Atomizers vs. Vaporizers: Understanding the Differences

When you read about vaping, “vaporizer” and “atomizer” are two of the terms that you’ll see most often – and although they sound similar, they actually mean entirely different things.

Vaping is the act of either heating an herbal substance to release its active compounds as vapor or heating a liquid, oil or wax until it turns to vapor. The vapor is then inhaled, and the compounds contained in the vapor are absorbed through the lungs. Vaping is an alternative to smoking that allows you to enjoy the herb via inhalation without inhaling smoke. A vaporizer is a device used for vaping.

An atomizer, on the other hand, isn’t a complete device – it’s a component of a vaporizer. The atomizer is the component of the device that vaporizes the substance you’re inhaling. Although most vaporizers have atomizers, there are a few exceptions that we’ll detail in this guide.

So, how do atomizers vs. vaporizers compare? They’re both key elements of the vaping experience, but they’re also quite different from one another. We’ll detail the differences in this guide.

What Is a Vaporizer?

As we mentioned above, a vaporizer is a complete device used for vaping. In the herbal vaping world, there are three types of vaporizers. They are:

  • Dry Herb Vaporizer: This type of vaporizer is used with dry herbs, which are ground and placed in a chamber inside the device.
  • Oil Vaporizer or 510-Thread Battery: This type of vaporizer is designed to work with oil-based concentrates, which are liquid at room temperature. An oil vaporizer can come with a cartridge for holding the oil. More commonly, though, an oil vaporizer is sold just as a battery, and you purchase the cartridge separately. Pod systems and disposables are also oil vaporizers.
  • Wax Vaporizers: This type of vaporizer is designed to work with wax-based concentrates, which are solid at room temperature and liquify when they’re heated.

What Are the Parts of an Atomizer?

When you look at a vape cartridge, the component at the bottom of the cartridge’s interior is the atomizer. It’s typically cylindrical in shape and has several openings on the side. We’ll explain the parts of an atomizer and how they work together.

  • The base of the atomizer is the component that connects it to the base of the device’s tank or cartridge and facilitates the transfer of power from the battery. You can see the base of the atomizer if your tank or cartridge has a removable atomizer core. With most vape cartridges, though, you won’t see the base of the atomizer because it’s permanently connected to the base of the cartridge.
  • The outer wall of the atomizer is the metal cylinder that contains the atomizer’s absorbent material and heating element. This is the component that you can see from the outside of the cartridge or tank. The outer wall separates the atomizer from the rest of the tank, preventing the oil from flooding the atomizer and leaking out of the tank.
  • The absorbent material is the white material that you can see through the holes in the atomizer’s outer wall. In most cartridges for oil vaping, ceramic is used as an absorbent material. In other types of tanks and cartridges, cotton or silica may be used. The absorbent material facilitates the flow of oil from the cartridge’s reservoir to the heating element. When you vape, the heating element draws oil out of the absorbent material, leaving the material dry. It then absorbs more oil from the reservoir. This process continues until all of the oil in the cartridge has been used.
  • The heating element is the main component of an atomizer. It’s usually made from a length of wire wound into a spiral shape. It can also be a cylinder of metal mesh that looks a bit like a window screen or perhaps a car’s front grille. The element becomes hot when electricity travels through it, and that’s what causes the oil in the cartridge to vaporize.
  • The chimney is the narrow tube leading from the atomizer to the cartridge’s mouthpiece. The vapor travels through the chimney, allowing you to inhale it.

What Types of Atomizers Are There?

There are a few different types of atomizers. The most common type of atomizer used in herbal vaping is the built-in atomizer, which is a permanent component of most vape cartridges, vape pods and disposable vapes. When you replace the cartridge or pod – or the entire device in the case of a disposable vape – you’re also replacing the atomizer.

In herbal vaping, the other two types of atomizers are rare. They are:

  • Replaceable Atomizer: This type of atomizer is designed to be removable, allowing you to remove the atomizer from your tank, cartridge or pod and replace it with a new one.
  • Rebuildable Atomizer: This type of atomizer allows you to remove and replace individual components, rebuilding the entire assembly from scratch using your own resistance wire and absorbent material.

What Types of Vaporizers Don’t Have Atomizers?

Wax vaporizers and dry herb vaporizers typically don’t have atomizers in the way that this guide has described. Although your device will still have a heating element, it won’t have a reservoir or absorbent material. Instead, you’ll place your wax or dry herbs directly on the heating element or in a chamber that facilitates heat transfer via convection or conduction.

The Atomizer Is a Key Component of the Vaping Experience

Atomizers and vaporizers are very different from one another, but they’re both important elements of the vaping experience because you can’t vape unless you have both of them. The atomizer is the component of the vaporizer that’s responsible for heating your oil, wax or herbs and creating a vapor that you can inhale. It’s one of several components that all work together, but it’s arguably the most important part of any vaporizer since it has a direct impact on your device’s vapor production and flavor quality.

Want to experience the best herbal vaping atomizers on the market? Shop our selection of vape cartridges now – and if you have a question that isn’t answered in this guide, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our friendly experts are always happy to answer any questions you may have.