October 11, 2022

Main Electric Panel Review is a Must for EV Owners


5 Min. Read

There are many benefits to owning an EV, but they typically require some home upgrades to take full advantage of them. Roughly 80% percent of EV owners conveniently charge their vehicles at home, generally while they sleep, but the Level 1 charger that comes with the car is usually inadequate and EV owners often upgrade to an @Home Level 2 charger. Depending on the level 2 EV charger specifications, a new electric panel may be required. EVs with bi-directional charging, which allows the transfer of energy both into and out of the vehicle’s battery, also have the advantage of working as a home backup battery in case of a power outage if the home’s power system will allow it. One of the upgrades that impacts every other appliance is the electric panel – the central hub for power in the house, also called a breaker box. Electric panels serve two main functions; the first is to distribute power throughout the home, and the second is to protect the house from that power in case of a short circuit, surge, or overload condition. Electric panels take electricity from the grid and break it into circuits running through the home to power the appliances and fixtures. If any single circuit draws too much power, or if the grid has a surge of energy, a circuit breaker inside the electric panel will shut down that circuit, preventing fires or damaged equipment.

Panels are categorized by their capacity measured in amps. Older construction homes typically have a 100 -amp panel, and modern construction homes usually have 200-amp panels to accommodate the higher demand from the electrification movement. However, 125-, and 150-amp panels are also installed occasionally. A 200-amp panel is a minimum for most electrification upgrades, but in some cases, a 400-amp panel or several lower-amp panels may be required. Determining what size panel the home will need is critical in making the proper selection when upgrading.

Load Calculations

Amps are a measurement of the amount of electricity going through a wire, while volts measure the force of that electricity. Combined, these are the watts, or the amount of work being done. Many appliances will list their power requirements in watts, not amps. Because you know the voltage in the home (120 or 240), you can use the formula watts ÷ volts = amps to calculate the amperage.

To calculate the total load for a building or home, a survey of what appliances are being used and how much energy they require needs to be performed.

One of the first items to consider when calculating the total load is the level 2 EV charger specifications for the selected charger. @Home Level 2 chargers can use anywhere from 16 to 80 amps of electricity; knowing the level 2 EV charger specifications is critical in calculating how much capacity your electric panel will need.

Solar installations are also essential to consider when upgrading your main electrical panel. Solar systems allow homeowners to generate electricity onsite, a great way to offset the jump in demand from purchasing an EV while prices from the utility are on the rise. Solar systems typically require 200-amp or greater electric panels.

Other appliances to note when calculating current or future capacity requirements are devices designed to heat and cool, such as kitchen appliances. These include HVAC systems, water heaters, stoves, and ovens. These devices can take a significant load, and if they are older, they may also be applicable for an upgrade.

Smart Panel Considerations

A smart panel gives homeowners visibility and control over the electricity in the home. It can detect how much power is being used by each circuit at any given time and see usage trends. It also allows homeowners to control circuits or shut them off when not in use. This may not sound like something people use regularly, but these capabilities allow the sought-after features in other appliances. Homeowners can create their own nanogrid where they can be part of the larger grid provided by the utility or, if there is an outage, can operate independently of the grid with the addition of solar and a battery.

Most homes in the United States of America have at least two vehicles, and EV owners are no exception. Eventually, both cars will be fully electric, and the level 2 EV charger specifications for each may differ. Discussing what options are being considered when conducting a survey is essential. An excellent way to future-proof is to upgrade to a smart panel that can prioritize charging and support multiple devices.

A smart panel can also allow homeowners to control when devices, such as EVs, are charging. This allows for charging to occur during the time of day when electricity is at its cheapest, saving the homeowner money.

Batteries paired with a smart panel can also allow for “peak demand shaving,” reducing the peak demand for energy from the grid. This is important because some utilities have different rate categories based on peak demand. Peak demand is the most amount of power a home uses at any given time. For homeowners with EVs, this is typically when they get home, plug in their car, turn on the air conditioner, and start cooking dinner. All these power-hungry activities are demanding energy from the grid simultaneously, raising the peak demand. A smart panel can detect when this is happening and power some of the devices from the at-home battery, reducing the pull from the grid, which keeps homeowners in a lower rate class.

The best way to determine what panel is correct is to have a certified installer perform a survey on the home while considering the level 2 EV charger specifications. They can identify the current load in the house but also recommend other electrification upgrades such as tankless water heaters or electric stoves and consider them when preparing the survey results. Based on the survey results, informed recommendations can be made and the impacts that each type of panel will have in that specific situation can be determined.

One of the most important facts to know about charging an EV is that 80% of charging is done at home, generally overnight. Installing a level 2 charger makes the ease of charging at home possible!

How do you find qualified, experienced contractors to install a level 2 EV charger? Contact Qmerit! With an unsurpassed network of certified electricians trained and vetted for electrification services, we’re here to simplify your at-home electrification projects.

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network