Introduction: Mechanical V Regulated – A Guide To Vape Mods!
A Vape Mod is basically a device you use to power up a vape tank or atomiser.
They can have an internal battery or external battery you can buy and put in yourself.
External battery mods can have a single battery or multiple batteries depending on the power and battery life you require.
The mod is a way of controlling when the power is supplied to the heating element. This can be with either automatic airflow sensors or some kind of fire button operated by the user.
From the simplest vape pen style mods to the more complicated mods with screens and all sorts of adjustments they all fall into one of the 3 main basic categories:
- Semi Regulated / Semi Mechanical
I will cover each type to give you an overview about what each type does and who it is best suitable for.
Obviously there is a lot more in depth theory to all this but the aim of this article is to help you choose which type is best for you.
- Mod – short for “Modification” – early e-cig devices were modified or built by hobbyists using electrical components widely available for other devices. Most modern mods owe their existence to these early devices and the breakthroughs they made.
- 510 connector – this is the vaping equivalent of a mains plug and socket! Usually the 510 connector on the tank screws into the connector on the top of the mod. The internal pin is the positive connection and the outside face of the 510 is the negative connection.
- Airflow Sensor / Automatic Fire – this type of mechanism is usually used in “All in One” or “Pod” type mods. The vacuum created by inhaling on the mouthpiece triggers a sensor which acts like a switch to make the mod fire.
- Atomiser – basically the tank or dripper which contains the coil and e-liquid.
- Fire switch – this is what you press when you want to heat up the e-liquid for vaping.
- Chip or Chipset – this is the brains of a mod. A chip allows the device or user to alter parameters which affect the operation. The most well known chipsets are the DNA and YiHi. Also each vape brand may have their own chipset designed by them.
- Amperes or “Amps” or “A” – this is the “flow rate” around a circuit otherwise known as “current”.
- Voltage or “Volts” or “V” – this is the “pressure” used in the circuit to push the current around. The voltage is higher in a fully charged battery than it is when the battery is discharged.
- Ohm or “Ω” – the unit of “resistance” or restriction in a circuit. Resistance creates heat which is how the coil heats up to vaporise the e-liquid.
- Wattage or “Watts” or “W” – this is a measurement of power output.
- Ohms Law – is the formula for calculating either the resistance, voltage or current in a circuit. When you know two of those values you can work out the third. We tell you more about Ohms law in our guide .
For any other terms you do not understand please consult our Vape Glossary!
A mechanical mod (Mech Mod) is the most simple mod there is but also needs the most knowledge to operate.
This is basically a housing which contains the connections between the battery and the tank and some form of fire switch.
The aim is to have as few components, wiring and connections as possible. Adding more means the internal resistance increases and lowers the output. Mech mods are “minimalist”!
A true mechanical mod does not have a chip or a form of regulation.
Mech mods are really for serious vapers who will put the time in to study ohms law and the electrical theory needed to operate safely and get the best performance.
Common Mech Mod Types
A typical Mech mod is usually a tube or box style – there are wires or metal plates between the battery contacts, the switch and the 510 connector. There are no circuit boards just physical connections.
Whatever the battery is outputting will be supplied to the 510 connector when you operate the switch.
There are no circuits to boost, reduce or regulate the battery output.
The output is affected by using different resistance coils and also the voltage output of the battery. The voltage is highest when fully charged and lowest when the battery is discharged.
Using a low resistance coil will require more Amps to fire – so you need to make sure that the battery you use is capable of outputting this without overheating or over stressing the battery.
An over stressed battery could malfunction which could be dangerous. Not only to the equipment but could also cause a thermal runaway or explosion so it is really important to choose your battery wisely.
You would generally buy or wind your own coils to a specified resistance which your battery can cope with.
A Hybrid mod has even less wiring than a standard mech mod. Basically the top of the battery connects directly to the 510 connection pin from the atomiser when the fire button is pressed. Internal wires / plates or the mod body and outside of the 510 connector complete the circuit with the opposite pole on the battery.
