Whether you just bought an electric vehicle (EV) or are searching for one now, chances are you have given some thought as to how to charge the car. Since charging at home is the vast majority of how EV drivers charge, figuring out your home charging situation will be one of your top priorities. But how do you select the best home EV charger?
First, you’ll need to determine if a charger is even needed. There are basically two camps when it comes to home EV charging:
- You are able to get by with the Level 1 charger that comes with the electric car, or
- You will need to purchase a Level 2 charger for quicker charging
Level 1 vs. Level 2 Charging
Level 1 charging utilizes 120 volts (like a normal household outlet) and provides around 4 miles of range per hour. On the other hand, Level 2 charging utilizes 240 volts (like an electric dryer) and provides around 25 miles of range per hour.
If you are able to just use the Level 1 charger that comes with the car then there is no need to purchase a Level 2 charger and/or install any home electrical upgrades for the 240 volt outlet. You will simply plug in the charger to the standard house outlet and charge your EV as you need.
One thing to note is that Level 1 chargers that come with the car are not “Smart” or Wi-Fi capable. Therefore, managing charging schedules to avoid higher price electricity during time-of-use rate plans will be done within the EV. Nearly all EVs have the ability to control charging schedules on the infotainment screen or on the car’s app.
Unfortunately, all devices eventually will break. Therefore, after several years of use you will need to purchase a replacement charger. If so, continue reading to see how to select the best charger.
Various Features of Home EV Chargers
Whether you need a Level 2 charger for quicker home charging or need to replace the charger that originally came with the vehicle, you will need to begin your search. Fortunately, the search process is fairly straightforward despite the numerous chargers available for purchase.
To find the best home EV charger that fits your needs, you will first need to determine if you need any of the following features:
- Smart/Wi-Fi Capable
- Level 2 Charging (240 volts)
- Outdoor rated
- UL Listed
- Length of cable
- Plug-in or hardwired
- Charging power
As mentioned previously, some chargers have smart/WiFi capabilities. Through the use of the charger smartphone app, you can control various functions such as charging schedules and user access. Additionally, the smartphone apps allows you to view data such as energy delivered and current charging status.
Some smart chargers even have smartphone and smartwatch notifications. That way you can receive alerts on how much range you have without having to go to the car.
Lastly, since much of the charger is through updatable software, new features/bug fixes can be added over time by the manufacturer.
Level 2 Charging
Nearly most replacement/separately purchased EV chargers are Level 2. For those who want a Level 2 charger, you’re in luck as there are many, many to choose from.
However, if you are still looking to replace your old Level 1 charger that came with the car with another one, you’ll need to search carefully online. There are a few online but most of them do not have proper third-party safety certifications. See UL Listed below for more information on this feature.
Not all chargers are made for the elements. If you are looking to install your home EV charger outside then it is best to check it is capable of being outside first before purchase. The product description will specify if it is capable of being outside. If the charger isn’t outdoor rated, then you may void the warranty and the charger may fail from water damage. Buyer be warned.
UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories. They are a third-party quality and safety organization that has been reviewing products since the late 1800s. A product with a UL listing ensures the customer that the product is safe for use. Since the third-party qualification requires some money and time, manufacturers can skimp out and release the product without third-party approval.
This can be dangerous as manufacturers may rush or cheat the quality control process in order to get sales. It is highly recommended to only buy products with a third-party safety certification–especially in electronics.
EV chargers manage high amounts of power from the wall to the car. If something goes wrong, it could cause a fire and damage your home and vehicle. Even worse, it could cause serious harm to you and your family.
You may be tempted to save a couple of bucks and buy an EV charger without a UL listing, however, do so at your very own risk.
Length of Cable
Depending on the location of the outlet, the parking stall, and the car’s charging port, you may need to consider the length of the cable. Most chargers come with a 12-15 foot cable. This is sufficient for most people, especially those who park in or near their garage. However, in some circumstances, you may need a longer cable. There are sometimes variations of chargers with longer cables around 25 feet.
It is best to measure all of these distances before you purchase to ensure you have enough length. Be sure to add a few extra feet due to bending around objects and enough slack so the cable remains flat on the ground reducing the tripping hazard.
While it’s not ideal, in some cases you may need an extension cord. This can be for those who have a parking location far from a nearby outlet. Again, it is not ideal, but sometimes is necessary to charge the car overnight. When selecting the extension cord, make sure the gauge is properly sized. Failing to do so may cause a fire as there is too much power through too small of a wire.
When in doubt, ask an electrician.
Plug-in or Hardwired
Chargers come in two different power formats: plug-in and hardwired. Plug-in types are simply plugged into the proper outlet. In most cases, a Level 2 charger plugs into a NEMA 14-50 outlet. If you ever need to take it with you while traveling or if you ever move, simply unplug it.
