Jun 16, 2023 - Technology

What to know before installing a home electric car charger

Image inside the author's garage, with an electrical panel in the foreground, and an electric vehicle charger mounted on the wall.

Axios' Joann Muller had a home charger installed in her garage. Photo: Joann Muller

If you're thinking of buying an electric vehicle (EV), you probably should consider installing a home charger too.

Why it matters: Nobody thinks about how they'll refuel when buying a traditional gasoline-powered car. But charging is a critical factor for EV buyers.

The big picture: Home chargers make sense for several reasons.

  • Public chargers aren't convenient if you have to drive out of your way to find one or wait your turn while others are charging.
  • And while most EVs come with a basic charging cable, plugging into a typical 120-volt wall socket is so slow it could take a day — or two! — to fully recharge.
  • With a 240-volt Level 2 home charger, you can recharge overnight, when rates are lowest.
  • Plus, many incentives are available for home chargers, including utility rebates and state and federal tax credits.

Here's what I learned when I recently had a home charger installed in my garage.

  • First, don't try to do it yourself. Hire a licensed electrician. You'll need them to assess your home's electrical load and whether it can support a dedicated circuit for an EV charger. Plus, they'll pull any needed permits.
  • The good news is that many carmakers have partnered with a charging specialist called Qmerit to help customers navigate the installation process.
  • Some automakers will even cover the cost of a basic home charger installation.

By the numbers: How much will a home charger cost? It depends.

  • You can buy a charging unit online for $300 to $800, depending on features, but the cost of hooking it up is the big unknown.
  • The average installation runs between $526 and $1,315, HomeAdvisor says.

Yes, but: It could be thousands more if you need your wiring upgraded or if the charger is going to be far from your main electrical panel.

  • Older homes, primarily in the Northeast and Midwest, often lack the electrical capacity to support Level 2 chargers, which use anywhere from 30 to 80 amps. Upgrading to 200 amps might be necessary.
  • Plus, if you're installing the charger in a detached garage, a contractor may need to dig a trench through the yard or a tunnel under the pavement to bury a dedicated circuit. That's where costs really pile up.
  • Cars.com produced a helpful animation of all the variables that could affect your installation cost.

Picking the right charger can be confusing because there are so many choices — 32 amps, 40 amps, 50 amps, all the way up to 80 amps.

  • The higher the amperage, the faster the charge — but you should know how much power your EV can accept.
  • The Kia EV6 my husband and I took on a long road trip, for example, can charge from 10% to 100% in about seven hours on a 40-amp circuit, while a Toyota bZ4X takes about 11 hours due to its lower acceptance rate.

Be smart: If you're charging overnight, a few extra hours isn't that important, so buying the most powerful charger might not be worth the extra money — unless you want to future-proof your setup.

  • And if you have residential solar, you may be able to charge your EV essentially for free.

My thought bubble: I don't own an EV, but I test-drive them all the time for work, so it made sense to have a home charger installed.

  • I wanted a smart charger, with a dedicated app and Wi-Fi connectivity, so I could schedule charging at off-peak times.
  • A common complaint in the online reviews, though, was that the apps were glitchy or the charger wouldn't connect to Wi-Fi.
  • I chose the ChargePoint Home Flex, a residential model from a brand well-known for its public charging network, because I already had the intuitive ChargePoint app on my phone.

It still took about a dozen attempts to successfully connect the unit to Wi-Fi.

  • I also chose a charger that I could plug in, rather than the hard-wired version, for maximum flexibility (see photo above).

The bottom line: I paid $1,500 ($700 for the charger, plus $800 for installation, which was relatively straightforward with no unexpected costs).

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