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E-Nail Gear

Butane Torch vs. Electric Nail – Reasons For & Against

By May 18, 2017 July 20th, 2019 No Comments


Evergy Efficiency of a Butane Torch vs. E-Nail

A butane torch heats only a fraction of the nail with the total energy it puts out. This heat is then blown towards the nail via the pressurized gases and the directional nozzle on the top of the can. The gases are directed through the valve and nozzle TOWARDS your dab nail, but this is obviously not anywhere near lazer-focused, and a lot of the energy goes towards heating up your room unintentionally to a very small degree. A large portion of that heat just blows right past and heats the room instead. This is nice in winter but not so much in summer. Sure, an e-nail may also do this a tiny bit, but compared to a torch the heat is applied more directly. 

Though e-nails aren’t absoluytely 100% perfect in energy efficiency, the improvement from a butane torch is significant. This is true even when leaving the e-nail on continuously. There are also ways to boost energy efficiency even further by using different heating coils, nails, and cappers. The flat style coil is preferred for it’s efficiency in heat distribution and use in the popular hybrid nail. A flat coil will sit directly underneath the dish, instead of covering the side walls of the nail. With the flat coil (used in a standard domeless Ti/quartz hybrid nail and some universal Ti nails), most of the heat travels directly upwards to the bottom of the dish, which is where most of the concentrate glob will end up as it melts downward. Another improvement worth noting is the Liger with it’s heating coil encased inside of the titanium nail. Some heat will of course still escape from the outer side walls, but the side wall/shield does slow that down significantly and retain it in the dab nail. The heat shield also serves to direct a lot of that heat back towards the center of the piece. It is definitely a significant improvement over a torch flame that will heat a nail way past temps but then also way past the nail itself as well.

Where To Put All of These Cans?

After a year of regular propane torch use our house had literally dozens of empty cans sitting around. None could be recycled or re-used economically. These massive chunks of metal & machine oil sat as a reminder to our excess consumption. In other words it was time to ditch the cans and look into this newfangled electronic dab gear. 

Steady Heat Control Means No Over-Cooled Bangers

An electronic dab nail is easily the best way to provide precise temperatures that stay steady. This allows you to find the perfect dab temp. for different nails, type of concentrates, uses of a carb-cap (or not), environments, and desired “vape” experience over time. Some of the wax that is less terpene-rich and more dry may require a higher temperature for complete combustion compared to a product like live resin, distillate, or of course terp-added products. One exception to this rule of thumb is CBD isolate. Even though the isolate may be fairly “dry” and low in terpenes, it has a tendency to cake up and leave heavy carbon deposits after the dab. For this reason, along with the entourage effect, many users prefer to mix their CBD dabs with either terpenes or other more terpene-rich concentrates. This is because terpenes are much more volatile substances and are also much more liquid than some of the other substances in the concentrate. They don’t always stick around long- which any med. grower knows all too well!  A lower temperature will help deliver a smoother pull that is less irritating and more “vaporized” compared to a higher temperature. A high temp. dab feels and tastes more “burn-y”, but also has it’s own unique “heavy” type of feel. These are all different preferences that are nice to be able to work with for different times, preferences, medical needs, etc., and are much easier to do with an e-nail– set it and just let it sit (please don’t set it-and-forget-it though!!).

If you also happen to be pressing your own solvent-less rosin at home you will be amazed at the flavor difference when using a carb-cap and dropping the temps. down to around the mid-600’s. The difference in flavor alone is night-and-day, let alone the crazy amount of buzz-mist coming off of a much smaller dab than you would normally expect from dabbing without a carb cap. Also, a “carb cap” is a handy “hack” as it allows you to effectively lower the temperature that the concentrate will become gas at. This happens when pressure is created inside the nail chamber. If pressure builds then the liquid will become gas at a lower temperature. Less heat is then applied overall and more material is preserved. Not only does a carb cap allow you to fine-tune the taste experience, but also without using as much material or energy.Using lower temps opens up more ability to get a dab of the very best parts while leaving some of the lipids (waxes) & less-desirable plant matter behind in the nail. On the other hand, some like to raise the temperature up higher to minimize pooling, crusting, & (perceived) waste. Flavor aside, for those of you who pride yourselves on taking massive gram-sized globs, the e-nail is the clear choice for all of you “glob-a-sauruses”– since the heat remains constant. Even as you are dabing and removing heat the enail will will only drop a little before popping right back up for the next one in-line… No more need to torch the nail ’til it gets red-hot then wait 15-45 seconds for it to plunge down. Just set it and let it sit for 2 minutes or so and you have the temperature you need until the power switch is flipped again. The PID algorithm inside the electronic controller watches to even out temperatures according to the size of the dab and how much energy it took during the last seconds to bring it back to the “set temperature”.

