What do I need to know about these two heating methods and which is best for me?
By Herbert M. Green
Yes. There is a great deal of difference between vaporizers that use either the conduction or convection method for heating up your herb. However, if you’re new to vaping, you might feel a bit lost at this point. “Is it important to know the difference?” Yes. “Is it important for me to know how they work?” A little, but more important is; “why does it matter?”.
It’s that last question I want to focus on in this article, not the ‘how’ but the ‘why’. At the end of it, you’ll know all you need to know about the difference between conduction and convecting vaping.
Is Convection heating really the best? End of story?
Back in the day, there was this myth that convection vaporizers were THE gold standard of vaping, and for a while, that might have been true. Nowadays, however, vaporizer technology has made such great strides that the real question shouldn’t be “which is best?” but “which is best for me?” (spoiler: it’s all about preference).
Let’s take a look at how the two heating methods stack up against each other where it matters most: Vapour quality, ease of use, budget, battery life and heat-up time.
Quick! Recap me on the difference between conduction and convection vaping
Okay, so what’s the deal? Well, to keep it as simple as possible, just imagine filling a steel bucket with weed (glass or ceramic if you’re willing to drop a few extra bucks) - in the industry, we call this bucket the ‘oven’ or ‘heating chamber’ or ‘bowl’.
Now imagine we heat up the entire wall and bottom of that bucket by applying direct heat. That heat is then automatically transferred to the material you have in the bucket. The material starts to evaporate, you inhale it and presto! You’re vaping using the conduction method.
With convection heating, on the other hand, the heat source isn’t directly connected to the oven. Instead, the heat source is located underneath the oven and the heat is drawn into the oven by air you’re generating by inhaling. And it is this hot air that is causing the compounds of your weed to evaporate.
One of the major differences between the two methods is that conduction heating heats your herb constantly, whereas with convection vaping you’re only heating up your material when you’re generating airflow.
The differences in 'how' they work are easily explained by this image, yet the 'why' of it all is a whole different matter indeed.
What are the differences between conduction and convection? And why should I care?
You should care. Not because one is better than the other, but because they’re different. Each heating method has its own pros & cons and to make this read go a bit faster, I’ve taken the liberty to smush them all together and divided them into 6 important categories:
- Vapour density / volume:
Due to the nature of conduction vaporizers (i.e. direct contact-heating), they tend to produce more dense, milky clouds of vapour.
But, because convection vapes utilise dynamic airflow to get the vapour to your lungs, they deliver bigger but lighter clouds.
- Vapour temperature:
The oven with most conduction vaporizers is located fairly close to the mouthpiece, causing the inhaled vapour to feel a bit hotter than that with convection vapes. The heat has less distance to travel from the oven to your mouth and lungs, meaning there’s less time for the vapour to cool off to an agreeable degree.
Whereas with convection vaporizers, the oven is located underneath the material, so the heat not only has to travel through the material, it also has to travel through a longer airpath, allowing the vapour to cool down more before being inhaled.
Because airflow plays a bigger role with convection vaporizers, the flavour notes these type of vapes release are dispersed and picked up better by your tastebuds.
Not that conduction vaporizers produce no flavour, but because vaporisation is less even with this heating method and there’s less airflow involved, the flavours of the entire terpene profile tend to be less pronounced.
Yes, it’s true, for the most part, conduction vaporizers tend to be cheaper because they’re cheaper to make. They only need, in theory, a power source and a heating element to operate.
While convection vapes need more components and more room for those components making them slightly more complex to produce.
As with all rules, there are plenty of exceptions. The more expensive conduction vaporizers are built with better materials and have more features than their cheaper counterparts. That’s why the top of the line conduction vapes are closer to the average price of decent to good convection vapes. You get what you pay for in those cases.
The Glow 18 by Dreamwood is a true on-demand convection vaporizer that hits your tastebuds with big, flavourful clouds
Intermezzo: What about health, any diff?:
Are there any differences, health-wise, between the two heating methods? No, one is not safer or healthier than the other. What does matter though, is the materials the vaporizers are made of and the quality of the build.
Seeing your lungs are involved it might be prudent to check beforehand what material the vape you have your eye on is made with. Cheap steel or plastic might give off harmful chemicals or microparticles, stuff you might not want to inhale. So, do your homework!
