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Or "Is That Your Tank Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?"  Drop below the non-toxic vapor cloud to see what that thing is...

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There are multiple options for your battery, which I discussed in previous diaries on the topic.  Similarly, there are multiple options for your liquid-holding end.  We'll take a look at some of the most common, with examples.  Unfortunately, these images are copyrighted, so I need to link you to the sales sites for you to get a look at them.

Remember, match your screw to fit your battery!

The Cartomizer

This is the work-horse of most systems, and if you find the rest of the article confusing or unclear...just use a cartomizer!

Example:  http://smokelessimage.com/...
Availability:  Excellent
Price:  Moderately cheap, but replacement costs can add up
Durability:  Poor.
Liquid Held:  Usually around 0.5 to 0.75 ml, or not very much.  This is equivalent to about 3-5 cigarettes.  Larger cartomizers are made but harder to find.
Ease of Use:  Very Easy

The humble cartomizer is the item most people start out using, and there's a reason for that.  If there's a no-brainer in terms of ease of use, this is it.  The cartomizer tends to be the simplest for the beginner to work with, but also one of the easiest items to grow beyond because of its innate limitations.

These are one-piece units containing a resistor and fabric batting that holds your liquid.  The liquid diffuses from the batting to the central core with the resistor.

Over time, the batting tends to pick up residual flavor, and the central core material will singe and generate a burning flavor.  At this point, the cartomizer should be discarded.

Although they can be cleaned--rather laboriously--most people don't bother, and the cleaning tends not to correct a burned cartomizer.

While some people use cartomizers "one-shot," or use once and replace with a new, pre-filled cartomizer, many refill them.  Cartomizers tend to be easy to refill, but I personally recommend using a blunt-tipped syringe to do so.  This method is easier and less wasteful than bottle dripping or the condom method.

Most people don't mix liquid flavors in their cartomizers because the old flavor never quite goes away.  While some of these mixes can be interesting and flavorful, most are not.  For this reason, people who use multiple flavors tend to accumulate several different colored cartomizers and/or different colored plastic end sealers for them.

One limitation is that the vapor production varies by how saturated the internal fabric is, and many people dislike the experience past around the halfway point.  Over-using the cartomizer (using it until it's completely dry) tends to singe the fabric and limit the re-usability of the it.

Still, this is certainly the place where most people start, and I don't blame them.  A good supply of cartomizers is cheap, they'll last through several refills even treated fairly badly, and you can treat them as disposable when they become old.

The Cleartomizer or Clearomizer

Example:  http://smokelessimage.com/...
Availability:  Average
Price:  Reasonable, but replacement costs can add up
Durability:  Fair
Liquid Held:  Usually around 0.75 to 1.5 ml.  This is equivalent to about 6 to 12 cigarettes.  Sizes, however, vary very widely.
Ease of Use:  Easy to Moderate Difficulty

I linked to Smokeless Image because they have a great page with several examples of different types of cleartomizers.  Please note, all of these are 808 thread and will not fit on the 510 or eGo devices without a converter!  However, these styles are common and available in 510 thread as well (remember, the eGo device accepts a 510 thread as well as the eGo thread).

One example of a 510 threaded is:  http://www.myvaporstore.com/...

For some reason, these tend to be the second item on most people's lists.  This may be that many cleartomizers still retain the more graceful size and clean lines of the cartomizer while generally offering a bit more capacity.  You won't find yourself fiddling with changing these quite so often!

One additional advantage is that the clear plastic (although not all feature this) makes it easy to see when the device is running low and should be changed.

My personal favorite on this list is the CE3 bottom coil at the bottom of the page, which had been a mainstay of mine for quite some time.

Flavors tend to be clearer in a clearto than a carto (the accepted contraction of those words, which I'll use from here on out).  Some cleartos mute flavors a bit, however, and the Nano style is famous for that.

Designs vary, and it's hard to pinpoint what will be best for a given person.  The X2 Cleartomizer at the top of the page features a long wick that extends from the top where the atomizer (resistor) is located and fall into the pool of liquid.  While many people like this style, others complain that it doesn't wick liquid fast enough and they get what's called a "dry hit," or heating the wick without liquid on it, which tends to taste terrible.

I personally prefer the bottom coil versions that have very short wicks extending through the resistor.  The wick forms the plug to prevent liquid from leaking out.  Some people complain that the system leaks for them.

