Post by: Nathaniel Chavin
While vaporizing has become arguably the most popular method to ingest cannabis products in recent years, the modern vaporizer actually dates back to the early 90s. Back then, vaporizers were bulky desktop units that used convection to bake dry herbs. As concentrates such as waxes and oils weren’t being produced back then, there wasn’t much demand for alternative vaporizers. Conduction vaporizers entered the market after the e-cig was invented in the early 2000s. This was a vaporizer revolution. Now you could carry around your vape pen and you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet to plug it in. With the growing popularity of concentrates, conduction became the primary heating method among modern vaporizers. In addition to convection and conduction vaporizers, combustion vapes gained a bit of popularity among dry herb enthusiasts for awhile due to their ease of use and reliability. Unfortunately, combustion vapes are essentially burning your dry herbs, reducing the health benefits of vaporizing. These technically aren’t true vaporizers but are often tagged ‘vapes’ due to their electronic heating methods and similarity to true vaporizers. Let’s explore the differences between combustion, convection and conduction in depth.
What is a combustion vaporizer?
Combustion vapes are unique in that they burn (or combust) the product using direct contact between heating element and that product. Most combustion vapes are pen-shaped and on the smaller side. These are generally used for cannabis flowers and like any dry herb vaporizer, the flowers should be ground into a fine powder before packing into the chamber. Combustion vapes are often more affordable than other dry herb vaporizers as the technology is simpler. The chamber contains a hot coil where you pack ground cannabis. When the vaporizer is turned on, this coil heats up to high temperatures, burning the herbs. This is why combustion vapes are not ‘true’ vaporizers. However, you can modify most combustion vapes by placing a glass screen over the heating element and then placing your dry herb on top of the screen. This screen prevents combustion and results in more of a vapor effect. Of course, most combustion vapes don’t have a temperature setting so even with a glass screen, sometimes combustion can still occur. If you’re looking to buy a vaporizer for health reasons, we’d recommend looking at something else instead.
While combustion vapes don’t usually provide the health benefits of other vaporizers, they are popular for a number of reasons. First, they are very reliable and work well even in wet and windy conditions. This makes them ideal for ski and snowboard trips. In addition, they are often the most affordable vaporizers. In line with this, they are smaller in size as they don’t require as large a battery as convection vapes. Most combustion vapes have a Lithium-ion battery around 600-800 mAh. Because of the smaller battery requirement, combustion vapes are usually compact and pen-shaped, making them ideal for travel. Lastly, they are still quite popular among cannabis users who want a real smoking experience. You can get thick, solid rips out of a combustion vape that you just can’t get from a ‘true’ vaporizer.
What is a convection vaporizer?
While convection vaporizers were the first vaporizers, they are still in demand today. These vaporizers are the most varied in size and shape. They can be large desktop units like the Volcano or handheld vapes like the E-clipse. Convection vapes are mainly used with dry cannabis for users who want a ‘true’ vape experience. As opposed to combustion and conduction vapes, the heating element is separated from the ground herbs and hot air is passed from the heating element through the herb chamber. This hot air vaporizes the herbs at a lower temperature than combustion occurs to create a healthier, less toxic vapor. Early convection vaporizers were criticized as they weren’t great at regulating temperature and would often heat up excessively, causing combustion. However, modern convection vapes have accurate temperature controls, ensuring that you won’t burn your herbs. Dry cannabis will begin to burn (or combust) at 455°F so make sure to set your vape lower than this. 375°F and 430°F is the perfect range for vaporizing dry herbs.
Some convection vapes have three temperature settings (low, medium, and high), while others can be fine-tuned to the degree. While the former often works great, some users like to have more control over the specific temperature. Additionally, heating chambers can come in either ceramic or stainless steel. Both options conduct heat well, and have their pros and cons. Ceramic heats up slightly slower, but maintains an even temperature better than stainless steel. This is why ceramic has been the most widely used material for convection vapes. Stainless steel heats up quickly and can provide excellent heat transfer, however occasionally you can get pockets of heat within the chamber. It’s especially important to grind your herbs well when using a stainless steel heating chamber.
