A complete guide to finding the best home EV charger for your electric car
With so many home EV chargers on the market, it can be tough to determine which one suits you best. Whether you’re waiting for your shiny new EV to arrive or still mulling over the perfect model, home charging is about to become an important part of your day-to-day as an electric vehicle owner. That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know when buying an electric car home charger!
A few home charging basics
There are a few EV charging terms you might want to get familiar with before jumping into your research. We’ll even throw in a quick math equation to illustrate a typical charging flow (pun intended). But don’t worry, you won’t be tested on this later!
- Kilowatt (kW): This is the rate of energy that flows from the charger to your vehicle, similar to gallons per minute from a hose. You’ll see home chargers that range from 7 kW to 19kW (we’ll explain what this means for charging time below).
- Kilowatt hour (kWh): This is the quantity of electricity that can be stored in your battery, just like gas in a tank.
To determine how fast your car will charge, divide kWh / kW. For example, if your vehicle has a 90-kWh battery and your charger provides 9 kW of power, it will take about 10 hours to go from 0% to 100%. Many car manufacturers recommend staying above 20% and only charging to 80% capacity (unless you really need more range – you), so you’ll probably never need to charge from totally empty to totally full.
Here are a couple more key terms that are specifically related to home charging:
- Amperage: This is determined by the capacity of your home’s wiring and electrical panel. Modern chargers usually range from 30 A to 80 A, and the higher the amperage, the more kW it will produce. However, your home’s electrical panel will be the limiting factor in terms of which charger you will be able to get (or how much it might cost to upgrade your panel).
- Voltage: Most North American home EV chargers will require a 208 – 240 volt circuit and while most prefer to hardwire their chargers, there are plug-in options for those that might have an outlet similar to the one you use for your electric clothes dryer.
Determine how much power your EV needs to charge at home
Fast and furious or slow and steady? When shopping for a home charger, first-time EV drivers can get caught up in the marketing messaging surrounding charging speed. In reality, most people don’t actually need the fastest charger out there, meaning they can save money on installation.
Step one is to understand the difference between level 1 and level 2 chargers. We recommend reading our detailed article on charging station types if you are not familiar with the concept, but here’s a quick breakdown in the meantime.
Level 1 chargers use a regular wall outlet and deliver the lowest power output (approximately 1.2 kW). They’re often supplied with your EV or plug-in hybrid and can take over 24 hours to deliver a complete charge, meaning they are usually too slow for drivers who want to be able to charge their vehicle to 80% overnight.
Level 2 is the way to go if you’re looking to increase efficiency. Some models can hit 19 kW, but the truth is, most modern EVs don’t need that much power for overnight charging. The majority of vehicles can’t even accommodate more than 11 kW of alternating current (AC), although some larger vehicles like pickup trucks are on the higher side of 19 kW, so check your vehicle, and have an electrician tell you how much capacity your home electrical panel has.
Why faster isn’t always better
- Electrical upgrades: Installing an EV charger at home incurs additional costs if you need to upgrade your electrical panel. The faster the charger, the higher the amperage it needs, so you need to check with an electrician to understand what your existing capacity is, and what it might cost to upgrade.
- Charging habits: Even if your car can handle a high charging speed, you likely won’t need it if you typically charge overnight. A 30 A charger (7.2 kW) will take your battery from 20% to 80% in just 6-8 hours – essentially, while you sleep!
Hardwired vs. NEMA: what’s the difference?
The next consideration will be installation options. Hardwired chargers must be installed by certified electricians and are directly connected to your electrical panel. Plug-in chargers use a standard NEMA plug and a wall outlet, just like any electrical appliance in your home.
- Hardwired: These chargers are permanent. They’re connected to your electrical box through a direct line (like your central air conditioner). Hardwiring level 2 chargers is often the preferred approach, as it limits the potential points of failure and provides better protection from the elements for outdoor chargers.
