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Condo Charging - Minimal cost installation and some questions

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by RubberToe, Aug 26, 2014.

  1. RubberToe

    RubberToe Supporting the greater good

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    All,
    Some relevant background information: I live in a condo building. I am also on the HOA Board. Someone who parks their car very close to me in an underground garage is buying an EV of some variety, not sure which one yet. They are a renter who will be moving out at some point in the next year or so. I do not currently own an EV, waiting for the Gen 3 Tesla, per my signature. I am familiar with what is legally required to install some kind of EV charger or 240v outlet in the building. I am not an electrical engineer, I'm a software guy, minimal knowledge of power distribution, so forgive me if I get some terms wrong. I did speak to both the city office that handles permitting and also our building electrician whom I happened to run into yesterday. I spent some time today searching the internet for some answers, and made some progress, but there are still a couple unresolved questions that I have.

    I noticed that in several other forums where this is discussed that it is often difficult to imagine the situation being described, so I'm including pictures of our exact setup. I'll follow the flow of the power and ask my questions along the way. Here is the set of 6 meters where the power from the building main transformer comes into the 6 unit distribution panels:

    DSCN0915_20.jpg

    The city power planning guy I spoke with said that one thing they would have to check is to make sure that if the building installs some number of EV charging locations, that the main building transformer will be able to handle the added load. There are 50 units in the building, and the entire building is electric. When I asked him for an opinion as to whether the building transformer could be an issue he said most likely not, given the above.

    Here is a closer shot of my meter:

    DSCN0916_20.jpg

    There were two items the city guy was certain of, here they are:
    1. He said that it would not be possible to install "new service", meaning an additional meter just for the EV, but they would replace my current meter with a TOU meter free of charge.
    2. He said that there needed to be a 30A circuit breaker panel installed on the line that the EV is charging from.

    He also said that I could think of the EV charging outlet as just another outlet in my unit, even though it would be in the garage. Presumably due to item #1 above.

    I am very lucky in that as the wiring leaves the distribution panel, it goes right by my parking space prior to going up into the unit itself. Here are a couple shots of the conduit in question:

    DSCN0917_20.jpg

    DSCN0918_20.jpg

    Before I spoke with the electrician, I was imagining the distribution panel with the 30A circuit breaker would be on the garage wall right under where the conduit bends. So at the bend, the conduit/power would be split off, with the wiring to my unit remaining in place, but a separate feed going into a new distribution panel with the 30A breaker. The distance from the meter to the bend is about 35'.

    When I talked to the electrician, he didn't seem very keen on adding another panel. I don't even know if that is possible, so that would be my first question. In any case, he suggested that the best way to do this would be to simply run additional wiring from the current panel in my unit back down through the conduit to the bend and then bring it out and down to the new outlet. That way an additional distribution panel is not required. The second question would be, is this feasible?

    The distance from the bend to my units distribution panel is about 35' more. Here are a few shots of my units panel:

    DSCN0912_20.jpg

    DSCN0913_20.jpg

    DSCN0914_20.jpg

    The last shot confirms that the large top breakers are all 30A, and one of them may not be currently being used. So which is the proper way to do this, put a panel in the garage, or use the existing panel in the unit?

    Next up is the actual charging hardware. In order to future proof and insure fast charging, I want to install a 240V outlet. If my neighbor ends up getting something that doesn't require that much power, I know of the 3rd party company that modifies the 120V charging cable to allow it to use a 240V outlet. I am assuming that the simplest install would be nothing more than a NEMA 15-30 outlet as seen here:

    Nema 1530.jpg

    I know the Model S has an adapter that goes right into this. Several other forums have links to actual "charging stations" like this one for $699 at Home Depot:

    schneider.jpg

    Unless I'm missing something, this isn't really necessary, and the outlet alone will do. This guy looks to be hard wired, so there wouldn't be any chance of someone walking away with it like a cable laying on the floor. This also allows for timing when charging takes place, but don't most EV's now allow you to program from the car when you want it to charge? I know the Model S does. What are the advantages of installing one of these versus simply having a 240V outlet?

    The $600 cost is not a deal breaker, so I might end up doing that anyway. The overall intent here is a couple things. I would like to go through the process to verify everything required. Also, some units parking spots are very far from their meters, in some cases the other side of the building. If I get one put in by my units parking spot, I can let any current/future EV owners use my space and charge off my charger. They could then offset my electricity cost as needed, minimal as it may be.

