GM Volt Forum banner

1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,359 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Disclaimer: I am NOT an electrician, though I am an IT lead and work with electricity a fair amount. This article is purely for reference, I am not recommending any specific parts/items/procedures.

This discussion is strictly about LEVEL 1 charging and the implications of doing so with most home electrical outlets.

A generation 1 Volt is set up to charge at either
  • Lev 1 LOW: 110 Volts at 8 Amp (880 Watts)
  • Lev 1 HIGH: 110 Volts at 12 Amp (1,320 Watts)

Okay so nice numbers but what do they actually mean?

Well with resistance like you'd get from a corroded connection, 880 watts is capable of producing up to 3,000 BTU/HR of heat and 1,320 watts, around 4,500 BTU/HR. Compare this to the average electric stove burner which maxes out at 7,000 BTU/HR and you begin to realize just how much heat a bad electrical connection can generate within a minute or two of being turned on.

Additionally, It is also important to understand that this is not an intermittent or brief draw, this is a continuous draw over the course of several hours. To put it in perspective, another item commonly used in the house that draws similar power is THIS.



Now imagine leaving a hairdryer on for several hours at a time. This is a LOT of stress on an electrical system and if your “upstream” parts such as the wall socket, connections, or wiring, are old, corroded, or just plain sub-standard it is going to come back to haunt you.

So what do I do?

Probably the best/safest thing to do is hire a licensed electrician to assess your electrical system. Give them the above listed numbers and have them determine if your socket/wiring is up to the task. But if you are a die-hard do it yourselfer then there are a few things you should know.

I shouldn’t have to say this but, DISCLAIMER: WORKING WITH ELECTRICITY IS DANGEROUS. LEARN SAFE PRACTICES BEFORE ATTEMPTING ANY REPAIRS, UPGRADES, OR MODIFICATIONS.

Get a non-contact IR thermometer and check the temperature of your outlet periodically while you are charging your Volt. If the temperature starts to go up fast, switch down to 8amp, or STOP CHARGING.

Stab (or backstab) type outlets are terrible. They work by having a small hole with a barb inside that grips the wire which is “stabbed” into the back. Convenient and fast, but they create a minimal surface contact area and are known to work loose over time due to vibrations and the regular heating and cooling cycles that all electrical outlets have. Your outlets may be “brand new construction”, but if they are “stabbed” in they are BAD and you should get them re-done.



Side Screw outlets are good. These have screws on the sides of the socket, provide a LOT more surface contact area, and do not work loose over time.



Residential grade vs Industrial grade
If you are going to upgrade an outlet to charge a Volt, make it an industrial grade/heavy duty.
I’m going to be blunt here. If you didn’t pay at least $10 or more for the outlet, it’s probably not heavy duty enough.

In my opinion, your best bet is to find a “Hospital Grade” outlet. It will look like any other, but will have a green dot on the face someplace.



Leviton makes some extremely solid, heavy duty, hospital grade, outlets (see this example)


I hope this quick primer was of some help to other Volt and EV owners out there.


UPDATE: Some good additional points are being made below (especially the one about "Don't replace a GFCI receptacle with a non-GFCI receptacle") Please read the threads!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,416 Posts
Dutch said:
It will look like any other, but will have a green dot on the face someplace.
It's also stamped with "HOSP GRADE" on the bottom in that photo.

ul.com said:
Hospital grade receptacles include the same markings that appear on general use receptacles, and also include Hospital Grade” or “Hosp. Grade”, typically on the back of the receptacle where visible during installation. A Green Dot is provided on the receptacle face where it is visible after installation with a cover plate secured.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,625 Posts
Great writeup. The only thing I can add is: think about this when you decide to add an extension cord or two (or earlier today, someone decided to try a 100' cord - that's an electrical fire just waiting to happen). Bottom line, don't do it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,675 Posts
Couple of things: First, any new construction garage or outdoor receptacle must be GFCI protected. GFCIs have been been required by the NEC (National Electrical Code) for the last several decades. However as new editions of the NEC were published, the places where they are required have gradually increased. Don't replace a GFCI receptacle with a non-GFCI receptacle.

"Spec grade" receptacles include commercial, industrial, and hospital grades. Any should be fine. They have more "wipes" for better contact with plug blades, and much heavier duty construction built for constant plugging/unplugging. Even their version of backstabs use screws to tighten plates firmly against the wires - rather than the blade in your photo. Just say "no" to cheapo "residential" grade.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,340 Posts
Couple of things: First, any new construction garage or outdoor receptacle must be GFCI protected. GFCIs have been been required by the NEC (National Electrical Code) for the last several decades. However as new editions of the NEC were published, the places where they are required have gradually increased. Don't replace a GFCI receptacle with a non-GFCI receptacle.
Unless that section of the NEC has changed in the past few months, there are some exceptions in a garage. If it's relatively inaccessible, like on the ceiling for a garage door opener or hanging lights, or if it's higher up on the wall and behind an appliance like a refrigerator or HVAC unit, it doesn't need a GFCI outlet. But yes, for the most part, GFCI outlets or outlets that have GFCI breakers protecting them, is required.


Also, one thing I would add is that if the user is unplugging and plugging in the EVSE, several times a week, it's good to replace the outlet every year or two. Also, it's advised to test GFCI outlets every month (who does that!?!?) and they should be replaced at most, every ten years.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,172 Posts
Couple of things: First, any new construction garage or outdoor receptacle must be GFCI protected. GFCIs have been been required by the NEC (National Electrical Code) for the last several decades. However as new editions of the NEC were published, the places where they are required have gradually increased. Don't replace a GFCI receptacle with a non-GFCI receptacle.

