Creating a Green Home not only helps protect our planet, but also creates a healthy living environment and can help reduce costs. “Going Green” doesn’t have to mean expensive investments like solar panels, sustainable wood flooring, and nontoxic paints. Experts say that simple changes in your everyday life are all it takes to make your home a healthier, safer, greener place to be. Begin with small steps.
Tips & Ideas For Creating A Green Home
1. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs: They use just a quarter of the electricity of regular incandescent bulbs. Plus, they last up to 10 times longer
2. Turn off the lights: Install movement sensors so lights only activate when needed or install automatic timers for lights
3. Set cooling and heating temperatures correctly: Your refrigerator and freezer are probably the biggest electrical energy consumers in your house. Fridges do their job at around 37 F. Freezers set at -3 F keep things nice and frosty. Get an electronic thermostat so your furnace heats your home to a lower temperature while the family sleeps and returns it to a toastier temperature before you get out of bed. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 F in the day and 55 F at night. In the summer, keep it at 78 F.
4. Get unplugged: Electronic appliances, including TVs, computers, and CD players can consume almost as much energy when in standby mode as they do during the relatively small amount of time they’re being used.
5. Use appliances efficiently: Wait for a full load before turning on the washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher. Clear the lint filter after every dryer load and air-dry clothes when weather allows. Use the air-dry function on your dishwasher. Preheat your oven only when necessary.
6. Let the sun shine: The cheapest and most environmentally sound heat and light source is just outside your window. Open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let solar energy warm and brighten your home naturally.
7. Stop leaks: Plug, insulate, replace, repair, caulk, or seal to make your home as leak-proof as possible – and watch your utility bills drop.
If you’re just getting started with green home upgrades, there’s no better time to incorporate energy-saving measures than right before the season changes.
Seven simple upgrades require minimal effort and will yield immediate and year-round benefits.
#1 Install a Programmable Thermostat
The advice is always to dial back the temperature during the winter, but no one wants to wake up to a chilly house.
Programmable thermostats let you pre-set temperatures and schedule when the furnace goes on and off.
Use such thermostats correctly and you could see up to $180 in savings each year. More sophisticated devices like the Nest learn your daily routine an automatically adjust temperatures based on your habits.
All-season benefits: You stay comfortable whether it’s hot or cold outside and reduce your monthly utility bill.
#2 Install Ceiling Fans
Fans move cool and hot air around your living space, allowing you to turn the temperature down in winter and raise it during summer.
During winter, reverse the fan’s direction so it operates clockwise to push warm air into your living space. Operate the fan in the counterclockwise direction to better circulate the cool air around a room during summer months.
Consider an Energy Star-certified fan.
All-season benefits: You’re more comfortable and your energy consumption.
#3 Eliminate Air Leaks
Use a door draft stopper and caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to cut drafts.
All-season benefits: Sealing makes a house more comfortable and less chilly during winter because warm air isn’t escaping. During summer, the heat stays out and the cool air stays in.
#4 Use Power Strips
Those glowing lights on TVs, microwaves, and gadgets are signs that you’re wasting money and electricity. Phantom load or standby power is electricity that’s being consumed 24/7 by things like TVs, computers, appliances, and phone chargers, even when such devices are in standby mode or off.
Plug electronics, chargers, and appliances into power strips and switch them off when you’re not using the devices.
All-season benefits: Less electricity usage leads to lower energy bills every day of the year. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the average home could be racking up $200 in vampire loads each year.
#5 Change Your HVAC Filter
Change your filters monthly and you may lower your energy bills by 5 to 15 percent, says the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Dirty, clogged filters affect your home’s indoor air quality and make the HVAC system work harder, which wastes energy.
The savings could be significant since the DOE has found that the average household spends approximately $2,200 on heating and cooling costs every year. Also, get your HVAC system serviced annually.
All-season benefits: Clean filters capture dust and allergens and improve indoor air quality, something especially important for those with asthma or allergies.