    I briefly looked into EverCharge for whole building support running off the main building supply. Some searching here seemed to show this was not economical, so I'm wondering if indeed this is the least expensive way to get the first charger installed in our building. The electrician said that the cost using my units panel and a basic 240V outlet would be well under $1,000.

    Thoughts? Any Pasadena area electricians lurking around here who would like to do this :smile:.

    RT
     
  2. TexasEV

    TexasEV Active Member

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    Tesla Model S uses a NEMA 14-50 outlet which is a 50A circuit, not 30A. We assume future Tesla models will use need 50A circuits as well. There is no adapter for the outlet you pictured and the car wouldn't be finished charging overnight with such low amperage. If you're going to install a J1772 level 2 EVSE which any EV can use, that needs a 40A circuit for the 30A output. There are some lower amp ones on the market but they should be avoided unless it's not possible for your building to accommodate a 40A circuit. You mentioned future-proofing-- that means don't install anything less than 40A circuit.
     
  3. TurboFroggy

    TurboFroggy Member

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    Ideally you want to use a J1772 EVSE like the Schneider one you found. Those are universally compatible with all EVs. Another good unit would be a Clipper Creek EVSE: http://www.clippercreek.com. An HCS-40 would be a 30 amp EVSE that goes on a 40 amp circuit. Since this is in a semi-public location, I would recommend hard wiring it, not using a plugged-in unit. I would also put a meter in-between the EVSE and your panel box. This will allow you to measure the usage so it can be shared amongst multiple people and paid for fairly. It adds minimal cost to the install.
    Contact your utility and have them do a load study on your local transformer to see how much capacity is left. If charging is done off hours, like Midnight to 6AM, this will match well with the normal light load times of the grid.
    Also I would find out what the additional costs would be to put in a 100 amp sub panel so adding an additional 2-3 EVSEs in the future would be possible.
    A 30 amp EVSE is plenty of amps for overnight charging of any EV on the road, including a Tesla so no need to go beyond that.
    $1000 for the install seems a little high, I would get a couple of other bids from some other licensed electricians in your area. Be sure to ask for the quotes to be itemized by time and materials separately so you can compare them.
     
  4. MITE46

    MITE46 Member

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    Is there a separate meter for "house" loads, like common area lights, fountains, etc? If going this route, you should also verify what rate schedule that is on and the possibility of getting on a TOU rate for off-peak charging.

    On the 6 meter distribution unit are those black things main breakers? If so, find out what amp rating they are, since I don't see any main breakers on your personal panel. Ideally, you should install a personal subpanel directly out of meter using the existing conduit for your place. Then in that sub you would have a 50A 240V nema socket which would tesla and/or EVSE L2 compatible. Then also another 70A or whatever it was originally to your existing panel. Get what I am saying?
     
  5. miimura

    miimura Active Member

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    I'm not an electrician, buy my initial reaction to seeing your situation is that you should put in a new "main" panel next to your meter and use the existing wire that goes from the meter to your unit and wire it as a "sub" panel. This means you would have a new main breaker, a breaker for your existing panel, and a new breaker for your new charging solution. Doing it this way would allow for high power charging if your building has enough capacity. Running a wire back down from your existing panel, there's almost no way you would be able to get more than 30A or 40A for vehicle charging. Given that the meters are generally in the parking area, I would not do any shared charging setup. Run conduit from each unit's meter that needs charging to their assigned parking space.
     
  6. RubberToe

    RubberToe Supporting the greater good

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    There is a separate meter(s) for house loads, but it is a 50 unit building, and the house meter is oddly located. I'm imagining that no one will be charging off the house if they can use their own units power for charging. Using the house load opens up a whole new dimension in keeping track of who is charging, who to bill, and where to set up the "common area" chargers. If we had 10 people with EV's right now, we would probably look into something more along those lines.

    I believe that we have 100 amp service to all the units. I would have to confirm that.

    Concerning the sub-panel, or new main panel in the garage...

    There is an aesthetic component to the decision, and a legality as well. I wasn't going to get into that aspect but here goes. If someone installs charging equipment, should they ever sell the unit, they can be made by the HOA to return the garage to the original condition on a change of ownership. See this:
    Electric Charging


    I know that this would be extremely unlikely, especially in the future where having charging available will increase the value of the unit and the property in general.

