EV Chargers: Everything you need to know about plugging in at home

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EV charging technology is faster and more convenient than ever. Today, the focus of EV charging has shifted from the feasibility of charging at home to understanding your individual preferences and unique charging needs.

Charging at home can range from effortless convenience to intricate planning, depending on factors like your EV model, electrical panel, charger, and your parking situation. While some can enjoy the simplicity of overnight charging without additional electrical work, others face significant electrical upgrades and wait times for a full charge. 

Let’s get into the ins and outs of charging an EV at home, share some notes on the top-rated EV chargers, and give you some tips on finding an installer.

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EV chargers are classified as Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3, with Level 1 being the slowest to charge and Level 3 being the fastest. Level 3 chargers require far too much power to install at home, making Level 2 chargers the fastest at-home charging solution. 

How to charge

Electric vehicles all have a charging port, usually in a similar spot where you'd fill up a gas car. 

The most common type of charger is the J1772. It’s almost universally accepted by EV models. Tesla is the exception. Either way, plenty of home chargers are available in a version with a Tesla-shaped connector, and a simple clip-on adapter lets Tesla vehicles charge through the standard J1772 plug.

Cost to charge 

The cost to charge an EV depends on the price of electricity, measured in cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). A kWh is the basic unit of EV charging economics, sort of like a gallon of gas for a traditional gas-powered car.

If you're charging at home, the cost per kWh is generally the same rate you pay for the rest of your electricity. As of November 2023, the average electricity cost by state ranges from 11 to 44 cents per kWh, according to the Energy Information Administration. You can look up the precise rate on your utility bill or your utility company's website.

It usually costs much less to charge an EV than to fuel a gas car, but not always.

Time to charge

A typical at-home recharging rate is about 20 or 30 miles of range for every hour the car charges. Ideally, your charger will completely fill the battery if it’s plugged in overnight. 

If you plug in with a standard wall outlet, you'll get about 4 miles of range per hour of charging. At that rate, it'll take a few days to charge a long-range EV completely, though it should give you enough power for a reasonable commute or to run your local weekend errands.

Learn more about how long it takes to charge an EV

At-home EV chargers are either Level 1 (slower, less expensive) or Level 2 (pretty fast, more expensive).

Level 1: No installation required, but it's slow

Level 1 (or L1) chargers plug into any standard 3-prong, 120-volt household outlet, technically known as a NEMA 5-15 receptacle. They draw about as much power as a portable electric space heater (12 amps, 1.5 kW).

Most EVs come with an L1 cable, so there usually aren't any upfront costs. As long as you have a standard outlet close to where you park your car, you won't need any electrical work, either. You just pay for the electricity.

The trade-off for that simplicity is that L1 chargers are slow. Also known as "trickle chargers," they only add a few miles of range for every hour they're plugged in. It takes around 12 hours to fully charge a car like the Toyota Rav4 Prime, which only has a 42-mile electric range. The larger battery in the 341-mile Tesla Model 3 would need a couple of days to fill up on an L1 charger. (Of course, you can always drive on a partial charge.) 

Level 2: Much faster, but you'll usually need an electrician

A Level 2 (or L2) charger uses a 240-volt circuit, like most electric stoves and clothes dryers. That makes it at least twice as speedy as an L1 cord and typically much faster than that. 

The challenge is that about 75% of people will need to hire an electrician to do some work before installing one. That usually means new wiring, a new circuit on your electrical panel, often a new four-prong outlet, and sometimes an electrical panel upgrade.

There's a ton of variation among Level 2 chargers:

  • Some low-end cords provide just 16 amps (3.8 kW at 240 volts). It'll take about 4 hours to charge a Toyota Rav4 Prime and 18 hours for the Tesla Model 3 Long Range.

  • Many best-rated, best-selling models provide 32 amps (7.7 kW at 240 volts). That Rav4 Prime now charges in about two and a half hours, while the Model 3 Long Range finishes in around 10 hours.

