How to Prepare Your House for an Electric Car


If you are thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV) to help create a cleaner world for yourself and future generations to come, you are probably wondering how, when, and where you’ll be recharging your new EV. The most obvious place you’ll want to consider for charging your car is at your home. However, you’ll need to do some prep work to figure out what modifications you’ll be making to your garage, carport, or outside your home to make the charging process go smoothly.

Researching how to prepare your house for an electric vehicle will go a long way in keeping you on top of what you’ll need to do to keep your EV charged. Read on to learn more about what you can do to your home to make it EV-friendly and to keep your electric vehicle charged up and ready to roll.

How to Prepare Your Home for an Electric Car

You’ve gotten serious about your commitment to purchase an electric vehicle (EV), and now you are wondering how and where you will charge it? What do you need to do to prepare and modify your home or garage, so you are ready for this major lifestyle change?

If you are like most people, you’ll need to start by researching how you’ll charge your new EV and then ask questions that will help you discover the best options for you, your lifestyle, and your home.

Steps for Readying Your Home for an Electric Car

Things you’ll need to understand to be able to make educated decisions about EV charging options for your home:

  • Start with the basics. An in-depth look into how charging an EV works; and an in-depth look at specific details about the particular EV you are purchasing will give you a great amount of basic information about your charging options.
  • Get familiar with electric car energy. Research Level 1 vs. Level 2 charging options and their efficiency and efficacy.
  • Know what outlet you need. If you are considering using your garage, what electrical outlets and options do you have located either inside the garage or close to an exterior wall? Are the outlets 120-volts (Level 1), or is there a 220-volt outlet (Level 2) available?
  • Know your home’s electricity limits. If you do have 220-volt outlets in your garage, you’ll need to determine your entire house power consumption if you decide to upgrade. You want to make sure you don’t overload your electrical system by adding a charger to it.
  • Pick a location. If you don’t have a garage, do you have a dedicated parking place close to an electrical outlet?
  • Plan alternatives. If you don’t have an electrical outlet close to an outdoor parking space, is there a possibility of running electricity to a freestanding pedestal?
  • Consider your charging needs. Think about how much you drive, and how much time you can commit to charging your EV, and how quickly you’ll need to charge your EV.
  • Think about your schedule. Do you have the option to charge your EV while you work or shop?
  • Calculate your budget. Are you prepared for the additional expense to upgrade both the charging device and the potential electrical upgrade to your home?

Getting a grasp on this basic information will go to great lengths in helping you figure out how to prepare your home for an EV. We’ll cover answers and information to some of the questions presented above, and you’ll need to assess your home, your lifestyle, and how your house and garage are currently set up to determine what preparations and modifications you’ll need to make to your home.

Know the Charging Level Options of an Electric Car

A decision that will determine whether or not you need to prepare your home for charging revolves around choosing Level 1 or Level 2 charging.

Here’s How the Levels Work

Level 1 charging is the most basic option to juice up your EV. You can use the charging cable provided with the car and plug into any standard 120-volt outlet. Level 2 charging may require an upgrade to your home if you do not have a 220-volt outlet. Both a Level 2 charger and installing a 220-volt outlet are additional expenses.

The next question to ask is how long does it take to recharge your EV? Let’s explore the time it takes to charge your EV using both Level 1 and Level 2 options.

Here’s a basic table that compares Level 1 and Level 2 charging methods.

 Level 1 ChargingLevel 2 Charging
Specifications120 Volt240 Volt
Time to Fully Charge a 100 Mile Battery17 to 25 Hours4 to 5 Hours

Level 1 charging is time-consuming, Level 2 is more manageable for most people. However, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and figure out how much you drive your car so you can make an educated decision about which level to choose.

Charging Level and Your Commute

Most current EV’s have an average range of 155 miles, and most people drive about 29.2 miles a day. If you are not doing any long-distance driving or commuting, a range of 155 miles per charge with overnight Level 1 charging might work well for you without switching to Level 2 charging.

Also, if you are on the road a lot but can charge while you are at work, you may not need to consider an upgrade. If you can charge while you are at work and charge while you are home, you can be assured your EV will have enough battery power to get you where you need to go.

The driving range of your EV can be affected by external factors; this is good information to consider when you evaluate your range.