#6 Upgrade Outdoor Lighting
Quality outdoor lighting, including pathway and post lights, reduce tripping hazards and make your house more welcoming and appealing. A well-lit house also may be a deterrent to criminals.
Porch lights that often are on all night can raise your utility bill if you’re not using efficient bulbs. Install Energy Star-certified bulbs to reduce energy use in those fixtures.
Motion sensor lights also can cut your utility bill by only allowing the lights to go on when they’re needed.
Another option is picking smart bulbs, which provide convenience and control. You can program when and which lights go on and off, create moods by changing colors, and highlight different parts of your yards remotely.
All-season benefits: Efficient outdoor lighting and smart lighting offer triple benefits of safety and security, lower energy bills, and enhanced curb appeal.
#7 Inspect Foundations
Look for and seal openings where water and air can come in. Those holes also serve as entrances for unwanted rodents seeking shelter.
All-season benefits: You’re not letting hot air in during the summer or cold air in during the winter, which affects both comfort and efficiency. Plus, your house is sealed against critters.
Homes and businesses across the country are transitioning away from a fossil-fueled electricity grid towards a clean energy economy, necessitated by emissions reduction targets in a time of global climate change. Amidst this period of energy reform, solar panel systems for houses are taking off at a remarkable rate. It’s time to give residential solar the credit it deserves.
Everything you need to know about home solar systems in 10 questions
- How much has the price of solar for residential dropped in recent years?
If you’re an optimist looking for feel-good statistics, the cost of solar electricity in the past decade is a great place to start. U.S. solar installation cost has dropped by around 70 percent over the past 10 years. In the last year alone, the residential market saw a five percent decrease in cost. There’s no question that solar has evolved from a cleantech commodity to a sensible home upgrade that millions of Americans are considering in 2019. Getting solar panels for your home is one of the smartest decisions you can make in today’s age.
- What is the difference between solar for business and solar for home use?
A commercial solar project might power a town or a company’s operations. As a result, they vary dramatically in terms of scale and cost. By comparison, residential solar systems tend to hold a consistent size (6 kilowatts on average). Thanks to their relatively small scale, rooftop solar panels for home are an attainable energy upgrade that can generate serious electric bill savings for homeowners at any income level. Commercial solar, on the other hand, necessitates a major investment and a collective group of investors.
- What do residential solar panel systems typically cost?
The answer to this question depends on state and system size. However, there is data that can help you estimate what solar panels cost in 2019 in the U.S. The easiest way to calculate cost of solar electricity across different system sizes is in dollars per watt ($/W), which indicates how many dollars solar will cost per watt of available electricity production. In 2019, homeowners are paying an average of $2.99/W. To put that figure in perspective, in 2008 the average cost of solar was just over $8/W. For an average 6kW system, a price of $2.99/W means you’ll pay approximately $17,940 before tax credits and rebates in 2019.
- Will my solar panels be connected to the grid? What is net metering?
The vast majority of home solar systems will be connected to the grid. With grid-connected solar, net-metering serves as an efficient solution to the question “how will I power my solar home at night?” Net metering is a solar incentive where you receive bill credits when your solar system overproduces electricity. During times when your panels aren’t producing enough electricity, you can use those bill credits to cover the cost of your grid electricity use.
If you are off grid, you won’t have access to electricity from your utility. This means that, in order to build a completely off-grid project, you will need extensive energy storage capabilities, an extra-large solar panel system, and provisions for backup power to cover you when your panels don’t get enough sun.
- How long does a residential solar system take to install?
Once you have met with the installers and done all necessary site visits and planning, the actual installation of your home solar system will only take a few days of work. The exact time depends on a number of factors. For example, if you are setting up net metering, that process will tack on additional time until your panels are properly connected to the grid. Overall, while the decision process for solar panels can take some time, the installation timeframe is very quick and fairly simple.
- Can you get a solar panel system for your home if your roof doesn’t qualify?
Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the residential solar sector is the list of options for homeowners who want to go solar but do not have a suitable roof. Ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens are two common ways to access power from the sun without actually installing anything on your rooftop. Community solar involves connecting with members of a group or your neighborhood to share a solar system, while ground-mounted arrays are an easy way to own and install your own system while bypassing any roofing hurdles.
