Guide to Buying an Amazing Welding Helmet
Welding is a demanding process that requires intense amounts of concentration and the ability to work under some pretty demanding circumstances. Whether you’re working with a stick, TIG, or MIG welder, there are also a slew of safety concerns that you must pay attention to in order to keep yourself and your coworkers away from harm. On top of it all, there’s the matter of productivity and efficiency, all of which is directly impacted by the type of welding helmet you use.
If you’re looking to purchase a new welding helmet, but aren’t quite sure what model you should pick or what features are most important, then you’re in luck, because this is the best welding helmet buying guide you’re going to come across. Period.
This is one of the biggest factors you’re going to encounter when it comes to choosing a new welding helmet, since there have actually been a lot of innovations in lens filters since the old days of welding. If you’re not interested in anything fancy or high tech, then you’re going to want what’s called a passive lens, which is simply a tinted piece of glass that sits in the eyepiece of the helmet. These models are what has been in use for decades by welders, and typically they appear in a flip mechanism so you can lift the glass up and get an unobstructed view of the weld zone.
On the other hand, if you want a helmet that will automatically handle switching from a standard view to a protected view, then you’re going to be looking at an auto-darkening filter (ADF) lens. These lenses use external sensors to detect the presence of a welding arc and automatically darken the filter to give you the appropriate amount of eye protection. Some models offer additional features such as a change delay or light sensitivity controls, but these can be more expensive. Check out this article if you want to learn more about auto-darkening filters and passive lenses.
The shade range only appears on helmets with an auto-darkening filter, as these models are able to switch to different shades depending on the type of arc they detect. In order to give you the widest range of protection, and thus allow you to take on the biggest variety of tasks, you’re going to look for helmets that have a shade range of #9 to #13. This is enough to cover most MIG, TIG, and stick welding at a good variety of averages. Also, make sure that the resting shade is around #3 or #4, so that you can still see properly when you’re not in the middle of actually welding.
Again, the response time only comes into play when you’re looking at ADF lenses, since a passive lens requires you to manually put it into place over your field of vision. When looking at the response time, first start with the time going from light to shade, as this is how quickly the filter is able to put the shade into place and protect your eyes. In most cases, you’re going to want to look for models that have at least a 1/3600 of a second reaction time, which is incredibly fast and enough to cover most standard situations. If you’re a professional welder or plan on doing something that involves a lot of starts and stops, you might want a faster response time, though this does come down to your own skill level and your specific needs.
Without question, you should always make sure that your welding helmet has the appropriate safety certifications before you put it into use out on the job. Most helmets are made to comply with ANSI safety standards for protective eyewear, though some may also offer certification for the standards of other countries, such as Canada or Australia and New Zealand. You should find out what standards are commonly followed wherever you plan to use the helmet in order to find out if a model meets all the requirements for your job site.
The standards all have to do with the helmet’s ability to protect your eyes from harmful UV or IR rays, which are emitted by the arc of the welding stick or torch when it is in use. In addition to this, you should also make sure that the helmet properly covers your face, as welding often puts you in a situation where you may come into contact with sparks or flying debris from the metal. Remember, some helmets may not cover your ears or other parts of your head and neck, so you may need to look into other additional safety equipment to obtain the highest level of protection.
Finding a helmet that’s the right size for you can often be a difficult process, as some models don’t include any details about the actual size of the unit and how much room it has for the wearer. Even worse, other models may use a standardized “Large” or “Small” rating, which doesn’t really say anything, or they may not even offer any kind of sizing customization. This can become a serious issue for women, younger welders, or men that would typically shop at a “big and tall” store. If you have concerns about the helmet fitting, look for a model that includes an internal strap system, as this enables you to expand and contract a rig inside the helmet to fit your head comfortably.
When you’re looking at a passive lens welding mask, you don’t have to worry about power sources at all, since they don’t require any power to use. However, once you start looking at the ADF models, then you’re going to be looking at various battery-powered models. The biggest decision is whether or not you want a replaceable battery unit or a model with an internal lithium battery with a solar backup.
The solar powered models don’t call for any extra battery purchases, but must be charged before use. Non-solar models don’t have any charging times, obviously, but do mean that you’ll have to keep purchasing batteries and always have some on hand, otherwise your lens will not be able to operate.
The majority of the extra features you’re going to see on welding helmets have to do with the ADF lens, such as a delay in response time. This is helpful for projects such as tack welding, where you would need to set a very short delay, or for high amperage projects that would require some cool down time even after you stop the arc. Many models also offer the ability to switch to a grinding mode, or options to adjust the sensors to account for the ambient light in the area. These features can increase the price of the helmet, but are all designed to also increase your productivity and comfort in the process.
Most passive lens helmets are pretty basic in terms of their features, since there aren’t any electronic components that would allow for extra features, though you might see some models that support different lens shades or that have various adjustable straps on the inside. These are definitely the models to choose if you don’t want to deal with any of the extras that come with ADF models.
I would be remiss to talk about welding helmets and not touch on their appearances at least a little bit. You’re going to come across a lot of models that have fun images on the exterior, like flames, scantily-clad women, or patriotic imagery. These can help you express your personality and keep your gear distinguished from that of your coworkers. But it’s important to remember that the look of a helmet should never be more important than it’s features and safety ratings.
After looking at all the different elements that make up the welding helmets on the market today, it all pretty much comes down to whether or not you want an auto-darkening filter or a passive lens model. Passive lenses tend to be cheaper, but can make the work harder than it has to be. If you want to increase productivity, stay safe, and give yourself every advantage, than an ADF helmet is best, as long as the other features line up with your specific needs and preferences.