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Buying and Using an Electronic Cigarette: A Primer

Discussion in 'The ECF Library' started by DC2, Aug 18, 2009.

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  1. DC2

    DC2 Tootie Puffer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 21, 2009
    San Diego
    If you would like to make a post, please follow the link to the original thread located at: http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/new-members-forum/32985-buying-using-electronic-cigarette-primer.html


    Buying and Using an Electronic Cigarette: A Primer

    The first thing to know is that everyone is different.
    Everyone has different reasons for smoking cigarettes.
    Everyone gets different things from the smoking experience.
    Everyone has different needs and wants.
    And everyone has different tastes

    The second thing to know is that there is no perfect electronic cigarette.
    They all have pluses and minuses, depending on your needs and wants.
    What one person considers a plus may be considered a minus by another.

    The third thing you should know is that you will probably change your mind.
    There is a very good chance you will stop caring how much it looks like a cigarette.
    There is a very good chance you will stop caring if it tastes like your old brand of cigarette.
    And of course, there is every chance that you may not change your mind as well.

    The last thing you should know is that there is a learning curve.
    This is not going to be as simple as picking up a cigarette and a lighter.
    Parts will eventually die on you, so you'll need backups.
    There are issues to overcome, and things to learn.
    But in the end, it is well worth it to make the effort.


    Prefilled cartridges versus refilling your own
    Cartridges are basically made up of a mouthpiece and filler material that holds the liquid.

    Using cartridges prefilled with liquid can become relatively expensive.
    Also, this limits the flavors and strengths of juice you can use to what they come filled with.
    Almost everyone quickly switches to refilling their own cartridges for the above reasons.
    This is one reason your first order should always include at least 10ml of juice.

    Cartridges can be refilled a number of times, but not indefinitely.
    The filler material contained within the cartridge stops working quite as well after awhile.
    Many people simply clean the filler and keep using them even longer.
    Regardless, you will eventually need new filler, but can continue using the same mouthpiece.

    One option is to buy your own cartridge filler, which is very inexpensive.
    Another option is to buy blank cartridges that have filler but no juice.


    Manual versus Automatic batteries
    Manual batteries require you to push a button to activate the battery.
    Pushing a button will reduce the degree of duplicating the cigarette smoking experience.
    However, most people say it becomes second nature in less than a day.

    Automatic batteries are activated by the act of inhaling.
    Some automatic batteries are activiated by the sound of inhaling, and some by the suction.
    Therefore, they may also be activated by such things as loud noise, wind, or car air conditioners.

    Automatic batteries allow you to use your electronic cigarette hands free.
    However, electronic cigarettes are too heavy for some people to hold comfortably in their mouth.

    Automatic batteries have a cutoff which causes them to stop after a certain number of seconds.
    This is the source of much frustration for most users, and detracts from their enjoyment.
    It can lead to various issues such as juice in the mouth or poor vapor production.
    With practice, certain techniques may be employed to help overcome these issues to some extent.

    Manual batteries avoid the above issues by providing complete control over the atomizer.
    The vast majority prefer the manual battery, but there are some that do prefer the automatics.

    NOTE: Please see the various replies below for more information on battery options.



    Throat Hit and Vapor Production and Flavor
    Most people want a good throat hit, however some people want less throat hit.
    But everyone agrees for the most part that more vapor is a good thing.

    In general, throat hit and vapor production go hand in hand.
    The hotter you can get the atomizer the more vapor and throat hit you should get.
    But this may also cause the juice to lose some flavor as well.
    And it will definitely cause you to use more juice.

    Manual batteries will allow you to get the atomizer hotter for longer.
    This is another important factor in the reason most people prefer manual batteries.

    Also, vapor production and throat hit can be greatly influenced by the juice you use.
    And at this point, vapor production and throat hit do not always go hand in hand.
    Nicotine strength is often cited as having a very big effect on throat hit.
    And different flavors from the same company often produce more or less throat hit and/or vapor.


    Mods
    Mods generally provide much longer battery life.
    They use larger batteries that are more common, easier to get, and much cheaper.
    For this reason they look far less like a cigarette.

    Many also allow for higher voltage which will also allow you to get the atomizer hotter.
    Many users eventually move to a mod for the above reasons.


    Juice recommendations
    This is the place where I repeat that everyone has different tastes.
    The best advice I could give is to find yourself some sampler packs, the smaller the better.
    And read up in the Juice Reviews section of this forum.


    Nicotine Strength
    There does not seem to be a clear pattern as to what strength nicotine you might need.
    Some people find they need higher strength than they thought.
    Some find that they need lower strength.

