Setting Up Home Charging For Your Electric Vehicle
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Charging an electric car at home can be as easy as plugging it into a standard wall socket. This method, called Level 1 charging, is easy and doesn’t require extra equipment, but it won’t add more than a few miles of range per hour of charging.
If you want the ability to add hundreds of miles in a single charging session, like when you’re parked overnight, you’ll need a Level 2 charger. It accomplishes the same thing as a Level 1 charger — moving electrons from the grid to your vehicle — but does so a higher rate, like a fire hose compared to a garden hose.
Buying a Level 2 charger and hiring an electrician to run a sufficiently powerful line could cost a few thousand dollars, but the upfront cost could be worth it if you need the faster charge.
How much faster is Level 2 charging?
Level 2 chargers add about 25 miles per hour of charging, making them at least five times faster than the typical Level 1 charger. If your car usually spends eight hours at home per day and you leave it plugged in during that time, you can count on about 200 miles of range added daily.
Level 1 charging, which only adds about five miles per hour, can seem sluggish by comparison, like having a slow internet connection after you’ve experienced gigabit speeds. If you left your car plugged in for eight hours with Level 1 charging, expect to gain about 40 miles of range.
How much does it cost to install a Level 2 charger?
Most homes don’t have an available 240-volt connection — power traditionally only needed for appliances like electric ovens or clothes dryers — where you want to charge your EV. So, there will be a couple of components you'll likely need to pay for.
First, you’ll need the charger itself. If you don’t already have one, plan to spend between $400 and $1,000, depending on the type of charger you choose. Level 2 chargers are largely interchangeable among different makes and models, so you can shop around for the features and price point you want. In addition to buying directly from charging companies, you can shop at major hardware and electronics stores. If you own a Tesla, which uses a proprietary connector, you have fewer options.
Next, installing the electric line needed will require a professional electrician. This can cost a few thousand dollars, depending on your situation. For example, running a connection from an electric panel in a basement to a freestanding garage will likely be more expensive than a location where the electric panel is in the garage.
Once the outlet is installed, the easiest option is to simply plug the charger in. If you don’t have a garage or prefer to charge outdoors, Vlad Savine, master electrician at United Chargers, says he usually recommends hardwiring and weatherproofing the charger.
If you’re unsure of your home’s electrical capabilities, your electrician can help and should be able to provide options in the event that your electrical system doesn’t meet the needs of your preferred charger.
Is adding Level 2 charging to a home worth the cost?
The best charger for you depends on your vehicle and your driving habits. The highest-powered option might not make sense for everyone.
The average person drives about 37 miles per day, according to the Federal Highway Administration. A Level 1 charger, which can add up to 40 miles in an eight-hour stretch, might be enough for some, especially if there’s a faster commercial charging option nearby for instances when a faster charge is needed.
However, if you typically drive more than 40 miles per day, if you don’t live near a reliable commercial charger or if you value the convenience of charging quickly, adding a Level 2 charger to your home is worth considering.
Savine says the size of a vehicle’s battery, which varies greatly from vehicle to vehicle, is another important consideration. For smaller batteries, you may never need the speed Level 2 charging provides. For instance, the Nissan LEAF’s 40-kilowatt-hour battery has less than half the capacity of the 91-kWh extended-range battery in the Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium, so the time it needs to charge completely is also less.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, have batteries that can power a few dozen miles — enough to get through the average day. They also have a gas engine that kicks in on longer drives. One such car, the Toyota Prius Prime, has an 8.8-kWh battery that charges completely in less than 5 hours and 30 minutes on a standard outlet.
Are there ways to reduce installation costs?
Yes. Some car manufacturers include free installation of a 240-volt outlet and a Level 2 charger if you buy or lease a new EV. If you’re shopping for a new car, check to see what offers are available.
You can also search the U.S. Department of Energy’s website to see if there are any federal, state or local incentives specific to where you live.
What does it cost to charge an EV at home?
Whether you use Level 1 or Level 2 charging at home, you’ll pay for the electricity you use. The national average per kWh was about 15 cents in November 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. At that price, a car with a 50-kWh battery would cost $7.50 (50 × $0.15) for a complete charge.
Your rate could be higher or lower depending on where you live, time of year and the time of day you charge. To save money, review your electric rates to see if charging during one part of the day is less expensive than another.
Which charger is best?
Take these steps to help find the best Level 2 charger for your home.
Consult your owner’s manual. Although Level 2 charging standards are generally universal, some manufacturers, like Tesla, use different equipment. Older models or EVs with small batteries might have different requirements.
Inspect your charging area. If your charger will be outdoors, you’ll want something that can handle the weather. How far will your car usually be from the charger? Not all cords are the same length.
Research app compatibility. Just like a smart thermometer helps optimize a home’s HVAC system, apps that power chargers can help manage your car’s charge. This might mean charging when your electric rates are lowest or managing your charging schedule from your phone. But the software in your car might not mesh well with the charger software, according to Savine. If you’re wondering whether the charger-EV combo you have in mind will work well, check online message boards to see if anyone has recently posted about their experience.