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My DIY Level 2 Charger

Discussion in 'Charging and Infrastructure' started by Matthew Morgan, Feb 20, 2017.

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  1. Matthew Morgan

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    #1 Matthew Morgan, Feb 20, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2017
    It is my hopes that this article will serve as an informative discussion of how I installed my own Level 2 Charger. As a very important disclaimer, nobody would ever recommend that you work with electricity unless you have a full 100% understanding of how it works, and most importantly that touching live wires can cause death or serious injury. In light of that, use a licensed electrician to install your Level 2 charger. One more thing, I'm not a professional so don't take the practices I use here as elusion to doing it correctly.

    1. Permitting
    • I live in the City of Phoenix; therefore, my first step in this whole process was to apply for building permit, more specifically. "Minor Electrical Work". For the City of Phoenix, this type of permit can be applied for online without any electrical plans at this website. The cost for this permit was $250.
    • The City of Phoenix defines Minor Electrical Work as "The addition of of one or two new electrical branch circuits not to exceed 60 amps at 120/240 volts, single phase." For this application, I am installing one 50-amp branch circuit which is the recommended circuit rating for a NEMA 14-50 plug which can supply 40 amps/240v to your Tesla. More on this later. See Tesla's Mobile Connector information page here.
    2. Materials

    All of this stuff can be ordered from Home Depot/Lowes/Amazon/Canada's equivalent. Links are included to give you a reference.
    • Corded Mobile Connector ($520 US) - Dedicated for garage. I plan on moving in the next couples years and having a universal NEMA 14-50 outlet would be more valuable to non-Tesla fan boys such as ourselves :)
    • Cable Organizer ($25 US) - Tesla's OEM cable organizer that allows you to neatly hang the cord on the wall
    IMG_3831.JPG
    • NEMA 14-50 Outlets - Qty:2 ($17.98 US) - I have a two car garage so all the outlet related items will have a quantity of 2.
    • NEMA 14-50 Outlet Wallplate - Qty:2 ($14.78 US) - I believe these may be cheaper at Home Depot.
    • 2 Gang Outlet Box - Qty:2 ($12.18 US)
    • 50 amp Breaker ($9.47 US) - There are multiple main service load center types that take different types of breakers. Make sure you buy the same breakers as you currently have in your service panel. There could be a lot discussed on breaker interchangeability.
    • Heat Shrink Tubing - ($7.97 US) - Used for connections in conjunction with electrical tape when splitting the circuit.
    • Clamp Connector - ($15.96 US) - These are used at the junction box to secure the 6 gauge wire.
    • 6" x 8" inch junction box - ($17.68 US) - Junction box for splitting the line going from the breaker box to the two NEMA 14-50 outlets. This box may seem big but I am using some pretty heavy gauge wire so it was nice to have the room.
    • Electrical Tape - ($4.26 US)
    • 6-gauge wire - ($160 US) - 75 feet for my installation needs.
    • Split Bolts - Qty: 6 ($33.76 US) - Used to splice the 6 gauge wire in the junction box. You could also use a copper wire clamp for this connection.
    • I shopped around for the lowest price and ended up paying $267 for all the parts needed for the outlets to route electricity.
    • For the Tesla charger/cable organizer it was $600 with tax and shipping.
    • Permit was $250
    • Also, this was installed in 2016 so I was able to take advantage of the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure tax credit which gives me back 30% of all the install cost/hardware cost at tax time. This tax credit expired in 2016. I will get back $260 so my cost for everything is $857.
    3. Tools
    4. Electric Service Panel