  • Some trucks, like higher-end versions of the Ford F-150 Lightning, can accept a whopping 80 amps (19.2 kW at 240 volts). It's still considered L2 charging because it's a 240-volt setup, though it's five times as fast as the slowest L2 option. Very few EVs work with such a speedy L2 charger, and your electrical panel might need an upgrade to support it.

Are there any downsides to Level 2 charging? 

Not really, besides the cost of the equipment and installation.  According to one study, it's even slightly more energy efficient than Level 1 charging (meaning more electricity from your outlet makes it into the car's battery without getting wasted as heat). 

Level 2 charging is also fine for the long-term health of an EV's battery. In theory, faster charging is worse for rechargeable batteries of all types because it creates more heat, and heat can damage the system. We couldn't find any studies suggesting that it's a problem in the real world, though. 

Thousands of EVs have been on the road for a decade with no apparent downside. If battery health is still something you're worried about, you can always buy an L2 charger and set it to run at a relatively low speed by default, then bump it up when you need it.

Do you really need Level 2 charging at home?

Not necessarily, but you'll be happy to have it.

Lots of people will be just fine with L1 charging. Slow as they are, they can still add 20 to 50 miles of range overnight, depending on the car and how long you leave it plugged in. You don't necessarily need a full battery daily, and you can always find a public charger if you need a quicker fill-up. If your daily commute isn't too long, or if you drive a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that can fall back on gas when you need it, L1 can suffice.

You probably won’t regret buying an L2 charger. Here are some advantages of installing an L2 charger at home:

  • You can have a full battery every morning (or at 70% or 80% anyway, as many EV brands recommend for battery health). An L2 charger pretty much guarantees that'll always be the case, even after a long trip. 

  • An L2 charger lets you preheat or pre-cool your car from your home's electricity supply rather than drawing down the car's battery. It improves the battery's range in cold weather and it's better for the long-term health of the battery

  • It's much easier to scrape ice off your windshield once you’ve warmed up the cabin for a few minutes. L1 cords don't supply enough power to run an EV's heating and cooling systems.

What about Level 3 charging?

Level 3 chargers (also known as DC Fast Chargers or Tesla Superchargers) are even faster still than Level 2. The exact speeds vary (and some plug-in hybrid EVs don't even support Level 3), but the general idea is that you'll get about an 80% charge in about 30 minutes, give or take. On a long road trip, it's more than enough range to keep you going for several hours—probably until the next time you need to use the bathroom. 

They're also wildly impractical to install at home. The charging equipment is pretty expensive, but the bigger obstacle is that most homes don't have the electrical supply you need (480 volts, 400 amps), and utility companies can't easily add it to a home in a residential neighborhood. It'd be like installing a gas pump at your house. 

You’ll only find fast chargers in public spaces: along highways, near major shopping centers, and maybe in some public parking lots.

First, it depends on where you park.


If you park in a private driveway or garage: 

You can usually find a way to charge your EV at home. If you rent and your landlord doesn't want to pay for electrical upgrades, you might have to settle for an L1 charger plugged into a standard outlet. If you own your home and property rights aren't an issue, you can almost always get an L2 charger. There are very few technical reasons that would prevent it from happening.

If you park in a shared lot: 

Some landlords and HOAs have charging stations installed on the property for residents' use. 

If not, do you have a deeded parking spot? Is there a clear path for you to run wiring between your electrical panel and the parking spot? It gets complicated, but sometimes it's possible.

If you rely on street parking: 

You'll probably depend on public chargers. If your car supports it, Level 3 / DC Fast Charging can be a good way to juice up relatively quickly. Still, EV manufacturers caution that heavy use of super-fast charging could reduce the lifespan of your battery. 

You could also try to charge while you work or shop. Some office buildings and shopping centers have L2 chargers in their parking lots, while some cities have even begun to install streetside public chargers, including some built into streetlights

Electrical system

L1 charging at home can be as easy as plugging the charger into an exterior power outlet near your parking spot, but not everyone has that kind of setup. If you need to add an outlet, or if you want to install an L2 charger, you'll need to think about a few things first. 

