What is a vaporizer?
A vaporizer is a device used to release the active ingredients of plant material or to release the therapeutic compounds. A healthier alternative to smoking, vaporizers heat the material at a much lower temperature (when compared to smoking) so that the active compounds contained in the plant material produce an aromatic vapor (instead of smoke). Rather than burning the plant material, which can produce numerous harmful by-products, this vapor contains virtually zero particulate matter and significantly reduced noxious gases. By avoiding combustion (smoke), the user is able to achieve the same desired effects without the harmful side-effects of smoking.
Conduction vs Convection
With conduction vaporization, the herbal material makes direct contact with the heat source to produce the vapor. Earlier desktop vaporizers utilized this method, and it is no longer as common.
Most wax and pen-style vaporizers utilize this method of vaporization. As the plant material makes direct contact with the heating element, vapor is produced and then inhaled as the user draws through the mouthpiece. Although this method of vaporization results in a quicker heat-up time, it can also lead to combustion if not properly utilized.
With convection vaporization, the herbal material does not directly touch the heat source. Instead, vaporization is achieved by passing heated air over the material, extracting the active ingredients.
There are two basic types of convection vaporizers: whip-style and forced-air. Whip-Style vaporizers require the user to inhale through a tubing system (whip), thereby pulling hot air from the heat source over your material. Forced-Air vaporizers utilize a fan that propels the hot air over the material, thereby creating a stream of vapor that is then filled into a bag or balloon system.
Materials Being Vaped
When it comes to vaporization there are a variety of substances that can be used, including dry herb, concentrates and e-juices. The material being vaporized will affect which vaporizer one will want to use, as not all vapes work with every substance. It is easier to decide on a vape when one knows what they plan to vaporize most frequently.
- Dried & cured plant material such as;
- Green Tea
- Mullein Leaf
- Red Clover
- Extracted from dry herb
- Extraction methods include CO2, butane, or high-proof alcohol
E-juice / E-liquid
- Liquid used in electronic cigarettes
- Concentrated flavoring that may include nicotine
While most vaporizers are designed to be specifically compatible with one material, multi-compatible units are becoming more common. These units generally have separate heating chambers for each style of material that will be vaporized. These multi-compatible vaporizers are more commonly found in the pen style version and not the larger portable or desktop vapes.
Benefits of Using a Grinder
When it comes to vaporizing, grinders are a must. Grinding your herbs is essential for improving the efficiency of the vaporization process because it increases the surface area of your herbs. This allows for better airflow as the heat travels through your herbs. Herbal grinders can be made from various materials including plastic, metal, or wood. Acrylic and wood grinders are very affordable and will get the job done, but they lack the durability and efficiency of a metal grinder. 4-Piece grinders have the added benefit of a pollen screen where the fine residue left over from grinding will fall and collect.
Controlling the temperature of the vaporizer is key to achieving the most efficient vapor production. There is a range in which the herb will begin to release its active ingredients and if the herb is not warm enough, no vapor forms. Alternatively if the temperature rises too far, the herb will burn up and defeat the whole purpose of vaporization.
- Most acurate control design
- Temp readout on display screen
- Rotating dial operation
- Allows for very slight increases/decreases in temp
- Heats while button is held down or rechargeable battery inserted
- Timing plays a big role in proper heating
Monitoring the temperature throughout the process of vaporization prevents the material from being overheated, which leads to combustion and smoke. The remaining herb should be crispy and a brownish color, NOT ash. If the leftover product is black or burned up, a lower temperature is required to produce vapor.
Heat Up Time
Along with choosing the temperature control, it is good to consider how long the vaporizer will take to go from cold to hot & ready to vape. Each vaporizer's heat up time is different, however pen style units are generally the quickest, followed by other portables and then desktop units (which require more power).
Vaporizers that heat up to and maintain a set temperature are more efficient in terms of vapor production. Units that have a push button control and rapid heat up time are more difficult to control, which can easily lead to combustion if you are not careful.
There are several different design factors that determine how a vaporizer's heat source receives power. Ultimately, it will be achieved via either electricity or flame. Though power cords or a rechargeable battery are required for the electric variety, they generally perform better due to the consistent stream of power provided.
Electric / Plug In
- Plugs directly into an outlet
- Generally used with desktop units, which produce more vapor
- No need for charger or wires
- Refill anywhere
- Can be internal or external
- Generally used with portable vaporizers
- No electricity required
- User controls the distance of heat from herb
Vaporizers powered via electricity tend to heat up and maintain temperature more efficiently than the other options. However, with the flame style power source, one is not tethered down by wires, which is optimal for situations where there is no electricity available to recharge a vaporizer.
When it comes to vaporizers, the length of the warranty can vary quite a bit. Generally, desktop vaporizers have the longest warranty, as they are intended to stay in one spot. Be certain that the terms of the warranty are well understood prior to making a purchase decision.
When considering the length of the warranty, also look at what aspect of the vaporizer is actually covered. Not every component (such as glassware or atomizers) is necessarily protected under a warranty. These additional components may be available for purchase if anything ever does break or burns out.
Choosing to vaporize is easy, however selecting a vaporizer can be tough. It is an investment in your health and there are a lot of factors to consider. Knowing where you plan to use it most frequently and what materials you will be using will help determine the best vaporizer for your needs. It is also important to be familiar with the temperature control, as every herb vaporizes at a different heat level. Along with the heat up time of the vape, make sure that you know how long the warranty has you covered, to ensure that your vaporizer will be heating up for years to come.