    Also, the HOA board I am sure would much prefer the cleanest solution possible. The solution that runs the 30A line back from my unit to the conduit bend is the cleanest. That would only involve cutting into the conduit at one place and running a new line down to the charging unit (assuming Schneider, etc.). Having a new main panel installed in the garage would be more expensive. And if 30A is sufficient for an overnight charge of the Model S, there is really no reason to go higher.

    Apologies for the bad info about the NEMA 15-30 plug. I was extremely hurried when I posted and didn't have time to double check against the Tesla charging page. I was running off to an HOA meeting of all things :wink:

    I'll report back when I hear from the city guy about running the line back down from my unit. I'll also ask if there is a "hard limit" from the city about a 30A maximum for any charging circuit.

    RT
     
  7. PhilBa

    PhilBa Active Member

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    #7 PhilBa, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2014
    The UMC CAN use a NEMA 14-30, there is an adapter that Tesla sells for it. You will get a lower charging rate than the 14-50 but if that makes things easier to install, I'd go for it.

    But, the best connector is the one that has the fewest mechanical connections. More reliable and easier to use. That is the HPWC (one connection, at the car itself), dialed down to the appropriate current level. While this is expensive relative to the other solutions, it is the cleanest in terms of how you plug in. I'd hate to have to fiddle with plugging in an adapter every time I charge my car. Even a J1772 requires an adapter though, as was said above, it has broader EV appeal.
     
  8. txakoli

    txakoli Member

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    RubberToe:

    I live in a condo in Playa del Rey. My electric utility is LADWP.

    After HOA approval, I had an electrician install a 50 amp circuit (with 50 amp breaker) to a NEMA 14-50 receptacle (with lockable cover) in front of my assigned parking stall in the garage. I was lucky in two aspects: I only had about a 30 ft. run from the meter room to the receptacle, and there was a spare meter spot in the meter room. LADWP installed a TOU meter in that spot, and only the NEMA 14-50 is connected to it. LADWP just added that meter to my existing residential account. Now, I just need the car. :smile:

    Some words of advice. Be patient and start planning early. Coordinating with the HOA can be slow. They are liability coverage requirements that must be met. Good luck.
     
  9. drees

    drees Active Member

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    Issues I see:

    1. I would not sub-meter your own electricity for someone else's car. That is very likely to run into issues later.
    2. I don't see why additional meters could not be installed at the distribution panel for dedicated EV charging. Why did the utility say they couldn't do that? It does look like Pasadena has an experimental EV TOU program, but may not be accepting new applicants, so all EV charging should be done off the main account.
    3. If the existing panels are 100A and you already have electric range and A/C, you may not be able to add another 40A breaker. An electrician would need to run a load analysis to be sure. I highly doubt that you have an unused double-breaker in there (required for 240V charging), it's more likely that some of the breakers are simply not marked well. That said, 5 240V breakers for a condo seems like a lot. A/C, Stove, Water-Heater would be 3. What else? Maybe the units have in-wall resistance heating (in which case I'd suggest swapping the A/C unit out for a heat pump!).
    4. Whatever you do, consider that others will want to add charging stations, too, so they will want to do the same thing. Plug-in vehicles are contagious, once one person sees that it's possible, others will quickly get the bug.

    It does seem that the "cleanest" install in this example would involve tapping into your units service panel. But may present problems as mentioned above. Tapping into the main distribution panel would solve any load issues. But does put more boxes on the wall as you need to have a breaker box like this one that would tap into the service connectors after the customer's meter.

    BTW - splicing into existing conduit is generally not done that often. To do it properly, you need to pull out the old wire, cut the conduit, debur it, install your T or junction box and pull the new wire. Usually it's just easier to run a new conduit especially if just a small 40A circuit like this.

    Where are the other 44 meters? Are all the unit service panels in the garage space?

    It does seem like your building electrician should be able to help here. But it sounds like he's not the one that would do the work? In that case, I would find another local electrician to help.
     
  10. TexasEV

    TexasEV Active Member

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    The outlet shown in his diagram isn't a 14-30, it's a L15-30.
     
  11. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    #11 FlasherZ, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2014
    Okay, here are my thoughts - there are lots of ways to do this.

