Owning an EV without a home charging solution can be a real pain, but the good news is that plenty of options are available if you have a location to install one. Several companies sell smart chargers, which offer connected services and remote management of the charging process. While convenient, smart chargers have some quirks to be aware of, so let’s take a closer look at what they are and how they work.

What Are Smart EV Chargers?

Electric vehicles can be charged using a standard household power outlet, but some models can take days to charge. This makes a home Level 2 charger a much better option. These chargers use a 240-volt line, like electric stoves and clothes dryers, and can charge a vehicle in hours instead of days. While many of these chargers offer simple plug-and-play functionality, smart chargers take things further with a range of connected features that allow owners to manage and monitor their vehicle’s charging session remotely.

Using Wi-Fi, smart chargers let EV owners remotely start a charging session and monitor the state of charge, and some can connect to smart home devices like an Amazon Echo. Owners can also schedule charging sessions to take advantage of lower electricity rates at different parts of the day.

Smart EV Charger Installation

While some EV owners are handy enough to install a home charger, most of us would be well served to call a professional. Depending on the home’s age and electrical setup, the installation might require an electrical service upgrade or other in-depth work to use the charger safely. You’ll need a dedicated circuit for the charger. You should select an exterior location that is convenient for your vehicle’s charging port, which, for many people, could be a garage or driveway-side installation point. Also, keep in mind that the charger you select needs to have a cable long enough to reach either side of your EV.

Since smart chargers require a Wi-Fi connection, you may also have to invest in a new router or extender to reach the installation location. If you live in an area with frequent internet outages, you may lose access to all the connected features that make them convenient. Many offer basic charging features when Wi-Fi isn’t available, but extended internet downtime zaps a significant portion of smart chargers’ benefits.

How Much Do Smart Chargers Cost?

In general, expect a significant upcharge for a smart EV charger over a basic unit. Entry-level prices for “dumb” chargers start at around $300, while most smart chargers begin in the $600 range. Some of the more feature-rich models can surpass $1,000, but spending that amount is unnecessary to get a solid smart charger.

Depending on your home setup, you’ll also need to consider installation costs, which can range from a few hundred to more than $1,000. If you need an electrical service upgrade or other work to facilitate the charger installation, those costs could double or more. Add another $30 to $50 if you need a Wi-Fi extender. The good news is that several states offer tax credits and incentives that can make a smart charger much less expensive.

What To Consider Before Buying A Smart EV Charger

One of the first things to consider before buying a smart EV charger is your vehicle’s charging capabilities. Many new models have built-in smart charging functionality, including app connectivity and remote charge management. If your vehicle has those features, there may be no reason to spend extra for a smart charger, so it’s a good idea to check before you purchase.

Another essential thing to consider is how the charger’s software is updated. If you’re spending more for the smart charger, you’ll want to make sure you can use its benefits for as long as possible, so it’s essential that it can receive over-the-air (OTA) software updates. Check the charger manufacturer’s website for information on how long it supports its products and read reviews of its customer service and support.

You may also want to consider solar panels for your home. While they can be a significant expense, pairing solar with a smart EV charger can drastically reduce your operating costs. Solar panels also reduce dependence on the power grid and help cut your home’s environmental impacts. You may also be eligible for state or local incentives or credits for solar.

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