    The general rule of thumb is get something maybe a bit higher if unsure.
    You can always get some that is lower to cut it back with.

    And you can keep some around for spiking to a higher strength if a bad craving hits you.


    PG versus VG juices
    PG is propylene glycol and VG is vegetable glycerin.
    Either of these ingredients can be purchased relatively cheaply and easily by themselves.
    They can be used for making your own liquid if desired. or for cutting juice you have purchased.

    As far as differences go, this is what I have gathered from reading things here and there.

    1) VG is thicker (more viscous)
    2) VG vaporizes at a lower temperature
    3) VG produces better vapor
    4) VG is somewhat sweeter

    Because of the above...

    1) VG does not wick quite as well
    2) VG may gunk up your atomizer more quickly
    3) VG produces a somewhat cooler vapor which may reduce throat hit


    Dry atomizers, flooded atomizers, and wicking
    Basically, you want to keep your atomizer happy with plenty of juice, but not too much as to flood it.

    A good sign that it's flooded is that it gets a little harder to draw on and you get little or no vapor.
    Flooding it, however, won't hurt it at all, and you can just blow out the extra juice.

    Letting it get too dry, on the other hand, is not good for the atomizer supposedly.
    But regardless of whether it is bad for the atomizer or not, you still don't want to do it.

    You can tell it is too dry when it starts to taste like crap.
    A nasty sort of burnt plastic type of taste.

    One reason it might get too dry is if you burn through the juice faster than it can wick up more.
    That is why people experiment with different kinds of filler materials to use in their cartridges.

    If you take only a drag or two every now and then, you should be fine.
    But if you use these like a cigarette, the wicking process will have trouble keeping up.
    There are ways to deal with this, and people have different methods that work better for them.

    And of course, when the cartridge is running low on juice, it needs topping off for this reason.
     
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  2. Kent C

    Kent C ECF Guru Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 12, 2009
    NW Ohio US
    Manual versus Automatic batteries

    Because this is a basic choice in choosing an ecig, more information is needed on this part. This is a edit of Deadcat2's more compact statement (with his consent ).

    Manual batteries require you to push a button to activate the battery.
    Automatic batteries are activated by sound or the act of drawing on the ecigarette.

    Automatic Batteries:

    You have liquid in the cartridge. In order for the liquid to become vapor, it has to be vaporized. For that to happen the atomizer must heat to the point of vaporizing the liquid. Auto batteries are activated by drawing on the ecig or producing noise of drawing. The sequence is:

    1. draw
    2. battery activates
    3. atomizer begins to heat up
    4. the atomizer continues to heat up
    5. the liquid is vaporized
    6. you inhale

    From 1 to 3 the liquid is still in liquid form. From 3 to 4 _some of the liquid_ in the area of the atomizer is still in liquid form. From 1 to 4 the mouth piece is acting like a straw and you can get liquid in your mouth.

    One workaround is to take what's called a 'primer puff' - where you make the noise of drawing to start the battery but do not continue to draw. You then wait for the atomizer to atomize the liquid and then draw. Another work around is to start to draw but not very hard - because you'll get juice in your mouth - this sometimes starts the battery and sometimes it doesn't. If it does, if you then increase the amount of draw pressure and draw slowly like drinking a thick shake through a straw. But this prolonged drag can also take time to where you may run into the auto battery's 'cutoff' where the atomizer shuts off. Sometimes a 'waiting period' to where you can't start the cycle again, because the auto battery is still in the 'cutoff mode'. Iow, the battery controls you at that point.


    Manual Batteries:

    With manual batteries, you have to push a small button in order to start the above 1-6 sequence.

    Here, the only part of this that is not part of the smoking experience is pushing the button. When you push the button before drawing, numbers 2 through 5 above occur before you take a draw. When you do draw, you draw vapor not juice, and this is very much more like taking a drag on a cigarette.

    And, most people say that using the button in this manner becomes second nature in less than a day.

    Summary

    Most electronic cigarettes auto or manual, are too heavy for some people to hold comfortably in their mouth without using one's hands.

    And while it takes many words to explain what happens, some have been able to use automatics to their satisfaction. But don't fall for ad line - that because you don't have to push a button, that it somehow is 'more like the experience of smoking a cigarette'. It is not. The ones that look most like a cigarette have been the most problematic - super minis - 4081, 401, 402, etc.

    A majority of vapors here prefer the manuals. Some with automatics are perfectly satisfied with the smaller amount of vapor of some autos, yet there are some here that have mastered auto techniques, get good vapor and enjoy their autos. And it is those people that can help you out, and they are more than willing to help if you have bought one and are having problems with the auto sequence.

