do.

 

  • Set a charging schedule.  Smart chargers let you schedule when your charger turns on and shuts off. That’s useful if you can take advantage of lower off-peak electric pricing.
  • Monitor your charger from a distance.  With a smart Wi-Fi connected charger, you can monitor charging activity from your smartphone.
  • Review your charging data.  Most smart chargers keep a record of your charging activity. Using the charger’s phone app, you can review charging times, costs, and more.

Cable length

You want to be certain you’ve got enough cable to reach your vehicle, of course. But a longer cable will provide more flexibility, especially if you have two EVs, or you want to have the option of letting a friend plug in their car when they’re visiting.

Amperage

Not all charging stations refresh your EV’s battery at the same speed, even if they’re the same level of charger. The difference is in the amperage. Chargers with a higher amperage rating can handle more current, so your car will charge faster. For example, a Level 2 charger with a 30-amp rating may provide about 25-30 miles of range per charging hour, while a 50-amp charger may boost that up to over 35 miles per hour. Check your vehicle’s specs to see how high an amperage it can handle.

Safety and efficiency

Adding a major electrical appliance to your home isn’t something you want to do on the cheap. Research the chargers you’re considering and see if they are UL rated for safety. And look for Energy Star certifications to identify the most efficient chargers.

When it’s time to have a charger installed, be sure to hire a contractor whose workers are licensed, insured, and specially trained in EV charging station installations.

Money savings

While there is an upfront cost to purchasing a charger and having it installed, you’ll more than make up the expense by your savings on fuel. And you can save money by taking advantage of tax credits and choosing smart chargers that allow you to schedule your charging during times when electricity costs are lower.

The bottom line

You’ll find plenty of options when you start shopping for a home charging station for your electric vehicle. Keep in mind the key points we’ve discussed here and you’ll be sure to make a smart choice. 

 

It’s an Exciting New World for EVs

EVs are here to stay. More and more are taking to the road, and the infrastructure for charging on the go is becoming more extensive and robust every day. If you’re considering making the switch to an electric vehicle, it’s an exciting time.

With the addition of an efficient home charging station, an electric car becomes an even more useful tool. Choose the charger that’s right for your needs and you’ll keep your car charged and ready to go at the lowest possible cost in the shortest possible amount of time.

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY: TEAM ENOCH

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY: TEAM ENOCH

(817) 888-8880 | mail[at]teamenoch.com

Team Enoch provides electrical, plumbing, roofing and HVAC services to residential and commercial customers in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metro with an emphasis on value (service price, quality).

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