In a day and age where efficiency is an obsession in literally anything we do…
Finding the most efficient vaporizer is definitely a heroic and noble quest…
…especially if quality herb is hard to come by.
Even though vaporizing in and of itself is already way more efficient than smoking:
- You will inhale 50% to 80% more cannabinoids when vaping compared to smoking using the same amount of herb…
…there are differences between vaporizers.
While some vaporizers slow down your consumption on a massive scale…others are more of the ‘herb hog’ types devouring your herb without any excuses at a pace that's only slightly slower than smoking.
If conserving herb and more importantly…MONEY is important to you, you’ve come to the right place.
To what extent a vaporizer is capable of conserving your herb while still getting you where you want, is how I will define efficiency because this is the only definition that is relevant to you and actually somewhat testable.
So the definition of efficiency:
Which vaporizers need the least amount of herb to get you medicated properly?
In the essential guide you already learned about the general characteristics you should look for in a vaporizer if efficiency is a high priority for you:
- On-demand heating;
- Convection heating;
- Small bowl/herb chamber;
- Large distance between the heating element and the bowl/herb chamber;
- A precise or interval based temperature control system which is capable of reaching at least 428°F /220°C.
Now you will learn why these characteristics help you conserve herb while still allowing you to get medicated properly.
Not everything is dependent on the vaporizer you use…there are definitely some things you can and should do to increase your vaporizer’s efficiency. And you will learn about those as well.
So let’s get this party started…
Or… Browse by Category: Click any of the links below to jump to each category:
Threshold-Efficiency and Session-Efficiency Explained
Why Convection Vaporizers Are More Efficient
Why A Small Bowl Is More Efficient
Why You Want Distance Between the Heating Element and your Bowl
Why A Precise or Interval Based Temperature Control System Is More Efficient
What You Can Do to Increase Efficiency
The 2 Most Efficient Vaporizers in the World
1. Threshold-Efficiency and Session-Efficiency Explained
In the introduction, I already explained that the only real measurable way to assess the efficiency of a vaporizer is by looking at how much herb it needs to get you medicated properly…
But this is still vague.
Because how are you supposed to measure this?
Well…I found two (2) ways I can measure this:
- The threshold-efficiency of a vaporizer;
- The session-efficiency of a vaporizer.
But what exactly are these?
This essentially is the minimum amount of herb that’s needed in the bowl of your vaporizer to produce a satisfying hit.
- The smaller your bowl, the less herb you’ll need to produce a satisfying hit.
This is how efficient your vaporizer will be during your session. What it boils down is the following:
- Does the vaporizer heat and thus waist any herb while you aren’t drawing?
Why does this distinction matter?
These are two (2) very different types of efficiency and making this distinction is important when looking for your vaporizer…
Let me explain:
If you’re the type of user which generally just takes a few quick draws…AND efficiency is important to you, you’re going to want a vaporizer with a good threshold-efficiency thus has a small bowl.
If you’re the type of user who generally likes to go for long sessions…AND efficiency is important to you, you’re going to want a vaporizer with a good session-efficiency, thus is 100% convection and has its heating element separated from the bowl.
But more about these specific vaporizer-features below!
2. Why On-Demand Convection Vaporizers Are More Efficient
A true convection-based heating mechanism heats your marijuana only with hot air. Hot air flows through the whole heating chamber and through your herb…extracting cannabinoids no matter the location of your herb IN the bowl.
Compare this to a conduction vaporizer where your herb gets heated by means of a heated surface and the herb that's in direct contact with the heated surface gets exposed to the heat more so than the herb that’s not.
It's obvious that in convection-heating a more complete extraction is much easier.
(In theory, you could reach a same level of extraction with conduction but…honestly…this will be very hard in practice because you’ll need to be some kind of master stirrer exposing every little part of your ground herb to the heated surface evenly)
Another advantage of a pure convection vaporizer is that it only exposes your herb to hot air when you're pulling (drawing) it over your herbs, thus not extracting any cannabinoids while not drawing.
Important here to note is that with portable vaporizers, on-demand heating is kind of necessary to eliminate any conduction-heating and thus keep this advantage.
Because portable vaporizers are so compact, heating for a long time like with session-vapes will always lead to some conduction/radiant heating in the bowl.
And the problem with conduction heating is that it's cooking your marijuana all the time while your vape is turned on…
This leads to constant extraction of cannabinoids whether you’re drawing or not (basically wasting a lot of cannabinoids).
It's not hard to see how you will need MORE herb to get you medicated properly in such a system.
(although there are on-demand conduction vaporizers like the MFLB which only keep an active heating element while you keep the button pressed…but the nature of conduction is such that your bowl won't immediately cool down)
2. Why A Small Bowl Is More Efficient
The cannabinoids in your herb need to time to kick in, and a vaporizer with a small bowl forces you to LET them kick in before your herb-hunger takes over.
A small bowl is more efficient because of two (2) reasons…
Reason 1: With any bowl what you want to do is pack it quite well and fill it up at least decently.
With most vaporizers, you need to fill the bowl at least somewhat decently to get proper vapor production.
