What is a Vaporizer?

What Is A Vaporizer ?

Vaporizers 101

You’ve read about them. You’ve seen your friends using them. But do they really live up to the hype? How do they even work?

If you’re new to the idea of vaping, you probably have a million questions about it….

How do vaporizers work? Is it safe? Is it really healthier than smoking?

We’re going to answer all of your questions and more, so you can decide if vaping is the right choice for you.

Let’s start with the basics – what is a vaporizer?

Simply put, a vaporizer is a device that heats up material (either dry herb/tobacco or oil/wax) to a temperature that causes them to release their active components.  Essentially, what the device does is turn your material into vapor.

During the process, the material isn’t burned, combusted or scorched, so no smoke is produced. The only thing a vaporizer produces is vapor.

Vaporizers consist of just a few basic components:
  • Battery: As you may have guessed, the battery powers the device. Some desktop vaporizers, like the Volcano, use electricity and not batteries to power up.
  • Heating element: All vaporizers have a heating element that heats up the herbs or oil/wax.
  • Filling chamber: The filling chamber is where you place the material you want to vaporize. Depending on the vaporizer, the chamber may be situated directly on top of the heating element, or above it.
  • Mouthpiece: When you’re ready to vape, you take draws from the mouthpiece.

These are just the basic components that make up a vaporizer. Some models have other features and components, like LED screens and temperature controls. Some also use balloons to trap the vapor, and you take draws from the balloon’s valve.

Conduction vs Convection

When you hear people talk about vaporizers, you may hear the words “conduction” and “convection”. These two terms refer to the method of heating the herbs or oils. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks. It helps to understand what each one is and how they work, so you know what type of vaporizer to choose.


We like to use a kitchen comparison to explain the difference between conduction and convection. Think of conduction as your stovetop burner, and the filling chamber as the pot. With conduction heating, the material inside of the chamber is placed directly over the heating element.

The herbs vaporize quickly, but poorly designed vaporizers may heat the material to the point of combustion.

The great thing about conduction heating is that it’s inexpensive. Entry-level models with low price tags use this method of heating. In most cases, combustion is never really an issue as most manufacturers have improved their designs.


Sticking to the kitchen comparison, think of convection heating as an oven. When you bake food in an oven, you place the pan on the rack, and the heat surrounds the food, cooking it slowly. When cooked this way, there’s less of a chance of the food burning, and it creates a richer flavor.

That’s, essentially, how convection heating works in a vaporizer, too. The material doesn’t sit directly on top of the heating element. It sits above it, so the heat surrounds it and vaporizes it slowly. The chances of combusting material in a convection vaporizer is next to none.

When comparing convection and conduction heating, convection will always be the better choice. But because it’s a little more complex, devices that use this heating method tend to be more expensive (think Storz and Bickel products), and most aren’t portable. It’s not impossible to find a portable vaporizer that uses convection heat, but they’re not as common as conduction devices.

Is Vaping Safe?

Is Vaping Safe?

Now that you understand how vaporizers work, you may be wondering if they’re safe. Truth be told, there haven’t been too many studies conducted to confirm the safety of vaporizers, but one thing’s for sure, the vapor produced does not contain the same harmful carcinogens that regular smoke contains.

Okay, so what does vapor contain?

Trees, plants and herbs contain volatile oils, and these oils are pleasing to our sense of smell. Aside from their smell, these oils can also have beneficial effects on our health.

When you vaporize herbs, these beneficial oils are released into the vapor.

Vaporizers direct heat through the plant material to create a pleasing aromatic vapor. When done correctly, vapor does not contain tar or harmful gasses.

Unlike smoking, you’re not left with a pile of ashes after a vaping session; you’re left with the solid remains of the herb minus its original color and smell.

What vaping does is eliminate the carcinogens found in regular smoke. And if we’re talking about smoking joints, you also eliminate the carcinogens that are created when the rolling papers burn. Not to mention the soot that gets into your lungs when you smoke.


The Benefits of Using a Vaporizer

There are numerous benefits to using a vaporizer instead of smoking, especially when it comes to marijuana. These benefits include:

  • Saves money: Whether you’re vaping marijuana or some other herb, a vaporizer can help you save money. You won’t need as much material to get the same effect, and it will last twice as long as smoking.
  • Enhanced effects: Vaporizing herbs, especially cannabis, actually enhances the effect of the plant. One study by California NORML found that vaporizers were able to convert 46% of the THC into vapor. Smoking was only able to convert 25% of the THC.
  • Better taste: Because you’re not burning the herbs, you enjoy a cleaner, richer taste when vaping.
  • No smoke and reduced smell: Vaping produces no smoke, and unlike smoking, vapor’s odor is very subtle.
  • Better on your lungs: When vaping, material is heated at a much lower temperature than combustion. It’s said that vaping removes 95% or more of the smoke that you would normally inhale when smoking.
  • Subtler effects: Compared to smoking, vaporizers produce a much subtler high when vaporizing cannabis. For some, this may be a drawback, but studies have shown that people (especially medical marijuana patients) feel more functional after vaporizing.
  • No second-hand smoke: If you tend to smoke around other people, second-hand smoke is a concern – even if those people are smoking themselves. Because vaporizers don’t actually produce any smoke, the harmful effects of inhaling second-hand smoke are all but eliminated.
  • Quicker relief: Medical marijuana patients have found that vaporizing cannabis offers them much quicker relief than edibles or teas. That’s because it takes much longer for the active ingredients in marijuana to be absorbed by the stomach. It takes just minutes for your lungs to absorb the active components in marijuana when vaping.

