Residential Electric Car Charging Stations Guide | What Savvy Homeowners Want to Know

Electric vehicles are all the talk of the town. Many predict that by the year 2030, half of all new cars will run on electricity, touting “the age of the internal combustion vehicle is over.”

Goodbye gas guzzlers, hello EVs!

Electric powered cars, or EVs, seem to be the way of the future, as the world tries to combat climate change, save money, and generally become more “efficient.” We may not have the flying cars predicted in the 1950s and 60s yet, but we are getting closer and closer to the Jetson Age.

Even the auto manufacturers have caught the wave, urging government officials to get behind a plan to make EVs more affordable and more widely available to the general public.  

With all the talk and all the publicity, you may be wondering if an electric vehicle is right for you. Or you may have already taken the plunge and purchased an EV of your very own. While we can’t advise you on the “right” EV for you, we hope we can help with other EV-related matters. 

And that’s what we aim to do today. You have to have some way to keep your EV’s battery-powered up and ready to hit the road. 

While the public pay-to-use recharging stations are becoming more common and plentiful, most electric vehicle owners prefer, for various reasons, to own their own home EV charging station.

Just how do you charge an electric car at home? 

With this guide, we’ve attempted to answer every question or concern you might have about purchasing, installing, and using your very own EV home charging station. We’ve addressed nearly all of the more common, and even a few not-so-common, issues. 

By the end, we hope to have enlightened you on every aspect of how to charge an electric car at home and leave you with some idea as to whether or not a home EV charging station is right for you and your new electric vehicle. 

Here’s what’s in store:

Why Charge an EV at Home?
Can I Install an EV Charger at Home?
Incentives for Having Your EV Charger at Home
All About the 3 EV Charging Levels
What is Level 2 EV Charging?
How Do You Charge an EV at Home?
How Much Does it Cost to Install a Level 2 Home Charger?
More Details About Electric Car Charger Installation
What Is the Best EV Home Charger?
FAQs About EV At-Home Charging

We promised you a complete guide and that’s what we hope to deliver to you today. If, however, you still have some unanswered questions, check out our other guides and articles. Electric vehicles are our “thing” here at ThinkEV, and we’ve probably got your answer somewhere else.

Buckle up. Settle in. Get ready for the ride. And by the end, you’ll know all there is to know about recharging at home.

Why Charge an EV at Home?

There are several good reasons why most want to be able to charge their EV at home. They include:

  • Time
  • Convenience
  • Money

The Time to Charge an EV at Home

While the commercial pay-to-use charging stations can recharge your EV in less than half an hour (unless you were running on battery fumes), not everyone has that kind of time on their hands every time their EV needs a charge up.

Your standard Level 1 charging unit that comes with your EV can charge you up overnight while you sleep. Plug in your car’s charge cord and then hit the bed for a good night’s rest. In those hours, your EV will be fully charged.

A Level 2 charger can do the same thing, only faster, in the time you spend on the sofa bingeing your favorite shows, or cleaning the house, or spending the evening with your family. 

So charging your EV at home makes you a super-level multitasker. And it’s time you’re not driving, anyway. 

The Convenience of Charging Your EV at Home

Spending time at a public access charging station isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. Even when you can find something else to do in the meantime. Charging up at home means you can do other things while your car charges. 

At-home charging also means you don’t have to worry if you’re not in the neighborhood of a public charging station. Some rural and suburban EV owners may have to rely on charging at home, as the “convenience” of the convenience store charging station is usually miles away. 

One other convenience of charging your EV at home is that you can charge up when you want to, and not just because you have to. 

It’s not recommended to charge your EV over 80% at a public access pay-use charging station. At home, you can charge up full, whenever you want. 

The Money-Saving Aspect of Charging Your EV at Home

While many people buy an EV to do their part in helping to save the environment and fight climate change, many also see the cost-effectiveness offered by an EV over a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle

And it’s true — EV’s are cheaper to run than even some of the most fuel-efficient gas-goers on the planet. A gasoline vehicle that gets 30 mpg will cost between $10 and $15 to fill up for 100 miles of driving. 

Your average EV will cost between $2 and $7 for the same 100 miles. And that’s at a public access pay-to-use charging station.  

