Make Your Home Electric Ready

MAKE YOUR HOME ELECTRIC READY

As electricity generation relies more on renewable sources of energy and with the steady increase of electric vehicles on the roads in the United States, preparing for an electric future is just smart. As part of your ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade, make sure your home is wired and ready for additional electric appliances and an EV charger.

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WHY SHOULD I MAKE MY HOME ELECTRIC READY?

The future of home energy and transportation is electric, so even if you don’t plan on getting electric appliances, equipment or an EV right away, there are things you can do now to make your home electric ready. Electric ready means getting the wiring in your house ready for the new demands that come from electric heat pumps, water heating, cooking and EV chargers. 

Ensuring you have the necessary wiring at your house will help you prepare for the change to cleaner, healthier, cheaper energy and make replacing old appliances quicker and easier.

The extent of the electric upgrades your home might need vary depending on your circumstances.

  • Most newer homes are outfitted with a 200A breaker box, which is sufficient to accommodate the addition of new electric appliances. 
  • If your home is already outfitted with central AC, you should not need an electrical upgrade to switch to a heat pump. 
  • The chargers that come with a new electric vehicle purchase operate off a standard 120V socket and are generally capable of providing up to about 60 miles worth of charge overnight. 
Benefits of Being Electric Ready
  • Air Quality
    • Electric Appliances don't burn fuel in your home so there is no release of combustion gasses into your living space. Studies have shown that gas stoves can contribute to indoorair pollution that causes higher instances of asthma in children.
    • Having an EV charger eliminates tailpipe emissions.
  • Comfort
    • Induction electric stoves are at least twice as efficient as gas stoves and produce much less waste heat that can make your kitchen uncomfortable in the summer.
  • Convenience
    • Charging an electric vehicle at home eliminates your need to find a public charger or go to a gas station.
  • Financial
    • Many electric appliances are more efficient, so you use less energy and, in many cases, save money on your utility bills.
Benefits Of Driving An EV

Save Time and Money

For every mile driven using electricity, you can save half of what it costs to drive a similar gasoline powered vehicle. Charging your car overnight will provide more than enough battery power to get through the day without needing to recharge. It also means that you never have to go to the gas station. Home charging is also more convenient and less expensive than public EV charging.

Protect Your Health and the Planet

Fully electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions and are quieter than gasoline powered vehicles. By switching to an EV, you can help significantly decrease the level of toxic chemicals and greenhouse gas emissions from gas cars.

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EV CHARGER PRE-WIRING GUIDANCE

Getting ahead of the game by installing the necessary wiring will make the eventual EV charger installation quicker and easier.  Unless you have immediate plans to purchase an EV, waiting to buy the actual charger will give you flexibility to buy the latest model when you get your car and the ability to take it with you if you move.   Here’s what you need to know.

Is Your Home Ready for the Electric Future?

Since switching from gas to electric appliances will increase your electricity use, it is important to take stock of the capacity of the electrical service for your home. 

1. Check your home’s electric capacity.  Find your main electric panel and look at the main breaker (typically at the top or bottom of the panel - shown at the top in the following image). The switch should say how many Amps the panel receives. (The higher the number, the greater the capacity.)

Top of Breaker Box

2. Once you have determined the Amp rating of the electrical panel, the next step is to see if there is room in the panel for new electric loads.
Look for empty slots in the panel, which indicate where you can put new breakers for new electric loads.  The more slots you have the more room that you have to add electric appliances. (The grey spaces beneath the black switches are empty slots in the panel below.)

Full Breaker Panel with Empty Slots at bottom

Do I need electrical upgrades?

Electrical Panel Upgrade May Be Needed Under the Following Conditions

Main Panel Breaker Size

65A, 100A, 125A

Number of Empty Breaker Slots in Electrical Panel

Very few or none available

Electrical Panel Upgrade May Not Be Needed Under the Following Conditions

Main Panel Breaker Size

200A, 225A,

Number of Empty Breaker Slots in Electrical Panel

Several empty slots available

Circuit/outlet upgrades may be needed to add 240V outlets where your future electric equipment will be placed (Heat Pump for heating/cooling, Heat Pump Water Heater, Stove, Dryer, EV Charger).

  1. Call a licensed electrician and go over your electrical panel capacity and types of electric appliances that you plan to add to the home.  At a minimum, the electrician may need to add high-capacity electrical outlets in certain areas of your home for the new appliances. 

Sample upgrade costs:

  • Upgrading a panel to standard higher electric capacity can cost $1,000 - $2,500
  • Adding dedicated circuits and outlets for future appliances and equipment could cost $300 -$1,000 each, depending on the length of the circuit and ease of getting into the walls to run the wires.
  • In some cases, a panel upgrade could lead to a service upgrade for the lines from the utility company to your house to provide the additional electricity required by that panel.
    • This can be very expensive ($2,000- $30,000) and take a lot of time
    • There may be a way for you to avoid the need to increase your electric capacity without paying for panel or service upgrades.

