GreenCars 101

Everything You Need to Know About Home EV Chargers

Chad Yee
Apr 2024
Many of the greatest benefits of owning and driving an electric car are maximized when you can charge at home. In this article, we share some tips on how to find the perfect home charger for your EV – and ensure it is installed safely.
Home Charger getting installed

Which EV Charger Should I Buy?

You’ve just put down a deposit on your first electric vehicle (EV) and can’t wait until you take delivery. Now you just need to figure out where and how you’re going to charge it.

If you have the option of installing a Level 2 home charger, it can easily be one of the best investments you can make as an EV owner. Whether you have a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), 80-90% of your charging will likely be done at home.

With so many brands, price ranges, specs, and features for home chargers, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Here are some tips on what to look for in an EV home charger.

close-up of EV charger next to outlet

Why You Should Consider Level 2 Charging

Let’s first go over the two different levels of charging that are available at your home.

Level 1 charging uses a standard 110-volt AC outlet that you commonly use around your home. This is the slowest level of charging available and can add 1-2 kW of energy to your vehicle per hour. In a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) like the Hyundai IONIQ 5 with a 77.4-kWh battery, it can take a few days to charge from completely empty to completely full. In some cases, your vehicle may come equipped with a Level 1 charging cable that you just need to plug in to your standard household outlet.

Level 2 charging uses a 240-volt AC outlet or circuit, similar to what is used for an electric stove or dryer. All home EV chargers use Level 2 charging. The higher voltage allows for more power to be delivered to your EV in a shorter period of time than a Level 1 charger. A Level 2 charger can add around 7-10 kW of energy to your vehicle per hour. The same Hyundai IONIQ 5 can take around seven hours to charge from completely empty to completely full.

If you drive a plug-in hybrid vehicle, a Level 1 charger may be sufficient for your needs, depending on the size of the battery or mileage, bur if you have a battery-electric vehicle, a Level 2 charger is a much better choice.

How Much Does a Home Charger Cost?

Before you start shopping for a home charger, it’s best to first understand how you use your EV and your budget.

Take note of your average daily mileage as well as the battery level (state of charge) when you arrive back home. If you’re like many Americans, your daily round-trip commute may only be around 40 miles. With a relatively short commute, you’ll likely return home with a relatively high state of charge. In fact, you may be able to go days without draining the battery completely and needing to charge. However, if you have a longer commute, like 100 or more miles daily. or drive more on the highway, you might arrive back home with a lower state of charge and need to charge your EV more frequently.

Understanding how often you need to charge will help determine the type of home charger needed for your daily commute. Remember that you only need to charge to replace what you’ve used during the day. Depending on your driving, you might not deplete the battery completely each day.

Home charger units vary in cost. They can be as little as $200 to a over $1,000, depending on the brand, capability, and features. Don’t forget that you’ll need to budget for installation costs, which can vary greatly depending on your home’s electrical system and where you want the charger located.

For example, installation costs can be minimal if you already have a dedicated 240-volt circuit in your garage. In contrast, installation costs can be significantly higher if you need to upgrade your home’s entire electrical system. Hire a licensed electrical contractor to perform a load calculation to see if your home can support a dedicated circuit for your home charger. They can also determine what’s needed to install the charger at your desired location.

free2move EV charger plugged into car

Wi-Fi Smart Chargers

Many chargers are Smart or Wi-Fi-enabled. They allows you to control certain charger functions through a mobile app that’s installed on your smartphone or tablet.

Depending on the charger, you can start or stop the charge remotely, schedule a time to start and stop the charging, monitor the battery’s state of charge and energy flow, and monitor the time remaining to a full battery charge. Some smart chargers allow for firmware updates and repair diagnostics for servicing. Virtual assistant enabled chargers allow you to control certain functions using Alexa or the Google Assistant.

If you own a newer EV model, you might not need a smart charger. Many modern EVs allow you to control charging functions and monitor the charging status either through the vehicle itself or through the vehicle’s mobile app.

For example, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 can come equipped with Hyundai’s Bluelink connected vehicle system, which allows you to control and monitor your charging functions from the Hyundai app. That said, some smart chargers offer connectivity features that a vehicle may not. It's always best to compare the vehicle’s connectivity features with a smart charger to determine the smart features that you want.

Understanding Charger Amperage

Home chargers come in different amperage (A) ratings, which helps determine how much power can be delivered to your EV. You’ll likely come across chargers in 30A, 40A, 48A, 60A, or even 80A. Some chargers have an adjustable current feature that allows you to adjust the amperage. What’s the right amperage for you?

The maximum amperage will be dictated by:

  1. The maximum amount of AC energy that your EV can accept
  2. Your home’s electrical system

Not all EVs can accept the same amount of electrical power, which determines the rate at which they charge. The amount of AC electrical energy that each EV can accept is limited by its onboard AC charging system.

For example, a Toyota BZ4X battery-electric can accept up to 6.6kW (28A). Whereas a Hyundai IONIQ 5 battery-electric can accept up to 11kW (48A). If you charge each vehicle with a 30A charger, the BZ4X will be charge at its maximum rate. The IONIQ 5 can still charge with the 30A charger, but it’s capable of charging at a higher rate since it can accept up to 48A.

If you charge each vehicle with a 48A charger, the BZ4X will not charge any faster since it’s capped at 28A, while the IONIQ 5 will charge faster since it can charge up to 48A. Find a charger with an amperage that best fits your EV’s capability.

With that in mind, most people won’t need to charge at the highest amperage, especially if you are charging overnight or don’t need to replenish a lot of the battery in a short amount of time. For example, if you only drive 40 miles a day in the city, you’re likely not to use up a lot of the battery. Charging with a 30A charger is more than sufficient to replenish the battery, especially if it’s overnight.

