Why do welders wear masks?
A welding helmet is usually worn when the welder needs to perform arc welding applications such as shielded arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, and gas metal arc welding. To prevent a nasty condition called the arc eye where the cornea is inflamed, welding helmets must be worn.
Helms also make sure your retina doesn’t get burned because it can cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Both the arc eye and blindness are results of getting exposed to highly concentrated infrared (IR) and UV rays that come from the welding arc.
You should also know that discharged UV can harm the skin as well if you’re not wearing appropriate clothes. This will cause your skin to look like it was sunburned, and you’ll notice this in a short period of welding. Radiation isn’t the only thing you have to be worried too since gasses and splashes can also harm the eyes and the skin.
What are the modern helmets?
The helmets we use today were launched in 1937 by Willson Products. These welding helmets feature a covered lens shade and a window. The shade has a filter that allows welders to see what he or she is doing. Windows, on the other hand, can be made of tinted glass, tinted plastic, or a variable-density filter that uses a couple of polarized lenses.
Auto-darkening helmets are even available today thanks to the innovative design of Hornell International. They come with an auto-darkening filter. These helms have an LCD electronic shutter that darkens on its own once the sensors have detected the brightness of the welding arc.
With an auto-darkening filter, welders no longer need to nod their heads to lower their helmet over their face. It eliminates the need for adjustments and saves a significant deal of time. These lenses can even be adjusted depending on the material that the welder is working on. They also reduce the chances of exposure.
What is the best welding helmet for a budget?
Lincoln 3350 Welding Helmet – Best Overall
Lincoln tends to do a good job in its helmet designs, and it did an excellent job with the resilient, durable Electric 3350. It has a rare 1-1-1-1 optical clarity rating, but what makes this lens even better is the 4C technology, which shows natural colour rather than the typical green haze. This increases visibility and enhances the weld pool sight, so you know exactly what’s happening during your weld.
Lincoln has also done an exceptional job with the headgear in this helmet, making it surprisingly lightweight and comfortable. Often helmets excel in a particular area and are weaker in others. Part of the reason we like the Lincoln 3350 series is that it hits the mark with diversity. It even includes a carrying bag.
This doesn’t have the curvature and wide field of view of the ESAB or 3M Speedglass but makes up for this with a taller viewing area that gives it a huge overall window size that’s better for seeing directly what’s in front of you. It ticks all the quality boxes, with a super-fast lens reaction time, four arc sensors and a perfect optical classification. The clarity through this helmet really is exceptional, and it’s comfy and lightweight too. Great work, Lincoln!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have waterproof features, but the fact that it withstands excessive sweat inside the helmet makes it useful for summertime.
However, this is still one of the best auto-darkening welding helmets of 2020 for all types of welding (TIG, MIG, etc.).
Esab SENTINEL A50 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The Halo-inspired Esab SENTINEL A50 has comfortable headgear and a clear lens with a 1-1-1-2 rating, just one notch less than the 3350 series. The lens clarity is so good that it can appear too light when welding as if the shading isn’t dark enough. Even though it appears clear, it protects your eyes just as well as the equivalent shading in a different helmet. This helmet also includes a bag.
The enormous front lens looks really cool. It’s easy to change, but it’s expensive to replace and sits flush with the helmet, making it a good target for damage. The rest of the hood is durable and has been uniquely designed to withstand a fair beating while protecting the high-tech features.
The coloured LED touchscreen has memory functions to set up the settings for different jobs at the touch of a button. The touchscreen is hidden inside the hood. There’s a grind button on the exterior of the helmet, which makes transitions between welding and grinding smooth when you keep the hood on.
The worst design flaw of this helmet is the sensors. There are four of them, which most high-quality helmets have. However, they’re recessed so far back that if you’re welding off to the side without being able to turn your head fully, they sometimes don’t catch the arc and won’t darken your lens.
This futuristic-looking helmet has a large viewing area with great visibility and a blueish arc colour. You can see the external grind mode button on the top, which is useful for changing between processes. There’s also a unique touchscreen display on the inside to change between different shades, sensitivity, delay, and save settings for different processes. I do like this feature, but it might be tricky to operate with big hands and gloves. It’s comfortable to wear with an adjustable 5 point headgear to help you fit it to your head shape, and you can easily replace the lens on the front in just a few seconds.
Antra AH6-260 Welding Helmet – Best Value
We found the Antra AH6-260-0000 to be one of the best welding helmets for the money due to its lightweight, clear vision, extensive 4/5-9/9-13 shade settings, and all-around performance. It does exactly what a basic hood needs to in protecting your face and eyes, without breaking the bank.
