Home electric car charging - the Ultimate Guide



Electric car charging at home: an introduction

If you have just bought an electric car, or at least are thinking of purchasing one, one of the first things you’ll want to get sorted is an electric car home charger. But where do you start?

Researching the best way to charge online can be a minefield, with endless suppliers offering endless solutions with endless bells and whistles. It’s confusing. We understand. That’s why we have created this ultimate guide to charging your electric car at home.

Charging at home is one of the biggest benefits of going electric. The costs of running your car are about to fall dramatically. And smart charging with an off-peak electricity tariff can save the average driver over £200 per year. So, it’s worth making sure you get the right home charger.


What is a home electric car charger?

Charging at home is one of the biggest benefits of going electric. The costs of running your car are about to fall dramatically. And smart charging with an off-peak electricity tariff can save the average driver over £200 per year. So, it’s worth making sure you get the right home charger.

Some are even capable of being activated by facial recognition, controlled by a wave of the hand, or adjusted with commands from Alexa.

Future electric car chargers will also be able to discharge your car, so you can support renewables and be paid for sending electricity back to the grid at peak times, and then charge back up with cheaper, cleaner electricity in the night (this is known as ‘vehicle-to-grid’, or ‘V2G’).

Home chargers can come with a cable attached (tethered), which you just unwind and plug into your car. Or, they can come with a socket (untethered), which allows for both a ‘Type 1’ car or ‘Type 2’ car to be charged from the same charger.

More of this below... read on.


Can I get a home electric car charger?

If you have a private driveway or garage you will almost certainly be able to get a charge point installed at home. You can choose to have the charger installed in your garage, outside on the wall, or mounted on a free-standing post - we’ve seen chargers built into old whisky barrels and placed on trees. There are a couple of other criteria, but having off-street parking also gives you access to the £500 OLEV grant (more on this below).

Without off-street parking, plugging in to a nearby public charge point can be a better option than installing a home charge point. There are examples where drivers lay their cable across the pavement to charge and cover it with a protective mat to reduce the trip hazard. However, it’s best to check with your local authority before choosing this option.


Why install a home charge point?

If you have a garage or a drive-way, installing a home charger is a no-brainer. You will be able to charge:

When your installer visits to install your new charger, they will also lay a new, high powered cable to your fuse box. This allows you to charge at up to 3x faster than using your a 3-pin plug, or 10x faster If you have a three-phase power supply (which some farm houses or large home do).

The smarter chargers on the market can time your charge to happen when the grid is at it’s cleanest, or when your off-peak electricity tariff kicks in. This way, you can save up to £200 per year, and reduce your carbon usage by 25% on average.


How to install a home charge point

Charge points are installed by government-approved installers. They are approved by the ‘Office for Low Emission Vehicles’, or ‘OLEV’, who are also the body that administer the £500 OLEV grant.

Rightcharge has built up a network of the best installers across the UK, and you can connect with the right one - based on your preferred charger and your location - by using the Rightcharge website.

The typical process is for an installer to ask for a couple of photos of your house, including your fuse cupboard, and where you would like the charger to go. They will use this to conduct a remote ‘survey’ and provide a quote for the charge and installation.

If you’re happy with the quote, you will book a date for your installation to go ahead. Installs are usually just a half-day job, but if there is some extra work required it could take up to a full day.


The cost of a home charging point

If you are eligible for the OLEV grant, the cost of a charge point typically ranges from between £300 to £1,000 fully installed, after the grant.

You can compare the prices of all charge points, including a standard install and the grant, on Rightcharge.

Prices are usually based on a ‘standard install’, which, by definition, should cover most installs. But there can be extra costs involved. For example, if more cabling is required to reach the fuse box, or if you would prefer for your installer run the cable underground, as opposed to along the bottom of your wall. Occasionally, there could be other electrical equipment that needs to be upgraded in order to install the charger in line with the regulations.

Any extra cost will be included in the quote from your installer.

If you’re Scottish, you’re in luck. Not only can you be eligible for the £500 OLEV grant, but you could also be eligible for up to £300 from the ‘EST’ grant, administered by the Energy Saving Trust.

In order to claim the EST grant, your install must be completed by an EST approved installer. Any installer that you connect with through Rightcharge in Scotland will be EST approved.

One thing to note - The OLEV grant is claimed by the installer, and is knocked off the price, whereas you claim the EST grant yourself following the install. You will need to request approval from the EST too before the install is carried out.


How to save over £200 per year using a smart charger

The cheapest and cleanest way to charge your car at home is to use a smart charger, and to switch to a 100% renewable electricity tariff such as the Go Tariff from Octopus Energy.

