When many Americans visualize an all-electric vehicle (‘EV’ for short), they often think of Tesla’s sleek and contemporary options that come with fun features like their ‘Insane Mode’ driving option. That’s likely because Tesla is a powerhouse in the news-cycle, an innovator of design, and they advertise really well. However, as of 2018 there are more than 10 other mass produced EVs that are currently cruisin’ the highways of America without a drop of gasoline. With that variety, and the ever expanding third-party tech industry, choosing a ‘home charging station’ (more on this nomenclature next) can be difficult. At Haas & Sons we’ve had the opportunity to install many in-home systems for EVs and we’d like to share with you some common tips on selecting and installing the right one.
What is a “home charging” system for electric vehicles?
Believe it or not, there really isn’t such a thing as a ‘home charging station or system’. This is because an electric vehicle charger is actually within the on-board components of the vehicle. So while you and your friends might be saying ‘home charger’ the proper term is actually ‘Electric Vehicle Service Equipment’ or ‘EVSE’ for short. The reason an EV owner needs a EVSE is because your existing home electrical system is most likely not outfitted to charge an EV. In short, the EVSE allows your home’s electrical system to work with the EV in a safe and efficient way for regular and consistent charging.
Checklist for Choosing an EVSE for your home
The biggest issues with most homes is that they’re wired for smaller appliances which can’t handle the energy needs of an EVSE and many weren’t built with EVs in mind, so finding a proper spot to install your EVSE will take some thought. Additionally, the manufacturers of EVSEs all vary on their features and options, so think long-term here. Consider the following before you buy anything:
It’s safe to say that a reliable EVSE will start around $400 and go up from there. Depending on the system’s capabilities (listed below) and additional features you might select, the higher the price can be. It’s also worth mentioning that the amperage capabilities of the EVSE will affect the price, because as amps go up, the system costs more. There’s a big difference between the most basic 20 amp EVSE and Tesla’s behemoth 100 amp system. Please note that this does not include installation, so if you need a professional electrician in Annapolis for help, call Haas & Sons.
Volts Needed for an EVSE:
You might need to ‘heavy up’ your existing electric panel (the breaker box) to deliver 240-volts. Most homes in the US are capable of providing 120-volts or 240-volts, so this could be an upgrade for you, but the benefits of having the higher capabilities will out shine the effort. Additionally, as EVs become even more popular than they are now, this is a good investment for selling your home down the line, as it will be EV-compatible on the MLS.
Amperage Needs for an EVSE:
Amperage of your EVSE impacts your rate of charge, so it’s suggested to get one that’s 50 amps. Many EVSEs only require 30 amps, but as tech changes and different models of EVs are released, it’s safe to assume that 50 amps will become a new standard, so save yourself on future upgrade costs. Plus, this allows for faster charging on vehicles that can accept higher amps.
EVSE Location & Cable Length:
Make sure you select a location that’s accessible for your EV. Consider cable length in this step, as most EVSEs come with a connecting cable that is 8 to 25 feet in length. That’s a big difference, so if you’re installing an EVSE on a pedestal outside or around the back of your garage, that cable can be used quickly. Consider all scenarios when looking for a permanent location of your EVSE and which one you buy.
EVSE Add-On Features:
Living in the age of on-demand products and services, one might think that having all the bells and whistles on their EVSE would be the route to go, but we’d like to exercise some words of caution. Although it sounds really cool to have a touchscreen EVSE that has timers, usage meters, monitoring capabilities from your phone, and more, each of those additions comes with problems. One of the major ones is if you experience a loss of internet connectivity. In that situation, if you had a smart EVSE, you would be without the ability to charge. Additionally, each time you add a new feature to your EVSE you’re increasing the cost and in many situations, creating redundancy, as many of these cars come with apps and in-car tech for diagnosing performance.
EVSE Safety Precaution:
Last but not least, be certain that your EVSE comes standard with a built-in GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protection. This will protect you and your family from accidental shocks, which could occur if the EVSE didn’t have grounding protections. There would be nothing worse than going to enter your vehicle and being shocked badly or permanently hurt, so make sure it’s protected.
Speaking of safety tips, it’s a wise idea to consider a whole home surge protector for the safety of all your electrical items. Many moons ago, households had far less plugged in 24/7 than we do now. With so many household electronics and appliances constantly connected, you’re potentially at risk for an electrical surge that could cause house-wide damage. Many of these options run anywhere from $100 – $200.
