How Do Weed Vaporizers Really Work? [Explained]

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An increasing number of people are taking a long, hard look at how they consume their cannabis. For decades, smoking marijuana via a joint or using a bong were the classic methods adopted by most consumers.

However, there’s an increasing body of evidence that suggests that inhaling marijuana’s vapor via a vaporizer is a safer method. Modern-day vaporizers heat the herb or concentrate but don’t cause combustion and smoke. As a result, the vapor you inhale is less harsh on the lungs.

Manufacturers are creating increasingly advanced vaporizers, including ones you can control via an app on your Smartphone. If you’re a newcomer to the vaping scene, weed vaporizers can seem pretty complicated. However, as you’ll see in this guide, they are pretty easy to understand and use.

What Is a Weed Vaporizer?

A weed vaporizer is a device designed to heat herbs or concentrate. There are portable and desktop vaporizers available that use one of two types of heating mechanisms (conductive and convective heating). These vaporizers extract the cannabinoids from the plant and convert them into vapor. For the record, cannabinoids have different vaporization points.

Research suggests that cannabis tends to combust at 392 degrees Fahrenheit, with the sweet spot set at 338 degrees. Most cannabinoids start to vaporize at 285 degrees. However, many vaporizers have the option to heat the herb to 400 degrees or more.

Conduction Vapes

This form of heating involves direct contact between the herb and the heated surface. In weed vaporizers, the surface in question usually is metal, and you place the herb on top of it. Once the hot plate reaches the ideal temperature, your herb should begin to vaporize. The heat is directed through the chamber and converts those delightful terpenes and cannabinoids into delicious vapor.

weed vaporizer

Conduction is not the best choice for a weed vaporizer. This form of heating tends to burn the herb because of its inefficient distribution of heat. Conduction also makes it tricky to regulate the vaporizer’s temperature. Even so, it is the method of choice for most vaporizer manufacturers.


  • Heats the herb quickly, which means you can vape almost immediately after switching on the device (depending on the model).
  • They have a more straightforward design, which makes them more affordable.


  • Increased combustion risk as the weed is in direct contact with the heating element.
  • They have imprecise temperature controls, which make them harder to use for the newbie.
  • The uneven heat distribution means the heat only gets transferred to the weed when it makes contact with the heating element. As a result, users have to shake the dry herb between hits.

Convection Vapes

With this heating method, the herb does not come into direct contact with the heating element. Instead, convection involves the passing of heated air over the plant material. After the air has reached the correct temperature, it is moved via inhalation or a fan to the component holding the herb or concentrate. It heats the product and converts its cannabinoids and terpenes into vapor without charring it.

It is common for such heating elements to be made from ceramic or stainless steel. Convection heating reaches all of the plant material simultaneously. Therefore, it is a far more effective method of vaporization than conduction heating. The ceramic in the heating element also does an excellent job of retaining heat. Vaporizers that operate via convection heating are usually more expensive than their conduction counterparts.


  • Convection heating allows for more accurate temperature control than conduction vaporizers.
  • No direct contact between the herb and heating element means the risk of combustion is greatly decreased.
  • Better user experience for newbies.


  • Complicated design means they are far more expensive than their conduction counterpart.
  • As the weed isn’t in direct contact with the heat, it takes longer to heat up.

To recap, a weed vaporizer works by using either conduction or convection heating. You place the herb or concentrate in the loading chamber and simply turn on the power source. It heats the substance to the point where it turns into vapor. You inhale the vapor via the device’s delivery system (usually by drawing directly from the vaporizer).

How Does Vaporizing Weed Differ from Smoking It?

You now know that vaporizing marijuana involves heating it without combustion. In contrast, when you light up a joint, it burns the weed. When combusted, the weed can burn at a maximum temperature of an astonishing 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit! Remember, cannabinoids begin to vaporize at just 220 degrees (THCA). On the other hand, CBC has one of the highest combustion temperatures at 451 degrees. However, that’s still far below the temperature reached when smoking weed.

The most significant difference between vaporization and combustion is how clean the former feels.

When you vape, you inhale the cannabinoids and terpenes and get a better sense of a cannabis strain’s aroma and taste. A 2007 study authored by Donald I. Abrams of UCSF and published in the journal Neurology produced some interesting findings. Abrams found that vaporizing weed just below the combustion temperature caused very little exposure to the toxic chemicals created by combustion. Moreover, there was no reduction in the high experienced by the weed users in the study.

Many will agree that smoking weed is a wonderful experience; however, it is not without risks. Combusting cannabis produces over 100 chemicals not released by vaporization, and several of them are potentially carcinogenic. When you light a joint, you can expect it to heat the cannabis to a temperature of over 1,000 degrees. Not all of the compounds released during combustion are good, and it produces as much tar as a tobacco cigarette. As you can imagine, this is bad news for the respiratory system and lungs.

What Are a Weed Vaporizer’s Components?

There is a significant selection of vaporizers on the market. They can all be broken down into a handful of essential components.

  • Energy Source: This is what provides your vaporizer with its power. Rechargeable batteries power most of these devices. With the desktop versions, you plug them into a wall socket.
  • Chamber: The chamber is also known as the oven. This is where you place your herb or concentrate to be heated in the chamber via a heating source. Most vaporizers use a heating coil for this purpose.
  • Heating Element: This is the most important part of your vaporizer, as it controls the speed and distribution of the heat. The vast majority of vaporizers use convection or conduction heating; you will hardly ever find one that uses radiation.
  • Delivery System: This is what transfers the vapor from the chamber to your lips. You have to draw the vapor directly from a portable device, while desktop versions use balloons or whip tubing.

Although experienced users still prefer the power of a desktop vaporizer, portable versions are now the mainstay of the industry. Aside from vaporizers that use dry herb and concentrate, there are also concentrate pens and cartridge pens. These typically utilize cartridges filled with cannabis oil and work in much the same way as an electronic cigarette.

What is the Best Vaping Temperature?

With over 100 cannabinoids, more than 100 terpenes, and dozens of flavonoids, cannabis is positively bursting with compounds. It is important to note that they all combust and vaporize at different temperatures. As such, the best vaping temperature depends on what you’re looking for:

  • Maximum of 356 degrees Fahrenheit: Best for flavor.
  • Between 356 and 392 degrees: Gives you good flavor and decent vapor.
  • 393+ degrees: Excellent for vapor.

vaporizer weed

The use of solid concentrates (shatter, crystal, wax, budder, etc.) instead of dry herb is also known as dabbing. This method of cannabis consumption is generally associated with higher temperatures. Some vaporizer models have specific temperature settings for concentrates, which go up to a maximum of 500 degrees. However, there is a school of thought which suggests you get the best results at temperatures below 400 degrees.

Terpenes such as linalool (388 degrees), D-limonene (349 degrees), and beta myrcene (334 degrees) have relatively low boiling temperatures. While high-temperature dabbing offers an intense high, it can result in coughing fits and throat irritation.

Final Thoughts on Weed Vaporizers

Remember, vaporizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you want to vape in the comfort of your home, a large stationary version is a good idea. This is particularly the case if you plan on inviting friends over. A portable vaporizer enables you to enjoy convenient marijuana consumption any time, any place. Just add your herb or concentrate to the chamber, power on the device, and it will heat it rapidly.

Vaporizers are ideal for weed newcomers because they are less harsh on your throat and lungs. They also produce less harmful chemicals, and you still get all the benefits of cannabis. You can expect to pay $300+ for a top-of-the-line vaporizer such as the Firefly 2. However, there are some good starter models for well under $100. We urge you to do some research to find the best vaporizer model for your needs because the marketplace is exceedingly crowded.

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