All e-cigarettes and vaping devices use similar technology. Even though it can seem overwhelming at times the truth is simple: at the heart of every vapor-producing device is an atomizer, and at the heart of every atomizer is a coil. While there are hundreds of coil configurations inside atomizers, they all do the same basic thing. They simply convert e-liquid to vapor using heat. Use this guide to learn the differences between various types of vape coils and builds. Follow along for a simple explanation of sub-ohm vaping, Ohm's law, choosing the right wattage, and more!
The technical definition of an atomizer is "a device for emitting water, perfume, or other liquids as a fine spray." In vaping, an atomizer describes the main component an electronic cigarette -- the thing responsible for producing vapor. The atomizer includes wicking material and a coil or multiple coils. Inside the atomizer the wicking material pulls e-liquid toward the coils as the coils are heated to produce vapor. Different coils will produce different amounts of vapor and flavor. The tiny pre-built atomizers inside of disposable e-cigs offer a vastly different vaping experience from options available in modern tank systems. Many more choices are presented to those willing to do a little maintenance and replace the coils themselves. The challenge of DIY coils and wicking isn't for everyone. Understanding the basics will help you make the right decision to meet your vaping needs and expectations.
The amount of vapor that can be produced by various coils will depend on their resistance and how much power is put through them. This resistance is measured in ohms. An ohm is a measure of electrical resistance. The electrical current drawn from the battery is commonly measured in volts. Atomizers come in a variety of resistance choices. For example, a 1.2 ohm atomizer would be considered rather high resistance in the modern vaping world. Whereas a 0.2 ohm resistance would be considered "sub-ohm" and thus relatively low.
A low-ohm atomizer has coils that offer very little resistance to the power going through them. They heat up quickly and drain the battery more rapidly. When the ohm rating is higher the coils offer more resistance and heat up more slowly. This is more conservative for battery usage. The amount of electricity that can be put through the coils depends on their limitations and the device's limitations. It is always best to start out with the lowest setting and work your way up to that vaping sweet spot. The most important thing to keep in mind is safety. On most modern regulated devices there is protection in place to guard against user error. Many devices simply refuse to fire if the atomizer is not in a safe range. If you chose to build on your own coils, be sure to check that you are in a safe resistance range and take proper precautions.
The original coil builders did so out of necessity. Modern vaping technology and well engineered pre-built coils have opened up a world of possibilities. It is now up to the individual to decide what fits their vaping lifestyle.
Rebuildable atomizers or RBAs are do-it-yourself vaping atomizers. The following definitions also fall under the category of RBAs.
Rebuildable dripping atomizers are RBAs that have no tank system to hold extra e-liquid. This means that you must "drip" a few drops of liquid every few puffs to ensure the wicks remain saturated.
Rebuildable tank atomizers are RBAs that draw e-liquid from built in reserve tanks.
Rebuildable dripping tank atomizers are a combination of RDA and RTA styles. They are a popular choice because they supposedly combine the best of both worlds. They have an e-liquid reserve and easily accessible coils for dripping.
Metal is measured in gauges, as many a piercing enthusiast could tell you. This means that higher numbers translate to thinner wire, and lower numbers represent thicker wire. The larger the wire (and lower the gauge) the longer it will take for the wire to heat up -- which means they need more power to heat. Most wire for vaping is available from (the largest) 22 gauge to (the smallest) 32 gauge. Many metal types are available. Kanthal remains the most popular, although most temperature-control devices can’t use it. Other choices include nichrome, stainless steel, nickel and titanium.
This is where individuality and creativity really take off in vaping. There are hundreds of styles, and people come up with new ideas every day.
Here are a few you've probably seen before:
Clapton coils: A braided coil with a famous musical moniker.
Juggernaut coil: A powerfully braided build.
Alien coils: A twisted coil that's out of this world.
Tiger coil: A vicious two-toned build.
Some builds get downright insane (and even impractical). The art of building for the beauty of coils is often called "coil porn" (check the #CoilPorn hashtag on IG). There are communities of enthusiasts across the world who revel in this niche delight.
As you explore coil building or prebuilt atomizers you will discover subtle differences. Each type of coil has its advantages. Some offer better flavor. Others offer more vapor. Some conserve on battery life. Your vaping sweet spot may come in a prebuilt pack of 10 while someone else's took all afternoon to build. Ultimately the best atomizer for you is the one that fits best into your lifestyle and gives you the vaping experience you want.