Vape Coils for Dummies
There are a few things you should be familiar with when you first get into vaping. This includes learning to work with vape coils, as they need regular maintenance. You’ll find them called by many names, including coils, atomizer, or atomizer heads. It can be a bit confusing, and we have designed this guide to help you get started.
What is a vape coil?
Although more commonly known as vape coils, what they actually refer to is the atomizer head. The coil is in fact contained within the atomizer. Believe it or not, it forms one of the most important components of your e-cigarette. Housed within the vape tank, the atomizer head contains a coil of thin wire and wicking material. This is responsible for heating the liquid in your e-cig to produce the vapour.
The vape coil is wrapped in a spiral form around the wicking material. Once fitted in the atomizer head, it connects the positive end of your battery to the negative. The process it works on is pretty simple: the wick in your vape is saturated in e-liquid. The battery turns on when you use your e-cig and heats up the coil, which vaporizes the e-liquid in the wick. This vapour travels up through the clearomizer or tank chimney for you to inhale.
Given the purpose vape coils serve, they are made with conductive, heat-resistant materials. Many experienced vapers go so far as to make their own coils. It works out well especially if you’re using a mod kit for sub-ohm vaping. This is usually done by purchasing special alloy wires and wick material. The coil wire is then tightly wound. It then needs to be manually fitted into the e-cig kit, with the wicking material fed through the middle of the coil. If you’re not up to the task, you can always simply buy ready-made replacement coils.
The anatomy of an atomizer head
An atomizer head can be broken down into three main parts.
The main body of the atomizer contains the components that make up the atomizer head. This is the outer casing that directly attaches to the tank where the e-liquid is stored. Its main function is providing electrical contact to the coil.
The coil is part of the atomizer- technically the atomizer head. Pressing the vape button will cause the coil to power and heat up. This will in turn vaporize the e-liquid contained in the wicking material. The coil needs to be replaced often, depending on how much it is used.
The wicking material draws the e-liquid into the coil where it is heated and vaporized. These often come in cotton, ceramic, rayon, mesh, or even wool variety. Learning to wick your coil properly is essential for the perfect hit. Watch this video if you would like a more detailed understanding of atomizer heads:
Ohm’s law and vape coils
Atomizer coils come with ohm specifications. Ohm is a measure of the electrical resistance of the coil wire in use. Generally, vape coils come with a range of 2.4-2.8 ohms, with 2.5 ohms being a popular choice among users.
To be specific, ohm’s law calculates the wattage given out by your e-cig. This depends on the atomizer resistance , battery ampage and voltage. Regulated vape mods will sort out ohm’s law specifications for you. Their electronic circuitry is specifically designed for current regulation. However, if you use an unregulated e-cig with a mechanical mod, you’ll need to have an understanding of ohm’s law. Unregulated mods come without safety features, or adjustable power output, or voltage.
While low-ohm vape coils produce more vapour and flavour, they also use more e-liquid. This in turn requires more battery power compared to high-ohm coils. This has been largely responsible for the sub-ohm vaping trend. This involves using a coil with a resistance level of less than 1 ohm. What you get with sub-ohm vaping are huge vape clouds and intense vapour hits. For this, you need special sub-ohm vape mods and tanks. This is generally a preference for experienced vapers. For beginners, an atomizer and coil in the 2.4-2.8 ohm range is a good choice to start with.
Coil resistance: what does it mean?
Vape coils come with either high or low resistance, which differing results. High resistance coils come with a resistance level above 1 ohm. These require much less power and produce much smaller clouds of vapour. But this also means they use much less e-liquid and are suited to most types of vapes. High-resistance coils are generally recommended for beginners when they first get into vaping.
Low resistance coils, or what is referred to as sub-ohm, come with a resistance level below 1 ohm. While these need larger amounts of power, they also produce much larger vapour clouds. This of course means they use up more e-liquid and aren’t suited to all e-cigs like high resistance coils. The vape coil resistance you decide to go with depends on what sort of experience you are looking for.
Technicalities of vape coils
The main principle behind vapes has hardly changed since first being industrialized. Originally, coils used Kanthal- resistance wires. They would be surrounded by an absorbent material, usually synthetic foam or fibreglass. Today, vape coil materials have changed, with different types of metals in use. These include stainless steel, nickel-chrome, or titanium, in addition to the traditional Kanthal. All of these materials allow for better temperature control. They are also relied on to improve conductivity between the coil and the battery.
An increasing trend of lower resistance metal wires has taken the vaping world by storm. It is quite common now to use a sub-ohm resistance, which is below 1 ohm. This has been essentially a response to produce higher performance atomizers. What low-resistance really does is heat the coil faster, making it hotter. This in turn produces a denser vapour by vaporizing more e-liquid.
