Setting Up Home Charging
If you’re considering an electric or plug-in hybrid as your next vehicle, probably the most complicated part of the process will be figuring out home charging. Unlike a gasoline vehicle, you can’t just drive your EV off the lot and charge it up anywhere; you’re going to want to be prepared. And you’ll have the best experience if you are already set up to charge at home by the time you take delivery.
Fortunately, once you know what steps are needed, it’s easy to set up home charging – and we’re here to help.
Choose Your Car
Before you determine what kind of charger you are going to install at your home, you should have an idea of what kind of plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle you plan to purchase. The size of the vehicle’s battery will help determine what specifications are needed of the charger you will require.
For instance, a plug-in hybrid may have a battery that is 15 kWh or less, meaning that a Level 2 home charger can charge at 3 kW and have more than enough time to fill the battery overnight. On the other hand, if you are choosing an electric vehicle with a 100-kWh battery, you will want a faster charger, which can charge at 7.2 to 9.6 kW or more – ensuring you can top off your battery even if it’s at a very low charge. The GreenCars Buyer’s Guide is a useful tool to determine which vehicle is best for your needs.
Choose Your Charger
Once you know which vehicle you plan to purchase – or at least have narrowed it down to a few options -- you can start to investigate the charger you will install at home. Most electric vehicles come standard with a charger in the trunk that can plug into a 220-volt “dryer plug” like, well, your clothes dryer is plugged into. This will typically charge the vehicle at the fastest rate possible with Level 2 charging.
However, for more convenience – and to ensure that you can charge on the road in a pinch – you may want to leave the standard charger in the vehicle so it can travel with you and install a charger at home.
The easiest choice is to ask your dealer to order you a duplicate of the same charger that comes with the vehicle. The manufacturer-branded charger may come with additional features specific to the car including a smartphone app that lets you monitor the state of charge, setting a timer, and other functions. On the other hand, it will likely be your most expensive option.
For optimal performance and convenience, the home charger you choose should charge at the same rate as the charger that comes with the car. If the car comes with a 9.6-kW charger, look for a home charger that can also deliver 9.6 kW – which will then determine the amperage required to support it in your garage or driveway. A 9.6-kW charger, for instance, might require a 40-amp connection at your home, while a 5.8-kW charger may only require 24 amps.
At GreenCars, we make choosing a vehicle charger easy. We have a catalog of popular chargers right here on our website which are compatible with most of the plug-in hybrids and EVs on the market.
Find an Electrician
Unless you are an electrician yourself, you’re going to need to find an electrician to check your home’s infrastructure and install any upgrades required to support vehicle charging. If you have a newer home with a 100-amp or 200-amp electrical panel, you may already have enough juice to support EV charging – and if you’re lucky, you might even have a 220-volt dryer plug in your garage or by your driveway. If you live in an older home with an older electrical panel, you may need to make upgrades before you install a charger.
Once you have chosen the vehicle you want to purchase, it’s best to start the process of assessing and preparing your home right away. Fortunately, we have a useful tool to look up qualified electricians right here on GreenCars. Locate an electrician in your area and book a home assessment, which will typically take an hour or two.
The electrician will let you know if your home is ready to accept an EV charger or what upgrades might be required in order to support the charging you need. You will get a written estimate, and the electrician will return to perform the installation. If you have already chosen a charger, in addition to installing any necessary upgrades and the actual plug, the electrician can also mount the charger on the wall of your garage or side of your home.
How Much Will It Cost?
If you have a new home that requires no electrical upgrades, you might luck out and just must install the charger itself and plug it in. On the other hand, if you own an older home where the charger is a long distance from your electrical panel, you might spend thousands of dollars upgrading your panel and running new cabling to the charger’s location. This is why it is important to start the process of assessing your home before committing to an electric car.
The Cost of Home Charging
Like other commodities, electricity is priced at the intersection of a supply and demand curve. When demand decreases, the cost of electricity is reduced. When demand increases, so does the cost of electricity. The best time to charge an electric car is typically at night, when most people are sleeping – which is convenient because you’re probably sleeping too!
Because they provide the power, electric utilities want you buying an electric car and want you charging it at home. As such, some utilities will provide special electric car rates. These rates are only for customers with electric cars and can reduce the cost of charging as well as the total cost of home electricity.
Some utilities also offer a time of use (TOU) plan, allowing customers to take advantage of reduced rates at certain times – often at night. TOU rates are not specific to EV owners and, therefore, anyone can take advantage of the reduced rates. Many electric cars and many Level 2 chargers can be programmed to charge an electric car during the reduced-rate times. This means you can take advantage of reduced costs without having to remember when to plug in.
Charge and Drive
Now that you’ve prepared your home to charge your electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, you’re ready to take advantage of the best that electric motoring has to offer.
Drive your car, and when you get home at night, plug it in – and you’ll be ready to go the next day with a full “tank” of electrons. You’ll be doing your part for the environment, and if you’ve chosen an electric vehicle, you’ll never need to visit a gas station again!