What Does It Take to Use an Electric Car Charger for Home?

People are busy these days. Many of us save time by using online technology to handle our banking and shopping.

What if you could avoid trips to a gas station by having an electric car charger for home? How would that work?

Are All EV Chargers the Same?

No, there are different types of chargers to suit your personal needs:

Level 1 Charger

This simpler type is a 120-volt charger that is considered standard equipment included with most electric vehicles. One end of a level 1 charging cord features a basic, grounded (3-prong) plug that fits into a standard electrical outlet. It is the same plug you might find on a vacuum cleaner, for example. This charger draws 15-20 amps.

The director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis says a level 1 charger may be sufficient for many EV owners if they don’t drive over 40 to 50 miles daily (more than the daily average commute distance for American drivers).

Advantages:

  • No cost for the charging cord in most cases
  • No special house wiring is required
  • Conveniently plugs into a standard outlet
  • Essentially a glorified extension cord to simply plug into the vehicle
  • A good choice for electric hybrid vehicles with a small battery

Disadvantages:

  • Not an adequate choice for quick charging
  • Ironically uses 6 percent more electricity than a level 2 charger

Level 2 Charger

These units require a 240-volt circuit like the type used to power the average electric clothes dryer. One hour of charge time provides 15 to 25 miles of driving range, and most batteries can be completely charged in 4 to 8 hours.

A level 2 type is available in different styles:

Portable

This flavor of the charger has a plug similar to what you see on the end of a clothes dryer electrical cord. The circuit will need an outlet suitable for this type of plug. If the unit needs replacing, it may simply be unplugged.

Dedicated

This alternative style involves an all-in-one charging station unit that is completely hardwired into the circuit. It does not need to be plugged into an outlet and only has one cord that stretches to the vehicle. If the charger fails, the entire system will need to be replaced.

Advantages:

  • Some units configurable for time-of-use and other special electricity rates
  • Dramatically faster charging time
  • Attractive feature when selling a home

Disadvantages:

  • Circuit installation requires an electrician
  • Installation cost may increase if the existing circuit breaker panel is only 100 amps
  • Wall-mount charger and installation may cost between $750 and $2,600 on average

Portrait of a young woman charging an electric car in front of her house

Do EV Chargers Need Regular Maintenance?

It is recommended that owners maintain charging system components as indicated by the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. Signs of excessive wear could indicate the potential for a shock hazard. An EV charger with clear signs of damage certainly should not be used.

Generally, an electric car charger for home holds up well and tends to require only the replacement of individual parts over time.

Is It Safe to Charge My Electric Vehicle When It’s Raining?

Rain should not deter you from charging your vehicle if you keep in mind:

If a level 1 three-prong outlet is located outdoors, the installation of an in-use outlet cover is a good idea. Its waterproof door and room at the bottom for a cord make it ideal for weather resistance.

Any charging station located on the side of a house will benefit from a slanted, small roof to reduce rain and snow exposure.

If a charger must be attached to a post away from the house:

  • Underground wiring will be required and an electrician should be consulted for proper depth and installation determination. If the post will hold an outlet, be sure the post is tall enough to be above potential snow levels.
  • A cover over the charger is recommended, and an enclosure for the unit and cord is ideal to avoid moisture, freezing, and sun exposure.

What Does It Cost to Use a Public Charging Station?

Various apps will provide locations and current pricing for juicing up your battery at public charging locations. Prices will vary based on the baseline cost of energy for a particular state, city, or locality. They also depend on the time of use, length of use, and power level.

There are three main ways to pay for charging:

  • Pay as you go is the most common and favored method of most drivers. As the name implies, payment is provided on an as-needed basis.
  • Free charging is available at some locations, although many will limit your charging time (4 hours total, for example).
  • Monthly Subscriptions are another option. Power networks may charge less if you are a frequent member, so regular use of a nearby station may benefit from this pricing model. Monthly rates may range from $4 to $8.

What if My Home Charging Station Stops Working?

Many troubleshooting resources are available, ranging from manufacturer support lines to YouTube videos.

One of the most common problems occurs when the EV charger has been set up with a timer to activate during off-peak hours using a time-of-use electricity plan. Most timers allow you to plug in the vehicle without starting the charging process until a later time. If you find the charger is not working at some point, it may simply be that you are attempting to plug in and charge your vehicle at a moment that falls outside those special hours. Look for a timer override if you need to charge immediately.

Additionally, some electric vehicles have a setting to automatically end charging when the battery charge reaches a fixed level, like 80 percent. A timer override button on the vehicle will allow charging to continue past that level when needed.

What if I Live in an Apartment?

Although some apartment, condo, and townhouse locations offer charging stations, most simply do not. Consider using apps to locate the closest public stations and determine whether or not you can get your charging done while shopping. Some public parking lots near government buildings and parks offer stations, as well.

Consider asking your employer to install charging stations – many rebates are available to companies that do so.

The use of an electric car charger for home is a safe, economical, and effective way to conveniently keep your means of transportation ready to go at a moment’s notice.

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