All right so you have gotten this far, you know some of the downsides and you still want to continue. Congratulations. Well before you can even get started you will need to know a few basic concepts and the words to use. After all, knowing is half the battle and it may just help you save a lot of money when you do visit your first vape store!
Let’s start with the basics. An END system is a very basic electronic device that is made up a few parts that all work together to vaporize a liquid and then get said liquid into your lungs where… the nicotine can be absorbed into your blood system.
So how does it do this? It’s actually pretty elegant and yet actually fairly complicated. But it all boils down to a small heating element (think the element in an electric water boiler), a small piece of cotton (or other similar material) to act as a wick to get the juice to the coil, air holes and the suction created by your lungs. That is what vaping is. Boiling liquid quickly past their phase change temperature and then just as quickly getting it into your lungs before the flavors burn and it tastes horrible.
To do this what you have to do is fill the devices fluid tank with a flavored liquid (that you like), press a button on the side of the device, and then suck on the top ‘drip tip’. You then either suck it directly into your lungs (Direct Lung) or into your mouth where you hold it for a moment and then into your lungs (Mouth To Lung). Most novices start out with MTL as it is very similar to how they smoke a cigarette/pipe/cigar/etc.
So what is a END system? The typical ENDS is made up of a few key parts. Each of these parts is extremely customizable and on their own rather inexpensive. In fact, if you buy a ‘kit’ you can start vaping for much less than the cost of a carton of cigarettes! But before you get to buying your first kit lets break down the parts.
There are basically three major parts in any vape device. There are the batteries, the mod, and the tank. The batteries can either be non-removable to the ‘mod’ or can be removable. Many start kits make use of non-removable lithium-polymer batteries that much like a cell phone are only good for so many recharges before the entire mod has to be replaced. On average you can expect to get years from a non-removable battery bank so this is not that big a concern… as most will replace the mod long before battery life becomes an issue (just like a cellphone). What is a major concern though is overheating and fire that results from improper charging. To be blunt, most accidents involving END systems are either the result of end-user error or the mod messing up and causing the batteries to catastrophically fail. This is a very rare occurrence.
We will include a couple examples of good, real world proven safe, non-removable mod kits later in the article, but this issue was one of the main reasons we quickly went to removable batteries. While there is a few different form-factors the most common one is the 18650 3.7v Lithium battery. These 18mm diameter by 65mm high batteries (think AA batteries on steroids for comparison) that are the exact same type that are used in laptops. While they too are only good for so many charges before becoming useless they A) can easily be replaced and B) only cost about 10-15 dollars each. What they do require however is an external charger… as while many mods can charge them internally it kind of defeats the purpose and increases the chances of bad things happening.
As with most things electronic related there are good brands and there are not so good brands. We recommend Sony, Samsung, and LG. To be precise we recommend LG HG2, Sony VTC4 and VCT5, and Samsung 25R 18650 batteries. These are all safe choices but you will have to make sure that you are not buying fakes – so buy from a reputable site or shop (at this time Sony is the worst for the number of fakes being sold – especially VTC5s). There are plenty of other choices and this list is certainly not inclusive but those four models are the ones we trust, we use ourselves, and recommend to friends and family. Of those, most first time users will find the LG HG2 to be ‘best’ as while they cannot be pushed as high as 25Rs or VCT4/5s, they last longer at lower power settings. As a novice using a starter kit you will be using lower power settings.
Now to more specifics. An 18650 battery, regardless of brand will have two ratings. One is capacity represented in ‘mAH’ and the other is continuous discharge rate represent in amps or ‘A’ for short. The first is how much power the battery stores when fully charged and the second is how much power it can continuously push. The easiest way to think of these two numbers is the first is the size of the gas tank and the second is the size of the engine. You can get a large gas tank, but only a moderate engine size… or you can get a large engine but only a small(er) gas tank. To be more precise the first number tells you how much power the battery can push for one hour, and the second is how much is can push continuously for a short burst (basically until the ‘gas tank’ is empty).
For example, a LG HG2 is rated at 3000mAH and 20A (Max Vaping Amps as per Mooch: www.e-cigarette-forum.com), whereas the Sony VTC4 is a 2100mAH but 30 Max Vaping Amp battery. What this means is that the LG HG2 can push 3amps (3000 mili-amps) for an entire hour (or 1.5A for two… etc etc) before being fully discharged, or can safely push 20amps till it runs out of power. Whereas the Sony can safely push 30 amps continuously but can only push 2.1amps for an hour. For novice users using a regulated mod at lower wattages the bigger gas tank will be more important as it will last longer before being needed to be recharged.
So why doesn’t everyone simply use HG2s? Because if you do try and push more than 20Amps worth of power the battery is going to get very…. very hot and may catastrophically fail… as in boom… or at least venting nasty gases that can burn you… right at your face. This is where all those scary pictures of people in hospitals from vaping usually come from.
This is why some people prefer a Sony VTC5 or Samsung 25R as they have slightly smaller gas tanks (2500 – 2600mAh) but are good for 25Amps. Like we said there is tradeoffs to everything and in a modern mod darn near any tier 1 battery is going to be safe and last all day long.