    But if you have not purchased yet and are looking to actually duplicate the smoking experience - the actual action of smoking - rather the 'look' of smoking, then you may want to start off by buying a manual starter kit and either bypass the auto or try one out later.

    And don't take my word for it on any of this. Before purchasing read the "New Members" forum for a few days or even a week, and look up the type of ecig that the majority of people are complaining about and having problems with. Read enough to understand whether it is a manual battery or an auto battery and which type of atomizer and whether the person is doing something really unusual - like not filling the cartridges... or something else where it may not be the equipment. ;-) Or is the person truly trying to get vapor and is getting juice in the mouth instead or simply not getting much vapor at all. After reading these new posters threads, and determining what their problem might be, only then decide which way you want to go - manual or automatic. No ecig is entirely trouble free. None are 'exactly' like cigarettes. And performance on nicotine delivery will, for most, be more important than how it looks.

    If you must have an auto:

    Most 510 kits are now all manual but there are vendors that offer 1 auto battery and 1 manual battery - that would be a good choice for people that want to try an auto, and the 510 (and the 901) while not as small as a super mini is still cigarette-like. The 801 is the penstyle and is longer (like a pen) and holds more juice in the cartridge.

    Or.... get another model that also has the option of a manual battery like a dse901 or 801 that could also be used in a manual mod, where you're parts will still be useful.

    If you decide on a manual, go for the 510, or the 901 with a manual battery. Later you may want to move on to a 'mod' (modification of basic models for longer batt life and more vapor) but at least you'll have something that is very reliable on producing vapor.

    Please also see the posts below for further discussion of battery options.
     
  3. Kent C

    Kent C ECF Guru Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 12, 2009
    NW Ohio US
    Jim,

    From my post above, I think this is the most important part as far as informing the new member on the difference between auto and manual.

    Cut and paste with the additional 'both' comment:

    =====

    Manual or Automatic battery


    Manual batteries require you to push a button to activate the battery.
    Automatic batteries are activated by sound or the act of drawing on the ecigarette.

    Automatic Batteries:

    You have liquid in the cartridge. In order for the liquid to become vapor, it has to be vaporized. For that to happen the atomizer must heat to the point of vaporizing the liquid. Auto batteries are activated by drawing on the ecig or producing noise of drawing. The sequence is:

    1. draw
    2. battery activates
    3. atomizer begins to heat up
    4. the atomizer continues to heat up
    5. the liquid is vaporized
    6. you inhale

    From 1 to 3 the liquid is still in liquid form. From 3 to 4 _some of the liquid_ in the area of the atomizer is still in liquid form. From 1 to 4 the mouth piece is acting like a straw and you can get liquid in your mouth.

    One workaround is to take what's called a 'primer puff' - where you make the noise of drawing to start the battery but do not continue to draw. You then wait for the atomizer to atomize the liquid and then draw. Another work around is to start to draw but not very hard - because you'll get juice in your mouth - this sometimes starts the battery and sometimes it doesn't. If it does, if you then increase the amount of draw pressure and draw slowly like drinking a thick shake through a straw. But this prolonged drag can also take time to where you may run into the auto battery's 'cutoff' where the atomizer shuts off. Sometimes a 'waiting period' to where you can't start the cycle again, because the auto battery is still in the 'cutoff mode'. Iow, the battery controls you at that point.


    Manual Batteries:

    With manual batteries, you have to push a small button in order to start the above 1-6 sequence.

    Here, the only part of this that is not part of the smoking experience is pushing the button. When you push the button before drawing, numbers 2 through 5 above occur before you take a draw. When you do draw, you draw vapor not juice, and this is very much more like taking a drag on a cigarette.

    And, most people say that using the button in this manner becomes second nature in less than a day.

    Some models are available with both the auto and manual batteries.
    ====

    Regards....
     
  4. Ez Duzit

    Ez Duzit Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 16, 2009
    Southern California
    Kent this isn't any kind of slam, because anything that will help new people is good. And I appreciate the time you took with this guide, but...

    It's a bit misleading.
    Your description of the automatic batteries is actually pretty biased. You make it sound like a certainty, that buying an automatic unit will doom you with these problems, no exceptions, and that is very far from the truth.
    I have a 401 automatic and have none of the problems you mentioned. While the potential for any of those things is there when you buy an automatic, carefully choosing the correct model will minimize or eliminate most, if not all of them.
    Yes some units have a 3 or 4 second cutoff. But some models, like the 401 for example, actually have a 7 second cutoff. That is enough that most people will never actually cause it to engage. Certain models though, like the Red Dragon 2 piece unit, do have a shorter cutoff time. So by doing some research before buying, you can minimize the potential for this kind of problem.