In some areas of the country, the public access EV charging stations charge as much as 5 cents more per kWh than what the electric companies do. By charging at home, you’re already saving yourself a bundle of money each month. 

… And then there are money-back rebates and other incentives, which we’ll discuss later, that add to the money-saving value of charging your EV at home. 

Can I Install an EV Charger at Home?

As we’ve said, your EV comes with its own Level 1 charger. That doesn’t mean you can’t have the benefits of having your own home charging station. 

Can I Install My Own EV Charging Point?

Yes, no, maybe? It all depends on where you live. Level 2 home charging stations are available in both indoor and outdoor styles. You need a dedicated 240V (the same type as your clothes dryer, HVAC, and water heater use) outlet and the space for the EV charger. 

However, if you rent your home, the answer may be a flat “no” as you’ll have to deal with your landlord, parking arrangements, and other tenants. 

If you own in a homeowner association ( HOA) or don’t have a garage or dedicated parking space, your answer is “maybe” as you will have to contend with HOA permissions and local permits for having a charging station located on the street. 

Can I Charge My Electric Car on the Street?

Maybe. You need to ensure that all local permits have been met before installing your EV charging station. You’ll also have to speak with your neighbors to “save” your parking space, so it’s always available. 

Are Home Charging Stations Safe?

Perfectly safe, as long as you have them professionally installed and have chosen the proper style of charging station for your needs. For example, it would not be safe to install an indoor-use charging station outside. 

Can I Install a Level 3 Charger at Home?

No. Level 3 charging stations are for commercial use only and are not available for residential home use. 

Can I Plug My EV Into a Dryer Outlet?

With the proper adapter, you can use your dryer outlet for charging your EV. It’s recommended as sort of a “last resort” measure, as it’s not ideal. Daily shuffling of charging and dryer cord puts unnecessary wear on both.

And how many homes have a dryer outlet in the garage close enough to the parking space? You’d be better off, if at all possible, installing a separate 240V outlet for your EV. 

How Long Does it Take to Install an EV Charging Station?

Typically, your professional electrician can have your home EV charging station installed in two to three hours. A circuit breaker needs to be installed in your electric panel, and the wiring run to the charging station. After that, the station itself will need to be connected to new wiring. 

You can speed up the process by clearing the areas to be worked in and by giving the electrician as much detailed information as possible during your initial call. 

Things your electrician might need to know:

  • The make and model of your EV charger
  • The approximate distance from electric panel to installation area
  • The “geography” to be traversed by the wiring — on the ceiling, in the attic, through the wall to outdoors, etc. 

This information will allow them to know better what is involved in the job and be prepared with the proper tools, equipment, and assistance.

Incentives for Having Your EV Charger at Home?

You probably already know that both the US and Canadian governments offer incentives for buying an EV. These are typically in the form of tax credits or outright rebates on the cost of your vehicle. 

You may not know that there are federal tax rebates and grants for purchasing and installing a home EV charging station, too. These only apply to Level 2 chargers, but the tax rebate may completely cover the costs. 

In Canada, you can get up to $5,000 for a Level 2 charger through the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, while in the US, it’s up to $1 000.

You’ll want to be sure you claim your home EV charger’s costs on your tax returns to take advantage of the federal programs.

You might not be aware that many state and provincial governments, some municipal and county governments, and many utility companies also offer some form of incentive to install a Level 2 charging station at home.

State and provincial incentives are mostly in the form of tax credits — charging you less property tax or giving you a one-time rebate — for installing an EV charger. Some programs, like New York’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Charging Rebates, have $5 million available.

Other states like Colorado have loan programs that help you cover the costs of your home charger installation. 

And then there are the electric utilities. Your utility provider will often offer a rebate or discount if you install a charger that allows you to schedule charging during off-peak, overnight hours.  

All About the 3 EV Charging Levels

There are three industry standards for EV chargers — Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Let’s look at each one in some detail to know what each involves, and what makes each unique.

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EV Charger Level 1

The simplest type of EV charger is the Level 1. This is the charger that came with your electric vehicle. It consists of a standard charging cable that plugs into an outlet on one end and your car on the other.

The cable can be plugged into any 120V/20 amp household outlet and requires no extra installation or rewiring work. 

