What to Expect When You Have an EV Charger Installed in Your Home | PCMag

2022-11-30 15:55:50 By : Ms. Sophia .

We spent the day with an electrician who walked us through the EV charger home installation process. Here's what to expect and how much it'll cost you.

Most EV drivers do 80-90%(Opens in a new window) of their charging at home, so installing a top-notch charger is a no-brainer for those looking to improve the battery-powered driving experience. Best Electric Car Home Charger

What to Expect When You Have an EV Charger Installed in Your Home | PCMag

Although YouTube is full of instructional installation videos for brave DIYers, most people hire an electrician for the job. Electrical work is dangerous and complicated, and burning down your house is a lot more expensive than hiring a pro. Plus, an installation team will walk you through the process, from choosing a charger to permitting and final touches.

To see the process firsthand, I contacted Qmerit(Opens in a new window) , the company Chevrolet uses to offer installations(Opens in a new window) for new Chevy Bolts. They connected me with Kapital Electric(Opens in a new window) , their preferred installer in Chicago, to do a ride along. Here's what we saw along the way, and what you can expect if you get an electric vehicle hookup in your own home.

"The installation process has come a long way in the last several years—much like the EVs themselves," says Tracy Price, Qmerit CEO. 

There are three types of EV chargers available today: level one, two, and three. Each charges faster than the previous level, and requires more energy.

Level one chargers plug into a standard wall outlet (120V), and often come with the vehicle at purchase (besides Teslas, as of earlier this year). They do not require an electrician, or any installation in general. Just plug in. Unfortunately, they are slow, often taking 10 or more hours to recharge the typical car battery. But if you mostly run quick errands around town with occasional multi-hour trips, a level one charger is the cheapest option.

Level two chargers are a big upgrade, as charging takes half the time (4-5 hours). Almost always, home charger installation involves a level two. Level two chargers often require adjustments to your home's electrical system, such as installing dedicated circuits and outlets. You'll also find these chargers in public parking lots, like at the grocery store or a restaurant.

Level three (or "DC fast chargers") are the quickest (30-60 minutes), but they are publicly owned. You'll find them at highway rest stops, for example. Fast charging (including Tesla Supercharging) also requires an immense amount of energy that will rapidly degrade any EV's battery if plugged in daily.

You can acquire many level two chargers yourself, or, if you hire an electrician, use one they have in stock. The electricians we spoke to most commonly install the following chargers:

Tesla Wall Connector(Opens in a new window) ($400)

Tesla J1772 Wall Connector(Opens in a new window) ($550) for non-Tesla EVs

WallBox Pulsar Plus(Opens in a new window) ($650-$700)

JuiceBox(Opens in a new window) ($669-$739)

Chargepoint(Opens in a new window) ($749-$919)

Loop(Opens in a new window)

Amazon(Opens in a new window) has a wide variety of options as well. Note the length of the charging cord before you buy—usually around 20 feet—to ensure it will reach from the wall to your car's port. Chargers also come with a mobile app that allows you to view charging status.

For the job I observed, Kapital Electric installed two units in the same garage: one for Lucci, who recently purchased a blue Tesla Model Y, and one for her daughter's Volvo XC Recharge. The installation took a full day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with three electricians. A week before the install, though, Lucci and Don Butler, VP at Kapital Electric, hashed out a few things over the phone:

Home Electrical Capacity. Lucci's 100A panel was enough to accommodate the two chargers, given the other appliances in the house and the fact that the chargers can regulate power consumption.

Charger Choice. Lucci decided on two Tesla chargers: a Tesla Wallbox and the newest Tesla charger that works on non-Teslas (for the Volvo). The benefit of using two Tesla products is their ability to "talk" to each other to monitor and manage power supply to both vehicles so they don't exceed the home's capacity. Wallbox (Opens in a new window) and JuiceBox(Opens in a new window) also do this, Butler says.

Wiring Details. The garage is detached from the home, so they mapped the route from the panel's location in the home and into the garage.

Permits. Kapital Electric acquired the permits for the construction, which involves proving the home's panel has enough capacity for the proposed install.

For the chargers' power supply, the team set up wiring between the home's electrical panel and the garage. It went from the panel in the basement, into the ceiling, and out the back of the house through a newly drilled hole. Then, they dug a trench to hide the wire in the lawn. Finally, they drilled a hole in the garage wall and fed the wire through.

Once the wiring was in the garage, they ran it along the bottom edge of the wall and into a splitter box. This forked the wires in two, one route going to the first charger, and the other running along the ceiling and down a wall into the second charger.

