We ALL hate waiting for things.
When it comes to waiting for Christmas, that raise at work, or waiting until your electric car is 100% fully charged and ready to go. Truth of the matter is, normal 110-120 volt outlets in most peoples homes are charging our cars at very slow speeds, usually 1-3 kW per hour.
Even a car like the Mitsubishi iMIEV would take 6-17 hours to charge 100% (from just an estimate). Those numbers may not look TOO bad when your EV has a small battery and your commute is short.
Things start to look quite grim when you have a medium range (in todays standards) electric car that needs a full charge in less than 12 hours. Take a Nissan Leaf with a 30 kWh battery pack, at the regular rates you are looking at 10-30 hours of charging time.
(Not to mention cars with 40+ kW battery packs)
You can either travel to the nearest fast charger, find a level 2 charger at some commercial location OR... you learn how to install a level 2 charger at home on your own.
In this "how to" guide, I'll explain to you the exact steps necessary to install a 220-240 volt charger at your home.
There's not much to say about level 2 charging, instead there's only a few things worth mentioning that make the BIGGEST difference. Below I'll mention the most important benefits YOU as a person who installs a level 2 charge hub in your garage.
- Benefit number one, save time on charging: As you read above at the estimated charging times you'll see from regular wall outlets, installing a level 2 charger will drastically reduce these times. For example, a Nissan Leaf with a 2012 24kW battery pack has a 3.3kW on-board charger for 220-240 volt charging inputs. At that rate, you can expect to see a full 80-90 miles of range in 7 to 8 hours. On the flip side, the 1kW charging available with the 110-120 volt outlets would extend that charge time 3.3X more.
- Benefit number two, less paying for DC fast charging: Depending on how often you use an electric vehicle, if a DC fast charger is nearby... you are probably going to use it at one point or another. They cost at least a few dollars on average (sometimes free) to charge, so if that is something you do often... you can save money by doing it at home and paying much lower rates per kilowatt hour.
- Benefit number three, the ultimate convenience: It was not long ago when you had to only charge from 110-120 volt outlets, giving you excruciatingly long wait times. Imagine waking up and having at least 80% of your battery charge in less than 8 hours (on average). You'll be ready to start your day and not be required to make any additional trips for a quick charge. I'd say the most important thing is being able to save you the headache of thinking EXTRA of where to charge and for how long. For normal people who work and have a daily commute, THIS is very beneficial.
OKAY, What Should I Look for in a Level 2 Charger?
There's only a few things to look for when it comes to installing a level 2 charger hub. The few things I will mention below that will help you take advantage of the fastest charging possible at home. Here are the TWO things you should look for when deciding on what to buy and what your EV needs.
- On-Board Charging Limit: No one likes to limit their own potential, same goes for electric vehicles. When looking for level 2 charger hubs, just know almost all are going to charge at either 3.2kW, 6.6kW or 9.7kW. Almost all electric vehicles (with the exception of Tesla and Jaguar) will be charging at a maximum of 3.3kW or 6.6kW. The goal for you then would be to find out what's your vehicles limit.
An example would be a Nissan Leaf from 2013, it will charge at a 3.3kW MAXIMUM input from 220-240 volts. By getting a charger hub that does 6.6kW max, it is pointless because your vehicle can't take that much and would only be doing 3.3kW. On the flip side, if you bought a charger that truly maxes out at 3.3kW (just like your vehicle), it would be a totally different story.
*this right here is an excellent 3.3kW charger.
- Cord Length: There are times when you need to install the charger hub at a difference place than you initially wanted. In those cases, there would be times when the cord can't reach your vehicle. You will have to park your vehicle in positions just to make the cord reach the charge port, resulting in greater wear and tear on the charge cord and connector.
An easy to fix this is to get a LONG cord (20-30 feet at least).
Which Level 2 Charger To Pick?
I will not dive deep into this topic here, but it is important to pick the right level 2 charger for your needs. While this post talks about installing them, there is a dedicated post talking about which ev charger to pick for your home, you can read it here.
a little about safety...
Before you embark on this by yourself, please wear safety equipment.
Since you are working with electricity (it can be deadly), I recommend you wear flexible rubber gloves. In addition to that, wear safety glasses to ensure random things don't make their way towards your eyes.
If you are not sure about something even after reading this guide, look online extensively until you find your answer.
This installation is being done one way and does not mean you are going to successfully do it in your own garage. There are variables which I am not aware of and some steps would apply to you differently. However the principal still remains identical in every installation.
Let's Do It, Step-by-Step
Check connections & power ON:It is now time to do this entire installation on our own, below I'll explain how I've done it and how it worked for me (please read the disclaimer below).
- #1 Kill the power: Before you do any kind of work in your breaker box, it is recommended (highly) that you cut power off to all the terminals in the breaker box. If your breaker box has a master switch, flip it. However there are times when there will still be some HOT wires that have power running to them regardless, in which case you'll need to cut the power to the breaker box through your meter.
- #2 Access your breaker box: Once power is killed, find an area where you will install a 40 amp breaker switch (or use an existing one that isn't being used). You can usually find one these switches for around 10-20 dollars in places like Home Depot and Lowes.
- #3 Mount your charger hub: It is time to pick a place to mount your electric vehicle charger. Typically the closer to a breaker box the better and easier things will be during the install. Also when you move things closer to the breaker box, it requires less wiring to be ran through things.
- #4 Charger Hub hook-up: Take 6 gauge wires and connect them to the charger hub. Usually what you'll need to do is unscrew the main cover that keeps the charger sealed from outside elements. Run the ground, negative and positive wires inside and screw them in properly. After completion, secure the charger to the wall (in most cases) and begin running the wires to your breaker box.
- #5 Running the wires clean: This can sometimes take a while to do properly, but if you picked a close proximity to the breaker box it shouldn't be an issue. Conceal the wires by running them through the wall and into the breaker box area or run on through the outside using hard PVC flex tubing.
- #6 Connect to breaker switch: Once you have your charger hub mounted to the wall, wires running from it towards the breaker box, it is now time to connect the three wires. One wire will be the ground, so you'll connect that first to the grounding area of a breaker box. Then you'll need to connect the negative and positive to the breaker switch. Make sure the connections are SECURE and there's NO exposed wiring just dangling around.
- #7 Check connections & power ON: By now you have run the three 6 gauge wires from teh charger hub into the breaker switch located inside the breaker box. Double check all connections are solid and there's no exposed wiring visible. Again, I can't stress this enough as ignoring this part risks a fire hazard. After you have checked everything, go ahead and power ON your breaker box and let's see what charger charger hub is saying.
- #8 Reinstall breaker box cover & everything else: Pretty straightforward, screw everything back on and complete your installation.
Should I Hire An Electrician?
Odds are if you reading this post, hiring an electrician isn't a big priority. This entire process can be completed by you in as little as one hour with all necessary tools. Where it gets tricky is when accessing the breaker box, running wires through walls and ceiling extensively may prove to be a challenge.
You could be looking at this step-by-step process and find it quite frustrating and intimidating, not wanting anything to do with it because you are either afraid of being shocked or simply don't to make a mistake.
In either case, hiring a certified electrician to do this type of job should cost you anywhere between 200-500 dollars. What you from here, is up to you.
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