If you have finally decided to replace your OEM Level 1 charger that came with your electric vehicle with a faster Level 2 (240-volt) home charger, you are in luck. Our DIY installation guide will equip you with all the necessary knowledge you need to be sure that the installation will go smoothly and you won’t spend more money than you really need to.
The current market is saturated by many reliable Level 2 residential charging stations that can drastically cut the time it takes to recharge the battery. What would take an entire night with an old Level 1 charger can now take only a few hours. Your car will always be ready in the morning for an entire day of driving, and you can even monitor and control your electricity usage via your mobile phone, or connect the station with your Nest home thermostat. Such are some of many advantages of Level 2 charging.
However, unlike with simple Level 1 charger that plugs straight into your regular electricity outlets, Level 2 chargers require an appropriate electric circuit, which can support the high voltage and current used for charging. Mike Mueller, the product manager at Bosch, says that “If you know how to install a 240-volt dryer outlet, you can install an EV charger.”
That’s definitely a great news, as many people are able to not only install the outlet, but they more often than not have one already in place. This means that, in some cases, the only thing to do is to hang the charger on the wall and plug it in.
Hardwire or Plug-in?
In most cases, the choice between a hardwire and plug-in version of an EVSE is simple: if you can, buy the plug-in. Why? Because permanently installed hardwire chargers are very inconvenient if you move. These units tend to require around three feet of conduit coming from the enclosure, which needs to be connected to the circuit. When you need to relocate the station or take it off the wall, you need to pay an electrician to do the job, and then pay him again when you decide to install it somewhere else.
Compare this to plug-in stations. Customers who already have a 240V receptacle in place can install the station for virtually nothing at all. Even without the receptacle, it’s still a good decision to have an electrician install a dryer outlet (a NEMA 14-50) and mount the EVSE next to it. Most plug-ins come with, at least, 12 inches long plug, which you can connect or disconnect as you please. Removing the charger and placing it somewhere else is then really just a matter of a few seconds.
The only real limitation for plug-in chargers is the fact that some laws insist on hardwiring the charger to the grid when used outside. That’s why you should always check your local laws to see what options you have.
Basic Overview of the Installation Process
Level 2 chargers require 240V, which is the same voltage that powers most electric ovens, dryers, and air conditioning units. The higher voltage allows for much faster charging, but it also requires a compatible 240V outlet and a suitable circuit breaker.
Most Level 2 chargers need a dedicated 30-40A circuit breaker. Such circuit breaker is often the biggest installation expense, and we advise you to future-proof your installation by going for a higher rating than you might require at the moment. Your next station may be able to use the extra 10 or so amps, and you will be glad that you that you already have a compatible circuit breaker in place.
Next is the wiring from the EVSE to the circuit breaker. The longer it is, the more you have to pay. So, think carefully about which place is really the best for the charger both from the practical point of view and in terms of how it effects the cost.
NEMA is the acronym for National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which sets standards many kinds of electrical equipment. You can check a handy NEMA reference chart to get an overview of all available outlets.
In the vast majority of cases, you will need to install a NEMA 14-50 outlet, but you can also come across a NEMA 10-30 or NEMA 14-30 outlets, which are used for residential clothes dryers, and even an NEMA 6-50 outlet, used for welding equipment.
Outdoor use requires a unit with a NEMA rating of 4X. This type of enclosure provides a degree of protection of the equipment inside the enclosure against ingress of solid foreign objects or water, against corrosion, and damage caused by the external formation of ice on the enclosure.
When should I Hire a Professional?
The most important factors when deciding whether to hire a professional will be your personal experience, the cost of the installation, and how much work needs to be done. Some installations may require long stretches of conduit to be run from a completely different part of the house, which is more time-consuming than it is difficult. By doing this preliminary preparation by yourself, you can save hundreds of dollars and use this money to pay for electricity.
Of course, if you lack the experience or just not feel up to the task, you should contact a few local electricians and companies and get multiple quotes. Prices can vary greatly from electrician to electrician, and it’s up to you to do your homework and not overpay.
More and more EVSE manufacturers are also offering complementary installation services done by qualified technicians who are deeply familiar with the particular brand of EV chargers and are guaranteed to do a good job at a reasonable price. Take it into the consideration when selecting your next charger.