For two years, I only needed a wall outlet to charge my Nissan LEAF, but as soon as we brought home our Tesla Y, an upgrade was required to keep it adequately charged.
According to Smartcharge America, over 95% of EV charging happens at home. As EVs add more range, a Level 1 (L1) charger (uses a typical wall outlet) may not meet your charging needs either. Installing a Level 2 charger (L2), typically requires special equipment and a professional electrician.
Normally, finding a contractor to do a service or repair on my house gives me anxiety. I worry someone will overcharge me for the service or do a bad job, so I procrastinate as much as possible. When it came to installing my charger last year, I used a service called Qmerit that allowed me to get multiple bids from several electricians for free. All I had to do was answer a few online questions and upload pictures of my electrical panel and the location for my charger. I got bids from pre-screened electricians that had installed hundreds of EV chargers in my area, and ended up choosing an electrician with fantastic customer service and a fair price (for anyone living in the Greater Washington DC area, I highly recommend Salone Solutions).
Because I bought a 40 amp EnelX Juicebox L2 smart charger (about the same power draw as an electric range), I was worried I would need to upgrade my circuit panel. Fortunately, my electrician was able to reconfigure my panel to free up space for the charger, which saved me a lot of money!
Assuming you have a dedicated parking area and no issues with landlords or HOA’s, getting a charger at your home can be done in two easy steps: 1) find an EV charger you like and 2) find a reliable electrician. There are many new services and options to make this process as easy and inexpensive as possible.
Step 1: Find the right EV Charger
I recommend researching and identifying which charging station fits your price range and charging needs. First, you need to decide what charging speed you’ll need for your EV. If you don’t drive much and have a shorter range (e.g., under 150 miles), then an L1 charger may be just fine. If you use your car frequently and have a larger battery, then it might be best to invest in an L2 charger.
There are a lot of L1 and L2 options on the market right now at a variety of prices. The average cost of an L1 and L2 charging equipment before installation is $300-$600 and $500-$2,200, respectively. Just about every EV or PHEV will come with a Level 1 charger. If you’re in the market for a L2 I’d recommend browsing Plugstar for all available options.
Next, you need to determine if you can affordably or logistically accommodate a 240V electrical connection required for a L2 charger at your residence. You can check your electrical panel to see if you have an unused circuit breaker, but I’d recommend consulting an electrician to see if your existing infrastructure can handle the additional amperage from a L2 charger or if it will require upgrades.
Next, consult your vehicle handbook or speak to the dealership directly to determine if there are any limitations or specifications for charging your car. Vehicle manufacturers can provide recommendations on which charging equipment is compatible with their vehicles, and may offer discounts on equipment as well. Some charging companies will provide charging equipment recommendations for you based on your car’s make and model. ClipperCreek’s Charging Station Selection Tool is one example where you can input your vehicle specifications and receive a variety of options.
Before you come to a decision on a charger be sure to consult your county, local air quality district, and utility (or community choice energy provider) to see if you can obtain discounts on charging equipment. There are at least 18 utilities that offer discounts on charging equipment, and some offer rebates for installing the equipment. EnelX has a quick tool to start your search for any state and federal rebates you may qualify for. This is also an opportunity to see if your utility offers any special EV Time-Of-Use rates to maximize your charging hours (and potential savings!).
Finally, make sure there are no restrictions on installing home charging equipment with your HOA or landlord. If there are restrictions or you are approaching the appropriate party to check, have a gameplan to make the case for installing a charger. You may be the first EV owner/advocate they are exposed to, but you will not be the last.
Step 2: Find an experienced electrician
Installing an EV charger at home by yourself is risky. I suggest consulting a certified electrician who will know if the charger is on a dedicated branch circuit (which means other appliances aren’t also drawing on that electricity), and who can ensure the installation is up to local code so it passes fire safety standards. Some local codes require a permit to install an EV charger, which is usually an additional cost. A certified electrician will know if there are any zoning limitations or if you’ll need a permit in your area and will usually take care of it for you as part of the installation service.
Look for local reviews: If you don’t already have a preferred electrician, search for electricians in your area who have experience installing EV equipment and look at local reviews. Alternatively, Qmerit is a great resource for obtaining quick, competitive EV installation bids. You can also search through state and local resources, like in Virginia, that offer a list of EV charging manufacturers, installers, and other companies working in the EV sector to aid your search.
Consult the charging equipment manufacturer: Often the charging manufacturer can provide a list of recommended electricians in your area or an installation guide for the electrician. In some cases the manufacturer will recommend electricians who are certified or trained to install their specific EV charger. Here are a few manufacturers that provide these recommendations using your zip code:
Schedule a service: Amazon now offers EVSE installation services. You can schedule a consultation with a certified technician who can perform the installation (equipment costs aren’t included). There are some limitations with the service as it is only offered in select states, in homes built after 1990, and only in garages.
Ask your electric utility: As mentioned above, utilities now have EV programs and may have a list of pre-screened electricians. It might be worth a few minutes of your time to see if they have a list posted on their website (usually in the Electric Vehicle section), or call a customer service representative.