A welding helmet is something that every welder must use. This piece of headgear protects the eyes, face, neck, and head from burns, welder’s flash, infrared lights, flying sparks, and the oh-so-dangerous UV lights. Basically, welding without one of these helmets on is a surefire way to expose yourself to a wide range of health hazards.
The numerous types of welding helmets can be confusing for first-time buyers and even experienced welders looking to upgrade. The helmet you get should be designed to handle the jobs you’re doing, but even that doesn’t help much in finding the right welding helmet.
To help you in your welding helmet-buying endeavor, this article should provide you with the information needed to make a smart purchase.
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Types of Welding Helmets
First, let’s address the types of welding helmets available to you. The two most popular types are standard/passive welding helmets and auto-darkening welding helmets.
Standard/Passive Welding Helmet
This is the most traditional type of helmet available. A standard welding helmet has a pre-tinted viewing lens – usually shade #10 – to make viewing your workpiece more bearable. You won’t be able to see the positioning of the weld with the helmet on, so lift it up to get a better view. Before striking the arc, you simply need to nod your head, and the helmet will drop, blocking your eyes from the harmful rays and heat coming from the weld.
The largest risk of using this helmet is after you get the groove of nodding and welding, if the helmet fails to drop at the first nod, you’ll basically end up temporarily blinding yourself. Using this helmet takes time to get used to, so be careful when using this. Additional downtime is always preferable to being blinded and exposed to harmful rays.
Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
An auto-darkening welding helmet is exactly what it sounds like. The lens darkens automatically – usually between a #8- and #13-shade depending on the heat or type of arc – when it detects an arc and returns to a lighter shade (#3 or #4) when it is inactive. The secret behind the darkening lens isn’t magic or leprechauns, but rather the use of several sensors around the helmet which are on the constant lookout for bright arcs.
With one of these helmets protecting your face, you won’t need to lift the helmet to get a better view of your work area. The shade of the lens can switch from a darker shade to a lighter one in the blink of an eye.
However, there are a few risks associated with auto-darkening welding helmets. For instance, if the sensors fail, your eyes will be exposed to blinding arcs and extreme heat. Also, maintaining this helmet requires a gentle touch in order to preserve the conditions of both the lens and sensors.
Obviously, this is the more technologically advanced of the two types of welding helmets so you’ll have to spend a pretty penny to get one of these. However, in our opinion, it’s completely worth the investment, especially you’re working by the hour and downtime should be minimized.
Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet Buying Guide
If you’ve decided to get an auto-darkening welding helmet, good on you! You won’t be disappointed with your purchase unless of course, you pick an inferior product. To help you avoid making a costly mistake, we’ll describe the various specs and features that you should take into account when shopping around for an auto-darkening welding helmet.
One thing to avoid when looking for an auto-darkening welding helmet is long lens adjustment times. You need the lens to darken in color in literally a fraction of a second to avoid prolonged exposure to harmful rays. We recommend a lens that reacts in less than 1/10,000 of a second, but a lens with an adjustment time of 1/3,600 time will do just fine.
Number of Sensors
In short, the more sensors there are, the more reliable the helmet is. Failure in the lens’ reaction can mainly be attributed to the welder working at such an angle that the sensors can’t detect anything. Some basic auto-darkening helmets come with two sensors, and the more top-tiered helmets come with three or four.
Also, consider where you plan on doing most of your welding. Since sunshine can affect the sensitivity of the sensors, it’s a good idea to get a helmet with at least three sensors for outdoor welding jobs. If you’re welding exclusively indoors, a two-sensor helmet will suffice.
Batteries or Solar PowerOr Both?
An auto-darkening helmet can draw power from batteries or by harnessing the power of the sun.
Battery-powered helmets give you the ability to weld whenever you’re ready. You don’t need to wait around for the battery to charge, nor do you need to rely on the sun to provide your helmet’s sensors and lens with power. However, you’ll need to purchase new batteries periodically for the entire lifespan of the helmet.
Solar-powered helmets are great if you’re doing outdoor work or are in a part of the country with a ton of sun. Simply leave your helmet outdoors and let it soak in the rays. However, if it rains, you need to run out and bring the helmet back indoors to prevent the sensors from getting soaked.
However, the best type of welding helmet can draw power from both batteries and solar energy. This helmet can help you save money by reducing the frequency of purchasing new batteries, and you don’t need to wait around for a fully charged helmet to begin your welding tasks; just put in the batteries and go.
Welding helmets – both standard and auto-darkening – need to go through rigorous optical tests that examine vision from within. There are four categories of testing: distortion, clarity, shade uniformity, and consistent viewing angles. Each of these categories is rated from 3 to 1; 3 being the worst and 1 being the best. Ideally, you’ll want a helmet rated 1/1/1/1 since this indicates perfect, unobstructed vision.
If you’re thinking of taking up welding as a hobby, then know that apart from having the right tools, you’ll also need the right equipment. A welding helmet is vital to the safety and well-being of a welder since it blocks harmful rays and overwhelming heat from damaging your eyes and vision.
Auto-darkening welding helmets are considerably handier than a standard one. Its lens adjusts itself based on how bright the welding arc is, and it returns to a lighter shade when no arc is detected. Basically, you can both strike an arc and correct any out-of-position welding without taking the helmet off.