    • This is the most dangerous part of the install. The first thing I always do prior to accessing the innards of the panel is to open the main disconnect to the panel. After I open the panel, I check for voltage with my non-contact voltage tester. Anytime my hands ever go near this panel, I always check for voltage, even if I checked it two minutes earlier. As a rule of thumb, anytime I touch a wire, I always check for voltage. Well enough with the disclaimer, here are some pictures of the panel with the breaker installed
    IMG_0391.JPGIMG_0390.JPGIMG_0393.JPGIMG_0395.JPG
    • With the 75 foot roll of 6 gauge wire, I started in my attic. Directly above my service panel in the attic, there were wires coming up between the inner drywall and the stucco outer wall. Since this wire is so thick, I simply straightened it and blindly routed it from the attic down to the service panel. As you can see from the photos (more specifically photo 4), there wasn't much room in the service panel openning to receive the 6 gauge wire I shoved down from the attic. To make it a little easier, I cut a 6" x 6" hole in the drywall directly opposite of the service entrance openning and I was able to easily receive the 6 gauge wire from inside the house then push the wire outside towards the service entrance openning. I pulled a couple feet of wire through the service entrance wire openning and followed the same wire routing method that the service panel already had.
    • To connect the wires to the circuit breaker, I stripped approximately 1/2" of insulation from the wire thus exposing the copper wires. Then insert the bare copper ends into the circuit breaker (photo 3) and tighten until its really snug. (There is a torque spec for this, but this is what we call good ol american cowboying). It doesn't matter which wire goes into each hole as long as they are the black or red wires....
    • For the white wire and bare ground wire, I just connected them to the ground rails in the panel. I have read that the neutral and ground bars should be separate but the person who wired this before me did not split them out and the City inspector didn't seem to care either.
    • Since I now had a new breaker, I had to knock out two of the tabs on the cover panel and label the breaker.
    • From here, we are done with the service panel connections. I opened the breaker to the wires I just installed, put the cover on the service panel, then shut the main disconnect to the panel.
    • As always, I ensured the wires I just installed did not have voltage by checking with my non-contact voltage tester after I opened the breaker.
    5. Attic
    • Because I'm using non-metallic sheathed wire (NM-B), I simply rolled the wire to the junction box in the attic.
      • In the picture below, the wire on the left is coming from the breaker/service panel. The other wire on the bottom of the junction box and the one on the right are going to the two NEMA 14-50 outlets in the garage.
    IMG_0004.JPG
    • To setup the junction box, I secured it to a sturdy piece of wood and attached 3 clamp connectors to accept the 6 gauge wire.
    • For the wires going into the junction box, I routed the wire through the clamp connectors and left approximately 12" of wire to play with in the junction box.
    IMG_0007.jpg
    • To attach the three 6 gauge wires, I had to use two split bolts, one piece of heat shrink tubing, and lots of electrical tape. I did this for all three 6 gauge wires, 120v red, 120v black, and neutral white. For the green ground wires, I used a twist connector and electrical tape. The ground wire was also attached to the junction box. I had to use two split bolts per connection because each split bolt only accepts two wires; therefore, there were actually two different connections at each wire bundle connection.
    • Now, I routed the rest of the electrical wire from the junction box to the two NEMA-14-50 outlets in the garage by going down in between the walls. This can also be seen in the picture above.
    6. Garage / NEMA 14-50 Plugs

    • To cut the holes for the NEMA 14-50 outlets, I used the "2 gang outlet boxes" as a template then used the drywall saw to cut a neat rectangle in the drywall.
    • The 6 gauge wire were routed through the back of the "2 gang outlet boxes" and the "2 gang outlet boxes" were secured behind the drywall.
    • Using the instructions on the box, I attached the wires (red, black, white, bare copper) to the NEMA 14-50 outlets and tightened the wire.
    • The NEMA 14-50 outlets were then secured to the "2 gang outlet boxes" and the wallplate was attached.
    • I also had some label plates manufactured to let any future homeowners know that they can't exceed 9.6kW of charging load at once between both outlets. That's what the breaker is for as well .... I guess.. Interesting question for another thread.... Should we set the charging rate to 20 amps each at the same time or split our time using 40 amps?
    IMG_0012.JPGIMG_0013.JPGIMG_0014.JPG

    • After my install, I had to make an all-day appointment with the city inspector so that he could spend 5 minutes looking at the installation and justify the $250 permit fee..
    7. Code References (NEC 2011, there is an NEC 2017 but the City of Phoenix referenced NEC 2011)

