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Clearomizer Terminology & Technology

To use a personal vaporizer (also known as an electronic cigarette) you need a way of "atomizing" the vaping liquid that will create the vapor or steam simulating traditional cigarette smoke.

There are essentially three types of atomizers.

At the right is a typical "clearomizer" – the Aspire ET-S with a glass tank.

A "Clearomizer" is a term that means an "atomizer" with a clear tank. You can think of this as the second generation in atomizers. The first was a "Cartomizer" that means a cartridge style atomizer. Cartomizers were mostly used on Cig-Alikes and looked like the filter portion of a traditional cigarette. There is also a type that is just referred to as an Atomizer or Rebuildable. Rebuildable atomizers mean that the coils and wicks are not pre-made and the user "rebuilds" them on a regular basis.

Clearomizers are the most convenient. As you can see from the picture above, they come apart for cleaning, adding vaping liquid, and replacing the heating element. Everything is pre-built, including the coils.

Let's go over each part. The top part is called the drip tip or mouth piece. This is where the user draws the vapor from by placing the vaporizer to the lips and inhaling (while pressing the firing button). The Aspire ET-S has a built-in drip tip, it cannot be changed. Most clearomizers have drip tips that are replaceable. These are known as 510 drip tip or 510 compatible. The earlier drip tips were made for cartomizers that were designed for a 510-threaded battery. That's where the "510" comes from and is now a standard for the drip tip hole opening size and for the threaded battery connection.

Drip tips come in different materials, styles, and colors. You can get just about any type of drip tip to suit your personality or needs – and a great way to personalize your vape.

Before we continue on with the terminology, we need to discuss the vacuum inside a clearomizer. The way these work is based on the principle of a vacuum and some type of wicking to get the vape liquid to the heating element. Air flow, usually from the bottom of the clearomizer, cascades over the heating element saturated with vape liquid and up the air tube and through the drip tip for you to draw. This vacuum/wicking process is balanced and all of these clearomizers feature seals and O rings to maintain this balance.

The top cap can usually be removed so that you can clean out the clearomizer. That's about the only reason to remove it. Clearomizers should be cleaned out every second or third re-fill.

The top cap may have a built in air tube or an air tube that is threaded into the top cap. If you look at the picture in the top right, you will see the Aspire ET-S has an air tube that is built into the top cap. The air tube has to be kept clean with no vaping liquid inside it. If you have vaping liquid inside the air tube, you will get a gurgling sound when you draw on the drip tip.

The coil is the heating element. The coil works in conjunction with your battery. When you press the fire button on your battery, the power flows through the coil and heats the surrounding vaping liquid that creates the vapor or steam that you draw through the drip tip. If you have a toaster in your kitchen, you essentially have the same concept that you can see. When you use a toaster, you can see the "heating element" inside glow to a red hot state. That heat is what toasts your bread. On a much smaller scale, there is a similar heating element inside the coil housing. Around the coil heating element is a wicking material that helps draw in vaping liquid to be heated. Manufacturers lately have been using the term "wickless" ... that is not entirely correct, wickless coils still have wicks – they just are not visible. Coils last anywhere from a two to eight weeks depending on the vaping liquid you are using. 

Replacing the coil is not complicated. In the top right picture, the element at the right is the threaded base. The coil is threaded in the base with finger pressure only. You should not need any tools to remove it or put the new one in. Before you remove yours, keep in mind that this may have some nicotine residue. Use a tissue to clean it off before you grasp it to take the coil out. The bottom of the coil has a small O ring and you will need a light amount of pressure to remove it. Coils are available individually or in packs of 5 or 10. Packs are the best value. Coils are available in different resistance or ohms

As you progress in your vaping experience, you will hear about high-resistance coils and low-resistance coils. Don't be intimidated, this means nothing more than the ability of the coil to heat quicker and/or to provide more heat to the vaping liquid. Pre-built coils are available in various "ohms" such as 1.5 ohms, 1.6 ohms, 1.8 ohms, 2.0 ohms, 2.1 ohms, and just about every increment between 1.5 and 3.5 ohms. The most common and most popular are 1.8 ohms and 2.0 ohms. 2.0 ohms provides the most flexible balance.

So, what's the difference between low resistance and high resistance? Well, you will get a lot of different opinions on this, so here's the layman version. Low resistance provides more heat and more quickly. That means you end up with better battery life and more vapor. You also get a hotter vape experience and more possibility of "burned" vaping liquid ... and a shorter coil life. High resistance coils take longer to heat up and that means shorter battery life. You also get a cooler vape experience and better flavor. Coils last longer. Which should you use? Fortunately, you don't have to decide right now. Most clearomizers include two coils, one as a spare. These are usually different resistance levels so that you can decide which is best for you before you commit to buying in 5 or 10 packs.

Filling most clearomizers is a fairly simple task. Turn the clearomizer upside down so the drip tip is pointing down. Remove the bottom base. You will see a tube in the middle of the clearomizer bottom that is exposed and open when you remove the base. That is the air tube ... you need to avoid getting any vaping liquid in this air tube. If you get liquid in there, you will get a gurgling effect when you draw air through the drip tip while vaping. Most air tubes provide enough space between the outside of the air tube and the sides of the tank so that you can use a regular vaping liquid bottle to fill the tank. Just tilt the tank a little bit so that the liquid is sure to flow down the side of the tank (away from the air tube). As the level of liquid raises, get the tank so that it is vertical. You can put as much liquid as you want as long as you avoid filling above the edge of the air tube. Once you are done, check that the coil is still tight in the base and put the base back on the tank. Finger tighten. 

How can you avoid leaking and gurgling? Above we describe one way that you can end up with gurgling noises when you vape. That is by getting liquid into the air tube. There is another way this can  happen and it is more common with coils that have visible wicks. If the wicks are not inserted properly by the manufacturing process or they shift as you use them, you can end up with gaps between the wick and the coil housing. As you draw on the drip tip while vaping, the "vacuum" inside the tank can draw too much liquid into the coil and the liquid ends up in the air flow and gurgle or leak. Clearomizers available in the past few months have resolved this to a great extent with "wickless" coil designs ... that is the wicks are not visible and integral inside the coil housing.

When you are considering a clearomizer, look closely at how it threads onto your battery. There are essentially two "standards". 510 connectors are male threaded ends that screw into the female portion on a battery. eGo connectors are female threaded that screw into the male portion on a battery. The most common is 510. There are no clearomizers available, that we know of, with both. It's one or the other. Most eGo and EVOD batteries have both 510 and eGo threaded connectors for the battery and are widely compatible. Many Advanced Personal Vaporizers have both, although some have only the 510 connector – look at your device closely. And the vast majority of Mechanical mods have only 510 connectors (I am not aware of any with an eGo threaded connector).

If you are new to vaping, please note that I refuse to use any clearomizer, cartomizer, or rebuildable atomizer that has a plastic tank. You should also notice that all of the newly released "atomizers" include what they call "pyrex glass" tanks. Pyrex is a brand and the descriptions are wrong – but it is important to note these are glass. Plastic tanks are made either of PMMA or Polycarbonate. PMMA plastic is polymethyl methacrylate and reasonable safe to use. Polycarbonate, however, is not. Polycarbonate plastic is made from a chemical reaction between Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Phosgene. BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that interferes with the reproductive system. Even at room temperature, BPA will leech into water. When heated (as in atomizers), the leeching is accelerated. So, do yourself a favor and get clearomizers with glass. I do not trust the description of plastics from asian vendors.