The Level 1 EV charger offers the slowest type of charging you can get. Most Level 1 chargers only give you three to four miles of driving time per hour of charging. They are ideal if you:

  • Only drive short distances
  • Have an EV with a smaller battery size
  • Have a hybrid electric and petroleum car, also known as a PHEV, that uses both electricity and gasoline to power the engine
  • Can’t or don’t want a more permanent charging station

The greatest advantage of a Level 1 charger is that you can take it anywhere you go. Simply coil the cord and put it in the trunk, and off you go, confident that you can charge your EV wherever and whenever you might need to.

EV Charger Level 2

The most common choice for those who purchase an electric vehicle and own their own home is the Level 2 charger. These home charger units are often purchased at the same time as, or shortly after, the EV. 

Level 2 chargers take a 240V outlet and provide a quicker, more efficient charge-up of your EV’s battery. A Level 2 charger can charge your car up to 5 times faster than a Level 1 charging unit, taking as little as four to five hours to replenish the battery fully. 

Level 2 charging stations are usually wall-mounted and are often placed on the outside wall of the garage or home. You can purchase models that can be placed on an inside wall, as well. 

A Level 1 charger will give you about 4.5 miles of range per hour of charging. A Level 2 charging station offers an average of 15 miles of driving for every hour of charge. 

Level 2 chargers are ideal for the driver who:

  • Drives long distances most of the time
  • Wants or needs a faster charging time
  • Doesn’t have any public charging stations nearby
  • Has an EV with a more powerful battery

One benefit of Level 2 charging stations is that a full charge-up is cheaper to obtain than using a Level 1 charger or a public station.

EV Charger Level 3 

Level 3 charging stations are the type found in public access stations. They are for commercial use only and are not available to homeowners for residential use.  

What is Level 2 EV charging? 

Level 2 EV charging is done at home, typically with a wall-mounted charging unit on a dedicated circuit in your electrical panel. There are portable Level 2 chargers available, and for some drivers, they are a more practical way to go. 

Level 2 charging gets you more miles of range per charging hour, typically around 15, instead of a Level 1 charging unit’s four to five miles per hour of charge. 

This means you can have your electric vehicle ready to get back on the road in as little as four hours. 

Having your own Level 2 charging station at your home is convenient, time-saving, and money-saving. You will spend less time and electricity charging your EV’s battery.

And then there’s the incentives, tax breaks, discounts, and rebates involved in purchasing and installing a Level 2 home charging station. The money you save monthly on your electrical bill, plus the money you get back, means your Level 2 charging station might pay for itself in a matter of months. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor EV Charging With a Level 2 Charger 

There are both indoor and outdoor NEMA-rated charging stations. If poor weather conditions are a concern, or if you don’t have room outdoors for your Level 2 charger to be installed, you can always install a Level 2 charger inside.

Many people install a Level 2 charger inside their garage and then simply run their charging cable outside to their EV in the driveway. This is perfectly acceptable as long as you have a long enough charging cable. 

Installing an indoor charger inside a shed or storage facility near the drive or carport is another option if you don’t have a garage. 

Every electric vehicle battery comes with a heating and cooling unit to ensure that it remains at an optimal temperature without draining the charge. This means if you are charging outdoors, you may have to rearrange your charging time according to the weather. 

In hot weather, you’ll want to charge in the cool of the evening, when your battery cooling unit is less likely to kick on. In colder climates, you’ll want to do the opposite — charging in the warmer parts of the day. This keeps the unit from draining power from the car as it is charging up. 

And it is perfectly safe to use an outdoor Level 2 charging station in the rain or snow. They are made to shield the connections and drain off the wet weather, ensuring that no moisture enters either the car or the charging unit.

Most manufacturers recommend installing a hardwired unit as opposed to a plug-in Level 2 EV charger outdoors. Indoor installations can easily and safely use a plug-in model. Both need a dedicated circuit and professional installation of at least the outlet for the plug-in model.

Level 2 charging at home is safe, convenient, and typically cheaper than Level 1 or Level 3 charging.  

How Do You Charge an EV at Home?