- What are the tax credits for residential home solar systems? Who qualifies?
There are two simple ways to think about tax credits for solar panels. The major tax credit associated with solar panels for home is the federal investment tax credit (ITC), more commonly known as the solar tax credit. The ITC gives you a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the total cost of your system, as long as you buy the system. The next option will be state solar tax credits, such as New York state’s tax credit that cuts an additional 25 percent off the price of the residential system. Depending on which state you live in, the opportunity for beneficial tax breaks and solar programs could be significant. Some states and municipalities also offer other more complex options that will be case specific – do some research into SRECs and other location-specific solar rebate programs.
- Does solar make sense if I don’t plan on being in my home for 25 years?
A common concern for homeowners who are considering solar is, “What happens if I move after installing solar panels?” A typical solar panel system lasts for 25 to 30 years. If you don’t plan on owning their house for that long, you may wonder if solar still makes sense. The good news is that solar increases the value of your property and can actually expedite the process of selling the property when the time comes. The housing market is filled with buyers excited by the prospect of acquiring a solar home that comes with the benefit of zero utility bills.
- What percentage of your home can you power with solar electricity?
Ideally, the answer to this question would be 100 percent. However, although a solar panel system can theoretically offset all of your energy use, it’s not realistic to expect that level of panel production every day of the week. Leading U.S. solar manufacturer SunPower recommends that homeowners factor in a 25 percent cushion when calculating their target for solar panel offset. The main reason for this: solar panels cannot operate at maximum efficiency all the time. There will be certain days when grid connection is necessary to fully cover your power usage. However, the beauty of net-metering is that you can benefit from surplus production days and never pay anything to your utility while still relying on the grid for backup storage.
- When will your home solar system reach the “break-even point”?
Many homeowners are very interested in calculating their solar panel payback period, which is the amount of time it will take for electric bill savings to offset the cost of solar panel installation. The expected breakeven point ranges across the country, but on average, U.S. homeowners break even on their system cost after about 7.5 years.
Figures like this illustrate why the residential sector might be the hottest in the solar industry. When solar panels are installed for home, the ROI is high and the payback period can be very short despite the upfront cost. If you’re looking for a personalized estimate for what solar would cost you, try our free Solar Calculator. Once you’re ready to start comparing quotes from local, pre-screened installers in your area, register your home on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace and let the bidding begin.
Kirei leads the pack in this effort with a striking new line of textured coconut shell tiles. Typically, shells left over after harvest are discarded or burned, adding to landfill waste and air pollution. Now, some are repurposed into these decorative tiles with intricate basket-weave or scalloped designs, reminiscent of your last island vacation. Each tile is finished with low-VOC resin and set on a backer made of sustainably harvested wood. The tiles are easily cut with a dry tile saw and installed with panel adhesive and nails. Kirei doesn’t recommend Coco installation in any room where food or other particles can get lodged in the tiles’ grooves, or water can warp the tiles’ wood backer. For basic cleaning, a dusting cloth or damp rag with a mild household cleaner will do the trick. Tiles are 11.8 inches square and panels are 47.2 inches square.
About $25-$45 per square foot; Kirei
Even luxurious leather gets thrown away; scraps from furniture, shoe, car seat, and other tanneries eventually make their way to landfills. EcoDomo gathers real leather scraps and stone-grinds them to make sheets for richly-hued tiles and panels. The naturally sound-absorbent tiles install like cork or vinyl (preglued tiles are available). For care and upkeep of floor tiles, use a damp mop to clean them; wax them three times a year, or use a topical sealer once every five to 10 years. Wall tiles do not need wax or additional maintenance. EcoDomo offers eight colors, four textures, and nine size and shape varieties. (Sage Buffalo tiles are shown here, but rectangular panels and rolls are also available.) Tiles range from 6 inches square to 24 inches square.