Ask your electrician to optimize the existing electrical panel

This can be done in two ways: 1) the electrician can combine circuits that are underused.  For example, you might have a circuit that was added for a small project, like a light switch, that could be moved to an existing circuit and free up space. 2)  Your electrician can replace “double pole” breakers with “single pole” breakers in some circumstances, this frees up physical room in the electrical panel for new breakers and new loads.

Pre-wiring Your Home For An EV

There are four basic steps in getting your house ready for EV charging: 

  1. Determine the type of charger that will be needed (Level 1 or Level 2).
  2. Find the right location for the charger (garage, driveway, side of house, curbside on public road).
  3. Check your homes electrical capacity. 
  4. Schedule installation work.

Once you have decided to get your home EV ready, you need to decide on the type of charging you will need.  Residential charging is divided into two types: “Level 1” uses a standard (120v) household outlet and “Level 2” (240v) uses a more powerful heavy duty socket . Level 1 charging is inexpensive since all that is needed is a 120V outlet and a Level 1 charger, (which is essentially a special extension cord that comes with the EV at purchase). Level 2 is more involved since heavy duty wiring, circuit breakers, and a separate EV charger are needed.

How to select the right category of charger?

Level 1 chargers provide 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging and should only be used if you have a plug-in hybrid car[1] , rather than a fully battery electric car.   Plug-in hybrids have small batteries and limited electric range and can fully charge using a Level 1 charger overnight.  Battery electric cars have large batteries and driving ranges that average over 200 miles, with some models offering a range of over 400 miles.  In these cases, the faster Level 2 (10 – 30 miles of range) per hour are needed unless you only drive a few miles per day. 

Preparing your house for a Level 1 EV charger.

The first step in this process is to see if you have any outdoor (water protected) outlets installed near where you park your car.  This could be an outlet on the wall of your house that you might use for outdoor power tools or other plug in items.  You might also have outlets in your garage.  Check to see if the outlets are 3 prong style, which are needed for Level 1 EV chargers.  See figure 1.

Three-prong vs. two-prong outlet - Nickle Electrical

If the outlet is exposed to the elements (rain), then it should have additional features such as a waterproof cover, and a “GFI” circuit.  See Figure 2.

GFI Circuit

If you have either of these outlet types, then there are no additional steps that you need to make for a Level 1 charger.  You are EV ready!  You can connect your plug-in hybrid and get an instant (though relatively slow) charge right away.  For some people, this modest outlet is all that is needed since the number of miles that they travel on a regular basis is limited by the small battery in their car.  For other drivers who want to get their house fully EV ready, additional steps (and hardware) are needed.

Preparing your house for a Level 2 (240V) EV charger.

If you are planning on a fully electric car then, except for a few circumstances where you might just drive short distances every day, you will need to get a Level 2, 240 Volt charger.  Level 2 chargers are capable of adding 10-30 miles of electric range per hour and can fully charge an EV battery overnight.  The planning and installation for this type of charger is more involved, but you will end up with a much more powerful, future proof and useful charger for your EV.

Surveying possible locations for Level 2 charger.

Level 2 chargers can be located either in a garage, outdoors in a driveway, or “curbside” at your house or apartment.  When looking for a location for the charger, try to find a spot that is at or near where you park your car, and also someplace that is nearby some existing electricity.  For those who have a garage, this is a perfect location.  If you don’t have a garage, look for a place that the wiring can be placed, such as the side of your house.  If this is not possible, pick a place in the driveway where you could locate a small pole that would hold an electrical outlet.  

EV charger pole in driveway.
Level 2 charger

In some cases, this pole mount system can be used in homes that do not have driveways.  To accomplish this, a homeowner would need to find (unmetered) street parking that is adjacent to land owned by the homeowner, then run the electrical underground  to the edge of the homeowner’s land so that the charging cord could reach from street parking to the electrical charger or outlet.[2]

Once you have determined the best location, the next step is to choose the electrical hardware.  The easiest way to get your house EV ready is by installing a heavy duty electrical outlet.  These outlets (called “NEMA 14-50” types) are commonly used for electric dryers, so electricians are very familiar with them.  Installing the outlet and not a “hard wired” charger gives you flexibility.  Once this outlet is installed, in the future you can simply plug in your charger when you get one, and you can also take your charger with you when you move.

Leviton 279 50 Amp, 125/250 Volt, NEMA 14-50R, 3P, 4W, Flush Mounting Receptacle, Straight Blade, Industrial Grade, Grounding, Side Wired, Steel
Figure 3, NEMA 14-50, 240V outlet.

Surveying your home’s electrical capacity. 

Since Level 2 (but not Level 1)  EV chargers draw a considerable amount of power, you will need to ensure that your home’s electrical system is up to the job prior to installing the wiring for the charger.  To do this, you should check your main electrical panel.  If the box is full and there are no blank spots left for new breakers, then you might need to upgrade your electrical panel while you are having the EV charger wiring installed by the electrician.  Older homes that do not have central AC might only have a 100A (amp) electrical panel, while newer homes have 200A panels that would provide more room for an EV charging circuit.  The need for an upgrade is not bad news in itself; upgrades are commonly done in older homes and make your home ready for future clean electric heating as well, but they will add cost to your EV wiring installation.

