Ep002 - Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment with Trevor Tremblay - Transcript
Ep002 - Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment with Trevor Tremblay - Transcript
Trevor Tremblay: The most typical hazards we see are people installing the electric vehicle supply equipment on existing panels that don't have the capacity to add the electrical vehicle supply equipment. This could be potentially a cause for an electrical fire.
Josie Erzetic: I don't know about you, but I am seeing more and more electric vehicles on the road. And these numbers are expected to keep going up. For Licensed Electrical Contractors, that means you are going to be really busy installing EV charging systems. At ESA, we are passionate about electrical safety and about working with our LECs. So in this episode, we'll be giving you some safety tips for installing EV charging stations.
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Josie: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Grounded in Ontario. I'm Josie Erzetic, and I work for the Electrical Safety Authority. Today, we're talking about EV charging systems. Did you know that by 2030 half of all vehicles sold in Canada will be electric? That is a remarkable statistic. With me is Trevor Tremblay, a technical safety advisor at ESA who's going to talk to us about safely installing EV charging systems. Trevor, how are you today?
Trevor: I'm doing really well. Thank you. How are you?
Josie: Great! I'm just fantastic, thanks. I'll be honest, I've been interested in purchasing an EV myself. It's good for the environment, prices are coming down, battery life is getting longer, so this could be the time to buy.
Trevor: I think it'd be a great time to buy, especially with the cost of fuel lately. It seems to be going higher and higher!
Josie: I agree, but it's more than just the car, isn't it? We also need to think about car charging systems. So what advice should an LEC give a client like me who's thinking of buying?
Trevor: First I can say, if you are interested in buying, I would suggest you get the licensed electrical contractor involved as soon as you can, just to make sure everything goes smoothly for the installation of the electrical vehicle supply equipment. Because you'll kind of want that running before your car arrives to make sure you can actually drive it. But one thing the LEC should advise their customers is that if they are buying it online or getting it from somewhere else, make sure it's approved for use in Canada. You'll just save a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Josie: What happens if it's not approved in Canada?
Trevor: It could be really costly and push back your enjoyment of driving your electric car for a while. So essentially they would have to get it field-evaluated by an accredited agency in Ontario, and depending on where you're located, this could be weeks, months away and cost you between hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Josie: So how does someone know if something's approved? Is there somewhere that folks can go to look for a recognized approval mark?
Trevor: Yes, you can actually go to our ESA website at esasafe.com/approvalmarks. They'll have a complete list of certification marks accepted for use in Ontario. You can also visit their websites as well.
Josie: Yeah, and I think there's also sites that are specifically dedicated to electric vehicles, and probably to electric vehicle charging systems as well I would think.
Trevor: Actually there is plugndrive.ca. They're unbiased and they'll give you information on electric cars and charging stations.
Josie: Okay. That's great. So now let's say I've purchased my car and an approved charging system. So I call my LEC to install it. What advice do you have for that LEC to make sure the installation is safe?
Trevor: First thing they should do is make sure that the electrical service panel size is adequate for the new electric vehicle supply equipment. They should perform a load calculation based on Section 8, or get the homeowner to provide historical data from the utility for the peak demand for the last 12 months. This could require a service upgrade, and there's also the option of an energy management system. So you wouldn't have to replace your existing service, but it would limit your charging time. You'd only charge when the load in your house was low enough, so it can adequately charge the car.
Josie: And are there some particular weak spots in your home's electrical system that LECs really need to be careful of from a safety perspective?
Trevor: For LECs, I would definitely try and get the customer to get them to do maintenance on the service. Essentially, you could be doubling your existing load on your service and over time, when there's a mild load on it, or it's not fully loaded, you might not notice these weak spots like a loose connection. They could be heating up slowly and over time could cause a fire. You want to identify that right away when you're installing these EVSEs due to the fact that it could double the service and it'll expedite this weak spot and potentially cause a fire sooner than later.
Josie: And are these weak spots an even bigger problem if it's an older home?
Trevor: In older homes, it definitely will be a bigger issue. Most people only maintain their electrical when something doesn't work. I'm guilty of it too. You know, if the light doesn't work, I'll change the light bulb. If it doesn't work, then I'll check the switch, but you don't really do any electrical maintenance as long as everything's working. You'll change the paint. You'll change your furniture, but you'll never spend money to actually upgrade your service. So in older homes, this could be just an accident waiting to happen. Over time, things become loose and they could be potentially already heating up and you wouldn't even know it. So we recommend the electrical contractor, do some preventative maintenance, make sure everything's torqued and doesn't show any signs of heat. And we recommend they do that at, you know, every few years.
