A vaporizer works by heating active chemicals in the plant materials to an exact temperature just before reaching the point of combustion. The essential elements of the herb and its flavor are turned into a vapor form so they can be inhaled into the lungs. The warm vapor is cooled before it is inhaled by using a water pipe or it is stored in an inflatable balloon-type bag, and filtered for purification.
This is in contrast to smoking, where the herb is actually burned. Burning releases harmful, toxic carcinogens and carbon monoxide into the smoke that can damage your lungs and cause cancer.
Vaporizers vary by type of temperature control, filters, balloons, and heating elements. The method used to heat herbs in a vaporizer varies by type of vaporizer you are using. There are three types of heating methods used in vaporizers, and these are thermal conduction, convection, or by thermal radiation.
The thermal heating process was an early method of vaporizing, and has been used since the 1970’s. In a thermal conduction heating process, the herbs are directly heated when they are set onto a metal dish. The dish is heated to the right temperature to cause the active ingredients in the herb to change to a misty vapor form.
Due to the direct contact of the herbs with the heat source, there is a high chance of combustion. If the herbs are burned, the taste will be affected similar to burned popcorn. These types of vaporizers are inefficient, as part of the plant is not vaporized and can be wasted.
The convection heating process is most commonly used in vaporizers. This indirect heating method warms the air using a halogen bulb, a ceramic heating element, or an aluminum element. Manufacturers using ceramic elements claim they offer cleaner burning, while those manufacturing aluminum elements claim more efficient temperature control.
Once the air is heated, it passes over the herbs to heat them to the point where the active ingredients are released. Because the herbs do not actually come into contact with the heating element, the herbs are heated more efficiently and there is less chance of burning.
The herbs are also heated evenly, so you are able to use less plant material for the same effect. This type of heating process often uses a whip device to inhale the vapors. As there is no burning, so the flavor is pure and all parts of the herb are used efficiently.
The final heating method is the least common, and uses radiation under an intense light source to heat the plant material. As the herb absorbs the energy that is created, its temperature increases to the point where the active ingredients are released in a vapor form.
In modern vaporizers, you have the option of storing the vaporized mist temporarily in a food grade plastic balloon or in a glass done to be inhaled at a later time. The glass dome does not hold much of the vapor, but the balloon is convenient for storing a larger quantity of the vaporized mist.
Choosing the right type of vaporizer is often a matter of personal taste, but understanding the differences can improve your overall satisfaction with the product.
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