Introduction To Vaping Basics
This Guide To Vaping is called The Basics of Vaping because it is written for ex-smokers that have already started vaping with ‘cig-a-likes’. Vapers that use cig-a-likes don’t really need to know much about it. Charge and recharge, screw a prefilled cartomizer on, then off, replacing it with a new one. Boom! You’re done. Easy Peasy, right?
Cig-a-like users might very well enjoy the ease of using a 2-piece ‘battery and cartomizer’ setup and may have no need to look beyond that point.
Modern batteries, with either a 510-thread or 808-thread, offer decent battery charges and the prefilled cartomizers can last up to the equivalent of 12-15 analog cigarettes if you vape them similarly to the way you used to smoke tobacco cigarettes.
If you are perfectly happy with your current cig-a-like brand, if you’re enjoying the vape experience, then read no further. But, on the off chance that you’ve outgrown what the cig-a-like can do and need or want something “more”, then proceed… I promise to keep it as basic and easy to understand as possible. Vaping is not something you need to have a degree in, and as much as advanced vapers like to intimidate others that this whole thing is hugely complicated I assure you it is not. It may not be easy to wrap your first coil (don’t worry about that now), it can be learned in a couple of short hours. Let’s start small though, and take it a step at a time…
‘Beyond’ Can Be A 4-letter Word
The Vaping Community beyond the cig-a-likes is huge. The majority of vapers that begin with cig-a-likes move beyond them to larger batteries, tanks and clearomizers after a few months, sometimes less. They find that vaping becomes more than a substitution for smoking tobacco, it becomes as close to a ‘hobby’ as anything else can. In addition, the added amount of control the Vaper has over the vaping experience is a big reason to move beyond the relatively simple cig-a-like. Spinfuel’s The Basics Of Vaping is geared to this type of Vaper. This Vaper makes up the bulk of the Vaping Community.
First Step – Confusion Is Nothing New
There is a tremendous amount of choice when you decide to move up to the next level of vaping. There are literally dozens upon dozens of batteries (called mods, APV’s or PV’s), several tanks configurations, cartomizers, and clearomizers and you can become overwhelmed if you attempt “take it all in” as fast as you can. It pays to have a plan, to learn at a comfortable pace, and to move on to something else only when you are satisfied that you’ve learned all you can, or want, to about the each part. Confusion is nothing new, and you should not feel discouraged when you encounter it.
Step Two – Battery
Arguably the biggest investment you will make at this point is buying your primary battery. Make no mistake, there will be more. Depending on how involved you get with the hobby of vaping you could very well end up with a dozen or more batteries in all kinds of configurations. For now, let’s stick to investing in just one. Which one? That all depends. One thing for sure is you’re going to want to invest in a Variable Voltage battery. Lucky for you the cost of Variable Voltage (VV) batteries have come way down in the past year and nearly every large battery is a variable voltage battery today.
Why You Should Stay Away From The Single Voltage eGo Battery
Up until last year most Vapers moved up to an eGo battery when they decided to move beyond the cig-a-like. There was good reason for this, which I’ll explain.
The eGo battery is, at its simplest, just a large cig-a-like battery. While mini-eCig batteries have either 320mAh or 380mAh, the basic eGo starts at 650mAh (there are smaller, less powerful eGo’s but ignore them for now) and goes up to 1000mAh. This figure, 650 to 1000mAh refers to the length of time between recharges and has nothing to do with the amount of power reaching the atomizer. You will recharge a 650mAh eGo battery after 3 to 4 hours of use, and recharge an 1100mAh eGo battery after 8 to 9 hours of use. Physically speaking the higher the mAh the bigger the battery. An eGo battery usually has a 510-thread but will often require a special ego-specific clearomizer, or an 510-eGo adapter in order to use all the 510-compatible tank systems that are available, including the popular Vivi Nova’s, which are called “Clearomizers” but look like tanks.
The Single Voltage eGo battery comes in literally every color and every design you can imagine, and then some. You can spend between $15 or so to $45 or so depending on how fancy you want to go. An eGo battery can last as little as two months or as long as 18 months, depending on how its used and how often it is recharged, and who makes it. There is no set lifespan for any battery in VapeLandia. eGo batteries can come from reputable companies and rip-off companies. It is very important to know where it comes, and when it was made.
