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Successful completion of Condo charging installation – Now I can charge at home!

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by David29, Aug 30, 2016.

  1. David29

    David29 Member

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    Introduction: This post is to report a bit of good news. Nearly 11 months after taking delivery of my Tesla Model S 70D, I can finally “charge at home” like most Tesla owners do.

    This will be a long post, in case the story of my experience might help someone else sort out the charging possibilities in condos or apartments. I’ll give a summary first, followed by details for those who are interested.

    Summary: I live in a condominium in Massachusetts. I am currently the only resident with an EV. My parking space is in an open lot, where it would have been impractical and costly to install an outlet or charger. Plus, the condo trustees did not want me to excavate the parking lot or driveway for cable. For the first 10 months with my Model S, I was charging mostly at a nearby Tesla Supercharger. But this week, my electrical installation was completed and now I can charge at my condo.

    Over the period from last July (2015) to January (2016), I submitted three separate proposals to the condo board for installation of a charging arrangement. The first two proposals were disapproved. In the end, I swapped spaces with another owner who had a space next to a building with overhead electrical service. The condo board of trustees approved my third proposal, to install a new electrical service with my own dedicated meter and circuit breaker panel on the outside of the building, adjacent to the parking space I would swap into. A short run of buried conduit brings 240 VAC power to a wooden post next to the parking space, on which we mounted a Tesla Wall Connector.

    The electrical work cost about $3000, plus I had legal fees of about $2000, and the Tesla Wall Connector was $630 with tax and shipping. So the total cost was about $5600.

    That’s the sum and substance of it. Keep reading if you want all the gory details.

    DSC05562.JPG

    Background: Our condo association has 87 units distributed among 9 buildings. All parking is in assigned spaces. Some units have garages, and there are two open parking lots. My spouse and I have two spaces in one of the lots.

    All of the buildings except one have underground utility service. Several of the buildings are 19th century mill buildings converted to residences when the property was developed in 1987, and the rest were newly built at that time. My own unit is in one of the mill buildings, with exterior walls constructed of granite and brick, and with all utilities underground.

    First steps: Before ordering the Model S, I hired an electrician to explore options for charging at the condo complex. At first, I focused on where and how we could install an outlet or level 2 charging station that could be used by other residents or guests as well as me. We looked for locations where a guest parking space could be used or where we could create a new shared space for the purpose. Options were severely limited by the small number of guest spaces available and by the physical arrangement of our site and buildings. Our findings were submitted to the condo Board of Trustees in August 2015, and were met with a lack of enthusiasm, primarily because the Board was not interested in spending money on the speculative need for chargers and because our guest parking situation is already tight. (One board member startled me by referring to electric vehicles as a “California fad” that he did not think would catch on in our area.)

    A few months later, another opportunity arose under which I might have been able to use a space in a garage. The electrician gave me an estimate for wiring that space, but the Board rejected the idea because of the complexity of the solution for that particular space, which would have required running conduit through a wall and through about ten other spaces owned by other residents. It also wasn’t clear that I could install a new electric service there, so I would have had to tap into the “public” service. The Board did not agree to that.

    In the course of discussing the options, the Board said they would not entertain any proposal that required (1) excavating through common roadways or parking lots, (2) using a common electric meter for my charging, or (3) involved my contributing money towards a common solution (I had offered up to $3000).

    Success Path: The third try succeeded. After mulling over the two failed proposals and the discussion around them, I pursued someone’s suggestion and asked two other residents if either one would be willing to swap parking spaces in the surface lot where we park. These other residents each had a parking space immediately adjacent to the one condo building that has overhead electrical service, which could simplify installation of a new electrical service. No one would be disrupted except for whichever owner ended up swapping spaces. Both the owners said they would be willing to swap spaces with me. I worked with the electrician again and developed a proposal for the space that is closest to the existing utility connection and thus would be the less costly of the two.

    The new proposal was submitted to the Board in late January, and approved in early March, subject to developing suitable legal agreement to cover insurance, liability, and other topics. The Board’s attorney provided me a draft agreement in late April. I then engaged an attorney to review it. My attorney had a few concerns, which resulted in some changes.

    In addition, the insurance requirement was a bit onerous and would have been costly, so I worked with my insurance carrier (USAA) and the condo association’s insurance agent to develop a more reasonable approach. Ultimately, what we agreed to is that my spouse and I increased the liability limit on our Household policy to the $1 million, and added the association as a named insured. The incremental cost increase was small.

    Swapping parking spaces: My lawyer drafted a document to govern the parking space swap. Originally I had pictured the exchange of parking spaces as a type of rental or lease. My attorney said that the parking spaces did not “belong” to us – they are common property of the condo association, but assigned to us for exclusive use. He saw two possible options: Ask the condo association to permanently reassign the spaces, or grant each other a “license” to use our assigned space. My attorney favored the permanent reassignment by the Board, but the other party’s attorney disagreed. So we ended up granting each other the “license” to use the space. This is not permanent, and it can be cancelled by either party with suitable notice, which troubles me a bit, but it was the best arrangement I could make. So it behooves us to remain on good terms with the other party. The swap documents were signed at the end of June.

