How To Choose A Welding Helmet: What To Consider


How-To-Choose-a-Welding-Helmet

When you’re on the job as a welder, the helmet is an essential tool. They provide protection and help welders perform their job comfortably. After all, staring at the light of a welding arc without a helmet can cause a lot of issues– right? There used to be one type of welding helmet, but now there are several types, and they have different applications.

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
  • Cost

Welding helmets are imperative when it comes to protecting your eyes and skin. Knowing which one is right for you can be a bit tricky unless you know what to look for. Here’s some information to help.

Welding Helmets

A welding helmet is a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) that’s required for welding. Willson Products came out with the first type of welding helmets in 1937 to prevent “arc eye,” where the retina is burned from prolonged exposure to high levels of ultraviolet rays from the welding arc flame. This could lead to blindness. It also covers the entire face to protect the skin from hot sparks and radiation that may cause sunburn symptoms.

There are three types of welding helmets:

  1. Standard
  2. Industrial
  3. Intelligent

Related reading: Can Welding Really Cause Sunburn? Effect On Skin and Eyes

1.Standard Welding Helmets

The standard welding helmets are also called “passive welding helmets,” and they have a viewing lens with an ultraviolet (UV) and an infrared (IR) filter. Most of the time they use #10 shade. The shade will protect the eyes from any light that comes from the intense light of the welding arc.

These helmets are rather simple and easy to put on. All the welder has to do is nod his head and the helmet will automatically lower into place. However, there are some disadvantages. For example, it can be bothersome to constantly lift and lower your helmet throughout the welding process. They can feel bulky and square.

The standard helmets can’t be used in restricted spaces either because you can’t always move it up and down. It can also be a bit tricky for new beginners as they learn how to weld properly while using the nodding motion to put the helmet into place.

  • ANSI Z87.1-2003- If you see this label, then rest assured that they meet the safety standard for welding helmets. This particular standard requires manufacturers to perform lab testing to show that they met helmet specifications. If it only says “ANSI Approved,” then it doesn’t pass the 2003 standard.

2.Industrial Welding Helmets

They’re a step up from the standard welding helmet. They’re much stronger and can help welders deal with the intensity of the arc light all day long if need be.

Most of them have adjustable sensitivity control, where you can establish how much brightness will cause the lens to auto-darken. This feature comes in handy when dealing with low amperages, where the arc isn’t as detectable.

They usually come with multiple sensors to achieve better coverage, especially if there’s a chance one of the sensors may be obstructed. The extra sensors are great if you do fabrication or out-of-position welding.

3.Intelligent Helmets

Intelligent darkening helmets have newer technology that makes them easier to adjust without having to use manual switches or lifting them up. They come with sensors that can detect the light that comes from the welding arc and make adjustments to the lens. Think of it as a “smart” welding helmet.

They come with electronic displays that are powered by batteries or solar power. As a result, the overall price of the helmets may be high, and the replacement parts may be more expensive.

welding-helmet

Most of the high-tech helmets have a smoother appearance, like a biker’s helmet. They’re designed to be light and compact, while offering the necessary protection. Many of them come with visually appealing graphics.

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Perfect Welds

Single Shade Vs. Variable Shade

The main feature of any welding helmet is the type and quality of the lens. Single shade helmets only have one filter inside the viewing lens area, whereas the variable shade has two types of filter lens:

  • Auto-darkening filter (ADF)
  • Electronic filter lens

The ADF is a liquid crystal display (LCD) that comes with light sensors that are mounted near the filter lens to detect the light from the welding arc. It performs the same as the sunlight detecting sunglasses that turn clear when you walk indoors. When there is no arc from the torch, then the shade is at #3 or #4. It’s more transparent at level.

When it’s time to continue welding and the arc is activated, then the lens will detect the light and automatically darken the lens. When it’s dark, the shades are usually between #9- #13. It depends on which helmet you have.

Related reading: Are Auto-Darkening Welding Helmets Safe? What You Need To Know

Most, if not all, standard helmets have single shades, which is why you have to lift and lower them. On the other hand, the variable shades allow you to leave the helmet on the entire time without needing to lift it.

Note: If you need to switch between several techniques and handle materials with different thickness, then the variable shade would be efficient and convenient.

Switching Speed

How fast a lens can switch from a natural state to a darker shade when welding begins is called the switching speed. It’s also called the “reaction time.” It’s typically rated between 1/ 3,600 per second- 1/ 25,000.

A faster switching speed is always ideal because your eyes would be protected from the light at a faster rate. An entry-level lens on a standard helmet is usually slower than the industrial grade welding helmets, which would lead to eye fatigue.

