What is a Coil?
A coil is a piece of wire wound into a spiral which connects to your battery. The coil is packed with wicking material which soaks up e liquid. When you press the fire button on your e cig, the coil heats up, turns the e liquid in your vape tank into vapour and Bob’s your uncle! But atomiser heads are also referred to as coils, so what are they?
What are Atomiser Heads?
It’s no surprise that many people find vape products and vaping terminology confusing, especially when it comes to coils. Atomisers are often called coils but it would be more accurate to say that they contain coils.
You can’t just stick a piece of wire onto your battery! Coils and wicking material are housed in casings which slot neatly into the various vaping devices. Casings which are supplied complete with coils and wicking are known as atomiser heads. So, when your coils need replacing, it is actually the atomiser head that you need to switch, unless you happen to build you own coils.
Atomiser heads are easy to replace. All you have to do is invest in the right one for your device and slot it in. Then top up your juice and wait a few minutes for the wick to soak it up and you are ready to vape.
When Should Coils be Replaced?
Your coil will need replacing every few days or weeks depending on how often you vape and which eliquid brands you favour. It is generally pretty obvious when the time has come to make the switch. Your juice won’t taste as good as it used to, your vapour production will have diminished and you may be experiencing an unpleasant and bitter, burnt taste in your mouth.
What are Coils Made of?
Coils can be made of a variety of conductive, heat resistant materials including kanthal, stainless steel, nickel and titanium. Here’s the low-down on each material:
Kanthal coils are suitable for wattage modes and are able to handle extremely high temperatures. Kanthal is easy to work with if you build your own coils and is readily available. It delivers stable resistances and is compatible with any e cig. However, Kanthal offers no temperature control functionality and can taste a little metallic, at least initially.
Ni200 (nickel, 99.6%)
Suitable for temperature control (TC) modes, Ni200 coils deliver accurate and predictable resistance changes when heated. TC devices can detect these changes and so can tell what temperature they have reached. Ni200 coils provide consistent vapes and the temperature control functionality helps to prevent the chemical changes which van otherwise occur when juice is heated. These may lead to a variety of undesirable results. But Ni200 wire is very flexible and so is fiddly to work with if you build your own coils and is only compatible with TC modes. Ni coils are also prone to accumulating a build-up of gloopy residue.
Compatible with both wattage and TC modes, stainless steel is a versatile material which is easier to work with than Ni200. Stainless steel coils tend to last longer than kanthal coils and heat quickly to provide a more instant throat hit. They produce less of that unpleasant metallic taste than kanthal but their resistance fluctuates with heat and so they are less consistent than kanthal in wattage mode.
A relatively new innovation, titanium wire features in many sub-ohm atomisers and is compatible with TC modes. It is an easier material to work with than Ni200 and offers twice the resistance. Unfortunately, this means that it has the potential to heat up to the point of ignition! If temperatures of 1,200°F are reached, toxic titanium oxide will form.
Vaping coils are available in a variety of configurations. You will see terms such as single-coil, dual-coil, quad coil etc. It might all look a little complex but a single coil is all on its lonesome and dual-coil is simply two coils with two wicks. Single coils use the least battery power and are easier to build if you dabble in vaping DIY but multiple coils delver more impressive vapour and stronger flavour. The number of coils in an atomiser is principally of concern to sub-ohm vapers.
The majority of atomisers now feature vertical coils. It won’t come as a surprise to you to hear that this means the coil stands upright. Here, the wires are surrounded by the wicking material and this design facilitates a large core diameter and direct airflow to give the coil consistent heat along its entire length. The result is consistent vapes and less of the dry spots which cause wick burning. Some people believe that vertical coils produce less flavour, others disagree!
Horizontal coils feature inner wicking and must be centred properly otherwise performance becomes inconsistent. They have reduced airflow but appear to be less prone to spitting back e liquid into your mouth than vertical arrangements. Spitting is something which does happen from time to time with any device.
Vertical coils will last a little longer than their horizontal cousins and dual coils will last longer than single coils. If you are looking for staying power, a multiple coil in a vertical layout is your best bet.
What are ohms?
Your coil will have a specified electrical resistance expressed in ohm. Low ohm vape coils produce more vapour and flavour but use more e-liquid and consume more battery power than high ohm coils.
Sub-ohm vaping is the use of a coil with a resistance of less than 1 ohm. Sub-ohm vaping produces huge vapour clouds and intense flavour hits. It requires the use of a mod or battery that is compatible with low ohm coils. Sub-ohm vaping is generally the domain of experienced vapers but new sub-ohm devices have been coming to market recently which are suitable for beginners. Coils with higher resistances are more suitable for high nicotine vape juice and deliver an experience which is closer to that of smoking than sub-ohm vaping.
Building Your Own Coils
Coil building can be a risky business and so you must ensure that you understand the implications of what you are doing before you engage in some DIY. It is vital that you check the resistance of any coil you build before you vape with it and so you will need to invest in an ohm meter. You should check the resistance of the coil to ensure that it is compatible with your device and that the coil will not short as this can lead to ruined equipment and a potentially dangerous situation.
To build the perfect coil, you must determine what kind of vaping experience you are looking for and then create the right set-up to deliver the desired results. There are coil building apps available which will help you choose the right wire, gauge and rebuildable atomiser for your needs. This is a complex subject which we can’t fully explore here. But it is useful to know that the option is there if you wish to fully customise your vaping device.
The Bottom Line
So, there you have it! Coils are a relatively complex subject but when all’s said and done, you can enjoy great flavour with most devices and all you have to do is fit a compatible atomiser every so often. Vaping is as simple or as complex as you choose to make it.