June 27, 2024

What Are the Different EV Charger Types? Safe EV Charging


12 Min. Read

If you’re new to driving an electric vehicle (EV) or considering purchasing one, you may have questions about EV charger types and what makes for a positive and safe EV charging experience as you navigate your new vehicle and discover one of the best parts of EV ownership.

Safety is a common concern when it comes to electric vehicles, especially since your home’s electrical infrastructure will potentially require an update to support quick and reliable overnight Level 2 EV charging.

Additionally, an EV charger is unlike any other appliance in your home, and using the wrong type of materials or improper technique can lead to an unsafe situation that isn’t covered by insurance, voids your warranties, and leaves you unprotected as you face damages and even potential injuries which is why it is so critical to make the upfront investment and have your EV charger installed by a licensed EV charger installer.

While EV charging is very safe when done correctly, installation requirements and precautions vary depending on the charger type or charging scenario. Having a basic understanding of the typical safety guidelines and measures ensures a reliable and safe charging experience for your electric vehicle.

In this article, we cover the key types of EV charging levels and answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) about EV charging safety.

EV Charger Types

There are three main types of EV chargers available to keep your battery full and your EV ready to go when you are, each offering different charging speeds and performance levels. While each charger provides unique benefits, it’s important to determine which type best suits your needs and lifestyle as an EV owner. Keep in mind that you may use a mixed strategy to keep your EV charged, but having a reliable charging source is what is key.

Level 1 EV Charging

Level 1 EV charging uses a standard 120V outlet and is accessible to most EV drivers since they only require a charging cable and can be plugged into an existing outlet, although you may still want to have a licensed electrician inspect the outlet to ensure there are no other issues or faulty wiring.

This slow charging method delivers 3 to 5 miles of range per hour, which is convenient for topping off but for those who drive their vehicles daily, it is often too slow for most applications and can take several days to fully charge an electric vehicle.

This charger level is generally only found in residential settings.

Level 2 EV Charging

Level 2 EV charging is a popular and significantly more convenient option, available for both public charging and at-home charging. It requires a dedicated 240V circuit that delivers 12 to 80 amps, depending on the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) and EV in question.

Given its capacity to add 12 to 80 miles of range per hour, this makes it ideal for overnight charging as a Level 2 EV charging station can fully recharge an EV battery in as little as 4 to 10 hours.

These chargers can be hardwired or installed with a commercial-grade NEMA 14-50, but will require a professional installation by a licensed electrician with additional EV charger installation training and certifications.

Due to the frequent use and high-power running through these chargers, it is critical that the correct materials and proper installation techniques are used to avoid safety hazards.

Level 3 EV Charging/DC Fast Charging

Level 3 EV Charging, also known as DC Fast Charging (DCFC), requires a voltage of 480V up to 1000V. As a result, DC Fast charging is generally only available for commercial or industrial electrical infrastructure and should always be installed by a licensed electrician with EV charger installation training and certifications specifically for these chargers.

This high-powered, fast-charging method can add 3 to 20 miles of range per minute to an EV battery meaning that most EVs can be fully charged in under one hour.

These chargers are not recommended for daily use due to potential battery degradation with regular use but are ideal for travelers making quick stops because they can charge very quickly but do tend to cost more due to the high convenience of their rapid charging speeds.

Bidirectional Charging

With bidirectional charging, current can flow in and out of an EV battery on demand, transforming your EV into a mobile power source, and a way to save money based on strategic use with net-metering, time-of-use (TOU) rates, or ensure you can keep your home powered with you need it most.

This technology will become more popular over the next few years and could transform EVs into a resilient power source to supplement the grid, power a home, or charge a battery. Many auto companies have made significant investments in bidirectional charging, some even pledging to make all their EVs bidirectional by 2026.

While this technology will rely on having a bidirectional-capable EV, you will also need a bidirectional EV charging station and can further pair this technology with other energy transition technologies such as a smart electrical panel or solar panels to further maximize the impact and benefits.

