EV Chargers and Whole Home Electrification (Podcast)

In this episode, Brett Rogenski explains how EV chargers fit into the whole home electrification process. He talks about the installation process and charging abilities of the three main types of EV chargers. Then, he outlines what homeowners need to consider when installing EV chargers.

John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Brett Rogenski, General Manager of N.E.T.R., Inc, a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts with a focus on Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling products. Today, we’re talking about EV chargers and whole home electrification. Welcome, Brett.

Brett Rogenski: Thank you very much, John. I appreciate you having me.

What Are EV Chargers? How Do They Work?

John: Sure. So Brett, what are electric-vehicle or EV chargers and how do they work?

Brett: Sure. Well, you know what? At the end of the day, they’re really pretty simple in that they’re basically the plug that is taking the electricity from your electric panel in your home and then transferring that to charge the battery in your electric vehicle.

And there are different types of EV chargers. Ultimately there are kind of three flavors of electric chargers. There’s level one chargers which work on 120 volts, and those charge very slowly. I guess I would say in general, the working theory there is that for every hour that you have a level one charger plugged into your car, you’re probably going to pick up five to 10 miles of range. So they’re very low. They’re very low voltage chargers.

In homes, a much more common version is a level two charger, which is a 240 volt charger. So think of your… if you have an electric dryer, your dryer is 240 volts. Most of the time your hot water heater might be 240 volts if you have an electric hot water heater and those are faster, basically you’re allowing more voltage and amperage to go through. And kind of the general rule on those, again, depending on the model of charger and model of car that you’re probably picking up maybe between 25 and 50 miles of range per hour that that is plugged in.

And then the last flavor in the long run, which is much less common in homes, but certainly commercially is very common, but they are available in homes as well is DC fast charging. So if you think of a Tesla supercharger situation, and with those, you can typically pick up 250 to 300 miles of range per hour that your vehicle is plugged into them. So for most homeowners, that’s perfectly capable, but there’s a lot of investment around that, and most people don’t need that capability. They come home from work, they’re able to plug in their vehicle for the night or for a few hours anyhow, and pick up all the battery charge that they need for their daily routine.

Installing EV Chargers in Your Home

John: And are all these versions, level one, two, and these DC fast charging, are they all separate systems that need to be installed in your… say in your garage or something like that as opposed to just plugging the vehicle into a standard outlet, that’s something that you need to come in and install?

Brett: Yeah, that is correct. So even with a level one charger… each of the manufacturers, there’s starting to be some standardization in the industry, but each of the manufacturers has a certain type of plug that they’ve aligned on. So it doesn’t look like our plug that we plug a lamp in with, even on a level one charger.

So what you have to do is you want to have a dedicated circuit wired from your panel to that actual charger, whether it’s a charger that was supplied by the vehicle manufacturer, a lot of electric vehicles come with one charger, or we also work with manufacturers who provide, if you will, universal ones that we can then install into a home that’ll work with your vehicle.

You’re going to need a dedicated circuit from your panel to that actual charger, and then the charger has certain safety devices in it to make sure that it doesn’t overcharge your car, that it doesn’t overheat itself and cause a danger. And also protection against shorts, power surges, and all that sort of stuff.

And then same thing on the level two chargers. Those are… almost no one has 110 volts to… excuse me, 240 volts up into their garage. They may have 110 volts to their garage, but not 240. So we would need to put in a dedicated line that’s very much like the line that feeds your dryer or your stove perhaps if you have electric on those as well as the specified charger there, and then get that there.

Many homes in New England aren’t necessarily set up to support, especially DC fast charging or level two charging because of the amperage that’s required. In New England, we have a lot of older homes that were built around the concept of gas heat and things like that, not high-draw electric appliances. So they may have 100-amp service from the street to the home, and if there’s not enough capacity left there, we usually recommend to people that what they do is they upgrade, they perform a service upgrade to 200 amps from the pole to their home, and we work with people all day helping them with that, where we upgrade their capacity into their home from 100 amps to 200 amps usually involves a new breaker panel and that sort of thing as well to support all of these great things in the electrification of everything.

Why You Need Surge Protectors for EV Chargers

John: Yeah. So other than upgrading your electrical panel maybe to 200 amps, are there any other infrastructure things that might need to change, any modifications that might need to happen in the home?

Brett: For electric vehicles, there’s not a lot more except for the mounting of that charger and getting that dedicated circuit tied to that charger as well. Now, one thing that we do always recommend to people is that they also look at whole home surge protection, especially now it’s required by code if you’re going to upgrade your service into the home anyhow, so when we replace your electric panel, we’re going to have to put in whole home surge protection.

But as more and more electric devices are added in homes, everything from TVs and your refrigerator to your electric vehicle and your heat pump heating system, those are all electric, and they need that protection in case of surge, either within the home or from outside the home into the home to protect them.