How much power your home’s electrical system can deliver is also a limiting factor. Most homes in North America have ratings of either 100A or 200A. The maximum amperage for your EV charger will depend the amount of unused amperage left in your breaker panel.

For example, if you have a 200A breaker panel and only half of it is used for your devices and appliances, you’ll likely have plenty of capacity to install a 48A charger. On the other hand, if your breaker panel is completely full, you may need to upgrade your home’s electrical system to accept additional devices like an EV charger. To determine the maximum charger amperage that your home can handle, it’s always best to consult a licensed electrical contractor.

Home Chargers: Plug-in or Hardwired?

Some chargers can connect directly to your home’s electrical system, while others can be plugged into a 240V outlet.

Plug-in chargers can be plugged into a 240-volt outlet that’s similar to a dryer outlet, most commonly referred to as a NEMA 14-50 or 6-50 outlet. Portability is the main advantage of plug-in chargers. For example, if you’re driving to the cottage or a camp site that has a compatible outlet, you can bring the charger with you and just plug it in to charge your EV. If you’re renting or planning to move, you can take the charger with you to your new home.

Hardwired chargers are directly wired to your home’s electrical system. Unlike plug-in chargers, these chargers don’t provide the convenience of portability. However, hardwired chargers reduce the number of electrical connections, thereby reducing the number potential failure points within the circuit. Additionally, NEMA 14-50 or 6-50 plugs can only support up to 40A for EV chargers. So, if you need a higher amperage charger, such as a 48A or 80A, hardwired is the only method.

Indoor or Outdoor Rated EV Chargers

If you’re looking to install a charger outside of your house or garage, you’ll need to ensure that it’s rated for outdoor use. This is particularly critical if you live in an area where you want to protect the charger in harsh weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or even high winds.

EV chargers usually have a NEMA enclosure rating of NEMA 3, 3R, 4, or 4X. These ratings measure the charger enclosure’s ability to withstand various environmental conditions in order to safely protect the electrical components and users. Chargers with a 4X rating are ideal for outdoor use and harsh climates as they offer the highest amount of protection.

For extreme cold winters, you also want to look for a cable that remains pliable when the temperature drops. This is especially the case since many chargers come with a 20-foot or longer cable. For extreme winter or summer temperatures, you also want to find a charger that has a wide operating temperature, such as from -22F to 122F (-30C - +50C).

close up of EV charger

EV Charging Connector Types

For AC charging there are only two connector types – the Tesla connector (also known as the NACS or J3400) and the J1772 connector.

If you currently own a non-Tesla EV, like a Hyundai IONIQ 5 or Toyota BZ4X, the vehicle will have a J1772 connector. If you own a Tesla model, you will need a J3400 connector. However, with the North American auto and EV industries adapting the Tesla connector as a new standard over the next few years, most future EVs and charging equipment will come with the Tesla-style J3400 connector.

There are adapters that you can buy that will allow you to charge from a J1772 to a Tesla/J3400 connector. Likewise, there are adapters that will also allow you to charge from a Tesla/J3400 to a J1772 connector. However, where possible, it’s always best to charge without an adapter to reduce the number of potential failure points.

Warranty and Certification for EV Chargers

For a trouble-free home charging experience, always ensure that the home charger is well warrantied and properly certified.

Find a charger that is covered by a warranty for at least three years for parts and labor. You may find chargers at a very low cost, but offer a very limited warranty and customer service. It’s always a better idea to invest in a well-built charger that is backed by a longer comprehensive warranty as well as outstanding customer service.

Many household appliances are Energy Star certified, which are products that meet strict energy-efficiency specifications determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An Energy Star certified EV charger will help ensure that the charger uses your home’s electricity efficiently when charging your EV.

An EV home charger operates continuously at a high voltage and amperage. Look for a charger that meets or exceeds safety standards in your area. If you’re in Canada, look for chargers that are certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). In both the U.S. and Canada, look for chargers with a UL or cUL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification.

someone plugging in EV charger to car

Future-Proofing Your EV Charging

Whether this is your first EV or you’re replacing another EV, it’s likely not going to be your last one. As EV adoption increases, EV battery and charging technology will continue to improve.

Future EVs may charge at higher rates and require higher amperage. A 30A home charger may be more than sufficient for today’s vehicle, but a 48A, 60A, or 80A charger may be better for future vehicles. To help future proof your decision, find a charger with the highest amperage that you can afford and your home can support.

Even if you install a lower amperage charger today, oversizing the wires during the installation can support higher amperage chargers in the future. You can also find a charger that allows you to adjust the amperage up or down to meet your needs today and into the near future.

If you’re looking to purchase a second EV in the near future, it may also be a good idea to buy a charger designed to charge two vehicles at the same time. These chargers have two cables and connectors to charge two vehicles. They can operate on one circuit but intelligently split the power between the two vehicles. Another option is to run the wires for a second charger on a second dedicated circuit during the installation of your first EV charger. The electrician can install a NEMA 14-50 or 6-50 outlet so that can be used for future use.

Hire a Licensed Electrical Contractor

Regardless of the home charger that you’re looking to purchase, always ensure that you have a permit if required in your area, and the installation performed by a licensed electrical contractor. Look for an electrical contractor who is familiar with EVs and charging equipment. EV charging equipment are unlike other appliances in your home since they draw continuous power over a longer period of time. Always consult the legal requirements in your area before installing an EV charger in your home.

With so many chargers on the market today, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the right one that best fits your needs. In general, it’s a good idea to buy the best charger in terms of features, amperage, durability, and certification that you can afford. This will not only ensure a great charging experience, but also will help protect two of your biggest investments – your home and your EV.

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