By Steve Vape and James Dunworth
Over the last couple of weeks, Steve and I have been working on a comprehensive guide to clearomisers, illustrated with pictures and video tutorials, which will cover everything a newcomer to clearomisers needs to know – and a bit more!
This guide covers:
- What clearomisers are.
- Types of clearomisers including Bottom Coil Clearomisers and Vertical Coil Clearomisers
- How to fill a clearomiser.
- How to clean clearomisers
- Clearomiser life & how to know when to replace them
- How to change the atomiser and wick
- Using Adjustable Airflow Clearomisers
- Troubleshooting clearomisers.
- Ohms and resistance, and how to use different atomisers to personalise your vaping experience
This is a long guide, so please bookmark it so you can come back to it in the future. Alternatively, just click on the link above to navigate to the section you want.
If you are completely new to e-cigarettes, you may prefer to read The Ultimate Guide to Electronic Cigarettes first.
How Clearomisers Are Changing The Face Of Vaping
The e-cigarette industry is a fast-paced industry with new technology constantly bombarding consumers. Many new gizmos are mere fads that disappear as soon as the next shiny thing pops up.
One piece of technology that has proven to be much more than a flash in the pan is the clearomiser (the top part of the electronic cigarette that holds the liquid).
Clearomisers (US: clearomizers) have been around for several years in various versions for years. However, it hasn’t been until recently that clearomisers earned their rightful place in e-cigarette shops worldwide.
What is a Clearomiser?
Before exploring the world of clearomisers (or clearos), it may be helpful to understand what we’re talking about. In the simplest term, clearomiser is a contraction of clear cartomiser (US: cartomizer). The primary trait of clearos is, well, being clear.
Naturally, there’s more to the story than lack of opacity. The forerunners of the original clearomisers were in fact, metal. The defining trait of a clearomiser is really the lack of filler material.
Traditional cartomisers have an absorbent filler material that holds the e-liquid that is transferred to the built-in atomiser. Clearomisers lack the filler and instead rely on a reservoir that holds the liquid which is transferred directly to wicks that run through the heating coils.
Types of Clearomisers
The first clearomisers to get attention in the market (and overcome technical limitations) were known as the CE2. These clearos were roughly the same size as their traditional counterparts. The hallmark of the design was a stem that ran the length of the clearomiser. At the top of the stem was a ceramic cup which held the heating coil from which wicks protruded and ran the length of the clearomiser.
These models proved to perform well and allowed users to easily see how much e-liquid remained at a glance. However, filling these models was somewhat cumbersome, generally requiring a syringe to fill. Cracking issues with the clear tubes also proved to be problematic with this design.
Third Generation Clearomisers
Before we got to the point we are now, there was an awkward stage of cartomizers where factories experimented with a number of designs. One of the major changes that was attempted was moving the coil to the bottom of the clearomiser. It was a good theory, but the first attempts were lackluster at best.
The CE3 came to be during this time. That design was a radical departure from the CE2 design featuring a bottom coil. The design didn’t have some of the leaking issues of its contemporaries. However, because of the addition of a tiny stopper, the design proved very difficult to fill and never got much traction in the market.
Aside from rearranging the coils, manufacturers also began experimenting with designs similar to the CE2, only larger. This began the trend of large clearomiser tanks. A number of entries hit the market, some worked better than other.
One design eventually came out which moved the industry toward the modern landscape.
Above: A selection of Vivi Nova Clearomiers
The Vivi Nova tank was the first modern clearomiser tank, and continues to enjoy a great deal of popularity today. The Nova was a radical redesign of an utterly forgettable CE2 tank. The new innovation in the Nova tank was a modular design.
All parts of the Vivi Nova could be changed: the top cap, the tip, the bottom assembly and tube. But more importantly, the heating element, called the head, was fully replaceable. That meant users no longer had to throw away a clearomiser when the head became unusable, they just replaced that one part and carried on.
Another advantage the replaceable heating coil design brought was that of variety. Not only did the concept make it easy to replace worn out heads, but heads were available in a variety of resistances. Previously, if a user wanted to go to a lower resistance clearomiser he or she need a whole new unit.
With the advent of replacement heads, changing the resistance of the clearomiser was as simple as swapping the head for one of a different resistance. The idea was so popular that it did not take long for the industry to start putting replaceable heads in nearly every new cartomiser to come to market.
Novas also had another feature that improved the older designs. It was dead easy to fill. There were no more gaskets in the way that required a syringe to fill these models.