Before we move on there are two points we must talk about. Firstly, these batteries are not an area you want to cheap out on and go with ‘rewraps’. Rewraps are 3rd party ‘manufactures’ who purchase 18650 batteries from Panasonic, LG, Samsung, Sony, or Sanyo (the top 5 makers of 18650 batteries) or from other lower end companies… and then tear off the wrapper and place their own on it. Usually with outlandish claims like 40A and 3500mAH ratings! These are dangerous batteries and you do not know what they are really rated for or even if they are seconds, or pulls (pulled from a laptop battery). So stay safe and stick to reputable brands like LG, Sony, Samsung.
Secondly these batteries must be treated with respect. Unlike AA batteries they are powerful. If you drop them and dent them -even a tiny dent, if you tear the wrapper, if at any time they don’t look perfect throw them out and buy new ones. These batteries do have enough energy stored in them that they can seriously injury you. They can short circuit and go ‘kaboom’ / have a thermal runaway in which you will be burned.
Moving on, a ‘mod’ is the main body of the vaping device and it not only houses the battery but also the controller circuitry. Like all things in life these come in a couple different flavors: mechanical, hybrid, and regulated. You will want to stick with regulated as they use electronic controllers to stabilize the output. They also come with safety features that keep you from using it with the batteries put in backwards (which can cause a ‘kaboom’).
Mechanical mods (or mech mods for short) are on the other end of the spectrum and basically there is nothing but a firing button on the side that closes the circuit and lets the power flow from the battery directly into the atomizer. These are for advanced users only as if the batteries are put in backwards they can go boom or vent gasses into your face (the other main cause of hospital stays and those scary pictures). Even excluding safety concerns as there is no control over wattage, or voltage they really are not for the first time user. They push different amounts of power depending on the battery… and that is it.
A regulated mod though offers more than just safety features. It can allow you to adjust things to your liking. For example, you can set the wattage level you want to use and it will regulate the voltage so that – for example – 40 watts is always pushed to the atomizer no matter how much power is in the battery (they will shut down when it goes below a certain level and not let you fire when the batteries are unable to provide ’40’ watts). More importantly they allow for Temperature Control.
Temperature Control (TC) is a relatively new addition and it takes vaping to another whole level on the control and safety level. Basically instead of just telling the onboard computer to push X watts, you tell it you want the atomizer to be X degrees…. and much like an oven it regulates the power being pushed to the heating coil so that X degrees is what you get. This is important as you will not get ‘dry hits’ or really burn the cotton wicking. Burning cotton releases a lot of nasty chemicals and this is how some ‘studies’ get to show how ‘bad’ vaping is. Trust us when we say this is something you want to avoid.
Everyone is different and everyone has a favorite temperature. We personally have a couple different temps we use as different juices taste differently when vaporized at different temperatures! For example, we like to use lower temperatures for chocolate and fruit juices, but higher for coffee. Basically TC really can make vaping even more enjoyable. All it takes is a bit of playing around. Thankfully to set a temp all you need do is hit the up or down buttons on the side and the built in LED on the mod will display what temp you want it to go to and stay at.
There is one downside however to TC and that is not every atomizer uses materials that can be used in Temperature Control mode. Basically how these little computers are able to tell what temperature the heating coil is at is the resistance of the material used in the coil changes depending on the temperature it is at. Sadly, some metal’s resistance does not change enough to be noticeable. This is why pure nickel (Ni200), Titanium (Ti), and Stainless Steel (SS304, SS316, SS317 being the big three) are about the only ones that can be used in TC; whereas Kanthal and Ni80 (and many older types) cannot. Unfortunately, a lot off the shelf tanks do not have a TC coil option. This is why choosing your ‘tank’ and tank coil is very important. IE a TC coil can be used in wattage mode, but a wattage only tank coil cannot be used in TC mode.
Yes, the last part of an END system is the ‘tank’. As the name suggest it is a small holding tank where the flavored nicotine liquid (aka ejuice) goes and is where the heating coil – called an atomizer – is also. To get the juice from the storage to the coil various materials are used for wicking but usually it is cotton or cotton like material that soaks up the juice and then delivers it to the small heating element.
This small heating element is made up of a metal (TI, NI, SS, etc) and as the power from the batteries flow through it the hesitance of the metal basically causes friction which heats up the metal… and then heats the juice past its vaporization point.
Usually at the bottom of the tank are air holes (good models have adjustable ventilation to allow you to control how much air reaches the element) which allow air to flow over the heating element, cooling the element and whisking away the vapor. At the top of a tank is a small opening with a hollow tube on it (the drip tip). This is where you suck in air through the tank, over the heating element and then into your lungs. The tank screws on to the mod and has a small 510 connector on it that completes the circuit from the batteries to the heating coil.
