Before bringing home a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle for the first time, you will have to ensure your home is equipped with a way to charge your vehicle, preferably in the most efficient and economical way possible.
Your first step should be to select your charging station type. Consider whether you want to charge your vehicle directly, via an existing 110-volt wall outlet or if it is important for you to charge your vehicle in about half the time, approximately four to five hours, and go the more expensive route of installing a Level 2 charging station that utilizes a 240-volt electrical appliance outlet, like the one used for clothes dryers, to provide a current of 30 amps.
If you live in an apartment, high-rise or condo, then this is also the point where you must make additional plans to provide for safe and convenient charging. Check first with your landlord or the property management company in charge of your building to determine where you will be able to charge your plug-in or electric vehicle into an existing 120-volt standard outlet. You might also inquire as to whether you could install a 240-volt charging station.
First on your list once you have a charging option in mind should be to ask your local utility or another qualified electrician to conduct a home power assessment. This step will help you determine whether your home's existing power capacity is able to support the energy that's going to be needed for a charging station or if you will need to pay for some upgrades. If it's the latter, figure this into the estimated costs for purchasing your new vehicle so that you can effectively compare the overall cost over the lifetime of the vehicle to the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Depending on the age of your house and the situation, you could end up shelling out only a few hundred dollars to get your home in shape for your desired charging option.
If your home was built within the last 15 to 20 years, it is probably equipped with more amps than found in older houses. You will need just a standard 15 or 20 amp wall outlet if you go the 120-volt charging option, which will take about 10 hours to fully charge your vehicle. But if you want to utilize 240-volt charging, you will need a 30 or 40 amp circuit. That's why you will need to ensure your home can support the additional power requirement with a home power assessment.
Once you've completed your home power assessment, ask your dealer for a list of preferred chargers for your vehicle. Stations are relatively simple and available in a variety of types, including pole-mountd, wall-mounted and free-standing stations for both 120-volt and 240-volt chargers. Regardless of what type of charger you choose, you will want it to be certified to UL standards listed by a nationally recognized safety-testing lab. Also, make sure your charger includes an SAE J1772 compliant connector, which is the Society of Automotive Engineers standard for charging connectors.
Once you've got your home ready and have a type of charger in mind, your next step should be to check with your local utility. Folks there will be able to give you advice about the installation process and can also refer you to qualified electrical installers in your area. Your utility can also serve as a useful resource for telling you the best times for charging to allow you to receive the lowest rates. There may also be some local discounted electricity rate programs available that you could qualify for. It is also important to notify your utility if you are planning to install a 240-volt charging station so it can ensure reliable electrical service continues in your neighborhood.
Once you have gone through all of these steps, one of the last tasks in planning your charging station installation is to schedule the installation itself and get a permit from your local government. Again, check with your dealer or utility to see if they can recommend a qualified installer specifically trained to install charging stations in residences. Your installer should be licensed and insured. Check references of anyone recommended to you and be sure to get multiple quotes. You will also generally need to get a building permit for a new circuit as well as a field inspection. Check with your local or county building department, which will be able to tell you exactly what is required.