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Installing home-electrification upgrades, like home electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, can help homeowners save significantly on their energy costs, and thanks to the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, undertaking these home improvements comes with more incentives than ever.

But before you summon a licensed electrician to your home, there are a few simple steps you can take on your own to assess your home’s readiness for EV-charging upgrades. These can help you roughly anticipate costs without shelling out cash for an official estimate. Just start with the three simple steps outlined below.

Understand the Differences Between Level 1 and Level 2 Chargers

Every EV on the market today comes with a basic 120V charging cable, known as a Level 1 charger. This allows you to connect to any standard electrical outlet in your home and start charging your vehicle immediately, with no modification required.

While that sounds great on paper, it isn’t an ideal solution for most EV owners, unfortunately. Just consider the following two drawbacks, for starters:

  • Speed and time: The charge from a Level 1 charger can be exceedingly slow — you might only increase your vehicle’s range by a few dozen miles during the course of a full overnight charge, for example, and it’s going to take more than 24 hours to bring your battery back to 100% if it’s anywhere near empty. For a lot of daily commuters, that alone could be a deal breaker.

  • Load and capacity: Many home electrical systems aren’t equipped to handle the combined load of EV charging along with home appliances and accessories like hair dryers and microwave ovens, which you probably use every day. In other words, you might have to completely change your ordinary patterns of home energy consumption in order to make a Level 1 charger work for you.

In light of challenges like these, it’s probably unsurprising that the majority of EV owners install Level 2 chargers at home. These dedicated EV chargers can charge an EV to 80 percent from empty in anywhere from four to 10 hours on average, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

While these chargers require a slightly different kind of plug, as well as support from a qualified electrician (more on both of those below), the overall process of upgrading isn’t too taxing from a cost or planning standpoint. A simple first step, for instance, is to consider your home’s layout.

Related Post: Guide to EV Charging Station Rebates and Tax Credits

Think About Your Home’s Physical Layout

Most EV owners opt to upgrade to Level 2 charging capabilities at home — and you probably will, too, for the reasons outlined above — but not all homes have the ideal physical layout for doing so. With that in mind, take a moment to review the following two rules of thumb, which may help you better understand your home’s readiness for an upgrade to Level 2 charging capabilities and anticipate the associated costs as well.

  • Proximity is key: The closer you’re able to park your car to an existing power source, the better. Do you have a driveway, garage, unused barn — or anyplace you can store your car that’s near your home? If so, great — upgrading should be relatively straightforward. But the flipside is that if you’re, say, 100% reliant on street parking, you may be looking at significantly higher costs to upgrade.

  • Measure length from charger to vehicle: Most chargers on the market today come with about 25 feet of cable, so ask yourself: Can I park somewhere within that radius to a power source? If so, that’s ideal. If not, again, the costs associated with upgrading may be somewhat higher.

Bear in mind that these are “rules of thumb” for a reason — that is, they may help give you a sense of what to expect in terms of upgrade costs and complexity, but nothing more. It’s always a good idea to speak with a qualified electrician who has experience with Level 2 charger installations before deciding whether or not such an upgrade is right for your home.

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Assess Your Home’s Electrical Setup

Physical layout aside, your home’s existing electrical system can be a determining factor in EV upgrade readiness. After all, as mentioned in connection with Level 1 chargers, charging an EV can easily max out load capabilities if other energy-intensive appliances are switched on simultaneously, so this is a key area to focus.

Again, you’ll need to consult with a licensed electrician to fully understand your home’s electrical capacity, but there are also a few steps you can take on your own in the interim. Here’s one, for example:

  • Scrutinize your breaker box: Take the cover off of your breaker box and look to see if there are any available spaces where breakers could be plugged in. If so, the upgrade should be even simpler. But if there aren’t any, don’t worry — it doesn’t necessarily mean that your upgrade is going to be complicated, as some breaker boxes come with double-breaker capabilities through which a single slot can be turned into two separate breakers.

Whatever the case may be, the key thing to understand is that Level 2 chargers run on higher-pressure 240V outlets — similar to the outlets powering your A/C unit, dryer, or electric stove, and different from the standard 120V outlets found throughout your home, which are capable of generating more power over shorter periods of time.

Beyond that, you should verify that your home’s garage, barn, or intended EV-charging-and-storage structure is in fact connected to a power source. If not, you’ll need to make changes in order to connect it to your home’s electrical panel, which could involve trenching and running cables underground, resurfacing your driveway, and/or drilling holes to connect it to your electrical panel (especially if the electrical panel is located in the basement of your home, as the case may be). Of course, all of these are concerns that you can address with a licensed electrician.

Related Post: Guide to Electrical Panel Upgrades and IRA Incentives

Next Steps

There are simple steps you can take right now to get a sense of your home’s state of EV readiness, and in so doing, get a handle on the potential cost and complexity of upgrading to a Level 2 charger for your home, as we have seen.

The next step after you’ve completed the three basic ones above? Reach out to a qualified electrician in your area. While you wait for your appointment, download Green Door, the free app from Pearl Certification, which you can use to find savings on home EV charging stations, generate customized home improvement plans to help you further electrify, and certify your EV charging station and other energy-efficient systems to capture the value they add to your home.

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