Convection, Conduction, or Combustion?

A lot of people don’t know the difference between convection and conduction, and it is no wonder as they appear to be very similar at first glance. We are frequently asked what type of oven our vaporizers use, whether they are convection or conduction, and the answer is not as straightforward as some would like. While all of our vaporizers are actually a hybrid of both heating methods, they are closer to conduction than convection. You can see a video below of a conduction vaporizer, check it out.

Everyone thinks convection vaporizers are better than conduction units. In general, they're correct. But not in every case. In the conduction vs convection vaporizer debate, the devil is in the details.

Many moving parts play a role in vapor quality, not just the heating system. Materials, vapor path, temperature control, even the mouthpiece can make all the difference between smoky, harsh hits and smooth, tasty draws.

But what exactly are these types of ovens and what are the different properties they can provide?

Vaporizers use one of two types of heating mechanisms that extract the active ingredients from the plant matter, converting them to vapor. Cannabinoids begin to vaporize around 284°F, with combustion beginning at around 446°F. Vaporizers apply heat between those temperatures and some even allow consumers to control the temperature, thus controlling the amount of cannabinoids and terpenes released in the process.

The process by which heat or electricity is directly transmitted through a substance when there is a difference of temperature or of electrical potential between adjoining regions, without movement of the material, is referred to as conduction. Basically, this translates to the transfer of heat through a substance or solid. This means that conduction heating elements make direct contact with your chosen substance. In vaporizers, the heating source is traditionally placed at the bottom of a chamber and your product is loaded directly on top of the element.

Most modern vaporizers use conduction to heat whatever is put inside them. This is because it generally allows for more precise temperature control. The intensity of the heat waves can be increased or decreased with a touch of a button, and the resulting change is nearly instantaneous.

Vaporizers that use conduction operate by placing dried flower or extracts directly onto an electronically heated surface, most often a solid metal or a screen. The “hot plate” is then heated to an ideal vaporization temperature, directing heat throughout the chamber and converting the cannabinoids and terpenes into vapor.

Convection was actually the primary means of vaporization in the early days of vaporizers, but it was inconsistent in the way it vaporized, and it often led to combustion of the materials. But advances in technology have allowed for greater precision and control with convection methods.

Because conduction style heating elements make direct contact with your herb, conduction vapes run the risk of combusting product. Conduction vapes don’t circulate heat within the chamber like convection vapes do, so users must be sure to move around their product to prevent combustion. The purpose of vaping is to provide a healthier method to get elevated, so allowing your product to combust defeats the purpose of using a vape— plus it obliterates the flavor! Because the nature of vapes is to simply fill them and go, novice vapers tend to combust their product without even knowing it.

Convection is the transfer of thermal energy through a liquid or gas. In other more general words, convection ovens function by circulating hot air throughout the oven. When using a convection vape, heat surrounds and passes through your material. The heat source is isolated and does not make direct contact with your product.

With convection heating, the cannabis product doesn’t come in contact with the heating element. Once the air has reached the ideal temperature, it is moved by either a fan or inhalation to the component containing the cannabis product, heating the flower or concentrate and converting the cannabinoids and terpenes into vapor without charring the substance. Convection heating elements are generally made with ceramic, through some use stainless steel.

Because convection vapes generate and circulate heat, the electrical components are much more complicated. For this reason, convection vapes carry a higher price tag. Convection vapes also heat up at a slower rate than conduction— this isn’t necessarily a bad thing though! Convection heating elements are tasked with heating the entire chamber up to a desired temperature, rather than simply heating a small coil. Naturally, it takes a longer period of time to heat a large space. For some smokers, a prolonged heating time is a deal breaker. Vaping is appealing to many because of its accessibility, and heating times can be perceived as an inconvenience. If you’re patient though, the flavor of convection vapor is unrivaled and definitely worth the wait!

With modern technology able to make both methods work well, the choice between the two methods is essentially one of personal preference. While it does take more work to keep convection-style vaporizers clean, they also produce a vapor that is often stronger and more tasteful than conduction methods are able to achieve. But users often note that their vaporizers can get quite hot when using the convection method. Yet that is true of conduction-style vapes as well. Both types of vapes can suffer from many of the same problems and enjoy many of the same benefits.

Vaporizer users should note that the methods for using both kinds of vapes will differ. If you use a convection vape, you may need to grind the herbs very fine to get the best vaping experience. Fine grinding is not as important for conduction style vapes though, as the heat flows around the materials and heats them on all sides evenly. Even heating is more of a concern for convection-style vapes.

Ideally, new users should start out with conduction vaporizers. They are usually easier to use and control, and they require less cleaning and fiddling with to get the best experience.

As we mentioned before, our portable vaporizers are a hybrid of both methods, and this is to prevent the drawbacks of the normal combustion vapes while still providing the fast heat-up times that people enjoy from those. The DaVinci IQ is our newest of these models. Elegantly designed with smart hardware under the hood, this vaporizer is a work of art. With a zirconium ceramic vapor path that’s very tough and inert, the DaVinci IQ produces incredible vapor purity on a par with convection vaporizers. Using the IQ mobile app, you can choose between precision temperature and Smart Path settings that gradually heat across a range of temperatures, unlocking unique vapor profiles. Take a look at the video below.

For those who want to experience how far vaporizers have come, the DaVinci IQ vape is the conduction vaporizer for you. And, as the maximum temperature of the DaVinci IQ is 430°F, you do not have to worry about your herb combusting and creating the harsh smoke that you are trying to avoid by vaporizing in the first place!