Let's start by talking about the parts of a vaporizer, in general.
There are generally 3 critical pieces.
1. A battery
2. An atomizer
3. A drip tip/mouthpiece
What do these do?
Let's start with the atomizers. Before we get into this, let's establish a rating system of difficulty, setting disposables at 1 and RBAs with a tight deck at 5 (this will make sense soon I promise).
- Disposable Cartomizer System (AKA store bought e-cig)(1) These are simple, buy one and puff. The downside is that they can be expensive in the long run, sometimes have poor quality control, allow no fine tuning, aren't refillable, and generally have underpowered batteries that do not last very long and require high-nicotine liquid to have any effect.
- Replaceable Cartomizers (1-2). These are the same technology as are in the store bought e-cigs. They are essentially comprised of filler material that absorbs e-liquid, with a coil in the middle to heat up said liquid. These are either blank, and allow you to fill them up yourself, or these are pre-filled. These tend to provide decent flavor and vapor production at a fairly low cost, and you get to put them on a battery of your choice, allowing for more control. This is almost as easy as a disposable.
- Clearomizers/Tanks (2-3). These are tanks that are filled with e-liquid, rather than polyfill that is saturated. There is a coil at the bottom which heats up liquid absorbed by a wick. These generally have good flavor, but can be finicky depending on the system. Coils are cheap and readily available, just swap them when they go bad. These allow for a bit more flavor switching and playing around with resistance and airflow.
- Rebuildable Atomizers (RBA) (4-5). These are like tanks, but rather than having a prefab coil you just screw in, you wrap wire to create your own coil, and wick it yourself. These allow the ultimate level of control, but open the door to new risks regarding resistance. These are high difficulty, and require knowledge of at least some of the electronics "rules" involved with vaping. These produce some of the best flavor and clouds on the market, while also allowing you to fill up a tank for a day of vaping rather than dripping, which you do on a...
- Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer (RDA) (5). People use RDAs for different reasons, including more intense flavor and/or increased vapor production (clouds). They're functionally as simple as it gets, but also very complex in their own way. As with RBAs, you build your coils and wick, rather than buying pre-fab. However, with RDAs you get into low ohm and sub ohm territory fairly easily, and this is where things get dangerous; but we'll address that in the battery section. These have a wick which you manually saturate with juice (dripping), rather than a wicking system which absorbs a reservoir of liquid.
These are the second critical piece of a vaporizer. They provide power to the atomizer. With batteries, you have a couple of different system options...
(Before reading, look at this chart, and learn the relation between watts, volts, amps, and ohms.)
- Regulated (eGo style), these are batteries which put out a constant voltage; generally 3.7v; and stop firing once the power drops too low. These tend to have short circuit protection and simple safety features, but are designed for very specific use on clearomizers, generally.
- Variable Voltage / Variable Wattage, These are like regulated batteries in that they are controlled by a microchip to fire at a specific voltage or wattage, and allow smoother transition between multiple tanks. These will allow you finer control over how much vapor you produce, and are generally considered worth the investment.
- Unregulated "Mechanical" mod, these are essentially metal tubes with a switch which fit large batteries that fire at full power, and decrease in power as they drain. These are generally used with drippers to pump tons of power through a coil and produce massive clouds. These are DANGEROUS without proper care and knowledge. If you are using a mechanical mod, you NEED to know when you have a short, when you're pushing your amp limit, and when you need to charge it. I'm generally against new vapers using mechs.
If you really want to use a dripper, and can't be bothered to learn how to keep track of your battery, DONT BUY A MECHANICAL MOD. Invest in a regulated box mod with short protection, and use a dripper on that. If you are into clouds, but not into learning, for your own safety, this is the best option. IT CAN STILL BE DANGEROUS ON A REGULATED BOX MOD, however, they have protection measures that an unregulated mod, naturally, don't.
Drip Tip/Mouth Piece
Not nearly as critical as the other two, but not to be discounted, a drip tip is a mouthpiece that fits into your tank and allows you to actually draw vapor. They come in all shapes and sizes and aren't necessarily very expensive. A longer drip tip can be nice if you want a cooler vape, giving the vapor time to cool off. A big bore (or wide) tip allows for more airflow and thus bigger clouds. Play around with tips, it's not that big a deal if you don't like a $5 tip.
This is important. There are three main ingredients to e-liquid.
- Propylene Glycol (PG) / Vegetable Glycerin (VG) These are the base carrier liquids. They're used in nicotine inhalers, asthma inhalers, and plenty of other food/consumption products as well as theatrical fog machines and cosmetics. PG mainly carries throat hit and flavor, where VG thickens clouds.
- Nicotine... it's nicotine, measured usually in mg/ml (so a 6mg bottle has 6 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid).
- Flavorings, from most vendors these are FDA approved as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe).
Other important accessories
If you're using an RBA/RDA, you end up needing some other accessories. In order of importance they are...
- Ohm Reader. Some regulated box mods will read ohms for you, but if you're using a mech mod you'll need an ohm reader to measure coil resistance.
- Resistance wire. This comes in many forms and sizes. The two main wire types are Kanthal and Nichrome. If you watched the video from earlier you'll know that thicker wire has lower resistance.
- Wick. Could be any number of things. Cotton, rayon, hemp, silica, porcelain, stainless steel mesh, etc.
- Screwdrivers, tweezers, torches... this all comes with coil building, about which there are plenty of videos/written tutorials.
Now that you know the basics about what they are, for actual truth about e-cig safety please see:
Since I started vaping myself in May of 2013 I have compiled a list of reading material, some of which are referenced in the above articles. Please do your own research and make your own informed choices based on science and not opinion.
The takeaway from all these studies is that vaping is 10 to 100 times safer than smoking cigarettes, and the danger from second-hand vapor is almost unmeasurable.