Some of this is your choice of liquid.  Liquids with high levels of vegetable glycerine tend to leak less.  Liquids with high levels of propylene glycol will leak more in bottom coil systems, but wick faster in top wick systems.

Another major issue is that the clear plastic will degrade with some liquids, most notably cinnamon.  The plastic will become opaque, brittle, and finally crack.  With high levels of cinnamon, this can occur very quickly!

Refilling can range from using the bottle of liquid and squeezing liquid into the tank (very easy and very fast) to injection using a blunt-needle syringe through an injection cap (not easy but fairly fast).

The Large Cleartomizer, or The Tankomizer

These are technically still cleartomizers, but with much larger liquid reservoirs.  They're called tanks, cleartomizers, tank cleartomizers, tankomizers, or just very large cleartomizers.  There is no industry consensus on the name as of yet and given the size variance and crossover on designs, there's unlikely to ever be one.

Example:  http://smokelessimage.com/...
Availability:  Low
Price:  Expensive, But Rarely Replaced or Inexpensive Replacement Parts
Durability:  Good
Liquid Held:  Usually around 1.5 to 3.0 ml.  This is equivalent to about half a pack to more than a pack of cigarettes.  
Ease of Use:  Easy

The example is of the X2 threaded version, the 510 is here:  http://www.myvaporstore.com/...

While there are different kinds of crossover cleartomizer/tank systems, the T3 currently seems to dominate the market (with some reason for doing so).

These feature fairly large liquid reservoirs and still manage to maintain a clean design and not unpleasant aesthetic.  They're designed for the larger eGo and 808 (X2) batteries and won't fit a cigarette look-alike.

Their greatest advantage is that they retain the very clear flavor of the cleartomizer (or clearomizer depending on the company) while offering more liquid storage for when you're out and about.

These tend to suffer the same problems as the cleartomizers, with bottom fed systems leaking with some liquids and top fed systems wicking too slowly with other liquids.

Similarly, cinnamon-based liquids will degrade and crack the plastic.  I personally use a Kanger T3 system and have for six months, with 1% cinnamon in my liquids.  To date, no degradation is visible.

In the case of the T3, the base unscrews both to refill the liquid and to replace the base.  How long a base lasts will vary with your habits and use, but absolutely should never cost more than around $20 per month.  Only very heavy users or those who use very dark liquids should approach this.

The base contains both the wicks and the resistor (atomizer), so replacing the base replaces every part of the system that wears out.  The Vivi Nova tank is discussed below and features the same replacement capabilities in a different style.

The Tank

Carto Tank:  http://www.myvaporstore.com/...
Nova Tank:  http://www.myvaporstore.com/...
Availability:  Low to High
Price:  Expensive, But Rarely Replaced or Inexpensive Replacement Parts
Durability:  Good
Liquid Held:  Usually from 2.5 to 6.0 ml.  This is equivalent to about half a pack to more than two packs of cigarettes.  
Ease of Use:  Easy to Hard

"Tank" denotes a system that holds a large amount of liquid and is a very wide category, resulting in the wide variety of classifications above.  I've highlighted two example tanks, a cartomizer tank and a Vivi Nova, as these tend to be the most common.

Screw types are 808, 510, and sometimes eGo.  As a general rule, tanks are designed for the basic central threading and don't use the extended eGo threads--although some do!  Tanks can also be particular about some advanced units and may not fit all of them, but this won't be an issue if you use a basic eGo style electronic.

In both cases, plastic tanks may degrade when using some liquids, particularly cinnamon.  Glass tanks are immune to this, and I tend to recommend borosilicate glass for durability, chemical resistance, and slightly greater resistance to scratching.

A cartomizer tank combines a basic cartomizer but the manufacturer (or you) drills one or more holes in it and puts it in a tank.  The hole allows the liquid in the tank to penetrate the cartomizer while the fabric in the cartomizer keeps the liquid from dripping out of the central hole.

When the cartomizer becomes singed or the vapor draw declines, replace with another appropriate cartomizer (all tanks will tell you what they accept, and most tanks only accept certain brands or styles).

While this sounds like a terrible design, it's surprisingly effective and easy to use.  Refilling requires only a bottle of liquid and is fairly easy, but does require some attention and two hands.

Because the cartomizer is always bathed in liquid it won't dry out easily and is always at fully-saturated performance.  It's important not to let the tank go completely dry, however, as this may lead to singeing your cartomizer.

