You’ve decided to transition from a standard automobile to a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) or electric vehicle (EV). The challenge now is to find the right EV charging station for your vehicle, home, and budget. There are many different brands, models, and features on the market, and performance varies, too. You likely have concerns about compatibility, and with that in mind, let’s explore everything you should know.

EV Charging Station Level

There are three EV charging levels: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Level 1 requires a 110-volt connection, which is the standard household outlet in the US. Level 2 requires a 240-volt connection, which is the same outlet your central AC, water heater, dryer, and range may use. Level 3 refers to DC fast charging. It’s not yet a practical option for residential installations.

Level 1 chargers are available, but most PHEVs and all EVs support Level 2. The charging times are much faster with Level 2. Could you just use a 240-volt outlet instead of a charging station? Yes, but there are some potential downsides to consider. The outlet will be more prone to overheating and tripping the circuit breaker. Charging will also be slower and less consistent.

Your Home’s Electrical Panel

Updates to the National Electrical Code (NEC) in 2020 require a 240-volt electrical panel and whole-home surge protection. If you have a home built before 2020, you should first schedule an inspection of your electrical system. Many older homes have a 110-volt electrical panel. That generally won’t cut it for an EV charging station. In addition to a panel upgrade, your electrician may recommend a Type 2 surge protection device (T2 SPD). A T2 SPD will protect your home’s electrical system from spikes and surges from the charging station.

EV Charging Station Incentives

Before shopping, you should explore any incentives that may offset your installation costs. If you have incentives available, you’ll want to ensure that your product choice meets the necessary criteria. The federal government offers a tax credit for EV charging station installation at your primary residence. There are also rebates offered by state and local governments, utility companies, and other local groups. Check the Department of Energy website for details specific to your region.

The SAE J1772 Plug

The good news for compatibility in North America is that almost every EV uses the SAE J1772 plug. SAE J1772 is the plug on the end of the charging cable you insert into your vehicle’s charging port. That means you can purchase any EV charging station sold in the US and be confident that it’s compatible.

There is one notable exception: Tesla. Tesla uses a proprietary charging connection. GM has also announced plans to transition to the Tesla connection. The good news on this front is that there’s an adapter available. It lets you charge EVs with a Tesla connection using an SAE J1772 plug. Likewise, if you opt for a Tesla wall charger, you can purchase an adapter that will fit the SAE J1772 connection.

The Elements

You need to think about where to park your EV and charge it. You don’t need to consider weatherproofing if you’ll charge in a climate-controlled area. Most EV charging stations are acceptable for use in non-climate-controlled garages and are also safe to use in the rain. If you install your charger outdoors, you’ll want to pay closer attention to the system’s ratings. What are the charging times in cold weather? What is the lowest safe temperature? What are your options for dealing with extreme weather?

Locks for Outdoor Systems

If you opt for an outdoor installation, locks are also a consideration. You want to be able to lock both the unit itself and the non-EV connector cable. This will protect you against theft and safeguard children and animals that may be playing around the charging station. You should also check with your electrician if there are any local ordinances to which your installation must adhere.

Solar Panels and Storage Battery

A benefit of choosing an outdoor installation is having the option for a solar-powered charging station. These systems use one or more panels to harness the sun’s energy. They often have a battery to collect energy for later use. They can also use electricity from the grid when there isn’t enough solar power. These units cost more upfront but can be cheaper over the long term.

Charging Cable Length

Based on where you’ll park and charge, how long of a cable do you need? The average charging station on the market has a cable of between 12 and 25 feet. Many experts recommend a 25-foot cable even if you don’t need it now. If you do need it right now, there are cables that you can purchase separately. These measure 30 feet, 40 feet, or even more.

Cable Management

Don’t buy a cable longer than 25 feet if you don’t need it. The bigger cables are cumbersome and more challenging to use and store. You may also want to consider cable management in general. It can make daily use much more convenient. Some models have a holster or hook and even a retractable cable.

Dual Charging

If your household has two or more PHEVs or EVs, you may want to consider a dual charging station. These charging stations have two charging cables and can charge two vehicles simultaneously. You also have the option of purchasing separate charging stations. If they’re smart devices, you can link them together. That said, that approach is typically much more expensive than a dual station.

Charging Times

Check the manufacturer’s specifications for charging your particular vehicle. How fast a PHEV or EV can charge depends on the power capacity of the onboard charging system. If the power capacity of your charging station is less than that, charging times will underperform the manufacturer’s estimates. Environmental factors also play a role. Freezing weather can slow charging times. If you charge in such conditions regularly, you may want to choose a system that compensates for it.

App Support

Smart EV charging stations let you monitor and control them through an app on your smartphone or other device. Many brands offer standalone apps that you can use, and most brands also support vehicle manufacturer apps. If you prefer to use your EV’s app, be sure the charging station you choose is compatible.

EV Charger Installation in Magic Valley and Treasure Valley

Magic Electric, Plumbing, Heating + Air installs EV charging stations throughout Magic Valley, Treasure Valley, and the surrounding areas. Our electricians also upgrade electrical panels and install outlets, indoor and outdoor lighting, generators, and surge protection. We have HVAC technicians specializing in furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, ductless systems, air purifiers, and humidity control. Our plumbers clean drains and fix leaks. They also install piping, fixtures, tank and tankless water heaters, water and gas appliances, and water filtration and softening systems. Call us today or contact us online or schedule a service appointment or in-home consultation.

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