A welding helmet is one of the most important pieces of personal protective equipment a welder can have. A good helmet protects the eyes and skin not only from severe sparks but also from potentially vision-damaging ultraviolet and infrared rays emitted by the arc.
As one of the most visible pieces of safety attire, a welding helmet, in addition to offering necessary protection to the face and eyes, gives wearers an opportunity to add a bit of personal flair to their welding gear. With this in mind, welding helmets today are available in a wide range of colors and graphics. These visual features obviously command attention, but a helmet’s protective features, combined with comfort considerations, are what welders should consider when selecting the right helmet for their needs.
Top Metal fabrication company Melbourne
The right helmet must be easy to wear, adjustable and comfortable for a full day’s work, while protecting employees’ eyes and face from spatter and sparks and harmful light rays.
Today’s helmets are considerably more functional than those of even 10 or 15 years ago. They are designed to accommodate a welder’s specific needs on any job. All, including the most inexpensive, must meet strict safety standards across the globe. In the United States, that standard is ANSI Z87.1 and in Canada it is CAN/CSA Z94.3. These standards address concerns such as light leakage and flame and impact resistance.
Some welders, particularly many professional pipe welders, still opt to wear conventional welding helmets with a traditional glass lens and fixed shade, which remains darkened at all times. While these helmets do provide rugged and inexpensive safety protection, they also have a few disadvantages.
Welding helmets featuring a fixed shade can be more difficult to use because a welder has to lift the helmet every time he or she wants to examine the weldment and joint, set a position and prepare for welding, and then flip the helmet down when it’s time to strike the arc. This repetitive movement can cause neck strain and fatigue after a full day’s work. Additionally, in tight or restricted spaces, it can be difficult to move the helmet up or down.
Also, for less-experienced welders, it can be difficult to keep the MIG gun, TIG torch or stick electrode in the correct position to begin welding in the joint after the helmet is lowered into place. Poor weld starts can result in weld defects, something any welder obviously wants to avoid.
Because of these issues, many welders are turning to auto-darkening helmets with continuously variable controls that adjust the shade from a light state to a dark one and back. These helmets protect from harmful light emissions at all times and darken to almost any pre-selected shade in milliseconds, thanks to quick-changing LCD (liquid crystal display) technology in the auto-darkening cartridges.
With auto-darkening helmets, welders clearly can see while the helmet already is in a down position, so that setting up to weld in a weldment joint can be done with the hood in position. These helmets permit more continuous work, reducing unnecessary stop-and-start time and the need for a welder to readjust a helmet and set up positioning.
Picking out your perfect welding helmet is a lot of hard work. You want to make sure you’re not blowing your budget, but you also want a quality product that will protect you while you’re using it. With so many mixed reviews out there, we thought we’d compile them and do all the hard work for you. We’ve put together a list that features the best budget welding helmets, along with in-depth reviews that will help you narrow down your options and find the right one for you. We understand that finding the positives in a product is almost as useful as finding the negatives, so we’ve made sure not to miss anything on this list.
After looking through countless reviews, we’ve put together five of the best welding helmets you can buy for under $100. Each has its pros and cons, which we have also listed under each product item so you can see a more balanced review overall.
Why must you have the right shade lens for MIG welding?
When it comes down to it welding lenses have one major and important function, to protect your eyes from getting burnt.
I’ve personally burnt my eyes several times over the years and it’s not a fun thing to live through. People often say that it feels like hot sand in your eyes and you can’t get it out are correct.
It’s the worst feeling in the world to wake up in the middle of the night only to realize that your eyes are burnt.
Fortunately, there is a way to prevent this from happening to you and that is to wear the correct shade lens while welding, but oftentimes people don’t know what shade they should be wearing.
But there are two things you must understand about the welding lens before you pick one.
What shade number is effective?
To start, when it comes to MIG welding you’ll typically be anywhere from a shade 10 to a shade 13 lens. A lower shade number will let more light through the lens whereas a higher number will let less light through the lens.
So if you have a shade 10 it will show more light and a 13 will show less light filtering more of it out.
Check out Austgens METAL FINISHING
What should be the level of amperage?
The second thing you need to understand is that the shade lens you pick depends on the amount of amperage you are running at.
The more amperage you are running the darker the shade you’ll want to use. The less amperage you have the lighter your shade can be.
The reason for this is because a higher amperage will be a lot stronger and as a result, you will need a darker lens to filter out more of the harmful radiant light.
What does the welding lens shade number mean?
The DIN rating is a German industrial standard used to classify light filtering levels. As the DIN number increases, the lenses become darker and block more light.
Most auto-darkening lenses have a passive base level of DIN 3 or 4. This light state is bright enough so you can see to set up your work without having to lift your hood.
And it allows you to see well enough to operate your grinder—provided your helmet has a grind mode to prevent grinding sparks from triggering the darkened state.
A DIN shade 3 level allows around 14% of visible light through the lens, while DIN 4 is three times darker, allowing only 5% light transmission. A significant difference that you should consider if you don’t always work in a brightly-lit area.
My helmet has a base shade of DIN 3.5 (10%). As a hobbyist welder most often working in the corner of my garage, I think anything darker would be too dark for my comfortable use.
By comparison, blocking the brighter-than-the-sun welding arc, shade 9 allows just 0.037% light transmission and shade 13 only 0.00072% (blocking 99.99928% of light!).
How to adjust your auto-darkening shade lens?
If you use an ADF helmet having a permanent shade rating higher than the capacity of your welder—meaning the lens coatings will block all the UV and IR your welder generates—you’re free to choose a setting based on your comfort.
An ideal setting is just light enough so you can see what you need to see but dark enough to prevent eye fatigue. If you see spots in your vision after a weld, it’s time to choose a darker shade setting.
My personal preference runs closer to the darker shade settings in the ANSI and AWS recommendations. The reason is likely my light-colored eyes. As everyone is different, your actual setting will depend on your working environment and personal preferences for comfort and visibility.
Welding helmet lens shade test button.
What shade is safe for welding?
When I was first getting started as a welder I often wondered what shade lens I should be using for my welding helmet so I don’t burn my eyes from the welding flash.
What shade of welding lens should you use for MIG welding? It’s recommended that you use between a shade 10 to a shade 13 welding lens to prevent flash burn on your eyes. The higher the number the darker the shade will be. However, the more amperage you are using the darker the shade you will want to have to avoid burning your eyes.
Over the years I’ve burnt my eyes several times from welding and not having the correct welding lens can solve a lot of the problem. In this article, I’m going to cover everything you should know about welding lenses for MIG welding and how to protect your eyes.
How to test your auto-darkening shade lens?
Many better auto-darkening welding shade elements have a self-test button to show you that the ADF in your helmet is working. But remember, this test only determines that there is battery power and the ADF can work, it doesn’t prove that it will work when you strike an arc.
There is another quick and easy method to test your lens operation, including the sensors, for troubleshooting purposes or your piece of mind. The helmet sensors trigger off IR from the welding arc. An ordinary television remote control emits an IR signal that will also trigger the helmet’s sensors.
This handy trick can also test how well the sensors pick up signals from side-to-side, or above and below your mask. Good information to know when working around other welders.
How do I know my welding lens is safe?
One of the last things you might be wondering is how to know if your welding lens is safe?
The simple way to know is to look for welding lenses that met the ANSI Z87.1 qualifications. I talk more about this in my complete buyer’s guide on welding helmets here.
Basically, this qualification is for all auto-darkening helmets that meet specific criteria that will filter out light properly. Most auto dark helmets fall under this qualification but it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.
What is the difference between auto dark helmets and passive helmets lens shade?
There are two basic helmets types of welding helmets you can choose from when it comes to protecting your eyes. The first is an auto dark welding helmet and the second is a passive welding helmet.
Auto Dark Welding Lens
An auto dark helmet does not actually contain a lens but rather is controlled by a sensor on the front of the helmet. Once the flash from the weld hits the sensor it darkens the shade to the darkness it is set to.
Now don’t worry the switch from clear to dark is nearly instantaneous and will not flash burn you. Typically change will happen in 1/12,000 of a second or faster.
The benefit of this kind of helmet is that it allows you to keep your helmet down without having to flip it up and down when welding. It’s also nice if you’re doing a lot of short welds.
On the downside, the sensors can easily be triggered by other welders working nearby causing your helmet to go dark when you may not want it to do that.
Passive Welding Lenses
Passive welding lenses are typically a piece of glass or plastic coated to a specific level to help it filter out the light. Unlike auto dark helmets, passive welding lenses always stay dark.
For many years this was the type of welding helmet I used before switching to an auto dark helmet.
The benefit of these helmets is that they always stay dark and are great helmets for doing long passes. They always stay dark and don’t rely on batteries or sensors which can go out and in some cases cause a flash burn.
The downside to a passive lens is that they can cause you to always be moving your hood up and down especially when doing short runs.
What are issues to be aware of with welding lenses?
One of the biggest issues I see with the welding lens is that people often think because I have the darkest lens or the best auto dark helmet I’ll be safe from burning my eyes and this may not always be the case.
In this section, I’m going to share some issues that you consider when using a welding helmet and also what you can do to prevent burning your eye’s face and neck.
How to test your auto dark lenses?
Almost all auto dark lenses come with a battery in them and from time to time that battery can run out. When this happens the shade may not be as dark or even not work at all.
If this happens you’ll want to change the battery before using it. Typically the battery is a coin battery that you can get at most hardware stores.
