Cheap vaping -- the Low Cost Mod
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    Default Cheap vaping -- the Low Cost Mod

    How cheap can you start vaping? I don't mean a ten-dollar disposable -- I mean a fully-functional PV that is as light on the wallet as possible.

    This was the impetus behind my Low-Cost Mod: to come up with a PV that can be used without straining the bank accounts of students, as well as those who have been hit hard by the economy. Smoking is a pricey pastime, and a PV that saves money is a powerful incentive to start vaping. Developing my LCM was so much fun, I couldn't resist sharing the process and the results with you.

    Part One: Theory

    I began with a set of criteria, viz.,

    1.) Have the lowest initial starting cost. If you can buy an e-cig cheaper, there's no use to go to the effort to make one from scratch.
    2.) Go from "zero to vape" with the lowest total cost possible -- no add-on costs or items needed before the first puff; i.e., the initial cost should be very close to the total cost.
    3.) Wearing components are rebuildable rather than replaceable. Once it's made, there should be no further regular cash outlay to continue vaping.
    4.) Uncompromising quality for the price. If it's weak, fragile, or shoddy, it's false economy. It should last as close to forever as possible.
    5.) Use common components easily available online: no cheating by re-using something around the house, or building components from scratch that the average guy can't do on his own with basic tools.

    I then made a list of preferences:

    1.) I don't want it to look like a tobacco product.
    2.) I do want it to be simple.
    3.) I want to be able to use it all day without trouble.
    4.) I want it to sit solidly on a desk.
    5.) And I don't want voltage fade over time: no batteries or chargers to deal with, wear out, or buy. I'm a sedentary vaper, either in a lounger or at my desk, so being hardwired doesn't bother me.

    If we reduce the PV to its most severe essentials, we have a moistened resistance heater, powered by an electric current, activated by a switch -- and that's all.

    The first thing to determine is just how much voltage we'll need. Most atomizers are somewhere between two and three ohms, and we want to burn about six or seven watts for good vapor. Roughly, (taking the middle values,) two and a half ohms at six and a half watts pulls about four volts. Using Ohm's law, let's check the numbers at four volts for various atomizer ratings:
    a 1.5 ohm atomizer at four volts draws 2.68 amps and 10.74 watts,
    a two ohm atomizer at four volts draws two amps and eight watts,
    a 2.5 ohm atomizer at four volts draws 1.59 amps and 6.37 watts, and
    a three ohm atomizer at four volts draws 1.31 amps and 5.23 watts.

    So, let's look at the the simplest electrical solution to get us four volts: plugging straight into the wall with a power resistor to choke the voltage down:



    Obviously, this poses some problems. Although a 2.8 ohm atomizer is happily humming along at five and three-quarter watts, the necessary 81 ohm power resistor that dissipates 166 watts is ridiculously large and expensive:



    More serious, though -- a short-circuit to mains voltage can kill you quite dead. What we need is a tapped isolation transformer, to separate the working voltage from the mains voltage, and reduce the output voltage to where we need it:



    Alas, although isolation transformers were cheap and plentiful in the days of garage radio tinkering, the nearest equivalent today is a doorbell transformer:



    It can get you down to eight volts, and then down to four by either putting a resistor, in series, of the same rating as the atomizer, or by cracking it open and re-tapping it. Although you can pick one up at a hardware store for $15-20, there's a cheaper, easier alternative: the good old fashioned wall-wart. It will give isolated, bridge-rectified DC voltage, in a self-contained and cheap package. We can thus simplify our schematic to just this:



    The simplest PV, then, is nothing more than a wall-wart power supply that outputs four volts and two amps, wired through a switch directly to an atomizer.



    And they're cheap! Amazon carries several versions, from $9-12 with free shipping. But is it the cheapest and best option? If you find the right bargain, it certainly can be. The main benefit is that it will push a constant four volts through any atomizer, without any other electrical wizardry necessary. (If you use a 4.2V version, even better: it will give you an extra three-quarters of a watt at the atomizer.) But you can save still more:



    Twelve volt power supplies are much more common than the four volt versions, and can sometimes be had for even less money.



    I found a 12V 3A power supply on Amazon that sold for five dollars and free shipping...



    ...but it will require a cermet power resistor, available on Ebay for a dollar and change through Radio Shack-- still, half the price of a four volt supply! (Dealing with a 12 volt input has a bonus of being compatible with automobile cigar lighters, as well, giving the possibility of driving while your LCM is plugged-in -- but that involves buying more stuff, so we'll leave that for now.)