    You also make it sound like people need a degree just to take a hit from an automatic. And that they are almost guaranteed to get juice in the mouth. So, let me ask. Does using a manual battery guarantee that I won't ever get juice in my mouth?

    As for the battery sometimes starting, and sometimes not starting when you take a draw. C'mon!! I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but much more so with a cheap unit, or an older model. Yes, occasionally someone will post about a new unit that has that problem. But considering how many units are sold, it's a small percentage. As e-cigs progress, quality is constantly improving, and I would have to say, this is another thing that is the exception, not the norm. Sometimes the auto batteries do stick, and that is usually cured with a few light taps on the desk. Also this a good spot to again ask something about manual batteries. Do they, (manual units), ever come with defective batteries?

    My point is, you magnified everything regarding the automatic battery. But with the manual battery, you basically said, just push the button and vape.

    People reading this, and trying to make a decision to buy, will categorize automatics as bad, and manual batteries as good, because that's the way you have painted the picture. The truth is, there are some pretty good automatic units to be had.

    Like I said up top, please don't take my post the wrong way. But if I read this before I purchased my 401, I might not have bought it, and that would have been a mistake!


    Ez
     
  5. mcl5000

    mcl5000 Super Member ECF Veteran

    Jul 15, 2009
    Allentown, PA
    I disagree with you EZ. I'm not sure what you mean by "cheap model" but I'd say I have a 50% chance of getting juice in my mouth with my auto 901 batteries compared to the 5% chance with my 901 manual or 510 manual. I'm talking about right after a fill up for drip, not half way through the cart. No juice either way in this case.

    Also, I'm pretty sure 901s have a 7 or 8 second cutoff, and I reach it more often than not.

    One more thing. You say that it's rare that auto batteries don't start when you take a draw. No it's not. Again, I don't believe new 901 batteries qualify as a cheap or old unit, but it certainly happens. Like you said, it isn't often, but sometimes you need to draw harder than others. Most people don't complain about this because it's very minor, but it's just another advantage of manuals.

    I thought the auto 901 was great until I got manual batteries for it. It's such a huge difference that it's really not even comparable. The ONLY thing that auto has going for it is that you can leave it in your mouth for a full drag without using any hands.

    Combine that with some auto batteries (no, not only "cheap" ones) sometimes randomly firing up the atomizer when sitting on your desk or driving with the window down, I think that manual is the clear way to go, especially for a beginner. The more frustrations you encounter in the beginning, the more likely you are to go back to analogs.


    edit: Deadcat, I think it might be beneficial to put something along the lines of "most people take a much longer drag on an e-cig than they would on an analog" in the auto battery section. When I was first trying to figure out what PV to get, I brushed off the auto cutoff, because I hit an analog for only a second or 2 most of the time.
     
  6. Kent C

    Kent C ECF Guru Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 12, 2009
    NW Ohio US
    :) Ok. Ez, you think you're 'piling on' when I'm standing in the end zone on this issue, even though the scoreboard has been turned off... and rightly so, imo. The longer narrative on autos vs. manuals is necessary because of the nature of what happens with the autos and the fact that you have figured it out to where you got one working, says nothing about the multitude of people that report otherwise every day. I don't usually continue to argue a winning point, but I will if you're willing. Part of the reason Jim deleted the above posts was to stop the back and forth on the issue and as far as I'm concerned he can delete these too as long as he deletes both.

    I can link to a number of posts that prove my point beyond a reasonable doubt. Here's just a sampling... I can list them all if you're interested... or you can PM me and help Jim keep this off the board. You're choice. And yeah, there are some 'manual problem' posts as well but they don't come close to the amount of these or the number of posts where people have said basically 'I quit smoking the day my 510 arrived'. There's a dozen of them in the last 5 days! lol.

    http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/general-e-smoking-discussion/35341-what-heck-am-i-doing-wrong-juice-mouth.html

    http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/new-members-forum/26753-i-just-got-ripped-off-buying-e-cig.html

    http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/new-members-forum/4791-got-suckered-smoking-everywhere.html

    "I JUST KNOW I DON'T WANT TO FORK OUT ANOTHER DIME TO THIS RIP-OFF COMPANY!!!"

    http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/new-members-forum/29890-just-got-my-m-401-little-dissapointed.html#post461020

    "Not enough vapor or smoke. Sometimes you get a nice hit, often not."

    http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/new-members-forum/28773-returning-my-blu-cigs-what-should-i-replace-them.html#post444553
     
  7. Ez Duzit

    Ez Duzit Super Member ECF Veteran

    Aug 16, 2009
    Southern California
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