So, if they are inexpensive, colorful, fancy, and offered in all sizes, why should you avoid them? The answer is that Single Voltage eGo batteries deliver a ‘barely adequate’ vaping experience for the money. Let’s take a look back to a Level One factoid just briefly.
All cig-a-like batteries allow you to vape between 3.7v and 4.2v. As the battery loses power that 3.7v or 4.2v decreases until it gets down to around 3.2v and then shuts down and requires a recharge. One of the reasons you probably wanted to move to Level Two was because of the 3.7 to 4.2v delivery. Well, the single voltage eGo battery delivers the same voltage, 3.7v, and decreases in the same manner. As I said, it is a larger version of the cig-a-like, nothing more. By avoiding the single voltage eGo you can go right to the good stuff, the place you will wind up at anyway.
Vapers who have invested in a Variable Voltage battery can alter their vaping experience based upon their preferences, or what they want out of a particular vaping ‘session’. Vapers can adjust their VV battery for the ideal throat-hit, flavor and vapor production as often as they like. Each time a Vaper spends with an eCigarette is called a “session” within the confines of this series. Remember that. With variable voltage you control several aspects of your vaping, unlike that of a normal cig-a-like or Single Voltage eGo.
But the main benefit of using a variable voltage battery is that you can tweak your battery to produce a higher “quantity” of vapor than any cig-a-like. Most Vapers at Level One decide they want more vapor to fill their lungs, so spending time adjusting the voltage to find that sweet spot that produces the maximum amount of vapor but without losing the flavor as well is time well spent.
I would urge you to forego any single voltage battery from here on out. If you like the eGo battery style, as I do, you can invest in a Joyetech eGo Twist (max of 1100mAh) or Vision eGo Spinner (max of 1300mAh), both of which are wonderful variable voltage eGo-style batteries and can be adjusted from 3.0v to 6.0. The Twist allows increments of .2 volts per click and the Spinner has an unlimited amount of voltage settings between 3v and 6v because the dial is smooth, you can stop it anywhere you like. Personally I like the Spinners while others like the Joyetech Twist. You’ll find the Spinners to be a bit thicker than the Twists though, and slightly heavier.
Beyond the eGo Style
We will cover particular batteries in greater detail as the Level Two series continues, but for now I’ll touch on just a couple of the Variable Voltage batteries that are beyond the eGo style, and a bit more expensive as well.
At first you’ll tend to want to look at VV batteries in the shape of a metal tube, like the ZMAX or eVic. For the most part the tube shape makes the most sense and its not until you get into bottom-feeders and other dramatically different shapes that you’ll have a reason to look beyond the tube shaped VV batteries.
LR, SR, Tanks, Clearomizers – A Brief Encounter
Don’t be afraid of what I’m about to say, this won’t be on a test anywhere. In addition to “voltage” there is also “Wattage” or “Power”.
A normal battery, mini-eCig or single voltage eGo battery, with a normal prefilled cartomizer, or Standard Resistance Cartomizer (SR) will output the voltage at about 3.7v when the battery is fully charged, and at about 5w (watts). That’s the gold standard for simple vaping. When you add variable voltage to the mix you can not only play around with voltage settings but by changing cartomizers and atomizers you can further adjust things like vapor production though manipulating the power, or wattage, by using different attachments.
For instance, Halo Cigs sells a LR, or Low Resistance blank cartomizer that has a resistance setting at between 2.1 to 2.3 ohms. When used on one of their standard cig-a-like 4.2v 808-thread batteries the wattage output jumps to around 7-9 watts. This generates a warm vapor, and more vapor than a standard resistance, or SR cartomizer, which is normally around 3-ohms.
OHMS – A measure of “electrical resistance”. A lower number indicates lower resistance and therefore faster heating, a higher resistance indicates a higher resistance and slower hearing. Makes sense, no?
Now, hang on, with a variable voltage battery you can use a LR, or low resistance cartomizer/atomizer and with the proper voltage jump the wattage up to and over 12 watts. (You will also drain your battery much faster).
Again, I don’t want to scare you off, but when the time comes you’ll learn about Dual Coil cartomizers, Bottom Coil, Side Coil, Triple Coil, as well as ultra-low-resistance cartomizers, clearomizers and more, that give you an almost unlimited amount of tweaking in order to not only maximize your vapor production or flavor, but to also tweak your settings for each and every eLiquid, which like fingerprints are all different. But this level of vaping is months away, so relax for now.