Level Charging and Your Driving Range

Things to consider that can affect your range are:

  • Your driving speed.
  • Your driving habits.
  • The weather.
  • Climate Control in your EV.

Most EVs sold today come with a standard Level 1 120- volt charger, a Level 2 240 volt charger is offered as an upgrade by your dealer.

A big part of deciding whether you chose Level 1 or Level 2 for many people is the expense of the upgrade. We’ll cover what to expect for costs later in this article, but it’s safe to say that moving from Level 1 to 2 will be an added expense.

The rate at which you will be able to recharge your car is greatly improved by upgrading to a Level 2 charging system. However, if you look closely at your lifestyle, the range of the EV you’re purchasing, and your options for charging, you may not need to upgrade. We’ll cover upgrading in this next section.

There is a Level 3 charging option which is a DC (Direct Current) charging setup. A Level 3 charges extremely fast, with a complete charge taking less than an hour. Level 3 is a costly option and not practical for home use.

Determine Where You’ll Charge Your Electric Car

Charging your electric vehicle can be as simple as parking your car near an outlet and plugging into an electric grid, and juicing up your vehicle. However, depending on where you call home, you may need to make some modifications for charging your EV.

Let’s consider the different options you may have for charging depending on your living situation: you may have a garage with outlets, have a carport or parking spot near your home, or perhaps you live in a condo or apartment. What are your options in each of these scenarios for charging your car?

  • If you own a garage with 120V outlets, you can most likely plug your electric vehicle right into the outlet and start charging.
  • If you have a carport or a driveway where you’ll be parking your EV, you’ll need to check to see if you have an outdoor outlet situated close by to convert for use.
  • If you live in an apartment or condo, find out if the building or association offers places to park where you can plug in and charge your EV.

What you’ll need to do to prepare your home for your new electric vehicle will depend on what you have available, in your home or close to your home, and options for charging that are suitable for your lifestyle.

It can be as simple as plugging into an outlet.

Can I Charge My EV Outside if I Don’t Have a Garage?

Suppose you are considering investing in an electric vehicle and don’t have a garage. In this case, you can consider installing EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) if you have a dedicated place to park and an outlet nearby.

If you do not have an outlet available, you can have one wired to the area you are planning to use for charging. There are charging units designed for outdoor use, and this setup should be hard-wired. You’ll need to contact a licensed electrician for this job.

Outdoor Charging

A few things to consider about installing an outdoor EVSE:

  • You’ll need an external wall or a freestanding structure where you can mount the charger.
  • You will need to check the building code to see if you need a permit for installation.
  • Make sure the charging cord is long enough to go from the car to the charger.
  • Does the system have a security system to keep others from using it?
  • Most outdoor units will have a NEMA 3 or NEMA 4 rating; this rating comes from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. The NEMA 3 is a solid outdoor purchase, but if you have concerns about wind-driven rain or snow, the 4 is a better choice. For more NEMA information, check out this document.
  • Check with your local jurisdiction about permits and fees.

Choosing an outdoor home EV charging station is quite common; many people who do not have garages have them installed, and even people with garages may decide to have an outdoor option. It’s good to know that inside charging isn’t your only option; knowing you can mount to an exterior wall or install a pedestal type or freestanding unit opens up a world of possibilities.

How Common Are EV Charging Stations in Condos and Apartments?

The options for EVSE at apartments and condos are growing as the popularity of EVs grows; however it’s not a standard feature in these types of dwellings just yet.

Installing charging stations for apartment parking is up to the building owner. At this time, there may not be enough need and adequate infrastructure to offer this feature in an apartment. You’d need to check before renting to see if charging services are offered.

It’s not impossible to have an EV without a home charging option, but it requires thoughtful planning and is a big commitment to setting aside time to charge your car.

If You Don’t Have a Home Charging Station

Things to consider if you plan on buying an EV but will not have a home charging station:

  • The best-case scenario for this situation is that you have an option to charge your car while you work. You’ll be able to charge your car up while you work.
  • Know where the closest public charging stations are and when you can use them.
  • Be prepared to make charging your EV a priority; consider activities like planning shopping trips where you know you can charge your car while shopping. 

Installing charging stations in condos is a different situation since condo ownership differs from homeownership. It requires a different process; this article covers all the steps in how you go about getting EVSE set up in your association.

