Vape technology is advancing at a remarkable rate. Gone are the days of hardcore hobbyists modifying flashlights for vaping – now anyone over the age of 18 can buy powerful mods on the high street or with the click of a mouse. This explosion of choice is exciting, but that fancy little box in your pocket contains batteries that can easily become explosive in a very different way. As sub ohm vaping becomes more widespread it’s vital that everyone knows how to use their device safely, whether a beginner or advanced user. After all, you wouldn’t jump on a Harley Davidson without any training, would you?
Do I need to worry?
Considering the millions of people vaping in the world, problems are thankfully low. However, a number of incidents have arisen from misuse of mods and poor quality merchandise, ranging from house fires to vape devices exploding. Whatever vape kit you use for vaping, they all contain batteries with the potential for danger, and should be treated with care. Here’s everything you need to know about minimising the risks when using the various types of mods available.
Regulated mods are a popular option for beginner and intermediate vapers. These mods allow easy adjustment of the wattage or voltage sent to the coil, regardless of its resistance level. They have circuitry with various safety measures, such as preventing electric shorts that could damage your battery. This doesn’t mean regulated mods are completely safe. As with any electronic device, they can malfunction, with serious consequences.
Disposable Battery Safety
Regulated mods can come with batteries that are sealed into the device, such as the iStick series. These are usually lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries and can come in a variety of shapes. These are often called disposable, as once the internal battery reaches the end of its lifespan (approximately 2-3 years) they cannot be easily replaced.
- Handle your mod with care. The protection around these LiPo batteries is little more than an aluminium foil case, meaning a knock can cause serious damage. If you drop your mod, place it in a sealed metal container immediately, in case the internal batteries vent, then take them to be recycled as soon as possible.
- Don’t cut corners. Always purchase authentic items from authorised dealers, and never buy second-hand if you aren’t sure about the quality. That cheap mod might seem like a bargain but if it hasn’t gone through the proper tests it could prove to be a costly mistake.
- Use the correct coils. Most mods have a limit to what kind of ohms coil they can use. Check the manual to see the range, and never go below this. This is especially important when it comes to sub ohm vaping.
- Store safely. Never leave your mod resting on a pillow or flammable material. For extra safety, it’s recommended to unscrew the tank from the mod if leaving it overnight. Avoid leaving it in direct sunlight, such as on a windowsill or car dashboard, as it could heat your device to a dangerous level.
- Use the correct charging cable. If your device charges using a USB cable, make sure the power output match your mod. If your charger has a higher voltage than your battery, you could overheat the battery or short the device. The best option is to use the cable you got with your product.
- Don’t overcharge. Most well-made mods have a cut-off point where they stop charging when they reach full power. However this function has been known to fail on rare occasions, leading to them setting on fire. Only charge your device where you can keep watch on it, and never charge overnight.
- Dispose of dead batteries safely. As with all kinds of batteries, once the batteries have reached the end of their natural life they should be put in a dedicated recycling bin. These can be found in most supermarkets.
Removable Battery Safety
The other common type of regulated mods comes with removable batteries, as found with most of the Sigelei and SMOK brands of mods. These are usually the long cylindrical 18650 batteries. This is more economical than using disposables, as when the battery lifespan comes to an end they can be replaced with new ones. Many of the above points apply to using mods with removable batteries, but there are other issues to be aware of.
- Never exceed the amps of your battery. This is a fundamental rule of battery safety. Take the discharge rate (the amps) of your battery, then divide your voltage level by coil resistance (ohms) and make sure you never exceed your battery’s amp rating. We go into this in more detail in the section about Ohm’s Law below as this is a vital step in vaping safely with non-internal batteries.
- Check how your mod charges. Some box mods offer pass through charging, where you can use your device while simultaneously charging via USB. However, some mods use the mini USB port solely for hardware updates meaning the batteries must be removed and recharged using an external charger. Make sure you know how your mod works, or you could be in for a very long wait.