Once the chargers were installed onto each wall and powered on, a few setup steps were required. Tesla chargers, like other brands, come with quickstart guides, which include codes for each charger. The electricians scanned the QR code, pulled up an app where they could configure them, and connected to Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi connectivity helps the chargers communicate, or manage the power supply between the two vehicles and the home's overall load. When both cars are plugged in, they will charge at a lower rate. Once one car is unplugged, the remaining charger will increase its power until the other car is fully recharged.

And that's it! Lucci now has two chargers, and likely an increased home value.

After speaking with three electricians, $2,000 seems to be the average cost: $500-$800 for the charger itself, plus labor and additional supplies like wiring.

But that's for the simplest scenario, where the electrical panel is close to the garage, the garage is attached to the home, and only one charger is being installed.

Lucci's installation cost $4,400. She got multiple quotes prior to choosing Kapital Electric, one of which was $8,000. For her, the detached garage and additional charger drove the price up. Luckily, she did not need a circuit panel upgrade since the chargers monitor power to ensure they doesn't exceed capacity, but panel upgrades are one of the most common reasons an installation bill may climb upward.

"There have been jobs that go from $1,800 up to $3,000 or $4,000 for one charger in a single family home, usually because they need a panel upgrade," says Manny Amparano, an electrician at Tiger Electric(Opens in a new window) in EV-rich California. "If you only have a 100 amp panel, and then you want to add a 50 amp charger in there, you may have to upgrade the panel and that's pretty pricey. But if you already have a 200 amp panel in your home, you have enough space."

The federal Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, provides a 30% credit(Opens in a new window) (up to $1,000) for home charger installation. There are also state incentives. Illinois, for example, reimburses (Opens in a new window) up to 80% of the cost of a home charger installation. You can find all EV-related rebates in your state here(Opens in a new window) (filter for EVs > Tax Incentives, Rebates). It's important to look closely at the details to confirm they will apply to your purchase.

"It's a very tricky landscape for the consumer to navigate, as discounts and rebates are offered by so many jurisdictions—federal, states—even counties, municipalities and certainly the utilities," says Qmerit CEO Tracy Price.  "They differ widely by jurisdiction and can seemingly pop up and expire overnight."

Lucci's installation involved hardwiring to the electrical panel, but you can also install a wall outlet that's large enough to handle the power supply. In this case, you still need to run wiring from your home's electrical panel to the garage. But rather than the wires feeding into the charger itself, they power a new plug. Then, you can use a plug-in charger(Opens in a new window) or level 2 charging cord(Opens in a new window) .

A plug type called "NEMA 14-50" is most common. It supports up to 240V of power, compared to 120V on a standard home outlet. You can buy them online(Opens in a new window) or in hardware stores for $15 or less.

There are pros and cons to installing a plug versus hardwiring. For one, it can be cheaper. This EV owner(Opens in a new window) hired an electrician to install the NEMA 14-50, then cut costs by completing setup of a plug-in BMW charger on his own. He also plans to use the plug for non-charging purposes, like welding equipment and an RV.

On the downside, NEMA plugs don't typically charge as fast, Kapital Electric told me, and they can cause electrical issues. Also, they require more permitting.

"If you go with a plug-in, most electrical inspectors will require you to obtain what's known as a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting breaker, also known as GFCI," says Price. "However, most Level 2 chargers come with an internal GFCI. If you have two GFCIs on the same circuit, it can lead to nuisance tripping—a major hassle as the EV owner must manually reset the circuits at the main electrical panel. So, if you go with the hardwired Level 2 charger, you avoid this whole ordeal."

Shared buildings follow the same basic installation guidelines, but they are more complex to set up and maintain since they can be used by multiple drivers. The building owners (or HOA) will need to determine the power needs, get permits, decide which chargers to use and how many, carve out EV-specific parking spots, and determine an equitable payment method.

For payment, the Chicago Installation Guide for Multi-Unit Dwellings(Opens in a new window) outlines three options:

The building charges each EV owner a fixed monthly rate.

The building covers the cost as a perk to residents.

Install a submeter for the charging station, billing the EV owner based on readings from the submeter for just their usage.

It also may be possible to operate them like any other public charger: a driver creates an account with the company, linked to their credit card, which they insert in the machine before charging like a gas pump. The project manager would need to work with the charging and utility companies to explore options.

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Prior to starting at PCMag, I worked in Big Tech on the West Coast for six years. From that time, I got an up-close view of how software engineering teams work, how good products are launched, and the way business strategies shift over time. After I’d had my fill, I changed course and enrolled in a master’s program for journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. I'm now a reporter with a focus on electric vehicles.

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What to Expect When You Have an EV Charger Installed in Your Home | PCMag

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