You will also find that smart chargers tend to be the cheapest option to install at the moment as the OLEV grant is now only applicable to a smart charger.

‘Smart’, essentially means the chargers can communicate remotely, which means it can do some clever things. It varies by charger, but these include:

Off-peak electricity tariffs can be as cheap as 5p / kWh, compared to typical unit rates of around 16p - 18p / kWh. This means that you can cut your bill by over 70% by using a smart charger to get all of your charging in the cheap hours of the night. This would cut the average driver’s bill from around £350 to £150, saving over £200 per year.

And more good news - the electricity grid is cleanest during the nighttime hours, when most power comes from either wind or nuclear. On average, it’s 25% cleaner during the night than during the evening in the UK. So, smart charging will cut your carbon too.


Differences in home electric car chargers explained

You will want to think about each of the following things when choosing your charge point. You can filter by each feature using the Rightcharge comparison tool.

Let’s look into each in a bit more detail…


Speed

There’s a couple of things to think of here. The first is that most homes have a single-phase power supply, but some homes have a ‘3-phase’ power supply. A 3-phase power supply will deliver three times the power of a single-phase power supply. A single phase supply will be capable of delivering 7kW (kilowatts) to your charger, known as ‘Fast’ charging. If you have a 3-phase supply, and install a 3-phase charger, your charger can handle up to 22kW (also, rather unhelpfully, known as ‘Fast’ charging).

The second, is that the speed of charging can actually be limited by your car. Some pure electric cars, and most hybrids, are limited to charging at a rate of 3kW at home, which is known as ‘Slow’ charging. But a lot of cars are capable of charging at 7kW at home on a 3-phase supply. There are some cars that can.

The Rightcharge comparison tool will tell you what your car can handle at home.

Now, if you live in a large, new home or a farmhouse, you might need to adjust everything you’ve just read. Some properties have a ‘3-phase’ power supply, which means your home can deliver 22kW to your charger (rather unhelpfully also known as ‘Fast’ charging). You will also have to check the maximum power your car can draw.


Cable

Chargers come ‘tethered’ or ‘untethered’, and often offer the option to buy as either (filter chargers for this here).

The key thing to know here is that electric cars have either a ‘Type 1’ or ‘Type 2’ socket. Type 1 used to be common, and Type 2 is now common across all new electric cars.

It is generally recommended to choose an untethered charger if you have a Type 1 car, as your next car is likely to be Type 2, and you don’t want to have to replace the whole charger. Perhaps choose a tethered charger if your car is Type 2, but you’ll have to be happy with friends with older, Type 1 cars charging from your 3-pin plug when they visit for tea.


Smart

It’s the most important thing to think about - so we’ve already covered it!

You can filter for smart chargers using the Rightcharge comparison tool.


Load Balancing

You don’t want to blow your fuse, right?

Well, some homes just have a low fuse rating… and the old solution used to be to install a Slow charger.

Luckily that isn’t the case any more. A lot of chargers come with ‘Load balancing’ functionality. Basically, this means that they are capable of Fast charging, but they will lower the power to your car if they notice that your home is getting close to using too much power.

Pretty good, hey?

Load balancing is particularly important to consider if you’re going to have more than one charger. Then you’re much more likely to be in danger of reaching your fuse limit without load balancing.


Solar

If you’ve got solar panels then you’re surely going to want to make the most of the clean power that you generate.

A few chargers on the market can speak to your solar system. So, if you tell them to charge only on solar, they will wait for your system to be generating more power than you’re using in the home. At that point, they will switch on and vary the power going to the car to match the excess generation from your solar.

Wow...


Lock

Worried about your neighbours plugging in to your charger? Although you rarely, if ever, hear of this happening, it is a key concern for some drivers. Some chargers come with a locking function.

This can be as old-school as a lock and key, or it can be a bit more advanced, with locking possible from your mobile phone, or activation with facial recognition.


Earthing rod

Your charger needs to be earthed. If it isn’t and something trips while you're charging it could be painful. The risk of this happening is small, but worth protecting against. It fact, it is a regulated requirement in the UK.

Some chargers require a metal spike, known as an ‘earth rod’ to be driven into the ground on your property. Some chargers are built with technology that intends to replace the need for an earth rod.


Remote diagnosis

Being smart means chargers can report to the manufacturers, or manufacturers can access your charger remotely to try and diagnose, and even sometimes fix, errors remotely.


How to compare the best home charging points

The best way to compare chargers is by using the Rightcharge comparison tool. Once you’ve chosen the charger that is the best fit for your needs, you will be connected with the right installer that offers that charger and covers your area.