Luckily for us, most, if not all, western manufacturers understand we take our health seriously, so they make sure they don’t use any harmful material in their products, but that’s not to say it never happens elsewhere in the world, so be aware of too-good-to-be-true-deals and fake knockoffs.
Ease of use:
This is probably the most important aspect to consider when choosing between a convection or conduction vaporizer. So, let’s go over all the elements that play a part in operating vaporizers in general:
- Learning curve / draw speed
Convection vapes are known to have a bit more of a learning curve than conduction vapes. Mainly because convection heat is carried by airflow. Seeing as the airflow is controlled by your inhalation or ‘draw speed’, it is YOU who controls the amount of heat that’s being pumped through the material and thus the quality and quantity of vapour. You do have to experiment a bit with different draw speeds to see what yields the best result (for you!) with that specific vaporizer.
Conduction vaporizers don’t have that issue. They are pretty much ‘puff-and-play’. Learning to control your draw speed is less important with these kinds of vapes. There is a general consensus though that with conduction vapes slow draws work best.
- Stirring the herb
A problem that most convection vaporizers don’t have is the need to stir the material in between hits. The airflow goes THROUGH the herb in the chamber, so most of the herb is heated evenly, making the need to stir for even roasting unnecessary.
Conduction vapes, on the other hand, mostly heat the herb that is closest to the walls of the oven, which means the herb in the middle of the oven receives less heat. That’s why it’s smart to stir frequently in between sessions, to make sure all of the herb’s compounds are released.
- Risk of combustion
Because of direct contact between the herb and the walls of the oven, conduction vapes have a higher risk of creating ‘hotspots’ (certain parts of the herb that receive more heat than other parts) or even fully combusting if the temperature is set too high.
This is not so much a problem with convection heating because hot air delivers the heat more evenly.
Conduction vaporizers gunk up a whole lot faster than convection vapes. If you choose to go with a conduction device, be prepared to do a lot more cleaning of the oven to keep it running smoothly.
- Heat-up time:
Generally, convection vaporizers have a faster heat-up time and that’s because they only have to heat up the heating element, and not the whole oven and the herb it contains. But, this isn’t the case with every device in those respective categories. There's a direct correlation between heat-up time and build quality of the device.
- On-demand vs session vaping
Also, convection vaporizers aren’t heating up your herb when you aren’t drawing from them, making them better suited for an ‘on-demand’ style of vaping. Some people see this as the biggest drawback of convection vaping, others see it as a big plus.
Conduction vaporizers lend themselves best for when you want a longer ‘session’ experience, where you take a couple of tokes, then put it down to come back to later or pass it to your friend (on the left!).
Even though the 2021 'M' by DynaVap is a conduction vaporizer it has a fast heat-up time and impeccable flavour.
The grind of your material:
To get the best result out of either of the two vaporizer types, the way you grind your herb is important.
With conduction vaporizers it is all about surface area; the more herb that is in direct contact with the oven’s walls, the better it gets vapourised. So, you want to grind your herb as fine as you can (without grinding it to dust, cause then you’ll be spitting out green flakes every 5 seconds) and pack the material in tighter than you would do with a convection vape.
When it comes to convection vaporizers, you’ll want a coarse grind. You want to create room for the airflow to carry in that heat, and having bigger chunks of material in your oven creates pockets for the air to pass through.
The Mighty by Storz & Bickel is what we call a hybrid vaporizer, using both convection and a little bit of conduction heating to generate vapour.
This is a bit of a contested subject. In the olden days’, conduction vaporizers were the clear winner when it came to battery life. Simply because they were less technologically complex. The heat source can apply heat directly, so needs less power to reach the desired temperature.
The heating elements of most convection vaporizers need to heat up to a slightly higher temperature, to compensate for the potential heat loss when the heat is transferred into the oven, making them slightly more power-hungry.
But, as with all technological innovations, this diff is slightly less nowadays, due to further advancements in power efficiency.
And? Are you one step closer to making a decision on which type of vaporizer suits your needs best? Have your tried both types yet? If so, which one has your preference? Let us know, down here in the comment section or drop us a line on one of our social media channels.
Peace out & vape on!