An alternating current or AC charger is a device that plugs into a wall outlet providing electricity to a rechargeable battery, as contained in many portable electronic products. The electricity rejuvenates the battery while allowing the device to be used even if the battery is depleted. The time required to reach a full battery charge depends on the initial state of the battery and several other factors. While lead acid batteries used in vehicles are recharged via AC power, typically the term “AC charger” will be in reference to personal mobile or handheld devices such as laptops, cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), digital music players and digital camera equipment.
Most devices that incorporate a rechargeable battery include an AC charger in the original, retail product package. The above-mentioned products fall into this category. If the charger is lost or fails, it can be replaced. In the case of mobile computers, many people opt to buy a replicate model from the original manufacturer to ensure maximum compatibility and smooth operation. In the case of cell phones and other handheld devices, a third party AC charger made for the device might be cheaper and work just as well. Check the warranty before switching away from the manufacturer’s recommended charger, however, as using an alternate model might void the warranty.
Some PDAs and digital music players come with an AC charger that takes the form of a docking station. Sometimes called a cradle, a docking station serves as a convenient stand that incorporates electrical contacts and a wire that plugs into an AC outlet. By setting the device in the dock or cradle, it automatically recharges the battery. Some docking stations made for digital music players include mini stereo speakers so that the player can be used without headphones. This highly portable setup makes it easy to enjoy your digital music library in the office, home or even in a hotel while traveling.
Since many portable electronics are made to interface with computers, a popular alternative to an AC charger is a USB charger. A USB charger is a cable that connects the device to the computer’s 5-volt USB port, recharging the battery via the computer.
AC chargers are designed to work with particular products and specific models. Voltage differs among chargers, and using the wrong charger can damage a device. If replacing a charger, first check with the manufacturer of the product. You can usually get a replacement online by going to the product’s website. Alternately, you can find many types of AC chargers at your local electronics store.