It’s not the most flexible helmet, so it won’t bend out of the way if you hit your head on something, but it can withstand a beating. The headgear has 1-1-1-2 optical clarity equal to the Esab SENTINEL. This Antra model pales compared to the Esab SENTINEL and the Lincoln 3350, but for a simple helmet at a low cost, it’s an excellent option. Note that it has a short one-year warranty and is not meant for industrial use.
The Antra Welding Helmet must be the most popular welding helmet on the market and is definitely the best welding helmet for the money. It ticks a lot of boxes in terms of quality, with a good optical glass, lens reaction time and shade range. It also now has a grind mode and adjustable sensitivity options. It’s so lightweight that it’s great for welding for long periods of time, but not the best choice for durability so I wouldn’t use this for heavy welding applications or overhead welding. The main downside of this is the small viewing area. The viewing area is still ok, but it’s about half the size of the Lincoln 3350. Overall the AH6-260 is an excellent welding helmet for the price and a perfect choice for beginner welders of hobbyists looking for a bargain.
3M Speedglas 9100 Welding Helmet
The 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100 has comfy headgear, with side windows to keep open or closed for extra vision. When welding, it’s usually best to have the windows closed, as open ones will cause the weld to burn with high amperage. If you’re cutting, grinding, or wanting to look around with your helmet on, the windows are an excellent feature unique to this helmet.
The hood is light with a design that suits most peoples’ heads comfortably. It does a good job easing the pain of weld-neck during a full week under the hood with its ergonomic shape, although not everyone agrees it relieves their pain. There isn’t any solar power option. The price is on the higher end of the scale, but you can downsize the lens for a lower price. A particular highlight is that this helmet can be used to TIG anything as low as one amp, giving it a broader range than most helmets. It comes with a three-year warranty.
There’s no doubt this is one of the best welding helmets on the market, it’s comfortable, clean, stylish and has a large viewing area. The side windows in this helmet are probably the best feature, and it will give you amazing visibility of your surroundings, which can make welding much more enjoyable. It’s been designed for comfort, too. It’s pretty lightweight and has two adjustable head straps to keep it secure, along with a padded headband and a swivel-mounted smooth ratchet system. The helmet fits a head size of 50 to 64cm, and the carefully thought out design helps to ensure it’s comfortable for long periods of time. The Speedglas 9100XX is a good choice for Stick, MIG and TIG and also has exhaust vents to help reduce heat and steaming up. Overall this a great helmet that offers excellent comfort and clarity.
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Miller Digital Elite Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
The Miller 281000 Digital Elite is a great all-around lightweight TIG, MIG, and grinding helmet, except for its fragility and poor headgear design. It offers 1-1-1-2 optical clarity. It has a lens called clearlight, which removes the green tint most lenses show to clear up visibility and bring in natural light that’s typically hidden.
It comes with four modes: weld mode, cut mode, grind mode, and X-mode. Each has different shade variations. The X-mode stops direct sunlight from interfering with your vision when welding, which is a brilliant and unique feature. This has one of the better mode features among helmets.
Miller always produces reliable products, and this is no different. It’s lightweight, which makes it great if you’re welding long hours and you can easily adjust the headgear for comfort. There are four different modes, weld, cut, grind and X-Mode. X-Mode stops sunlight darkening the lens and low-amperage lens opening. There’s a useful digital display on the inside that’s easy to use. The lens uses ClearLight technology to help optimize clarity and colour contrast.
The headgear doesn’t match the standards of the rest of the helmet. It’s comfortable but sometimes struggles to keep the hood remaining upright when not in use. This is a real pain between welds if you want the helmet up for a while. When the hood’s down, it’s excellent. The sensor placement is great. If there is an arc anywhere near the hood, even off to the side and regardless of obstructions, it will darken. This helmet has a three-year warranty.
Make sure you keep this helmet in a safe place when you’re not using it, as the lens can easily get damaged if it falls, and is expensive to replace.
Jackson Safety BH3 Welding-Helmet
The pricey Jackson Safety BH3 helmet is designed for higher-level welders and has fantastic lens quality because of it. It has 1-1-1-1 optical clarity and a three-year warranty. Unfortunately, the headgear doesn’t match the same standards, and you can’t grind with it or TIG weld at low amperage safely. The solar design means you can’t use batteries with it. It’s not the most comfortable helmet to wear due to headgear design flaws. However, the wide lens outshines most other hoods in clarity.
