A Guide to Charging Electric Vehicles at Home
Updated: Apr 26
By Jane Marsh
Electric vehicles might be advertised as plug-and-play, but for most models, it’s often not as simple as bringing home your new
EV and plugging it into the wall. If trading in your gas guzzler for an EV is part of your plans for 2022, what do you need to know about charging your new electric vehicle at home?
Understanding Charging Levels
This isn’t usually a concern for international EV drivers, but there are two levels of EV charging in North America, where a 120-volt power supply is standard. The 120-volt standard is considered Level 1 charging, while a 240-volt charging system is considered Level 2. Neither of these is necessarily incorrect. The difference lies in the charging speed.
Level 1 charging systems give you 3-5 miles of range per hour on the charger. Level 2 chargers can deliver more power, ranging from 12-60 miles of range per hour of charge. Manufacturers like Tesla take the guesswork out of charging their EVs by providing an adapter that allows owners to use either charging standard to keep their cars powered.
Many older homes won’t have the extra 240V fuse in the breaker box necessary to add an extra circuit for Level 2 charging, making Level 1 a slower but more accessible charging style.
Keeping Power Costs Down
Keeping the lights on can be expensive. The average apartment resident can expect to spend around $150 a month on utilities in the D.C. area. While this is 8% lower than the national average, plugging in an electric car to charge every night can cause that number to jump. It can cost an additional $30 to $60 a month on your electric bill. If that is a significant leap, you may wish to look into ways to reduce your monthly utility bills to offset the cost of charging an EV.
Start by contacting your power company or a local third-party company to schedule an energy consultation. Whoever you choose to work with will send an assessor to inspect your home and figure out where you might be wasting energy.
With that information in your back pocket, it becomes a lot easier to make informed decisions that can reduce your utility costs and offset the expense of charging an electric vehicle.
One of the best ways to offset the cost of charging your EV and reduce the carbon footprint of your home is to look into green or renewable energy sources. This can manifest in various ways, from installing solar panels to joining a green energy cooperative that works with your local utility company.
Around 17% of electricity in the U.S. comes from green and renewable sources, though some parts of the country are greener than others. In Washington, D.C., solar power and biomass generated 59% of the city’s power supply in 2020. We’re still relying on burning coal and other fossil fuels for the rest.
Take the time to look into the green energy options in your area. Even if installing a set of solar panels on your roof isn’t an option, there still may be tools available to help you reduce your reliance on fossil fuels while also shrinking your utility costs.
Houses vs. Apartments
The only other variable that goes into choosing a charging station is the type of home you live in. Single-family homes are often easier, especially those with attached garages, because you’ve got an easy place to store your EV and charge it simultaneously.
Apartment residents might find charging an EV more challenging. Some apartment complexes are beginning to offer EV charging as an amenity, but they can be few and far between.
If you’re not draining your battery entirely between charges, you could also rely on public charging stations, though these can become more expensive than charging at home over time.
Finally, keep the available space in mind before you decide to sign on the dotted line and bring home a new electric vehicle.
Charging at Home
Charging an electric vehicle at home isn’t complicated, but as you can see, there are a few variables you need to keep in mind before you purchase one.
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Environment.co.