When ordering, make sure to note the fitting cartomizer's price and availability, as well as any reviews on the system.

The Vivi Nova probably looks a great deal like some of the cleartomizers I showed you above.  That's because it's the same basic concept, but in a larger size!

In the case of the Vivi, refilling is very easy.  Remove the top.  Fill by pouring or squeezing liquid in.  Replace the top.

While most of the smaller systems don't feature replaceable heads and wicks, the Vivi Nova does--but will only accept Vivi Nova heads.  If the flavor becomes unacceptable or the resistor burns out, replace the head.  This is as easy as screwing off the old one and screwing on a new one (but it's easiest to do when the tank is empty or nearly so).

Most places that sell the tank will sell the heads for around $2.50 to $3.  

A Dripping Atomizer

Examples:  http://www.madvapes.com/...
Availability:  Moderate
Price:  Moderate, with moderate replacement costs
Durability:  Fair
Liquid Held:  A few drops, enough for a few puffs
Ease of Use:  Hard

You thought something dripping was bad, didn't you?  In this case, it isn't.  A dripping atomizer is a device that holds only a few drops of liquid and requires constant refill.

Why would you want that?  Dripping atomizers give the clearest, purest flavor and allow you to change flavors whenever you want to (although menthol and other heavy flavors will linger).  People who are connoisseurs of flavor tend to prefer dripping atomizers.

The down side is that the atomizer will require fresh drops every time you puff on it, and you only get a few puffs before the atomizer is dry.  Continuing to puff will burn the wick, which can be replaced.

If flavor is of paramount importance and refilling constantly isn't a hassle, this is for you.  Some people use a dripping atomizer to test new flavors as well, as only a few drops are required and many brick and mortar locations will allow you to test.

What About Resistance?

If you noticed a lot of the options gave you the ability to choose your resistance--even cartomizers come in different resistance.  So which should you choose?

The short answer:  Purchase things around 2.4 to 2.6 ohms.

The long answer:  Resistance is futile.  Actually, it's voltage divided by amperage.  Which is germane to this discussion.

All of us have preferences on vapor temperature and volume, and the recent explosion of variable voltage and variable wattage electronics on the market makes the situation even more complicated.

I need to go into a little electrical theory here.  V=IR.  Or Voltage = Amperage * Resistance.  Hence the little joke above if you rearrange the equation a little bit:  R=V/I.

If you spend any time delving into the Internet forums on electronic cigarettes, people discuss voltage, resistance, and amperage almost incessantly.  And they're all completely right (except for some very unusual situations where safety can be compromised).

I'm including a chart of voltage versus resistance below, with the resulting number being the wattage that results (click on the image for a larger, more legible version).  For the most part, wattages in the green highlight will produce good, warm vapor.

So for most of us, in the 3.2 volt to 4.2 volt range, a 2.5 ohm resistance will produce good vapor (but may be weak toward the lower voltage portion of that range).  Most of our devices will be in this range.

Variable voltage devices can range from 3.0 to 6.0 range (some do go beyond), so matching the resistance to your voltage is fairly important.  While anybody using a standard device could use a 2.0 ohm cartomizer, a person using a 6.0 volt device would run the risk of immediately destroying the resistor in the cartomizer.

A word on the safety aspect.  Recently, ultra-low resistance items have appeared in a few places, generally from small companies and intended for people who understand the risks and how to use them.  As a general rule, they'll only work on a mechanical mod with no computer controls (as the computer would detect a low resistance and refuse to fire the device).  These run the grave risk of overdrawing the battery and resulting in a spectacular--and dangerous--battery failure, particularly if an unmoderated battery with no safety device were used.  You won't see these items from larger companies due to the risk, but avoid any device with a listed resistance under 2.0 ohms.

So...What Do You Use?

What do I use or what do I recommend?  I personally use a Kanger T3 clearto tank, 2.4 ohms resistance, and love it.  

However, it's not what I generally recommend as the system is a little more fiddly than most people would prefer.

For the beginner, the cartomizer is going to be the work-horse.  You may decide to upgrade later, but a cartomizer is simple, durable, and reasonably inexpensive.

If you've already grown tired of the cartomizer, moving on to a cleartomizer is the next logical step.

Whether you ever move on, or want more out of your system, is up to you.  Millions of people are perfectly happy with the old-fashioned and very well-proven technology of the cartomizer.

>Little Buddy List

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