    Your "service disconnect" or "main breaker" appears to be a breaker on the meter panel itself, although the pictures don't confirm it for me. This is typical in California. The reason this is important is that it is the first line of protection against problems and forms the transition point from power company rules to the NEC.

    Here are my opinions:

    1. Running the conduit back down from your unit is an easy approach and gains you control over the equipment / receptacle that you install. If your parking space is dedicated and unlikely to change (through reorganization of parking, etc.), then this might be your best bet. This will likely cost a bit more from a wiring standpoint, but saving equipment costs vs. installing a new panel can make up for it.

    2. Adding another panel there could present a problem, because it's unlikely that the breaker / disconnect at the meter panel for your unit has more than one set of lugs, and with currents that can feed a whole unit, methods to combine wires ("pigtailing") aren't desirable or inexpensive. So it's likely that you'd have to install a new panel in the garage between the meter disconnect and your unit, and feed your unit through this panel with a rather large breaker. This isn't really a good option, but it is one. In essence, your unit would be connected *through* the new panel installed in the garage.

    You don't really have the option to feed from the bottom of the meter because of the multi-unit metering. NEC requires you be able to cut power to a building's service with no more than 6 moves of the hand and they must be located close to each other. In this case, I don't see an accessible master disconnect, and each unit's meter there counts as one, so you could not use unfused conductors from the bottom of your meter to a 7th panel there. (I call this out because this is an option on single-family homes and multi-unit buildings with less than 6 units.)

    EDIT: No accessible disconnect required for EVSE equipment rated for less than 60A. (See downthread.)

    As for equipment, if your electrician says there is no room for a 50A receptacle to be run, terminating in a NEMA 14-50, I would install a NEMA 14-30 and order the appropriate adapter from Tesla for the UMC. I don't think it's necessary to install EVSE equipment unless some rule requires you to. The receptacle you show is a 3-phase NEMA L15 series connector, and Tesla has no direct adapter for that. What you want is a NEMA 14 straight-blade (non-locking) receptacle.

    (Finally, you win the "pushmatic breaker" award. I rarely see those guys in action, they're quite unique.)

    My best to you.
     
  12. miimura

    miimura Active Member

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    I thought disconnect was only required if the EVSE exceeds 60A or 150V above ground. The only common EVSE that exceed these ratings are CS-90 and HPWC.

    I knew those breakers looked strange, but I didn't know what they were called.
     
  13. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    #13 FlasherZ, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2014
    EDIT: This text doesn't apply - I was apparently sleeping while thinking here. :)

    It's not "and", it's "or" - "more than 60 amperes or more than 150 volts to ground". Any 240V EVSE requires it, because 240V > 150V, even the 12A/16A varieties. And now that I consult the specific wording, mention is also made of the ability to lock the disconnect in the "open" position - and the OP unit's breaker doesn't appear to have that ability (although a photograph might expose that a bit more). So it's likely a disconnect switch is required anyway, there, if you install EVSE equipment. Now, if you furnish a receptacle and provide a lockable cover to the receptacle, then you're good because it counts as disconnecting means.

    Various inspectors will have different interpretations -- some would likely say that a breaker in your unit qualifies as a disconnect; some will pay attention to the locking requirements, some will permit removable breaker locking devices (despite 625.23 expressly prohibiting it), others will go to the letter of the law. Your local AHJ (permit / inspection office) will be able to help you on that.

    EDIT: Other inspectors will make this mistake too - they've done it to me.

    As for the Pushmatics - the one major problem with them is that the panel is extremely difficult to work when hot (and only VERY experienced electricians with PPE and the right tools should attempt to do so). The breakers screw to the bus bar, generally using standard slot screws... it's way too easy for the screwdriver to slip while trying to insert or remove a breaker, or to cause an arc by jumping the bus to another breaker's wire. But they're still out there!
     
  14. Ed Chan

    Ed Chan Member

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    <threadjack>Pushmatic is the bane of my existence. I've had several electricians curse my panel... So when I tried to upgrade it, I got a big no-no from the city and Edison because my underground supply wire isn't in conduit, and before any change can be made to the panel, I have to dig a $$$$$ hole in my driveway, sidewalk, and street and lay down 3" conduit. So my grand plan to modernize my electrical system is pretty much not going to happen. Instead, I have a "new" 50A pushmatic breaker in my little panel box for my Tesla and I pray every night that it doesn't trip the main, burn down my house, or start a fire under my driveway or sidewalk! :O
     
  15. drees

    drees Active Member

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    But 240V split-phase is only 120V to ground, not 240V.
     