Operates in Silence

Have you ever been trying to heat up your nail with a butane torch and realized it totally put a halt to everyone’s conversation? A torch can be on the obnoxious side sometimes, although fun in small doeses. Nothing worse than when you are trying to concentrate and your roommates torch is screaming at you. Worse yet, if you have kids they will definitely be asking lots of questions about the rushing sounds. Fire is a very captivating thing, and it can be pretty distracting when someone decides to dab it up.

Reminds you of something?

I am a pyro and have to admit that a butane torch is fun sometimes. It’s kinda cool but it also looks a little cracked-out (especially if you have kids). Dabs should not be associated/confused with dangerous hard drugs, and having to light with a butane torch may visually strengthen this negative association– especially if you have kids in the house that will be curious as to what those loud rumbling sounds are in your room. They may associate it in the wrong way upon discovering the source of the sound. This is all surface image-politics stuff but it is worth considering for many people. My main point here is that the convenience of not having to deal with the rumble of the torch is a must-have in my opinion. I can’t imagine dabbing daily with a torch anymore by any means.

More Peace-Of-Mind, Less Toxic “Gick”

No one likes toxic “gick”, but we all tolerate a base-line amount that pervades our modern environment. There is no need to litter your home with gas by-products, unless your dab spac doesn’t have access to an electric outlet. Now that electric nails are abundant and cheap it seems like an easy choice to me. I like to make my home a place of sanctuary, and rotten egg smell doesn’t fit with that.

After using a torch you are left with by-products of this combustion. The C02 will hang out at the bottom foot of your living space and for this reason typically take longer to dissipate. These gases do not float upwards and more often will “sit and soak” around the bottom 1″ of your sesh-room. One friend of mine reported that the sulphuric smell (which is added to propane as a safety measure to detect C02) ended up soaking into his garage floor to the point where he now has a permenent smell stuck in the concrete surface. These gases have not been proven to cause acute death, but that’s not the point. Many people make some effort to at least minimize the amount of toxic “gick” in their living spaces for peace-of-mind. Burning gas through a butane torch can release some un-wanted by products into your home environment and wastes a significant amount of energy.

There Are Often Better Portable Options

When camping, if you have a vehicle you can usually use a cheap inverter to power an e-nail using the cigarette lighter socket. There are also “portable e-nail” products available, but they just don’t deliver heat as well as a “real” nail, and aren’t nearly as reliable in the long-run (probably because of the battery load slowly becoming uneven or just plain slow over-heating.​ I have yet to read a review from someone who is satisfied with these “portable e-nails” after more than a year’s use. There are e-pens, and there are e-nails. Let’s just say there are e-nails and there is everything else. There is a big difference in heating power and taste with dabs dropped straight onto a small coil and dabs dropped onto a proper nail with an e-nail coil heating around it.

e-nail propane butane torch toxicity

The e-nail propane butane torch toxicity

EVery Torch Has It’s Day

I do still keep a torch around for other purposes. I will say that there is one thing that I still depend on my torch for and that is to remove certain nails that are completely stuck from reclaim. A lot of the time hot water alone will work, but I will give the torch some praise after being so critical. A butane torch is still the easiest way to remove a sticky nail. That being said, this is only necessary with my setup maybe every few months at the very earliest. Also, having a more constant heat source could be a bad thing for the accident prone. This is also true for people living with animals or humans. Check out Leafly’s handy explanation on why e-nails aren’t right for everyone.





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