E cigarettes consist of three basic parts, sometimes having the appearance of only two parts because two functions are combined into one.
Basically, e cigarettes operate with a battery which provides power for a tiny vaporizing unit called an atomizer, which heats up liquid containing nicotine and flavoring in a base agent. The liquid is stored in a cartridge, also called a cartomizer when it is built into the atomizer. The word “cartomizer” is a combination of “cartridge” and “atomizer,” which makes it easy to remember. So, e cigarettes are referred to as 3-piece or 2-piece, but all e cigarettes contain the three functional parts just described. E cigarettes work when the battery activates the atomizer, which vaporizes the e liquid, which produces vapor that is drawn into the user’s mouth and inhaled into the lungs like tobacco smoke. It’s a simple process, really, but there’s a lot to learn about it because e cigarettes provide so many different options.
Components of E Cigarettes – Batteries
E cigarettes all require a battery in order to operate. Naturally, there are many different types of batteries available for e cigarettes, depending on the style, model and manufacturer of each particular unit. Disposable e cigarettes have small batteries, with just enough power to vaporize the e liquid provided. Disposable e cigarettes are not designed to be rechargeable or refillable, so the batteries they contain cannot be reused.
However, rechargeable electronic cigarettes are available with a variety of different types of batteries. Some batteries can be recharged 200 times, some 500 times, and some as many as 2000 times. Obviously, e cigarettes with better batteries will cost more. Normal AA and AAA used in other types of electronic equipment will not work in e cigarettes, partially because of battery size, but also because of voltage. Those household batteries are only 1.5 volts and most e cigarettes require 3.7 volts at a minimum. Furthermore, manufacturers of e cigarettes specify the use of Li-Ion rechargeable batteries or LiMn rechargeable batteries for best performance. Mini e cigarettes that look tobacco cigarettes often come with an LED light at the tip, giving the appearance of burning tobacco. Lights on the tips of e cigarettes are programmed to blink when battery power is running low, which gives the user a heads-up to recharge, a handy feature on the mini models of e cigarettes.
Components of E Cigarettes – Atomizers
Most e cigarettes come equipped with standard resistance atomizers in order to strike a balance between vapor production and atomizer life. Low resistance atomizers will produce more vapor at the expense of atomizer life, since higher heat production wears out the tiny unit faster. Vapers who make a hobby of experimenting with different e cigarettes and even modifying e cigarettes for personal use eventually discover which type of atomizer they prefer.
Many former smokers are only interested in obtaining their nicotine fix with pleasure and style, so they don’t get really excited about exploring all the various options available in different models of e cigarettes.
One item of interest to all vapers, however, is how e liquid contributes to the life of atomizers. E liquids containing artificial sweeteners have a tendency to wear out atomizers much faster than those without sweeteners. Adding sweeteners to the typical propylene glycol base has been compared to putting sugar in the gas tank of a car. Not good… And at the very least, atomizers in frequently used e cigarettes will need cleaning more often to compensate.
Alcohol is recommended for cleaning atomizers, with ethyl alcohol preferred over isopropyl alcohol, although either one will do the job. The user drips alcohol into the atomizer while holding it over the sink to contain the dripping as the alcohol runs through the atomizer. Immediately thereafter, the user places a couple drops of e liquid directly into the atomizer, connects it to the battery unit and activates it, allowing any remaining alcohol to burn off.
E cigarettes should have the atomizer cleaned or replaced after approximately 3 to 5 mils of liquid have passed through the atomizer. In lieu of measurement, it’s relatively easy to know when it’s time to clean or replace because taste and vapor production quality suffer. In other words, it’s obvious.
Components of E Cigarettes – E Liquids
There are two main bases for the e liquid contained in e cigarettes. Cartridges and cartomizers can be purchased pre-filled, or the user can refill their own at home. Propylene glycol (PG) is a petroleum based liquid, and vegetable glycerin (VG) is manufactured from vegetable oil, usually palm or coconut oils. PG has a naturally bitter taste requiring flavorings as a cover-up, but VG has a naturally sweet taste and can be enjoyed without any additives. VG has a much thicker viscosity and so it requires another liquid, usually water, to reduce it. Remember, e cigarettes have no characteristic flavor of their own. Liquid tobacco or menthol flavoring is added, while many others flavors can be substituted instead of those two if e cigarettes are not being used to imitate the flavor of tobacco smoking.
Actually, many different oils can be vaporized in the atomizer of e cigarettes, but VG based liquids seem to work the best.
Additives are, essentially, impurities in the liquid, and as a result they tend to wear out the atomizer faster than pure oils. Liquid nicotine levels can be adjusted to achieve just the right “throat hit” for each individual. E cigarettes so many options for flavor and nicotine levels that it generally takes a new user quite a while to find just the right combination. In the event some e liquid is drawn directly into a user’s mouth instead of vapor it’s easily rinsed out with water with no ill effects. E cigarettes contain a liquid consisting of food grade ingredients only, listed as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the FDA.