Easy filling became the trend with clearos from that point on. The CE4 (and later CE5) designs came to market shortly after the Nova. These strange-looking clearomisers featured a tapered design and improved e-liquid capacity along with the easy-to-fill design. They also were designed with larger eGo-style batteries in mind, fitting over the battery connector for a finished look.
Bottom Coil Clearomisers (BCC)
The latest thing in clearomisers is the bottom-coil design. These models feature the heating coil at the bottom of the tube. Unlike their forebears, the designers tossed out the ideas of modifying the CE2 design and started fresh.
Modern bottom coil clearomisers are available in many different shapes and sizes. All of which feature a replaceable head system. The key to a design that doesn’t leak was to literally turn the clearomiser on its head.
Instead of a fixed bottom assembly and removable top, the top of bottom coil models is fixed while the bottom unscrews to allow filling and head replacement. This allowed solid gasket designs that prevent e-liquid from escaping the tank through the battery connector.
At the Ashtray Blog, we tested dozens of different bottom coil clearomisers before we came across our favourite – the awesome Aspire Bottom Dual Coil Clearomiser, described by Guide to Vaping as:
“…The best clearomiser I have ever used.”
Vertical Coil Technology
In traditional clearomiser design, the coil which heats the eliquid sits across the airflow, which can cause airflow resistance and uneven heating of the coil. Some clearomisers, such as the Aspire Nautilus Mini, have a coil sitting vertically over the airflow, reducing resistance, improving vapour production, and increasing vaping pleasure.
How Do You Fill A Clearomiser?
Whether using a top or bottom coil clearomiser, the same filling principles apply. While there is considerably more space between the tube and mechanics of the clearomisers, some care is still required for filling.
The basic golden rule of clearomiser filling, no matter which model you choose, is simple. Don’t get e-liquid down the center tube. All modern clearomisers have some kind of air tube running down the middle inside the main tank section.
Getting liquid down the tube can cause performance problems by flooding the heating coils with too much liquid, or simply leaking liquid, causing a mess.
Taking care while filling is key. Depending on the design of the clearomiser, it may be helpful to use an e-liquid bottle with a fine tip. This allows for more precise dispensing of e-liquid. The best way to fill (with or without such a tip) is to tilt the clearomiser and let the e-liquid run down the inside of the tank itself.
If there are markings on the clearomiser, avoid filling past the top marking. This will ensure e-liquid does not overtop the center tube when putting the clearomiser back together.
If you use a new clearomiser straight after filling, you may get a burn taste. To avoid this, let the clearomiser stand for a couple of minutes, or swill the eliquid around the clearomiser to make sure it is absorbed by the wick before using.
Should you find you’ve overfilled and hear a gurgling sound when using the clearomiser, or find liquid leaking, don’t panic. This situation is easily resolved. Remove the clearomiser from your battery and place a paper towel over the battery connector. Then blow through the mouthpiece stiffly a couple of times to clear the excess liquid from the airway.
When filling a bottom coil clearomiser, turn the clearomiser upside down and, as the name suggests, fill it from the bottom. DO NOT TAKE THE TOP OFF, as this can cause a real mess! (Yes, I’m talking from experience here ) Again, be careful not to get eliquid into the center tube.
Check out the video below for a video tutorial on how to fill the Aspire BDC clearomiser.
How Do You Clean Clearomisers?
Naturally, clearomisers like most e-cigarette components have a finite lifespan. Buildup accumulates on heating coils, plastic cracks and parts wear down. However, you might be able to extend the life of your products with a little extra maintenance.
Basic cleaning is simple and can add life to your products. A simple rinse is typically enough to keep buildup to a minimum in most cases. Just take apart all the components of your clearomiser and run them through hot tap water to get any buildup removed.
Wicks on the head can be rinsed as well, but special care must be taken in drying. Wet wicks will not perform well as water does not vaporize as readily as e-liquid. Remove as much mixture from the wicks as possible with a paper towel. Then let the wicks dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours.
If you have a replacement head, you could always pop that in and rotate the heads. If you’re in a hurry to dry the wicks, try placing them in a sealed container of rice overnight. The rice will absorb the moisture speeding drying time.
For particularly gummed up heating coils, you could try using pure grain alcohol, or a strong, clear liquor to soak the heads and break up some deposits prior to rinsing. Do not use standard rubbing alcohol.