    Final approval: The Board approved and signed the final version of the document approving the installation (also called a “license”) at their meeting in early July. This freed me to release the electrician to do the work. I ordered the Tesla Wall Connector (for which I waited a bit more than 2 weeks), and the electrician did the installation on August 9-10. The utility installed the meter on August 30.

    Some details of the electrical work: The work consisted of essentially four elements: Installing the new electric service with meter box and circuit breaker panel; installing a post in the ground to support the Wall Connector and its cable; running power to the Wall Connector and installing it; and installing a 120 VAC circuit for a convenience outlet and security lamp.

    The electric service was all done on the outside wall of the adjacent condo building, and involved approximately 30 feet of conduit and cable from the connection point to the meter box; a meter box for 100 amp service; and a second box with circuit breakers for the 240 volt (50 amp) and 120 volt (20 amp) circuits. I am sorry that I do not know the specific cable and conduit sizes used, but were appropriate for the service.

    DSC05555.JPG

    All the conduit used was PVC, in various sizes.

    As required by local code, the system was grounded both to the building’s water pipe (the only work needed inside the building), and to two ground rods installed for the purpose. This entailed something like 6-10 feet of small conduit to the ground rods, and perhaps 30-40 feet of ground wire.

    The Wall Connector is mounted on a 4” x 4” square pressure treated wood post. Installing the post proved to be an interesting exercise. Originally I had proposed a location for the post quite close to the parking space, so that we could easily reach it. The ground is sloped between the space and the building, so a location part-way between would require walking on a sloping dirt surface that could be slippery or messy in rain or snow. But the electrician’s initial quote for that location was quite high. So we compromised on a location about 3 feet from the building. One of the condo board members also said that this location would be less likely to be damaged by snow plows. But the excavation (done by hand) revealed an ugly big rock right where we had agreed to place the post. So the electrician moved the location down the hill closer to the parking space to avoid the rock. This location was almost where I had wanted it originally! Fortunately, the electrician did not ask for a price increase for the extra conduit and cable to move the post those 2 or 3 additional feet. The post was set into concrete. I added a post cab from Lowe's, including a neat little solar cell that provides a dim light at night.

    Conduit was run in the ground from the building to the post with the 50-amp feed for the Wall Connector. (I have only the base 40-amp charger in my 70D and did not see the need to provide for the maximum 72 amp capability. I hope that does not prove to be short-sighted.) The feed from the circuit breaker box to the Wall Connector entails roughly 25 feet of cable and conduit, with about 6 feet buried.

    Installing the Wall Connector appeared to be straightforward. The electricians had installed other Tesla Wall Connectors, but this was their first experience with the new version. From what they said, I gather that they found the new model to be better built, but the wiring connections were not easy to make for bottom entry. One surprise was that the crew did not have the type of Torx security pin bit needed for screws securing the cover to the Wall Connector. So I bought one and let them use it; I figure I may need to open it someday.

    As for the 120 Volt circuit, I wanted a security lamp because the lighting is marginal in this part of my parking lot, so we have a motion sensor lamp. And we added a convenience outlet for using a vacuum cleaner to clean the car or any other purpose. A bit of a luxury, I suppose.

    Thoughts about the Condo Board of Trustees: Before people start thinking that my condo board of trustees might not have supported me or do not favor electric cars, I want to point out a couple of things. First, I am only one owner out of 87 units, and the only one with an EV or plug-in hybrid. The Board has many other concerns to deal with, and they took time out to consider my proposals during at least 4 board meetings out of the past 12 months. That is a lot of “bandwidth” devoted to one person’s needs. Second, the Board has responsibility to all the owners and has to protect the community’s interests, including its financial health. And third and possibly most important, the Board has to operate within the limitations of its governing rules, in this case the Master Deed and the Declaration of Trust document. The Trust rules make it difficult to make changes to “common” (community) property. (Owners have somewhat more freedom to modify their own property.) Because the work I was proposing would have been on common property under any of my three proposals, the Board (as well as my attorney and I) had to be sure we navigated within the rules, to avoid challenges by anyone in the community who might be unhappy with my charger installation or disagreed with the Board’s action to approve it. So I greatly appreciate that, in the end, the majority of the Board did approve my proposal.

    Conclusion: It took a bit of work and patience to develop a proposal that would be acceptable to the Board. Ultimately they were supportive, as was our property management company, and the neighbor whose space I will use. It looks like a good solution, even if it was somewhat more costly than I had hoped. I decided to bite the bullet partly because I was tired of charging elsewhere, and partly to show that it could be done. I am looking forward to the convenience of charging at home, finally!

