Charging at Home: EV Ready or Not

As electric vehicle (EV) sales continue to rise across the country, people are becoming more aware of the technology’s most notable benefits, including the financial savings on gas, environmental impacts and performance. But one of the lesser-known perks is the convenience of charging up at home, which most often occurs at night while drivers sleep. Out of workplace, public and residential options, about 80 percent of EV charging takes place in the comfort of a driver’s home.

If you own or are planning to purchase an EV, it is important to prepare for plugging in. Below are areas to consider and simple steps you can take to make sure you have the ability to charge at home with ease.

Selecting a Charger

Your type of residence can influence which charging setup works best for you. Some types, such as rentals or multifamily communities, pose unique challenges for EV drivers — shared parking or a third-party approval process, for example. People who own a single-family home generally have a more straightforward time navigating residential charging because they have more control.

The first general distinction to consider is whether you’ll use Level 1 or Level 2 charging. Because EVs run on electricity, you can charge them wherever there’s an outlet, even a regular 120-volt electric socket works. This is Level 1 charging. It provides just 3 to 5 miles of vehicle range per hour but may be sufficient if you have brief, predictable commutes or if you own a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that has a shorter electric range. (These typically drive 10-50 miles on electricity before switching to gasoline.) EVs come with all the equipment you need for Level 1 charging, and there’s no extra labor needed, so it’s your simplest option.

Many drivers, however, opt for a quicker Level 2 arrangement. Level 2 charging uses a 240-volt outlet (what’s used for clothes dryers) and delivers 10 to 60 miles of range per hour.

Level 2 Charging Installation

For both existing homeowners and those looking to buy, it’s important to know your charging station options and make decisions that will help you get the most out of your home charging setup. While it is cheaper to make charging arrangements before construction, you can upgrade right where you are as well. The total cost of installation can range from several hundred to over a thousand dollars, depending on the work and upgrades required, but many find that the benefits of Level 2 are worth it in the long run.

Installing a Level 2 charging station often requires the help of an electrician. In some cases, it’s best to coordinate efforts with your electric utility and electrical contractor at the same time to ensure that codes and regulations are followed. Some electric utilities offer incentives for installing a Level 2 station, so be sure to check if that’s a possibility for you. And at a broader level, it’s a good idea to contact your utility if you are adding one.

Level 2 stations can vary in their features. The differences between models are primarily related to durability, power, weatherization, data logging functionality, remote communications capability and payment systems. You can view available Level 2 chargers on Plug In America’s PlugStar website and at EV Charging Stations.

When it comes to determining the location of the charger, choose a place near a frequent parking spot, such as in a garage or carport/driveway, and note the placement of the charging port on your vehicle. If you don’t have an EV yet, try to identify where the port is on the models you’re leaning toward.

No matter where the outlet is located, make sure there is available space on the floor, walls and ceiling, and be mindful of overhead doors or objects that may obstruct your vehicle’s ability to plug in. If spaces are comparable, consider selecting based on cost and/or ease of installation.

Costs to Charge at Home

Charging your EV at home is much cheaper than fueling a gasoline car. For example, if you were to drive the U.S. average of about 39 miles per day (nearly 14,500 per year) getting 3.5 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh) at an electricity cost of $0.11 per kWh (the average residential cost in North Carolina), your typical daily charging cost would be $1.23, or approximately $37 per month. Comparing that to a gasoline car that gets 30 miles per gallon paying $3.50 per gallon of gas, the typical daily fuel cost would be $4.55, or approximately $137 per month.

In addition to offering charging station rebates as mentioned above, some electric utilities have special off-peak charging rates for EVs. Typically, you will have the option of switching to a time-of-use rate for your whole house that will include your EV, or you can install a second meter just for your EV use. Contact your utility to see what programs it offers.

EV-Ready Homes

Over the last few years, municipalities across the country have been adding EV-ready language to their building codes. “EV-ready” is a term used to describe a new home (or facility) that provides safe access to a dedicated power supply for charging at a Level 2 station. These homes come with benefits to both homeowners and builders.

For homeowners, they save time and money. Making a home EV-ready is simple during initial construction, but, as noted earlier, post-construction upgrades can be expensive. Additionally, residents will have an easier time purchasing an EV knowing they have a convenient and fast place to charge.

Builders see another set of perks. Constructing EV-ready homes adds little to no costs, differentiates them from competition, increases home value and attractiveness to buyers, demonstrates a commitment to the environment and shows support for consumer choices.

Multifamily Dwellings

Many multifamily communities are installing charging stations as they see the benefits of promoting sustainability and providing an amenity for residents and visitors. If you own an EV or are planning to purchase one and you live in a multifamily community without charging stations, try talking to your property owner, manager or homeowners’ association and request for stations to be installed. It is best to be prepared when making the request, since the installation will be an investment in time and money.