Decide What Type of EVSE Charging Station You Need

Yes, plugging your EV into an electrical outlet will charge your battery. However, there are a few things you’ll want to know about how this works. Your electric vehicle should come with a standard 120-volt charging cable or cord called a portable EVSE. All charging equipment associated with charging your EV is referred to as EVSE. You simply hook one end up to your car’s charging port and the other end into your grounded electrical outlet.

Level 1 Chargers

Charging your car as described in the above scenario is referred to as Level 1 charging. This type of charging takes a long time. Level one charging works well for people who:

  • Generally, don’t travel far in their daily routine
  • Have the option to use a charging station where they work
  • Can charge their electric vehicle overnight

Level 2 Chargers

There is also Level 2 charging; this is where you upgrade your current electrical box to a 240-volt outlet. Upgrading is a relatively straightforward process as long as your box will accept a 240-volt outlet. If your existing box doesn’t accept a 240-volt outlet, you’ll need an upgrade.

This type of charging, Level 2, is suitable for people who:

  • Use their car frequently and travel far
  • Need a quick way to charge their EV
  • Don’t have access to a charging station at work

Most people will need to rely on using their home for supplemental, if not all, charging. Given that charging your EV will be crucial, it’s worth exploring whether you want to go with Level 1 or upgrade to Level 2.

Do You Need Level 1 or Level 2 Charging?

The other piece of the puzzle in understanding how and where you can charge your EV is knowing your options outside your home. This may affect your decision whether you choose Level 1 or a Level 2 setup. With electric vehicles becoming more and more popular, the places you can charge your car are increasing.

Here are a few examples of other options for EV charging stations:

  • Many workplaces offer a place to park your EV and charge while you work
  • Local mall and shopping centers
  • Public buildings like courthouses
  • Individual charging station providers
  • Condos, apartments, and townhouses may be upgraded to include charging stations

This comprehensive guide covers charging at home, charging at work, and public charging stations. Now that you know the charging basics, you can decide which EVSE would work for you, your family, and your lifestyle.

And, now that you know what’s available to make your home a charging station and that you have other options, you can make a more educated decision about how you plan to keep your EV charged without worry.

Level 1 Charging in Your Home

Level 1 charging is done with the standard charging cord that comes with your electric vehicle. You simply plug one end into your vehicle and the other end into a regular 120-volt outlet in your garage.

The pros of Level 1 charging:

  • There are no additional costs beyond the original purchase price.
  • There are no modifications to your home.
  • You do not need to prep your home for this setup.

The cons of Level 1 charging:

  • Charging is much longer with Level 1 than Level 2.
  • You’ll need to plan your usage and your charging carefully.

At a glance, Level 1 charging seems like a great choice: no added costs, no modifications to your home. And many people initially go this route; it’s a great way to better understand your lifestyle and driving habits. If, after a trial period, this does not work for you, you can upgrade to Level 2.

Upgrading to Level 2 Charging in Your Home

Level 1 charging is slow and may not work for you. Thankfully, you have options- once you decide that you need to upgrade to a Level 2 EVSE charging station. Switching up to Level 2 means you need access to a 240-volt electrical outlet; if you don’t have one in your garage, you’ll need to contact an electrician and get information on making this upgrade.

Here are a few things to consider about Level 2 EVSE:

  • Do you want the unit to be hard-wired or plug-in? An EVSE can either be hard-wired to your electrical system or can be plugged into an outlet.
  • You’ll need a dedicated circuit. Most Level 2 EVSEs require a dedicated electrical circuit, as the unit will be drawing high-voltage current continuously over long periods. If you do not have a dedicated circuit, that means that an electrician will have to wire a whole new circuit; if your current electrical panel is far from the outlet, this will add to the cost, too.
  • Know your amperage. The maximum amperage available to be drawn at 240 volts will depend on a number of things but will ultimately determine what Level 2 EVSE to buy and what type of outlet to install.
  • You may need to obtain an Electrical Charger permit, check with local authorities to see if one is required for your area. Here is a template of a permit and the information it provides.

Here are some estimates on what you can expect the cost will be to upgrade your electrical system.

ProjectEstimated Cost
Level 1 Charger Replacement for 120-volt Outlet$300.00
Level 2 Charger with 240-volt Outlet and Wall Mounting$1200.00
Level 2 Charger for 2 EVs, 240-volt Outlet, Circuit Upgrade & Pedestal$4500.00

Upgrading your home to Level 2 for an electric vehicle requires research and planning; armed with the information presented above, you should now have a good idea of how you want to approach preparing your home.

