Installing an electric car home charger: what to know

person plugging in home charger to electric vehicle


Posted May 30, 2024

If you’re thinking about buying an electric vehicle (EV), it’s worth considering the convenience of having a dedicated EV charger installed at home. Here's what you need to know about getting your home ready for electric car charging.

Electric car ownership is growing in Australia. A new generation of cheaper and smaller electric vehicles is also making the transition to a electrified motoring great choice for drivers that spend most of their time in busy city and suburban areas, are seeking to downsize their vehicle to reduce maintenance and ownership costs, or are looking for an electric car to maximise renewable energy from a home solar system.

Some electric cars are also eligible for EV rebates and incentives and a fringe benefits tax exemption for EVs financed under a novated lease, making them more budget friendly.

While electric cars can be charged slowly from a wall socket like a laptop or mobile phone, a home charger is a faster and more convenient way to charge an EV. So, how can you get your home set up if you're considering making the switch to an electric car? We asked RACV EV Manager Liam Brady to answer some frequently asked questions.

Getting your home ready for an EV charger

Home EV chargers: what you need to know

The availability of ultra rapid charging stations for EVs is increasing across the country, but charging at home is far more convenient. Having a dedicated EV charger at home means you don’t have to leave the house to charge your car, and you may be able to get a full charge overnight. Plus, if you pair your home charger with a rooftop solar system, you might also save money by charging your vehicle from renewable energy.

While some EV owners simply use a portable charger to plug into a standard 10 amp wall outlet to charge, this is the slowest way to charge an EV. Wall-mounted home charging units in your garage, carport or workplace can facilitate much faster charging. These dedicated EV chargers can provide charging at a rate around 3 to 10 times faster than a standard wall outlet.

"An EV home charger is ideal for those who want to maximise their solar panels and EVs," says Brady. "Charging your car with solar power during the day helps you get the most out of your solar installation. It is certainly better than feeding electricity back into the grid for a meagre 5 to 10 cents per kWh."

RACV now supplies home EV chargers that are compatible with all EVs sold in Australia. The price for these includes standard installation by a certified electrician. Home chargers can potentially help you shave hundreds of dollars off your car running costs by optimising solar self-consumption with EV charging.

person plugging in charger to electric vehicle

Home EV charging can be just as fast as commercial stations. 

Where should I install the charger for an EV?

The most logical spot for a wall-mounted home charging unit is the garage or carport, but the ideal location is up to you. Consider which side of the garage or carport you want the charger, check where the charging port is on your EV, and factor in whether or not you usually reverse your car into the space.

You don’t need a great deal of room. RACV’s ChargeMate charger, for example, measures just 38cm high, 13cm deep and 18cmwide and weighs around 3kg. The area does not have to be enclosed as the charger is waterproof.

Do I need to upgrade my power supply to charge an EV at home?

When considering a home charging unit, you’ll need to determine if you have a single-phase or three-phase power connection. If your switchboard is equipped with a three-phase connection, it means that the conduit that connects to your charger is bigger and can charge your EV faster than with a single-phase connection.

To determine which phase power you have, check the width of the main switch on the switchboard. The single-phase switches are one ‘pole’ wide and three-phase switches are three ‘poles’ wide and look like a triple switch.

A technician will need to install a dedicated circuit from the switchboard (the box with the circuit breakers that’s usually near your front door or in the garage) to the location of the charger. The technician can advise on the best way to connect the home charger. Depending on its distance from the switchboard, the wiring may need to run through your ceiling or under the house.

Can I charge an EV at home if my house wiring is old? 

Older homes may have an old switchboard that needs to be upgraded before a home EV charger can be installed.

"If we’re doing work in your switchboard, we’re required by law to bring it up to current code, so the whole switchboard may need upgrading," Brady explains. 

Switchboard upgrades may also be required to make space for the new electrical protection switches. For example, if your home has old fuse blocks rather than new circuit breakers, an upgrade is usually required. "However, those upgrades bring important safety benefits, so it’s a worthwhile investment for your home," Brady says.

man looking at wiring in his EV home charger

Technicians can evaluate your switchboard to understand if it needs upgrading for an EV home charger.

Do you need a home battery to charge an electric car?  

Charging an EV doesn’t require a home battery, but interest in solar batteries is growing as they become more affordable and efficient.

"The EV can be set to charge from free excess solar energy during the day (if you have solar) and/or overnight on cheaper off-peak electricity. This will keep your costs down," Brady says.

In the future, bidirectional chargers will be able to discharge energy from an EV, which means they could be used to power a home and its appliances.

More: Guide to Tesla solar batteries for the home

Can I use renewable solar energy to charge an electric car?

The environmental benefits of solar power are clear, but it can also save you money. With a home rooftop solar system, you could potentially charge your EV directly from your excess solar power. How many solar panels you need to charge your EV depends on such things as your EV’s battery size, your driving habits and your household's average energy consumption.

A home battery unit will allow you to store energy sourced from your solar panels to use at night or another time when the sun isn’t shining. If home solar isn’t an option for you, but you still want to charge your car with renewable energy, ask your electricity retailer whether they have a carbon offset or green energy plan.

More: How much solar you need to charge an electric car 

Can I charge an EV if I live in an apartment building?

Many new apartment complexes are built with EV charging in mind, so installing a charger is relatively straightforward. But the process can be more complex in older buildings. Either way, speak with your owners corporation or strata manager to find out if they have an EV charging installation policy.

person using home wall charger in garage

EV home chargers are ideally integrated in the garage, carport or driveway.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?  

Charging times vary from as little as 30 minutes to 18 hours depending on the speed of the charging point, the size of the car battery, and the car's remaining charge. Most drivers top up their charge, rather than waiting for their battery to recharge from empty to full.

More: Australia's cheapest electric cars for sale

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Charging at home is generally the cheapest way to charge an EV, unless you live near a free public charging station. These tend to be the slower AC chargers and are often located in public car parks where the only cost is the fee to park your car.

Using solar power while the sun is shining, or excess solar via a solar battery to charge your EV, is the lowest cost option for charging at home. However, if you don’t have a rooftop solar system, then the next best option is to charge overnight if your household has a lower off-peak rate (like a time-of-use tariff).

There will be an overall reduction in fuel costs compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Generally, EV owners will notice a significant reduction in fuel costs when recharging a battery electric vehicle at home, compared to the cost of petrol or diesel for the same distance travelled. However, if they solely charge their electric car at fast and ultrafast charging stations, the cost may sometimes be twice as much compared to charging at home.  


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