- Use the correct batteries. It’s crucial to do some research and find out what are the recommended batteries for your specific mod. There are many types of battery, including ICR, IMR and LiPo (Lithium Polymer), and we will be looking at this in more detail in a future article. Whatever you decide upon, you should never combine different types of battery in the same device.
- Use a battery holder. Never carry these batteries loose in your pocket. If they touch each other, or metallic items such as keys or coins, they can fail. In worst-case scenarios they can leak or even explode.
- Charge your batteries safely. Always charge them on the lowest setting to put the least stress on your batteries, and never leave them unattended. As soon as they are at full power remove them from the charger, otherwise you risk battery failure.
- Buy quality products. Again, don’t scrimp when it comes to something as serious as batteries. Be especially careful when it comes Ebay as many fake batteries are sold on there. Only purchase from an authorised dealer and stick to trusted brand names. When it comes to quality, Samsung batteries and Nitecore chargers come highly recommended.
Mechanical mods are used by more experienced vapers. They have no circuits so wattage/voltage cannot be chosen. All the power from the battery is sent to the coil and as the battery diminishes, so does the voltage received by the coil. The only way to affect wattage is to use coils with varying resistances. Many of the tips above apply, but there are other important things to be aware of. The most important of these is Ohm’s Law, but first here are some basic safety tips:
- Make sure the air holes work. These holes allow gases to escape the mod if the battery if compromised. You can check they are working by removing the batteries and blowing into the mod from the connection end. It is vital that they are working in case anything goes wrong.
- Check the charge of your batteries. If you run the batteries too low for too long, the lifespan will reduce and eventually fail. Be sure to check the voltage often, and recharge any batteries with a resting voltage of below 3.7v.
- Use caution when building coils. Always check the resistance of the coil on an ohm meter before using them on your mechanical mod. If the build is shorting out, your battery is at serious risk of damage or catching fire. The resistance of the coil can vary, so use the figure given plus or minus 0.2 ohms. (More about this in the section about Ohm’s Law below).
- Make sure the firing button can be locked. If you fire your mod for too long, it can overheat and potentially burst. The last thing you need is your mod firing in your pocket. All good mechanical mods have this external safety feature, use it.
Awareness of Ohm’s Law is arguably the most important part of safely using a mechanical mod. Ohm’s Law looks at the relationship between power, voltage, current, and resistance. It’s based around the amp of the battery – this amp rating is the current of the battery, in other words the ability of the battery to release the energy stored within it. If the battery is pushed beyond its limit, the battery can vent, which means dangerous chemicals leak from the battery, with a risk of it exploding.
Firstly, check the resistance of your coil and work out the amps the coil will pull from the battery. You can do this by using this equation: Amps = Voltage / Resistance. Don’t be put off, it’s quite simple. Use a multimeter to find out the voltage of your battery, and the resistance of your coil (be sure to work within a ±0.2 ohm range). You can use an online tool such as steam engine to help with this. The result should never exceed the amp rating of your battery. If it does, you’ll have to use a coil with a higher resistance.
Amps = Voltage / Resistance
Failing to follow this advice and using a mechanical mod at a level that exceeds the battery’s upper amp limit is known as short circuiting the battery. It has the potential to burn out your battery, damage the mod and even explode. If you accidentally do this your batteries are dangerous and must disposed of safely. Sub ohm vaping on a mechanical mod takes your device close to short circuiting, but keeps the resistance of the coil is just under the upper amp limit. Consequently, you should take extra care if sub ohm vaping on a mechanical mod.
Vaping Battery Safety Conclusion
A little awareness of the basics of battery safety can go a long way. Even the most basic mods have the potential for serious trouble if used incorrectly. Only buy battery-related items from respected sellers – those little plastic covered tubes can turn into a pocket-sized bomb if used incorrectly, so don’t buy substandard products. Mods with removable batteries and mechanical mods require a bit more user savvy, and it’s advised that beginners avoid them until they fully understand the fundamentals of how mods and batteries work.
If you are ready to move on to the next part, CHECK OUT PART 2 where battery expert (Mooch) gets technical about the serious matter of temperature and your batteries.