We all know that circuit boards are sensitive electronics, and it’s not the old days with your mom’s dishwasher that just wouldn’t die from 1965. Those didn’t have a lot of complicated electronics. These have very sophisticated electronics and we want to protect them from power surges. So that’s something I really strongly recommend any homeowner do is put a whole home surge protection on to protect all those things electric.

Benefits of Whole Home Electrification

John: Okay. Talk a little bit about how EV chargers fit into the larger context of whole home electrification. What do we mean by that and what are some of the potential energy savings and environmental benefits of whole home electrification in general and electric vehicle chargers specifically?

Brett: Sure. Well, the real benefits are decarbonization. So all these things that we have that burn fossil fuel are leading to global warming. Certainly a very hot topic here for quite a few years, but very much so now is global warming.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

And global warming, we’re being told, is being triggered by the warming of the Earth because we are not reducing our carbon emissions. So by moving to electric vehicles, we’re eliminating that fossil fuel. We’re getting rid of gas. Same thing in your home. We’re eliminating that fossil fuel burning to cook your food, to warm your water, to warm your home.

The other thing is it also allows you to go even further down that road of decarbonization by integrating things like solar into your home and getting true green energy, energy from the sun to help drive all these things. So when we talk about the electrification of everything, the benefits to the homeowner are first of all, financial.

There’s a lot of great incentives both for solar, for electric cars, for heat pumps in your home. There’s a lot of great rebates and tax credits and low and no interest loans available. For all of those things, you’re going to see an improved indoor air quality because you’re not burning fossil fuels within your home and you’re just really going to see an improvement in quality of life for folks who are really interested in decarbonization

More Stable Energy Prices

John: Is one of the other benefits of moving to whole home electrification and using an EV charger with your electric vehicle, that you’re not subject to the volatility of the oil and gas prices just constantly fluctuating and going up. I know that gas for cars a year or so ago almost hit $5 a gallon and fuel oil for your home for running your furnace and things like that, those fluctuate wildly as well.

But electricity costs seem to be relatively stable. So electrifying the home and going with an EV charger and an electric vehicle in your home, you sort of reduce some of that volatility and those wild fluctuations in fossil fuel prices.

Brett: Absolutely. Yeah. We’ve all seen that. I believe it was winter before last we saw fuel oil north of $6 a gallon. And you’re right, I think a year ago I was paying close to $5 a gallon to put fuel in my vehicle. And so yeah, listen, it’s still not cheap. It’s just cheaper now than it was. But you’re right, there’s a long history of very volatile costs associated with fossil fuels.

So by moving, in addition to quality of life, quality of air quality, indoor air quality, decarbonization, you’re right. From a budgetary point of view, you’re going to be able to much more favorably budget for costs as far as heating and cooling your home, your drive to and from work and all the things associated. And again, you can offset that even further if you choose to integrate solar into that equation as well. So we know we have customers who fully offset their electrical with solar and actually gain credit. Everyone’s situation is different, but that can save… take a significant bite out of that cost for you as well.

Costs of Installing EV Chargers

John: What are some of the initial costs of installing an EV charger in your home, and are there any government incentives or rebates that might be available to help offset those costs?

Brett: Sure. So the costs come down to what you need in your home. Number one, do you need a service upgrade? So is your amperage in your home sufficient or does that need upgrading? And yes, by way of the Inflation Reduction Act, there are tax credits available depending on what you need done and what you choose to have done for doing that. The second part is your electrical panel itself. Is it safe? Is it new? There’s a lot of older panels out there that are still in play that are literally fire hazards at this point.

There’s a company out there called Federal Pacific who by code, if we find a Federal Pacific panel, we have to remove it and replace it because it’s that deadly. So there’s a lot of… So do you need a service upgrade? Do you need a panel upgrade?

And then the actual installation cost of the charger itself. In my home, if you were to install an electric charger in my garage, you’d need probably about six feet of wire and to drill through one wall. It’d be a very simple installation. Other folks, there’s more involved than that. The electrical panel’s on one end of the home, the garage is on the other. Totally something that we can help you with. And we like doing that. It’s just a more complicated installation, a little more material, a little more time and labor. That’s all.

The Right EV Charger Makes Life More Comfortable

John: Any final tips or advice for homeowners that might be considering an EV charger as part of their whole home electrification plan?

Brett: Sure. Yeah. You know what? If you’re really truly looking to do whole home electrification, an electric vehicle is a key part of that, and going with that level two charger is going to make, when we talk about whole home electrification and heating and cooling, we talk about comfort.

Well, you know what? When we talk about the driving side of this, that level two charger, which is a pretty fast charger, is going to be able to let you live more comfortably with that vehicle as well. So you’re not going to have to plug in that vehicle and leave it for 20 hours until it’s fully charged. You’re going to plug it in for a few hours. You’re going to have all the power you need to take you on through the day. So that will let you live conveniently with that vehicle as well.

John: All right, well that’s great information, Brett. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Brett: Thanks, John. I appreciate you having me.

John: And for more information, you can visit the N.E.T.R. website at netrinc.com or call (781) 933-NETR. That’s (781) 933-6387.