Vaporizers & Vaping

Parts of a Vape Explained

Gabi Antunes

Aug 2, 2019

Vaporizers are electronic devices used to heat cannabis materials to their boiling points, producing a cloud of vapor that can be inhaled through a mouthpiece. At first glance, vaporizers might seem complex, with a dizzying array of components that vary from vape to vape. In reality, vaporizers are relatively simple when broken down to their constituent parts. To understand the vaporizer as a whole, it is useful to analyze each piece that makes up the entire device.

Reviewing the vape battery

The battery is typically the largest component of a portable or pen-style vaporizer, making up the bulk of the device. They are often built into the device, but select models have removable batteries. The battery is critical for proper functioning, as it powers the heating element that warms and ultimately vaporizes your cannabis material. Batteries should always be charged before use, and they should be cared for according to the device’s manual.

Depending on the type of vaporizer you select, your battery might have a button or an LED panel on it. Some batteries feature nothing more than an indicator light and are controlled instead by taps, shakes, and draws on the mouthpiece. Batteries range in their output, lifespan, and charging time, so it’s important to analyze each of those factors while choosing which vaporizer is best for you.

Examining the heating element

Heating elements are powered by the vaporizer’s battery and do the actual work of warming your chosen cannabis material to its vaporizing point. Often, heating elements are small metal coils heated by electricity provided by the battery. In other cases, heating elements run throughout the chamber or oven to surround the material and heat it on all sides.

There are two main heating methods that portable vaporizers employ: conduction heating and convection heating. Conduction heating occurs when material makes physical contact with the heating element. The heat is transferred directly to the cannabis material until it reaches its boiling point. Convection heating relies on the movement of hot air over your cannabis material to vaporize it.

Convection vapes either use a fan or the strength of your draw to force the heated air over your cannabis material. A small number of vapes utilize the induction method, which heats cannabis material via wireless energy transfer, similar to how wireless charging works.

Chamber or oven

Many vaporizers employ a chamber or oven for packing your chosen cannabis material. Generally, the chamber is exposed by unscrewing or uncapping an oven lid. Depending on the vaporizer you choose, the chamber might only support dry herb material or concentrate material. Some vaporizers, like the PAX 3, can support both dry herb and concentrates with the use of a concentrate insert. Chambers vary in size and capacity; some vapes can hold up to 0.5 grams of material, while others hold as little as 0.2 grams. The PAX 3 includes a half-pack oven lid, allowing consumers to reduce the capacity from 0.35 grams to 0.175 grams for shorter sessions and cannabis material conservation.

How the material is heated in the chamber also varies between vape models. Some chambers incorporate the heating element directly, on the bottom of or surrounding the cannabis material. Other vaporizers separate the heating element and the chamber.

Pods or cartridges in place of a chamber or oven

Instead of featuring a chamber or an oven, some vaporizers are compatible with pre-filled pods or cartridges that can be quickly swapped in and out when an old one is depleted. These vapes are generally simple, easy to use, and do not require direct touching of cannabis material.

Unlike concentrate vaporizers with chambers, cartridge vape pens and pod vapes make it easy to load concentrate material without making a mess or requiring regular cleaning after use. And while many are simplistic in their function, some, like the PAX Era, retain advanced features like extensive temperature control, remote device locking, and Bluetooth® connectivity with a mobile application.

It is important to note that cartridge vapes and pod systems are a particular type of vape, meaning pods and cartridges will not be compatible with every vaporizer on the market. Vaporizers that employ a chamber or oven are not compatible with pods or cartridges, and pod vapes or cartridge vapes are not compatible with loose dry herb or concentrate materials. However, many pen-style vapes employ a standard 510-thread connector for use with a standard pen-style battery.

Mouthpiece options

Exactly where a vape’s mouthpiece is located and what it looks like varies from vape to vape. Indeed, some vapes offer a selection of different kinds of mouthpieces, which can help you further customize your session type. For example, the PAX 3 offers flat or raised mouthpieces, which can change the feel of the draw depending on your desired experience. On pod vapes and pre-filled cartridges, the mouthpiece is typically part of the cartridge itself.

A mouthpiece should be comfortable and support enough airflow that you can easily draw the vapor out of your device. Every consumer will have a different definition of what “comfortable” means, so you might have to try a few different mouthpieces before you find the shape and style that is best for you. Vapes like the PAX 3 that offer multiple mouthpieces are the most versatile and help vapers find what is most comfortable for them without trying out multiple devices.

Available charger types

Every battery needs a charger, so vaporizers generally come with one included in the starter kit. The charger type varies between models: some screw into a USB adapter, while other vapes have micro USB ports or magnetic charging bases.

Depending on the charger and the battery, the time it takes to fully charge your vaporizer could vary. Some charge in an hour or less, while others take several hours to reach a full charge. Generally, regardless of the vaporizer you choose, you should fully charge your battery before your first session.

Accessories

Finally, many vaporizers come with an accessories bundle which helps you get the full experience right out of the box. Accessories can upgrade or customize your vaporizer, allow you to personalize the aesthetic of your device, and customize the type of session it produces. Many vapes come with essential items, such as a charger or a cleaning kit, to help you extend the longevity of your vape. Some accessories are completely optional, designed to unlock additional features or expand the range of capabilities, such as material types.

Similar parts, big differences

While most vapes share similar components, the finished products vary greatly from one another. Depending on the capabilities of each component and the way in which they are arranged, different vaporizers can support vastly different session types. Knowing what is inside a vape is an important part of finding a device that’s right for you, and understanding how each of those parts work together is how you can tell if a vape will produce the experience you want. Vaping can be a subjective experience based on personal preference and exploring the options that are available to you, how they can be customized, and the accessories you can add to each device can greatly impact your sessions.