The choice of atomiser is critical. If the negative and positive connections on the bottom of the tank are close together or not sufficiently isolated there could be a dangerous short circuit.
You will need a “hybrid compatible” atomiser and usually these have a protruding centre pin in the 510 connector so there is plenty of space between the positive and negative connections.
Buying A Mech Mod
A Mech mod is attractive to someone who knows a lot about electronics and wants a hard hitting powerful mod. Also they have the appeal that if something malfunctions they are very simple to repair and diagnose. There is little to go wrong with a good mechanical mod.
There are single battery mods and multiple battery mods. You can even add extra batteries using “Stacked” sections – but again make sure you know what you are doing!
When you have more than one battery you go into the territory of “Parallel” or “Series” circuits which both perform very differently. Read our Guide to Batteries for more information.
In general when buying a mech mod, the quality of the connections and the switch type are important considerations. Make sure that the battery is well insulated inside the mod. Also be aware if there is a lot of wiring or a long path from the battery connections this could increase the internal resistance making the mod less efficient.
Some people also build or modify their mechanical mod by adding chips, boost devices and regulation and some parts can be bought separately.
Included in some mechanical mods or available as an addition is a fuse to cover you if there is a large power surge. But this will increase the internal resistance which is something you try to avoid with a mech device.
We have reviewed plenty of Mechanical Mods so have a read of our reviews to help you choose before you buy!
Semi Regulated / Semi Mechanical Mods
These are kind of the best of both worlds but again will still need knowledge of electrical theory to keep you safe and get the best performance you can.
They are pretty much a Mech mod – but with added safety features. This is not an excuse to abuse the battery output so you will still need to know your electrical theory to use these safely.
These have minimal circuitry and some will allow an electronic switch operation – i.e. 5 clicks on and off, show battery life and also cut off in the case of short circuit. So still a “minimalist” design but with a few bonus features!
Some mods have a “MOSFET” chip – which is part of the device or can be bought as an addition.
The battery only supplies a small amount of power to the chip. The chip then makes the connection between the battery and the 510.
This means the chip has some control about whether to allow full power to be connected. If certain conditions are not met a chip can prevent the battery power being connected to the 510. If a short circuit occurs for instance the chip can prevent the full battery power circuit being completed and possibly prevent something dangerous.
Some semi-mechanical mods can have the means to vary the output of the mod. These are usually to select the voltage output. These are not controlled by a chip they are simply mechanical components which add a resistance into the circuit to lower the output.
Also semi-regulated mods can be configured to output a stable power or a maximum / minimum limit. This allows for safety cut outs in case of short circuit and low battery voltage.
Buying A Semi-Regulated Mod
Semi regulated mods are a kind of intermediate mod – for someone who is perhaps used to regulated or new to mechanical. They can still provide a powerful hit but with some added features.
Just be aware your coil resistance and battery specifications will be critical to how well or badly the device performs. Too low a coil resistance could strain the batteries to a dangerous extent and also result in terrible battery life and performance.
A fully regulated mod has plenty of adjustments you can make whilst also helping to keep you safe.
You will still however need to make sure the battery / batteries you are using are able to supply the amount of current required. Most mod manufacturers state a recommended battery amp specification.
The reputable UK battery vendor Fogstar has a handy little current calculator tool on his site to help guide your choices.
Some simple regulated mods have just a few power level settings and an LED which lights up according to what power is selected.
A lot of regulated mods have screens and adjustment buttons which you use to choose from all sorts of settings.
These can include
- Power level
- Coil material
- And even set a pattern for the power output using custom curve modes.
Regulated mods will keep the output stable at the level you have chosen. The circuit board and internal chip will then adjust the output as required.
However some regulated mods also have a “By-pass” mode which, as the name suggests, by-passes the power regulation to give full battery output. This mode acts like a semi-regulated mod would – with some electrical protections but you will need to make sure to not over stress the battery using this mode.
When the battery/batteries are fully charged the output would be higher so the chip will control the output. When the battery level is low often the chip will prevent the mod firing as it cannot meet the required power level.
