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Electric Vehicle Charger Buying Guide

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger

Buying Guide

A home charging station is a convenient way to power your electric car or truck. There are many factors that go into choosing the right charging solution. Here you can find information to help you make a wise purchase.

EV charging levels.

What charging level is best for you?

EV chargers come in three levels — Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. Level 1 is the slowest charge and Level 3 is the fastest. Level 3 chargers are typically found in commercial or public settings; they run on DC current, so it is not practicable to install Level 3 chargers in a home.

From the typical consumer’s perspective, the choice is whether to select a Level 1 or Level 2 charger. Read details on the pros and cons of Level 1 and Level 2 chargers below.

Level 1 chargers.

As stated above, a Level 1 charger has the slowest charge speed. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Level 1 charging times for electric vehicles from empty are:

  • 40–50 hours for a battery EV (BEV)
  • 5–6 hours for a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV)

While the slow charging speed is an obvious downside, Level 1 chargers do have some advantages. They’re convenient because they use a 120-volt charging cord that works with most any outlet in your home or garage. This cord is usually included with your vehicle. They are less expensive, as installing a Level 2 charger often requires an electrician’s assistance. If you’re driving only short distances (typically fewer than 30 miles a day, per the U.S. D.O.T.) a Level 1 charger may be right for you.

Level 2 chargers.

Level 2 chargers operate on 240-volt power. These devices charge up to eight times faster than a Level 1 charger. This speed comes at a cost, however. Most garages aren’t equipped with this type of power source, so you’ll most likely need an electrician to install your charging station. In addition to installation costs, you’ll have to pay for an EV charging station. But if you plan to drive a lot, the investment in a Level 2 charging station may be well worth it.

EV connectors.

What type of connector does my electric vehicle use?

When charging your car or truck, the connector in your electric vehicle must match the plug in the charging station. The connector is a critical component of your EV.

There are two types of connectors. One type, known as the J1772 connector, works with both Level 1 and Level 2 connectors. Many EVs use this connector.

Tesla creates its own type of proprietary connector known as the North American Charging Standard (NACS). Tesla uses the NACS connector on all its own vehicles. Other auto companies are partnering with Tesla to use the NACS as well.

Universal Wall Connector.

This home charging station, created by Tesla, can power up all major electric vehicles. Whether your EV uses a J1772 or an NACS connector, you can use this device without additional attachments.

Direct current (DC) charging.

Level 3 chargers that charge your vehicle quickly require a DC charger. DC charging is much faster than the alternating current (AC) charging type used in Level 1 and Level 2 charging. For EVs that use J1772 connectors, the vehicle must also be equipped with a Combined Charging System (CCS) port. While some older EVs do not have a CCS port, most do.

Teslas don’t use CCS connectors. Instead, Tesla has Supercharger stations that use their own connectors throughout the United States.

Installing an EV charger — plug-in or hardwire?

Plug-in charging stations.

When discussing charging stations for electric cars and trucks, it’s easy to confuse the terminology. The connector is what goes into your electric vehicle, while the outlet is what connects to your house or other power source.

The outlets used in a Level 2 charging station include the NEMA 14-50 and the NEMA 6-50. Both options are rated for 250 volts and 50 amps. But the similarities end there.

  • NEMA 14-50 outlet: This four-hole outlet contains two hot wires, a ground wire, and a neutral wire.
  • NEMA 6-50 outlet: This three-hole outlet has two hot wires and a ground wire. The two hot wires connect to the vehicle, while the ground wire provides protection against shock.

The 14-50 outlet is the more popular of these two options. It’s more versatile and charges higher-power devices, but you’ll likely need an electrician to install a 14-50 outlet. If you’d prefer not to use an outlet, you can have your EV charger hardwired into your home.

Hardwiring your charging station.

You may want to consider having your Level 2 charging station hardwired directly into your home’s electric system. Unless you are a professional electrician or are certified in installing chargers for electric vehicles, this is not a do-it-yourself project.

Hardwiring a charging station involves some expense, as you’ll have to pay for the hardware and installation, as well as the permitting and licensing fees. One possible benefit of hardwiring is that it will provide a potentially faster charging speed.

Hardwiring may not be an option if you do not own your home. If you live in an apartment, co-op or condo, you’ll want to learn if it is even possible to install a Level 2 charging station under the terms of your lease or homeowner’s association agreement.

The professionals at Helm Smart Energy are ready to guide you through the process.

Charging station rebates.

Do I qualify for a rebate?

The federal government, as well as many state and local governments, have offered financial incentives to individuals and businesses that install chargers for electric cars and trucks. You may get a rebate, tax credit, or other type of compensation to offset some of the cost of installation and/or the hardware. Find out more information by following the link below.

EV chargers and accessories.

EV charger features.

Once you’ve made the decision to install a charging station, you’ll need to purchase a charger. Best Buy carries an assortment of Level 2 chargers with many different features, including:   

  • Wi-Fi connectivity: A charger with a wireless connection lets you monitor your charging, set reminders, and get notifications when your car or truck reaches full charge.
  • ENERGY STAR certification: Chargers with this designation have met strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

You’ll also want to decide where on your property to install your charger. The ideal place for an EV charger is in your garage, as it’s protected from weather and is close to your vehicle. If that’s not an option, Best Buy also has outdoor chargers built to withstand the elements.

EV charger accessories.

You can also pick up accessories for your charger. For example, you may want an adapter to adapt a J1772 connector to a Tesla charging station or vice versa. An extension cord could come in handy as well.