If you, for example, fill only 10% of the bowl with herb, the vapor you’ll get will be very wispy. This can still be quite potent vapor…but if you’re anything like me you’ll want to definitely feel something too and not just ‘know’ you’re inhaling vapor.
So what happens if you keep getting wispy vapor? You’ll probably keep filling your bowl to get more vapor and this obviously is not very efficient!
To give an example…you have:
- Vaporizer 1: with a bowl capacity of 0.5 grams, and
- Vaporizer 2: with a bowl capacity of 0.1 grams.
Now let’s say for argument's sake that you need to fill the bowl for at least 50% to get decent and visible vapor (in reality this percentage differs per vaporizer). With vaporizer 1 you need at least 0.25 grams of herb to get decent and visible vapor, while with vaporizer 2 you only need 0.05 grams.
And trust me…if your tolerance isn’t sky-high 0.05 grams of herb with the right vaporizer WILL get you medicated properly!
Reason 2: Even if you do have somewhat of a tolerance…another advantage of a small bowl is, it basically FORCES you to use not anymore herb than needed to get you where you want.
Let’s say your tolerance is quite high and you ‘think’ you need at least 0.25 grams of herb to get medicated properly.
Again you have:
- Vaporizer 1: with a bowl capacity of 0.5 grams, and
- Vaporizer 2: with a bowl capacity of 0.1 grams.
With vaporizer 1 you just put in 0.25 grams of herb in your bowl, not only because that’s the minimum to get decent and visible vapor, but also that’s what you ‘think’ you need to get there.
Now you try vaporizer 2 and fully pack the bowl with 0.1 gram of herb. You hit it, devour it in a series of 10 strong and dense hits…and all over the period of 15 minutes.
“Alright, the next 0.1 gram you think…”
But while you’re grinding up your next 0.1 gram you come to realize you're already far away in THC-land.
The best part?
You really didn’t need that extra 0.1 gram, but you didn’t realize it because you never tested it…and now you'll be saving $$$.
- The cannabinoids in your herb need to time to kick in, and a vaporizer with a small bowl forces you to LET them kick in before your herb-hunger takes over.
3. Why You Want Distance Between the Heating Element and Your Bowl
This one is only applicable to convection vaporizers. With conduction vaporizers, you actually need the bowl with attached heating element touching your herbs.
You already know why convection vaporizers are more efficient, just to quickly recap:
- Convection heats your herb more thoroughly and evenly which leads to a more complete extraction, and;
- Convection only exposes your herb to the heat while you’re drawing (not wasting your precious cannabinoids).
Ok…but why do you need distance between the heating element and bowl?
What you must understand is that 100% convection vaporizers are rare and here’s why:
With most vaporizers, the heating element of your vaporizer is quite close to the bowl.
So what happens if you keep your vaporizer on for a longer time?
Your bowl heats up to a point at which least some conduction heating is going on.
And this partially negates advantage 2 of convection vaporizers: “Convection only exposes your herb to the heat while you’re drawing”.
Now your herb is getting exposed to some conduction heating whether you’re drawing or not, decreasing its efficiency. If there's a large distance between the heating element and your bowl, this process loses a lot of its power and convection truly stays convection.
4. Why A Precise or Interval Based Temperature Control System Is More Efficient
Even though THC is the most well-known cannabinoid in Cannabis…
There are many other cannabinoids and other compounds like terpenes in your herb, which have medicative properties (maybe not always directly like THC but all of these substances probably do also influence each other and their respective effects).
All of these compounds have different boiling points and thus start off-gassing at different temperatures as well (click here if you want to learn everything about vaping temperatures and how they affect your vapor).
Why does this matter?
If you want to extract every compound out of your herb…
…you will need to reach the full range of temperatures with your vaporizer, starting from the compound with the lowest boiling point, up until just before the combustion point of cannabis (446°F / 230°C).
But this doesn't work so well if you immediately start at the highest point…you need to give your vaporizer enough time at every interval to extract all of the compounds.
If you only vape at the higher temperature ranges, you will get a couple of massive dense and harsh draws…which is great if you’re looking for those face-slammer type of rips, but less good for taste and efficiency…
You will have more time to realize the effects of your vapor if you take 15-20 modest draws compared to five (5) face slammers.
Again…don't underestimate the impact of giving the cannabinoids enough time to kick-in has on conserving your herb!
And it's quite obvious why it doesn't work to only vape in the lower temperature ranges:
First of all, some compounds will be completely absent in your vapor…plus if you only go as far as the boiling point of a certain compound, you won’t extract every molecule of it…leaving much on the table.
5. What YOU Can Do to Increase Efficiency!
So now you've got your vaporizer with all the mentioned features that are great for efficiency purposes…
It's time for 5 tricks YOU can use to increase your efficiency and save money with any vaporizer.
1. Pack Your Bowl Appropriately
Packing your bowl properly is a two-fold process. First you have to fill it up to the minimum amount that’s needed to get decent and visible vapor.
How much this ‘minimum’ amount is, really differs per vaporizer.
If you want to know the specific minimum amount of a particular vaporizer, check that vaporizer’s review page (you can find all vaporizers in the top menu). I really suggest you do this if you want to vape efficiently.