What you should keep in mind is this will also require more e-liquid to work, and at higher temperatures. The coil would need to be wrapped in a more adsorbent material that needs to be kept moist. Low-resistance, high-powered atomizers also produce vapour with high levels of nicotine. This has allowed the adaptation of e-liquid to relatively low nicotine levels.
The absorbent material used in coils has also changed over time. Originally, a synthetic foam was used in the first atomizers. It has now been replaced with plant-based cotton fiber in most resistance coils. Cotton offers excellent wicking properties that allow more vapour to be produced. Ceramic systems are also becoming a popular alternative to cotton.
The purpose of different types of coil
As mentioned above, a variety of materials are used in the making of vape coils. All of these have something to add to your vape experience. Look into different wires and what they offer before you make a choice.
The traditional Kanthal wire
Other than being cheap and easy to find, Kanthal wire has remained a popular choice for a variety of reasons. It has shown a good level of oxidation resistance, and given its springy nature, holds shape well. This of course ensures a good, reliable coil wire for long-term use.
There are some drawbacks to a Kanthal wire you should be aware of. You can only really use it with temperature control. It sometimes offers a slower ramp-up time compared to some other wires. Vapers have also reported finding the flavour a bit dull, as compared to other coil wires.
NiChrome wire for wattage
Nickel-chromium wires offer a fast ramp-up time for wattage vaping. It’s easy enough to work with, and although it is less springy than Kanthal wire, it still holds its shape well. It is also a relatively inexpensive option when it comes to coil wires.
What you need to remember with NiChrome wiring is that it works at a much lower melting point than Kanthal wire. What that means is too many dry burns can cause it to catch fire. It is a good idea therefore to slowly pulse a NiChrome coil first. This wire should be avoided by people with nickel allergies. NiChrome is easy enough to buy online but is not commonly stocked by vape shops.
Stainless Steel wire- one size fits all
Stainless steel is the leading choice when it comes to dual-use. These wires can handle both wattage and temperature-controlled modes. Stainless steel wires come in different grades, and each offers a different experience. Some grades contain almost no nickel, suitable for use for those with nickel allergy. With its high melting point, it can be easily dry-burned. While some grades offer more spring, it is generally known to hold shape well. With the faster ramp-up time comes a crisp, clean flavour.
A possible downside with stainless steel wires is that it can be hard to find gauges for some grades. While you can get zero nickel content in some SS grades, others often contain high levels of nickel. If you suffer from a nickel allergy, you will have to be a bit careful with your choice. The differences between the different grades also make some of them a little harder to work with.
Nickel wire in TC mod
Nickel wires are the first for temperature control mods. These are easy to find locally and inexpensive. You can even get tempered nickel wire which holds shape well and is easier to work with. It also offers a faster ramp-up time than Kanthal.
Possible downsides to using nickel wire are that it can only be used in temperature control mode. As it runs the risk of overheating and melting, it is not suited for wattage mode. It’s also rather soft, so it does not hold shape well. Of course, it is not an option for people with a nickel allergy.
The risks and rewards ofTitanium wire
This is a bit of a controversial choice, as it can pose some risk. Titanium wires release titanium dioxide at temperatures over 600°C, which is toxic. With a functioning temperature control mod, this should not be a matter of concern. It is very easy to work with, holding shape well and produces an exquisite flavour. Being quite strong, it allows long-term use without the wire bending out of shape or breaking.
It is generally considered safe to use and users have not reported any negative effects. A good piece of advice when using titanium wire is to heat it until it’s shiny. It should develop a thin oxide layer that would stick to the wire. These wires are also a little harder to find in local stores.
What coil is best for me?
What works for you entirely depends on your experiences and preferences. Some vapers prefer coils that do not need frequent replacement and use up much less e-liquid. If you don’t mind smaller vapour clouds, you can look into high-resistance varieties of vape coils. Others enjoy that heavy cloud and do not mind the frequent replacement requirements. If that suits you, low-resistance options may be the way to go for you.
The recommended step here is to experiment a bit with different types of vape coils. Try a few different varieties and see which best fits your requirements. Any coil can be suited to you as long as you get the experience you are looking for.
When to change your vape coil
The biggest indicator you should look out for is the taste. A sure sign to look out for is when your e-liquid starts to taste muted or your vape clouds are smaller. If the vapour tastes burnt or begins to feel dry, it is time to replace the coil. You can also check the coil to see if it’s not too clogged up with deposit. This however may not be possible for most resistance coils. With most atomizers, you can simply buy replacement coils and pop them in. Watch this tutorial to learn how to change your vape coil:
Depending on how often you vape, you may have to change the coil every few weeks, or even more often with heavy vaping. A general estimate is that you will need to replace the coil every two weeks if you vape daily. Just make sure you buy the correct coil model and make for your e-cig.
How to clean your vape / vape coil
Check out this post to see how to clean your vape and more information on when to change your vape coil