    • The NEC/NFPA 70 is now available for free at this link
    • It is also available as a searchable ios app on the app store.
    • 210.23.a.1 - Cord and Plug Connected Equipment Not Fastened in Place.
      • The rating of any one cord-and-plug connected utilization equipment not fastened in place shall not exceed 80 percent of the branch-circuit ampere rating.
        • This is the code that states we can only charge 40 amps on a 50 amp circuit.
    • 210.24 Table 210.24 Summary of Branch-Circuit Requirements
      • 50 amp circuit requires 6 gauge copper wire and 50 amp receptacle ratings (NEMA 14-50 outlets are rated for 50 amps)
    • 310.10.a Installation - Dry Locations
      • Insulated conductors and cables used in dry locations shall be any of the types identified in this Code
        • NM-b wire is identified in the code
    • 334.23 Non-metallic Sheathed Cable in Accessible Attics
      • The installation of cable in accessible attics or roof spaces shall also comply with 320.23.
    • 320.23.a Cables Run Across the Top of Floor Joists
      • "blah blah". Where this space is not accessible by permanent stairs or ladders, protection shall only be required within 6 ft of the nearest edge of the scuttle hole or attic entrance.
        • This code allowed me to lay the cable flat across the joists in the attic without protection. All the wire "was more than 6 feet" from the attic entrance.

    Thanks!!!!. Please keep your hate mail to a minimum and let me know if there anything you would like to be expanded on :)
     
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    • KennethK

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      @Matthew Morgan , I'm interested in how to split and terminate those huge 6ga wires coming into the junction box to two separate NEMA 14-50 plugs (or direct connect) to gang two HWPC together (via the shared circuit mode of operation). great read so far!
       
    • Matthew Morgan

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      /bump

      All done for that one post, apparently there is a 10 picture limit and also a 10,000 character limit :(
       
    • TrevP

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      Pictures per post are actually limited to 20.

      I've increased the character limit to 20K. Someone had to hit it first :)
       
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      • Matthew Morgan

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        Thanks TrevP, I was able to add some electrical code references.
         
      • MelindaV

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        I think @Red Sage found this out earlier ;)
         
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        • KennethK

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          Thanks for all the pictures.

          Now, there is a communication wire necessary to run between HPWCs when sharing the same circuit. It is a simple twisted pair wire.
           
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          • Matthew Morgan

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          • KennethK

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            Unfortunately not. You need to use twisted pair low voltage wiring. So something like left over eithernet wiring would work. If the distance was short you may be able to use untwisted wiring, but you still need 2 wires. If you want to get adventurous you could try to use the extra wire 6ga and splice it to some 26ish gauge wire to attach to the communication port d+ side. If the communications is single ended and a short run, then it may work.
             
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            @Matthew Morgan so you installed 2 NEMA 14-50 outlets onto the same 50amp circuit with the plan of not exceeding 9.6kw combined right?

            Just need clarification because I'm in a major dilemma at my place. Let me explain :

            I purchased a Tesla HPWC for our Model 3 and I planned on running a 40 amp breaker for it so we can charge with a 32 amp max load. Now my wife is considering an eGolf so we'd need to have a NEMA 14-50 outlet for whatever EVSE we get for that.

            Here's the problem: My house service from the meter (mounted onto our separate garage) is only 100amps and the conduit is only 1 1/4" and run under our landscaped walkway and backyard, about 35". 200amps by code requires 2" conduit which means major upset and trenching to replace it, at great expense no doubt. I don't have a problem with the expense of a 200amp panel upgrade but the exterior conduit stuff is going to be a major expense!! We have a gas stove which only uses 100v which we plug into the 220v 40amp outlet with an adapter. You think I can just wire it to a 15 amp breaker with the existing cable and should we sell the house I can just put it back into the 40 amp breaker? Doesn't it mean we have a lower load potential given we have a gas stove? We have an instant hot water heater too.

            So maybe I should just do like you did and run TECK cable on a 50amp breaker outside to the garage and just limit charging rates when both cars are in need or charging? We drive my car most of the time, hers just lives in the garage.

            Just trying to get my head around options given my circumstances
             
          • Matthew Morgan

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            E-golfs are sexy looking, imo

            Also, it was my plan when we have a Model 3 and Model Y to bump the charging rate down to 20 amps each when plugged in at the house. I would imagine that the E-golf would have that option.

            I'll try to answer these questions with National Electrical Code References (2011 edition). I'm assuming Canada uses the same code? Or is that a part of NAFTA (ok just kidding :0 )

            • For gas stoves there is a special exemption in the NEC 2011
              • 210.52(B)(2)
                • No Other Outlets. The two or more small-appliance branch circuits specified in 210.52(B)(1) shall have no other outlets.
                  • Exception #2. Receptacles installed to provide power for supplemental equipment and lighting on gas-fired ranges, ovens, or counter mounted cooking units.
                  • In Layman's terms, you can plug in a gas oven/range into one of the branch circuits supplying your kitchen. In my un-professional opinion, you can wire the outlet for the gas range to an existing branch circuit in your kitchen. And I'm assuming you would install a NEMA 5-15 outlet to supply your gas range..
            • Is instant hot water gas as well?
            • Running your Teck Cable will probably work as well. I've never worked with Teck cable before but it looks like an upgraded cable to what I used.