We live in an imperfect world – sometimes things go wrong. Here’s some tips if you find your clearomiser isn’t working at all.
First, make sure all connections are tight and not cross-threaded. Most leaking issues can be traced back to a poor seal.
Also, check the fit of the silicone gaskets on the heating coil assembly and other parts. These small white rubber parts have a tendency to shift with time and can cause performance or leaking issues.
If your clearomiser won’t activate at all, make sure the head is securely screwed into its base. Sometimes the head can gradually come loose with use. It’s a part many people don’t think about and can be a tricky issue to figure out.
Should you experience an unusual or burning taste from your clearomiser, there may be built-up deposits on the heating coils. These deposits tend to burn causing very unpleasant flavors. Follow the tips in the cleaning section or replace the head to resolve these issues.
How Long Do Clearomisers Last & How Do You Know When They Need Replacing?
Clearomisers don’t last forever. In our experience, clearomisers can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending how often you use it. Cleaning may extend the life but eventually you will either need to replace the whole thing if its a disposable, or replace the coil/head if it is a rebuildable.
You know the clearomiser needs changing when it starts to give a burnt taste, give weaker vapour production or just stop working.
Clearomisers with replaceable coils/heads usually turn out to be cheaper in the long term, since instead of purchasing a whole new clearomiser you can just replace the coil/head on the clearomiser.
How Do You Change the Head/Atomiser and Wick On A Clearomiser
When an atomiser burns out, or a wick gets gummed up, it’s usually much cheaper to buy a new replacement head and wick for a cleaomiser rather than buying a new clearomiser.
While models do vary, this is usually a simple process of unscrewing and replacing the head. In the video below, I demonstrate how to do do this with the Aspire Bottom Dual Coil Clearomiser.
Using Adjustable Air Flow Control
This sounds complicated, but adjustable air flow control is really easy to use with devices like the Aspire Nautilus Mini.
Adjustable airflow devices come with a range of different airhole sizes. To use, simply adjust the outer ring to line up with the desired airhole size. This allows you to fine tune the amount of air flowing through the device to suote eliquids with different pg/vg ratios (thickness) or flavour.
For a detailed instructions on using airflow control, check out our Aspire Nautilus tutorial.
A number of clearomisers now come with replacable atomisers and wicks. Things get interesting when you can use different atomisers in the clearomisers to vary the vaping experience.
How Do Atomisers Create Heat?
Heat is created by the atomiser inside your clearomiser.
Electricity is passed through the heating coil wrapped around your atomiser. The coil provides resistance to the electricity. As the energy can not be fully conducted, it has to be turned into a different form. In the case of an atomiser, it is turned into heat.
Resistance and Ohms
The amount of resistance an atomiser offers is measured in ohms (symbol: Ω).
If the resistance is high, less electricity will pass through the coil. So to produce more heat, you can use a coil with a lower resistance. However, as more energy is used in producing the heat, you will use up your battery more quickly.
People’s preferences are very different, so a resistance that works for one person might not work for you. To find the best atomiser for you, you will need to experiment with different resistance atomisers.
- more heat
- more vapour
- reduced battery life
- stronger throat hit
- increased eliquid usage
- less heat
- less vapour
- smoother throat hit
- longer battery life
- reduced eliquid usage
The chart below gives a starting point for the voltages you can use with different ohms – click on the chart for a larger image!
At ECigaretteDirect you can choose between 2.1 and 1.8ohm atomisers, but we will shortly be introducing the option of a 1.6 ohm atomiser which will give you a more vape and a better throat hit, but will have an anticipated life span of just a few days.
To further increase your control of the throat hit and vapour produced by your clearomiser, you can also use a variable voltage ecig battery.
Dual Coil Atomisers
Another way to increase resistance is by using a dual coil atomiser in your clearomiser.
With dual coil atomisers, an equal amount of electricity is sent to two coils instead of just one coil, producing more heat and more vapour.
Once again, dual coil clearomisers use more power, so we recommend using a more powerful battery with our own bottom dual coil Aspire clearomisers.
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If you are new to electronic cigarettes, I recommend you read the following:
The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Electronic Cigarettes
Five Quit Smoking Side Effects You May Experience: An Essential Guide for New Vapers
Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe: The Shocking Truth
Nicotine In Electronic Cigarettes: 10 Facts All Users Should Know
The Electronic Cigarette Glossary: Essential Words, Phrases and Slang for New Vapers