How to Install an Electric Car Charger: Ultimate Guide

how to install an EV charger

DISCLAIMER: Electrical work can be dangerous. Injury or death can occur. This article is for informational purposes only. If you are not confident, look for an experience electrician. Otherwise, install at your own risk.

Did you know that over 95% of EV charging is done at home? If that’s new to you, let’s switch into high-gear and talk about installing one in yours.

The vast majority of countries across the globe operate on 220-240 volts. The installation of specific outlets for EV chargers isn’t required in some cases, unless of course you want to charge at higher amperage.

If you want to charge your EV in less than 1-10 hours (in most cases), you should install a level 2 EV charger. These chargers can operate on 16, 24, 26, and 32 amps. Some give you the option to switch between different amperage, while others are preset.

In case you are hesitant to put-in the elbow grease and install one yourself, here’s some KEY benefits to charging at home:

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Top 3 Benefits

There’s no doubt that there are obvious drawbacks to charging at home VS charging at a level 3 location. Unless you live in a commercially zoned building, 440 volts won’t be possible. 

With that aspect placed aside, let’s talk about the 3 MAIN benefits of installing a charger at your home.

  • #1 Save Time: This will probably be the most obvious benefit to going from 110-120 volts to 220-240 volts. Level 1 chargers can only add a few miles per hour. Unless you have a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a small battery, level 1 won’t cut it. Example: Chevy Bolt EV charges at 110 volts at 12 amps (60kWh/1.32kWh charging speed = 45.5 hours to 100%). Lets now boost that voltage to 220 and amperage to 16 (60kWh/3.5kWh charging speed = 17.2 hours to 100%). Lastly, lets now boost the amperage from 16 to 32 (60kWh/7.0kWh charging speed = 8.5 hours to 100%).
  • #2 You’ll Pay LESS: If you charged at any level 3 charger, you know it’s not cheap. While it may be cheaper than gas (in most cases), it’s not as cheap as charging at home. To give you another example, I want to break down the costs associated with charging at home here in Winchester, VA to charging at the local Electrify America station a few miles away. The EA charger (if you are member) charges $0.31/kWh, whereas the local utility company here chargers $0.11/kWh. If you do that may to the Bolt EV’s 60kWh pack, a 100% charger would cost me $18.60 (Electrify America) and $6.60 (at home).
  • #3 The Ultimate Convenience: Until we have EV’s that can charger in 15 minutes or less, we need to be charging while our vehicles are not in use. Most electric vehicles on the market are designed to charge to full in less than 10 hours (even ones that only have the level 2 option). Any time you come home, you simply plug IN and go about your business.

Criteria for the PERFECT Charger:

This part is for those who haven’t bought an EV charger yet. If you have, move on to the next step.

As I have covered earlier, there’s many conveniences with charging at home. When it comes to getting the RIGHT charger, there’s a few KEY criteria to look for. If you keep these things in mind, you’ll have the best experience with your purchase.

Cord Length

This part depends on where you’ll be mounting your charger. Cord lengths tend to be very similar, but not always. Once you found the mounting location, use a tape measure to measure the length between where the vehicles charging port is and the charger. This can be a “rough” estimate, and the longer the cord, the better.

Amperage

 This is where you could waste a lot of money if you OVER do it. EV’s are rated for certain amperage (maximum). Take the Chevy Volt from 2013, it was rated for 3.3kWh maximum charging speed. If you end up paying extra for a charger that supplies up to 6.6kWh, it would be pointless since the car is capped at 3.3kWh. The price differences can be anywhere between $50-$100 (16amp VS 32amp). Unless you plan on getting a vehicle that can support the higher amperage, just get what you need at the moment.

Wiring Type

Charging systems can come with a certain wall connector (for example: NEMA 14-50), or there will be raw wires that you can hardwire directly into a breaker box.

App Compatibility

If you want to spend the big bucks, get a charger with app compatibility. Everything is done through our phones nowadays, right? Companies like JuiceBox and ChargePoint provide app support. These apps let you track energy usage, percentage until complete charge, date, and times of charging.