    The trade-off is that the voltage won't be a constant value for all atomizers, so your power resistor needs to be properly rated, to work acceptably with a range of atomizers. To get four volts at the atomizer, use a resistor that is double your preferred atomizer rating, with enough heat dissipation to handle the wattage. Since my atomizers will be within 2.5 - 3 ohms, there are a couple good options through good old Radio Shack. A 5.6 or 5.1 ohm, 10 watt resistor (that is, double the ohms of a 2.8 or 2.6 ohm atomizer) will give acceptable performance in the 2-3 ohm range. The resistor's power dissipation may be a touch over 10 watts, but the intermittent nature of vaping shouldn't make that an issue.

    So, with the power requirements sorted, we'll assemble all the necessary hardware.

    The necessary small print: although we aren't using exploding batteries or lethal voltages, use common sense. Voltages can zap you, soldering irons can burn you, and adhesives can stick your fingers together....but this isn't rocket science -- I know little more than the "electron pump" theory of circuits, and if I can do it, etc.
    gdeal, williamclarkonet and Vapant like this.
    A personal, portable, propylene glycol vapor delivery device?!...why isn't this recognized as the greatest advance in airborne disease prevention in 70 years? Read my ECF blog for details.

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    Part Two: Components.

    The first two items, we've covered already:



    1.) 12V 3A 36W AC Power Adapter for ASUS Eee PC 1002HA. $5.00, free shipping, from Amazon. Any power supply with the right ratings (in this case, 12V 3A max) will work. Don't worry about the connector -- you won't be using it.

    If you can source a 4V 2A (or better yet, a 4.2V 2A) power adapter on the cheap, you won't need the next item, and assembly will be much simpler.



    2.) 10W5D6 5.6 ohm Cermet Power Wirewound Resistor. $1.29 for two, free shipping, from Radio Shack through Ebay. (They have these in several values; the 5.1 ohm version [10W5D1] will return about a watt more at the atomizer.)

    The rest of the items are available at most PV supply sources. (I got mine through Madvapes; the prices are competitive, but more importantly, they're in my neck of the woods, and I like to support local businesses.)



    3.) 510 battery connector, pre-wired. $2.99. You can save half a buck by using the unwired version; I chose to splurge here.



    4.) Horn switch. $.89.



    5.) 2AAA battery box. $.99.



    Madvapes was out of stock of the AAA version, so I went with the 9V box for fifty cents more. In retrospect, I'm glad I did. It's a little thicker, which fits my hand better, and has a nice solid design. I'll call this a splurge.



    6.) Vivi Nova tank. $12.99. Why the Vivi? Low price for the quality of the construction, and a good sized tank; and the rebuildable atomizer will save a ton of money in the long run.

    Total cost from Madvapes = $18.36 + $2.99 shipping, $22.68 after tax.

    Don't forget to add a buck eighty for a bottle of PG in your favorite flavor, and your total cost is $30.77. That's thirty dollars complete, from empty hands to blowing vape rings...and 2/5 of that is just for the atomizer! Your project may vary a few dollars either way, depending largely on the power supply you find and the style of atomizer you prefer.

    Thirty bucks is a stupendous bargain well within the grasp of even the most impoverished student -- there will be no long-term or ongoing costs, other than juice and the eventual need to re-string your atomizer. And when that time comes, a length of 35 gauge Kanthal wire from Ebay is usually less than ten dollars, that will keep you in atomizer coils for the rest of your life.

    So now we have our parts, both simple and few. No electronics, no circuit boards, no displays or chips or timers or LEDs. Nothing, actually, that resembles an e-cig at all, as much as Dr. Robertson's experimental 1942 glycol vapor delivery apparatus.



    Next, we'll assemble the parts to our very own LCM "glycol vapor delivery apparatus."
    gdeal and williamclarkonet like this.
    A personal, portable, propylene glycol vapor delivery device?!...why isn't this recognized as the greatest advance in airborne disease prevention in 70 years? Read my ECF blog for details.

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    Part Three: Assembly.

    Now let's put it all together.



    Here's the battery box open. Lots of room to work here, but we have to remove the battery connections first. They are mounted on a piece of plastic that is press-fit into two slots in the sides of the box.



