The Types of eCig Cartridges
The term “eCig cartridges” can be somewhat confusing to new e-smokers because it has meant two different things over the years. It’s important to clear up this confusion before buying your first eCig starter kit because one type is horribly outdated and will give you a vastly inferior e-smoking experience. In this article, we’ll explain the two types of eCig cartridges and help you make a more informed decision.
Disposable eCig Cartridges
Disable eCig cartridges were once so common that less informed publications such as Wikipedia continue to mention them as if they were still the most common liquid delivery device in an eCig. Fortunately for the e-smokers of the world, they aren’t that common anymore.
Disposable eCig cartridges come in a few different shapes to suit the different heating elements or “atomizers” available. Inside, though, the basic design is about the same. The outside of a disposable cartridge is a plastic shell about the same width of the battery. Depending on the design, the cartridge either goes over or inside the atomizer. Inside the cartridge is a smaller compartment containing a sponge. When you push the cartridge over the atomizer, the sponge — which is soaked with liquid — touches the raised mesh bridge of the atomizer. Heat brings the liquid down the bridge using the same action that a candle wick uses to stay fed with wax. When you puff on the eCig, the vapor flows from the atomizer’s heating element around the outside of the cartridge’s sponge compartment, where it exits the cartridge through a hole in the top. It’s a pretty ingenious design when you think about it; the idea of a smokeless cigarette had been around since at least 1963 but it took a Chinese consumer electronics company to finally bring the idea to fruition.
Unfortunately, though, disposable eCig cartridges also don’t work properly a lot of the time and definitely aren’t the preferred choice for modern e-smokers.
The inner compartment of an eCig cartridge needs to fit tightly. Otherwise, it would fall out. This leaves a very small space in the inner wall of the cartridge for vapor to flow through, giving the eCig a tight draw like a badly wrapped cigar. To compensate, the e-smoker often puffs harder on the eCig. Unfortunately, puffing harder doesn’t create more smoke as it would with a real cigarette. Instead, it simply draws more liquid out of the sponge. The liquid floods the atomizer and eventually exits out the top of the eCig cartridge and into your mouth. This is definitely not a taste that anyone likes.
When eCig cartridges manage not to flood the heating element, they sometimes go the other way and deliver no liquid at all. When this happens, you’ll puff on the eCig and no vapor will come out. So, you’ll keep puffing, and before you know it you’ll begin to taste something like burned plastic. Then, you’ll remove the cartridge only to find that the top of the sponge has begun to melt and stick to the atomizer bridge, while the bottom of the sponge is still wet. Not only is half of the cartridge wasted, but you may even have to replace the atomizer to get the taste out.
So, while disposable cartridges made eCigs possible, it was clear almost from the beginning that something more reliable was needed. That something was the atomized cartridge or “cartomizer.”
Atomized eCig Cartridges (“Cartomizers”)
An atomized eCig cartridge doesn’t require a separate atomizer, as the heating element that vaporizes the liquid is inside the cartridge itself. When you see the term “eCig cartridges” online, it generally refers to this type of cartridge. The term “cartomizer” is a combination of the words “cartridge” and “atomizer,” referencing the fact that the two components have been combined into one.
Although there are actually several different designs for atomized eCig cartridges, the most common cartomizer has a wick in the bottom around which a heating element is wrapped. Above the wick is a hollow tube leading out the top of the cartridge, and outside the tube is a cotton or poly filler material saturated with liquid. The wick touches the filler, drawing the liquid from the filler to it. The heating element vaporizes the liquid trapped in the wick, and the vapor travels through the tube and into your mouth. It’s possible to pry the top off and add more liquid if you like, but most of the pre-filled atomized eCig cartridges that vendors sell in five- and seven-packs are sealed so there is no possibility of leaking.
Although the cartomizer may sound like a complicated device, it almost always works flawlessly. Companies have attempted to design new atomized eCig cartridges, but none of them actually work better than the original cartomizer. Cartomizers are highly resistant to leaking, have consistently top-notch vapor production and deliver pure flavor unlike disposable eCig cartridges, which tend to make the vapor taste a bit like plastic.
Another benefit of atomized eCig cartridges is the fact that they eliminate the permanent atomizer, which tends to harbor the flavors of previous liquids used. With disposable cartridges, it can be difficult to switch from a tobacco cartridge to a lime one, for example. The previous flavor would remain on the atomizer for some time, clashing with the flavor of the new liquid. This doesn’t happen with atomized cartridges as each contains its own atomizer.
Atomized eCig cartridges do have a downside compared to disposable cartridges, however: cost. While some companies still attempt to charge exorbitant prices for their disposable cartridges, it wasn’t uncommon to find them for as little as $1.99 per five-pack when they were mainstream. However, the lowest price that we know of for a single five-pack of pre-filled atomized eCig cartridges is Halo’s price of $9.99. You can get them for even less at V2 Cigs, but you have to make a bulk purchase of 20 cartomizers or more. Nevertheless, we feel that the many benefits of atomized eCig cartridges outweigh their single drawback. If you’re getting ready to buy your first eCig, we highly recommend one that uses cartomizers.