Is there an existing outlet within 20 or 25 feet of your parking spot? 

That's the typical length of an EV charging cable. If you're within that range, you're all set at least for a Level 1 charger. You might have a 240-volt, 4-prong outlet that can support a Level 2 charger if it's a new house built with EVs in mind or you park near your electric clothes dryer. Some products let you use the circuit for a dryer and an EV charger

If not, you’ll need to hire an electrician to install a new hookup. Extension cords and EV chargers are an unwise pairing; the amount of power required to charge an EV is greater than what typical extension cords are designed to handle. Plugging in your EV with an extension cord increases the risk of fire and electric shock (in addition to slowing down the charging process). 

Is there a feasible path for a wire between your electrical panel and the parking spot? 

In a private driveway or garage, the answer is almost always yes. Ideally, your panel is in an unfinished basement right near your spot. An electrician will know how to locate the circuit and will have the tools to make it work. 

Can your electrical panel support an EV charger? 

Again, the answer is usually yes. First, go check out your panel. You're in great shape if there are at least two open “slots” for breakers. If the number on the big switch at the top of the panel is 200 amps, that's another strong sign it'll be an easy installation. A smaller number (often 100 amps) is usually fine, too. It depends on how many other high-draw items you have and how fast of a charger you're trying to install.

Or do you need some kind of electrical workaround? 

If your panel doesn't have the capacity for a new 240-volt circuit, or there's already a lot of demand on your panel, and EV charging might trip the breaker regularly—you still have plenty of options. About 20% of homes worked on by Qmerit, the largest network of EV charging and other electrification technology installers in North America (and an EnergySage corporate partner), have needed one of these upgrades. 

While the traditional approach has been to install a larger panel and have the utility company provide a service upgrade, more cost-effective and simpler alternatives have emerged. Circuit-sharing and load-shedding devices are fast becoming the industry standard. Joe Miller, Director of Technical Support at Qmerit, advises their electricians to use these innovative devices whenever feasible.

EV chargers aren't as sophisticated as you might think. They're less like a major appliance and more like a USB brick for charging your phone. The car itself does most of the work managing the flow of electricity. 

The most helpful thing to understand when you're shopping for an EV charger is your own preference. Are you looking for the lowest price? Highest speed? The most useful app? There's no correct answer. A new EV might even come with a charger as part of a package deal, which is perfectly valid. 

Here's what you want to look for in an EV charger, in descending order of importance for the average buyer.

Safety first

EV chargers are generally safe, but ensure the model you have in mind is UL-certified (an industry-standard mark of safety based on third-party testing by Underwriters Laboratories). As long as it’s UL-certified and you use it as directed, the charger is unlikely to cause a fire. All the models mentioned above are UL-listed, but some lower-cost models sold through Amazon are not.

Outlet vs. hardwire

Some EV chargers use a hardwired electrical connection – no plug, no outlet. Others plug into an outlet. For L2 chargers, that's typically a 4-prong, NEMA 14-50 outlet, like many electric stoves or clothes dryers. A lot of models come in both types.

Either type is valid, and it's a matter of personal preference. Here's what to know about each style:


  • It's a cleaner-looking installation with shorter cable runs, no visible plug, and no outlet.

  • You can avoid installing a bulky outdoor-rated outlet because the hidden electrical connection already makes the charger more weatherproof.

  • Hardwired connections can charge faster than plug-in chargers (if your car and electrical wiring can support it).

  • You'll need an electrician to install it, then uninstall and replace it when it wears out (though this shouldn’t happen for 5-10 years), so the costs can add up over time. 


  • If you already have an outlet, you don't need to hire an electrician. Even if you need a new outlet, or your outlet wears out, you won't need an electrician to swap out chargers in the future, which saves you money in the long run.