Like I said before, convection vapes are most popular among dry herb users who want a healthy vaporizer.
What is a conduction vaporizer?
In contrast to convection vapes, conduction vapes have a heating element that comes in direct contact with your dry herbs, wax, or oil. Therefore, the combustion vaporizers we discussed earlier fall under this category. However, there are many types of conduction vaporizers. Some conduction vaporizers like the Pax 3 can be used with both dry herbs and concentrates such as hashes, waxes and oils. It’s almost a hybrid convection/conduction vape as it has a convection like ‘oven’ but this heats directly from the heating element making it a conduction vape.
Most conduction vapes are used more for concentrates as they vaporize best when they have direct contact with a heat source such as quartz or ceramic coils. Quartz coils heat up quickly and provide a great heat source, which are ideal for concentrates. However, some people swear by ceramic and argue that ceramic provides better flavor. As ceramic does better at holding a constant temperature, this has some validity but in practice doesn’t make much of a difference.
To summarize, generally speaking conduction vapes are more popular for concentrates and convection vapes hold the dry herb market. But of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule. There are great dry herb conduction vapes as well, like the Pax 3.
What is the difference between convection and conduction?
Still confused as the difference between convection and conduction? No worries. We’ll break it down for those not so scientifically inclined.
- Convection works like an oven. There is a heat source that heats up air. Then this hot air is pulled from the heat source through dry herbs(usually by taking a pull on the pen). This extremely hot air pulls trichomes (containing THC, CBD, etc) off the dry herbs and a vapor is produced. This vapor is inhaled, getting all those wonderful trichomes into your bloodstream.
- Conduction means the heating element is in direct contact with your herbs or concentrates. As opposed to the ‘oven’ in convection, think of conduction as a frying pan. This means the herb or concentrate heats up quicker, making conduction ideal for concentrates as they require a higher temperature to vaporize. From this point, inhalation is the same as a convection vape. You inhale the vapor which mixes with air, diluting the vapor and the same trichomes containing THC, CBD and other compounds.
Why have combustion vapes become less and less popular?
When portable dry herb vaporizers first came out, combustion vapes hit the market quickly. Now that vaping has become so popular, there are so many high quality weed vaporizers to choose from that the simpler combustion vapes have lost their appeal. Especially, since combustion vapes create smoke, which can bother those around you. This being said, combustion vapes still have their place and can come in handy on a snowboard trip where it’s wet and windy.
Are oil vape pens convection vaporizers or conduction vaporizers?
Since oil vapes typically have cartridges, it can be confusing which category they fall under. Almost all oil vapes have an ‘atomizer’ in the middle of the sealed oil cartridge. This heating element has direct contact with the oil, thus making it a conduction vaporizer.
Are wax pens convection vapes or conduction vaporizers?
Wax pens also have a heating element that has direct contact with the wax, usually in the form of quartz or ceramic coils (or rods). This makes most wax pens conduction vaporizers.
Are you vaping when taking dabs from a dab rig or enail?
It is possible to vaporize when taking dabs from a dab rig or enail, but it all depends on the temperature. Typically, you get extremely high temperatures when using a dab rig, which results in combustion. This begins to occur when the temperature of the wax rises over 450°F. If you stay under this temperature, you can get clean, smooth vapor. As you increase the temperature, you can get a medium temperature dab between 450°F and 600°F. This will result of a mix of combustion and vapor that is worth a shot. Upwards of 600°F is going to give you pure combustion and more of a traditional hard-hitting dab.
With the growing popularity of vaporizing, there are countless options to satisfy your vaping needs. We hope this article cleared up all your questions about combustion, convection and conduction and will help you find the perfect vaporizer. Each type of vaporizer has its pros and cons but there’s a perfect vape for everyone out there. If you’re more into concentrates, a conduction vape might be better for you. If you mostly vape dry herbs, a convection vape is probably the way to go. Of course, there are also vapes that do both well if you like to enjoy it all. Happy vaping!
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