What Do You Need To Charge An Electric Car At Home?

By automotive-mag.com 6 Min Read

With the nation’s network of public electric vehicle charging site still a bit limited, most electric car owners charge their rides at home. At-home charging is the cheapest and most preferred method if possible. 

All EVs come with a means to be connected to the power grid. Technically speaking, the charging station that converts AC house current into DC electricity is built into the vehicle. Most models include a basic 110-volt charging unit that plugs into a standard electric outlet via a conventional three-prong plug.

This is called Level 1 charging, and assuming you already have basic electric service in your garage, it’s the cheapest way to go. Unfortunately, it’s also the slowest. Depending on the vehicle and its battery capacity, it can take anywhere from eight to well over 24 hours to bring the battery up to a full charge.

A better choice is to spend a few hundred dollars to have an electrician install a dedicated 240-volt circuit—like those used for an electric clothes dryer—to take advantage of what’s called Level 2 charging. This can replenish a depleted battery in four to 12 hours. You’ll also need to purchase an external Level 2 charging unit, which is also called the electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE).

Level 2 charging systems come in two basic varieties, plug-in portable and wall-mounted units that are hard-wired directly to a home’s electric service. If you don’t have a closed garage and you’ll be charging the vehicle outside, local codes may require a fixed-mount unit. Otherwise, a portable charger requires no professional installation, assuming you’ve added the 240-volt service line. This type can come in handy if you own two homes or will be staying with friends or family in another town and want to take the unit along for charging at your destination.

A good-quality home charger can cost between $400 and $700. If you choose a wall-mounted unit, expect to pay several hundred dollars more for installation, depending on local labor rates and permit costs.

If you’re buying an EV, make sure the power outlet or wall-mounted charging station will be located within close proximity to your vehicle’s connecting port. Charger cables usually run from around 15 to 25 feet in length, but that may not be sufficient or desirable if the car’s port is located on the opposite end of the garage from the available power source. You may have to have an electrician extend the service closer to your car’s charging port if that’s the case.

Home Charging Stations

Popular brands of EVSEs include ClipperCreek, Siemens, JuiceBox, Emporia, Wallbox, Autel, Grizzl-E, Tesla and ChargePoint. An online search can help you find a unit that comes with the features and power output that meet both your needs and budget. Or better yet, check out our comprehensive list of the “Best Electric Car Chargers Of 2024” to find out which units we recommend.

Experts suggest buying an EVSE that can produce at least 30 amps of power. Generally speaking, this type of unit would be able to add around 30 miles of operating range to a given battery pack per hour. Some EVs can get along with fewer amps, but buying more capability than you may need today makes the installation “future-proof” should you eventually trade in the vehicle for a model that can handle the added capacity. However, if you’re planning on using a 30-amp unit you may need to upgrade the line’s circuit breaker to one that’s rated for at least 40 amps.

As with many other types of electronic devices these days, you can buy a “smart” EV charging unit that includes Wi-Fi connectivity. While this adds cost and complexity to what’s otherwise a plug-and-play device, choosing a smart charger adds a layer of convenience. These units allow an owner to use his or her smartphone to monitor charging, and how much energy the vehicle is using to help gauge running costs. Some smart chargers can communicate with your power company to only charge at off-peak times for discounted rates and even receive commands via Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant.

Finally, only consider charging units that have been tested and certified for safety by an independent source like Underwriters Laboratory (UL). And if you’re having a charger installed outdoors, make sure it’s rated for that purpose.

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