Things To Keep In Mind
The difference between a single voltage eGo or cig-a-like battery and a variable voltage battery is that the VV battery has a booster circuit that used for regulating power. The power is sent to the cartomizer or atomizer at whatever voltage you selected. These same circuits are often made with short-circuit protection and they are capable of maintaining the selected output no matter how much power you have left in the battery.
Remember I told you that a cig-a-like/single voltage eGo would start at 3.7 or 4.2v and decrease over time, most variable voltage batteries with circuit protection and booster circuits are able to maintain a constant power flow. This results in your battery shutting down when it can no longer hold the output at your selected setting. This also means that your vaping experience doesn’t degrade as the power in your battery decreases, which is a big reason right there to want to go to a variable voltage battery with circuit protection, circuit boosters, and more.
PROVARI – The ProVari is the Roll Royce of the Variable Voltage Batteries. Today, as we go to press, this $170 battery is Variable Voltage only, but a Variable Voltage, Variable Wattage ProVari is rumored for 2013. I trust this rumor since the Joyetech eVic is both VV and VW and sells for $104.91 at MyVaporStore. ProVape, the company behind the ProVari must move to VV/VW in order to compete.
The Take Away
- There are plenty of great reasons to want to move up from the cig-a-like to the larger battery. However, you should skip the single voltage eGo battery altogether and go right for the Twist or Spinner, or a tube-shaped variable voltage battery like a ZMAX or eVic or a hundred others. If money is no problem, take a look at the ProVape ProVari.
- Variable voltage allows you to maximize your vaping so that you get what you want from it.
Homework (Optional Of Course)
Head over the MyVaporStore and take a look at the various Variable Voltage batteries. Whether you decide to invest in one that also offers Variable Wattage is beside the point for now. I don’t even want to expose you to VW, variable wattage in any great detail for a while yet, but needless to say at some point you will invest in a VV/VW battery.
Since you will more than likely have more than one battery as you make you move up to a variable voltage, staying with VV-only will save you some money now, and still provide a drastically improved vaping experience over what you are using today. The key to mastering The Art of Vaping is patience, and to not bite off more than you can chew. There is plenty of time to learn the basics of Level Two Vaping. What lies ahead is terrific, but enjoy the journey too.
Let’s take the mystery out of variable wattage today.
Biggest Lesson To Learn: If you went and got yourself a spanking new mod that offers both variable voltage and variable wattage the first thing you need to know is that it is a “either/or” situation. You do NOT set the wattage first and voltage second, or vice versa. You either decide to use variable voltage or variable wattage for your current vaping, not both.
You have no idea how many people think you set both parameters. The eCigarette manufactures don’t make it easy either, they assume you already know this factoid or they allude to it. So, once again, it is an ‘either/or’ situation.
Coming from the world of cig-a-likes all these variables, and all these choices must make it seem like ‘advanced vaping’ is difficult. Compared to using standard 3.7v mini batteries and prefilled cartomizers it can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Using more advanced mods gives you many more options to choose from, options you didn’t have in the cig-a-like ‘verse. As I discuss voltage and wattage keep in mind that these are options, not particularly things you must know. (but it is good to know them at some point.)
With variable voltage you have the opportunity to use all kinds of eLiquid delivery devices, cartomizers, clearomizers, tanks, etc., and adjust the amount of heat getting to the eLiquid by sending higher voltages to the atomizer. Send too much and you burn out the atomizer and the eLiquid takes like crap, send too little and the vapor is thin, cool, flavorless. Getting it just right means maximizing all the variables in your favor.
There is a mathematical equation that you can use if you know the exact ‘ohms’ of the cartomizer/atomizer you have on your eCig. The equation is easy enough to understand and use, from time to time, and it goes like this:
Volts2 / Resistance (in ohms) = Watts — Example: 3.3v x 3.3v / 2.2ohm = ? Watts — (go ahead, solve the problem now)
But, let me ask you something point blank: Do you really want to run a math equation in your head every time you put on a new cartomizer/clearomizer/atomizer/tank on your eCigarette battery? Or, better yet, do you want whip out your multi-meter and attach your battery and cartomizer to make sure that your math will come out right? Just because that box of Boge Cartomizers has 3.0-ohm printed on the box it doesn’t mean that those cartomizers are actually 3.0-ohm’s. They won’t be, they will be either .1 or .2 ohms off, plus or minus. Sometimes even more. If you don’t know that your math will lead you astray.