Hardwired chargers are (somewhat) permanently installed. They require an electrician or someone very familiar with electrical to install. They cannot be easily uninstalled without unscrewing a couple wires.
Due to the freedom and portability, it is recommended to go for the plug-in type charger. You never know when you’ll move or need to quickly relocate your charging location.
While Level 2 chargers (240 volts) are significantly faster than Level 1 chargers, there is a broad range of charging power amongst them. Each Level 2 charger is expressed as the number of amperage (amps or A for short) that it can handle. The higher the amps, the faster the charger. And because volts x amps = kilowatts, the higher the kilowatt (kW), the faster the charge as well.
In general, Level 2 chargers range from 16A up to 50A. In terms of kilowatts, they range from 3.8 kW to 12 kW. For plug-in hybrids with their small batteries, a 16A charger would be sufficient, however, for an all-electric car with their larger batteries, it would be best to go for something that charges faster. For BEVs, it is recommended to get at least a 40A charger.
By following this rule of thumb, you will be able to charge the EV at the fastest possible speed the car is capable of. Each EV, whether a PHEV or BEV, has a certain charging limit. PHEVs typically have a ceiling around 3-7 kW (16-32A charger) while BEVs cap off around 7-10 kW (32-50A charger).
Again, this is a rough rubric. Charging speed limitations vary model by model.
Overall Best Home EV Charger
The overall best home EV charger goes to the Enel X Juicebox. This Level 2 charger charges up to 32 amps, which is sufficient for most people’s needs. Again, most people charge at home overnight, so a Level 2 charger will easily recharge the battery during that time.
The Juicebox checks nearly all of the features boxe: outdoor rated, UL listed, smart/WiFi capable, 25 foot cable, and a plug-in. As a bonus, two Juiceboxes can be plugged into the same circuit for 2+ EV households. Other chargers require dedicated circuits for each charger.
A close second is the Chargepoint Home Flex. One advantage of the Chargepoint charger is that it uses the same app used for Chargepoint’s public charging station. As you will learn, owning an EV requires several apps. One less app the better.
Best Non-Smart EV Chargers
The Blink HQ is the best non-smart charger. It does, however, have a delay start feature that makes it somewhat smart, however, it does not have a WiFi connection nor a smartphone app to control other features.
At a great price and plenty of charging speed, the Blink HQ is a great middle ground charger. Plus, for a limited time, buyers receive a $100 charging credit to Blink’s public charging network. This kind of perk does not exist with other charger manufacturers who also have a public charging network (e.g. Chargepoint, Electrify America, Tesla, Clipper Creek).
Most Durable EV Chargers
Clipper Creek makes some of the most durable chargers. In fact, many car makers use Clipper Creek chargers as their default charger that comes with the vehicle.
Made in the United States, Clipper Creek chargers are a great choice for those looking for a long lasting charging solution. While none of their models are smart/WiFi capable, they are great for outdoor installs. Furthermore, they have models that are Level 1 or Level 2 capable depending on your needs.
Additionally, they even have a model that comes with two plugs! For those with two EVs in the household, Clipper Creek has a single charger solution for you.
EV Charger Tax Credit
But wait, there’s more! There is currently a tax credit for the purchase and cost of installation of home EV chargers worth up to 30% or $1,000, whichever is less. While not available at the point of sale, the charger tax credit allows individuals to save a few hundred dollars.
Plus, the tax credit can be applied to the cost of installation. For those who need electrical upgrades or a new circuit, this could really help save you money as its worth up to $1,000.
At the moment, this incentive is not expected to be renewed next year so plan on making any purchases and electrical upgrades this year.
It’s a lot to get through but hopefully by now you feel confident enough to select the best home EV charger right for you. Again, there are many, many models to choose from. Just remember to look out for key features and quality certifications.
If any of this is still a bit too overwhelming, feel free to schedule a FREE consultation with us at Charged Future! We are your personal EV consultant that can help walk you through EV basics for the first-time shopper.
Charged Future helps first-time electric car buyers switch to electric. Starting with a free consultation, we’ll answer any of your basic questions and point you in the right direction. For any detailed needs, we have several options of services to help you make the switch to EVs.
At a minor cost, we can show you exactly which car is right for you, where you will charge on long trips, and, most importantly, how much you can save by getting an electric car.
Hi there! I’m the founder and project manager at Charged Future: the EV charging consultancy. Charged Future helps businesses achieve their EV charging goals. Specifically, I serve as the project manager for your EV charging project, which can save you both time and money! Additionally, I can search and apply to all eligible rebate applications, which can typically cover a large portion of the project cost.