It’s crucial to choose the right one to ensure your safety and the quality of your work. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss the various factors to consider when selecting the perfect welding helmet for your needs.
How do I choose a welding helmet? If you need to purchase a welding helmet, here are some things you need to consider:
- Single fixed shade vs. variable shade lens
- Switching Speed
- Power source (for auto-darkening helmets)
- Look for a helmet that is lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Make sure they meet the current safety standard
- True-color technology
Table of Contents
1. The Importance of a Quality Welding Helmet
A welding helmet is not a piece of equipment where you should cut corners. Investing in a high-quality helmet is essential to avoid long-term injuries and protect your eyesight while working. Some of the potential hazards of an inadequate welding helmet include:
- Excessive weight causes neck strain and fatigue, leading to long-term injuries.
- Insufficient shade options or sensors, leave your eyes vulnerable to damage from welding flashes.
- Poorly designed helmets that can’t compensate for fluorescent lights, resulting in limited visibility while working.
2. Factors to Consider When Choosing a Welding Helmet
There are several factors to consider when purchasing a welding helmet, including the range of jobs you plan on doing, how long you’ll wear the helmet, and your budget. In this guide, we’ll discuss the following key factors:
- Weight and Comfort
- Lens Shade Options
- Auto-Darkening vs. Fixed Shade
- Viewing Area Size
- Helmet Fit
- Power Source
- Coverage and Protection
- Respiratory Protection
2.1 Weight and Comfort
A lightweight welding helmet, weighing around 20 oz, is ideal for professional welders who wear their helmets all day. These helmets can help prevent neck pain and fatigue. However, if you’re only welding as a hobby or for side projects, a less expensive, heavier helmet might suffice.
2.2 Lens Shade Options
The lens shade options available in a welding helmet play a crucial role in protecting your eyes from bright flashes while welding. A standard 9-13 shade range is suitable for most jobs, while a 6-13 shade range offers additional grinding modes for increased convenience. Some helmets also provide slots or clips for magnifying or “cheater” lenses, which can help you see smaller weld joints more clearly.
2.3 Auto-Darkening vs. Fixed Shade
Auto-darkening welding helmets are popular due to their ability to protect your eyes from welding flashes and provide an easy start to your work without flipping the helmet down. They come with sensors that activate the shade when an arc is struck. However, once you learn to weld with an auto-darkening helmet, it may be challenging to switch back to a fixed shade helmet.
Fixed shade helmets are more economical and may be suitable for those who primarily work with one welding style and material. It’s essential to choose the correct shade based on the welding process and arc current amperage, as outlined in ANSI Z49.1:2005 (AWS F2.2).
The number of sensors in a welding helmet affects its ability to catch flashes while you work. The best welding helmets have four sensors, ideal for out-of-position welding and ensuring you’re always protected. Less expensive helmets may have only two sensors, which are suitable for regular position welds but may not catch every flash in more complex positions.
2.5 Viewing Area Size
A larger viewing area allows you to see more of your workpiece while welding. The latest Viking helmets from Lincoln, for example, have an especially large viewing area measuring 3.74 x 3.34 inches. Your choice of viewing area size will likely come down to personal preference and the requirements of your specific welding projects.
2.6 Helmet Fit
A properly fitting welding helmet is essential for protecting your skin from burns caused by spatter or UV rays. Any exposed skin can be at risk, especially when working on highly reflective materials like aluminum. To ensure maximum protection, invest in a helmet that fits you well and consider using a welding bib for additional coverage if needed.
2.7 Power Source
Welding helmets can be powered by batteries, solar panels, or a combination of both. Ensure that the helmet you choose has a replaceable power source to avoid issues down the road. Solar-powered helmets can help extend battery life but may not be replaceable themselves. Many welders prefer a combination power source or battery-only helmets for easier maintenance. An auto-off feature can also help conserve power and ensure your helmet is always ready when you need it.
2.8 Coverage and Protection
The level of coverage and protection provided by your welding helmet should be based on the type of welding you perform and your work environment. At a minimum, your helmet should cover your eyes, face, ears, and ideally, your entire head and neck. Balance protection with comfort and practicality, and consider additional accessories like hard hat adapters or fire-resistant bibs if necessary.
2.9 Respiratory Protection
Respiratory protection is a crucial consideration when choosing a welding helmet. NIOSH N-95 rated masks or powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) units compatible with your welding helmet can help protect your lungs from dust, particulates, and welding fumes. Ensure your workspace is well-ventilated or equipped with fume extraction equipment for added safety.
The cost of a welding helmet can vary greatly based on its features and quality. Basic helmets can cost less than $40 while premium P AP R equipped models can exceed $2,000. Prioritize your safety and invest in a high-quality helmet that meets your specific needs and budget.
3. Making the Right Choice
Now that you have a better understanding of the various factors involved in choosing the right welding helmet, you can make an informed decision based on your needs, preferences, and budget.
Remember that your safety and the quality of your work depend on the helmet you choose, so take the time to research your options and invest in the best helmet for your welding projects.
Popular Choices for Welding Helmets
Here are some popular choices for welding helmets in 2020. Check them out and see if you find any helmets that interest you.
