In vaping, the more you get into it, the more it gets a tad more complicated. Most vapers start out with something simple, like vape pens, then as we seek to pursue more clouds, more throat hit, and we decide to upgrade.
Now, some users upgrade incrementally, while other take a huge leap towards the world of variable vaping.
Here’s where the confusion starts. Variable vaping can mean variable wattage, variable temperature, and other technical mumbo jumbo.
But perhaps one of the more enigmatic terms you’ve most likely encountered is TCR.
We see it as one of the main features of a mod, or you’ve probably seen the term in your mod’s manual. While we appreciate the extra feature, most of us have no idea what it actually means.
Temperature Coefficient of Resistance
So, what is TCR? As the heading says, TCR stands for “Temperature Coefficient of Resistance.”
A mouthful for sure, but what does is mean?
In strict layman’s terms, it refers to a number that expresses how a material’s resistance changes, as the temperature changes.
In the case of vapers, the material here is the coil and how it reacts when heated.
You see, certain materials react differently to increases in temperature. This is the reason why mods with temperature control have different settings for certain materials.
Usually, when using the TC function of a mod, you are asked to input whether the coil you are using is Stainless Steel (SS), Titanium (Ti) or Nickel (Ni).
Yet, there are even more possible combinations.
There are different types of Stainless Steel coils, such 302, 316L, 430, etc. The same goes with Titanium and Nickel, and each variation or each material have different reactions to temperature changes.
Why Does it Matter?
Given the number of variations of each material, the question you might ask is, does it really matter?
After all, stainless steel is stainless steel, titanium is titanium, and nickel is nickel right? For casual users, using any stainless steel coil with their mod’s SS setting is good enough.
But for the hardcore vaper looking for the perfect vape? This won’t do. You see, mods from certain manufacturers “tune” their settings on a specific coil material. This is usually based on the material used on their own coils.
For example, Company A has their own TC mods as well as their own coil heads used for their tanks.
When SS mode is used this means the TCR is rated for the specific material of their own coils. If Company A’s coils are made from, say, 316 stainless steel, then its mods are tuned for the same material.
If you use coil heads on a mod made from the same manufacturer, you probably don’t need to mess around with TCR much. You’ll get accurate temperature readings whatever you do.
However, what if you use a coil with a different alloy? While you can still use it, chances are high that temperature control won’t be as accurate.
This can result in burnt wicks and less than ideal flavour and vapor production.
Here’s where TCR comes into the mix. When using a different alloy material, say a 316L stainless steel coil on a 301 “tuned” mod, instead of selecting the “SS” setting , you should choose TCR mode and enter the TCR value of 316L coils (which in this case is 0092 or 0.000915 (according to @DJLsbVapes).
Values differ from various sources though, so if you want to find the TCR value of your coil, you can either refer to the manufacturer’s website (if store bought coils are used), or you can search the value via Google (if you are building your own).
Take note, when searching for TCR values on the net, you might notice that these vary from site to site. When faced with multiple values for a certain alloy, simply try each out and taste the difference.
In the real world, the differences are negligible, but if you are after perfect flavour and vapor, test the values and see which one makes for a better vape.
Finding your Mods TCR Values
A good place to check for TCR values is at the Steam Engine Site.
At the Steam Engine site, enter the diameter of the coil, how many wraps are there, the length of the leg, as well as the wrap spacing.
Then, specify whether your coil is single wire, parallel, twisted, Clapton, etc., what kind of alloy used (Kanthal A1, SS 316, Nichrome, etc), and whether the wire is round or ribbon.
You also input the size of the wire. Once these values are determined, you get a slew of information displayed.
The data displayed include the resistance and resistivity, the precision, heat flux per watt, power dissipated, and other technical data you may or may not care about.
If you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry. The site has a guide below the graphs and charts so you can understand more what is going on.
Why Everything is Complicated
Once you dive into the world of TCR, you will get smacked in the face by a horde of technical mumbo jumbo.
While some hardcore vapers embrace this level of meta information, other casual users might find it daunting. After all, all we want is the perfect vape right?
We don’t need to get an electrical engineering degree just to get great flavour and vapor. The reason why everything is complicated is the lack of standardisation.
To be fair, having every manufacturer use the same alloy for the coils – hence the same TCR tuning in their mods – is a very daunting task.
It will also limit the customisation options of users. Different alloys, types of wire, and coils give different vape experiences, so trying to standardise them all would result in a limited vape experience.
So how do we address this the complication of TCR values? Manufacturers can start by indicating precisely in their mods what type of alloy the mod is tuned to.
Instead of just displaying “SS” or “Ti” or “Ni”, they should display the exact alloy used like “SS316”.
This would at least give users an idea what the mod is tuned for and they can adjust accordingly. Printing a small list of TCR values in the manual or box won’t hurt too.
This can save users precious time having to research on the net what value they need when it can be accessed easily.
The same can be said for wire and coil head makers. Let users know what alloy is being used and let them know what TCR value works. For casual vapers, this can be very helpful since there will be no need to do in-depth research just to get the perfect vape.
TCR may seem complicated, but it need not be. While you can research and learn about all the technical data, what they mean, and how it affects your vape, this can be too much for casual users.
The end game after all, is to get the perfect vape every time right?
While you may have to do some research just to get the right TCR value, this can be made more simple in the future if manufacturers want it to. For now, you’ll have to rely on existing TCR value charts or calculators.
If you want the best in flavour and vapor, you’ll have to work for it. But who knows, in the future it might all be plug and play. Here’s hoping to an automated TCR future for all of us.