Power Source (Battery Vs. Solar Power)

Auto-darkening helmets require a power source. You can choose between replaceable batteries or solar power. There are types of batteries, like lithium, that can last for a long time. However, they are not common and cost more money than the usual AA batteries.

The solar powered helmets can harvest their energy from the UV rays within the light arc. As you’re welding, the solar panels will refill with energy from the intense light, similar to how it harvests energy from the sun. The price for solar powered helmets may be a bit high, but it pays off in the long run, they’re considered environmentally friendly and economical.

Related reading: How to Charge a Solar Welding Helmet?

Weight of The Helmet

Some people may wonder if weight really matters when it comes to welding helmets. Many welders say, “YES.” A light helmet won’t strain the neck and cause fatigue compared to the heavier ones.

If you plan on using your welding helmet constantly, then it would be a good idea to go with a lighter helmet. (Unless you want to have a sore neck.) If you don’t weld that often, or it’s more of a side job, then you could probably get away with using a heavier welding helmet.

Meeting the Safety Standard

Unfortunately, not all welding helmets comply with the current safety standard. So, when you’re searching for a welding helmet, give the package a closer look. If it says it’s marked for ANSI Z87.1-2003 or Z87+, then it’s good to go. The label means it has the approval of the American National Standards Institute.

Keep in mind that if you don’t see the numbers, and it only says “ANSI approved,” then it doesn’t meet the 2003 standard.

Related reading: How to Adjust an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet: A Quick Guide

True-Color Technology

The optic technology within the auto-darkening lenses controls the range of visible light that passes through the filter– this is called the “True Color.” Without the true color technology, it would be difficult to identify the colors red and orange.

 The older types of welding helmets without the newer true color technology made everything seem very saturated and blurry, which made it hard to see details. And that can be quite hard on the eyes.

Now that welders can see better with true colors, they don’t have to train as long because they’re able to avoid welding mistakes.

Cost

It’s no secret that some welding helmets can be more expensive than others. New technology features can hike the price way up. But you get what you pay for. A better helmet that costs more money is usually higher quality, which means better welding results.

Having a lower-quality helmet can cost you more down the road, especially if you’re going to end up having to fix mistakes often or cut back on production due to eye pain or strained muscles.

Related reading: How to Start & Grow A Welding Business In 11 Steps

If you don’t weld all the time, then you could probably get away with a cheaper standard welding helmet for basic protection. However, if you’re a professional welder and you do it often, then it would be a good idea to pay a bit more money to get a better helmet.

Grind Mode

If you’re going to be cutting materials on top of welding, then you’ll need to choose a helmet that has a grind shield. The auto-darkening lens is placed in front of a clear shield. The lens is linked to a hinge, so the welder can rotate it upwards and use the grinding shield.

This way, you don’t have to take off your welding helmet and put on a grind shield, then put your welding helmet back on, etc. (You get the idea.) It’s like having a 2-in-1 helmet.

Related reading: How to Properly Clean a Welding Helmet Lens – Fast and Easy

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.

  1. Lincoln Electric Welding Helmet 3350 Series
  2. Antra AH6-260-0000 Power Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
  3. 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100
  4. ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet
  5. Doitpower Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
  6. Jackson Safety 46131 Insight Variable Auto- Darkening Welding Helmet
  7. Lincoln Electric Basic Welding Helmet
  8. Jackson Safety Fixed Shade W10 HSL 100 Welding Helmet
  9. Lincoln Electric Red Fierce Auto- Darkening Welding Helmet
  10. Tekware Ultra Large Viewing Screen True Color Solar Power Auto Darkening Welding Helmet,

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.

Pros:

  • Has true-color
  • Auto-darkening filter
  • Grind mode
  • Optical clarity
  • 4 sensors

Cons:

  • 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.

Pros:

  • Auto-darkening filter
  • Quick grind mode
  • Optical clarity
  • Adjustable delay/sensitivity
  • 2 Arc sensors
  • Fast switching time
  • Price: Low

Cons:

  • 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

3. 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100

3m Speedglas is a sleeker-looking professional grade helmet with high-tech optics to see colors better. It comes with two darkening memory modes and multiple arc sensors.

The preset modes let you pick your favorite shades and you can switch between them. The side windows and exhaust vents are a big bonus. This way, you can be more comfortable and breathe easier.

Pros:

  • Has true-color
  • Auto-darkening filter
  • Quick grind mode
  • 3 arc sensors

Cons:

  • Sometimes the headgear can feel loose and won’t stay on tight
  • May be a little bit heavier compared to some of the other helmets
  • Price: High

4. ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet

The ESAB Sentinel helmet has an unique look that serves a purpose. The curved “futuristic” astronaut look helps welders pivot their heads and complete close-up work. This comes in handy in small spaces within cars and machinery.