- Lincoln Electric Welding Helmet 3350 Series
- Antra AH6-260-0000 Power Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100
- ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet
- Doitpower Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- Jackson Safety 46131 Insight Variable Auto- Darkening Welding Helmet
- Lincoln Electric Basic Welding Helmet
- Jackson Safety Fixed Shade W10 HSL 100 Welding Helmet
- Lincoln Electric Red Fierce Auto- Darkening Welding Helmet
- Tekware Ultra Large Viewing Screen True Color Solar Power Auto Darkening Welding Helmet,
Related reading: How to Properly Clean a Welding Helmet Lens – Fast and Easy
1. Lincoln Electric Viking Welding Helmet 3350 Series
The Lincoln Viking is a popular helmet among many welders. It wraps around the head and covers it well. It acts like a hard hat with a high-impact resistance material. The 12.5 sq inch viewing window size is the best part. It’ll be easy to see what you’re doing with a true-color large screen. It can come in a wide range of colorful styles.
- Has true-color
- Auto-darkening filter
- Grind mode
- Optical clarity
- 4 sensors
- Sometimes the headgear can feel loose and won’t stay on tight
- There are claims that some of the light can get inside behind the helmet.
- Price: High
2. Antra AH6-260-0000 Power Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The Antra AH6 delivers a lot of features for a reasonable price. It comes with a spacious viewing window (not as large as the Lincoln viking, but it’s still nice). It comes with an extra shield for grind mode.
It’s an electric welding helmet that uses solar power. You won’t find another helmet with that many features for such a low price. The shading of the lens can switch to shade #13, which is one of the darkest settings. This would be a good helmet for beginners that want something a bit more modern, but not expensive.
- Auto-darkening filter
- Quick grind mode
- Optical clarity
- Adjustable delay/sensitivity
- 2 Arc sensors
- Fast switching time
- Price: Low
- The biggest downside is the plastic covering is not very strong and durable. It wouldn’t be ideal for industrial use.
- Lenses may auto-darken differently if exposed to sunlight while welding
Are Cheap Welding Helmets Any Good?
Yes. They are effective and you can find a helmet with multiple features for a reasonable price. (Remember the Antra AH6) They do the job and protect you fairly well. They don’t last as long though. So, it really depends on how often you plan on welding. After all, there’s no need to spend $250 if you’re only going to do welding occasionally.
However, if you’re going to be doing industrial welding for a living, you’re probably going to need to spend a bit more money to get a better helmet. Staring at the welding arc frequently can cause long-term damage to your eyes without proper protection. Also, the industrial helmets have a harder cover that can protect your head.
Are Auto-Darkening Lenses Bad For My Eyes?
If you’re worried about the effects of auto-darkening lenses on your eyes, you’re not alone. Many welders expressed concern about the auto-darkening lenses when they first became new.
Rest assured that the auto-darkening helmets don’t damage eyes if they’re used properly. The most important thing you can do is to make sure the batteries are fully charged in the helmet prior to each use.
Related reading: Are Auto-Darkening Welding Helmets Safe? What You Need To Know
Even if the auto-darkening lens is accidentally switched off for a moment, there are multiple layers of lenses layered on top of each other with a strong filter that protects the eyes from the effects of the welding arc.
It may help if you adjust the switching delay time, where the shield changes from one shade to another. And use a shade that is most comfortable for you (and easy on the eyes).
What To Do If Your Auto-Darkening Lens Stops Working
The usual solution is to replace the battery. So, if your helmet stops working for some reason, check the battery first. Typically, there’s a sensor light that will go off if the batteries are low.
If your helmet doesn’t have any replacement batteries and it’s still auto-darkening at incorrect times, then it may be time to buy a new welding helmet.
How Dark Should I Set My Welding Helmet?
#3-#4 shade is considered light and transparent, whereas #13 is the darkest. If you plan on doing serious welding with high amperage, then between #9 and #13 would be best. You can play with it and see which one is comfortable for your eyes.
If you have an auto-darkening helmet, then it will do the guesswork for you. Although some of them come with preset shade modes.
How Do I Use the Control Setting On My Welding Helmet?
If you have an auto-darkening helmet, then most likely you have knobs and switches to control the following:
- Light sensitivity
- Delay (Switching)
The light sensitivity controls the amount of light needed to turn on the auto-darkening feature. You can set your helmet to turn very dark when it detects the arc light.
The delay option controls the speed of the shade change, where one shade is switched over to a different (darker) shade. You can adjust the control to make it switch over faster or slower.
The shade controls are about adjusting how dark the lenses become once it detects light. Number one, is considered very mild, like natural light.
Related reading: How to Adjust an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet: A Quick Guide
How Long Do They Last?
- Standard welding helmets can last a long time, with the exception of cracked screens, which can be easily replaced.
- The electric helmets usually lasts about 3 years
- Industrial helmets can withstand more than 5000 hours of constant welding before they’ll start showing signs of wear.
Most of the time the higher end helmets will come with a warranty for a certain amount of time. If the parts become damaged or worn before the warranty is over, you can return it to the manufacturer to have it repaired or replaced.
How to Pick a Welding Helmet >> Check out the video below