Vaporizers can save you money, offer you quicker relief, don’t produce smoke and enhance the effects of herbs. Hands down, vaporization is the better option when compared to smoking.

Understanding The Different Types of Vaporizers

types of vaporizers

You know the benefits of vaporizers, and you’re ready to get started. What type do you buy? There are a few to choose from. Let’s take a look at each one:

  • Desktop: Desktop vaporizers are the largest of the bunch. These aren’t powered by battery; they’re powered by electricity. Don’t expect to take one of these with you on the go, but do expect a really satisfying vaping session. Most desktop devices use convection heating, which is why they’re a popular choice with vaping enthusiasts. Our initial introduction into vaping came with a medical patients preferred use of the Volcano desktop vaporizer for their medication. The Volcano vape sets the bar very high.
  • Whip: Whip vaporizers are similar to desktop devices. Most aren’t very portable, but they use convection to vaporize the herbs. These need to be plugged into an outlet, and the herb is placed inside of the “wand”.
  • Portable: Just as its name describes, portable vaporizers are portable. They’re ideal for on-the-go use, but don’t use forced air or the whip-style design to produce vapor. These devices are powered by battery and are a popular choice for beginners.
  • Pen: Pen vaporizers are just like a portable vaporizer, but they tend to be smaller and most aren’t compatible with dry herbs. Most pens require you to use wax or oil, which makes them a smart choice for medical marijuana patients who prefer cannabis oil.

Can you put weed in a vape pen?

Can you put weed in a vape pen?

In most cases, no. At least not dry weed but that is changing with new 3-in-1 vaporizer pens that are starting to hit the market.

The right vaporizer for you will depend on your lifestyle, needs and budget. Desktop and whip-style vaporizers tend to be the most expensive. There are high-end portable vaporizers on the market as well that use convection heating. If you enjoy vaping and you plan on doing it regularly, these vaporizers are well worth the cost.

If you’re just getting started and aren’t sure if you’ll even like vaping, an entry-level portable model is a smart choice. If you have friends with a better quality vaporizer, like a desktop or high-end portable device, consider giving them a test run before you go out and buy one of your own.

How to Use a Vaporizer

how to use a vaporizer

All vaporizers are easy to use, but some require a few extra steps. Desktop style vaporizers work a little differently than portable or pen style devices, so the process is a little bit different. Let’s take a look at how to use each type.

How to Use a Desktop Vaporizer

Most desktop vaporizers, like the Volcano, will use a balloon, but you will find other options, too, like the hot box. Either way, the process is generally the same. Here’s how it works.

  1. Turn on the machine and let it heat up. Depending on the vaporizer, you may see an LED light change from red to green to let you know it’s ready for use.
  2. If possible, adjust the temperature settings to your own liking. Most desktop models will allow you to adjust the temperature digitally, so you can choose a precise temperature.
  3. Grind your herbs to a fine consistency.
  4. Place the herb in the filling chamber, and place the chamber on top of the device.
  5. Let the chamber sit for a minute or two to heat up the material.
  6. If using a balloon-style device, place the valve balloon on the filling chamber, and lock it into place. The valve will now open and the balloon will start to fill up with vapor.
  7. Fill the balloon to the approximate amount of vapor you plan to use in the next ten minutes. This way, you don’t lose any vapor in the process.
  8. Once filled, turn off the air pump, and remove the balloon with the filling chamber.
  9. Detach the filling chamber from the balloon.
  10. Attach the mouthpiece.
  11. To inhale, press the mouthpiece to your lips. The pressure will open the release valve and allow you to inhale the vapor. Once the pressure is removed, the valve will automatically close.

How to Use a Whip Style Vaporizer

Whip style vaporizers are similar to desktop devices, but they don’t require bags or balloons. Here’s how they work:

  1. Turn on the device, and allow it to heat up.
  2. Choose the right temperature for your herbs.
  3. Grind your herbs to a fine consistency.
  4. Open the filling chamber, and add your herbs. Be sure to fill the chamber completely. If you don’t want to fill the entire chamber, you may have to place a liquid pad over the herbs to ensure that the material is uniform and evenly heated.
  5. Close the filling chamber.
  6. Press the mouthpiece between your lips, and slowly inhale for several seconds.

Using a whip-style vaporizer is simple, and there’s no need to worry about bags or balloons. Just keep in mind that these devices aren’t the best option when sharing with friends.

How to Use a Vaporizer Pen and Portable Vaporizer

3 in 1 vaporizer

Portable and pen vaporizers are the easiest to use because they’re designed for use on the go. Here’s how they work:

  1. Grind your herbs to a fine consistency.
  2. Open the filling chamber, and add your herbs. If using a pen, you’ll fill the chamber with oil or wax.
  3. Close the filling chamber.
  4. Turn on the device, and allow it to heat up.
  5. A light should turn green when the device is ready for use.
  6. Press the mouthpiece to your lips, and inhale. The harder and longer you inhale, the greater the volume of vapor and the higher the temperature.

Portable and pen vaporizers are convenient and easy to use, but they can be limiting in terms of how much material you can pack and the flavor it produces.

Vaporizers are safer and healthier than smoking, and they’re easy to use. Desktop vaporizers offer some of the best quality vapor, and they’re relatively easy to use. If you’re going to share with friends, make sure you have enough material and bags. The first bag will give you the best flavor, so keep this in mind.