About $15-$30 per square foot; EcoDomo
Strandwoven Bamboo Flooring
Why strandwoven over hardwood? Derived from fibrous, interwoven strips of renewable bamboo, these panels from Green Choice Flooring International make an end-material that is two-and-a-half times as hard and more durable than oak. There are 15 shades, including two composites of light and dark strips for a marbled effect (shown here). Panels measure 72 inches long by 3 ⅞ inches wide.
About $4-$8 per square foot; Green Choice Flooring International
This luminescent material is 100% post-consumer recycled glass that’s heated and compressed to create solid-surfacing slabs. It contains no binders, colorants, fillers, or other admixtures, and has no off-gassing. An interesting choice for floors, walls, and countertops, Bio-Glass by ECOverings features a satin finish with a slightly hammered texture. In fact, our sample still shows slight markings from the bottom of a recycled beverage bottle. To enhance the upgrade, lighter colors can be underlit to make agglomeration markings stand out in dramatic fashion. Bio-Glass is available in shades of green (Oriental Jade is shown) and in blue, brown, and white. Slabs measure 110 inches long by 50 inches wide by ¾ inch thick.
About $80 per square foot; ECOverings
Migrations Biobased Tile
With its toxic PVC and phthalate plasticizer content, and high VOC-releasing stripping and waxing maintenance requirements, there’s probably nothing less eco-friendly than vinyl composition tile (VCT). Still, VCT is widely used for its affordability and easy installation. Migrations Biobased Tile, like VCT, contains limestone. However, Armstrong uses 10% preconsumer recycled limestone along with BioStride, a polymer containing rapidly renewable U.S.-grown plant ingredients that reduces reliance on petroleum and fossil fuels in the manufacturing process. For only slightly more than you’d pay for VCT, this alternative offers twice the indent resistance, five times greater resistance to impact, and greater resistance to cracking from uneven subfloors. Tiles are available in 28 colors and measure 12 inches square.
About $3 per square foot installed; Armstrong
A strong odor is often the price you pay for a fresh coat of interior paint. Zero-VOC paints combat that common complaint but at the expense of color choice, (since traditional colorants add to VOC levels.) Thanks to Benjamin Moore’s patented waterborne colorant system, you can offer fast dry time (about 30 minutes) with virtually no odor in all 3,500 Benjamin Moore colors (Landscape #430 shown here). You can also expect easy application, excellent hide, and outstanding durability. What’s more, in laboratory tests of indoor air quality, Natura released fewer total volatile organic compounds after painting than other zero-VOC paints. The series includes a primer and three sheens (flat, eggshell, and semigloss).
About $50 per gallon; Benjamin Moore
Traditional Veneer Cork Flooring
Cork has long been a green building staple: The material is sustainably harvested from cork oak trees every nine years. Expanko goes the extra eco-friendly mile by using 80% to 100% post-consumer waste generated from wine stoppers and other cork production. Since cork floor tiles are 80% air, they can recover dimension after impact, serve as sound insulation, and provide shock absorption while still being durable enough for everyday use. Add the fact that this coated veneer doesn’t easily stain, is hypoallergenic, and offers slip-resistance, and you’ve got a great flooring option for kid- and elder-friendly designs. Spinato (shown here) and Pesca are first in a series of handmade Italian veneers that bring a fresh, new aesthetic to cork flooring. Each tile measures 12 inches square.
About $9- $10 per square foot; Expanko
Bronze Art Tiles
These Saint-Gaudens art tiles are “cradle-to-cradle” recyclable products, meaning they can be repeatedly refined for reuse, like gold or silver. They’re made of recycled copper and other materials, and can be installed using thinset, industrial adhesive, or epoxy adhesive. Regular water-mix grout is your best bet, as grouts with a stain guard will chemically react with the metal, changing the color of both grout and tile. Personalize backsplashes or tiled walls by punctuating patterns with these intricate accent pieces. There are 33 Classic Collection Bronze Tiles, ranging in size from 1-inch squares to 8-inch squares. Barcelona large tile, shown here, measures 4 inches square.
