The Hidden Smart Home Costs of EV Ownership
June 12, 2022
I did some business travel in Ohio this past week and had the opportunity to grab lunch with a long-time friend and colleague. I was a bit surprised when the conversation turned to smart home and Jim’s enthusiasm regarding the technology he’s adopted at home. I was completely impressed with the range of devices he’s using, especially as there are some elements I’m considering for our home. I was also excited to hear about his experiences, pro and con.
We also talked about smart lawn mowers, which he’s considering as a time saver around yard work. I posted earlier on a couple options but new smart lawn mower seem to be hitting the market all the time now. And the costs are coming down as well. Definitely something to consider but his concerns about how often it’d have to mow due to regular rain in Ohio could make it impractical due to charging time, maintenance, etc. If he’s looking for a yard robot he might want to consider this instead.
Jim recently posted on social media about the electric vehicles (EVs) his family has purchased. I had to ask him about them as my experience is limited to my Mom’s Tesla and the research I’ve done regarding smart home EV charging. It was obvious he had done his homework and the information he shared was fascinating.
We talked about the home charging aspect of EV ownership and his incite and experience was enlightening. I’ve looked at different home EV charging options from a space and electrical planning perspective. Specifically, as my plan is to route power between the garage doors I wanted to make sure there was enough space to mount the charging solution and still have room for the garage door tracks and smart technology to control them.
The biggest eye-opener was something I hadn’t consider is length of charging cable per device and location of the charging port on different EVs. My location plan between the garage doors for the charger was based the charging port being at the rear of my Mom’s Tesla. But Jim shared with me that the EVs his family owns have the ports near the front. This was great to learn in order to modify my home design, specifically around the electrical plan, in order to efficiently charge an EV if/when one ends up in our garage. I’m going to have to re-evaluate space planning on the inner wall of the garage to accommodate this. The alternative would be having to potentially back an EV into the garage whenever I wanted to charge it.
As EVs come down in price, more people like Jim and his family are considering a switch from gas to battery power. If you get one, you’d probably consider installing a charging station in your home like he did, which involved installing a new circuit in his garage to support it. And there was a cost involved in that. Debbie and I will have to address this as well with our house build so understanding what those costs are will help us from a design and budget perspective. So let’s take a look at what the costs are to install one, and whether you may actually even need one.
EV chargers, also referred to as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) come in three different levels, the first two of which you’re more likely to see in the typical home. The three types of EV charging stations available: type 1, type 2 and type 3. Type 1 is the slowest, while type 3 can charge an EV’s battery most of the way in about an hour.
Type 1 chargers are just regular wall outlets, the same thing you’d plug your phone into to charge. As you’d imagine, it takes a very long time to charge an EV’s battery with a type 1 charger — about 20 hours for a 120-mile charge.
Type 1 chargers use AC (alternating current) power, and range in output from 1kW to 7.5 kW. They’re also called ‘single-phase’ plugs, and type 1 connectors are standard for EVs made in the US and Japan.
This type of outlet is too slow for regularly charging an EV at home, even overnight, but could be good for vehicles with smaller battery packs like plug-in hybrids. Needless to say, you should still try to use a type 2 or 3 charger whenever you can.
All EVs are sold with a cable adapter that lets them use level 1 chargers (wall outlets) and a separate cable with a J1772 adapter for use with level 2 charging stations. Teslas use their own proprietary plug for their chargers but also come with an adapter, allowing Tesla drivers to use level 2 public charging stations outside the company’s network.
Level 1 charging uses any 120-volt outlet, the ones you typically plug heavy appliances like a dryer or oven into. The costs for that range from free if there’s one already installed to around $300 to put one in. If your daily commute is under 40 miles, and you know you can recoup at least most of the lost charge from your driving by plugging it into a level 1 outlet for a few hours, you may not need to buy a home charging station at all. One thing to keep in mind though … if you live in a cold climate, you’ll likely use more power every day than you can replace with this level of charging.
