95%+ of Level 1 chargers work on 15A circuits but Canadian Electrical code mandates receptacles that are marked to used for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) need to be on a 20A breaker!
Background Information (skip if you are a pro):
15A receptacle or outlet, which is the most common type of an outlet, is shaped like this:
20A outlet is shaped a little differently. You may find a outlet like this in your kitchen.
The difference is that perpendicular line. In turn, plugs for devices that can draw more than 15A also have a difference shape.
15A plug, nema 5-15
20A plug, nema 5-20
The shape of the plug is different so to avoid the possibility of inserting a 20A device into a 15A circuit which could cause the breaker to trip. Notice that a 15A device can still plug into a 20A circuit without problem, 20A outlets can take both shapes (mind blown).
Level 1 Supply Equipment
Our team has never seen a certified Level 1 EVSE with a 15A plug that draws more than 12A. Therefore technically speaking your standard Level 1 charger can be easily plugged into a 15A outlet.
The best example is the Tesla mobile charger that comes standard with any Tesla vehicle. As the user manual indicates, the 5-15 adapter which is the default one (for 15A outlets) only draws MAX of 12A. The 5-20 adapter (for 20A outlets), which has to be purchased separately, goes up to 16A.
NOTE: By design the 5-20 adapter will NEVER fit in a 15A outlet.
If you are intending to buy an extra Level 1 charger (other than the one that comes with your electric vehicle), be sure to read the certifications on the back to make sure they are legit. BE AWARE of the chargers on the market that don't have proper certifications. One bad example is this charger, that is advertised as a Level 1 charger but the specifications are totally fraud. You must NEVER plug a 16 Amp charger into a nema 5-15, 15A outlet, the breaker will trip in a matter of seconds.
Can I replace an existing 15A outlet with Plugzio 15A as a retrofit?
Absolutely, when the outlet is used as a multi purpose outlet then a 15A outlet can easily be replaced with another 15A outlet (such as Plugzio which is certified as a smart outlet). Multi purpose outlets are regular outlets in garages that can be used for all purposes such as vacuum cleaning or charging electric devices.
This is an example of a description of work submitted to the Technical Safety BC.
Is there a risk of fire when connecting to a 15A outlet?
Again, something we have never seen but your electrician is the best person to answer this question. In general, there are two ways to test the reliability of an outlet:
- The blow-dryer test: Connect a high heat blow-dryer (the back label power number should be higher than 1500W) to an outlet you want to use for charging and keep the blow dryer on for 30 min. If the breaker trips, that outlet should be crossed OFF the list.
- Electrician test: The reliability of a circuit very much depends on the length and the type of wire (gauge) connected to the outlet from the inside. A good electrician can open the outlet and look at the gauge of the wire behind it, if the wire is a 12ga or lower, the chance of it heating up is very low. Here is a chart for the experts:
Even though retrofitting an existing 15A outlet is quite possible for multi purpose usage but if the the outlet is labeled to be solely used by an electric Vehicle the Canadian electrical code mandates that the outlet must be on a dedicated 20A breaker.
Here is the exact wording of the electrical code:
We are still struggling to understand why the code is written this way. The most logical reason we could come up with was that the data allows the utility company to know how many users are charging their vehicles to be able to more accurately anticipate load in future upgrades. This is the best description from one of our supporters "Most electrical loads have some diversity to them (cycle on and off), but EV charging is a continuous draw, often for many hours. The weak link in the distribution chain is at the transformer on the street, which is historically sized taking load diversity into account. Primary feeder capacity is not generally an issue, and the service conductors coming into the home are also not an issue as they are (or should be) sized to the maximum capacity of the home's main disconnect. Utilities are really thrilled to have these new loads (they do represent revenue, after all) and would like to proactively make sure that the capacity exists to supply them. Nobody wins if distribution transformers fail. It's inconvenient for the affected customers, and costs the utility money in damaged equipment. I can utilize my smart meter network to create virtual meter points at transformers to watch for overloads, but by that time, it may be too late. Ideally, I can change that transformer in anticipation of the load and avoid failures and service interruptions."