$20 to $230, depending on size and design; Saint-Gaudens
Gypsum drywall hasn’t changed much since it was invented over 100 years ago. Now, Serious Materials presents this green, gypsum-free alternative. EcoRock is made of 80% post-industrial recycled materials and requires 80% less energy to produce than its counterpart. If and when you choose to remove EcoRock from your structure, it can be used as a pH additive for soil and, unlike regular drywall, is safe to dispose of in landfills. EcoRock also outperforms other mold-resistant drywall by 50% and offers a cleaner score and snap that emits 60% less dust. Boards are tile-backer-board qualified and ceiling-sag resistant. They’re available in ½-inch-thick and ⅝-inch-thick sheets that measure 8 feet by 4 feet.
The company promises EcoRock will be competitively priced, similar to other mold-resistant premium drywall; Serious Materials
Porous cork probably isn’t the first thing you think of for the bath. This new mosaic flooring from Sustainable Flooring—created with 100% post-industrial recycled wine cork slices—holds up in wet and high-traffic environments. Quarter-inch-thick cork pieces are assembled on paper backing for quick and easy adhesion to subfloor. Once the sheets have been set and grouted (sanded grout is best for wet installations), they’re sealed with a water-based polyurethane finish that keeps out moisture but offers the resilience and underfoot cushion of uncoated cork. Each sheet measures 12 inches by 24 inches.
About $10 per square foot; Sustainable Flooring
Walls can be boring, the Varia interlayer system from 3form transforms plain walls into art pieces. This customizable material is made of 40% post-industrial recycled resin and can be ordered from any of 10 design categories, including Organics, which has natural specimens, such as thinly-sliced bamboo, carefully arranged within (shown); and Pure Color, which offers 50,000 color combinations. Panels can be layered over existing walls or used for other architectural dividers, such as shower doors or privacy screens. Various layering combinations and finishes allow for light transmission without transparency, and easy-to-maintain panels wipe clean like glass with 40 times the impact strength. A design splurge, EcoResin upgrades are a sound investment that will last as long as the house does. Sheets are 4 feet by 8 feet or 4 feet by 10 feet, and vary in thickness from 1/16 inch to 1 inch.
Starts at about $400 per sheet; 3form
Engineered Timber Resources (ETR) is tapping into China’s abundant mulberry resources—100% post-industrial by-products from the silk and pharmaceutical industries—to create composite wood panels with intense patterns. Each year, silkworms ravage mulberry leaves to create silk fibers, and branches are trimmed to facilitate regrowth. Once the bark has been stripped for medicinal remedies, the branches are diverted from the landfill to ETR for compression. A variety of natural dye-stained (surface color only) or infused (solid-body color throughout) shades are available. You can even put a modern twist on your order with a blue infusion. ETR’s engineered composite wood can be customized to resemble and replace popular and endangered wood varieties for interior flooring, architectural paneling, and furniture. Product is made to order, so dimensions vary.
Flooring (one thick wear layer on top side) is about $8-$9 per square foot; paneling (one thick wear layer for walls, and two thick wear layers on either side for furniture and other building projects) is about $12-$14 per square foot; Engineered Timber Resources
1. Plant an edible garden: Grow your own salad greens, veggies, and herbs. A garden can help reduce soil erosion and reduce air pollution. Aim to plant a plot that doesn’t use a lot of water and tend your garden without using toxic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Instead, purchase organic and earth-friendly garden products at your garden store.
2. Compost kitchen scraps: Eggshells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peelings – pretty much any organic matter can find a home in a compost pile or bin. Mix with yard trimmings and add water and presto – you have a nutritious soil enhancer, and you’re doing your part to reduce landfill waste.
3. Water wisely: Water your garden in the early morning or evening when it’s cooler – water evaporates more slowly when it’s cool. Water that’s been used in sinks, bathtubs, showers or the washing machine – known as gray water – can be used again to water the garden, if it contains only biodegradable soaps.
4. Leave grass clippings on the lawn: Grass cuttings act as natural fertilizer when they decompose. So take advantage of them.
