Regulated vs. unregulated mods: Understanding the basics

An introduction to the different types of mods available

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Mech-and-regulated-featured-image

Unregulated vs. regulated mods: Introduction

A common question when learning about different vape mods is “what is the difference between a regulated and an unregulated mod?” The first thing to know is that most vape mods on the market are regulated. They are the most popular choice for vapers from beginners to veterans. But there’s obviously much more to it than that.

For instance, go into a vape shop and you will eventually find a vaper, many times and employee, vaping with an unregulated mod. What gives? You may be wondering, why would anyone use an unregulated mod? Or maybe you are just trying to determine which mod is the safest — an unregulated mod or a regulated mod?

We will discuss the basic differences between these devices for those that are somewhat new to all this. And in case you are wondering, no advanced knowledge of electronics will be needed to understand this post. Future posts will go into more technical detail, but this for those that want to get the basics and move on with their day.

What is an unregulated mod?

A vape device that supplies raw battery battery power to an atomizer with no electronic circuitry, power adjustments or electronic safety features

Coming in the form of metal tubes or boxes made from wood to metal or plastic, an unregulated mod is the simplest of all vape mods in terms of functionality. Housing one or multiple batteries, a press of the button will complete the circuit and send raw battery power to the installed atomizer and coil.

Although simple in functionality, unregulated mods are deemed “advanced devices” because they will power any atomizer & coil regardless of the coil’s resistance, the type of wire, or even if the atomizer has a short (not good!). But they also allow the knowledgeable hobbyist freedom to create a wide range of vaping experiences from subtle to the extreme.

Types of unregulated mods

Mechanical mods (tube): Mechanical tube mods first hit the market in 2008 with the Screwdriver by Trog. It took a few years, but mechanical mods became highly sought-after. Generally in single-battery set-up housing an 18650 (or 18350, 18490, or 26650), and in a variety of metals, like stainless steel to copper to brass, these were the ideal device for hobbyists that eventually helped DIY coils (“building”) and cloud blowing become a thing.

Squonk Boxes: Started in ’09 with the JuiceBox, and then popularized by Reosmods, squonk mods are (mostly) unregulated box mods with either a single battery or battery bank with an on-board bottle of ejuice. That bottle is squeezed (or squonked) through a small window to supply juice upward into the atomizer. These devices helped make dripping more like using a tank.

Series mods: An advanced mod like the Wismec Noisy Cricket (v1) that uses more than one battery, most times side-by-side. Based on how the batteries are “wired” together (see image in gallery), the voltage of each cell is added together (ex. 3.7V + 3.7V = 7.4V) resulting in twice the voltage. But, the max current and battery life is a single battery. In that example, it’s twice the voltage of a single battery, but with the battery life and load capabilities of one battery.

Parallel mods: In a parallel mod, no matter the number of cells used, the voltage will remain that of one battery unlike a series mod (ex. 3.7V + 3.7V = 3.7V). In a parallel configuration, the batteries evenly share the load of the coil’s resistance. However, the battery life (mAh) and maximum current (amps) will be doubled, thus allowing very low coil resistance while minimizing the strain on any one cell.

Benefits

  • Zero restriction on the resistance of the coil used (no matter how unsafe the resistance)
  • No electronics to break or bug out
  • Can (most of the time) be fixed easily with a simple trip to the hardware store
  • No instruction manual or complicated menu system to navigate
  • Simplicity of design
  • Virtually unlimited power (depending on number of batteries and atomizer)

Drawbacks

  • They can be very dangerous if the user is inexperienced
  • They will accept any resistance atomizer even if it’s in the battery’s “red zone”
  • Not ideal for the beginner
  • The vape diminishes as the battery power decreases

What is a regulated mod?

Any of various vaping devices that include one or more safeguards or advanced features (like power adjustments) from electronic circuitry.

There are two main types of regulated devices, adjustable power and fixed voltage. Adjustable power devices have a chipset that allows for controlled power to the atomizer to remain constant, even if above or below the batteries actual voltage (ex. 3.7V battery putting out 5V). After the battery drops below the mod’s battery minimum voltage limit, the device will no longer run and batts will need to be charged, but the vape will remain constant until that point.

Fixed-voltage may refer to a cigalike (cigarette-looking ecigs), a pod vape like the JUUL, or something like a standard eGo (pen-style) battery which uses fixed-voltage battery power from built-in batteries (all mods with built-in batteries are regulated). Fixed voltage devices often times have limits to the resistance of the atomizer’s coil that they will accept which makes them ideal for rank beginners. Similar to an unregulated device, the vape with a fixed-voltage device will diminish with the battery’s loss of power.