  • Certain models are weatherproof (for outdoor use), though you'll need to plug into an outdoor-rated outlet.

  • They have a maximum charging speed of 40 amps (20-30 miles of range per hour). That's the safe limit for a NEMA 14-50 outlet.

Connector type: Tesla vs. everything else

In North America, EV chargers come with one of two connectors for at-home use: 

  • A Tesla connector shaped for the port on a Tesla.

  • A J1772 connector, shaped for the port on literally every other make and model of EV.

It makes some sense to get a charger with a connector that matches your car's port, but it doesn't actually matter because they're cross-compatible. Adapters to get a Tesla EV to work with a J1772 charger cost about $50. Adapters to plug a J1772 vehicle into a Tesla charger are about $150

Cord length

We've all pulled up to the gas pump on the wrong side, and we'll all end up parking our EVs too far from the charger at least once. You probably won't regret having the extra length of a longer cable.

According to the National Electrical Code, the maximum safe cable length is 25 feet. Most Level 2 chargers are at least 20 feet long. Aim for something in that range. 

Technically speaking, longer cords could be less energy efficient than shorter ones. More energy can get wasted traveling along the longer wire, but real-world testing by Car & Driver didn’t find any meaningful difference from model to model.


EVs draw a lot of electricity. If you can find ways to pay less for electricity, you can save a lot of money over time. Solar power is an excellent way to save (and EnergySage can help you get quotes for rooftop or community solar). You could also look into discounted rates from your utility company.

More than 60% of households in the US are eligible for discounted electricity at certain times of day, according to the Energy Information Administration. Utility companies usually call these programs "time-of-use" or "dynamic pricing" plans. 

If you sign up for one of these plans and do most of your EV charging when power is relatively cheap (usually overnight), you can save a ton of money.

An EV charger with a scheduling feature (via mobile app) can help you take advantage of those discounts. You can physically plug in the car whenever it's convenient, but it won't start charging until a time that you've specified in the app. You can always override the schedule if you need to start charging immediately.

Some lower-end chargers have a timer rather than a scheduling feature. You'll set it on a basic LED interface built into the power "brick" on the cord. It's not elegant, but it works.

Other notable features

An app: Most L2 charging stations can connect to Wi-Fi and have some sort of mobile app. It's where you'll set charging schedules (see above), adjust the power output (see below), monitor the charging status, and track your energy use over time. They all basically do the same thing, but some are better looking, others more prone to glitches, and a few try to shoehorn in an extra interface for public charging networks, too. If you think this will be something that matters to you, check the app store ratings before buying.

Output control: This lets you control the charging rate. If you own a 32-amp charger, you can usually set it to supply just 24 amps, 16 amps, or even 8 amps to your car. Why would you do this? Maybe you're trying to manually manage your home's electrical load to avoid tripping an underpowered breaker, or you’re acting out of some sense of courtesy for the electrical grid. 

You never really need to do this. The EV itself will only ever draw as much power as its battery can safely handle, and there's no good evidence that L2 charging is any worse for an EV battery's longevity than L1 charging. Still, most L2 chargers provide this option if you want it, though not all of them.

Demand response: Certain EV chargers are also compatible with demand response programs through your utility company. If you opt-in, it gives the utility some control over your charger (via software), typically in exchange for a small cash rebate. 

Demand response typically works like this: The utility can turn off or turn down an EV charger at peak demand to help avoid overloading the grid. That might be during the early evening on the hottest days of the year, as people arrive home from work and crank the AC or frigid winter mornings in regions with a lot of electric heat. All the demand response programs we know of allow you to override the utility company's control, but you might lose out on the rewards.

If you already have the right outlet for your preferred charger, around 20 feet from where you’ll park your car, you don’t need a professional installation. Just hang it up, plug it in, and you’re good to go.

If you need a new outlet or you’re installing a hardwired charger, then you’ll need an electrician. 

