Easee charger 1

How do you charge an electric car at home?

Thinking about buying an electric car but first want to learn the ins and outs of charging at home? Here’s everything you need to know, from which type of charger to buy to how to save money through lower energy rates.

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By Cazoo editorial team

How can I charge my car at home?

There are two ways to charge your electric car at home: using a dedicated home charger, known as a wallbox charger, or using a standard three-pin plug socket. The latter is simple but it’s extremely slow. It’s also not advisable for safety reasons that we’ll expand on later. This leaves the other, better option – a wallbox charger, which is safer, more reliable and much faster than a three-pin socket.

If you don’t have off-street parking you may be able to use public charging points including lamppost chargers.

What is a home charging point?

A home charger, or wallbox charger, is a dedicated charging unit. As the name suggests, it’s mounted on the wall of a building – such as your house or garage – and makes electric-car charging easier, faster and much safer than through a conventional three-pin socket. Wallbox chargers are more powerful and more reliable too, and let you easily take advantage of lower overnight electricity rates.

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How much does it cost to install an electric car charger at home?

At-home wallbox chargers range in price. The government offers a grant through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which takes up to £350 off the cost of a home charger and installation, but after April 2022, the grant is only available to people who live in a flat they rent or own.

There are many different wallbox charging brands and products, most of which include installation in the price.

Will I need to upgrade my electricity supply or fuse box?

Without getting too technical, there are a few things to know about your home electricity supply before having a wallbox charger installed. The most common chargers have a maximum electricity capacity between 3-7 kW, which is compatible with most UK homes that have a single-phase (AC) electricity supply. If your home has a three-phase (AC) supply, you can install a more powerful charger, capable of handling up to 22 kW, which will allow you to fast-charge at home. If you don’t know what any of this means, check with your electricity supplier to find out what kind of supply you have.

When you purchase your wallbox charger, you’ll also schedule the installation. Before installation can happen, you’ll need to check your fuse board’s limit to ensure it can handle the extra demand of home charging. You might need a larger main fuse to cope with the increased electricity flow. Don’t worry though – the charging company will also assess your electricity supply to make sure it fits the requirements. If any extra work is needed to upgrade your system, the installation team will likely quote you an additional fee to cover it.

Do I need to have off-street parking?

While the majority of UK residences have access to off-street parking, 40% don’t, according to a 2018 study by PWC. If you’re part of this 40% and you still want to get an electric car, don’t despair if you don’t have your own parking space because there are ways around it.

It might be possible to get a charger installed if you have street parking directly outside your property and an external wall to attach to. If you’re a tenant, it could be worth talking to your landlord about installing one. You can trail the charging cable across the pavement to travel the short distance to your car.

There's no government legislation stopping you from running your cable along the pavement, but you need to check whether your local council has its own rules. For safety reasons, it’s important to keep the cable lying flat against the ground. Buying a high-visibility cable wrap or cable protector is a sensible idea to stop people tripping on it. Remember, you could be liable for damages if someone injures themselves by tripping on your cable, so make sure you only leave it out while your car is charging.

Another option is to use any nearby public charging points. The public charging network in the UK is expanding rapidly and many urban areas have convenient lamppost chargers. On-street chargers tend to work on a ‘plug and pay’ basis. You can normally pay with a contactless card, or by app. It might be worth getting a monthly membership with the local charging provider if you frequently charge at public points. Providers offer lower electricity rates to people with a monthly membership, so you could save money. You may need to use your own charging cable, so make sure you keep one in your car.

Installing a charging point

Once you’ve chosen the wallbox you want, the charging company’s installation team oversees everything. They’ll run you through a few questions about your electricity supply and the exact location of your charger and then the installation itself will usually take between four and eight hours. You’ll also be given a walk-through to feel completely comfortable with using your charger.

If you’re thinking about installing your own charger, don’t – unless you’re certified by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV). Aside from the obvious safety aspects – chiefly a risk of electrocution – installing or tampering with your own charger can invalidate its warranty. A lot of wallbox installation companies will automatically deactivate your warranty if a non-qualified technician tampers with it.

How long will it take to charge my car?

Most home chargers can refill your car’s battery at two speeds – 3.6kW or 7kW. Those numbers refer to the electrical power the charger supplies. Your electric car may limit the charging speed depending on the kW rate it can handle, although almost all modern cars can cope with speeds of 7kWh and below.

Other factors that affect how quickly you can charge your car at home include the size of the battery (smaller batteries actually charge faster), whether the battery is empty or full (it takes longer from empty) and the weather (charging is slower in colder temperatures). The exact time it will take to charge your electric car at home will vary, but less than six hours is fairly normal.

Can I plug my car into a regular socket?

Yes, you can, but it’s not advisable to do so regularly. You can charge through a regular three-pin plug socket as a one-off or in an emergency, but you can damage your electricity supply by overheating it if you do it too frequently. It’s much safer to use a dedicated device to charge your electric car at home. A home socket can only supply up to 3kW anyway, so it’s much slower than using a wallbox charger.

How much will it cost to charge at home?

Charging at home is the most cost-effective and convenient way of keeping your battery full. You can do so overnight, and wake up with a fully charged car in the morning. The cost differs depending on electricity rates and the size of your car’s battery. Based on the average domestic electricity rates in the UK in early 2022, a mid-size electric car costs around £9 to charge. Some providers offer tariffs specifically designed for owners of electric cars, which could give you a full battery for as little as £5.

How can I take advantage of less expensive energy?

One of the benefits of electric cars is that they can save you money through what’s known as ‘smart charging’. Smart chargers are connected to the internet, and let you use a smartphone app to schedule charging whenever it suits you, including overnight when electricity rates are lower. Since 2019, all wallboxes eligible for the government grant have had to be smart units, so you’ll probably be able to smart-charge by default.

You can reduce the cost of electricity and increase your savings by always scheduling your charging for low-tariff periods. Many wallboxes, and many electric cars, have apps that help you do this. You can also get a smart meter installed in your house. This allows your energy provider to see your consumption data and readings so they can offer you charging at lower prices during low-demand times.

Is it bad to charge my car too frequently?

In an ideal world, you’d always keep some charge in your battery, rather than letting it drop too low or even keeping it constantly full. If possible, try to keep a state of charge between 20% and 80%, because that’s best for your battery’s health. But don’t get too hung up on it, because electric car batteries are generally very resilient and usually have warranties that last around 10 years.

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