The “Fiddle Factor”
It has been my experience that most vapers don’t invest in a variable voltage mod in order to do the math. They like to fiddle with the settings. “Start low and work your way up” is what most vapers will tell you, and that’s a good thing to remember and practice. Fiddling with the voltage is almost half the fun of vaping a VV mod. (not really, but it sounded cool didn’t it?)
Adjusting the voltage allows you to zero in on the amount of flavor, vapor, and throat hit you want. By using the same eLiquid, same eLiquid delivery device (cartomizer et al) you can, for the most part, fiddle with your VV mod to find the sweet spot for your tastes and then use those same setting over and over again, as long as the parameters stay the same. Change your eLiquid flavor or brand and you’ll need to fiddle again. Change from a Boge cartomizer to a Vivi Nova and you’ll need to fiddle yet again.
Lastly, even if you test your cartomizer and find the correct ohms, do the math, and set your VV mod, you may not even like what should be the ideal setting. Perhaps you want to trade off vapor for more flavor, or flavor for more vapor, or max out the throat hit without regard for the other two factors. So, you see, VV Mods are great tools, but you have to want to play around with them, a lot, to get great vapes all the time.
There is an easier way…
I’ve been using a VV Mod for many months, and I enjoy the fiddling around that comes with variable voltage settings. But, after reviewing the VAMO, (review) I decided that Variable Wattage was something I wanted to add to my vaping experience. The VAMO has both. If I want to fiddle around I have the VV part to fiddle with, but if I don’t want to fiddle around I have the Variable Wattage to make use of.
Advanced Vaping Made Easy
Basically, the idea behind variable wattage is that you can set your wattage setting to suit your preferences and when you change up your eLiquid delivery device you don’t have to fiddle with the voltage. The advanced Mod will read the resistance of your atomizer in your cartomizer or Vivi Nova, or tank, and, as long as you have your mod set to Variable Wattage, it will adjust the amount of power going into the device, either up or down, to best reflect your personal vaping preferences.
Example: I’m vaping my favorite eLiquid using my advanced mod and a Vision Vivi Nova (MyVaporStore), equipped with a very nicely wrapped and very accurate atty head inside the Vivi. If I manually set my wattage to 8w the VAMO will adjust the volts to make sure I vape at what it discerns is my ideal vape. I can take it up to 9w or down to 5.2w and the VAMO will readjust its setting for the voltage. Nice, right?But, it get’s better.
Let’s switch up and this time use a Joyetech eVic, a very advanced VV/VW mod. The nice thing about a device like the eVic is that it will make recommendations for me when I attach a new cartomizer, clearomizer, Vivi Nova, etc., based on the readings it takes. Let’s say I’m using a 2.4-ohm atomizer on the eVic. Within a short moment the eVic decides that the best wattage to use is 5.2w. If I want the vaping experience that the eVic wants me to have I simply dial in 5.2w on the device and start vaping. For me, this works about 90% of the time.
Disregarding the Recommendations: Fiddling around with the voltage setting is almost mandatory. While the math can give you a supposed ideal value to use in voltage it doesn’t take into consideration the particular eLiquids viscosity, or a host of other possibilities, including coils that are ‘off’. So, you tweak and tweak, fiddle and fiddle, and discover on your own. But, for Wattage, it’s harder to do.
Yes, when you attach a device to the VW mod it suggests a wattage setting that will usually give you a great vape. Ignoring that setting and increasing the wattage only tells your VW mod to make further adjustments to the voltage.
You’ll notice that most, if not all, of the variable voltage mods on the market now advertise that they can go up or down the VV line at .1 increments, usually between 3-6v, (the eVic can go 3v to5v). That’s some pretty wicked fine-tuning going on there. But, wattage is different, for now, because you can only adjust the wattage by .5w per click. You can move the wattage scale like this: 5.0w, 5.5w, 6.0w, 6.5w, and so on, from 2w to 15w with the eVic.
If your mod tells you that the ideal wattage setting is 6w and you decide to take it up to 7w then, if the mod and the atomizer can handle it, the mod makes an adjustment to the voltage setting, keeping you within the same vicinity to where you were vaping before you upped the wattage. So, why bother right?
Well, to a point, yea, why bother? But if the user wants to increase the wattage beyond what the device can adjust for then he or she changes the vaping experience, usually for the worse, but who knows, maybe the eLiquid is particularly thick or something. But for most cases, changing the wattage keeps the voltage changing so the vaping experience stays the same.