Cold weather can sap an EV’s battery fairly fast, especially in highway driving conditions, when it’s moving. That’s because an EV pulls power from the battery to run the car’s heating and other electrical systems. The motor also spins more rapidly at higher speeds, meaning higher energy consumption. A recent Carnegie Mellon University study showed cold temperatures can reduce an EV’s range by up to 50%.
But even in cold weather an EV can hold its own in stop-and-go traffic because of the car’s kinetic braking system that turns braking energy into power for the vehicle. EVs also turn their engines off when idle, conserving power, but can still run the heat and other peripherals. Gas vehicles have to keep the engine on and continue burning fuel to do the same thing.
Type 2 chargers also use AC power and allow for increased charging speed due to their increased power output. These chargers deliver around 240 volts of power and can charge an EV battery anywhere from five to seven times faster than a type 1 charger.
Type 2 chargers use a different type of plug to connect than a type 1 charger because they require additional wires to carry the additional power. That plug is called an SAE J1772 connector and is the standard for all EVs produced in North America. Many EVs sold today come packaged with some kind of J1772 connector.
Type 2 chargers can also be installed in-home for faster charging. It can be expensive however, but drastically reduces the hassle of at-home EV charging. The speed of an at-home type 2 charging station will depend on which charger you install and your local power grid, but you can still expect the same charge time as a public type 2 charging station.
Level 2 charging stations are more expensive, but also much faster than a level 1 wall outlet. A level 2 charger will get you around 40 miles worth of charge in an hour, so 4–6 times faster than a level 1 charge. The US national average cost to install a level 2 home charger is roughly $1,200 and they can be set up to charge one or two vehicles. Extras like Wifi and other add-ons are available but not necessary and increase the cost. Level 2 stations require a 240-volt outlet to deliver that faster charge.
It could be more or less for you, as many factors affect the cost of installation, including:
- Type of charging station you install
- Whether home renovations are necessary
- Labor costs
- Permit costs
And more. It’s most practical for the majority of people to install a level 2 charger.
Type 3 chargers, also known as DC fast charging or DCFC chargers, will get you the quickest charge of any charging station out there. They use DC (direct current)energy and require special plugs to connect that are different from the J1772 standard. There are three types of connector plugs that work with type 3 charging stations:
- CHAdeMO: created by a different company than the ones that set the SAE standards and uses a different plug configuration.
- SAE Combo: an SAE standard connector that combines a smaller J1772 plug with a DC connector to deliver extra power.
- Tesla connector: works with the company’s type 2 charging network and its type 3 Supercharger stations.
A type 3 charging station can get an EV’s battery to around the 80% mark in roughly half an hour. While still quite a bit longer than a typical gas fill-up, these chargers are the best option available for longer trips, like cross-country, where you may need to charge the battery quickly. Their power output is typically between 20 and 50kW, the equivalent of 3–20 miles per minute of charging time. You’ll find type 3 charging stations along major highways at places like restaurants and conventional gas stations but they’re also becoming more available in public parking garages and workplace parking lots.
While these chargers are the fastest, they also carry the highest per-minute charge of any of the three types of EV charging stations. Until the recent rise in the cost of gasoline, charging up with type 3 would run you about the same price as a tank of gas. The cost of driving an EV versus a gas vehicle for a year in several large US cities has been found to save hundreds of dollars a year — when charged at home. But if you use a fast-charging station on a road trip, it could cost you more in the long run.
Practicality will generally dictate what type of charger you install. You probably won’t install a type 3 charger at home as they can cost thousands to put in. A level 2 home charger is more than enough for almost any EV driver.
A level 3 DCFC station will run you from $12,000-$35,000 for the charger and associated hardware. That cost makes them impractical for most homeowners to install — especially as a level 2 station is often more than enough. DCFC home stations usually require substantial remodeling to install the electrical infrastructure necessary to funnel enough power through to your EV for an 80% charge in half an hour — around 480 volts of output.
Whether the station is hardwired into a wall or not also affects cost. It’s slightly more expensive to get a portable station, but you get the benefit of not having to pay for installation again should the station need to be replaced. Portable stations plug into a 240-volt outlet installed in the wall and can be removed, whereas hardwired stations are basically boxes attached to the wall.