            • One more option.... I work for a natural gas distribution company and 99% of the time, we utilize horizontal direction drilling to install new gas carrier pipe. There are smaller machines out there that you could probably rent like this one but I have no clue where you would rent one. Furthermore, Home Depot has a walkway tunnel kit if you want to make hole underground without trenching.

            Also, as a small teaser. Stay tuned as I'm currently building NEMA 14-50 attachment that disconnects the power to the outlet based on signals from Z-wave or Zigbee devices such as SmartThings. You could ensure that both cars are not being charged at the full rate by programming start times in the Smartthings app. I will post pictures when its all done and maybe a small video showing it in action.
             
          • Matthew Morgan

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            I'm gonna start putting these on E-bay. Might be a solution to your problem and anybody who wants to ensure they don't charge during peak rate hours.

            NEMA 14-50 male and female plugs attached to a timer.

            IMG_0420.JPGIMG_0419.JPGIMG_0418.JPGIMG_0417.JPG

             
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            • TrevP

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              Thanks for the info.

              Our stove is gas and is currently plugged into the NEMA 14-50 with a 100v adapter. The instant hot water heater is gas and runs on 110v power. I had a master electrician come in and have a look at my setup and he says given we're not using the 40amps from the stove and a few other items that we have enough headroom to install a dedicated 60amp breaker and just rerun heftier wire to the garage though the return conduit.

              We can then install a NEMA 14-50 and the HPWC in the garage and just dial down the power on the Tesla if we need to charge both cars @ level 2. Since my wife rarely drives her car the eGolf could actually just live on a level 1 charger and that way the Tesla is good for 32-40amps.
               
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              • Steve C

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                Off topic @TrevP , how do you like your tankless water heater?
                 
              • TrevP

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                Our home is very energy efficient. Our extra large tankless not only heats hot water for consumption but also is the boiler for heating the house. We have what's called a high velocity heating system. Google it

                Anyhow, to answer your question it's great. Constant hot water all day and I'm not wasting energy keeping water hot in a tank.
                 
              • Steve C

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                Sounds like it's a great system if installed properly. Google has some nightmare stories of that system when not properly installed.
                 
              • TrevP

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                Never had a problem with ours. We did end up upgrading to a bigger unit as the previous one couldn't keep up with trying to heat the house and supply hot water at the same time, now it's not a problem at all. It's a Rheem Prestige unit http://www.rheem.com/product/condensing-tankless-professional-prestige-series-95-direct-vent-indoor Only runs me $45 a month to rent-it which is only $5 more than what a hot water tank would cost.
                 
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                • Brokedoc

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                  This thread definitely deserves a bump. Well detailed and illustrated. My only concern is that someone with less knowledge or ability would try this 50 Amp circuit as their first electrical DIY. Please take Matthw's disclaimer seriously and do not attemp to do this on your own especially if you've never added a circuit before.

                  My install is very similar but without the junction box. I plan on taking down my NEMA 14-50 and using a junction box to wire two HPWC with the communication cable so they can function as master/slave and sequentially charge 2 vehicles overnight without overloading the circuit. Wouldn't it be nice if Tesla made a single HPWC with dual cables? I'm going to email them that suggestion now....
                   
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                  • AdamHolmes

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                    A lot of you seem to know what you are talking about. Could anyone offer a little advice? I don't know much and am not going to mess around with electricity. I think I should have a fairly easy install for an electrician to do. Can someone please tell me if I would need to upgrade my breaker( I think I have enough space on the second one) and if you see any other issues that may cause a more difficult issue when installing.

                    Pics 1 and 2 are my breakers. 1 is full right? How do I find out how many amps I can pull from 2.

                    The other pics just show where I guess the wire could run. From behind the breaker in the ceiling and right to the wall there.

                    This doesn't seem like it should be complicated for an experienced electrician correct?

                    I'd appreciate any advice. My dog also says thanks!
                     

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                    • MelindaV

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                      your second panel is fed from the 100a breaker on your first panel.

                      hi to your big puppy!
                       
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