Electric car wallbox installation: the complete guide
So, you’ve chosen your electric or plug-in hybrid car. Next, you’ll want a wallbox charger to ensure your car is fully charged every morning. There are plenty of providers out there, all offering slightly different systems in differing shapes, sizes and power outputs.
Some will come as part of your energy tariff, while others will be recommended by your car manufacturer. But it’s important to know that, with a few exceptions, pretty much any wallbox will charge any electric car or plug-in hybrid.
The good news is that those providers will be able to steer your through that fairly straightforward process, ensuring you end up with the best one for your needs.
How do I order a wallbox?
This is the easiest part. Head over to Google and take a look at the myriad suppliers out there. If you're buying a new electric or plug-in hybrid car, then your dealer or manufacturer can likely recommend a supplier.
There are also a growing number of third-party installers that may be able to recommend the best wallbox for you from a variety of manufacturers. If you’re in any doubt, give one or more of your preferred suppliers a call to discuss the merits of their systems.
By providing your address, the supplier will be able to check Google Maps to see the layout of your property. Assuming it’s all in view, they should be able to suggest some locations for the unit to be installed. Some wallbox manufacturers offer freestanding mounts, allowing installation where wall-mounting isn’t an option. From there, it’s a case of providing a few personal details and arranging the installation date and time.
Most wallbox manufacturers or suppliers will be able to help you with the government’s home charging grant. This sees the government contributing up to 75% or £350 (down from £500 from 1 April 2020) towards the cost of the wallbox. You may be asked to provide evidence of your car ownership and proof of your address.
How is a wallbox installed?
It’ll make most sense to most people to have their wallbox installed by an approved electrician organised through the manufacturer or supplier. You can use a qualified third-party electrician, but it’ll still need commissioning by an approved installer. Installing a wallbox is not a DIY job.
The complexity of your wallbox installation and the time it’ll take depends on a number of factors. The easiest installs are usually where the wallbox is mounted close to the electricity meter. In these instances, the wallbox installation time could be as little as two hours.
If you want – or need – the wallbox somewhere else, it could require floorboards to be lifted or furniture to be moved. But even in these situations, you should be up and running in around half a day.
It’s worth discussing all this before you buy, as some providers may charge an additional fee for ‘non-standard’ installations. What is deemed a non-standard installations may vary, but Pod Point, one of the more well-known providers, told us these include long cable runs, the concealment of cables, running the cables at height or underground, or those requiring extra works to ensure the safety of the installer and customer.
The first thing a wallbox installer will check is the quality of your home’s earth connection. Due to the power demands of a wallbox charger, your home needs a good, solid earthing connection. It’s a quick job for the installer to check, but depending on their findings, it could be the responsibility of you, your utility company or even UK Power Networks to upgrade. As a result, the work could take days, weeks or even months to complete.
Next, the installer will check the rating of your home’s cut-out fuse. Many will be rated at 100 amps, while others will be rated at 60 amps. This won’t be a problem for most, but loading a wallbox charger on top of other power-hungry equipment such as induction hobs, power showers or hot tubs could cause the fuse to trip, requiring a reset. If you have a 60-amp fuse, it’s wise to contact your utility provider to upgrade your fuse to 100 amps. This isn't something you should attempt yourself.
To minimise the risk of fuses tripping out, wallboxes produced after January 1, 2019 contain a ‘fuse saver’. This is a clever bit of integrated kit that effectively reduces the power supplied to the car while maintaining the same current to other electrical products. In practice, this means your induction hob and power shower will work as normal, but your car may take a little longer to charge – all in the interests of avoiding a ‘blown’ fuse.
Once the checks have been made, the installer will mount the wallbox by drilling a number of small holes and screwing the wallbox to your wall. A hole will be drilled through the wall to allow a length of armoured cable to be fed through. The location of this hole will depend on the wallbox’s position relative to the electricity meter and fuse box.
In some instances, the cable will run along the outside of the wall. In other instances, the cable can run inside the house, although you’ll want to ensure it can be hidden; the cable could measure 25mm in diameter and isn’t particularly malleable.
The installer will feed the armoured cable and fuse-saver wire through to the fusebox. This part of the operation will require power to the property to be switched off. The cable will be connected to the mains supply by a standalone RCD (residual current device). This avoids the need for the installer to touch the existing fuse boards, which minimises the risk of electrical supply problems elsewhere in the property.
It’s helpful to clear the area in the vicinity of the meter and fuse box to allow the installer good access. Once it’s all connected, the installer will run some tests before securing the front of the wallbox in place.
Most systems offer some level of wi-fi connectivity, so you’ll need your broadband login details. The installer will connect the wallbox to your wi-fi, enabling you to monitor the amount of power your car is taking. Finally, they’ll ask you to plug in your car to check it’s charging – and you’re all ready to go.
Most systems are compatible with a smartphone app. Pod Point’s app allows you to enter your electricity tariff details, from which it can derive the exact amount it’s costing you. You can even download this data to keep a proper record of your outgoings. Some providers have a website where you can access similar information.
Depending on your provider, you’ll be able to purchase a number of accessories at an additional cost. These include cables of varying lengths, a key lock to prevent unauthorised use of your wallbox, and a holster for keeping the tethered wallbox cables tidy.
The four things you’ll need to have a wallbox installed
Off-street parking: You can’t have cables running across the pavement, so you’ll need to have off-street parking for your car, with space for a wallbox charger.
Wi-fi: Most wallbox chargers have online services, accessible through smartphone apps or on the internet, which allows you to monitor the amount of power flowing through the charger into your car. It enables you to keep tabs on costs and the efficiency of your car and your driving.
The correct cables or adaptors: You can choose from tethered wallboxes, which have an integrated cable, or untethered wallboxes, which require you to use your own cable. If it’s the former, you need to check it has the correct plug for your car. If you have the latter, you need to ensure you have your car’s charging cable with you.
A smartphone: Most wallbox providers provide an app to tell you how much it’s costing to charge your car. If you don't have one, a smart meter can give you a good idea, too.