A trait we love about the shell design is that the outer lens is recessed back, which protects the lens from excessive damage, improving lens life. The designers seemed to put all the effort into the lens and shell of this helmet, which certainly has paid off. If there were a few more sensors to give an ample reading of your arc, even with obstructions and a new headgear design, it would be one of the top helmets available.
Jackson offers a long five-year warranty to boost their confidence in the product. It’s power only by a solar cell, so there’s no need to buy batteries. I usually prefer them to have the option of batteries, but it’s up to your personal choice. There are three comfort adjustments available, there is a knob on the back that’s easy to adjust when wearing gloves, a strap adjustment to raise and lower the hood, and suspension to change the distance between your eyes and the lens, which is useful if you wear glasses. There’s no grinding mode, and there are only two sensors, which is a shame. However, it’s still a good helmet that’s lightweight, and the lens is 1/1/1/1 rated with excellent clarity.
Hobart Impact Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The solar-powered Hobart Impact Variable Auto-Dark Helmet has a durable shell with good shielding coverage and space for a respirator, which is very useful. However, it can be hard to move around in tight spaces while wearing it due to the helmet’s size. The lens width is sufficient, but it’s not the widest of lens ranges, and the vision matches most standard lenses. There is a handy on-off feature, which can save battery life. There’s no off button on it to indicate when it’s off, but it does seem to turn off.
The sensitivity dial is very sensitive, which makes finding the right range a challenge, but it has a broad shade range. This includes a grind mode, which is always desirable. Note that sunlight can affect the settings.
It cannot be used to weld low-amp TIG safely, but it’s more than capable of shielding against most high-amp welding. It has a lower price tag than most but is no better than the Antra AH6-260-0000 helmet, which also has a lower price tag.
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The Hobart Impact Variable is another mid-range welding helmet that’s good value and is great if you’re welding for long periods of time due to being lightweight and fast lens reaction time of 1/25,000 of a second. Despite its low weight, it’s a durable helmet as it’s made from polyamide. The shade ranges from #8 to #13, so it’s flexible for a range of applications. It’s also really comfortable, and there are lots of adjustment points to help fit the shape of your head, so it doesn’t slip about. The main downside is that the viewing area isn’t that big, and it’s only powered by one battery.
Instapark GX-500S Welding Helmet (Auto Darkening)
The Instapark ADF Series GX-500S looks great on the outside but lacks the quality of the top available helmets. The lens is 3.63 inches wide by 1.65 inches tall, which is a smaller area than some hoods, and has a slight variance in the shading range. It comes with a grind function, some replaceable lithium batteries, and a solar-powered feature, which is great to keep costs down.
The main benefit of this helmet is its price. You may get lucky with it surpassing its one-year warranty range, but if it doesn’t, it’s easily replaced through the warranty system. However, be aware that numerous customers have damaged their eyes due to the lens not working correctly without them realizing. If you decide to get this helmet, make sure you know what a fully functioning lens looks like before you use it.
What to consider in choosing a welding helmet?
There’s a lot of different options when choosing an auto-darkening welding helmet. Many look similar but have different specifications, and it can be hard to understand the differences in price. Factors such as viewing area size, sensors and optical class are all things to consider. We’ve outlined the key things to consider when choosing a helmet and how we chose our top 10 auto-darkening welding helmets on the market today.
Helmet Weight & Comfort
If you’re wearing your welding helmet for several hours at a time, the weight of the helmet will be an important factor. Heavier welding helmets will add more strain on your neck and can become quite painful, even if it doesn’t feel that heavy when you first put it on. Lighter helmets can also reduce the chance of stress injury over time if you’re wearing the helmet for very long periods. Comfort is generally worth considering here, if you get a lightweight, padded helmet then the chances are you’ll enjoy welding more due to your comfort. Look for one that fits securely around your head. A helmet that you can’t fit tightly will move around and will distract you when welding and will need to be adjusted.
Viewing area size can be very important if you’re regularly welding out of position or require visibility over a wider area. Some helmets have a longer, and some have a wider viewing area, anything near 4″ x 3″ would be considered a large viewing area and 3.5″ x 1.75″ a small viewing area. I prefer helmets with a viewing area taller than 2 inches, but it all comes down to personal preference and the project you’re working on. If you’re working in an area with restricted space, you’ll want the largest viewing area possible because it will be hard to keep adjusting your body to see clearly.
All auto-darkening welding helmet lenses are tested and rated for quality and given an optical class. This corresponds to the clarity of vision through the glass. Auto-darkening lenses are evaluated in four clarity categories and given four numbers that are graded either 1, 2 or 3, with one being the best. Hence, the best optical rating is 1/1/1/1. The difference between a 1/1/1/1 and a 1/2/1/2 isn’t great, but an experienced welder will immediately notice the change in clarity of the workpiece.