Josie: And when you say older home, what do you mean by that? Are we talking 1900, 1930s? Like, what are we talking about when you're saying an old home?
Trevor: Typically we consider our aging infrastructure pre-1976.
Josie: Okay, so that's even newer than people might expect and they should be looking into this kind of preventative maintenance.
Trevor: I recommend, you know, every four to five years typically, just to make sure everything's working correctly. It doesn't take long. A lot of contractors specialize in it.
Josie: Okay, good to know. So we've talked about older homes and what about new homes that are under construction and someone wanting to install an EV charging system there. Are there different code requirements for doing that?
Trevor: The code rules are pretty generic. They don't really apply specifically to older or newer homes. The building code did require homes to be EV ready. It's no longer in the building code, but that required some homes to have provisions to install an EV charger. So either a 20 amp receptacle installed marked EVSE or a raceway with a box and a string so you can install it wherever it is in the house later on. But if you are planning on buying a home or building a home, you might want to think about the future. If you are interested in getting an electric vehicle, the service size should be a consideration. And depending on what you buy now, you might have to upgrade your service later. So you might be better off just finding one that's adequate for your future needs right away instead of spending the extra money later.
Josie: And what about a disconnect? Does an EV charging system require one?
Trevor: Not all EV charging systems require a disconnect. It's based on its rating. So if it's over 60 amps or 150 volts to ground, it would require a disconnect. It's typically within sight, but if it can't be within sight, it has to be lockable. You can also use the disconnect supplied with the equipment that's integral to it provided that there's no exposed live parts or putting the operator in danger by operating it.
Josie: Okay. So now in our life cycle, I've called my LEC, my EV charging system is installed, and now I might be thinking about moving houses. So is it possible to remove the EV charging system and take it with me if I'm going to a new house?
Trevor: Yes. You can take it with you provided the LEC gets a notification for inspection to remove it and to install it in the new dwelling. Some people already kind of do this sort of thing between their house and the cottage. Definitely, if they have 120 volt class one charger or EVSE, it's plug and play, so as long as the receptacle was inspected and meets the requirements for EVSE, they can plug it in at their dwelling and they usually just unplug the equipment and take it to their cottage.
Josie: So that to me seems like there could be a hazard there, if you're moving between a very modern home and going to a rustic cottage. Do you think a rustic cottage is a problem if you're removing your EV charger and taking it with you?
Trevor: It definitely could have its challenges, especially, some people might not realize there are special requirements to plug in that EVSE. So if you just bring it to your cottage and plug it into any receptacle, you potentially could overload that circuit or the service itself. So it's probably best to have an LEC go in and look and install the proper receptacle for the electrical vehicle supply equipment and make sure the service is adequately sized. And that preventative maintenance again, because again, that could really show the weak spots and possibly cause a fire.
Josie: I also am wondering about apps on the phone. I know that with some EV charging systems, you can control them through an app. And I do have an app to control a number of things in my home, like the security system, like temperature or air conditioning, something like that. So can you tell us what would an LEC need to know about controlling that EV charging system through an app on your phone?
Trevor: There are plenty of manufacturers that offer WiFi connectivity to their electrical vehicle supply equipment. And some of the options could be time shifting, like charging on/off peak hours. Just looking at the performance of it, seeing what kind of energy it's using, that sort of thing. One thing the LEC needs to know if the rating of the equipment is user settable in the app, so if I had wired it for 20 amps, but then all of a sudden I'm in my app and I inadvertently select 40 amps, now I could be putting strain on the electrical system that it wasn't rated for, and the conductors are too small. ESA requires them to actually wire it to the largest setting. So if the larger setting was 40, they'd have to install it for a 40 amp circuit.
Josie: Now you talked about several different kinds of manufacturers. Are there different rules for different types of chargers?
Trevor: There are not necessarily different rules for different chargers. There's just different requirements based on their ratings. So like over 750 volts, it would be required to follow the Section 36 rules for high voltage. And we have the rating of the unit for the disconnect. So if it's under 60 amps, 150 volts, they wouldn't require a disconnect depending on how it's laid out. If there's transformers and cubicles with uses in it, there could be interlocking requirements and there could also be visible isolation requirements. So it could get pretty intense on some of the bigger, fast chargers.