Why is this a good thing?
As I mentioned above, not all 3.0ohm attys are the same. Ohm varies widely depending on the coils, among other things. Here’s a pretty good analogy to explain why using wattage instead of voltage is often the way to go.
Julia and Jason are both using the same VV/VW mod and the same STV Vivi Nova, as well as the same eLiquid. Both of them test the atty out and find that the 3.0-ohm attys are spot on. (Hey, it can happen).
Julia decides to use Variable Voltage and Jason uses Variable Wattage…
Julia does the math and comes up with 5.5v for the ideal setting. (Remember the equation from above?) This setting puts out right about 10 watts of power. Jason, using wattage, lets the mod make the suggestion and it chooses 10w for the setting. So far so good, both Julia and Jason are experiencing the same amount of flavor, vapor, and throat hit.
As long as Julia and Jason continue using the atty and eLiquid their experience will remain identical. And because they are both using advanced mods with nice booster circuitry they needn’t worry about the amount of power left in the batteries. Both mods will output at the same power level throughout the battery charge. (This is not possible with the less expensive mini-battery cig-a-likes)
But a couple of weeks later their attys die out and they have to change them. This time, leaving the setting where they were, Jason is still enjoying a great vape but Julia’s vape is terrible. The eLiquid tastes like burnt plastic, and the vapor is way too hot. Yet, all things remained the same, same mods, same atty type, and same eLiquid. So why was Jason able to vape “well” and Julia couldn’t?
The answer lies in the Variable Voltage choice. Since neither one bothered to test the resistance of the attys with their multi-meters they didn’t realize that Julia’s atty wasn’t living up to the 3.0-ohm claim, and it was putting out only 2.6-ohms, a very likely scenario with cheaper attys.
Because Julia used the same setting with an atty that was using a lower resistance, more power (wattage) was reaching the atty, somewhere around 11.3 watts. Way more than needed, hence the burning eLiquid. In order for Julia to have the same experience as before she would have had to adjust the voltage down to 5.1 or 5.2v instead of 5.5v. The atty was doing less resisting of the power (wattage) coming out of the battery so by lowering the voltage to 5.2v Julia is actually holding back some of that power, reducing the heat at the coil.
Because Jason was telling his mod to deliver 10w of power to the atty it did the math itself. When a newer atty was attached and found to be delivering the same 2.7v of resistance Jason’s mod regulated the wattage making sure to continue to deliver “just” 10 watts, no more. So, for this particular situation, Variable Wattage wins the day. And as you can see, using VW is obviously easier than using VV. Less work, less math, less screw-ups. And…
I don’t want to add more confusion here, but as you can also see, hopefully, that all the advanced electronics help a great deal. Since both mods were equipped with circuit protection, battery protection, and so forth, none of the settings, no matter what they might have been, would have produced an unsafe vaping experience. But we’ll get to that at another time.
Many people find that using Variable Wattage is easier and more consistent than using Variable Voltage. To get an ideal vape going from the first drag onward Variable Voltage requires you to do a little math, or a lot of fiddling. Using Variable Wattage tells your mod to output at THAT wattage no matter what, so if your atty falls short of ideal ohms it will make the adjustment it needs to make in order to continue to put out that same wattage.
There are plenty of times when you might want to override the voltage setting on your VV device, and to be perfectly honest, most of us love to fiddle with the mods anyway, discovering our own sweet spots without doing a lick of math.
The choice between VV and VW is yours, providing you have a mod that offers both. John Manzione, the editor, currently uses a ProVari, a mod that offers Variable Voltage only. For him, the math is the fun part. For me, not so much. Not to mention that the man loves to fiddle with that button!
Oh, and remember, its an EITHER/OR situation. Don’t go set your wattage and then switch and set your voltage. It doesn’t work. All you are doing is going from “voltage” TO “wattage”. But don’t worry, unless someone tells you that, it’s pretty normal to think that you can set both.
Well, that’s about it. I hope you took away some useful information, some of the basics. I tried to leave it as simple as I can, but as you probably already know there is a lot more to vaping then just the basics. Still, if vaping is a means to an end, if you look forward to that day when you’re neither smoking nor vaping, then the basics is all you’ll need. On the other hand, should you decide that vaping makes a great hobby, as I do, then there are hundreds upon hundreds of pages in Spinfuel eMagazine to read, absorb, and explore. – Tom McBride