Some mods will drop the output to what the battery will allow and warn you on screen.
Some mods also have a boost which is able to store power and then add it to the output so you can get more power than the battery is outputting. Basically this is storing some of the power at first – not connecting it to the 510 and allowing it to build up. When the stored power is able to output the power requested it then connects this power to the 510.
In addition to varying the wattage or voltage output – you can also set a temperature to which you want your coil to heat to. This is to prevent burning.
The chip uses the cold resistance reading of the coil and the material it is made from. The chip will then calculate approximately what temperature the coil will be at a set power and duration of firing and adjusts the power automatically to keep to a stable temperature.
We explain more in our Guide to Temperature Control.
Programming The Power Sequence When Firing
As mentioned above you can also set a sequence for firing called custom curves – where you can set in increments the power going to the 510 connector.
For instance for the first second you might want a boost of power to heat the coil quickly and then you can lower the power to keep it at the same temperature. We tell you more about using this in our Guide to Custom Curve modes.
There are pure PWM (Pulse Width Regulation) mods which are a digital version of power regulation and these are a bit rare – usually found as custom made mods or user modified devices.
These basically switch the power on and off quickly to provide an average power. The speed at which this occurs is called the Frequency.
The Duty cycle is basically how long the power is switched on and off for. If the power is on for three seconds, then off for one second this would be a 75% duty cycle. The power is on for 75% of the time and off for 25% therefore lowering the average power output in one cycle. The cycle begins again when the power is switched on.
A 100% duty cycle means the full power is always output. A 50% duty cycle would equal running at half power. By changing the timing of the duty cycle the output can be controlled to a specified average output.
The more on and off cycles in a second gives a higher frequency and more stable power. Less on and off cycles is a lower frequency and a less stable power.
There is a lot more complication to using pure PWM mods so they are for experienced mod users and builders.
Why Buy A Regulated Vape Mod?
Most people are attracted to regulated mods because they are in general the easiest to use as there is some margin for error. Again you need to make sure you are not over stressing the batteries and of course malfunctions in the board or chip can always still occur.
The main question to ask yourself when buying a regulated mod is what your priority is.
For instance what power will you be vaping at?
Below 70-80W an internal battery or single battery mod might do the trick. Over these levels or for longer battery life then go for two or more removable batteries.
What sort of user interface do you want? If you want a simple device with minimal adjustment or do you want a touch screen with the ability to program how the mod fires and add your own pictures?
And of course to some people the size of the mod is important. Generally single battery or internal battery mods are smaller to carry around.
A lot of modern mods have some really blingy screens, lighting effects and graphics. All of which are appealing and of course are very versatile as you can swap between atomisers easily and just adjust the settings to suit.
For people who are not technical or just want a pick up and use device a regulated mod is the best place to start.
Buying A Regulated Mod
If you want to know some of the devices our reviewers rated highly have a read of our “Top Rated” articles:
All mods will require you to make sure you use them safely.
We have a number of guides to help you:
- A Beginner’s guide to Vape / E Cig Batteries.
- How and Why E Cig Batteries Explode.
- A Guide to Variable Wattage / Voltage E Cig Devices.
- Choosing the Right E Cig Starter Kit.
- Sub Ohm Vaping Guide For Beginners.
- Quick Guide to RBA’s, RDA’s, RDTA’s.
Also there are some online tools and advice to help you keep safe – some good links are below:
- Steam Engine – this has a lot of tools to help you calculate all sorts of values – from the best coil resistance to the battery output you will need.
- Mooch – Mooch is an independent expert who tests all major brands of batteries and reports back on the standards. He also has guides to help you.
- Fogstar Amp Calculator – Fogstar is a UK based reputable battery vendor who has an online tool to help you work out what amperage battery you will need for your regulated mod.
Most of all please do not ever be scared to ask. If you have any doubts or do not understand the device fully – the team at ECigClick are always around on here (comments section is below), Facebook or Twitter and you can ask any of us for advice and we will try our best to help you!
Please stay safe!!