Charging your EV at home is fairly straightforward and simple. There are really only four basic steps to the process. These four steps are:

  1. Park the EV and turn off the motor
  2. Turn off the lights, sound system, and any other power-draining features that you can (Security systems, your EV’s battery cooling system, and other systems will have to remain on)
  3. Determine your desired charge capacity and set or reset it on your charger
  4. Either plug the car into a standard 120v outlet using the Level 1 charger supplied with your EV OR into your Level 2 home charging station

(Step 3 may not be available on all models, but if it is, you’ll need to determine how much driving you’ll be doing in the future and set it accordingly. The less you’ll be driving, the less charge you’ll need. For longer periods of inactivity, set your charge capacity at 50%) 

There are some common questions when it comes to charging an EV at home. Two of them are:

Can I Plug My Electric Car Into a Regular Outlet?

Yes. The Level 1 charger that is supplied by the manufacturer with your EV plugs into any standard household 120v outlet. 

Can I Charge My Electric Car With an Extension Cord?

Most EV manufacturers recommend not using an extension cord when charging your EV. Today, most extension cords on the market are not equipped to handle the power load required by your EV, causing overheating and posing a fire risk.  

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Level 2 Home Charger?

Is a Level 2 Charger Worth It?

Before we can get into the benefits of a Level 2 home charger, two issues may make the effort of owning one more hassle than it’s worth. 

  1. Foremost: do you own your own home? If you rent or own a condo or house in an HOA, the hassles involved in receiving permission for installing a Level 2 home charger may not be worth it.
  2. Next: how updated is your home’s electrical system? Level 2 chargers need a dedicated circuit. If your electrical panel can’t handle it, then upgrading may make a Level 2 home charger a very expensive convenience.

There are four perks of having your own Level 2 charger. They are:

  • Charging time: Level 2 home chargers can juice up your EV in 4–5 hours. Level 1 chargers need 8–24
  • Range per hour: Level 2 home chargers get you up to 25 miles per hour of charging time
  •  Extra features: Level 2 chargers come with all sorts of features, from wifi to smartphone apps to control charging
  • Property value: As society becomes more eco-conscious and EV cars more popular, a Level 2 home charger on your property will only increase its future value

How Much Does a 240v Charging Station Cost?

A Level 2 charger typically runs around $1,000, including equipment and installation costs. Some state and local governments require permits for them, which will add to the overall cost.

Can You Own an Electric Car Without a Home Charger?

It depends on where you live. Los Angeles County alone, for example, has more public EV charging stations than some states and provinces.

How Much Does it Cost to Charge an Electric Car at Home?

Again, it depends on where you live, as electricity prices vary. A good rule of thumb is that an EV gets three to four miles per kilowatt-hour or kWh. Look at your bill and see what price you pay for each kWh. Divide the number of miles you drive monthly by three. Multiply that by your price per kWh, and you’ll have your average charging costs.

How Much Does a Level 2 Charger Cost?

All Level 2 chargers are 240V, so the answer is around $1,000. 

How Much Does It Cost to Install an Electric Car Charging Point?

You will need a licensed, professional electrician to install your home charger. Typically, their fees run from $65–$85 an hour. 

Can Any Electrician Install a Car Charger?

Any licensed, professional electrician should have the basic skills needed to install a Level 2 home charger. However, it is something that not all will do, and the fees for performing an installation vary greatly.

Do All Electric Cars Use the Same Plug?

Yes and no. All EVs currently on the market either use the same plugs for Level 1 and Level 2 charging or come with an adapter for “universal” charging capabilities. Level 3 stations have different standards and require the appropriate plug.

More Details About Electric Car Charger Installation

Electric car charger home installation isn’t a complicated process, as we’ve seen, but there are details that do require further discussion.

Your Electric Car Charger — 240V/50 Amps

Every Level 2 home charging unit is a 240V charging station. That means you will need an outlet and circuit breaker capable of carrying 50 amps for your electric car charger. 240V outlets and circuit breakers require professional installation. 

To install your 50 amp car charger will require some wiring work, and depending on where you put it, some rearranging of your garage or shed space. 

An outdoor EV charging home installation or one in a detached garage may mean digging up part of your yard to bury the necessary wiring. 

There are indoor plugin units available that do not require hardwiring into the wall or a post. Even those, though, require the wiring up of the outlet and the dedicated circuit in the electrical panel. You will have additional labor costs. 

