With so many rechargeable devices in the market today, electric chargers are everywhere. In fact, you probably have a phone charger sitting nearby. But simple chargers like the ones used on mobile devices are just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, there are hundreds of different types of chargers used for all sorts of devices.
Unfortunately, we can’t cover every charger type because, quite frankly, it would get pretty boring. But we did manage to put together a list of seven common charger types. You are likely to find some lying around your home. Bear in mind that some chargers are for special purposes, like EVs or even digital cameras. So, let’s jump in, shall we?
The most popular type of electric charger you will run into today is the USB charger. Most of these are pretty simple, consisting of a small block that takes 120V AC power from your home and turns it into a low-voltage DC output that your phone or mobile device accepts.
The standard output from a USB charger is 5V at 1 amp for a total of 5 watts, roughly the same amount of power from a computer USB port. Low-watt chargers are sufficient for most USB devices, like phones with smaller batteries. However, larger devices like tablets can charge for many hours with these small power bricks.
The solution is larger charging blocks that commonly provide 10 to 12 watts of power. They still output at 5V but up the amperage to 2 amps. Another charging method that is quickly growing in popularity is wireless charging mats. They work with specific devices and prevent the need for plugging in and unplugging a cord to charge. This lessens the wear on the charging port and is also convenient.
A great thing about traditional USB chargers is just how flexible they are. Instead of being stuck with a model-specific power cord attached to a wall charger, you can disconnect the wire from the USB charger. This brings us to another USB charger variation, the car charger. All you need is a 12V car adapter, and you can plug your USB cable into a vehicle to charge a phone.
AC to DC
Sticking to the topic of phone and device chargers, the AC to DC charger still remains one of the most common. In fact, USB chargers are technically AC to DC chargers. But we are referring to those big blocks that you plug into an outlet. They usually have a thin cord that connects to an actual device via a small round plug.
These large blocks are actually voltage rectifiers that take the 120V AC power from your home and turn it into various different types of DC power. The difference between these larger chargers and the USB type is that these tend to provide more wattage. So, manufacturers design them to work with a specific device.
A common use for these chargers is kids’ toys that utilize integrated batteries. However, the AC to DC power blocks can work with devices that don’t even have batteries. The reason? Nearly all modern electronics utilize DC power rather than AC. Even devices that don’t use an AC to DC power block usually have an internal rectifier.
Most gadgets like remotes and flashlights use dry-cell batteries. But there are also rechargeable versions of these batteries. Before the days of lithium-ion batteries, consumers were pretty much stuck with cheap disposables. Besides the major problem of waste, they didn’t last long at all.
In the early 2000s, digital cameras were gaining popularity, and game controllers were becoming wireless. Unfortunately, you couldn’t use these power-intensive devices with disposable batteries for over an hour. That is where the AA and AAA rechargeable come in. Being able to put standard-sized rechargeable batteries in any device was a game changer.
Other battery sizes like C and D are also available as rechargeables. Additionally, battery technology has gotten substantially cheaper, so it isn’t a big deal for companies to use rechargeable battery packs. Additionally, disposable batteries also last much longer. While most devices today have built-in batteries, you can still get rechargeable ones if needed.
An automotive charger takes household AC power and converts it into DC power to charge a battery. It shares some basic similarities with other charger types but most closely mimics the way AA and AAA battery chargers operate. This is because many devices, like computers, have sensors and relays inside that stop the flow of power once the battery is fully charged.
A car battery is much different because you connect leads from an automotive charger to it directly. So, the vehicle has no way of regulating power flow. Most automotive battery chargers are some form of box with buttons. They feature a digital display that lets you choose the type and size of the battery to charge.
They also have two leads, as mentioned, that clamp onto the battery posts. Another cable plugs into the wall to supply power. Inside the charger are sensors that can tell when a battery is fully charged and tell a relay inside to stop charging. These chargers come in all different sizes, with larger ones being able to jump-start a car without waiting for the battery actually to charge.