3 EV Chargers to Consider

Right now, there’s a few dozen different chargers available. Choosing one can be a headache (like it was for me). In order to help you out, I put together the “top 3” recommended EV chargers to buy. Have a look!

BUDGET FRIENDLY

Morec

MOST EXPENSIVE

  • Can connect via App
  • Easy to install
  • Beautiful design
  • Most feature packed charger

MIX OF BOTH

  • Chargers up to 10kW
  • High Customer Satisfaction 
  • Built in Canada
  • Reliability and ease of use

Electrical Safety

Today more than ever before, we have all the necessary information to properly work with electricity at home. Improper handling of electricity can cause burns, shocks, and electrocution (in some cases, resulting in death).

  • First things first, at a bare minimum, wear safety glasses and well insulated gloves.
  • Remember to ALWAYS use insulated tools. Tools are usually made of metal, an excellent conductor of electricity. Be sure the tools are insulated properly (with rubber or plastic). If insulation is worn down or damaged to the point where you can see metal, use a different tool.
  • Make sure your hands are dry. If you made contact with any liquids and your hands are still wet, you increase your chances of conducting electricity. Dry they out and keep your gloves ON and DRY.
  • Turn off the power source to the area you are working in. In the cases of installing an EV charger, flip the main breaker to avoid any accidental contact or sparks.

*NOTE: If you leave the area without finishing the job, put up a sign so nobody turns the main switch ON.

guy charging his car at home using 220 volts

EV Charger Installation Steps:

It’s now time to learn how to install a level 2 charger. Below, I’ve broken down each step necessary to go from A-Z. 

  • #1 Kill the power: Before you do any kind of work, it’s critical that you cut power to all the terminals in the breaker box. If your breaker box has a master switch, flip it. In the even there’s still HOT wires running, cut the power at the meter.
  • #2 Access your breaker box: Once you cut the power, find an area where you’ll install a 40 to 50-amp breaker switch (depending on how much your charger requires).
  • #3 Mount your charger hub: It is time to pick a place to mount your charger. Try installing it close to the breaker box as things become MUCH easier to wire together.
  • #4 Hook-up: Take three 6-gauge wires and connect them to the charger hub. You’ll need to unscrew the main cover that keeps the charger sealed from outside elements. Secure the ground, negative, and positive wires inside the charger. Put everything together and secure the charger to the wall.
  • #5 Clean wiring: Now you can run wires to the breaker box. The difficulty will depend on how close the charger is to the breaker box. Don’t rush this, doing a PROPER job is crucial. You can conceal the wires by running them through the wall and into the breaker box area. Better yet (though not appealing), you can use PVC flex tubing without going behind the wall (see local code requirements).
  • #6 Connecting to breaker: It’s time to make the final connections. By now you should be working with only three wires. One ground, one positive, and one negative wire. Run the ground wire directly to the grounding area of the breaker box. After that, run the positive and negative wires to the breaker switch. Make sure connections are SECURE and there’s NO exposed or loose wiring.
  • #7 Check connections & power ON: by now you should have three solid connecting wires. I can’t stress enough the importance of making sure all wires as secured properly. After you’ve followed the steps to a “T”, bring the breaker box back to life by flipping the ON switch.
  • #8 Put the breaker panel cover back on: Now that your charger turns ON and works well, screw the breaker panel cover back into place. Never leave the cover OFF.

When Should You Hire an Electrician?

If what I explained above sounds intimidating, don’t be afraid to hire an electrician. The entire process can be completed in as little as 1-2 hours. Expect to pay anywhere around $150-$1,000 to get everything installed correctly. Costs tend to be lowest when installation is done right next to the breaker box (or whichever power source you choose).

If you want some help with picking a good electrician, I wrote an article explaining in detail the best practices.

Conclusion

We covered a lot of information here, from the main benefits, to step-by-step installation. There’s a lot to intake, but there’s one thing you should REMEMBER: don’t hesitate to have an expert do this for you.

Electrical work can be complex but rewarding. It can save you money, but it can also cause harm or burn your house down (when done improperly). The great thing about EV chargers is that once it’s installed, you can set it and forget it. Enjoy the convenience of getting “driving juice” from the comfort of your own home.