When I started learning how to weld, my tutor used to say that having safety gear is very important, while using it is inevitable. When he first said this, I immediately started wondering as to why protection gear for welding has so much significance.
It is understood why to wear a helmet while driving a bike on a road or highway. However, why would somebody wear a helmet while welding? I was totally a naïve here.
So, is welding a harmful process? Or is it just to keep the impact of the user’s carelessness at bay?
In some time, he answered these questions of mine. From this explanation, it was easy to conclude that welding is not an innately dangerous task but it can be so in the absence of proper gear. Below is the explanation that I got from my tutor.
- 1 How Welding Can Be Risky
- 2 Why a Welding Helmet is Important
- 3 Overview of Welding Helmets
- 4 Types of Welding Helmets
- 5 Basics of Lens
- 6 Which Buying Factors Should You Consider
- 6.1 Which Factors Should You Consider before Buying a Helmet
- 6.2 Which Factors Should You Consider while Buying a Helmet
- 6.3 Adherence to National Safety Standards
- 6.4 Viewing Size
- 6.5 Lens Reaction Time or Lens Switching Speed
- 6.6 Arc Sensors
- 6.7 Adjustable Sensitivity Control
- 6.8 Adjustable Delay Control
- 6.9 Power Source
- 6.10 Helmet Weight and Adjustability
- 6.11 Knobs (Controls)
- 6.12 Fitting Ability
- 6.13 Skin Coverage for Maximum Protection
- 6.14 Magnifying Lenses
- 6.15 Versatility
- 6.16 Durability
- 6.17 Grinding Capability/Mode
- 6.18 Respiratory Protection
- 6.19 Overhead Welding Facility
- 6.20 Adjustable Rack (for Eyes with Spectacles)
- 6.21 Auto Settings
- 6.22 The Personal Touch
- 6.23 Auto Filters
- 6.24 Construction Material
- 6.25 More Latest Considerations
- 6.26 Brands
- 7 Top 5 Welding Helmets
- 7.1 Miller 235626 Welding Helmet:
- 7.2 Antra AH6-260-0000 Solar Power Auto Darkening Welding Helmet:
- 7.3 Instapark ADF Series GX-350S Solar Powered Auto Darkening Welding Helmet:
- 7.4 Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 Black Welding Helmet with 4C Lens Technology – K3034-3:
- 7.5 Coocheer Solar Arc TIG MIG Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet Professional Mask:
- 8 Conclusion
How Welding Can Be Risky
Welding safety begins by comprehending what can go wrong and how to deal with it when it occurs. The different risks included are electric shock, disorders due to inhalation of toxic fumes, skin burns, breathing issues due to improper ventilation, and eye injuries.
However, these risks only affect if the proper protection gear is not used. This is why operators need to wear protective clothing and equipment throughout the welding process, including the helmets.
Of all the gear, a helmet is often the most ignored but most important safety accessory to use. There is a good reason for it (explained in the next sub-topic).
Most operators do not recognize the need of wearing a helmet at the time of welding. I really do not have a justifiable reason behind it but they are certainly exposing themselves to a really high risk.
In fact, there was a time when welding helmets and safety glasses were believed to be ridiculous, hardly mentioned at the workstation, and were totally overlooked.
Today, appreciatively, work safety is at the forefront of all welding tasks. This is perhaps because of the increased awareness rising from an increasing number of injuries in the last decade.
Why a Welding Helmet is Important
Don’t you wear a helmet while driving a motorbike? What is its importance there?
The same is the significance of wearing a helmet while welding. No wonder why in many countries not wearing a helmet while driving a motorbike or a scooter is treated as an offence!
It takes no time for an injury to hit the operator while working with a welding device. The probability of harm or injury is always high due to the generated electric sparks that typically result in high, bright flames. These flames and sparks result in facial and eye injuries if there is no protection.
The flame’s brightness can be harmful because its level is high. In case of arc welding, the resulting electric arc is a highly robust source of light and also includes infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Emitting from the vibrant flame, the ultraviolet and gamma rays can result in a flash blister or arc eye wherein harm is done to the eye’s surface layer. They are likely to damage the other parts of the body such as the skin and retina to cause blindness.
These rays are the topmost cause of several eye complications. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, around 10,000 eye injuries per year are associated with welding.
Due to these risks, it is essential for you to wear a helmet with an appropriate filter glass to defend against the intense infrared and ultraviolet rays.
If there are people around you while performing an electric welding process, it is essential to screen the work area to prevent the arc from being directly visible or indirectly by reflection from metal or glass.
The job of a welding helmet is to protect you from these radiations as well as from sparks, spatter, and several other perils often lasting in a welding environment.
As a general rule, investing in a bit expensive helmet not only ensures the protection of radiation but also improves welding ability as well as resulting quality, and increases comfort.
So, among the safety tools’ arsenal, a suitable welding helmet is perhaps the most key item for preventing eye and facial damage.
Inference for You: Do not start welding without a welding helmet!
Well, I was now totally convinced to get a welding helmet. Without any hesitation, I decided to buy a welding helmet. When I finally chose my helmet, I realized that this shopping is not so easy if there is no knowledge about the safety standards and technologies that welding helmets come with!
So, to provide you with this knowledge and share the buying factors, I have written this guide. It has everything that I considered to get my best welding helmet.
The guide also aims to make you familiar with the latest technology and other aspects so that you can, too, choose your model without any confusion or hastiness.
Overview of Welding Helmets
A welding helmet refers to a head cover or a headgear that protects the wearer’s face, head, and neck from burns, heat, and radiation. It is designed for use at sites where arc welding is performed, including Metal Inert Gas (MIG) or Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG).
With a welding helmet, you can easily get rid of complications such as red eyes, inflaming of eyes, retina disorder, and other harms. It does so through its special window via which you can see through while working despite the whole head remains covered.
Its design is just like other helmets for vehicles. It goes over your head to protect its different front and back parts, regardless of the number of risks and level of harm intensity.
Invented by the founder of Fibre metal in 1905, a welding helmet has gone several improvements in terms of construction material and design. What this means is that it is now possible to have a welding helmet with technologically advanced features that ensure the ultimate line of defense.
Today, the window pane of the helmet is available in different materials such as filter made polarized lens, tinted glass, and tinted plastic. Each of them protects the user at any time.
As a fact, the construction tends to differ from one brand to another. While a few are of metal, others are made using fiberglass or plastic. Regardless of the chosen window pane or construction material, the purpose of protection is always met.
Types of Welding Helmets
Different types of welding helmets are available. Each of these types differs significantly in terms of lens’ shade and the resultant level of protection.
The viewing lens, also known as the filter, refers to an exclusive dark tinted glass piece or electrical filter, usually with anti-ultraviolet as well as anti-infrared coating and with some shade number.
The number of lens’ shade indicates the level of protection as well as of the darkness that is achievable by filtering light. Generally, the higher this number is, the greater is the level of protection from a helmet.
A quality piece of lens comes with a screen filter that provides 100% shelter from the ultraviolet and infrared rays. The shade number also signifies the darkness level of lens while welding.
The lens automatically responds and darken for keeping the arc radiation away from your eyes. This means that you need to select the shade that ensures maximum visibility as well as protection.
Below are the different types of welding helmets to consider.
Standard/Traditional/ Passive Helmets
These types of helmets are famous among the seasonal users, but are widely in use since the beginning. They usually have a fixed shade number, 10. You need to have the passive welding in the upward direction while placing the electrode and torch.
Then, just prior to striking the arc or when you are ready to get started, a quick snap or the neck’s nod instantly flips the helmet into the downward position. Once the job is done, you move the helmet upward and far from the face to view the metal and relocate for the next weld.
- Coated and tinted glass
- Tough and economical safety protection due to construction of molded or pre-cast plastics
- Problematic for a less experienced user who do not weld frequently due to difficulty faced while keeping the torch in the right position when the helmet is lowered in position
- Needless grinding or imperfections and inability to remain secured in place due to frequent lifting of helmet
- Stress, fatigue, and injury in the neck due to the recurring process of helmet flipping, especially when you weld for prolonged hours in a day
- Difficult track and other short welds due to the recurring process of flipping and lower visibility of the viewing lens
- Inefficient helmet positioning while doing much track welding
- Lack of space for flipping when using it in confined places such as in a car
- Risks of improper timing or failure to lock into position leading to arc flashes in case the arc starts prior to the proper position of the helmet
Basics of Lens
A welding helmet comes with filter lenses, which are also known as filter plates through which the user is able to see the work while protecting the eyes. This protection comes by blocking the harmful rays as well as the intensity of the light
According to some experts, there are two standard sizes of filter lens: 2.5 x 4.25 inches and 4.25 x 5.25 inches.
The lenses are available in a variety of shades of darkness, as per the arc welding process you need to do. As a rule of thumb, the more amps utilized in the process, the darker should be the shade and brighter should be the light.
Well, the filter’s shade has no relation with the protection from the rays. This means that regardless of the shade, the protection should be 100% at any time. Still, the shade has a crucial role to play for protecting the eyes from the welding-emitted intense light
It is a fact that arc welding tends to differ from below 30 amps to over 300 amps. To adjust as per the amperage level, helmets have lenses that vary from shade 3 (lightest) to shade 13 (darkest and maximum protection from the light).
The lighter shades are typically preferable for cutting and brazing, while the darker range from 9 to 13 is for arc welding. In case the selected shade is much darker for the task undertaken, you will be unable to view the weld as it works. If it is much light, the eye protection from the arc’s light will be inadequate. So, it is essential to select the right shade.
The market also offers gold-colored lenses that implement the same numbering system as the conventional lenses. The additional benefit of using the, is minimum reflected glare.
Filter lens needs protection from debris and sprays during welding as well as from flying objects while removing the slag after welding. This protection is offered by cover lens, which is also known as clear lens. Several helmets come with a clear lens.
Protection of filter lens is essential. Otherwise, its lifespan is reduced due to which you need to replace it quite early if it becomes chipped or cracked. If you do not replace, it takes no time for you to get exposed to the harmful rays.
It is advisable to have a curved cover lens to boost visibility. This lens is usually made up of one of the following materials, each with its own benefits and limitations:
- Resilient and clear plastic – most lasting and most economical
- Glass – Improved visibility as compared to plastic, but susceptible to breaking and spray sticking
- Chemically treated glass – Minimal pitting but costly
These types of helmets resolve all issues occurring with the standard ones and aim to make welding easy and safe. The auto-darkening technology gives you a more advanced and a light reactive helmet, which means it gets darker when the torch is activated.
Such helmets are quite different from the standard ones.In these models, the viewing or auto-darkening lens in its inactive state renders a shade of 3 or 4. It is a special liquid crystal display analogous to the display number mechanism in a digital alarm.
As a result, you can see through it just as sunglasses and starting an arc becomes easier, as you can see the TIG torch, MIG gun, or stick electrode’s position.
There are also light sensors on these models, which are near the lens for sensing the arc. Once it is sensed, the sensors immediately darken the lens within 1/12,000 to 1/20,000 of a second, to 8 to 13 shade.
This happens as per welding type, brightness of arc, and heat the sensors obtain. The time above is applicable to the industrial-grade welding helmets.
This ensures that the lens is not too dark to prohibit visibility. Shade 8 is for low-amp jobs, while shade 13 is for high-amp tasks. Top-line models come with extra range of 3 to 8 for cutting or grinding.
Along with sensors, there is an adjustable electronic filter lens rather than a tinted glass piece. Both of them contribute to an easy welding experience.These helmets remain active through the included batteries in them.
Auto-darkening helmets comprises the following three main components:
- Polarization Filter: Operates along with other components to diverge the visible light. Within a helmet, more than one such filter exists, with the first two in the same direction and the last being close to the ultraviolet filter inclines to 90 degrees. The orientation of these filters determine how light is darkened or lightened further when you look via the lens.
- Liquid Crystal (LC) Cell: Twists the light to90 degrees. Just like the polarization filter, there are many LC cells. Residing flat, these cells turn the light after been kindled by electricity. Still, you can adjust them to determine the extent up to which the light should bend. You can even adjust them to prevent refraction of light.
- IR/UV Filter: Aims to eliminate the high level of radiation through the IR/UV coating, which works even if the Auto Darkening Lens (ADL) or Auto Darkening Filter (ADF) is inactive as well as regardless of the shade settings. This lens consists of a fine glass substrate possessing many metallic layers of aluminum oxide and silver. These layers tend to reflect 99.99% of the radiation due to which they shield the user’s eyes within the range of shade set for the ADL. Majority of filter cartridges receive power from a mix of battery and solar power source or only from a battery.
Now, it is easy for you to understand the working of these helmets, as you know about their components and roles. Two polarizing filters exist close to your eyes and are positioned in the same direction as you would observe.
When they are the switch off mode, the LC cells twist the light at 90 degrees. Due to this, the lens possesses a dark shade of 5-6 once you switch off the ADL. This ensures protection. If the ADL does not work, protection assurance for your eyes is 100% even if there is much light.
When you switch on the ADL, the first two polarization filters on the panel of LC with untreated but polarized light waves drops the lens shade to 3.
It is commendable that the user is protected even prior to the darkening of the helmet. These models also aid in retaining the precise torch position and maneuverability for alleviating the risk of neck discomfort and low performance at the time of tact welding.
- Secured down position of the helmet during and after the task; no snaps required
- No need of recurrent helmet flipping due to possibility of observing the welding piece via the viewing lens
- No sloppy start due to the torch’s movement
- Perfect positioning of the electrode or gun
- No fatigue, injury risk, or discomfort in neck
- Smooth track welding and other short welds
- Set up of joint and hood in position due to sustained position of the helmet before, during, and after the task
- Costlier due to the incorporation of advanced technology and materials
- Risk of damage if handled carelessly
- Failure or wear out risk for sensor with time
- Lifetime investment in battery power,
Inference for You: Consider an auto-darkening welding helmet if you are a beginner or an occasional user.
A few variations exist of auto-darkening helmets are available, which are described below.
- Fixed Lens Shade Helmets: Are fine for those whose materials to be welded and welding process with restricted amperage are the same whenever they weld. This is because their shade is fixed and are also consequently inexpensive despite offering the auto-darkening technology. Upon sensing the arc, then sensors automatically darken the lens to a fixed shade 10. They are appropriate only for the process for which it is made. This makes this such helmets inapt for most users, as they do not work with just one kind of metal or same welding process every time. This is why a variable shade model is more preferable. Both standard glass lens and auto-darkening helmets are available with fixed shade lens.
- Variable Lens Shade Helmets: Adjust the level of darkness as per the surrounding’s brightness. This means that you get sufficient coverage regardless of the task or metal to be weld. You also get several shade options, typically ranging from 8 to 9, for clear puddle view and comfy protection for your eyes. Such models are ideal for those who handle different metals as well as use different welding processes.
- Professional and Intermediate Helmets: Have adjustment controls, which are handy while welding with an arc that does not need lots of amps as other arc types or is not bright. It is ideal to have such a model when it is much dark for you to peep out of the window pane.
- Battery and Solar Powered Helmets: Come with a rechargeable lithium battery and a solar panel and a rechargeable lithium battery. Because they need solar energy, it is essential to charge such a model prior to using it. Well, this is not feasible for those who do not like to wait for welding. However, on the plus side, you enjoy incessant performance even if the battery runs out of power, thanks to the solar panel.
The above types are mostly available as a mixed bag. For example, you will easily see a professional grade, variable lens shade helmet running on solar power.
Most of us weld different metals such as aluminum and copper, and with different thicknesses. This is why mostly we depend on different welding processes such as TIG and MIG.
This itself indicate the need of welding amperage ranging from 40 to over 200 amps. Consequently, this invites differing degrees of arc brightness as well.
In such situations, a variable or adjustable shade lens is essential for properly protecting your eyes while having the best puddle view.These adjustments are either outside on the helmet’s side or inside the helmet on the lens.
While most variable shade lenses switch from shade 9 to 13, using shade 13 is rare, as for that, you need to weld with very sensitive eyes or at an extremely high amperage.
Below is the shade selection table that helps in selecting the right welding helmet as per your requirements. However, this is a generic one. You are requested to check the recommendations of your helmet manufacturer as well.
Why I Recommend Auto-darkening Welding Helmet
An auto-darkening type is the supreme choice for protection from radiation regardless of the arc welding type. This is because it comes with superb optical clarity and all-inclusive safety against the impact of arc and heat. Further, there is no need to adjust the gear’s hood constantly for having a better glance.
An auto-darkening helmet incorporates auto light adjustment or control technology due to which there is no need for any considerable manual hood adjustment. The models from top brands come with fast adjustment controls that you can twist conveniently without taking off the gloves.
So, even if you are on a tight budget, I personally advise to be a bit liberal for your own safety and choose an auto-darkening helmet. These helmets beat all the normal TIG or MIG helmets due to quality and unique design.
Which Buying Factors Should You Consider
Although a helmet is a safety gear, it can become a risky affair if you do not buy a quality one. In simple words, for ensuring your own safety, it is always wise to get a quality helmet that is a bit costly.
There is no doubt that you can easily find a cheap helmet. However, for saving money, you actually end up risking your safety and comfort, especially if the artisanship is deficient and construction material is of poor quality.
Due to such a welding helmet in use, you make yourself susceptible to neck strain or fatigue resulting in lifelong injuries. The real culprit is the heaviness of the helmet. Similarly, if shade is insufficient or sensors are deficient, your eyes are likely to get damaged easily.
Moreover, if the viewing window fails to offset the torch’s blinding brightness aptly, you are likely to have a restricted view. Now, this is highly harmful physically as well as operationally.
While there are many welding helmets available in the market, each of them differs in terms of quality, performance, efficiency, and brand. Further, they also have their own pros and cons.
Of all, quality is the most important factor to consider for preventing adverse body exposure to the different harmful arc rays. The helmet that you choose determines your health status after its continued use.
So, it is vital to recognize the importance of choosing the safest and high quality helmet for efficient welding.
Which Factors Should You Consider before Buying a Helmet
Searching such a welding helmet simply does not only involve visiting a store and picking the costliest one on offer.
In fact, it involves brainstorming a bit to know your needs. You need to consider the type of welding process that you will be performing quite frequently while wearing the helmet.
Further, you need to know the helmet features that you prefer. It is also essential to know the duration for which you will be wearing the helmet for a single session and the money you can spend in buying it.
When you know the aforementioned things, it becomes easy to select the best model from an assortment. So, it is essential to know these things BEFORE looking for a helmet.
Which Factors Should You Consider while Buying a Helmet
While all helmets aim to defend you while welding, not all are same in terms of features. Further, there are many types of helmets available, which we saw before in this guide. Based on the type you prefer, you need to focus on its features and benefits, based on the aforementioned requirements.
Doing so makes you shortlist some really promising helmets with the help of the following buying factors. To choose the right helmet from this list, you need to compare the below buying factors and see which ones best fulfills what you need.
Investing time here ensures a helmet that raises your productivity, comfort, and weld quality. While selecting the best welding helmet, keep the following things in mind for comparing the features/factors:
- Arc detection
- Arc view (from your eyes)
- Protection level from helmet
- Comfort level from helmet
Here are the important buying factors to consider.
Adherence to National Safety Standards
It is vital to know that not all helmets adhere to the current safety standards. Before 2003, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard dated back to 1989 when temperature test guidelines were not needed.
Even today, a manufacturer can sell a helmet designed as per this old standard. However, the risk with such a model is the exposure of eyes to the arc due to the slower switching speed and less shade level than what is stated.
So, what you need to ensure? Well, the helmet comes with the safety specification of ‘Z87+’ or ‘ANSI Z87.1 – 2003’. This is the latest safety standard code, which means that the model bears the latest approval of ANSI. Beware, only a label of ‘ANSI Approved’ is not sufficient.
Accepting a helmet package without this code is like defeating the very purpose of buying – safety. ANSI Z87.1 – 2003, also known as ANSI Z87+, is the latest standard that makes it compulsory for the manufacturers of the auto-darkening lens to confirm their asserted specifications with the laboratory tests. So, such a code ensures the performance of the helmet as claimed.
These lab tests are extremely rigorous and involve checking different stuff such as capacity to endure a high velocity impact, switching speed, response of shade under extreme temperatures (cold and hot), and protection level of shade from the radiation regardless of shade setting.
These helmets are tested in temperatures as high as 131 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit, for ensuring uniform protection. This is required if you stay in Texas. In many cases, low temperatures are the major cause of delays in switching times (LCD).
The ANSI Z87.1 standard specifies the requirements regarding the design, build, and testing of eye protection devices, involving the standards for resistance to impact and penetration. This means any safety goggles and shields need to meet this standard.
This eye protection standard specifies the requirements given below:
- Adequate protection against the risks that are covered
- Secure fit, without interacting with vision or movement
- Proper fit over the targeted area
- Ability to disinfect and ease of cleaning
In short, an auto-darkening helmet adhering to the ANSI Z87.1 standard give 100% protection from the harmful rays released by the welding arc, no matter what the shade setting is. While this standard is in the United States, it is CAN/CSA Z94.3 in Canada, which addresses concerns such as impact resistance, flame resistance, and light leakage.
About ANSI: ANSI is a non-profit institution acting as a deliberate administrator of intended conformity of standards in the private sector of the United States. It lacks power to impose compliance with its standards. Still, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) has accepted several ANSI standards as the essential workplace compliance
Although the helmets are available in different patterns and designs, their size and generic shape is significantly regulated by federal regulations. As per OSHO, welding helmets tend to protect the neck, forehead, ears, and face along with the ears’ back, from the direct radiant energy of the arc as well as weld spatter.
However, even a helmet of highest quality does not offer total protection. This is because OSHA says that the helmets are not responsible for giving protection from wire wheel bristles, grinding fragments, and slag chips
These risks are the ones that reflect under a helmet. So, it is essential to use goggles or some other suitable eye protector.
This is one of the vital considerations while choosing an auto-darkening welding helmet. Usually, the typical view size ranges from 5 sq. in. for light-duty welding to 10 sq. in. for industrial as well as heavy-duty projects.
Choosing the viewing size is a matter of personal preference as well as comfort. However, you should also consider the type of welding and quantity of out-of-position welding you will be doing.
Generally, a smaller viewing area might be fine for a part time welder, while a bigger one may appeal to an industrial worker.
Most helmets differ in terms of viewing sizes and positions of viewing. For most users, the bigger size is a better option but this is dependent on the set budget.Wisely, you should go for a larger viewing area for different positions.
The viewing size also includes the optional side windows. This is an additional feature that ensures peripheral visibility. However, choose it only if you do not get distracted while working.
Still, having side windows is handy because they allow viewing the formerly hidden peripheral risks such as obstacles and beams via the two side lens of shade 5. They also come with shade 13 UV/10 IR safety and facilitate you to move around swiftly as well as safely.
Lens Reaction Time or Lens Switching Speed
This is the specification that manufacturers of auto-darkening helmets tend to advertise by stating a number. It indicates the pace at which the lens tends to switch from its innate light state or inactive shade(shade 3 or 4) to a dark state or active shade (8 or 8+) while starting to weld.
It is better to have a quick dark shade for your eyes to remain protected from the high-intensity light. If the reaction time is too slow, it results in eye discomfort in the form of arc flash or a dry itchy sensation.
The switching speed for entry-level lenses is usually rated at 1/3,600 of a second. Similarly, for the professional and intermediate level helmets, it is 1/16,000 of a second or even quicker. The industrial helmets have a switching speed of 1/20,000 of a second.
A few manufacturers specify this rating as a decimal. You need to divide 1 by 3600 or 1 by 16,000 to compare the ratings of all shortlisted or promising models.
As a rule of thumb, the more the switching speed, the costlier is the helmet and lens. It is recommended paying more for a quicker lens for the sake of comfort.
If you weld with a lens at 1/3,600 throughout the day, the reaction time is really slower. This means that exposure of eyes to arch light is more, which makes your eyes fatigued at the end of the day. However, this risk goes away with a faster switching speed.
So, it is best to have 1/20,000 switching speed for various short welds.The more arcs you trigger daily, the more you will admire a higher speed. This is because a fast switching speed offers maximum protection from the harmful arc rays.
In short, the faster the lens switches or larger the fraction number is, the better it is for your eyes even though it is costlier. Consider having lens rated as 1A for reliable switching and more sensitivity, which is better to have.
You need to also check the optical quality of lens, which should have the rating of EN379 1/1/1/1.Here, one is the highest and three is the lowest rating. When you have such lens with side windows, the view is just fantastic.
This is a third party highest score wherein, each measure is pertaining of clarity in terms of optical accuracy, light diffusion, difference in luminous transferal (light or dark areas), and angle dependence of luminous transferal. The rating indicates how clear is the view without stretching, dark areas, and haziness or vie issues via the lens at an angle.
As mentioned before, auto-darkening helmets come with a number of sensors that detect the arc to activate the darkening shift. The position, number, and sensitivity of these sensors play a crucial role to make the helmet aware of the flanking light level every time.
Well, it is the number of these sensors that significantly separate the basic helmets from the professional models. The number of sensors determines the extent of coverage it offers. Usually, basic helmets come with two sensors, whereas the professional ones have three or four sensors.
Expectedly, the more the arc sensors, the less is the chance of the helmet falling short of darkening at the right time. This is perhaps due to the fact that the presence of more sensors means less probability of all of them to get hindered.
While two sensors are sufficient for a DIY or hobby user, four sensors are more helpful for those who do much out-of-position welding wherein the sensors may get hindered or fabrication work. Three sensors are sufficient for production work or when you are sure of a clear line of sight.
For industrial use, four sensors are advisable for better coverage. So, it is vital to consider the number of sensors a welding helmet has.
Many experts recommend four sensors, which they consider it as an ideal number. Unlike a two-sensor model, a four-sensor helmet usually has a blind spot where it is unable to pick up. After all, you need instant protection when a spark or flame is there.
Along with the right number of lenses, ensure that you get a helmet with good sensitivity rating. Search for models with a sensitivity rating of 1 amp. For low amp TIG, choose a model with a center sensor to prevent losing the arc sight while both hands are busy at work.
Adjustable Sensitivity Control
Not all auto-darkening helmets come with this handy utility that allows setting the sensitivity level of the lens. However, it is the best to have such an adjustable sensitivity control, which enables adjusting the level of brightness for activating the lens to darken.
It ensures a better work view by adjusting it as per the amount of ambient light and intensity of arc. Such a sensitivity control is handy while welding at a low amperage and with not that bright arc.
This feature is mostly present in intermediate and professional auto-darkening helmets. It is essential if you will be operating on tack weld or performing TIG welding, as the brightness of arc is lower than other types of welding.
Adjustable Delay Control
This is also an equally handy feature as the adjustable sensitivity control. It enables setting the duration for which the lens should remain dark once the arc is extinguished or its work is completed.
A short delay is preferable for tack welding, as it aids to complete the work faster as you relocate for the next weld. On the other hand, a long delay is useful for welding at a very high amperage level. This is because the molten metal may yet release harmful radiations until it cools down, from which your eyes still need protection.
Depending on the price and brand, the control features are implemented via toggle switches for fast or slow delay and for low and high sensitivity. Professional level models usually come with infinite range dials for ensuring optimal adjustment capability.
Note: Entry-level auto-darkening helmets do not come with delay control ability.
All auto-darkening helmets need a power source, which can be batteries (normally lithium), solar panels, or a mix of the two.
If you consider solar-powered helmets, their lifespan runs into decades, which significantly exceeds their battery counterparts. In the long run, the solar models prove to be cheaper, as there is no need to buy new batteries.
Conversely, battery-powered helmets need no foresight unlike the ones that run on solar power, which need few hours of sunlight prior to operation. You can use a battery-powered helmet instantly. Moreover, the solar helmets need recharging for a couple of hours when they run out of power.
Talking about the cons of battery powered helmets for welding, they tend to increase the electricity bill as well as make you put more money for replacing the existing battery with a new one.
To eliminate the cons of both the sources and provide the pros of the two, a welding helmet with a non-disposable lithium battery and an included solar panel is advised. Such helmets are gaining much popularity.
The solar-assisted battery-powered models give the best of both worlds: Charging battery cells through solar energy and Switching batteries immediately when required.
A few auto-darkening helmets come with a non-replaceable battery and a solar panel. These models need charging in direct sunlight before use and after being stored for an extended time. This is annoying for those who wish to weld instantly.
Further, if the battery runs out, the lens does not work and you need to stop your job and put it for recharging under the sun. So, it is better to choose a model having a replaceable battery and a solar panel for welding right away. You can now quickly replace the battery.
You can choose from two types of batteries namely, lithium and AAA. Lithium batteries are ideal for those who are looking for an extended battery life to enjoy a longer run time.
However, they come with higher replacement cost, as they are a bit limited in availability. If this is your concern, go for AAA batteries that are economical to replace, as they are available in plenty. The normal AAA battery life for MIG welding is around 2,000 hours.
Here is a brief of replaceable versus non-replaceable batteries:
- Built using lithium due to which they are lighter and brings down the weight of helmet
- Flexible enough to get replaced anywhere without requiring you to stop your work
- Cost-efficient and efficient helmets
- No need to buy a new helmet
- Built using lead due to which the helmet’s weight is more
- Not rechargeable
- Need to buy new battery once the power gets over
- Costly helmets
Just keep in mind that higher quality helmets come with replaceable batteries. However, be vigilant of those solar powered models that come with non-removable internal batteries. They are not that popular.
Helmet Weight and Adjustability
You obviously cannot bear a heavy weight on your face while welding. So, it is essential to check out the weight of the welding helmet. If the helmet is too heavy, it can cause stress to your shoulder and discomfort in neck while welding for a long period in just one shift.
So, it makes sense to choose a lighter helmet, which reduces fatigue and strain on the shoulder as well as neckwhile increasing comfort.
Still, you need to be vigilant and thoughtful while choosing the right weight. This is because although a difference of one pound in weight may seem to be fine for some short welds, it is burdensome for an all-day task. It is much like ease for initial seconds and burden within two minutes.
So, it is best to choose a welding helmet that is as light as possible. The lighter, the better it is for your health! The heavier, the more pressure is on your neck to invite discomfort and fatigue.
You should not buy a helmet weighing more than 10 pounds, which is a weight limit. However, try looking for a helmet weighing one pound, especially if you need to wear it throughout the day.
As a tip, consider getting a helmet with several bands rather than just one band. This is because the whole helmet weight is concentrated in one band in case of a model with single band, which makes the helmet heavier.
Another feature to look along with weight is adjustability. The helmet that you buy for safe welding should be adjustable in all four directions: Front, Rear, Up, and Down. Moreover, you should be able to tighten the helmet with ease around the head so that it does fall off when you bend.
You can choose from two types of knobs namely, external and internal. External knob, as the name suggests, is on the exterior part of a helmet.
This means that you can effortlessly adjust the helmet without taking your helmet out. However, it is tough to work in a restricted region with such a knob, as the surroundings can accidentally change it.
On the other hand, an internal knob is inside the helmet due to which you need to take off the helmet whenever you wish to adjust it. However, there is no risk of inadvertent change in the adjustments if you are welding in a confined area.
Internal knobs are somewhat a hassle, as you need to take off the helmet whenever you need to modify something. On the other hand, external knobs enable you to change the settings with ease, which also saves energy as well as time. They are also convenient to have in tight spaces. So, go for external controls or knobs.
It is obvious to have a helmet that ensures a good fit. Only such a helmet provides more protection as well as more comfort. With the apt fitting, no part of your skin will be exposed to the harmful IR or UV rays.
Further, a fitting helmet also prevents the hot molten spatter from touching your facial skin, which defends you from awful burns. For best fit, you need to have the most suitable headgear. It is actually the biggest selling draw, these days and allows re-adjusting the helmet when it is on your head.
For optimal fit and maximum comfort, it is advisable to consider the number of adjustments the gear has on offer, like position adjustments and angle adjustments. Above all, the headgear should be durable.
You should also look for the automatic park feature. It ensures that the helmet stays upright when you lift it back. Isn’t this a safety feature to consider?
Skin Coverage for Maximum Protection
Well, this should be maximized for maximum protection. Skin coverage refers to the amount of neck the helmet covers. It should be as big as possible. After all, you need to protect your neck from the IR and UV rays.
Many helmets are designed for covering more head, neck, and ear areas. The design may even expand on the side, top, and base for more coverage than other helmets.
To get the right amount of protection, you need to consider the type of welding process and amperage level. For high amperage jobs, you need a bigger head top for maximum protection. A flame-resistant fabric might be affixed for extra protection to face.
Many welding helmets come with magnifying lenses, which are also termed as cheaters. These lens either clip to the helmet or you wear it as a corrective lens underneath it.
In the clip form, the lens needs to be of the lowest diopter so that you can get to view clearly. For those below 40, the diopter is normally +1.75. On the other hand, users above 40+ of age go for a higher level.
This factor points to a multi-functioning helmet that can protect you while performing plasma cutting, TIG welding, or MIGwelding. You will such a helmet if you will be performing all of these operations sooner or in near future.
Well, this is the helmet with a variable filter lens that facilitates these processes. Usually, shade 5 to 8 is superb for plasma cutting, while TIG welding as a low amperage process might need extra sensitivity settings for adjusting the sensors.
Obviously, the helmet needs to be lasting. It should be powerful enough to endure high impact or harsh knocks. Similarly, the helmet should remain intact even if it falls from hand or work table. In short, the build quality should be such that the helmet stands the test of time.
This feature of a welding helmet indicates that the auto-darkening ability is fixable in the light state until the grinding process. This averts the filter from darkening because of flashes at the time of grinding.
A few helmets come with a flawless grinding visor beneath the mask, which is costlier but is a time saver and keeps the need of two head tops away.
A welding process can emit fine particles, harmful gases,and smoke. These emissions lead to nausea, headache, and other respiratory issues. If you ignore it, you might be vulnerable to some critical disorder.
To keep these risks away, it is wise to choose a welding helmet with a blower filter that can strain gas and particles. The filter also should come with a central air supply for alleviating the risks of respiratory issues.
Many helmets come with air respirators and air regulators for supplying air to the breathing region. You can use them with supplied and powered air – a vital facility due to changing respiratory protection needs with time.
Overhead Welding Facility
At times, due to confined welding application or material, you need to choose overhead welding. In this case, the helmet should be robust enough to defend from the sparks or molten metal without compromising with the proper torch view.
Adjustable Rack (for Eyes with Spectacles)
Consider having this feature on the headband of your helmet if you wear spectacles. The adjustable rack provides more room for using spectacles. However, if the maker is offering magnifying lenses, then there is no need of using spectacles.
Ensure that the headband fits well and is of good quality. It aims to soak up perspiration, which is helpful in the hot and humid environment. This also adds to comfort.
This is essential if you wish the helmet to remember your settings for jobs that you do frequently. There are some helmets that allow you to pre-set it for remembering the most frequently used settings such as the sensitivity level, dark shade, and delay.
The Personal Touch
It is fact that a welding helmet is visible and constantly in use while at work. However, it is also a cool source for reflecting the user’s personality at a job site. Keeping this in mind, the makers no longer confine helmets to safety and utility.
The modern models, in fact, are available in a variety of colors instead of just a black colored T shaped model. Taking a step further, many models come with customization kits with decals, while a few offer pre-imprinted pictorial themes, such as skulls, tattoos, flags, comic superheroes, hot rods, cartoons, and angel wings.
Decorative treatment to a helmet has taken a variety of forms, including glossy finish. This is how the modern helmets make an appeal to particular groups, such as he workers of a challenging task and female welders.
These filters aim to give you more protection while welding. Several helmets feature auto filters that enable the lens to modify colors as well as filters. However, this depends on the welding process’ brightness.
To get the right filters, ensure that they switch from a higher to a lower level. If this is what you can ensure, additional protection is said to be in your hand.
Well, this should be either heavy plastic or high quality nylon. If you are planning to go for an economical model, ensure that you know what materials make up your helmet. Just make it sure that the construction material is of a high quality. Only then it will stand up to the extreme harsh conditions at the time of welding.
More Latest Considerations
If you are an industrial welder, there are some latest and beneficial inclusions to the auto-darkening helmets. These are:
- Aluminum heat shield for defending lens from jobs requiring high amperage (300+ amps) or high heat
- Silver coloring to redirect heat away from the user
- Gaskets for absorbing shocks and increasing lifespan
Without choosing a reliable brand, you seriously cannot get a good, reliable helmet. Therefore, before you shortlist the helmets, you need to shortlist the brands. While several brands are known to offer a variety of welding helmets, not all of them have managed to gain wide popularity.
To simplify your task selecting the best brand, I have listed some really good brands to consider:
Miller, Hobart, Instapark, Antra, Lincoln, Jackson, Speedglas, Coocher
Top 5 Welding Helmets
After knowing about the aforementioned factors, I was able to choose the best helmet for my job from the following top 5 that I had shortlisted. All of them have rating of 4+ out of 5.
Miller 235626 Welding Helmet:
It is a Miller quality passive model featuring a lightweight design weighing only 1.1 pounds. It comes with a fixed shade lens of 10 and is not an auto-darkening model. The helmet also features a filter plate of industry standard size, internal cover lens, viewing area of 16 sq. inches, magnifying lens holder, and a headgear of ratchet style.
Antra AH6-260-0000 Solar Power Auto Darkening Welding Helmet:
It is a more expensive model than the aforementioned passive one, but very affordable than the other costlier auto-darkening helmets. Believe me, it is still quite affordable model with lightweight build, versatility, and durability. The helmet operates on an included replaceable lithium battery.
- Weight: 435g
- Protection for/Versatility:Arc welding or cutting processes such as SMAW, Arc, TIG, MIG, MAG, and Plasma
- Shades: Variable (4, 5-9, 10-13)
- Viewing Area: 98mm x 44mm / 3.78″ x 1.78″
- Switching Speed: 0.00004 seconds with 1/2/1/3 optical clarity to reduce eye fatigue
- Delay Time: 0.1-1.0 seconds
- Safety Standards: ANSIZ87.1/DIN/EN397 CSA Z94.3
- Sensors: 4
- UV/IR Protection: DIN 16
- Material: High Impact Polyimide Nylon
Features: Magnifying glass, 6 additional outer lenses, one inner lens, grinding mode, fully auto power on/off, adjustable and step-less sensitivity and delay controls, headgear (less than a minute assembly), adaptor for fiber metal hard hat, Permanent Shade 16 for protection even in case of electric failure, Light state shade 4, Dark state shade 5-9/9-13
Instapark ADF Series GX-350S Solar Powered Auto Darkening Welding Helmet:
It is a lightweight, ergonomically designed, variable shade helmet operating on built-in solar cell with a built-in battery. This battery is rechargeable but not replaceable. The auto-darkening filter significantly alleviates the need to flip between torch placements, which increases productivity. This also minimizes grinding and rework by boosting the accuracy of torch placement.
- Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Protection for/Versatility:TIG, MIG, Stick
- Shades: 9-13 with optical clarity of 1/1/1/2
- Viewing Area: 3.5″ x 1.375″
- Switching Speed: 1/15,000 seconds
- Delay Time: 0.1-0.45 second
- Safety Standards: GS, DIN-Geprüft, CE, ANSI Z87.1, CSA Z94.3, AS/NZS standards
- Sensors: 2
- UV/IR Protection: DIN 16
- Material: Composite
Features: Resting shade 4, ratchet style headband for custom fit, padded interior, external shade control, fully auto on/off, auto sensitivity control, grinding function
Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 Black Welding Helmet with 4C Lens Technology – K3034-3:
It is the costliest one in this list but, is worth your money. For your money, it gives the largest viewing area in the Viking line and best optical clarity along with solar powered panel and rechargeable battery. This helmet comes with the most ideal 4C technology for clearer view, which appeals to a variety of industries such as shipbuilding, power generation, general fabrication, and structural and pipeline tasks implementing several welding processes. You can also expect even shade from all angles.
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Protection for/Versatility: Any welding process
- Shades: 5-13, internal with optical clarity of 1/1/1/1 (EN379)
- Viewing Area: 3.74″ x 3.34″
- Switching Speed: 1/25,000
- Delay Time: 0.1-1.0 adjustable
- Safety Standards: CE and ANSI Z87 standards
- Sensors: 4
- UV/IR Protection: DIN 16 all the time
- Material: Composite
Features: Magnifying glasses, pivot style headgear for greater optimal fit and maximized comfort,better clarity, 4C Lens Technology for minimal eye strain and boosted visibility by alleviating the conventional lime green tint, real color view, wide screen view, boosted battery life, continuous sensitivity control, helmet bag, hard hat capable,
Coocheer Solar Arc TIG MIG Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet Professional Mask:
It is the most affordable model in this list and makes a visual appeal with its animal pattern design. It is designed for arc and cutting processes and gives protection from UV and IR radiation, even in case of electric failure. The helmet is powered by solar energy and lithium rechargeable battery.
- Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Protection for/Versatility: Electro and gas welding processes (not laser)
- Shades: 9-13 with optical clarity of 1/2/1/3
- Viewing Area: 3.5″ x 1.375″
- Switching Speed: 1/15000
- Delay Time: 0.8-0.15 seconds
- Safety Standards:GS, DIN-Geprüft, CE, ANSI Z87.1, CSA Z94.3, AS/NZS standards
- Sensors: 2
- UV/IR Protection: DIN 16
- Material: PP, fire retardant
Features: Grinding mode, 10 years of life expectancy, high performance solar cells and replaceable lithium battery, high definition protective filter, adjustable sensitivity and delay controls, DIN4 light state
Well, there are several things to consider before as well as while buying a welding helmet. So, this purchase is certainly not going to be an instant affair. Still, you should not hesitate in looking for all the above factors, as doing so is the only way to get to the most required helmet.
As a time-saving step, take some time to reflect upon the welding space and the environment, and then look for a helmet as per your budget and requirements. Spending time for getting the right helmet is wise if welding is a part of your profession or DIY home jobs.
What you need to care of while buying a welding helmet is that you need not bring too cheap or too expensive model. While there are many cheap helmets available, the ones with minimum price are not advisable for the beginners. This is because a lower price means lower quality.
In the pursuit of saving more money, it is not rational to buy a cheap model and then get disappointed as it breaks. Similarly, there are many expensive welding helmets but they are not necessary for normal welding jobs.
Consider investing in a good quality helmet for a beginner until you intend to upgrade quality in near future. Without getting tempted to buy a cheap model or put off while exploring expensive models, you need to choose a welding helmet wisely by spending time in looking for all options giving benefits in the long run.
Welding helmets have evolved significantly since the last decade to offer several new utilities to boost productivity, comfort, and protection. However, if you search nicely, the right helmet tends to last for many years and assures your safety.
So, why not look for your best welding helmet from today? You can go through the reviews here.