What is a Sub-Ohm Vape Device?

Person using sub-ohm vape

With more and more people taking up vaping, e-liquids have gone from fringe curiosity to international phenomenon. As a viable alternative to smoking, for many people vaping liquid vapour has become an integral part of their day-to-day lives. If you’re here, that means you’re interested in buying e-liquids, but need more info beforehand. We’re here to help!

If you’ve read through our e-liquid guides, then at this point you should have a clear idea on what e-liquids are, and whether you want a shortfill e-liquid or a nic salt. That’s all well and good, but you’re probably left asking: how do you actually vape them, what is sub-ohm vaping, and how is it different from mouth-to-lung vaping?

Vape Coil and Wick

How does vaping work?

First up, let’s tackle how vaping works in the first place. When you put your chosen e-liquid in your vape device, what turns it into the tasty vape flavour you then inhale? Fortunately it’s quite simple really (sort of)!

Whether you charge it by inhaling, or with a button press, a small heating element (typically a coil) heats up inside the vape device. This will range in heat anywhere from 100 and 250C, “atomising” the vape liquid inside and turning it into those big clouds you know and love to chase. 

To ensure all the e-liquid isn’t vaporised immediately, these heating elements will have a small wick inside them, which soaks up the vapour liquid and ensures only a small amount is released at a time. This might sound similar to a hookah, but it differs in that it’s only nicotine that’s being vaporised into liquid vapour, rather than a much more harmful tobacco blend. 

What does sub-ohm mean?

Back to the topic at hand then: sub-ohm vaping. Before we get into the practical effect of using a sub-ohm vape device, we’re going to have a mini science lesson. We’ll keep it brief, but feel free to skip ahead to the next section if science makes your skin crawl!

When electricity is flowing, what's actually happening is lots and lots of electrons surging around a circuit. When these electrons hit atoms it causes resistance; the longer a circuit, the more resistance will be hit. This resistance is measured in “ohms”. “Sub-ohm” refers to a coil with low resistance. That wasn’t too bad, right?

What does that have to do with vaping? Well, the coil in your vape device generates heat from the friction created by this resistance. The more power you pump through the coil, the more resistance, and the more heat. The biggest clouds come from a coil with low resistance and a high wattage - that's where sub-ohm vape devices come in.

Sub-ohm vs. mouth-to-lung

If you cut through all the lingo, there are really two styles of vaping: mouth-to-lung (MTL) and sub-ohm, or direct-to-lung (DTL). What style you use is solely dependent on the vape device you use, and what e-liquids you prefer. 

MTL vaping is the most similar to smoking, and is the most common method with newcomers to e-cigarettes, and those looking for a direct alternative to cigarettes. In this method you inhale the liquid vapour into your mouth, and then your lungs (hence the name), just like smoking. These vape devices are often quite simple and easy to pick up and start with.

Sub-ohm or DTL vaping on the other hand see users take a long, slow inhale straight into their lungs. These vape devices are normally bulkier, and produce the giant clouds that vape fans on Instagram go mad for. This process requires a more complex device, which is where a sub-ohm vape comes in. 

Sub ohm vape device

What are sub-ohm vape devices?

Sub-ohm vape devices are blockier than MTL vapes because they require a larger battery. These high-powered devices generate higher density clouds, and a more pronounced flavour. But why do they need such a large power source?

This is where ohms end up back in the mix (sorry science-phobes). Sub-ohm literally means the coils used for heating the vape liquids have a lower than one ohm resistance. Since the device is bulkier it can produce the extra power necessary to still generate heat with less friction, but the lower resistance results in a slower draw and larger vapour juice clouds. 

What about the PG/VG ratio?

That’s not the only contributing factor to how much you can plume from your e-liquid. The PG/VG ratio of your vape juice also affects cloud size and flavour. That’s why our vape store offers such a large variety of different options.

For a sub-ohm device you’d always use e-liquids with a higher ratio of VG (Vegetable Glycerin) since they provide a smoother throat hit, and produce larger clouds. It’s really as simple as that!

Buying a sub-ohm vape device

There are a few concerns you should have when buying a sub-ohm vape: the relative complexity, the cost increase for the device, the increase in e-liquid used, and the shorter coil life. This is why sub-ohm vaping is for real enthusiasts, since it costs more.