Safety Guidelines for EV Home Charging

With more than 80% of EV owners opting to charge at home, residential Level 2 EV chargers are the most commonly used EV charger type for their convenience and incredible value with long-term cost savings.

As EVs and charging at home become more popular, it’s important to ensure drivers understand the best EV charging practices so they can practice safe EV charging at home. Here are some frequently asked questions about EV charging safety.

How Safe Is EV Charging?

Both EVs and EVSE, sometimes referred to as EV chargers although they are not exactly the same thing, have built-in safety features to prevent electrocution, electric fires, and other hazards. However, most risks come from poorly installed EV chargers that can malfunction or cause overheating resulting in melted components, electrical fires, property damages, and even injuries.

Hiring an experienced EV installer who uses the right materials and proper installation techniques can easily prevent these issues and ensure your EV charging station is safely installed.

Can You Charge Your EV Outside?

Yes, you can safely charge your EV outside—as long as you have a charger rated for outdoor usage.

For plug-in EV charger installations, you’ll need to use a dedicated NEMA 14-50 outlet with GFCI protection and a receptacle rated for outdoor use. This is something your licensed EV charger installer can discuss with you during your installation so be sure to share information on where you plan to charge your EV and your installer will prepare accordingly.

Can You Charge Your EV in the Rain or Snow?

Yes, EV and EV charger manufacturers use weatherproof designs that prevent water from entering the EV or charging equipment. Again, you’ll need equipment rated for outdoor use to charge safely, and if you live in an area with heavy precipitation, you should pay attention to any signs of rust or corrosion on your charging port.

For more detailed information you can read our blog How to Charge Your EV in Cold Weather.

Is a DIY EV Charger Installation Possible?

DIY EV charger installation is not recommended. Installing a hardwired or plug-in outlet for a Level 2 EV charger is a complex project involving high-powered voltages and an added layer of electrical training and expertise beyond traditional electrical work. It requires following advanced electrical code requirements, such as installing wiring and breakers with the correct rating, proper torquing, and using very specific installation techniques to ensure long-term safety.

While it may be tempting to hire a less expensive alternative such as someone you know or even attempt to install it yourself, hiring someone who is not an expert in EV charger installations will most likely lead to unsafe results that will cost you more money in repairs and damages than you would have saved if you used a professional from the start.

It’s also worth noting that financing EV home charger installation is available in various methods.

If hiring a certified EV charger installer isn’t an option at this time, the only safe way to charge your EV at home is to plug a charging cord into an existing 120V outlet for Level 1 EV charging until you can hire a professional for your Level 2 EV charger installation.

How Can I Prevent Overloading and Overheating a Charger?

Because EV charging draws a continuous, high-powered electrical load for hours at a time on a daily basis, it can easily cause overloading and overheating if the electrical infrastructure is inadequate, regardless of the EV charger type. You can prevent overheating by having an experienced contractor assess your electrical panel, wiring, and other elements and perform upgrades if needed.

Before installing any charging station at home, your certified EV charger installer should always perform a load calculation to ensure your electrical panel has both the physical and electrical capacity to manage the additional load needed by your EV charging station. Additionally, it is critical that all wires and components used are designed for the use-case of an EV charging station.

While it might be tempting to utilize the NEMA 14-50 outlet that your electrical dryer uses to also charge your EV, this outlet is not designed for such consistent, high-powered use, and both the wires and the outlet can melt as a result. This is why it is so important to ensure that your EV charger has a dedicated 240V circuit and is installed and inspected by a certified EV charger installer.

What’s the Safest EV Charger?

There are many options to choose from on the market and it might be tempting to save money on an EV charger by purchasing a lower-cost Level 2 EV charging station, however, the quality of your EV charging station is important to consider when it comes to long-term efficiency and safety.