Pretty much any residential electrician can handle the job. The tougher part is finding someone with availability. It’s hard to determine whether you’re getting a fair price without taking hours to invite multiple electricians to your home and waiting for quotes to trickle in. 

One way to increase the chance of a timely, reasonably priced installation is to combine multiple tasks into a single visit, so it’s a better use of the electrician’s time. For example, if you have a gas stove and think you’ll want to replace it with an induction range at some point, you could get the outlet installed now so you’re ready for a replacement as soon as the old unit dies.

Learn more about how to install an EV charging station

From Qmerit: With Qmerit’s network installing over 269,000 charging stations in North America, Qmerit has more experience than any other company in the EV charging space performing both residential and commercial installations. After you answer a few questions about your home and your charging needs on Qmerit’s EV Home Charging Assessment, Qmerit can give you an upfront price estimate and connect you to a rigorously trained, Qmerit-certified installer. Qmerit will also handle the billing once you accept the quote, making the process especially seamless.

Your EV probably comes with some kind of charger. Often, it’s an L1 cable, but sometimes an L2 unit comes as a purchase incentive. You won't necessarily have to pay extra for your charging equipment, and some EV dealers include a free or discounted installation.

If you need to pay out of pocket, here's what to expect:

EV charging equipment costs

A basic charging cord for L1 or sometimes lower-amperage L2 cord will start at around $100. Higher-speed models with sturdier components can cost over $300. 

Amazon lists more than 100 of these low-cost models, and they're often indistinguishable (except for the near-nonsense brand names like Godiag, Polspag, or Evjuicion, likely crafted to glide through the US trademark process). As far as we can tell, none of them have companion apps, but many have basic LED interfaces built into their power bricks. 

Other things to remember when shopping for basic charging cords:

  • Most of these product listings don't specify whether the chargers are UL-listed, so watch out for that if you decide to go this route. 

  • Many are for indoor use only. 

  • Pay attention to the kind of wall plug they use. Some come with a four-prong NEMA 14-50 (the standard for Level 2), and some with a plug for a regular NEMA 5-15 outlet (for a standard household outlet). Others come with plugs that were more common a few decades ago, like that big 3-prong outlet your old clothes dryer uses.

Standard Level 2 charging stations (boxes that hang on a wall, with a holster for the connector and a hook for the cable) start at $400 and range up to about $750 for some of the most popular, highly rated models. 

You're probably thinking of these models when you picture a home EV charger. They cost more because they're sturdier, charge faster than basic L1 cords, and often work with mobile apps that let you remotely control some aspects of EV charging. 

High-end Level 2 charging stations often cost more than $1,000. 

These models have top-of-the-line features like 80-amp charging speeds, two cables for charging two cars at once, and even allowing certain EVs to power your home like a backup generator (with a lot of additional electrical work).

EV charging electrical work costs

If you need electrical work to install an L2 charger (most people do), the prices can vary significantly.

The best-case scenario is something like $300-500. 

You park your car close to your electrical panel, with plenty of room for a new circuit and ample load capacity. An electrician can bang out this job in a couple of hours with only a short run of wiring.

A more typical scenario is around $1,000-1,500. 

In this case, your electrical panel has plenty of space and capacity, but the electrician will have to run new wire for the circuit through some walls, maybe across a finished ceiling, or through a trench in your yard. 

If your electrical system can't quite handle a new circuit for an EV charger, that could add close to $1,000 to the cost. 

A circuit-sharing or load-shedding device could let you squeeze an EV charger into an electrical system with a panel with no open slots or a lot of demand but only 100 amps of service. It's pricey, but it sure beats the alternative (see below).

The worst-case scenario: A full panel and service upgrade for $3,000-$5,000+. 

That's in addition to the cost of installing the EV charger and the circuit. This pricey update can also take weeks or months to complete if the utility company is involved. Sometimes, it's the only good option. If you live in a cold climate and plan to switch away from fossil fuels for heating, cooking, and driving, the extra electrical capacity could come in handy.

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