Purchasing Your First Home Electric Vehicle Charger

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You’ve got your electric vehicle. You can already charge at home using the charging cord that came with the car and plugs into any regular home 110 or 120 volt outlet. That will get you 3 to 5 miles of charge an hour, or 30 to 50 miles each night. For many daily commutes, that’s sufficient. However, for times when you need a faster charge -- 25 miles of added range per hour -- you’ll likely want to install a 240 volt, or “Level 2” charger. There are more options now for Level 2 home chargers than ever before. This guide will help you choose the right one.

Key Components

Read the full guide to make a more informed decision. In summary though, you’ll likely want:

  • A level 2 charger of at least 30 amps.

  • To hire a qualified electrician for installation.

  • A plug-in, or movable, charger.

  • A UL certified charger.

  • A longer cord - closer to 25 feet than 16.

  • To check for government and utility incentives to help with the cost.

Why At Least 30 Amps

In general, the more amps, the faster your vehicle will charge. A 30 amp charger means you’ll get roughly 25-30 miles of charge in an hour.

Your vehicle might not be able to use all 30 amps. But it’s better to get at least 30 amps to be ready for any future EVs you purchase. You might want to consider 40 or 50 amps to better future-proof your charger - especially if your vehicle can already handle it.

  • Don’t worry about damaging your vehicle if it can use less than 30 amps - it will only take in what it can.

  • Your vehicle can only use 80% of the total capacity of the circuit breaker or electric service panel. So for a 30 amp charger you’ll need an electric service panel of at least 40 amps.

Why Use An Electrician

If you’re looking for a DIY project, this shouldn’t be it. It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Check with your city about any local ordinances that may apply to EV charging installation.

Consult an electrician to price out the cost of installation and determine the capacity of your electric service panel before purchasing a charger.  You could find that installing a charger with 30 amps is much more expensive than 20 amps if your electric service panel doesn’t have enough space capacity for 30 amps.

Why A Plug-in Or Movable EV Charger

You can hardwire, or fix, your EV charger to one location. This will likely look cleaner as more of it will be hidden. But the better visual appeal might not be worth the limited flexibility.

  • If you have a second home, change vehicles or move where you want to park, you’ll be thankful for the added flexibility of a plug-in charger.

  • The installation can cost significantly less as well.

  • On top of all that, if there’s an issue with your charger, you can send it back and get a new one. If it’s permanently installed, you’ll have to have an electrician take it out and install a new one.

Why A UL Certification

You might find a good charger from a start-up without it, but it’s best to trust a company that has gone through the process of getting a UL certification.

Why A Longer Cord

16 feet seems like a lot -- until it’s not. You’ll want to have flexibility in where you park your vehicle or if you decide to get a different/additional EV.  25 feet is currently the maximum amount allowed. It’s likely not necessary to have it that long, but you want to lean more towards 25 than 16.

  • Vehicles have their charging ports in various locations on the car, so a cord length that works for one vehicle may not work for another.

  • You can check if your vehicle has a way to cleanly stow excess cord if you’re worried about the visuals.

  • You might also be able to save on the installation cost with a longer cord if it means you can put your charger closer to the electric service box.

Why You Should Check For EV Charging Station Incentives

Many states, local areas and utility companies offer EV incentives - including reducing the cost of installing charging stations. You should research if there are incentives where you are based. The Department of Energy is a good place to look for EV incentives. This is a good overview of federal EV incentives and California state and local EV incentives.

There are also discounts available for low-income households on the fuel for electric vehicles: electricity.  Low-income households can receive discounts of 12% to 30% on electric bills through the CARE and FERA programs. Learn If you qualify and enroll here.

Other EV Home Charger Considerations

Once you decide on the above points, there’s a few more points to consider. Use this list to get a better idea of the specifications that make the most sense for you.

  • If your charger will be outside, you’ll want one that has an outdoor rating - NEMA 3 or NEMA 4. NEMA 4 adds a bit more protection.

  • Most chargers connect to WiFi so you can monitor the charging and set the charging time to coincide with the times your electric rates are lowest (e.g., 11 pm to 7 am).

  • Sometimes the manufacturer’s recommended certified installers can charge a premium. This could be well worth it if you don’t hire an electrician qualified for your charger and they make a mistake.

  • The price can depend greatly on the location of the charger - if the charger is installed directly next to the service box, it’s faster and requires fewer materials. It could cost as little as $200 in this case.

  • If you own your home, this is all simpler. With condominiums and apartments, you’ll need to get permission for a level 2 charger.

Where You Can Purchase A Home EV Charging Station

You can find home EV charging stations online. You can take your time to check out the specifications, reviews and questions others have asked.

PlugStar has a great list of EV chargers.

You might also want to buy it in person by searching nearby or asking at the location where you purchased or leased your vehicle.

We recommend doing a bit of research online first - this way you’ll know they type of questions to ask and have a better idea of the price points and options available. Many charging stations have special offers and discounts so it can be helpful to shop around.

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Don’t Forget To Look For Public Places To Charge Your Vehicle

Not only are EV stations free of toxic gasoline fumes, but also many are free of charge. Maybe there’s a public charging station near your office, town hall, or community center? It’s worth spending some time to check. Learn how to find EV charging stations.

Purchasing A Home EV Charger Conclusion

Purchasing your home EV charger doesn’t need to be a long drawn-out decision. Find a good electrician, ask the right questions and find out the specifications that make sense for you. Then you can purchase the right charging station and be thankful every day about the financial and health benefits of not buying gas.

You know what else shouldn’t be a long drawn-out decision?

Making our country gasoline-free.

Electric vehicles are better for our health, environment and economy.

We’re fighting around the clock to eliminate gasoline use through information, inspiration and legislation.

If you want cleaner air, a stronger economy and a healthier climate, please sign up to join the movement for a gasoline-free America.

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