Conduction versus Convection
Here's a question we get quite often: What is the difference between convection and conduction vaporizers and what is better? Deciding which is better is really a matter of personal opinion but its important to understand the differences between convection and conduction and how they affect the purity, density and flavor on the vapor. These two methods are used in both portable and desktop vaporizers in many ways and in some cases in combination with each other. Here's a brief overview of the vaporization methods and how they work
Arguably a simpler approach to vaporizing plant materials the conduction method involves heating your botanical blends inside of a chamber where the blends have direct contact with the heating elements and essentially 'bake' in an oven. Some popular conduction based portable vaporizers include the Arizer Solo 2 and Air 2 and the Vapium Summit. Conduction based vaporizers (especially those with steel heating chambers) result in a thick and robust vapor that has a 'toasted' flavor in comparison with whats produced from a convection based vaporizer.
The conduction based units use direct heat to produce the vapor which tends to be thicker than with convection. The performance of a conduction vaporizer will have a lot to do with the chamber and how the heat is distributed throughout to make most efficient use of the botanical blends and without causing combustion. One important thing to note is that for best performance you need to fully pack the chamber which means that small short sessions will not make the best use of your aromatic blends. We recommend conduction vaporizers for people who are switching over from combustion and may expect a heavier, denser vapor to satisfy their needs.
Extracting the active ingredients from your botanicals can be done quite differently from the method described above. Convection heating involves a flow of air that passes over a heating element. After passing the heating element the hot air is directed through the chamber and the hot air itself extracts all of the active ingredients from the material to create the vapor and without the botanicals coming in any direct contact with a heating element. Convection heating for a vaporizer is a much more elegant solution. It results in the purest form of vapor but it tends to be lighter and less dense than that produced from a conduction vape.
One of the most popular portable convection based vaporizers is the Firefly which uses a patented heating element made from proprietary materials that heats the air which is drawn in through the unit's grill and passes through the chamber containing your materials.
The Firefly offers amazing flavor as it also passes the vapor over a thin channel inside of the metal structure to further cool before reaching the mouthpiece. In general convection vaporizers will produce a flavor more true to that of the materials being vaporized than a conduction vaporizer which will resulted in the toasted material taste which many people also love.
Many of the best high-quality desktop vaporizers also work based off the principals of convection heating. Some of the most famous being the Volcano Classic and Digital by Storz & Bickel, the Silver Surfer by 7th Floor, the Vapir Rise and the Arizer Extreme Q. These units work in a similar way but on a larger scale with bigger heating elements that require a longer period to heat.
These units have a lot of options available including temperature displays, timers and even remote controls! The biggest differentiation between desktop vaporizers is if they are forced air or whip style, some do both. We'll be discussing this in another post but Forced Air vaporizers have a type of fan or mechanism for forcing the air through the aromatherapy materials via pump, fan etc. and do not require the user to 'draw' on the unit.
Forced air vaporizers like the Volcano commonly use a bag or balloon filling system by which your vapor is collected in a bag with an attached valve to draw from once the bag is full. Whip style desktop vaporizers use a tube or 'whip' where the user draws from the whip and their airflow is what regulates the vapor production through the materials. So the slower you draw, the more time the air has to heat and that results in a thicker vapor. Whip style convection vaporizers therefore are affected by the speed of your draw and may require some technique for best results.
Lastly, there are some vaporizers which we would consider 'hybrid' that use a form of conduction and convection together. The best example for this is a unit which we all know and love called the Ascent by Davinci.
The Ascent produces a very flavorful vapor and contains a ceramic heating chamber and an all-glass vapor pathway. These are two key points which separate the Ascent from the competition and is not always seen with portable vaporizers. We would call this unit a hybrid because the aromatic materials are being heating in the chamber itself which we would consider conduction because there is direct contact with the heating element.
However the chamber does not fully act as an oven as there is open airflow through the ventilation on the bottom of the unit. The Ascent offers the best of both worlds. So even though its the heating element is in contact with your aromatherapy blend, its made from a high grade ceramic material which results in a purer flavor versus a steel oven.
Then the path that the vapor takes to reach the mouthpiece is pure glass. The combination of a ceramic heating element with an all-glass vapor path truly results in the best flavor and vapor production combination that we have seen. Another important point to make here would be that your aromatherapy blends and the vapor produced are never exposed to metal or plastics in the process which is why this is one of our most popular vaporizers.
That covers it folks! To summarize the topic of conduction vs. convection with vaporizers here is what we can say. If you're looking for thick clouds of vapor that are bold in flavor go for a conduction based vaporizer. If you're more interested in vapor purity and flavor go for a convection based unit! There are really amazing products available with all sorts of options in each category and our friendly support staff are experts in the field! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!
Check out our collection of portable vaporizers or desktop and home vaporizers or have a look at our video reviews for more information if you are still unsure.
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