The second process is about grinding your marijuana properly for your particular vaporizer and how loosely you need to pack your bowl. Now this depends on the type of heating mechanism your vaporizer uses mostly:
Grind your herb as fine as you can and pack your bowl for at least 50% with the screen technique and at least 80% without it for best efficiency (and vapor quality) results.
Conduction heating works by means of exposing your herb directly to a heated surface.
What this means is you want your herb to be as fine as possible so every little particle can easily get exposed to the heated surface by stirring (more about stirring your herb later).
Usually, it’s best to use a medium to fine grind and pack your bowl relatively loose but full.
It basically comes down to using a grind and pack that is facilitative of letting the hot air easily pass through your bowl and through your herb.
You want to maximize the airflow the best you can while exposing every trichome of your herb.
A super fine grind will block your airflow severely. Also don’t pack it so loose your herb keeps flopping around when you’re vaping! You don’t want to disturb the delicate extraction process.
2. Stir Your Material
With most vaporizers…to get the most out of your herb it’s best to stir up your bowl every couple of draws.
With conduction vaporizers, it’s obvious why…you need to let every little particle of your herb hit the heated surface.
But even with convection vaporizers, it is definitely advisable. With a 100% perfectly working convection vaporizer this wouldn’t be needed…
The reality unfortunately is:
Especially with portable vaporizers, there aren’t many 100% convection vaporizers…this means stirring will help exposing those ‘hard-to-reach’ trichomes to the heated air. And this, in turn, means you will get the most out of your herb and thus need less herb to get you where you want…
…increasing efficiency and saving money!
3. Keep Your Vaping Companion Clean
To keep your vaporizer functioning properly and efficiently, you need to regularly clean your baby up.
Don’t let any resin build up in any parts of your air path and especially keep your bowl/filling chamber and the screen in your bowl/filling chamber clean.
You want to keep airflow at the maximum, otherwise, extraction will be half-assed and your efficiency (and wallet) will take a hit.
4. Start Your Temperature Low and Increase it Gradually
This is important for efficiency but was already covered and I don’t want to sound like a broken record…you can read about it here.
5. Turn Your AVB into Edibles
If you didn’t know already…
AVB stands for ‘Already Vaped Bud’. Another abbreviation that’s often used to refer to the same thing is ‘ABV’ which stands for ‘Already Been Vaped’. However, you choose to call it…they both mean the same thing:
- AVB or ABV is the herb that’s left over after your vaporizer got intimate with it.
Unlike smoking, vaping your herb does not turn it into a toxic and stinky pile of ash ready to be thrown in your trashcan. Unless you vaped at really high temperatures…
If you vaped mostly around the combustion point of marijuana (446°F / 230°C), most cannabinoids will be fully extracted and your AVB won't have much potency. Besides, the taste of such AVB will be absolutely horrible.
How to recognize such AVB? It will be dark brown/blackish and will smell bad (note that most AVB will not smell very pleasant, but dark brown/blackish AVB will smell particularly bad).
I actually vaped for a full year before I realized/learned this:
If you keep your temperature relatively low and your AVB still looks light brownish…your AVB can DIRECTLY be used in numerous ways for oral ingestion to get even more bang for your buck (you don’t have to cook AVB to let the cannabinoid acids decarboxylate to their corresponding cannabinoids, this was already done during the vaporization process!):
- You can make edibles out of it (cannabutter, cannoil, etc.);
- You can directly eat it (advisable is to put it in capsules).
Be very careful when using AVB, experiment starting with very low doses and every time keep all your variables the same (your vaporizer, the temperature you vape at, your strain, etc.).
Because it has the potential to hit like a truck and when it does there really is no way back…you just have to sit it out. It might not make for a very pleasant experience.
If you are serious about AVB check out this full guide on AVB.
6. The 2 Most Efficient Vaporizers In the World
Firefly 2 (full review)
This on-demand portable vaporizer really is one of the few portables which can call itself a full convection vaporizer and also has an extremely fast heat-up time…full convection with such a fast heat-up time, AND portable? Only the Firefly…
What makes it the most efficient portable vaporizer:
- Makes use of full convection heating;
- On-demand heating only heats when you hold the heating button down;
- Its bowl is small and specifically designed for quick on-demand hits.
- Click here to see current price and reviews – USA.
- Click here to see current price and reviews – Europe.
The King of log vaporizers is also the Vaponaut King of Efficiency. Almost as small as a portable but producing the clouds of high-end desktop vaporizer with tiny amounts of herb…you would have to be some kind of herb-hungry madman to use more than 0.1 grams of herb without getting obliterated.
What makes it the most efficient desktop vaporizer:
- Full convection heating;
- The small and compact bowl is specifically designed for small loads (0.025 – 0.1 grams);
- The distance between the heating element and the bowl is easily adjustable;
- An interval-based temperature control system with enough variation and a maximum of at least 428°F / 220°C.
If you want to look at how these vapes compare to other vaporizers, in a handy comparison post, see our dry herb vaporizer review and comparison post.
Now that you've learned all ins and outs of vaporizer efficiency, you will not only be saving herb but more importantly: your hard earned money!
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