Sometimes, especially for older homes, you might need to upgrade the electrical hardware before you can install a home EV charging station so as not to overload the circuit. Older homes often have only 100 amps of service, and electrical codes don’t let you exceed a given quota of devices and loads on them. if you get 80 amps worth of 240v devices on a 100A panel you probably go over the limit. If you have things like a 30 amp dryer, a 30 amp electric oven or an air conditioner, you may already be at or over the limit.
To solve that problem you would have to install a new power panel to bring in the necessary power, plus run new wiring capable of carrying the load and install an outlet at the parking spot where you plan to charge the vehicle. You may also need to pay for trenching to be dug and power lines to be laid to a new outlet. All of that could end up around $5,000.
Even if extensive renovations aren’t required, you’ll still need to pay a professional to install the equipment. Electricians charge about $40-$100 an hour, so you’ll need to add that to the cost of equipment. In some cases, a slower charger that still qualifies as level 2, around 20–30amps, can be installed without the need for a new power panel, which can save you some cost.
Some homes have 240-volt circuits already so all that’s needed in those is the outlet — roughly $250-$400. If you have to run a 50 amp line and mount the outlet, it gets pricier. Labor costs may generally run around $600 for installation on a home EV charging station, about half the total price. Obviously, if you aren’t qualified, please do not try to do this yourself just to save some money.
When putting in an EV home charging station it has to adhere to local, state and federal building codes. The National Electrical Code (NEC), sets the guidelines at the federal level to make sure electrical projects are installed safely and operate without hazards. Depending on what permits are required in your area, the cost for them can range from $50-$160.
Some incentives are in place to help offset the cost of installation in an effort to promote greener transportation. Until 2021, the U.S. government offered an up to $1,000 tax credit toward the cost of buying and installing an EV charger at home. Some states still offer incentives, though they depend on where you live and qualifications vary by state. In Texas where Debbie and I live, you can get about $250 off the cost of a level 2 or 3 home charger through the eTech program — but only if you’re an Entergy customer.
Regardless, this is worth looking into if you want to bring down your costs. Clipper Creek has a website you can search to find rebates in your state. Be sure to see whether the incentives apply to level 2 stations, as some of them only apply to level 3 DCFC installation.
Depending on the brand of charging station you install, you’re looking at around $1,000-$1,500 total for a level 2 EVSE on average. But it could end up being less If you qualify for incentives. Like most costs associated with EV ownership, costs tend to mostly front-loaded. But installing one can pay off in the long run with money saved on gas and public charging stations you have to pay for.
Which type of charging station you use depends on your vehicle and needs. You’ll need to consider proximity to public charging stations, the amount of driving you do and how much time you have to charge. Whichever one you pick, keep in mind that it will take time to charge your EV. All three charging station types can be viable. If you own a plug-in hybrid that has a small battery pack, type 1 charging could be all you need. For all-electric vehicles, type 2 and 3 will be what you use most, if not all the time.
As I dug deeper into this topic I was more than a little surprised how much the costs could add up to ‘save money’ or live a ‘greener’ lifestyle. With current trends, including governmental incentives and legislation around EVs, they are an inevitability. Debbie and I don’t have any immediate plans to move to EVs at this point but as it’ll be much cheaper to install the infrastructure during our house build that is the plan. And as I mentioned above, our plan is evolving as I learn more about EVs and the charging solutions to support them.
And as if this doesn’t already seem a little complex, the technology continues to evolve as well. Coming as soon as 2024, there will be robotic system allowing cars to charge themselves. The fully automatic charging solution comprises two components: one unit in the underbody of the vehicle and another on the garage floor. As soon as the car is parked, the two components connect automatically via a smart system. A practical advantage of this is that the car does not have to be parked accurately. Stay tuned for more.
Like my buddy Jim, I’m curious how many of you out there have moved to hybrids or full EVs. And if you have, are you charging at home? What charging solution did you choose? How’s it working, would you choose it again knowing what you do now? What recommendations would you make to others?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …