When you begin shopping for a vape mod, choosing between a device that has a built-in battery and one that uses removable batteries is one of the most important decisions that you’ll have to make. Using a mod with removable batteries has many benefits for an experienced vaper, though, and there are several good reasons for going in that direction. If you’ve decided to buy a vape mod with removable batteries, though, you’ll very shortly have another major decision on your hands: You’ll need to choose the best 18650 battery for your needs.
This article is your complete buyer’s guide for 18650 batteries. When you’re done reading it, you will know absolutely everything that a consumer needs to know about how the various battery brands and models differ from one another and how to select the best 18650 battery for your vape mod.
Before we dig in, though, we’d like to provide a quick answer that might be useful if you just want to know what battery to buy and don’t want to wade through the details. Here at Vape Juice, we love the IMREN 3200 mAh 18650 battery. This battery has a rock-solid continuous discharge rating of 20 amps and is one of the highest-capacity batteries on the market meeting that specification. With our price of just $14.95 per pair of batteries, how could you possibly go wrong?
With that quick recommendation out of the way, let’s continue with our 18650 battery buyer’s guide. For starters, why do you have to put so much thought into buying a battery in the first place? Aren’t all batteries pretty much the same?
Why Is Buying the Best 18650 Battery So Important?
When you buy disposable batteries at your local supermarket or big-box store, how do you select which brand to buy? Maybe you buy the major brand when you’re in the mood to splurge, but otherwise, you probably buy the brand that’s least expensive. Does it really matter, after all, if the name brand lasts a little longer before dying? The difference in longevity won’t be large enough for you to notice, and it won’t be large enough to justify the difference in price. Can’t you just buy 18650 batteries the same way?
One of the first things you need to learn about 18650 batteries is that they have very little in common with the disposable batteries at the supermarket. One 18650 battery can differ significantly from another, so buying the right one is extremely important. Here are the three potential pitfalls that can await you if you buy the wrong battery.
Not All 18650 Batteries Are Appropriate for Vaping
The 18650 battery is one of the world’s most popular battery cells. It’s used in everything ranging from laptops and flashlights to electric vehicles and vape mods. Obviously, those devices aren’t all going to have the same power specifications, and an 18650 battery intended for a laptop’s power pack, for example, may not have the support for high-drain applications that a vaping battery requires. You can’t buy just any 18650 battery and throw it into a vape mod. That’s vape battery safety 101.
Battery Brands and Manufacturers Aren’t the Same Thing
The next thing you need to know about 18650 batteries is that a battery brand and a battery manufacturer are, in fact, two different entities. A battery brand, in other words, is almost never the company that actually makes the cells.
The primary 18650 battery manufacturers are Samsung, LG, Murata (formerly Sony), Sanyo and LG. Those companies, however, don’t sell batteries directly to the public. Instead, they sell to manufacturers who intend to use those batteries in finished products. It is possible to buy these batteries, but you’ll only get them from resellers.
Battery brands, on the other hand, do not make batteries. They buy battery cells from the companies named above and put their own labels on them. A battery brand may test cells to make sure that they conform to certain specifications, but that’s about it. Without warning, a battery brand can even change suppliers without changing anything about the labels that it puts on those batteries.
Therefore, it is extremely important to buy 18650 batteries sold by a brand that’s reliable and stands behind its products. Too many battery brands are completely happy buying second-quality cells, overstating the capabilities of those cells and foisting them on an unsuspecting public.
All Battery Sellers Are Not Created Equal
Just about anyone can start a battery brand. All that you need to do is buy a quantity of battery cells and slap wrappers with your logo on those cells, and you’ve got a battery brand. A battery wrapper is just a tube of heat-shrink plastic, and anyone can print anything they like on one of those tubes. In fact, some dishonest sellers take that idea to its absolute limit by selling batteries in fake wrappers.
Above, we mentioned the fact that many laptop battery packs use 18650 batteries. There are, in fact, many older laptop computers that have been taken out of service and are sitting around in warehouses waiting to be stripped of their parts. It’s a very common practice to break those battery packs open and reuse the cells. Many of them are still completely serviceable for low-demand operations. Vaping, however, isn’t a low-demand operation.
Some unscrupulous sellers have actually been known to take old laptop battery cells and, after confirming that they still hold a charge, put fresh wrappers on the batteries and sell them on eBay and other marketplaces as if they were new products. Imagine if that happened to you – imagine you bought a 10-year-old battery for your vape mod. The battery wouldn’t have the appropriate specifications for vaping. At best, you’d have an extremely underpowered battery. At worst, the battery could be extremely dangerous.
When you buy 18650 batteries, you should always know that the seller is sourcing those batteries directly from the original brands or from their authorized distributors.
What Are the Key Specifications of an 18650 Battery?
Buying an 18650 battery is always going to involve comparing various specifications to see which product is going to be the best one for your needs. It’s going to be pretty difficult to choose the right battery if you don’t understand what the specifications mean, so that’s what we’re going to discuss next in this buying guide.
You’ll see three important specifications when you shop for 18650 batteries. Here’s what they mean.
- Milliampere-hours (mAh): expresses the battery’s total capacity. A battery with a capacity of 2,000 mAh, for example, is rated to deliver a current of one amp for two hours before it dies.
- Continuous discharge rating (CDR): expresses the maximum current in amps that the battery can deliver continuously and safely without overheating. A typical CDR for a high-end 18650 battery is usually around 20 amps.
- Pulse discharge rating (PDR): expresses the maximum current in amps that the battery can deliver safely in brief pulses.
If you can only see one amperage rating on a battery – the wrapper might say “30A,” for instance – then you’re going to want to confirm whether that rating refers to the battery’s CDR or PDR before buying the battery. That’s because the battery industry has no universally accepted definition for what constitutes a “pulse.” Therefore, if you’re operating within your battery’s PDR rating – but you’re operating higher than its CDR rating – you really have no idea whether you’re using the battery safely or not. Before buying an 18650 battery, you should be very certain that you know what type of load the battery can handle continuously.
Final Note: The One Problem With Buying a Battery With the Original Manufacturer’s Label
As we mentioned above, there are only a few companies in the world that actually manufacture 18650 battery cells. The brands that you’re most likely to find when you shop for batteries are Samsung, LG, Murata (formerly Sony), Sanyo and LG. Some vapers prefer only to buy batteries with those companies’ names and model numbers on the wrappers instead of buying batteries from companies that may change their suppliers without warning. If you buy a battery with a Samsung wrapper, for instance, you’ll never have any doubt as to what the cell’s specifications are.
Buying 18650 batteries with their original manufacturers’ names on the labels isn’t a bad practice, but there is one thing that you need to be aware of before you do that. As we mentioned above, battery manufacturers don’t sell their batteries directly to end users. Instead, they sell to manufacturers who put the batteries into finished goods. The batteries aren’t intended to be inserted and removed constantly, and as a result, they often have thin wrappers that tear extremely easily. A torn battery wrapper is a serious safety issue. With that in mind, if you do plan to buy 18650 batteries with the original manufacturers’ names on the labels, being able to rewrap your own batteries is a very valuable skill.