The Labor Involved to Install Electric Car Charger

Since labor costs are part of your installation fees, the less work your electrician has to do, the less expensive it will be to install your electric car charger. Determine where you want it, consulting with your electrician to get the best placement for your money. 

It may be worth doing some preliminary work yourself, especially if digging up the yard and placing conduits for the wiring is involved. You could greet your electrician with the setup pretty much all ready to go, just needing his professional skills. 

Not All 240V Outlets and Plugs Are the Same

There are at least three types of 240V outlet designs, so knowing which one your EV needs can make your electric vehicle charging installation a bit smoother and faster. Again, your electrician can come properly prepared.  

One thing you’ll hear around EV communities is just which plug or outlet is best. Most have decided on the NEMA 14-50 for its safety, speed of charging, and the amount of EVs that use the design. 

In case you’re wondering, your clothes dryer works on a NEMA 14-30 outlet. If you have an electric cooking range, that appliance requires a NEMA 14-50. All 14-50 plugs have two “hots,” a “neutral,” and a “ground” plug. The 14-50 is popular among RV parks as “shore power.”

Early Tesla owners made having a hardwired NEMA 14-50 EV charger and outlet popular, as that was the model used by the company. 

Now, most Level 2 charger manufacturers make multiple EV charger plug adapters to allow you to use any style of 50 amp/240V outlet, and not just the NEMA 14-50.

One thing to note: while your clothes dryer’s 14-30 rated outlet can be used to recharge your electric vehicle, your 14-50 plug will not fit into it. 14-50 plugs and 14-30 plugs are made to carry 240V, but the design is different, as is the amp rating, with 14-30 outlets carrying only 30 amps. 

What Is the Best EV Home Charger?

All this talk about your very own EV charging station at home may have you considering purchasing a Level 2 charger. There are several things to consider first:

  • Your budget — We discussed the costs involved in installing an at-home Level 2 charger earlier, so you should have some idea of what you’ll need to spend.
  • Your available space — Home chargers tend to be sleek and on the stylish side, but you’ll still need somewhere to install them unless you choose a portable option. Must you restrict yourself to an indoor home charger, or can you get one for outdoor use?
  • Your available time — Level 2 chargers don’t charge as quickly as Level 3 chargers do. Do you spend enough time at home to adequately charge your EV and justify the expense of a home charger? 
  • Your EV’s charge capacity — Do you really need a home charger? Or does your EV’s battery supply enough juice for your commuting needs using public charging stations? If your miles of range per charge is large enough, you might be able to do without.
  • Your travel demands — Would you be better off with a portable charger? If your job requires frequent travel, you might be able to rely on public stations and a portable Level 2  EV charger.

We have an entire review section of our website dedicated to the various chargers available. Check out what we consider to be the best Level 2 chargers and Portable Chargers

FAQs About EV At-Home Charging

Can I Leave My EV Plugged in Overnight?

Yes. It is completely safe to leave your EV charging overnight. In fact, it’s highly recommended, as you will be using off-peak electrical hours, which means you can charge your EV for less.

Do Electric Car Batteries Drain When Not in Use?

If left unplugged, your EV’s battery will lose at least a few percentage points of its total full-charge capacity. The total percentage lost depends on several factors, including any power-draining features that don’t turn off.

Is it Bad to Leave Your Electric Car Plugged In?

No, as long as you reset your battery’s maximum charge capacity. Industry experts recommend setting it to 50% and leaving your car plugged in during long periods of inactivity. This minimizes battery degradation while leaving enough charge for essential trips. 

Should I Charge My Electric Car Every Night?

You probably won’t have to. Most battery packs carry enough charge for several days of ordinary, normal commuting. How often you charge will depend on your miles of range per charge. 

Should I Charge My EV to 100%?

Your EV’s battery pack is much like your smartphone’s. When you reach 20%, plug in and charge. At the same time, you most likely don’t need to carry 100% of the charge all the time.

Can You Leave an Electric Car Plugged In?

As we said above, you can leave your EV plugged in for long periods without driving as long as you reset your charge capacity to 50%.

Featured Image by Flickr from Marco Verch

Michael Schuck

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