However, the real problem is if the battery gets low and the shade doesn’t get as dark as its supposed to. It will be harder to notice this and if you’re supposed to be using a shade 13 and it’s only hitting a shade 9 it could potentially burn your eyes.
When do you check cracks in your lenses?
Another thing to look for is cracks in your lenses. If you’re like me and a little clumsy you can drop your welding helmet and this could cause a hairline crack to form.
The problem with this is that you probably won’t notice it and it could be letting in some of the harmful light burning your eyes and face without even realizing it.
So take a moment and check your lens over every day before you start welding and check for any cracks and that the lens is safe to weld with.
Why do you need to check your helmet?
You’ll also want to check your helmet while you’re at it. A lot of people tend to check the lens for cracks or if it’s working right but they forget to look to see if the actual helmet has a crack in it.
This happened to me back several years ago. I had a decent helmet and I checked over before I started welding with it. I then proceeded to weld with it all day.
Later on that night you guessed it my eyes were fried to a crisp. The reason I burnt my eyes was that I had a slight crack in my helmet and I put a piece of duct tape over it thinking that would stop the harmful light and I was wrong.
If you have a crack in your helmet don’t try to patch it up. It likely won’t hold and will burn your eyes as a result.
Safety Tip: If your helmet has a crack in it just buy a new helmet. It’s not worth the pain and aggravation. Besides that your eyes will thank you for it.
Why do you need to put your welding helmet in front of your chest?
Finally, my last bit of advice here is to make sure that your welding helmet is all the way down when you are welding. This means your helmet should be all the way against the front of your chest.
What I find happens to some people is that it can still burn them because the light is indirectly reflecting off of their table and shining right up in their hood.
Most people think that you have to be directly looking at the weld to get burnt and this isn’t true. You can get burnt by the reflection as well.
If this is a problem for you look for a longer welding helmet and keep your hood tight against your body when you weld.
Auto-Darkening Hoods: Is It Worth It?
We’re constantly looking for the Holy Grail of welding helmets. Because good helmets aren’t just protection, they’re beyond that. When you’re welding with a good helmet, it doesn’t get in the way, it becomes an extension of you.
So, how do Auto-Darkening Helmets rate on our quest for the perfect hood?
First, what’s “Auto-Darkening” mean? It’s as simple as it sounds. Auto-darkening helmets have an adjustable lens that automatically darkens or lightens depending on the light around it.
So what’s the benefit of an auto-darkening hood? You don’t have to keep lifting your helmet up to see what you’re doing. Sure, but is that worth the extra money for a 3 second task? Yes, because here’s what’s really going on. With a normal helmet, you line yourself up perfectly on the joint. You flip your helmet down, causing you to lose your place by just ¼ of an inch. Now you’re staring into darkness, hoping you’re still lined up right. Your welder flashes into life and you realize you’re off from your spot. You try to shift your welding gun back in line, leaving a drunken-looking, zig-zag pattern. Time to get out the grinder.
Let’s take that whole scenario over again with an auto-darkening helmet. The helmet’s sensors let it know exactly how much light you need to see while not being blinded. This means you can line up perfectly without lifting the helmet up or down in the first place. You position yourself in the right spot and start welding. Bam! Within 1/20,000th of a second the helmet adjusts to the light. Let’s put that into perspective. The fastest you can blink your eyes is 400 milliseconds. That means an auto-darkening helmet is 8,000 times faster than the blink of an eye. You know what that means? It means your welding gun stays where it needs to. It means less time grinding. It means straight lines and good-looking welds you can be proud of.
So, is an auto-darkening helmet worth it? Yes. There’s no reason you should still be using an antique welding helmet. No matter what you’re doing, an auto-darkening helmet will make your welds better and your life much easier.
The real question is, what helmet should I get? Auto-darkening helmets used to cost a small fortune. Fortunately, their prices are much more affordable now and vary depending on your needs.
For instance, if you’re a medium-level welder, there’s the Miller Digital Performance Helmet with Auto-Darkening. The Digital Performance has 3 sensors that collect information about how much light you need so you can see. If you’re more than an occasional welder, 4 sensors is what you want. Right now you can get most of our Miller Auto-Darkening Helmets for at least 20% off plus no tax and free shipping.
If you need a helmet that can handle any situation, you’ll want the Optrel E684. Its Twilight Technology creates the smoothest transitions possible when going from light to dark, reducing eye fatigue and making sure your welds stay nice and clean. The best part is, right now you can get it for $120 off with Welding Supplies From IOC.
So, is there any reason to have an auto-darkening hood? There’s no reason to NOT have an auto-darkening hood. It’s safer, it’ll improve your weld quality, and you can get them for a great price. Go ahead, check out our collection of auto-darkening hoods and see for yourself.