EV chargers are very different from conventional automotive chargers. While the average driver may use an automotive charger once in a few years, EV drivers use theirs daily or weekly. With electric cars growing in popularity, demand for these special chargers is surging. And with this comes the confusion over the different options.
An electric car charger works like nearly every other on this list. It takes AC power and converts it to DC, which then goes into your car’s battery. The only exception is DC fast charge, which is only available at select charging stations. These DC charging stations are commonly referred to as level 3 chargers, and they provide an insanely fast charge but at a high price.
A more common EV charger you’ll encounter is the level 1 charger which essentially uses a home outlet to charge your car. However, this provides a horrifically slow charge of only a couple of miles per hour. Of course, it’s pretty easy to find a 120V outlet, and it allows you to charge at home if you don’t have a level 2 charger installed.
The level 2 charger is a major step up But best of all; you can get one installed at your house. These chargers run on 240V of power and deliver much faster charging speeds, usually around 20 miles per hour. Level 2 chargers are also found at charging stations when you travel. Even charging stations with DC fast charging usually offer level 2 charging at a lower price.
We can’t talk about EV chargers without going over the complexity of charger types. There are four commonly used chargers, including the proprietary Tesla charger, the J1772, the CHAdeMO, and the CCS. The CCS is just a J1772 with a fast charging port. Additionally, CHAdeMO is used by Japanese manufacturers and is slowly being phased out in the US in favor of the CCS.
Moving away from basic chargers, you may also own specialty chargers. For instance, computer camera batteries usually fit into a nice little cradle that charges them. The downside with these chargers is they only work with one type of battery.
For instance, Nikon has batteries for their cameras, and these won’t fit in a Canon camera. Manufacturers will often lock you into a battery line as it also helps lessen the likelihood that an aftermarket company makes a battery. But what really solidifies this is when they use different batteries in the same product line.
To stick with Nikon, the batteries that fit in their Coolpix won’t fit in their DSLR models. Besides the financial incentive, they want to provide professionals with longer-lasting batteries. Video cameras often suffer the same problem. Today cameras have gone out of fashion, thanks largely to smartphones. However, professional photographers and videographers still require chargers.
Power Tool Chargers
Power tools also use specialty chargers, which usually consist of a removable battery that pops out of the tool and into a charger. Most power tools use 20-volt peak batteries, which end up being about 18 volts of nominal power. In a race to have the most powerful tool, companies started claiming they use 20-volt batteries, but in reality, they provide the same amount of power.
There are also smaller batteries, such as 12-volt ones, which are perfect for homeowners and less demanding tasks. Then for larger tools, there are larger options like 40-volts and 80-volts, which are commonly used for outdoor power tools. Advancements in battery technology made large power tools like riding mowers possible.
Most common power tool chargers work like AA and AAA battery chargers. A plastic battery pack inside the charger converts AC power into DC power, then sends it to the battery pack. Once fully charged, the charger stops delivering power to the pack. Power tool batteries also have varying amperage, which provides extended tool runtime.
Another specialty charger that you are most likely to encounter is the laptop charger. While it may fall into one of the above categories, such as USB or AC to DC, it is good we cover it separately. Laptops traditionally used AC to DC charging cables with large blocks in the middle.
Some manufacturers moved the voltage rectifier to the end of the charger, where it plugs into the wall, making it the same as other AC to DC chargers. Either way, the other end of the cable typically uses a standard round DC charging connector. Unfortunately, with repeated connections, the charge port can eventually wear out, or the wire can get frayed.
Although a failed laptop charging port is uncommon, some manufacturers choose to go with other options. Newer USB-C ports on laptops like MacBooks can serve multiple functions, including charging the computer. But arguably, the best charger is Apple MagSafe. The charger is held to the port magnetically to prevent creating a failure point. It also prevents tripping and yanking the cord out.
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