Choosing to install a home charger instead of hiring a licensed electrician to provide EV charger training can create short-term problems and long-term regret by missing out on the benefits of more sophisticated charging infrastructure
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The reports of improperly installed EV charging infrastructure, documented following a recent audit blitz in Toronto, are the stuff of nightmares for the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Cords hanging out of kitchen windows, wires lying on sidewalks, and overloaded switchboards portend a variety of potential disasters. Best-case scenario: a sprained ankle from a bad trip. The worst? An electric fire.
The root cause of these alarming installations is largely untrained members of the public or the unlicensed “do-it-yourselfer” trying to find quick (and inexpensive) solutions to the urgent demand for EV charging infrastructure.
“There’s this dangerous misconception that you can do the electrical work if it’s your home, and YouTube will help you do that,” warns Graeme Aitken, Executive Director of ECAO, which represents 550 licensed electrical contractors across Ontario.
But the truth is, a few YouTube tutorials, a relative or friend to share some tips, or overconfidence is not enough to safely install EV charging infrastructure. Failure to recognize that this complex device requires specialized skills to install puts many at risk.
Yes, a qualified electrician is more expensive. But would you rather pay a professional for a service or pay to rebuild your burned down home and possibly your neighbors? And does your insurance even cover damage if you hired someone who isn’t licensed to do the work and get the right permit? Well, this issue remains in a gray area, but it’s certainly a risk.
“I think the good news for the public is that we have been working with ECAO and the Ontario government to create a program that will provide specific training on installing EV chargers so we can ensure the safety and quality of the jobs,” says James Barry, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario (IBEW CCO), which represents more than 18,000 women and men working in various electrical sectors.
Barry, along with Aitken, has long advocated high standards of training and safety to maintain the integrity of the electrical trade and has taken leadership in working with various levels of government to achieve this goal.
And aside from the useful arguments and arguments that you need to put as much care and expense into installing your EV charger as you do into selecting and buying the device itself, there’s also a strong element of self-interest.
The cost of the average home EV charger installation ranges from $800 to $1,300 depending on the complexity of the task. There’s no denying that it’s an expensive endeavor.
With that in mind, it stands to reason that most people making this level of investment want to get the most value out of their dollar.
There are few certainties in the transition to zero-emission vehicles, but one thing is clear: the technology is only getting better. And therein lies the limitations of a DIY or under-skilled EV charger installation (fuses, fires, and trip hazards aside).
If you install a makeshift charger today, you won’t be sure to take advantage of upcoming EV technologies coming to market, including smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G). This means you may be taking the risk that not only will you have to make a second significant investment in a few years to install a better EV charger, but you may also have to pay extra to undo previous bad work and fix.
“Far too often, our IBEW electricians are called in to fix work by someone who was untrained and uncertified, resulting in higher costs for the customer and delaying completion,” notes Barry.
value for your dollar
The two most promising technological advances in EV charging in terms of return on investment for drivers are smart charging and V2G.
Smart charging is your charger’s ability to adjust its behavior and charging activity to match the optimal times for the grid, namely to try to only work off-peak. With multiple vehicles, a smart charger is also able to measure how the charge is distributed across each vehicle, so that each vehicle has an adequate battery charge before the next use.
The option for V2G capabilities is where electric vehicles prove themselves far beyond internal combustion engine vehicles. Instead of constantly draining your wallet, your electric vehicle may be able to save or even make money in the future.
V2G is the ability of a charged EV to dump power back into the grid – either on a micro scale (to power devices in a household during a power outage) or on a macro scale (where the utility can pay you for the power in your EV to support the grid during peak loads).
Both can be done from your EV charger, but not all EV chargers are created equal. These features are more complicated than a simple plug-in-and-charge situation you’ll get at a home improvement job, and therefore require a more sophisticated installation with a licensed electrician who employs licensed electricians who are specifically certified to install EV chargers are.
The potential to save and make money from your charger is why it’s important to think strategically about how you want to maximize your investment. And your ability to access the flexibility of an EV charger could The offer begins and ends with whoever you choose to install it.
According to Barry, many of its members have already completed the new Electric Vehicle Training Program (EVITP) administered by the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO) to ensure they have the qualifications to perform EV charger installation safely and effectively , and training within the membership continues.
The EVITP offers the most comprehensive EV equipment installation training in North America with rigorous standards supporting the integrity of the EV industry.
“Whether you’re a homeowner, a property manager, or a business, the best decision for anyone is to find a licensed electrician who will employ an electrician with that specialty training,” adds Aitken.
Consumers can visit netco.org/evitp-installers for a list of ECAO contractors who employ licensed electricians with EVITP installer certification.
For more information on what you need to know when it comes to the benefits of making sure you hire licensed electrical contractors and electricians, visit www.poweringcommunities.ca