    The connectors pull straight out with the help of a pair of pliers.



    There are two posts that locate the optional on-off switch. Break off the post in the corner.



    Then trim off the slots on that side flush with the sides of the box.



    This is what it looks like when it's cleaned up.



    The momentary switch will mount over the existing slot for the on-off switch. Place the locknut over the slot to find the center point of the circle, and enlarge the hole with a drill or file.



    This is what it looks like with the hole drilled...



    ...and with the switch in place.



    Next, drill the hole for the 510 connector: set the tank in the opposite corner, and mark the center point to start. Go slow and check your progress! You want the connector to be a tight press-fit.



    The connector in place.

    If you've found a 4 or 4.2 volt power supply, you needn't worry about power resistors; just jump ahead a few steps.



    Otherwise, bend the resistor leads over the top and trim them down to about a half inch, like this.



    Use some sort of glue (I prefer JB Kwik epoxy adhesive, but that's just me) to securely fasten down the resistor and 510 connector to the box.



    Now, snip the connector off the power supply. (It would be possible to buy a matching connector and mount that in the box, but that costs money!) Plug in your soldering iron!



    Thread the wire through the existing hole in the box. Slit the outer cover of the wire and separate the two lines out. Then strip the ends of the 510 connector wires, and tin all the ends with solder.



    Solder the connections as shown. The supply wire is firmly pinched and held in place between the screw post and the mounting slot.



    Fold in the wires, and batten down the hatch.



    And that, as they say, is that! Sleek and attractive, the LCM sits nicely on an endtable or desk, and won't ever be confused for a tobacco product. And the best part is sacrificing hi-tech portability for the rock-bottom cost!



    Try holding the LCM like this at first; you will find there's about a dozen ways to comfortably and casually hold it in either hand.
    A personal, portable, propylene glycol vapor delivery device?!...why isn't this recognized as the greatest advance in airborne disease prevention in 70 years? Read my ECF blog for details.

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    I really do want one and that's the truth. I can't make things like this. So PM me if you can help. I can sew dresses! (. :
    and I don't need vivi nova
    Last edited by Faylool; 01-19-2013 at 03:11 AM.
    Done riding for awhile. ( Equine )

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    I'll wait for the electronic gurus here to provide opinion/questions or feedback, but I am now diggin out every power transformer I have packed away for a raining day like this. That was a very nice walk through. Thanks for posting; now I need to go down to the basement and sort through my stash from the last 10 years.

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    Tim the Tool Man Taylor would be proud of your creation!

    I got to admit I was looking at transformer today at work, I repair air conditioners, so was looking at a 220V (can be wired to 110 volts) to 24V transformer and thinking hummmm 24 volt with a 50 ohm coil...but I'm not that into electronics to even try to make it.
    Last edited by Doglips; 01-19-2013 at 03:17 AM.

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    Nice PT: Built this one a few years ago before I got into VV.. Works off a usb 5v battery pack, usb 5v car cigarette plug. or usb 5v usb wallwort. I used to strap the battery pack to my belt and could vape all day.

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    Great idea, my brain is rolling (I know that this has been done before in other fashions, but I like seeing modders and the way you explain it helps me learn alot.)

    However, you said a 4v 2a would be the best method. Like, if you had one laying around the house. I'm wondering if what you ended up doing wasn't actually the best method all around (both cheapest and application)? Because with 3A you would be able to run all atties, that is if you wanted to step down to get more wattage.

    And for $2.52 more, including shipping, you could get VV!? (I'm not 100% sure if a buck converter is the same thing)

    1pcs DC DC Buck Converter Step Down Module LM2596 Power Supply Output 1 23V 30V | eBay
    Last edited by daPorkchop; 01-19-2013 at 09:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daPorkchop View Post
    Great idea, my brain is rolling (I know that this has been done before in other fashions, but I like seeing modders and the way you explain it helps me learn alot.)

    However, you said a 4v 2a would be the best method. Like, if you had one laying around the house. I'm wondering if what you ended up doing wasn't actually the best method all around (both cheapest and application)? Because with 3A you would be able to run all atties, that is if you wanted to step down to get more wattage.

    And for $2.52 more, including shipping, you could get VV!? (I'm not 100% sure if a buck converter is the same thing)

    1pcs DC DC Buck Converter Step Down Module LM2596 Power Supply Output 1 23V 30V | eBay
    Like these:Just For LM2596 Users

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