1. Wait for a full load: Don’t turn on the washing machine or dishwasher until it’s full. Each washing cycle uses more than 25 gallons of water; make sure that every drop counts.
2. Save baths for special occasions: A shower uses about half as much water as the average bath – as long as you keep it to less than 5 minutes. An egg timer suction-cupped on the shower wall is a good way of keep track.
3. Fill the sink to do dishes: You’ll use a fraction of the water that’s used by leaving the faucet running. Ditto on the rinsing front. If you don’t have a double sink, use a tub for rinsing.
4. Think before flushing: Don’t waste water flushing tampons, condoms, or flushable wipes down the toilet, where they can block the sewage system. Dispose of these items in the trash, and save flushing for when you really need to (hint: not after every pee). Up to a third of the drinking water that comes into the typical Western home goes straight down the toilet.
Clear the air
1. Ban smoking: The number one way to combat indoor air pollution is to never let anyone smoke in your home. Cigarettes are full of toxic chemicals, and secondhand smoke exposure can cause cancer. It’s a no-brainer. No smoking at home.
2. Grow plants indoors: Live plants around your home act as natural air filters, and some plants are particularly effective absorbers of harmful pollutants emitted from carpets, furniture, and electronic equipment. So clean your indoor air and “green” your living space by filling your home with spider plants, Boston ferns, rubber plants, and palm trees.
3. Install a carbon monoxide detector: Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas and exposure to it can be deadly. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, pick-up a detector at your local hardware store.
4. Check for radon: Radon is a radioactive gas that is naturally present in soil, and it can enter your home through cracks in your foundation. Radon is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Radon test kits are available at most hardware stores.
Shun Toxic Products
Choose non-toxic cleaners: Find eco-friendly alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners, which can cause health problems and pollute the environment as well. Several brands of non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products are available at both natural grocery shops and chain stores. Or make your own: Baking soda is a cheap and effective all-purpose cleaner, scourer, polisher, and fungicide. Switch to natural disinfectants such as tea tree oil or citrus oils. Try borax and white vinegar as a toilet bowl cleaner.
Use cloths instead of cleaners: Skip the cleaning products altogether and switch to micro fiber cloths designed to attract dirt on their own. Used damp, the cloths clean most surfaces like glass, stainless steel, brass, wood, and ceramics. When dry, they give off a natural positive charge, which attracts dust. Simply wash the cloths after each use, and you can reuse them again and again.
Give bug spray the flick: You want to minimize the use of pesticides in your home. Keep insects out by sealing cracks and holes around doors, windowsills, and baseboards. And keep food stored away and kitchen and eating areas as clean as possible.
Household hazardous waste
Inside nearly every household’s garage, basement or kitchen sink cupboard lurks harmful substances like old paint cans, used motor oil, garden pesticides and weed killers, used batteries, old computers or electronics, harsh cleaning chemicals, or pest killers. If you dump this noxious stuff down the drain, you’ll pollute the water supply. And if you dispose of it in landfills, they’ll leak dangerous chemicals. Instead, do some research to find the best way to dispose of your household toxic waste. Some cities or counties have monthly or annual pickups. Others have special drop-off sites. Call your local government to learn more.
Nearly everything in your home — including air-conditioners, thermostats, lights and garage doors — can be connected to the internet and be remotely controlled with a mobile device or smart speaker. But setting up a so-called smart home can be mind-boggling: There is a plethora of different accessories that work only with certain products, and some work better than others. Here’s a guide to help you sort through the jumble and become acclimated to your first voice-controlled smart home.
Lighting + Temperature
The Philips Hue system can turn an ordinary room into one that can really fit any mood. The hub just needs to connect to Wi-Fi and then all the bulbs can be programmed to your heart’s content via iPhone.
The smart thermostat really is a cut above other popular touch-screen models. Just ask it to adjust the temperature—no fiddling with your smart home.
Watch the driveway, the back gate, the front porch—any part of your property—while you’re away. It’s as good at easing your worries as it is at seeing what time the mailman actually comes. Lots of options in this category, but we love Nest’s for its wide field of vision and adorable, not-too-technical-looking design.