The number of arc sensors in an auto-darkening welding helmet is something to consider when choosing a helmet. Sensors detect flashes while you work and darken the helmet in a fraction of a second to protect your eyes. Generally, the less expensive ones will have two or fewer sensors and the more advanced models three or four. Having two sensors can work fine, but it increases the risk of not catching the flash if you’re welding out of position. Having four sensors helps to decrease the risk of the helmet failing to catch a flash that may arise by having sensors obstructed by objects such as pipes.
Helmet Power Source
Welding helmets are either powered by solar power, lithium batteries, or both combined. Generally, a combination of the two is the best option because this allows you to extend the battery life of your welding helmet and means if one power source runs out you can still rely on the other one.
If your welding helmet uses batteries, the main thing to consider is if the power source is replaceable or not. Welding helmets that just use replaceable batteries are good because you can attach the batteries and use the helmet right away. However, you’ll always need to have replacement sets of batteries with you. If your welding helmet relies on solar power, this can be cost-effective as you don’t need to worry about replacing batteries. A useful feature you get on most good auto-darkening helmets is called auto-off. This helps to turn the power off to save your battery life automatically.
Most auto-darkening welding helmets provide the ability to set the minimum brightness value that triggers the darkening. This manual option is useful if you’re welding at low amperage where you may need increased sensitivity. It’s also good if you’re working in an environment where there are other welders and lots of arcs. Here you can increase the sensitivity, so other people’s arcs are not triggering it.
Lens Shade Options
An auto-darkening welding helmet lens will provide a range of shades. The more shades you have then, the more flexible you can be with applications. If you’re constantly changing settings and processes, then you’ll benefit from a range of shade options. A 9-13 shade is normal, but if you’re working on low amperages where it’s harder to see the arc, then a 6-13 shade is a good option.
Lens Reaction Time
The lens reaction time is the speed at which the lens changes from being light to becoming dark after the arc is started. The lenses will change in a fraction of a second, with the best professional lenses are rated up to 1/20,000 of a second. The more frequently you weld, the more important having a fast lens reaction time is. If you’re constantly starting arcs, then the slight increase of exposure to the arc time and time again can lead to eye fatigue, so you’ll want it to change to dark as quickly as possible.
There are lots of different styles of welding helmets on the market with artwork to help show your personality. There are many more different colours available instead of just the classic grey or black. You can also get graphic designs such as flags, eagles and flames, which are all popular styles of welding helmets that you’ll sometimes find as alternative colour options when you select a helmet to buy such as the DEKOPRO. There are also quality helmets available from a range of brands, so if you like a particular brand such as Lincoln or Miller, then you can stick with their stuff with confidence.
ANSI standards require that welding helmets provide full and adequate protection to people wearing them. There is rigorous testing that a welding helmet has to pass to achieve ANSI national safety standards including protection from ultraviolet, infrared, impact and temperature. The current safety standards are ANSI Z87.1 – 2003, which is the standard you should purchase to help ensure safety.
The price of welding helmets ranges from around $40 at the cheap end to around $800 at the high end. If you have a set budget in mind, then this will obviously help your selection, but generally, the more expensive ones will be better helmets. We’ve listed a range of helmets to suit different budgets, ranging from the lower end right up to the high end. We feel that all the helmets we’ve included at a certain price range offer value and are the best available at that price range.
Why should you look for a welding helmet that will keep it covered?
IR that hits your skin can burn it just like a sunburn. Welding Helmets protect from IR damage by covering the skin on your face and neck. Check those helmets provide full coverage to protect the bare skin on the neck, face, ears and scalp from IR/UV damage, flying sparks or molten metal.
Why is it important to watch what you’re doing?
UV rays damage and destroy cell tissue. To protect your eyes, welding helmets have specially darkened glass to filter out harmful bright visible light, IR and UV rays. Filter glass is rated by number to indicate its shade level. The higher the number, the darker the shade and the greater the protection.
Some helmets have a glass with a single shade level. While protection is good, usually over level 10 shading, it can be tough to see if you’re not welding.
That can make it challenging to strike an arc easily without lifting the hood to watch. The problem is you can “flash” your eyes if you strike an arc accidentally while lining up the rod or wire when the hood is up.
This is why auto-darkening filters were invented. They react to the bright flare of an arc strike, darkening instantly. That way, you can see to line up the work without lifting the hood, while keeping the helmet’s protection when the arc flares. Passive welding helmets also do a great job. However, they work by having a fixed-shade lens, which is usually number 9 or 10.