  16. miimura

    miimura Active Member

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    Exactly. FlasherZ knows his stuff. I don't know how he apparently made this mistake. My 240V 40A EVSE does not need a disconnect.
     
  17. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    A couple of things likely occurred, first of which is a good, old, end-of-summer brain fart; second is my dealings with inspectors who have made the same mistake (but have accepted the various solutions I talk about); and third is that the code requirements in 625 are a bit odd. But clearly you're right. I'll go back and edit the post. Thanks for pointing that out.

    - - - Updated - - -

    The good news is that Pushmatics are pretty decent breakers that tend to err on the side of protection, much better than the FPE or Zinsco nightmares that have to be dealt with. Their biggest problem is that they wear out much more easily, and the stupid "on/off" flag never seems to work right.
     
  18. PhilBa

    PhilBa Active Member

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    A lot of these guys can do lateral boring which winds up costing a bit more than trenching but is a lot less disruptive and nets out lower cost when you factor in fixing the mess a trench makes.

    And by the way, direct burial is really bad if the wire is Al. I had a house with direct burial Al cable - the jacket got nicked some how and the wire corroded. Had to have it replaced. Bizarre to have half your circuits go out on you. That was definitely NOT FUN.
     
  19. RubberToe

    RubberToe Supporting the greater good

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    #19 RubberToe, Sep 18, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2014
    After numerous attempts to light a fire under several different electricians to no avail, I have contacted Bosch. The KIA website has a link to a page showing 3 companies they have partnered with: Aerovironment, Bosch and Leviton. I'm proceeding down this path since they will handle the design, the permitting with the city, and also the follow up inspection. At this point I would rather pay someone extra to do this versus trying to coordinate: 1) finding an electrician to return my calls, 2) getting their plan to the City for a permit, 3) coordinating the final inspection, 4) coordinating the City to install the new TOU meter.

    The two people I have spoken with are someone at Bosch, who is the primary contact, and an electrician they recommended who called me back within 4 hours of my initially talking to Bosch. They both seemed to know what they are doing, and the electrician will be coming by Monday (9-22) to check my place out and put together several options on how to proceed. He then sends that info back to Bosch for a review of some kind. Will post what I find out after talking to the electrician.

    One other thing, the electrician informed me about something I hadn't heard about. The City is now offering a $400 rebate for multi-dwelling installation of a hard wired Level 2 charger. Lots of conditions, but looks like this will be applicable to me:
    City of Pasadena, California


    RT
     
  20. RubberToe

    RubberToe Supporting the greater good

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    #20 RubberToe, Sep 23, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
    The electrician came out today and we have pictures inside the main panel in the garage and also the panel in my unit. The electrician said that a different power company like SCE would come out and set up a new meter just for the EV, but PWP will not do that. It looks like the two options are to: 1) Get a feed directly out of the main panel and shoot it to my parking space, or 2) Run a new line from my units panel down to the parking space.

    All the 30 amp breakers are in use, they are pushmatic, and I have pretty heavy gauge aluminum wire between the main panel and my unit. This doesn't leave much room in the 1.5" pipe for extra wiring. After discussing this with the electrician, it looks like they will be quoting to: 1) replace the aluminum wire from the main panel to my unit panel with copper, 2) replace the panel in my unit and all the breakers, and 3) run a new line down to the parking space for a hard wired EV charger. I'll find out in about a week what the cost estimate is. It isn't clear how much of this needs to be done due to the age of the current system (45 years) and what the city will allow to be done using the old hardware. The electricians crew does only EV charger installs, and they are averaging 1-2 per day in the area. He said that the system could be installed in as little as 2-3 weeks.

    The only discussion of cost we had concerned the replacement of the panel in my unit and all the circuit breakers. I checked online for pricing and I said that the material alone would probably run about $800 and he said that it was more like $500. I'll be interested to see what the estimate is.

    He also mentioned EVgo as a possible solution for the building in general. A couple forum posts I read through here seemed to indicate that the cost of the service from that company might be more than we would want to sign up for over the long term.

    IMG_20140922_181000_890.jpg

    IMG_20140922_184524_652.jpg
     

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