Tanks come in two basic types: prebuilt and re-buildable (RTA and RDA – re-buildable tank atomizer and re-buildable dripper atomizer… if the tank you are interested in says either of these terms they are a smidge to advance for your first tank… unless they also come with prebuilt coil options!). As a novice you probably do not want to get into rebuilding and instead should stick to off the shelf models which offer replacement coils. As with batteries there are legitimate and knock-offs. Crown, Sense, Smoktech, Innokin, Kanger these are all good reputable manufactures of tanks. There are many more. A tank will cost you between 20-40 dollars and the replacements will cost you about $20 for either 3 or 5 replacement coils. A coil (which consists of the heating element and wick in a sealed replaceable subunit that fits into the tank) will last between one week and four weeks. It really will vary depending on how sweet or chocolatey your juice is and how many milliliters of juice you consume a day.
The last and critical component to an END system is the liquid used. This ‘ejuice’ is what makes vaping so enjoyable as it can be flavored in an endless combination of flavors. It also comes in a few different variety’s – the most common ones are 50/50, 70/30 and max VG. These numbers relate to what ratio of the two main ingredients used in the ejuice are mixed at. 50/50 is what most novices use and what most entry level start kits are built around; however, 70/30 is usually perfectly fine in those tanks. We personally use either 70/30 or max VG. This however does not really tell you all that much about what ejuice is!
E-juice is made up of a few key ingredients. The first is Propylene Glycol (PG). This is NOT ANTIFREEZE (which is Polyethylene Glycol). PG is the exact same thing that is used in many devices including some asthma inhalers (i.e. the base that the asthma med is put into). PG helps deliver the flavor… or at least makes it easier to taste the flavors. Some people are actually allergic to PG if you are one of these unlucky people… get a tank that can handle maxVG. This is why 70/30 and even max VG came about.
Vegetable Glycerin on the other hand is where the ‘cloud’ comes from and is the exact same stuff used in fog machines like the ones used at concerts – you can actually consider a ENDS a small fog machine…ish. So while 100% PG juice is technically possible you really need at least 50% VG in order to get the juice to easily vaporize and make a big enough cloud that can be inhaled.
The next is the nicotine. Contrary to public opinion this nicotine does not actually come from tobacco products and rather is pure nicotine with no additives or chemicals. This is what removes the cravings as your body does not care how the nic gets into your system… just as long as it does! Ejuice comes in a variety of nicotine levels the most common are 1.5mg, 3mg, 6,9,12, and 18 mg of nicotine. What this means is every ml has the list amount of nicotine in it and you will have to inhale that amount to get that amount of nicotine. We personally use 1.5 or 3mg but that is because we consume 30-50ml a day but we are unusually high on the consumption level. As a novice you will can expect to consume 3-9ml but you will want to start out at higher levels – we recommend 12mg as a good minimum.
There are no studies that we are aware of that correlates how many puffs on a ENDS equals one cigarette (too many variables – length of puff, atomizer used, etc etc). But common wisdom (that may or may not be right) is that at 18mg concentration ten puffs equals one cigarette. The average vaper inhales for anywhere from 3 – 6 seconds… so it is murky to say the least. Personally we would not get hung up on how many puffs equals a cig as you can take one puff and put the device down or you can chain vape 10ml. It does not really matter… beyond making sure the tank has juice and that you don’t ‘nic out’. We recommend playing with how many you need. See how many puffs satisfies your cravings. If you find yourself getting sick to your stomach, or dizzy,… you have ‘niced out’ and need to STOP PUFFING for a while as you have reached your nicotine limit for the moment. This is why we use less nicotine as we would nic out constantly. If you find yourself nicking out a lot… lower you nicotine content… or puff less.
The next is the flavors. As a novice you really will not want to get into making your own ejuice and instead will probably want to start off with premade juices. Everyone is different and there is no one juice that is right for everyone. The only way to find what you like is to try them. We recommend going to a good and reputable store and trying them. Most will have a free vape station with their flavors they offer. If you are in the US expect to spend one dollar as the FDA has made it illegal to offer free samples.
When it comes to ejuice there is one thing you have to make sure of before purchasing and it is a deal breaker for us. This deal breaker is diketone (pronounced ‘dike tone’) and making sure the ejuice does not have this family of harmful chemicals in it. Do not take their word for it and rather, if they do not have third party lab certification for that flavor and can show you the certification do not buy it…. no matter how good it tastes.
So what is diketone and why is it so bad? Diketones are a family of chemicals that include diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin. These chemicals are linked to cancer and you really do not want to be inhaling them…. after all you are getting of cigs or cigars because it causes cancer! Why are there diketones in ejuice? Basically the ejuice industry is still in the ‘bathtub gin’ stages and it really is the wild wild west in places. Though companies are not using it because they want to kill their customers, instead it is because a lot of flavors were never meant to be inhaled!
Instead, they are meant to be eaten and these diketones are at ‘safe levels’ when ingested but when they are vaporized the levels are… well… not safe. There is a movement underway to remove all diketones from ejuice but it is actually hard to make buttery, creamy, custardy flavors without them. Which in turn means its costlier to make the ejuice. So be safe and make sure you are vaping safe ‘bathtub gin’.