The final step in the process is to find and hire an electrician to complete the installation.  To do this you can start some research by talking to friends and neighbors who already have EVs, or you can call your electric utility.  Make sure that the electrician is fully licensed and insured, and that he/she is either getting a permit or following electrical code requirements.

 

[1] Plug in hybrid cars have both gas engines and batteries. Depending on the car model, batteries provide roughly the first 20 miles of range, then the gas engine takes over.

[2] Individual municipality restrictions may apply, consult permitting authorities prior to undertaking this type of work.

Cutting Edge Ways to Potentially Avoid Expensive Electrical Upgrades
  • Use smart circuit and Sharing Devices

These will allow for you to use one breaker for multiple appliances with high electric demand (clothes dryer and EV charger)

  • An example of an automatic power sharing device would be that once the dryer is done running, it automatically switches power back to the EV charger or water heater.
  • Typically costs around $500
  • Use appliances with lower electricity demand
  • Instead of using a 240 V Level 2 EV fast charger, you could use a 120 V Level 1 EV Charger. The 120V EV charger can use a normal plug, but it takes a longer to charge the car. This can support someone who travels less than 20,000 miles per year and can leave their car to charge overnight (provides 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging). Learn more about ENERGY STAR Certified EV Chargers.
  • Insulate and seal the attic so heating and cooling equipment use less energy.
  • Replace your existing panel with a smart panel
    • These can cost about $2,500 to $4,000 but this allows for you to use the amount of electricity you currently have by shifting when certain appliances are running. For example, if there is not enough power for everything to run at the same time, the smart panel can temporarily halt EV charging until the higher priority appliances do not need all the electricity.

Examples:

Lumin Smart Panel

Photo of a Lumin Smart Panel

Eaton Pow-R-Command

Photo of Eaton Pow-R-Command Panel
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HOW CAN I MAKE AN ELECTRIC UPGRADE OR PURCHASING AN EV AND EV CHARGER MORE AFFORDABLE?

Take advantage of available incentives to offset some of the upfront costs of upgrading your electric panel or buying an EV and an EV charger. And don't forget, EVs are cheaper to fuel and maintain. 

Electric Ready Incentives

Electric utilities in some parts of the country are offering incentives to help cover the costs of electrical upgrades. Check with your local provider. There are also incentives at the federal level, including a $600 federal tax credit that will be available starting in 2023.

EV And EV Charger Purchase Incentives

EV Purchase Incentives

There are both Federal and State incentives for the purchase of EVs in many areas, offering combined savings of over $10,000 off the purchase price. Learn More.

EV Charger Incentives

Federal incentives for 30% of the installed cost - up to $1,000 - are available for home EV charger and wiring installation. Learn More

Additionally, there are utility incentives available in some areas. Check with your local utility for details. Visit the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder for a list of utility companies that offer incentives for the purchase and installation of ENERGY STAR certified electric vehicle chargers.

Ready to find the right EV Charger for your home? The ENERGY STAR Product Finder can help!

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EV CHARGER BUYING GUIDANCE

If you are ready to take the plunge and purchase an EV, you may be wondering what type of charger you will need for your electric vehicle. Here is some information to help you choose.

Choosing The Right Charger

To determine what type of charger you will need, consider the following factors:

  1. How many miles do you drive every day?
  2. Do you have a fully electric car, or is it a plug-in hybrid (gas and electric)?

Level 1 (120 volt) Charger 

If you have a hybrid car that only goes roughly 15-30 miles on pure electricity, you will not need to upgrade your home electrical system at all.  These cars can be served by a standard 120V outlet and a charging cord (provided with the car) that plugs directly into a standard electrical outlet wiring.

240 Volt Chargers

Fully electric cars have large batteries and ranges of 100-400 miles and require a more powerful 240V charger.  They provide much faster charging and will allow for daily use of your EV, without worrying about running out of charge.

EV Charger Type Average Charging Rate
(per hour of charging)

Level 1

Plugs into standard outlet (120 volt)

2 to 5 miles of range 
(depending on environment conditions and battery charge %)

Level 2

Requires heavy duty electrical circuit and plug (like an electric dryer) (240 volt)

10 to 30 miles of range

ENERGY STAR certified EV chargers save energy over time, are fully safety certified and use open communication standards.

  • Energy Savings:  EV chargers are typically in standby mode (i.e., not actively charging a vehicle) for about 85% of the time. ENERGY STAR certified EV chargers provide the same functionality as non-certified products but use 40% less energy in standby mode, reducing their impact on the environment. 
  • Safety: Not all EV chargers that are for sale are safety certified. Ensure your charger meets safety standards by choosing one that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. All ENERGY STAR certified chargers are tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Smart Technology: Some ENERGY STAR certified EV charger models are connected or “networked,” allowing for remote power monitoring and control of the charging state of the connected vehicle. These smart grid ready products may qualify households and property managers to participate in special energy bill savings programs that may be offered by some local electric utilities.

Ready to find the right EV Charger for your home? The ENERGY STAR Product Finder can help!

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