A vape or electronic cigarette is composed of several different parts, but central to its operation is the atomizer. All electronic cigarettes have atomizers, but these atomizers can vary significantly in terms of material used, features and level of customization.
When selecting a vape or electronic cigarette, the atomizer will take a huge part of your consideration. You first need to understand the different types of atomizers, how to clean and maintain them, and choosing the right one based on your personal vaping needs.
What Is An Atomizer?
The atomizer is the heart of any vaping device and is probably the most important part. This is where the liquid is heated up, turns into vapor, and where flavor is produced. Atomizers also holds the wicking material which absorbs the e-liquid, that the coil that heats up the e-liquid, and the reservoir where the e-liquid is contained.
The construction of the atomizer has taken many forms over the years and advanced from very simple to sophisticated, but their roles remain the most crucial part in any vaping experience.
Types of Atomizers
There’s a wide range of atomizers on the market, but they’ll basically fall under one of these three main categories: disposable, replaceable, and rebuildable. The names for these basic types already provide a hint to what these atomizers are all about.
People that are vaping for the first time most likely start with a disposable atomizer. This type of atomizer is often included in starter kits that people purchase to see if they want to get serious about vaping. Disposable atomizers are the cheapest type on the market, making them the most accessible.
When a disposable atomizer has reached its lifespan, get lost, or damaged, you can easily replace the atomizer with a new one. The downside to using disposable atomizers is that they lack the ability to produce outstanding flavors and vapor. You cannot tweak the coil resistance or use a different wicking material since you’ll have to replace the entire atomizer. While advanced vapers may not enjoy using a disposable atomizer, it’s a great starting point for people who are just getting into this hobby.
Replaceable atomizers are the most popular in the vaping community. Unlike disposable ones, you can change and replace the coils easily to tweak the vaping experience. Replacing the coil head is as easy as unscrewing and taking out the old one then screwing in the new coil head. These atomizers may be more expensive initially than disposable atomizers, but they also provide more features that improve your overall vaping experience.
Using high quality pyrex glass in these atomizers also help produce better vapor and flavors. Since you’ll only be replacing the coil heads, you do not have to dispose the entire atomizer which makes it more cost-effective in the long run than disposable ones.
If you’re looking to customize your vaping experience, from how pronounced the flavors are and how huge the vapor is, then the rebuildable atomizer is the perfect choice for you. This type of atomizer allows you to build your own coils at the resistance you prefer, pick your desired wicking material, and make many more customizations so you get the most of your vaping hits.
Keep in mind that rebuildable atomizers are designed for advanced vapers. Before you even think about tinkering with this type of atomizer, you have to learn as much as you can to understand the electronic workings of the vaping device.
You’ll be using different coils and wicks, but that can also pose great risk if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure to learn about the Ohm’s law too.
Rebuildable atomizers are generally more expensive upfront, but it becomes cost-effective later on since you’ll only need to build and replace certain items and not discard the whole atomizer itself. Those who have built their own atomizers find it fun and rewarding to personalize their vaping experience and have never returned to using other type of atomizers since making the switch.
Different Atomizer Sub-Types
Atomizers are further categorized into one of these three types: cartomizers, clearomizers, and glassomizers. They have the same function of containing the e-liquid and coils, but they differ significantly in terms of ease of use, material, cost, capacity, and flavor and vapor production.
Cartomizers are the most basic form of atomizer. Cartomizers used to be very popular in the early vaping days because it is easy to use. With just two components – a reservoir with coil and wick which screws into a battery, the cartomizer resembles the look of an analog cigarette. Cartomizers can only hold a small amount of e-liquid which when used up, can either be disposed or refilled.
You can refill the cartomizer by picking the tip off with a pin then soaking the wick with juice. Let it stand for 20-30 minutes and you can use the vape again.
Cartomizers are simple by design, making them easy to use even by beginners. Cartomizers also work very well with cigalikes, but not on other types of vaping devices. The main drawbacks of cartomizers are the limited e-liquid capacity and poor flavor and vapor. If you don’t have some e-liquid at hand, you’ll end up disposing the whole cartomizer.
Clearomizers are atomizers with clear tanks and look almost exactly like cartomizers. However, the differences end there since clearomizers are more improved and feature-rich. One of the best aspects of a clearomizer is the transparent tank which enables you to instantly see how much e-juice you have left. There’s a tube that contains the wick and coil head positioned at the center of the atomizer. Surrounding said tube is the transparent tank that holds the e-liquid. If you need to refill the e-juice, you simply need to unscrew the tank, refill, then screw it back.
In a cartomizer, the wicking material surrounds the coil. But in a clearomizer, the wick is threaded through the coil, going all the way to the tank. The wick seeps the e-liquid which travels to the coils and gets heated up.
Another advantage of the clearomizer is your ability to change an old or damaged coil head and still be able to use the existing atomizer. While replacing the coil head could mean buying a new one, it could also be the cheaper option than replacing the entire atomizer, like you would with a cartomizer.