Types of regulated mods

Fixed voltage: Fixed voltage devices were the very first ecigs. They are the go-to choice for beginners since they require no tinkering and little if any instructions. These devices typically use a single button or a vacuum switch that senses changes in pressure as you draw. They still dominate the market due to ease of use. Cigalikes (both rechargeable and disposable), standard eGo, e-cigars, AIOs, JUUL, etc are all fixed voltage.

Variable Voltage (VV): Introduced in 2010 (BuzzPro and the Provari), these devices were revolutionary! Using microprocessors like buck-boost converters, these mods allowed vapers to exceed or go below a battery’s output voltage, thus intensifying or mellowing the vape. VV devices like eGo spinners and the Provari are still widely used, but most variable wattage devices do the same, and more.

Variable Wattage (VW)
: First on the scene in January of 2011 with the Darwin by Evolv (and a year later with the SvoeMesto Semovar). These devices really propelled modern vaping to what it is now. In basic terms, your desired power setting can be constant if you like, even after charging an atomizers resistance, something that variable voltage mods can’t do.

Temperature Control (TC): Released in 2014 by (Evolv), the originator of the variable wattage device, temperature control (TC) mods allow the user to set heat limitations to their to specific types of coils, something VV or VW can’t do. But TC mods are not their own kind of device per se, but a further development for many VW mods. TC mods are also VW mods.

Benefits

  • Various protections and safeguards to protect the user
  • Does most the math for you
  • Detailed instruction manuals are standard with these devices
  • Ideal for beginners all the way to veterans
  • Countless options (mods) to choose from
  • Available in simple “stealth” devices all the way to cloud-chucking mods with loads of power

Drawbacks

  • Electronic protections can make the beginner too lax about battery safety
  • Every regulated mod has restrictions on the load/resistance of coils they will accept (not every coil will work)
  • Sometimes quite complicated to learn (for the advanced regulated mods)

Which mod is right for you?

If you want to go with unregulated mods, first ask yourself: do I have a decent understanding with ohms law, battery chemistry/safety, and the appropriate or inappropriate atomizers to use. If you answered no to any of those questions…

It is strongly recommended that you stick to regulated mods until you are comfortable with those matters. There are countless options for regulated mods with a wide range of capabilities. Most have roughly the same kinds of basic battery safety features and they can keep most user-errors to nothing more than a warning message on a digital display.

If you are hungry for more and would like to get beyond the basic differences of regulated mods vs. unregulated mods, keep an eye out for our future posts.

Jeremy Mann

My name is Jeremy and I am a content manager and editor here at Vaping360. I reside in southeast Michigan and I have been vaping for over five years. Thanks to vaping, I’ve been off cigarettes since my first ecig purchase in 2010.

  • Gary Balkam

    You can lead a monkey to a web page but you can’t make them read it. (Or pay attention). It seems there is always some clown, a new vaper, thinking we are just kidding when we say ADVANCED device for ADVANCED users. They they go on the news “Vaping is dangerous”. Here is some news… vaping isn’t dangerous, stupidity is dangerous. “I was just holding it” sounds like the first line of defense when mom catches a teen with his hand in his pants. It didn’t work on mom, but the News seems to buy it.

    • Jeremy

      I know how it is, though. You want something, so you search for info. The info gets too wonky, so then you just ask someone that SEEMS like they know. Too often that is at a vape shop and the person maybe doesn’t know… much. I’ve seen it happen.

      Direct-connection mods with subohm tanks unfortunately are sometimes sold together at vape shops with no sirens going off. It makes me sad and mad.

      I tried to make sure this post did not get into the weeds too much. Hopefully it will be read … by its intended audience.

      • Joe Irwin

        Jeremy, I thought the post was good. My son had to build a Vape for his physics class. (something he and the teacher agreed upon – not mandatory for all the students). In any case, I didn’t know anything about Vapes. He chose the regulated version exactly for the reasons stated in this article – safety!

        • Jeremy

          Thanks for reading, and for the acknowledgement.

  • Richard Taillon

    Thanks for the info. I’ve been using coil building lightly for the past couple of years, and been purchasing the tfv8 coil for I don’t know how long now. I’m going to start getting serious about building my own coils, and maintaining them better from now on. My juices I like a sweet juicy taste, and the tfv8 just doesn’t last long enough for me, with the way I vape. I have a regulated mod, then an unregulated stick mod. Need to get the stick mod fixed as the spring in it is messed up. But planning on getting another unregulated digital mod, that can be updated and easily adjusted to my preferences. Been vaping fire a couple of years now, I’m not got to say advanced, but I’m well aware of how to build my coils, and change my cotton the way I need to. I can tell ahead of time when it needs to be changed. Vaping is far from dangerous, as long as you are doing it with common sense and not trying to do something ignorant. Do what they were made for, and don’t try to over do it, unless you have a good enough build on it, and you are sure that build can banshee what you’re throwing at it power wise.

    • Jeremy

      Thank you for reading.