"Spec grade" receptacles include commercial, industrial, and hospital grades. Any should be fine. They have more "wipes" for better contact with plug blades, and much heavier duty construction built for constant plugging/unplugging. Even their version of backstabs use screws to tighten plates firmly against the wires - rather than the blade in your photo. Just say "no" to cheapo "residential" grade.
When I remodeled my home a couple of years ago we replaced all the outlets. I went with the better quality outlets and used the screw connectors. Those stupid plug the wire in connectors are also very difficult to disconnect. Better connection on the screw and you can visually verify you have a good connection.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
312 Posts
I just bought a brand new house built in 2016. Every outlet in the place is GFCI. The new fridge tripped the GFCI immediately and the garage door opener tripped it regularly. As each of these dumb GFCI trips I replace them with a quality NON GFCI breaker or outlet as necessary. Eventually I'll have the majority of the outlets upgraded to reliable NON GFCI. Having these near water sources is acceptable. Everywhere else is just dumb.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,089 Posts
Lot's of good info, and kudos to the images! I've never seen the inside of one of those back stab outlets before.

Couple minor issues though:
1: I don't believe you would be able to see 880W of resistance heat in the outlet. The EVSE would fault out for low voltage at much lower than that. It is still a significant amount of heat though!

2: You didn't mention screw clamp Back Wired outlets. Back Wired outlets are different than Back Stabbed outlets.

3: The price of an outlet doesn't necessarily mean it's any better. I buy the Spec-Grade outlets from HD, and they are less than $10 if you don't get the TR types. And a $10 GFCI outlet certainly isn't going to be up to par!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,359 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
<snip>Couple minor issues though:
1: I don't believe you would be able to see 880W of resistance heat in the outlet. The EVSE would fault out for low voltage at much lower than that. It is still a significant amount of heat though!
I agree, probably not, I was mostly trying to make the point that we're talking about the potential for more than a little heat when poor connections cause resistance.

2: You didn't mention screw clamp Back Wired outlets. Back Wired outlets are different than Back Stabbed outlets.
totally forgot them.

3: The price of an outlet doesn't necessarily mean it's any better. I buy the Spec-Grade outlets from HD, and they are less than $10 if you don't get the TR types. And a $10 GFCI outlet certainly isn't going to be up to par!
True, I was mostly just trying to make the point that super-cheap outlets just aren't going to cut it for a continuous draw application.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,625 Posts
When I remodeled my home a couple of years ago we replaced all the outlets. I went with the better quality outlets and used the screw connectors. Those stupid plug the wire in connectors are also very difficult to disconnect. Better connection on the screw and you can visually verify you have a good connection.
Actually they are very easy to get out. Near the hole where the wire is fed into the outlet, there is a small rectangular hole. Stuck a small screwdriver into that hole and it bends the metal part that is gripping your wire and it will pop out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,625 Posts
I just bought a brand new house built in 2016. Every outlet in the place is GFCI. The new fridge tripped the GFCI immediately and the garage door opener tripped it regularly. As each of these dumb GFCI trips I replace them with a quality NON GFCI breaker or outlet as necessary. Eventually I'll have the majority of the outlets upgraded to reliable NON GFCI. Having these near water sources is acceptable. Everywhere else is just dumb.
That seems silly that they installed GFCI in each outlet. In my house it seems like there is one GFCI in a strand of regular outlets on the same breaker. So if there is a ground fault on any of the outlets, the GFCI outlet pops.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,359 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
PSA Thread bump for the season since a few people have been asking about home charging.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,429 Posts
All good information but if you are going to call in an electrician anyway you should just have him run a 240V line and install a Level 2 EVSE. Having a permanently installed EVSE is a huge convenience and having a Level 2 reduces the charge time to 4.5 hours. A ClipperCreek HCS40 costs less than $600, my electrician charged me $375 to run a line and hook it up. It's money well spent plus when it comes time to replace the Volt with a BEV you will already have the EVSE.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
605 Posts
Thank you for bumping this thread! Now I have got to get out in my garage and check the receptacle I'm using! I didn't even think about checking to see if it is the stab type.

Mike
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,359 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
All good information but if you are going to call in an electrician anyway you should just have him run a 240V line and install a Level 2 EVSE. Having a permanently installed EVSE is a huge convenience and having a Level 2 reduces the charge time to 4.5 hours. A ClipperCreek HCS40 costs less than $600, my electrician charged me $375 to run a line and hook it up. It's money well spent plus when it comes time to replace the Volt with a BEV you will already have the EVSE.
In general I agree with you, but some folks are in rentals or other situations where that isn't an option, but they should STILL do the basic checks to make sure their electrical setup is safe for EV charging.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,359 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Bump, for safety.
And remember to check your smoke detectors folks :)
 
F

·
Guest
Joined
·
0 Posts
Maybe it's just me but it's not rocket science. I added a 240 volt subpanel in the garage to provide 240V for my compressor and wall oven (powder coating and high heat paint products), welder and 4 lines going back into the house in lower floor for dedicated freezer, dedicated electrical fireplace and lots of plugs, a fan, supply to gas fireplace etc. Get yourself a current electrical code book (the laws are always being upgraded) for your jurisdiction, any situation not covered you can ask your electrical inspector ahead of time (I must have asked him a half dozen questions on things the book didn't cover), he was always happy to go ever it with me. $139 got me an inspection before covering, final inspection (both which passed). The push in outlets came about in the late 60's/early 70's when houses where using aluminum wiring because of the increase in copper pricing at the time. Aluminum doesn't decompress like copper so if you used the screws the connection would work loose resulting in sparking, they should be pushed into the holes. Copper wire should use the screws.
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Top