The Basics of Sub-Ohm Vaping
With the growing popularity of powerful, regulated e-cig mods, a new category of sub-ohm products has become widely available to vapers.
In the early days of vaping, “sub-ohm” was a term reserved for the most advanced enthusiasts using mechanical mods and building their own coils, but these days mass produced sub-ohm products are sold just about everywhere.
Before you jump on the sub-ohm bandwagon, let's go over the basics…
What Is “Sub-Ohm” Vaping?
To put it simply, whenever you use a device with an atomizer resistance below 1 ohm you're considered to be going “sub-ohm” or “sub-ohm vaping.” In order to understand why someone would want to use low resistance, sub-ohm coils, first you need to understand the principles of Ohm's Law.
Without getting overly technical, when you lower the ohm-rating, or resistance (R) of your atomizer coil, it increases the power output (I) and generates more vapor. With unregulated, mechanical mods that have a fixed voltage, lowering the resistance is the only way to effectively increase the power and vapor production of your device. This is why sub-ohm vaping was originally developed.
It's also important to note that as the resistance is lowered, more amperage is required and the battery / coil will generate more heat. For anyone serious about sub-ohm vaping, it's vital that you never exceed the amp limit of your batteries, which could lead to a fire or explosion. Choosing the right components is a critical part of sub-ohm vaping, and a basic understanding of electrical principles will help to keep you safe. Learn more about Ohm's Law and how it applies →
How Is Sub-Ohm Vaping Different?
Once again, mechanical mod users can install low resistance, sub-ohm coils to effectively increase power and vapor production. On a mechanical device with the appropriate sub-ohm coil, users can generate HUGE, MASSIVE CLOUDS OF VAPOR! People interested in sub-ohm vaping are typically interested for one reason – to make the biggest, most voluminous clouds of vapor humanly possible.
But increased vapor production comes at a cost; low resistance coils deplete batteries quicker and use much more e-juice. Sub-ohm setups don't use e-juice anymore efficiently than non-sub-ohm ones; they just burn hotter and vaporize it quicker. Expect to recharge more often, and if you use a sub-ohm tank you're likely to find that it needs to be filled much more frequently than a traditional one.
And since the goal is to generate massive clouds of vapor, airflow plays a big role in the world of sub-ohm vaping. Most people who sub-ohm vape take deep, direct lung hits (rather inhaling from mouth to lung), so sub-ohm setups are often designed to maximize airflow for this style of vaping. Although there are exceptions to the rule, large adjustable air holes and big, open drips tips often make it difficult to inhale sub-ohm setups like traditional cigarettes, so keep this in mind.
Sub-Ohm vs. Traditional Vaping:
- Increased vapor production
- May produce better flavor, depending on coil and wicking material
- Vaporizes e-juice more quickly
- Higher amp draw reduces battery life
- Can be dangerous, if safety precautions are not followed
Mechanical Mods Vs. VV/VW Devices
The benefit of sub-ohm vaping seems obvious when you consider mechanical mods, which have no circuitry and depend exclusively on the voltage of the battery. Without lower resistance coils it would be impossible for enthusiasts to generate the massive clouds of vapor they desire with a mechanical device. Sub-ohm vaping was created by users of mechanical mods for this reason.
Regulated mods, on the other hand, allow users to adjust the voltage and / or wattage to generate more vapor, making sub-ohm coils unnecessary. So why are so many vapers combining powerful VV/VW mods with sub-ohm tanks and atomizers? The truth is, it's possible to produce just as much vapor with a non-sub-ohm coil. Sub-ohm coils (alone) are not necessary to create more vapor with a VV/VW device, but they can play a role and it depends heavily on user preferences.
In some cases vapers prefer sub-ohming with a regulated mod because they're still using a mechanical device and want to use their existing gear on multiple setups. In other cases, some people choose to sub-ohm vape just because it's trendy. Finally, some traditional tanks and atty's ARE NOT setup to maximize airflow; a key factor in generating huge clouds of vapor. To draw in (and exhale) the most vapor, less restrictive designs are necessary and the best airflow is often incorporated into sub-ohm and cloud-chasing setups. It's not only the coil… but the airflow.
Basic Sub-Ohm & Battery Safety
In general, vapers should be much more precautious when sub-ohm vaping since low resistance coils generate more heat and can increase the strain on vital components. Novices should exercise extreme precaution; especially when using a mechanical mod without any built-in safety features. Much of the dangers that are associated with sub-ohm vaping can be overcome with today's regulated VV/VW mods, but problems can still arise if you choose the incorrect components.
Battery safety is probably the most important aspect to consider, since batteries can start a fire or explode when pushed too hard. We won't get in to all of the technical details, but a battery can only supply so much output current. This is determined by the maximum continuous discharge rating of the battery, expressed in amps (A). If you're running a sub-ohm coil, you need to pick a battery with a high enough discharge rate to safely supply power. Out of the two main types of e-cig batteries (ICR and IMR), IMR batteries are the best choice for sub-ohm vaping since they have safer chemistry and offer the highest discharge ratings. For any coil under 1 ohm, more than you're likely your going to need an IMR battery rated from 15A to 30A. Learn more about choosing mod batteries →
Not sure how many amps you're drawing? These calculators may come in handy
Sub-Ohming IS NOT For Everyone
As you can see, sub-ohm vaping can be a bit complicated – and we didn't even get into the technical stuff! If you're an average vaper and you're satisfied with your current setup, there's no need to go sub-ohm unless you're willing and able to figure out the details. Sub-ohm tanks with pre-built coils are a great place to start, but unless you're using a mechanical mod, they're really not necessary.
Want more vapor? Buy a moderately powered box mod and dial up the power until you're completely satisfied. It's a much safer option and a computer chip does all of the thinking for you. A bit more adventurous and like taking things to the extreme? Then sub-ohm vaping may be the right choice for you…