NOTE- Never use any sort of extension cord with any EV charging products. Most all extension cords are not rated for this kind of use.

Upgrading to Level 2 has its advantages; this is the step in the process where you’ll see the most expense and modification to your home. Solidify your plans ahead of time, secure a licensed electrician, and you’ll be well on your way to efficiently managing this upgrade.

Hard-Wired vs. Plug-In Level 2 Chargers

With so much information about upgrading to Level 2, let’s have a look at why you might want to choose a plug-in over a hard-wired unit.

 Plug-in units:

  • You only need to install a 240-volt outlet; a 240-volt outlet is the same larger outlet that you’d use for a clothes dryer.
  • This option has fewer costs associated with it.
  • The plug-in EVSE charger is portable, and you can take it should you move or want to go on vacation with your EV.
  • Repairs, servicing are easy because you can easily transport the unit.

Hard-wired units:

  • You have the option with hard-wired units to use outdoors if you need your garage space for other things. They have ratings for indoor and outdoor use.
  • The initial expense is more with a hard-wired unit.
  • Because it is part of your home, you cannot remove it; repairs or replacements can be costly.
  • Hard-wired units are part of your home and increase the value.

Either of these choices works well; the decision is more about which one suits your lifestyle, your budget, and your home. If you need more information to make this decision, here’s a great study on what type of charging setup most people prefer.

Additional Considerations When Preparing a Home for EVs

There’s much to think about when considering how to prepare your home for an electric car; we’ve compiled some things that are the most helpful to know:

  • Cost. If you install your 240-volt outlet with no existing wiring, there will be extra costs extending wiring from your circuit breaker to the location.
  • Installer. Make sure all the equipment you use is certified for EV usage and your electrician is licensed.
  • License/permit: Installing a 240-volt outlet may require a permit. Check with local authorities about whether you’ll need one or not.
  • Flexibility. Consider choosing longer cable lengths; this will give you more flexibility in where you park your car and where you’ll install the unit.
  • Warranty. If you make any modification to your charger, you run the risk of voiding out the warranty.
  • Compatibility. Ensure that the system you choose is compatible with your home’s circuitry so that it does not overpower your in-house setup.
  • Tax breaks. Check to see if tax credits are available to offset the costs associated with purchasing an electric vehicle.

This information applies to both indoor and outdoor upgrades for your EVSE.

There’s a lot to wrap your head around when it comes to an EV purchase, and even more to consider when you throw in how you’ll keep your car’s batteries topped off, so you don’t have to worry about running low or out of energy.

Converting to an EV and making adjustments to your lifestyle will be an easy process if you do your homework in advance of a purchase. It’s so much easier to make the necessary changes if you’ve mapped out a plan on making your EV work for you. 

Are Home Charging Stations Safe? 

Safely charging your EV should be your biggest concern after making a purchase. Just as you’ve researched buying the safest vehicle, do your homework regarding how to make sure your charging station is installed with certified equipment and parts and select a licensed electrician who will ensure the installation is up to code. 

Charging stations for your home, both indoors and outdoors, are safe as long as they are certified and installed correctly.

There are things you can do to ensure that your charging station is safe:

  • Hire a licensed electrician to help you navigate the best choices for the equipment and ensure certified electrical components are used in the installation.
  • Know what proper certification looks like and only purchase items that have the certification. This resource covers what to look for and the rigorous testing behind the certificates.
  • Investigate whether or not you will need a post-inspection; a post-inspection will ensure that your EVSE is up to code.

Something to consider about DIY electrical upgrades: if you decide to sell your house down the road, your upgrades may not pass a home or electrical inspection. They could create more issues for you, not to mention the risk of an electrical interruption or fire.

As you can see, the safety of your EVSE should be as important as the safety of your EV. Best practices for creating a safe charging station in your home include a protocol such as hiring a licensed electrician who will oversee safe installation that complies with up-to-date code.

In Conclusion

In summary, preparing your home for a new EV requires looking at your lifestyle, car usage, and the options within your house for EVSE installation. Preparing your home for an electric vehicle can be as simple as making sure you can park close to an electrical outlet so that you can charge your EV. Once you’ve determined your needs, you can start to plan to have your home modified for a charging station.

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