Types of vaporizers

In this section we'll discuss some of the common types of vaporizers, starting with the most basic, cheaper models and going up to the advanced electronic models. To find out more about the vaporizers mentioned on this page, go to our reviews page.

Accessories to turn an ordinary water pipe into a vaporizer

The Vapo-bowl and VaporStar are two devices that can easily be connected to a pipe and glass bong respectively. A butane gas lighter is held over the entrance of the metal pipe head, which heats up the air flowing into the device, vaporizing the herbs sitting inside.

The Vapo-bowl has a standard thread so it can be connected to all kinds of pipes and bongs. The VaporStar on the other hand is especially designed for small glass bongs.

The all glass VapoCane fits on virtually all 14.5mm and 18.8 mm bongs, because of its conical shape.

Portable (glass) vaporizers

Eagle Bill's Shake & Vape, the Vapbong and the Vapo 2 are well known examples of this category. They require a lighter as a heat source, preferably a butane gas lighter (a torch or jetflame lighter) to avoid soot settling on the glass. These vaporizers produce good quality vapor and can be taken anywhere.

The VaporGenie is another popular handheld vaporizer pipe. It is best used with a regular lighter, where the user draws the flame through the heating element, allowing for the hot air to reach the herb.

Portable electric/butane powered vaporizers

The iolite and the Vapir NO2 combine the usability of the electric vaporizers with the portability of small, non-electrict models. The iolite works on butane, whereas the NO2 requires a charged battery in order to function.

The Magic Flight Launch Box operates on a single AA battery, and converts the battery power to infrared heating. On average, it is able to warm up to the desired temperature in less than one minute - considerably faster than most other (electric) vaporizers.

The Vapir Oxygen has an optional battery pack, whereas the Vapir Digital Air One can be charged and then taken wherever one wishes to go.

Electric vaporizers

Most of the currently available vaporizers belong in this category. Electricity is used to power a heating element or heat gun. In some models the temperature can be adjusted digitally or with an analogue dial. Some models also direct an air flow through the herbs which fills up a balloon, whereas others require the user to generate this air flow by inhaling through a tube.

There are two ways of heating herbs: through conduction or convection. In the case of conduction the herbs are placed on a metal plate which is heated.

conduction, herb in bowl

conduction, vapour rises

conduction, vapour accumulates

conduction, vapour inhaled

The direct contact between the hot metal and the herbs may lead to combustion, which is why this method is seldom applied in modern vaporizers. An example of a vaporizer using conduction is the BC Vaporizer.

In the case of convection a flow of hot air passes through the plant material. Practically all new vaporizers apply this principle, though the methods of heating the air flow may differ. The use of a heat gun used to be quite common, though nowadays most vaporizers use a halogen bulb (AroMed 4.0), a ceramic element (ie the Da Buddha vaporizer) or an aluminum element (the Volcano).

convection, herb in filling chamber

convection, heating element

convection, flow of hot air

The best vaporizers on the market use forced air. The Arizer Extreme and the Volcano are good examples of forced air devices.

Some vaporizers use a heat gun, but this is not advisable because it can impart chemicals from plastics, rubbers, and metals used in the gun. Heat guns are not made as inhalation devices. They are for industrial use, not medical use. Producers of ceramic elements argue they offer cleaner burning than aluminum blocks, while manufacturers using aluminum elements argue that temperature control is more efficient and the element does not attain a high enough temperature to oxidize the aluminum. So neither the ceramic nor the aluminum block present a health threat.

As already mentioned the vapor is to be inhaled through a tube or from a balloon. The Volcano vaporizer is designed for use with a balloon, whereas the Arizer Extreme and the HerbalAire leave it up to the user to decide whether to fill a balloon or inhale through a tube. If one prefers using a balloon (which can be carried around), the Volcano is preferable, for it fills up the balloons significantly faster. The optional balloons of the HerbalAire take quite some time to fill up and are so small that they can be emptied within one or two deep inhalations.

Some electric vaporizers are easier to refill and clean than others. In this regard too the Volcano is one of the most user friendly vaporizers around.

To see the differences between some of the vaporizers currently on the market, see our vaporizer comparison table.