Vaporizers & Vaping

Convection vs. Conduction Vaporizer: What’s The Difference?

Gabi Antunes

Aug 5, 2019

A quick review of vaporization terminology, and you may think you were cooking a Thanksgiving feast or baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Terms like “convection heating” and “conduction heating” are frequent topics when discussing vaporizers, key terms that apply equally to your cooking session as they do your vaping session.

Convection heating and conduction heating may be closely associated with the kitchen, but those principles translate directly into the vaping experience. These heating methods directly impact how your vaporizer releases essential compounds in your cannabis material or concentrate. The vast majority of vapes heat materials using one of these two methods, and once in a blue moon, a combination of both. How those heating methods impact your materials is an important factor to take into account while researching, and shopping for, vaporizers of all shapes and sizes.

An introduction to how vaporizers work

The modern electronic vaporizer has a decadeslong, storied history, with new and innovative technologies coming out every year. For all the exciting features hitting the market, the basic vaporizing principle essentially remains the same.

Unlike their combusting counterparts, vaporizers heat materials just enough to release their compounds as vapor. For example, THC in cannabis is released at approximately 315° Fahrenheit, and CBD found in cannabis or industrial hemp is released at around 365° Fahrenheit or lower. Combustion, on the other hand, can get as hot as 2,000° Fahrenheit, well beyond the temperature needed to release compounds.

In a vaporizer, a rechargeable battery or AC power provides electricity to the heating element inside the device. The heating element warms the cannabis material, either directly or indirectly, to the selected or preset temperature. This converts the material’s compounds into vapor. Once ready, consumers raise the mouthpiece to their lips and inhale.

More consumers are turning to vaporization because it doesn’t generate the same byproducts as combustion. Incomplete combustion, which occurs whenever a fire is lit and materials are burned, sends leftover, unburned particles into the air. This is what makes up the thick, smelly smoke that emits from fires. Since vapor converts the material from its liquid or solid state into gas instead of combusting the material, no smoke or noxious byproducts are created.

Vaporizers use convection heating or conduction heating, and sometimes a combination of both methods, to bring your materials to temperature. What do those processes look like, and what are the advantages or disadvantages of each?

How convection heating works

Convection heating operates under the principle that heat transfers through a medium such as steam or vapor, which is considered a liquid. The vapor is responsible for the transfer of heat to the object to be warmed.

In a convection vaporizer, this is achieved by allowing for ample space for air circulation. Pack the oven with finely-ground herb material or concentrates. Turn on the vaporizer and select the temperature according to your device’s instructions. At no point do the materials and the heating element come into contact with one another.

Benefits of convection heating

  • No combustion risk: Convection vaporizers pose no risk of combustion. After all, this heating method doesn’t require any contact between the heating element and the material. If there’s no contact, there’s no chance of combustion.
  • Even heating every time: Since the materials are surrounded by the circulating air, the dry herbs or concentrates will be heated evenly throughout. This ensures the longevity of your material and produces a cleaner-tasting vapor.

Drawbacks of convection heating

  • Temperature control isn’t exact. It’s difficult to control the exact temperature of the air once it begins to flow. Air naturally cools as it moves around. While it means that the vapor will be pleasantly warm once it reaches your lips, it also means that the temperature has changed by several degrees by the time you inhale.
  • Slow heat-up times. While some conduction vaporizers can heat up in just a few seconds, or even instantly in some cases, convection heating takes several minutes to reach the right temperature.

How conduction heating works

Conduction heating involves the material’s direct contact with the heating surface. This direct contact transfers heat, warming the materials inside. Just like browning meat in a pan, the direct contact of a hot surface tuned to the right temperature heats the herbs and generates a vapor.

In a conduction vaporizer, this is achieved through an oven or chamber built in to the device. The chamber is typically constructed of stainless steel or another material that serves as a good heat conductor. Fill the chamber with finely-ground herb material or concentrates. Once the vaporizer is turned on and the materials are warmed, a vapor is released. This vapor travels up the vapor path and to the mouthpiece for consumption.

A good conduction vaporizer depends greatly on the size and shape of the oven. Proper, even heating is essential to generating flavorful vapor and extending the life of your material. Your vaporizer needs to be shaped in a way that maximizes surface area and evenly heats the material inside. Look for a vape, such as the PAX 3, designed with a long and narrow oven that maximizes the amount of material that touches the oven’s walls.

Benefits of conduction heating

  • More precise temperature control: Controlling the temperature of flowing air isn’t exactly easy, as air temperature is not being controlled as it flows. A conduction vaporizer is more reliable for precise temperature control because when the heat transfer With a conduction vaporizer, precision temperature control is more accurate and more attainable.
  • Fast heat-up times: Many conduction vapes only need a few seconds to heat up. Some can even heat instantly. For example, PAX 3 heats in an average of 22 seconds.

Drawbacks of conduction heating

  • Deplete material quickly: Some conduction vaporizers left on for too long or turned too high can burn through the material. This can result in a bitter-tasting vapor and faster use of the materials.
  • Uneven heating: Poorly-designed ovens that don’t maximize contact with the materials can result in uneven heating. This means that certain portions of your material may be used up before the rest, resulting in a bitter-tasting vapor.

Is one type of vaporization better than the other?

There’s no one factor that makes conduction vaporizers superior to convection vaporizers or vice-versa. Much of your decision will be based on personal preference. You may prefer the quick heating and precise temperature control of a conduction vaporizer, or you may gravitate toward convection heating because you value the even heating. No matter which you choose, conduction vapes and convection vapes deliver quality vapor without the bitter taste of combustion.