Choosing a charger from a reputable manufacturer that stands behind its products by offering a comprehensive warranty and is backed by various testing and safety organizations is a good place to start. Keep in mind how you will use your charger, the climate you live in, and the distance from the charger to your vehicle charging port to ensure your purchase will meet your needs.

The quality of the wiring, connectors, outlets, and other materials used during the installation are also important components to a safe charging experience but if your EV charger is poorly designed, you may still find yourself without a reliable home charger.

What Kind of Maintenance Do EV Chargers Need?

Besides being alert for changes in performance or unusual smells, you should keep your charging port clear of debris and coil your charging cable properly.

In addition to these, you should also have a professional electrician schedule and perform regular maintenance on your EV charger, wiring, and overall electrical infrastructure to prevent avoidable issues that could build up over time with “wear and tear” from regular use, exposure to the elements, and age.

Read our blog to learn more about EV charger maintenance.

What is a Load Calculation?

An EV charger load calculation is an essential step in safe installation that should take place before any other work begins. Your certified EV charger installer will calculate the impact of the continuous load from EV charging on your energy consumption and determine whether you need a load management solution or electrical panel upgrade to prevent overloading and performance issues.

Depending on the current size of your electrical panel and other appliances you already have installed, your certified EV charger installer will be able to determine if your existing capacity is sufficient to support the additional load or if an upgrade or alternative solution will be needed.

What Should You Look for in an EV Installer?

A DIY installation is unsafe and even a licensed electrician may not be sufficient for EV charger installation if they do not have the proper training and certifications.

Instead, you should look for a licensed EV charger installer who is EVITP certified with experience installing residential EV chargers. Ideally, an electrical contractor with good online reviews, testimonials, and ratings is a great option when it comes to hiring someone you can trust.

Public EV Charging Safety Measures

The public EV charging infrastructure is growing, but despite efforts to improve uptime, 20% of EV owners report encountering issues with the public charging network.

You can stay safe by following a few rules when using public chargers. First, always inspect the equipment and find another charging option if the cable or charger looks damaged. If you run into an issue during charging, such as sparking, slow performance, or an unusual smell, disconnect the charger immediately if it’s safe to do so.

You should also exercise general caution. Does the area look safe and well-lit? If you find yourself in an unfamiliar or isolated area, don’t hesitate to lock yourself and your belongings inside your vehicle and call for help immediately.

Look for signage to report any issues or hazards you experience. Most EV charging networks have numbers you can call to report an emergency or damaged charging equipment.

Cybersecurity Considerations

All EV charger types are increasingly connected, with public charging stations sharing data with a network and residential EV chargers using Wi-Fi connections to communicate with utilities.

This trend creates a potential cybersecurity risk. In fact, cyberattacks in the automotive and mobility spaces increased by 50% between 2019 and 2023.

You can mitigate risks at home by using a router with a built-in firewall to protect your EV charger and purchasing a reliable brand of EV charger from a reputable company. When charging in public, choose trusted networks and always report any issues immediately.

Plan a Safe EV Charger Installation With Qmerit

As a new or prospective EV owner, you’ll need to learn more about the different EV charger types available and the steps required to charge your vehicle safely.

The safest way to charge at home is to have an experienced and licensed EV charger installer plan and execute your electrification project, and no one is more experienced than Qmerit.

Graphic with EV and charging station, sign up for free quote with Qmerit

As the largest network of certified EV charger installers in North America, Qmerit is the most trusted EV charger installation partner recommended by automakers, EV charger manufacturers, utilities, businesses, and homeowners alike.

But don’t just take our word for it. Rated #1 in customer satisfaction, Qmerit’s experienced network of certified electricians has installed more than 450,000 EV charging stations in homes and businesses across the U.S. and Canada!

Complete our online EV assessment or contact us today to find out why we’re North America’s most trusted EV charger installation service provider!

Author: Tom Bowen

Tom Bowen

President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification