Vaping Basics – Inside Your Vape Device
While a simple concept in essence, there is an astounding amount of technology that can be applied when creating an e-cigarette. The staggering variety of devices on the market demonstrates the technical diversity of the industry, with each innovation and feature evolving in response to consumer demands.
As the vaping phenomenon continues to develop, its technology has become more refined with each generation. In order to help you make an informed decision about how to start your vaping journey, or just to give you a chance to expand your e-cigarette knowledge; we would like to take you through the basic components shared by most e-cigarettes on the market today.
The Main Components of an E-Cigarette
Regardless of the factors influencing your decision when choosing the right device, understanding the key components shared by most devices, regardless of type, can make the process far easier and empower you to make a more informed purchase. Typically, they are comprised of 3 key elements – A tank or pod, a battery, and a coil. There are however many nuances and features to each of these which can dramatically change the way a device performs.
Tanks – What are they and how do they work?
Tanks are a key part of all vaping devices with the exception of those that use pods. Tanks are the vessel that contains the e-liquid when filled, also housing the coil that heats said liquid to produce the vapour we inhale. They are comprised of multiple parts which can typically be taken apart for cleaning or maintenance purposes.
Tank Construction – The Body
- A reinforced glass or plastic section forms the body and allows the user to view their liquid level, alerting them when it needs a top-up.
- From this middle-section the e-liquid absorbs into wicking points on the coil which then allows it to be heated and aerosolised into the vapour we inhale.
Tank Construction – The Base
- The bottom section, typically features a threaded head (most commonly described as being in a 510 format – but there are rare exceptions) which allows the tank to be screwed onto a power source connecting two copper contact plates that allows an electrical current to pass from the battery into the tank to produce the heat that creates the vapour.
- The coil heated by this current is often fitted to this bottom section of the tank.
- If a feature of the device, sliding parts that allow the user to open-up or close-off the rate of airflow through the device when inhaling are also most commonly found on the bottom section of the tank, however this is not universal.
Tank Construction – The Tip
- The top section typically features the mouthpiece, which in some cases can be interchanged/replaced if damaged, this is where the user will inhale the vapour.
- Alongside the mouthpiece the top section also tends to feature the filling port for the tank, allowing the user to fill with e-liquid of their choice.
- Filling ports come in a variety of styles, from more complex button operated systems that pop or slide open to those that simply require you to unscrew the top section altogether to refill.
The Complete Tank
- These components all attach to each other, using silicone o-rings to create seals at adjoining points, to form a typical vaping tank which can then be attached to an appropriate battery to create a functioning e-cigarette.
- When combined with devices which feature adjustable power output, tanks offer the most versatility when it comes to user preference, as most models will feature a range of different compatible coils suited to different styles of vaping and e-liquid types.
- This means a user could theoretically utilise the same tank at multiple stages of their vaping journey by simply adjusting the coil and e-liquid to their given taste.
Pods – What are they and how do they work?
Pods function in the same way as tanks – they are a vessel that holds e-liquid and an absorbent coil, attached to a battery which uses an electrical current to heat the coil and produce vapour to inhale. They differ from tanks in a number of ways however that make them better suited to specific lifestyles, particularly those focussed on convenience and portability.
Pod Construction - Connectors
- Rather than being screwed onto a battery with a threaded pin, pods typically use magnetic connectors.
- This allows for rapid swapping thanks to a simple click-and-go design.
- They still utilise copper or similarly conductive metallic contact plates to complete the circuit necessary for the device to function, however they can look a little different to those found on their tank-based counterparts.
Pod Construction – A Seamless Unit
- As opposed to multiple segments, pods are usually one seamless unit, most commonly made of durable plastic. This reduces the risk of leaking and makes silicone seals largely redundant.
- This however often prevents the user from cleaning the pod internally and therefore can potentially reduce the useable lifespan, making them more readily disposable than tanks.
Pod Construction – Disposable Vs Refillable
Pods are divided into two main types: disposable and refillable. Deciding which type is best for you will be determined not only by your lifestyle but potentially also by your environmental perspective.
- Some companies choose to offer multipacks of pre-filled, single-use pods like the EDGE GO range.
- These examples are considered the most convenient format, as they require almost no maintenance from the user.
- They feature a built-in coil and are designed to be used until depleted, then disposed of responsibly. Maximising convenience but creating more waste.