On the other hand, clearomizers don’t generally hold a lot of amount of e-juice (normally just about 1.6ml) which means you’ll need to refill more often. The tank is made of plastic and this can cause leakages and cracks especially if your e-liquid contains strong acidic ingredients. But since they’re refillable and you can change out the coils, you can produce better flavors and vapor with a clearomizer as compared to a cartomizer.
A glassomizer is designed and functions exactly the same way as a clearomizer. It is composed of three pieces – the tank that holds the e-juice, the atomizer which contains the coil and wick, and the battery. The main difference is the material of the tank. A glassomizer is constructed with Pyrex glass while the clearomizer is made of plastic.
Using Pyrex glass as the tank material has many advantages. First of all, Pyrex glass is more resistant to erosion caused by acidic ingredients in the e-liquid. This helps enhance the e-liquid’s flavor experience as well as extend the lifespan of the tank.
On the flip side, glass is more prone to breakage than plastic when dropped. While a lot of glassomizers nowadays are constructed with durable glass materials, they could still break when dropped with impact or when you bend while the device is placed inside the pocket. Lastly, glassomizers are more expensive than clearomizers, usually ranging between $10-$25. Clearomizers on the other hand can cost you as little as $5 to $7.
If you’re looking to refill less often, then you need an atomizer with a much larger e-liquid capacity, like tanks. Tanks and clearomizers function the same way, except for the fact that tanks typically don’t have outer threading cover.
Tanks can also carry more juice than clearomizers. Where clearomizers typically have the capacity of 1.6ml, tanks can carry as much as 5ml or more depending on the brand or model. Furthermore, tanks usually have bottom-coil systems. You can still replace the coils and use the standard 510 connections so it’s easy to find compatible coil and wick replacement systems in the market nowadays.
It is also worth noting that tanks are often made of glass. This helps prevent cracks when using acidic e-liquids. Also, tanks have airflow controls so you can adjust the tightness or looseness of the draw, allowing you to tweak the amount of vapor or flavor. You might have to go through trial and error to find the right airflow in your tank, but it helps a lot to provide a more pleasing and personalized vaping experience.
Tanks with lower than standard resistance are called sub-ohm tanks. Specifically, sub ohm tanks have a resistances of less than one ohm. These types of tanks are generally preferred for their ability to create big and dense clouds as well as produce more pronounced flavors. Sub ohm tanks generally use more vegetable glycerin in their juices because increasing the amount of VG means making bigger clouds. The set-up for sub ohm tanks are mostly the same to that of an ordinary clearomizer, except for the lower coil resistance and larger wicking systems that allows for seeping more e-liquid needed to create more flavor and vapor.
The sub ohm tank is also the preferred tank for temperature control (TC) vaping. However, note that sub ohm tanks should not be used by beginner vapers. The device demands a lot more from the batteries and working with lower resistance can push the batteries’ limits. Use the appropriate set-up for sub ohm vaping and make sure to follow certain safety protocols to reduce risks of fire, explosion and injury.
Sub ohm tanks are the to-go tanks for big fluffy clouds and better flavor experience. Like the clearomizers, you can also replace coils in these tanks and use 510 connections. The tanks are often made of glass with a typical capacity of between 2-5ml. It may cost more than standard clearomizers upfront, but you can save more money by just switching out the coils when needed.
A rebuildable atomizer, also known as RBA, is a type of atomizer that lets you make and build your own coils instead of picking up pre-built ones. RBAs afford you more control and freedom on your vaping experience because you are basically building your own coil and wicking system from scratch.
A standard clearomizer will allow you to replace the coil heads with pre-made replacements, but the customization ends there. A rebuildable atomizer basically allows you to come up with your own coil and wick system that’s well-tailored to your personal vaping preferences, from coil resistance, adjustable air flow, wicking material, and so much more.
It may seem that working with RBAs is a lot of work, but experienced vapers actually enjoy this kind of work. RBAs allow you to personalize the amount of flavor and vapor as well as mitigate the cost of buying new coils. These devices also use the standard 510 connections so there’s no problem about finding compatibility in the market.
There are basically two types of rebuildable atomizers: rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDA) and rebuildable tank atomizers (RTA).
Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers
Rebuildable Dripping Atomizers (RDAs) take the most basic form of a vaping device – just the wick and the coil, minus the tank for the e-liquid. To create an RDA, you simply need to wrap a coil and attach the ends to the posts at both ends of the device. You then thread the wicking material into the center of the coil and cap the device with the top cap. Suffice to say, the RDA looks like the skeletal system of an electronic cigarette.
As for the e-liquid, since there’s no reservoir or tank, you will have to drip the juice directly onto the coils to vape. When you fire up the device and inhale, the coil warms up and turns the e-liquid into vapor. You can take a few more puffs then you’ll have to drip again. There’s also a “juice well” which acts as a catch basin for the excess e-liquid. This helps prevent wasting e-liquid as well as minimize the need for dripping.
Working with RDAs may look complicated, but it actually is not especially for people who like to tinker. However, RDAs certainly take more work than clearomizers with pre-built coils; hence they are recommended for vapers who have been into this hobby for some time. It is also imperative to have an Ohm’s meter when building coils to make sure the coil resistances are within safe ranges.
Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer Pros
There are many advantages to using rebuildable dripping atomizers. First of all, creating your own wicks and coils can be less expensive than pre-built coils. You’re also able to adjust airflow and modify flavor and vapor production by using the right wicking material and coil resistance. Since you’re dripping the e-liquid directly into the coils, it’s also easier to switch to a different flavor on the fly.
Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer Cons
On the other hand, there a few drawbacks in using an RDA. You must have some vaping experience and technical understanding in coil building. If you’ve just started vaping, go with starter kits with pre-made coils to be on the safe side. Also, familiarize yourself with the Ohm’s law and ensure that you’re using the right batteries in order to vape with an RDA safely.
Rebuildable Tank Atomizers
Rebuildable Tank Atomizers or RTAs are basically RDAs plus a tank for the e-liquid. Basically, you have a small tube that contains the RDA set-up, encased in a tank that contains the juice. Then there’s a protruding wick that absorbs the e-liquid.
RTAs are more convenient than RDAs in the sense that you don’t have to drip the e-liquid any longer. The tank containing the e-liquid solves that issue. This makes vaping more convenient plus you still get the same performance of an RDA because of the set-up inside. Sub ohm tanks have the same setup, but RTAs are more cost-effective and still gives you the same amount of control as you would with an RDA.
Rebuildable Tank Atomizer Pros
Like RDAs, the advantages of RTAs include affordability, excellent performance in flavor and vapor production, adjustable airflow, 510 connections compatibility and the ability to tailor-fit the device to your needs.
Rebuildable Tank Atomizer Cons
But unlike RDAs, you cannot change flavors instantly since you’ll have to empty the tank before you can switch. RTAs also require technical know-how and these atomizers are not recommended for newbies. You also need to have a mod in order for this set-up to work and have some understanding of the Ohm’s law.
How Do You Prime Your Atomizer?
Using a fresh new coil instantly can result to a burnt taste. Experienced vapers swear by priming their atomizers to avoid this unpleasant experience. Basically, priming the atomizer simply requires wetting the wick with the e-liquid so that when you use your new atomizer for the first time around, the wick doesn’t get burned and the e-liquid turns into vapor.
- To do this, you have to unscrew the atomizer from the clearomizer and saturate the wick with a small amount of e-liquid through the holes where the wicking material protrudes.
- Let this stand for a few moments until the wick has absorbed the e-liquid. Place the atomizer back into the clearomizer and fill the tank with adequate amount of juice.
- Take a few puffs from the device but don’t press the fire button just yet. If you can see where the air holes are, cover them with your fingers while taking some puffs.
- Turn the device on and take short puffs but don’t inhale the vapor.
- Do this again three times and you can use your new atomizer for vaping.
Taking Care of Your Atomizer
Maintaining the performance of your atomizer is important to extend its useful lifespan and ensure safety while vaping. Cleaning your atomizer is an essential part of the maintenance routine and takes only a few minutes to complete.
First, remove the atomizer from the clearomizer. If your device can be disassembled, take the individual components apart. Empty the tank of e-liquid and clean all parts in running water. Don’t use other cleaning solutions like alcohol or soap because running water is sufficient in cleaning your device.
If you can only remove the atomizer head from the clearomizer, then simply remove it from the device and rinse under running water as well. Place all parts onto a pile of kitchen towels to drain excess moisture and air-dry.
Assemble the device back. Replace your old coil with a new one if necessary. Once everything is in place, you can begin vaping again.
What Type Of Atomizer Is Right For You?
Atomizers come in different forms, set-ups, and levels of experience. While preference for atomizers can vary from one vaper to another, it is important to find the right atomizer for your vaping needs to be able to fully take pleasure in this hobby. Some of the most important considerations are size, features and opting between starter kits vs. building your own atomizer.
Pick a reasonably-sized device that’s suitable for your needs and preferences. Vape mods tend to be larger in size and provide more features and controls, but they can also be bulky to carry. Smaller-sized devices are more portable, but you have limited control over its features. If you’re a regular vaper, you might want to pick a mod since you can carry spare batteries and replace depleted ones instantly. If you like to bring your device anywhere, you might want to opt for smaller clearomizers.
It’s also important to consider the features you want in your atomizer. These features can range from basic to complex. Standard clearomizers for instance have basic features while others have limited ones, such as airflow and voltage adjustment. Meanwhile, the more sophisticated devices provide you more control over flavor and vapor, in addition to standard voltage and airflow controls. These devices also have better safety features than the basic devices.
Lastly, consider if you’d want to build your own atomizers from scratch or use a starter kit which is almost complete and ready to use. Starter kits come with pre-built coils so you’ll only have to put in some e-liquid to be able to use it right away. Meanwhile, building your own device gives you more freedom to choose and add in more features, but it takes significant technical and electronic knowledge to go about this successfully and safely.
Each type of atomizer has its own merit and there’s no right or wrong choice. However, there are perfect choices based on your vaping habits, preferred size and features and your level of technical knowledge. What’s important when picking the right device is to consider not just the cost or its cool features, but with safety in mind as well.