Or just monitor deliveries before you open the door.
As soon as motion is detected on your stoop (or when someone taps the doorbell), Ring sends an alert and a live-cam link right to your phone. Talk about a gut check! And you don’t even need an existing doorbell to have it installed.
Nest x Yale Lock Oil Rubbed Bronze with Nest Connect. Each lock set features a keyless deadbolt and a secure tamper-proof design that can not be picked. The remote access allows for unique passcodes that can be individually be used with family members and friends. Syncs with the Nest application.
- Keyless deadbolt its secure and tamper-proof, no lost keys, no picked locks
Install an EV charging station
Having the option of charging your electric car at home is crucial to ensuring that you’re fueled up and ready to go whenever you need it. There are three types of electric car charging stations. Each has their own installation process.
Installing a Level 1 electric vehicle charger
Level 1 EV chargers come with your electric vehicle and don’t require any special installation – simply plug your Level 1 charger into a standard 120 volt wall outlet and you’re ready to go. This is the biggest appeal of a Level 1 charging system: you don’t have to deal with any extra costs associated with an installation, and you can set the entire charging system up without a professional.
Installing a Level 2 electric vehicle charger
A level 2 EV charger uses 240 volts of electricity. This has the benefit of offering faster charging time, but it requires a special installation procedure as a standard wall outlet only provides 120 volts. Appliances like electric dryers or ovens use 240 volts as well, and the installation process is very similar.
Level 2 EV charger: the specifics
Level 2 installation requires running 240 volts from your breaker panel to your charging location. A “double-pole” circuit breaker needs to be attached to two 120 volt buses at once to double the circuit voltage to 240 volts, using a 4-strand cable. From a wiring perspective, this involves attaching a ground wire to the ground bus bar, a common wire to the wire bus bar, and two hot wires to the double-pole breaker. You may have to replace your breaker box entirely to have a compatible interface, or you may be able to simply install a double-pole breaker in your existing panel. It is essential to make sure that you shut off all power going into your breaker box by shutting off all breakers, followed by shutting off your main breaker.
Once you have the correct circuit breaker attached to your home wiring, you can run your newly installed 4-strand cable to your charging location. This 4-strand cable needs to be properly insulated and secured to prevent from damage to your electrical systems, especially if it is being installed outdoors at any point. The last step is to mount your charging unit where you will be charging your vehicle, and attach it to the 240 volt cable. The charging unit acts as a safe holding location for the charge current, and doesn’t let electricity flow through until it senses that your charger is connected to your car’s charging port.
Considering the technical nature and risk of a Level 2 EV charger DIY installation, it is always smart to hire a professional electrician to install your charging station. Local building codes often require permits and inspections by a professional anyways, and making an error with an electrical installation can cause cause material damage to your home and electrical systems. Electric work is also a health hazard, and it is always safer to let an experienced professional handle electric work.
Professional installation can cost anywhere between $200 and $1,200 depending on the company or electrician you work with, and this cost can rise higher for more complicated installs.
Installing a Level 3 electric vehicle charger
Level 3 charging stations, or DC Fast Chargers, are primarily used in commercial and industrial settings, as they are usually prohibitively expensive and require specialized and powerful equipment to operate. This means that DC Fast Chargers are not available for home installation.
Most Level 3 chargers will provide compatible vehicles with about 80 percent charge in 30 minutes, which makes them better suited for roadside charging stations. For Tesla Model S owners, the option of “supercharging” is available. Tesla’s Superchargers are capable of putting about 170 miles worth of range into the Model S in 30 minutes. An important note about level 3 chargers is that not all chargers are compatible with all vehicles. Make sure you understand which public charging stations can be used with your electric vehicle before relying on level 3 chargers for recharging on the road.
The cost for charging at a public EV charging station is also diverse. Depending on your provider, your charging rates may be highly variable. EV charging station fees can be structured as flat monthly fees, per-minute fees, or a combination of both. Research your local public charging plans to find one that fits your car and needs best.