The Structure of a Vape Pen
Every vape pen has the same three components:
● A battery
● A chamber
● A mouthpiece
These three parts usually unscrew from each other for loading, cleaning, and general maintenance. This lets you replace parts as needed; you can get a new mouthpiece if yours gets dirty, or you can buy a new battery when the old one stops holding a charge.
The way a vape pen works is pretty simple. First, load your product into the chamber. When you inhale or press the button, energy from the battery is used to heat the chamber. As the chamber gets hot, the product is vaporized into vapor that you inhale through the mouthpiece.
This design is universal to all vape pens. When you're shopping for a pen, think about the power source, the heating chamber, and the way that you inhale the vapor. Those three elements are all you need to vaporize almost anything.
You've probably noticed that the parts on vape pens are not always interchangeable. The battery on one pen isn't going to fit a pen made by a different manufacturer.
This is because batteries have different voltage levels. If you put a 1300mAh battery into a device that is rated for a 900mAh battery, you're going to fry it. If you use a weaker battery, you're not going to get the temperatures you need. Manufacturers often limit their design so that you can only put the correct batteries into your pen.
The 510 threaded battery is the biggest exception to this rule. A pen that fits a 510 battery can fit any other 510 battery.
This is great for consumers, but do you remember what we just said about voltage levels? Make sure you pick the right battery to avoid damaging your device. You can check your old battery to find the correct voltage.
Wax and oil vapes commonly use 510 batteries. Some dry herb vapes might use a 510 battery, but they're also likely to feature a unique design. Whatever battery your pen uses, it needs to be able to heat your chamber to the right temperature.
The Temperature of Vaporization
Now that you know how vape pens work, it's time to get into the major difference between dry herb vaporizers and wax vaporizers: the temperature.
Dry herb starts to vaporize at 315 degrees Fahrenheit; this is the boiling point of THC. Higher temperatures release more THC and other cannabinoids. Start with temperatures around 350-400 degrees and experiment until you get vapor that you like.
Wax tends to vape best at around 370 to 380 degrees. Technically, wax will also start to evaporate at around 315 degrees, but you won't get a very thick stream of vapor. Use lower temperatures to make a small dab last for a much longer time.
The main reason that wax pens need to be hotter is that they're vaporizing concentrated product. Dry herb contains THCa, CBD, and other components that contribute to the smoking experience. These ingredients turn into vapor at much lower temperatures. Wax needs to get extremely hot to fully vaporize; one study found that the optimal ratio of THC to other components was produced at 446 degrees.
The perfect temperature depends on your pen and your product. Buy a pen that lets you control the temperature and experiment with the settings. A low temperature will make your product last longer, and a high temperature will give you a stronger effect.
Differences in Chamber Design
The chamber of a vape pen is its most defining feature. This is where herb vapes and wax vapes obviously differ.
Wax vaporizers have a visible coil. This is the easiest way to reach the temperatures necessary for vaporization; if you've ever made the mistake of touching a hot wire, you'll understand why. The coil is often called an atomizer because it turns the wax into literal atoms. Single, double, and even triple coil atomizers are available on the market.
Herb vaporizers have an encased ceramic chamber. This chamber slowly heats up and cooks the herb within. The leaf is never exposed to a direct heat source, so you'll get a much smoother vapor than if you used a traditional spoon pipe. Most dry herb chambers are made from ceramic since it holds a steady heat.
That exposed coil is why wax vapes don't last as long as herb vapes. Residue from your wax, shatter, resin, or product of choice is always going to get on the coil. Over time, the wires degrade and the coil burns out.
Dry herb vapes don't have this problem because their components are internal. All coils will burn out eventually, but the lack of exposure does wonders for the lifespan.
Some wax pens feature a donut-style atomizer. This design looks a lot like a dry herb chamber; the coil doesn't come into contact with the wax. Your wax will burn a lot slower, but the taste will be significantly less burnt.
Really, the only difference between the two types of vaporizers is the temperature they need to hit and the corresponding changes in design. A dry herb vaporizer isn't going to get hot enough to cook your wax. You could technically put dry herb in a wax vaporizer, but you'll have to clean the residue, and you might damage your coil.
If you like smoking both products, save yourself the trouble and purchase both types of vape pens. Get the right strength battery, a chamber that works for your product, and a mouthpiece with a really smooth draw.