- Refillable pods are slightly different and are most commonly found as a part of “pod-mod” vaping kits, which we will expand on below.
- This variety of pod offers a longer lifespan than disposables, as once the liquid within is depleted it can be refilled multiple times until the coil itself has reached the end of its own lifespan, reducing waste.
Pod Devices – Why have they become popular?
Pods have become one of the most popular vaping platforms for people to engage with as they typically have a lower cost than other devices, tend to be more compact and versatile for an active and diverse lifestyle, and offer effortless maintenance.
Flavour swaps can be achieved in seconds without having to dismantle and clean a tank, by simply popping in another pod of your choice. In the case of refillable pods, these combine the best elements of both pod and tank vaping, with the majority of the best-selling devices now featuring refillable pods with interchangeable coils to suit all tastes and are looking set to be the next evolution in contemporary vaping.
Tanks have begun to lose their dominance and share of market, being increasingly perceived as an over-complicated thing of the past. With that said, depending on your own goals and preferences, there are still many potential benefits to either approach.
Vape Coils – What are they and how do they work?
Arguably the most pivotal component in any e-cigarette, the coil is the element that generates heat to convert e-liquid into the aerosolised vapour that we inhale. At its simplest a coil is a spool of special wire, tightly wound around cotton or similar absorbent wicking material, housed within a metal casing that allows for it to be slotted or screwed into a tank or pod.
Coil Construction – Wicking ports
The coil casing will have wicking ports – holes that allow the e-liquid in the tank or pod to soak into the wicking material.
These holes vary in size depending on the intended e-liquid the coil is optimised for, 50/50 coils being smaller and those suited for HVG liquids being bigger.
Coil Construction - Understanding Ohms
- The most important aspect of your coil to understand is its ohm rating. Ohms are the unit of measurement for the resistance of the wire when an electrical current is passed through it.
- In vaping terms this translates to MTL (mouth-to-lung) style coils which feature an ohm rating of 1.0 or higher, optimised for use with 50/50 style liquids, catering to higher nicotine options.
- DTL (direct-to-lung) style “sub-ohm” coils, are so-called due to them having a resistance of below 1.0ohm i.e. 0.9ohm or under. Sub-ohm coils are specifically designed to be used with thicker HVG e-liquids in higher-powered devices where the nicotine level tends to only go as high as 6mg.
Identifying Your Coil Type
- Most coils will have an ohm rating printed on their housing. This allows you to quickly assess the type of e-liquid it is suited to.
- If it is 1.0ohm or higher, with smaller wicking ports then it is better suited to 50/50 e-liquid.
- If it’s below 1.0ohm with large wicking ports, then it is intended for HVG e-liquid.
- Using thinner 50-50 style e-liquid with a sub-ohm coil can lead to over-absorption due to the thinner liquid flooding into the coil through the larger holes.
- Conversely, using thicker HVG vape liquid such as EDGE Base with a coil intended for 50/50 can lead to under-absorption due to the thick juice struggling to saturate the wicking material because of the smaller holes.
- In either case these negatives will detract from your vaping experience, so take care to ensure your e-liquid, coil and device are all properly unified and aligned to your needs.
Coil Construction - Lifespan
- Coils have a finite lifespan; both the wicking material and metal wire will degrade over time and with regular use – this is perfectly normal.
- Coils reaching the end of their life will give you signs that indicate it may be time to replace – dry burn and flooding from degraded wicking material, uneven hotspots through damaged wire and build-up of burnt material all negatively impact the performance of the coil and ultimately your enjoyment of the product.
- Regularly changing your coil is recommended for optimised performance regardless of your device, especially when using HVG e-liquids which feature increased levels of sweetener or artificial colours, which degrade the coil faster than simpler, cleaner vape liquids.
Coil Construction – Mesh tech and wire alloy
- Advances in coil manufacturing technology work to expand their capability and increase their lifespan. Mesh coils as an example utilise a grid-like arrangement of wire instead of a traditionally coiled design, which allows for more efficient heating and ultimately longer life.
- The alloy the coil wire is made from can also impact performance, with different varieties being employed for different intended uses.
- For example, Kanthal wire is better suited to high power sub-ohm devices due to its higher temperature resistances and melting point - allowing it to endure the more extreme heat created from high-wattage batteries, lasting longer and producing bigger clouds of vapour favoured by HVG users.