 The 5-point headgear is an excellent feature. It provides support by shifting the weight of the helmet. This makes it easy to weld in odd positions, like laying down or being on your side.

Pros:

  • Touch screen for settings
  • Nylon hard shell
  • 5-point head band (for support)
  • 8 separate shade memory modes

Cons:

  • The curved shaped lens is expensive to replace
  • The lens causes a fishbowl appearance and some glare issues.
  • Price: High

5. Doitpower Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet

Doitpower is a basic helmet that is ideal for beginners that are learning how to weld. When you’re new at something, you don’t necessarily want to drop a lot of money on a high-tech helmet yet.

This helmet is solar-powered and has an auto-darkening lens that can switch shades at a high speed. It can be used for different welding applications. Many welders enjoy the fact that it has excellent color clarity and nice features for a low price.

Pros:

  • Has True-color
  • Two arc sensors
  • Optical clarity
  • Price: Low

Cons:

  • Lenses may auto-darken differently if exposed to sunlight while welding

6. Jackson Safety 46131 Insight Variable Auto- Darkening Welding Helmet

The Jackson Safety Auto-Darkening Helmet has a variable-shade lens that can detect the light from the welding arc and adjust the shade accordingly. It can go as far as shade #13. This helmet can be used for several welding applications, like MIG and TIG. Several welders say this particular helmet is easy to adjust and wear.

Pros:

  • Auto-darkening filter
  • 4 arc sensors
  • Sensitivity/delay adjustments
  • Price: Medium

Cons:

  • True-color status unknown
  • The plastic covering is not very strong and durable. It wouldn’t be ideal for industrial use.

7. Lincoln Electric Basic Passive Welding Helmet

Lincoln Electric Basic Passive Welding helmets are ideal for experienced welders that prefer a traditional helmet. It has a single lens with #10 shade. The helmet has a clamshell design with a built-in sweatband. The 5 point tilt adjustment makes it easy to lift and lower the helmet.

Pros:

  • Has dark shade lens, but they can be removed and updated with different shade lens
  • Durable and versatile
  • Simple design
  • Price: Low

Cons:

  • The lens do not auto-darken
  • You must lift and lower the helmet to see your welding process. This may cause muscle strain

8. Jackson Safety Fixed Shade W10 HSL 100 Welding Helmet

If you need a narrow helmet to squeeze through small spaces, then this is the helmet for you. The Jackson Safety fixed shade helmet doubles as a hard hat with a large sized viewing screen.

Pros:

  • Lens filter can be adapted and upgraded with different shade lens
  • Durable and versatile
  • Simple design
  • Price: Low

Cons:

  • The lens do not auto-darken
  • You must lift and lower the helmet to see your welding process. This may cause muscle strain
  • Light from behind can reflect off of the lens on the inside.

9. Lincoln Twisted Metal Auto- Darkening Welding Helmet

The Lincoln graphic printed auto-darkening helmet is probably one of the most visually appealing helmets on this list. It has flames graphics all over its polycarbonate cover, which makes it look like a car sports racer or biker helmet. So, if you’re tired of that plain black color, then check this one out.

It’s also solared powered with a spacious viewing area. It comes with a grind mode, so it can be used for several applications. The auto-darkening lenses can continuously adjust effortlessly to match the changing light from the welding arc.

Pros:

  • Has True color
  • Lightweight
  • Awesome graphic designs
  • Durable and versatile
  • Optical clarity
  • Simple design
  • Two arc sensors

Cons:

  • The curved shape and design of the helmet means it could be costly to replace parts or make repairs
  • Price: High

10. Tekware Ultra Large Viewing Screen True Color Solar Power Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

Tekware True color solar power welding helmet has features that makes welding much easier. For example, it has a giant transparent (but protected) screen that covers the whole face instead of a small square for viewing. The appearance is similar to astronaut helmets. 

The lightweight, yet durable material provides full protection from sparks and debris. It also comes with a double liquid crystal layer for extra protection from the UV rays. It’s also solar-powered and comes with a grind mode.

The helmet may feel heavier than some of the other helmets because of the bigger lens that’s in the helmet. However, the weight is not really noticeable since it’s evenly balanced.

Pros:

  • Has wide hemispherical shade lens
  • Sensitivity/delay controls
  • Optical clarity
  • Adjustable headband
  • 4 arc sensors
  • Price: Medium-low

Cons:

  • The unique hemispherical glass screen in front of the lens filter can be challenging to replace if it’s damaged.
  • Some welders say there may be some issues with glare

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)
  • Shade

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

David Harper

David is the Co-Founder and Senior Editor at weldingtroop.com. David's an experienced fitter and tuner/welder who's passionate about helping others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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