Top 3 EVSE Choices:
As we mentioned above, we’ve had the opportunity to install many EVSEs and we’ve learned which ones require us to come back for servicing and which ones last without issue. In no particular order, our Top 3 recommendations are:
Tesla Wall Connector:
It would be difficult to talk about EVs and EVSEs without mentioning Tesla. Tesla has done an exceptional job with making electrical sexy, fast, and fun. Their EVSE is no different. Starting at $500, the Tesla Wall Connector is a no-brainer for the Tesla owner, but it should also be considered for the other EV drivers out there. Tesla offers a variety of adapters, so most EV owners can charge using this unit. They also offer the fastest recharge speeds, so if you’re pushing your vehicle’s range limits often, this would be the product for you! The main unit comes with a 4 year warranty and accessories have a 1 year. Unfortunately, Tesla does require you to purchase additional components separately, such as cable management fixtures, adaptors, and longer cables.
If you don’t own a Tesla, the Siemens VersiCharge is a great option for most EV owners. What’s nice about the VersiCharge is that it comes in a little cheaper at around $475, but it’s also really versatile and an all-in-one package. The VersiCharge doesn’t try to upsell you on anything, instead they just offer you everything from the start. It comes with built-in cable management, a 20 foot cable standard, and it can plug directly into a NEMA 6-50 outlet (same as a clothes dryer). This unit comes with a 3 year warranty and offers universal compatibility.
The ChargePoint EVSE is the most-costly option starting at $559, but it’s also the only smart-EVSE that we recommend. As we lightly discussed above, having an EVSE that’s connected can pose some problems, but if you need their features, the ChargePoint is ideal. It’s Energy Star Certified, Amazon Alexa compatible, has an app for scheduling and monitoring of charging, it offers reminders and notifications, it’s compatible with all makes of EV, and it’s noticeably smaller than other options. Overall, it’s a great smart device!
Is an Electrician Needed to Install my EVSE?
As with many household projects, a question comes up often at Haas & Sons and that is, “Do I need an electrician to install my EVSE and if so, how much will it cost me?” To answer that, let’s begin with addressing why an electrician should be considered for most households.
Like many household projects, we all get the idea that we can do this and we try the DIY route. Big warning to all our customers: do not try this on your own unless you’re comfortable with and have experience working on potentially complex electrical jobs. The risk of harming yourself or damaging expensive items is too great for a novice to randomly try this trade. If you merely have to swap an outlet, then sure, research it and give it a try. However, as you’ve seen above, there are the potential for a lot of steps and customization along the way depending on your set-up and the unit purchased. Also, in some municipalities they require properly secured permits and a visit from an inspector to finalize this project, which is something many people don’t care to tackle on their own. An established electrician can navigate the county’s needs and all the technical steps of the install.
How Much Does Installing an EVSE Cost?
Many homeowners enjoy the ease of having an electrician come out and install their new EVSE. On average, installing an EVSE will run you between $350 – $800. The benefits of going with a local electrician over a ‘recommended installer’ from your EVSE manufacturer are primarily linked to cost-savings. Being a recommended installer is just a fancy way to upsell customers, but an electrician with enough prior experience is easily capable of doing this job. Additionally, it’s always nice to have a sole-contact for all your household electrical needs. As an example, if I were to come out to your home and consult about installing an EVSE, I might notice something that has to be augmented for the system to work properly. In this situation, the homeowner would only need to negotiate and work with one person, as opposed to having multiple contractors (such as an electrician for home upgrades and then the ‘EVSE installer’ for the system install). Plus, it’s nice having an easily-accessible local contact versus having to call in a specialist each time you need advice or electrical repairs.
Variables That Can Increase EVSE Installation Costs?
The biggest factors when figuring out if your install will be on the lower end or the higher of installation costs are:
- Do you require a lot of upgrades?
- This is the most costly factor, as a house with existing capabilities to handle an EVSE will not incur the costs that are associated with upgrading your system if your house is not capable.
- Will the EVSE be installed near the circuit board or farther away?
- The farther away you decide to mount your EVSE in relation to your panel determines how much conduit is needed to run the wires back and forth between the panel and unit. The more conduit, holes drilled, wires installed, and so on, will increase the price. The materials of these components can also change depending on your needs, so that can increase the cost too.
Deciding to purchase an electric vehicle is a fun occasion and worrying about your EVSE isn’t something that should deter you from proceeding. That being said, because every element of this process deals with electricity and new products that many people aren’t familiar with, we recommend hiring a local electrician to assist you. If you’re so inclined, Haas & Sons has a 4.9 out of 5 Stars reputation in the region and we would love to assist you with this project! Give us a call at (443) 396-3797 or contact us online and we’ll schedule an on-site consultation today!