- Comparatively, Nicke-Chrome alloy wire is better suited to lower-powered devices intended for 50-50 e-liquid and MTL vaping. This is because it has a naturally lower maximum operating temperature than Kanthal, but arguably has a better impact on flavour delivery – which is more important in MTL style devices as it can help to enhance the vaping experience despite a smaller amount of vapour being produced and inhaled.
- Sub-ohm devices do not need to consider this as much due to the larger volume of vapour, and in-turn flavour that the user is inhaling, making the flavour seem bolder by default.
Variable Airflow – What is it and how does it work?
Variable airflow is a common feature across many device platforms, with the exception of smaller pod devices which tend to have a pre-set airflow that cannot be adjusted due to their simpler, streamlined construction. Where present, variable airflow is essentially a mechanic that allows the user to set the resistance of their draw when inhaling through a vaping device.
Variable Airflow – Understanding MTL & DTL style vaping
- The amount of restriction to the airflow determines whether a device is to be used in one of two styles: mouth-to-lung (MTL) or direct-to-lung (DTL).
- MTL vaping emulates a cigarette style of inhalation, whereby the user would inhale first into the mouth, before inhaling deeply into the lungs before exhale. Tighter, more restricted airflow naturally lends itself to this and is optimised for 50-50 e-liquids like the EDGE core collection, particularly those with higher strengths.
- DTL vaping is more exclusively enjoyed by sub-ohm users and requires a much more open and unrestricted airflow, allowing the user to inhale deeply and directly into the lungs which is a more natural way to ensure a smooth experience when inhaling large clouds typical of HVG juice like EDGE Max.
- The most modular devices will feature variable airflow alongside variable wattage, allowing them to be adapted for different vaping styles and e-liquid preferences.
Vape Batteries – What are they and how do they work?
E-cig batteries are the power source which generates the electrical current which heats the coil in the tank or pod, vaporising the e-liquid. Without them the device simply will not function making them a cornerstone of any vape kit.
- They come in all shapes and sizes depending on the device chosen – with their power output measure in Milliamp hours or mAh.
- The higher the mAh rating, the more powerful and longer lasting the battery.
- The largest high-mAh batteries are typically reserved for sub-ohm devices where their increased output is needed to heat the thicker e-liquid effectively.
- Smaller, MTL style devices can get away with smaller batteries, which in-turn means they benefit from more compact designs.
- Some devices will feature in-built batteries that can be charged directly through the device itself, whereas others require external charge-banks to recharge – these however are typically reserved for devices more aligned to hobbyist vaping than those looking for a simple and discreet nicotine delivery method.
Variable Wattage – What is it and how does it work?
The output of most e-cigarettes is measured in watts – this has become the understood method of describing the “power” of their device. While not a feature present across all device platforms, many kits, particularly those suited for sub-ohm use and those intended for more advanced users, grant you the ability to increase or decrease the wattage of the device, allowing optimisation of the vaping experience in-line with the user’s preferences.
- Where variable wattage is available, users should take care to align their wattage to their coil resistance.
- Sub-ohm coils will require and can endure a far higher wattage output than those with a rating above 1.0ohm to achieve optimum performance.
- For example, a coil with a 0.15ohm rating could take anywhere from 70 to 110 watts to perform at their best, whereas a 1.2ohm coil will only require around 15-30 watts depending on the user preference.
- Setting the watts too low for your coil will result in under-performance, limited vapour production and poor flavour delivery.
- Conversely setting the watts too high will result in over-heating, increase risk of dry burn and will ultimately destroy the coil, rendering it useless and dramatically impacting our vaping experience.
Variable Wattage – Automatic Adjustment
- While variable wattage is a feature enjoyed by many, those seeking a simple everyday vaping platform will often gravitate towards devices with pre-set interfaces that don’t invite the complication of aligning the ohms, watts and airflow.
- The most contemporary devices, even those with adjustable wattage, often come with a built-in ability to detect the resistance of a coil when attached to the battery unit and automatically adjust the wattage accordingly.
- Many devices also adjust the wattage output according to battery level, reducing it despite user preference when the battery is depleted to ensure the user can get as much use as possible between charges.
We hope this breakdown helps you to understand more about how vaping devices work, and which of their features appeal to you. Remembering the basics will dramatically increase the chances of success on your vaping journey, be it through understanding more about the device you own, or in choosing the correct way to start said journey.