There are lots of power variables to consider when you vape. Wattage, voltage, coil resistance, and battery capacity can all affect your vaping experience, but it isn’t always obvious what settings you should be using or how changing one might affect another.
In this guide, we’ll answer the most common questions asked about power settings, not only by new vapers but also by many people looking to upgrade to a more advanced device. In the process, we’ll explain everything from how variable wattage differs from variable voltage to why low-resistance coils are associated with high-power vapes.
Let’s start with wattage, the power setting that has the potential to make the most difference to your vaping experience and enjoyment.
The wattage of a device is a measurement of its electrical power output. In a vape, it is the amount of power being output through the atomizer head and coil. When you set your vape to 40W, for example, you are telling the device that this is the power output level you want to achieve. The device will then internally adjust the voltage from the battery to generate that power output through whatever coil you are using.
Wattage is directly related to temperature; more watts equals more heat. As heat is used to aerosolize the liquid in your vape, this means that higher wattage almost always results in more vapor production, a warmer throat hit, and more intense flavor.
Wattage should also be considered when choosing the e-liquid you will use in the vape. The ingredients used in vape liquids, PG and VG, have different thicknesses. VG is thicker than PG and requires more heat to be vaporized efficiently by the coil. Using a high-VG liquid in a low-power vape can result in the coil getting clogged up, reducing its lifespan.
Many modern vapes, even simple pod devices, feature variable wattage control. In a small pod vape, the available range will be small, often between 5 and 18W, and might automatically be limited by the coil being used. By comparison, a large box mod could have a variable wattage range of 5 to 230W, and deciding how much power to use will usually be entirely within user control.
Vaping at high power levels isn’t for everyone, and if you are happy with the flavor and vapor produced by your low-power vape, there’s nothing to say you need ever “upgrade” to a more powerful device. That said, many experienced vapers would argue that it isn’t you vape at 50-60W that you really start to experience the true flavor subtleties and throat hit of vape liquids.
Voltage refers to how strong the current is in an electrical circuit. It is the amount of ‘pressure’ with which the current is pushed between the power source and whatever it is powering.
In a vape, this is the battery and the coil. When a vape is fired, voltage is drawn from the battery. The flow of volts meets the resistance of the vape coil and becomes the wattage – the power output. It is slightly more complicated than that because vapes often also include a power regulation system controlled by their firmware and control chip, but helps to explain the relationship between voltage and wattage.
Just as with wattage, voltage is variable, but the ability for a vape user to manually change it is usually reserved for more advanced, high-power devices. That said, the voltage and wattage level are tied together in all vapes, at least to some degree. For a device to output more watts, the voltage must also be increased, but this is often done in the background.
If you are using a pod or pen-style vape, voltage is rarely (if ever) something you need to concern yourself with. When you raise or lower the wattage via the power settings, the device will take care of increasing or decreasing the voltage accordingly.
What Are Ohms (Ω)?
Ohms are a unit of measurement for electrical resistance, or how much electrical current can flow through a component. The lower the resistance, the more electrical current that can pass through something like a vape coil. The resistance level in vapes is not, as you may have heard claimed elsewhere, about how much e-liquid can flow into and through the coil.
The resistance level of a vape coil is denoted by a number such as 1.2 ohm. This will usually be printed on the metal cover of a pre-build coil and on the bottom of a pod with a fixed coil. If you want to build your own coils, resistance will be influenced by the thickness of the wire and the material it is made from. The expected resistance should also be printed on the wire spool.
Note: It is important to know the resistance of the wire in a self-built coil so it can be safely matched to the voltage/wattage. We have previously covered Ohm’s Law, as it pertains to building your own coils, in detail.
The reality today is that most vapers aren’t building their own coils. Today’s vapers are much more likely to be using a device with pre-built coils. But no matter the type of coil you use, the resistance can make a big difference to the vaping experience.
A low-resistance coil allows more power to flow through, produces more heat, and leads to more vapor. E-liquid and battery power will generally be used more quickly, and the coil lifespan will be reduced.
Almost the exact opposite effects will be experienced when using a high-resistance coil, such as those often used in MTL devices. Lower power means cooler temperatures, less vapor production, and longer battery life.
Sub-Ohm Coils and Sub-Ohm Vaping
Technically, any coil with a resistance of less than 1 ohm is a sub-ohm coil. But using a UWELL Caliburn G3 with a 0.9Ω coil isn’t, in the common usage of the term, sub-ohm vaping.
If you hear someone talking about “sub-ohm vaping” or using a “sub-ohm vape” they will generally be referring to a high-power (100W+) mod with a coil resistance perhaps as low as 0.15Ω or 0.2Ω. This type of vaping is capable of producing huge clouds of vapor and intense flavors but can use up a tank of e-liquid incredibly quickly.
In a pod or cartridge vape, the lowest coil resistance you will generally find is likely to be around 0.6Ω, but occasionally as low as 0.3Ω. If a coil like this is used at 30-40W of power, it could produce good flavor and decent vapor clouds, but nothing compared to true sub-ohm vaping.
What Does mAh Mean?
Our modern world is filled with rechargeable batteries, so you will likely have seen the term “mAh” used in relation to battery capacity. This stands for milliamp hours or milliamps per hour and is, in simple terms, a measurement of how much electrical power a battery can store.
In a vape, as in most portable devices, the higher the mAh number, the better. It should be obvious that an 1800mAh battery can store twice as much power as a 900mAh battery and, therefore, last longer between charges. Probably not twice as long, but close to it.
Battery capacity is generally not something you have control over if you use a pen, pod, or some simple mod devices. These types of vapes commonly have fixed, built-in batteries with capacities matched to the output level and style of vaping they are designed for (MTL, RDL, or DL.) You can extend battery life by reducing wattage and using a high-resistance coil, but overall battery capacity is fixed.
You’ll have more control over capacity if using a mod vape with removable power cells, such as 18650 batteries. These are available with a range ofy capacity levels, from around 2500mAh to over 4000mAh. But mod vapes that require these large-capacity batteries use higher wattage and lower resistance coils, so even though there may be several times more power stored, it doesn’t mean they will last several times as long between charges.
18650 batteries, while not complicated to use, can require a bit more care and precaution. Here are some essential tips for vape battery safety.
What Are the Best Vape Power Settings?
As the explanations above will hopefully have shown, there are no “best” vape power settings. Vapes have different power requirements, just as the vapers who use them have individual requirements. Variable power settings are a feature of modern vapes for good reason, i.e. they let you adapt the amount of vapor, heat, throat hit, and even battery life to suit your personal preferences.
Here are a few things to remember when choosing the power settings for your new vape.
- Increasing the wattage of your vape (generally) results in more vapor and flavor from your vape juice.
- Low-resistance coils work best at higher (30W+) wattage levels; High-resistance coils are better suited to low wattage (10-30W.)
- High-VG liquids can be quite viscous, so might need more heat (provided by higher wattage) to vaporize efficiently.
- Vaping at high wattage is likely to be more expensive than at low wattage. You will go through vape juice and coils much more quickly.
- Wattage and voltage are two parts of the same system. Wattage is power output, and voltage is power flow from the battery.
- The wattage of a vape is directly related to temperature. If the vapor is too warm or tastes burnt, lowering the power is a simple way to fix it.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with wattage. Even raising or lowering the power level by a few watts can make a difference to your vape experience.