Josie: So with the 750 volt chargers, are those the fast chargers?
Trevor: Yep. Typically like the Tesla chargers and all that, they get up to like close to a thousand volts DC.
Josie: Okay. That's good to know. And just to know that all of this information is on the ESA website at esasafe.com/podcast. So you don't need to worry about jotting it all down, you just need to go and check out the website. So we've talked about buying the equipment, installing it and even removing it, I just want to shift the conversation a little bit to what could go wrong. What kinds of safety hazards have you or the other TAs at ESA seen in connection with installation of EV chargers?
Trevor: The most typical hazard we see is people installing the EVSE on existing service panels that don't have the capacity to add the electrical vehicle supply equipment. This could potentially cause an electrical fire. You don't want to overload these services. We've talked about the maintenance that is very important because these loads are actually, the chargers are actually running for long periods of time and likely the largest load in your house. So you really want to make sure that your electrical system is adequate in size and make sure that the proper maintenance is done, and the torquing and all that. And we also see a lot, just the location of where it's installed. You have a tight garage, it's on the back wall because it was closer to the panel, and every time you back your truck into the garage, you actually hit the equipment. So you have to make sure it's located at a height that won't be hit. And that also goes for the cable and raceways you're feeding this equipment with. There's a lot of things to look for and proper planning could avoid costly mistakes.
Josie: Yeah. Talking about proper planning, I heard a crazy story circulating around ESA recently about someone installing a charger on a city sidewalk. Can you talk to us about that?
Trevor: Certainly. One of our inspectors was just traveling around in his daily route and came across one site where he had armored cables running through trees, a pin and sleeve type receptacle hanging in the tree. Then he had other cables running under the sidewalk to the curb over to this pin and sleeve receptacle where he plugged it in. And then he actually had electrical vehicle supply equipment that should be mounted on a wall somewhere, literally in his trunk. So he'd pop the trunk, plug it in and charge his car. There are no driveways in certain areas of the province and that was the only place he could charge his car. And he got creative. Unfortunately, there were a few fire and shock hazards we had to take care of.
Josie: It's an important story to tell, because honestly with more electric vehicles on the roads, more people buying them and dense urban areas, we're going to see more of this. So people need to be very cognizant about where they're putting these charging systems and making sure that they're safe. So we talked about charging systems at residences. Are there different rules when installing charging stations either outside, in parking garages, parking lots, commercial buildings, anywhere other than in homes?
Trevor: The codes are fairly generic, again, they apply to all of them. So there's not really any difference. The ratings could be a little different and that's where you get your disconnect size and possibly following the Section 36 requirements due to high voltage. But there's also some manufacturer's instructions you must take into account. If you're installing them indoors and the manufacturer says ventilation required, well you have to install ventilation. Another thing is if you're installing it outdoors, just make sure that your equipment is rated for the weather. You shouldn't have a dry type enclosure outside because it'll just be a waste of money because it'll fail fairly soon. And again, based on the ratings, you have your disconnect requirements.
Josie: And what about a notification of work? Does an LEC need to file a notification if they're installing an EV charging system?
Trevor: Yes. A notification for inspection is required to install an EVSE. They do have the plug and play ones, I think we talked about earlier. So if you have a 120 volt plug-in type, you can plug it into the receptacle. That receptacle would have to be installed under a notification, specifically for that EVSE, minimum 20 amps and clearly marked. We currently are doing a little bit of a blitz focusing on EV charging systems. So just remember to file for your notification. These are new and innovative products, and new to some people. So we just want to make sure that everything is done correctly and safely.
Josie: Right. A lot of important information today. And I'm just going to repeat back some of the top safety tips that I heard that really stuck with me. The first one being, you know, plan ahead and find a safe spot so you're not going to have cables running through trees, et cetera. The second one being to make sure that the service panel can safely handle the additional load of an EV charging. And lastly, make sure that you file a notification of work with ESA. Have I got those right?
Trevor: Yep. Those are three very important parts. And we just want to also identify the little bit of preventative maintenance as well, especially in older installations.
Josie: Right. Yeah, that's an important one too. So I want to thank you for educating me today, Trevor, and thank you to all our listeners. We hope you enjoyed this podcast.
If you have any questions on this topic or any other electrical safety topic, we want to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to answer some frequently asked questions in future episodes. Make sure you subscribe to this podcast so that you'll get notified whenever we have new episodes. So until next time, be safe, work safe and stay grounded.