    Thanks for reading my story.
     
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  2. TaoJones

    TaoJones Beyond Driven

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    Congrats and thanks for leading the way.

    It will be a good day here in the harbor when we have similar charging, but it has taken and will take years to get to a suitable and reasonable solution. Out here in faddish Californicatia, of course :).

    Nicely done.
     
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  3. AWDtsla

    AWDtsla Active Member

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    The security torx bits are included in the HPWC packaging.
     
  4. Pando

    Pando Member

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    Great writeup and detail. Did you make any arrangements to get your costs reimbursed if the other party cancels the swap? If they get a Tesla (or some other EV), they could give you a notice to vacate and continue to use the circuit you installed and paid for, leaving you out on the parking lot where you started.
     
  5. David29

    David29 Member

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    Really?! Either the electricians or I must have missed that.
     
  6. David29

    David29 Member

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    No, there is no cost recovery provision, and that is a risk.
     
  7. TexasEV

    TexasEV Active Member

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    Congratulations on your amazing effort. I sure hope you will be living there a long time.
     
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  8. Model S M.D.

    Model S M.D. Ludicrous Radiologist

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    Impressive! Waking up to a full charge every day is so nice, and one of the main advantages over fossil cars.
     
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  9. SethDiamond

    SethDiamond Member

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    This is a really wonderful outcome. You'll be much happier when you are able to "fully charge" your 70D at your convenience. I'm using the full upgrade - charging runs 79Amps and works out to 57 miles of rated range per hour of charging - sometimes on the weekends it makes a difference if I'm out and about during the day (since Eversource doesn't use differential pricing, it doesn't really matter when I charge). You might want to consider about using some kind of "cover" or "enclosure" for the adapter so it doesn't get destroyed in the winter (the ends are open, as you're well aware) and those snowplows are unforgiving if the cable gets knocked from your post. Your cost may seem high - but I've been there... my house has a fully-automatic home generator, and I needed to use the Generac-certified electrician (so I didn't "pierce the veil" of my warranty), upgrade to a 200Amp box, and run the line all the way across my home - all-in with charger was over $5k... painful, but you can't beat the speed/convenience of this unit. By the way, if your electrician contacts the Charger Installation Advisor at Tesla in Fremont, he can take the handful of steps to be "Certified"/"Approved" by Tesla as an installer for the home chargers - and advertise that on his cards/website... I did that with both the Generac electrician and a friend here in town, and it has helped drive new business their way. Please let me know if you want details of his contact information...
     
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  10. David29

    David29 Member

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    Good point. I'll have to think about that. You are correct if you sense that I am reluctant to spend more, but damage to the installed post or Wall Connector could be very pricey to repair, too!
     
  11. ArtInCT

    ArtInCT Always Learning

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    Congrats David29! Perserverance and some out of the box thinking got you on the road to success. Now you can wake up with an optimal charge for your daily use. Applause!
     
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  12. Krugerrand

    Krugerrand Active Member

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    How much ranting did your spouse have to hear during the whole process? :D

    Congrats! That was some fine hoop jumping you did.
     
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  13. patyoungsc

    patyoungsc Member

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    That's quite a story, congratulations on the perseverance
     
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  14. David29

    David29 Member

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    Well, I will admit that the project became something of an obsession, especially once I had a proposal the condo Board would approve. There were indeed some obstinate obstacles that I probably did rant about, and no doubt my spouse took the brunt of it! But she was very supportive all along, as were most people here at my condo. Just had to be patient and wade through it.
     
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  15. miimura

    miimura Active Member

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    Congratulations. I'm glad you were able to find a solution that was acceptable to all involved. I have been on an association board and can appreciate the challenges that the physical layout of the complex presented. This is truly one of the main obstacles to faster EV adoption among people who don't own a single family home.
     
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  16. x43x

    x43x Member

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    Welcome to the club! I recommend ditching the post topper, screw on a rectangle piece of plywood, then add some cedar shingles. Even though the charger is weather proof, I found it best to keep as much weather off as possible. Plus it's nice not grabbing a handful of wet when it rains.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. beeeerock

    beeeerock Active Member

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    Very glad to see you ultimately won out! :)
     
  18. KJD

    KJD Member

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    Outstanding story David and an excellent write up. Thank you for sharing your experience.
     
  19. David29

    David29 Member

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    As a postscript, I found out later that Eversource offers Time of Use rates here in the Boston area, which I had not known when i applied for the circuit described above. So I have now applied for the TOU rates. I can schedule most of my charging to occur during offpeak, and the electric service is used for nothing else except a bit of security lighting, so it is a no-brainer to use the TOU rates. I expect to save roughly $10 per month on average compared to normal residential rates. I am now awaiting the installation of the TOU meter -- should happen within the next 2-3 weeks, I am told.
    The main caveat would be that I will need to do some charging during peak hours when I use preheating or precooling, and that will eat into my savings.
     

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