How Do Vaporizers Work?

Vaporizers, or vapes, are devices that use a healthier and more efficient method of extracting the active ingredients found in dry herbs and concentrates, without any combustion being involved. They produce an inhalable vapor instead of the smoke that other common methods of consumption such as joints and bongs create.

Vaporizing instead of smoking your bud, makes it go a lot further, as well as preventing the creation of dangerous carcinogens. Vaporizers harness the power of convection or conduction to heat your herbs and oils to precise temperatures, allowing you to customize the amount of each ingredient being extracted and give you the effects you desire.

Vapes come in many different shapes, sizes, and configurations, so there’s bound to be a vape out there that will perfectly suit your personal needs. We’ll take a closer look at the details of vaporizers in this article, so you’ll know exactly what you should be looking for when making a purchase.

Perks of Using a Vaporizer

Using a vaporizer to heat your herbs and oils minimizes the odor produced, virtually eliminating any smell that may stick to your clothes or in your house after a big vape session. 

By changing the temperature that your vape heats your flower, you can get a vaping experience that’s tailored to create the effects you desire, whether it’s pain relief, physical relaxation, a mental high, or all of the above.

Vapor is much easier on your lungs than smoking, it doesn’t feel harsh to inhale like smoke, and it greatly reduces the chances of any negative health effects occurring.

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Using a vaporizer also gives you far more mileage with your herb, you’ll get many more hits than you would have if you were using combustion, sometimes getting up to four sessions out of a single bowl load. And when you’re done, get a bonus session by using the already vaped bud (AVB) in baking, butter, or eating it directly, as it’s already been activated to release the key compounds you seek.

Parts of a Vaporizer

Regardless of the type of vape you select, they all have the same general components:

Battery/Power Source: Most vaporizers have their own source of power (either a rechargeable battery or AC power supply) used to heat your vape products to the optimal temperature. We say “most” because there are a few exceptions which use an external heat source (like a torch lighter or induction heater). The power source really determines how portable your vaping experience can be, whether you’d like to vape in the wilderness or be tied to a wall for power.

Heat Source: As mentioned above, electrical power is used to heat your herb, but more specifically it is done via a heat source like a coil or atomizer. The heat is then transferred to your raw material using convection or conduction, activating the key compounds and extracting them in the form of a vapor which can be inhaled.

Chamber/Bowl/Cartridge: Each vape has a specific area where you can pack your herbs or oils to be vaped, known as a chamber or bowl. Sometimes this is combined with an atomizer into a single unit known as a cartridge. Cartridges can come pre-filled with concentrate, or can be filled by the user, they are good for a finite amount of uses and are thrown away when you are finished with them.

Mouthpiece: As the name suggests, this is where you place your mouth to inhale the vapor. Mouthpieces usually extend outwards from the vape’s heat source, and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes allowing you to customize the way you experience your vape.

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Selecting the Best Vaporizer for Your Needs

The best vaporizer for you personally depends on a few things:

- Where will you use the vaporizer: at home, on the go, or both?

- How do you want your material to be heated: convection or conduction? These generally determine the price and performance of your vape.

- What type of material will you be vaporizing? Dry herbs, concentrates, or e-liquids?

Let’s cover these in a bit more depth.


This determines the freedom you have with your vaping experience.

Desktop vaporizers:

- Are more powerful as they are plugged into an AC power supply

- Are easy to share: you can inflate a bag or use a whip

- Take longer to warm up (~five minutes)

- Stay hot for long periods of time

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Portable vaporizers:

- Use rechargeable battery power or an external heat source

- Are small and discrete

- Are fast to warm up (two minutes max)

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Heating Methods

This determines the performance (and usually the price) of your vaporizer.

Conduction vaporizers:

- Make direct contact between the vaping material and the heat source

- Are usually cheaper

- Are quick to heat up as you only heat the chamber

- Need the flower to be stirred between hits for thorough and even heating

- Are more prone to hotspots (which risks occasional combustion; not ideal if you are trying to avoid smoking your herb)

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Convection vaporizers:

- Heat your flower by passing hot air through it, there is no direct contact with the heat source

- Produce more even heating and vaporization

- Are very efficient, allowing more active material to be vaporized

- Offer more accurate temperature adjustments (allowing you to more easily customize which compounds you target in your herb)

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Vaping Materials

This determines the type of vaporizer you can purchase. Some models are designed to vaporize herbs, waxes and concentrates, although most are designed for one medium only.

Dry herbs:

- Includes any plant material which has been dried and cured

- Usually require a special grinder to increase the surface area for greater potency

- Produce AVB as a by-product for consumption

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Concentrates (waxes, oils, shatters):

- Deliver stronger, more intense hits compared to dry herbs

- Produce a weaker aroma and flavour than dry herb, which is ideal if you prefer a more subtle taste.

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Oils or e-liquids (e-juices):

- Includes botanical oil blended with vegetable glycerin or a propylene glycol base

- Usually come in pre-packed cartridges

- Have been associated with EVALI (“popcorn lung”)

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Final Thoughts

Vaporizers can seem a bit overwhelming in their complexity at first, but hopefully by now you have a clearer idea of how they work and what vaporization method might be best for you.

For more information check out our Best Dry Herb Vaporizers on a Budget and Guide to Concentrate Vaporizers articles, or browse our store’s categories for portable vaporizersdesktop vaporizersdry herb vaporizers, and concentrate vaporizers.