- Plug-in: These chargers require a 240-volt outlet, like an oven or dryer. If you already have one installed where your charger needs to be – in your garage, for example – going plug-in might be a good idea. Plug-in chargers also offer the flexibility of being portable, making them a good option for renters.
If you don’t have an existing 240-volt outlet and do have the ability to permanently install a charger on your property, we recommend hardwiring. The installation costs are usually similar, and hardwired chargers – like the FLO Home – may actually add value to your property!
“Location, location, location” also applies to home charging!
Where do you park your electric car? The answer will lead to a variety of factors to consider.
Attached or detached garage
You’ll need to consider the length of your charging cable and the ease of cable management. A shorter cable might require you to rethink how you park your car. You’ll also want to make sure there is an easy way to wrap the cable when not in use so kids aren’t tripping over it and the dog doesn’t take off with the connector (it’s happened…)
There’s an additional security element to shared parking spaces that’s worth exploring. If you’re worried about other people using your charger without permission (and racking up your electricity bill), you might want to consider a smart charger. These allow you to set a charging schedule and manage your charger from your phone, no matter where you are.
Driveway or dedicated outdoor parking near your house
If you have a convenient place to install a charger right next to your home parking spot, here are five key factors to consider:
- Weather: You’ll need a charger that is built for the outdoors. Each EV charger will have a NEMA enclosure rating (3, 3R, 4, or 4X). These ratings measure the electrical enclosure’s ability to withstand various conditions and protect users/electrical components from environmental hazards. EV chargers with a 4X rating offer the highest degree of protection, making them ideal for outdoor use and harsh climates.
- Safety: Most certified electricians will suggest a hardwire installation for outdoor use because it provides a watertight seal. Plug-in chargers that are not properly shielded can pose shock and fire hazards. Local building codes may also require a hardwire installation so it’s best to ask a certified electrician for more information.
- Installation: If you can’t attach your charger to your home, or if your parking spot is too far away for the cable to reach your car, you might want to opt for a pedestal installation. Make sure the charger you choose is compatible with this type of installation.
- Aesthetic: Your charger may be visible from the road or your front yard. Design might not be the first thing on your mind, but finding a charger you actually enjoy looking at is a nice bonus. After all, you’ll be using it every day! A sharp design might also be easier to get approved by HOAs or condo associations.
- Cable management: Outdoor installations expose cables to the elements. If they’re left on the ground, they can get damaged or become a tripping hazard. Look for a charger that offers easy cable management, which is especially important if your parking spot is in a shared space.
Do you need a smart EV charger or not?
Who doesn’t love a little bit of smart tech in their life? Smart chargers give you the ability to schedule your charging around lower utility rates (if applicable in your area) and track your energy usage. Some utility companies are even starting to require smart chargers if you want to take advantage of lower “time of use” rates – i.e. off-peak usage hours.
If you think you might need to charge two vehicles at the same time in the future, a smart charger may be a good fit. Thanks to power sharing technology, you might be able to install a second charger without having to update your electrical panel; your chargers will be able to share information and adjust how much power is delivered to both EVs to optimize their charge.
Look for certifications as proof of quality
Some certifications, like UL, ensure the products you’re using are safe and have undergone rigorous testing. For EV chargers, this can mean being equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters, surge protection, or temperature monitoring to protect both your vehicle and your home if something goes wrong.
Making sure the highest safety requirements are met is crucial for electrical equipment, especially if it’s installed outdoors.
Looking into the certifications listed on a charger’s spec sheet, or even looking up a product on trusted certification websites, can help you make an informed choice.
Go the distance
You want a charger that will be with you for the long haul. Warranties typically range from one to five years, so be sure to inquire about a charger’s buyer protection policy before you buy. The cheapest chargers on the market might seem enticing at first, but if you have to replace that charger more frequently than a well-made one, the costs will add up fast!
End of the road
And there you have it: everything you need to know to choose the perfect home EV charger. In our experience, EV owners tend to love the FLO HomeTM X5, but the most important thing is finding a home charger that meets your needs like a glove: reliable, efficient, and perfectly suited to your electric vehicle.