- 1 Why Do You Need a Welding Helmet
- 2 Types of Welding Helmet
- 3 Switching Speed
- 4 Viewing Size
- 5 Number of Sensors
- 6 Weight of the Helmet
- 7 Adjustable Sensitivity and Delay Controls
- 8 National Safety Standards
- 9 Fitting Ability
- 10 2015’s 5 Best Welding Helmets
- 11 Conclusion
Why Do You Need a Welding Helmet
A welding helmet is a protective headgear that the welder wears while welding, especially while arc welding. It is designed in such a way that it not only defends the eye but also averts collateral damage to neck, face, and other areas of uncovered skin close to the facial area.
At the same time, the design that is mostly metallic also encompasses a viewing window for your eyesight to focus on wider area of the workspace. This admiringly ensures great precision and better quality. A filter lens shade covers the window and is made using tinted glass or plastic. In a few helmets, this window is made using variable density filter consisting of a pair of polarized lenses.
However, for all these components to function responsibly and effectively, choosing a well-made helmet is essential. A welding helmet that might be too cheap in terms or price or construction material can prove contradictory to your own purpose of buying it. This is because such a helmet could bring in serious injuries in long term, which might endanger your work. A few possible risks of a deficient welding helmet are:
- Neck strain or fatigue leading to long-term injuries, if the weight of the helmet is too much
- Lack of protection damaging your eyesight if there are no sufficient sensors or shade options
- Limited visibility if the chosen model cannot counteract bright lights
Well, the aforementioned possibilities literally indicate that it is extremely essential to look for the best welding helmet as per the type of welding tasks you take up, features, and even price. Keep in mind that while all helmets protect from the invisible and visible harmful rays (ultraviolet and infrared) that an arc releases, not all of them are identical.
While looking for the right welding helmet, it is wise to reflect on a variety of jobs you wish to or are doing, the duration for which you will wear, and the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Keeping these considerations in mind, here are the factors to consider while choosing the right welding helmet.
In order to help you determine which is the best welding helmet for you, I have put together a bit of a guide. You can have a look at the top helmets available in the market before you take a look at the guide and our welding helmet reviews.
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Types of Welding Helmet
via US Air Force
Broadly, five different types of welding helmets are available namely, standard or passive, auto darkening, fixed shade or variable, professional and intermediate level, and battery and solar powered.
- Standard or Passive (Very Popular): Are produced from molded plastics and have viewing or filter lens having ultraviolet and infrared coatings. Most of them come with #10 shade. While passive lens helmets are economical and strong, they have major cons: Tough for a novice or occasional hobbyist to position the electrode after snapping that can lead to excessive grinding or defects, inefficient tack welding or several short welding chores due to repeated lifting the helmet, and failure to remain locked into position.
- Auto-darkening (For Occasional and Novice Welders): Are light, reactive helmets designed to retain precise gun/torch position, maneuvering, eliminating the risk of neck discomfort and impractical performance at the time of tact welding. They overcome the above shortcomings of the passive welders. They come with adjustable electronic filter for ensuring easy welding experience. A few light sensors existing close to the lens (Shade #10) sense the welding arc due to which it is possible to see just as the sunglass shade. The auto-darkening helmets are available in fixed shade (standard) or variable, professional and intermediate level, and battery and solar powered options.
- Fixed lens shade #10 is essential for welding implementing MMA at the same amperage for a single material such as steel as well as of the same depth. Fixed shades are seen in some inexpensive models. They are perhaps the most affordable options. However, mostly welding involves different metals with different thicknesses demanding varied welding processes, such as TIG, stick, and MIG. This indicates the need of varying amperage from 40 to over 200 amps, which cause different degrees of arc brightness. For protection from such brightness and for best view of the work area, a variable or adjustable lens shade is essential, which are inside and on the lens, or outside at the side. Most of these lenses adjust from #9 to #12 or #13 shade (the latter one for only too much high amperage or in case of highly sensitive eyes)
- Professional and intermediate level auto-darkening helmets typically have adjustment control. While welding with less brighter arc than in TIG as well as at lower amps, sensitivity control is handy. Usually, the amount of intensity makes the lens to become dim.
- Battery and solar powered auto-darkening helmets feature a solar panel and a rechargeable lithium battery. Obviously, you need to charge the helmet through sunlight before you start using them. The plus point is that if the battery drains down, the solar panel continues with the power supply. However, they need to be charged even if they are not used for an extended time, which can test your patience if you want to weld instantly. It is better to choose AAA battery for instant accessibility and affordable replacement cost but a lithium battery is ideal for prolonged battery life although its replacement cost is higher due to limited availability. A standard AAA battery will last for around 2,000 MIG welding hours.
This is another important factor to consider and it refers to lens reaction time that manufacturers publicize. It is a number indicating the speed of lens for switching from its state of natural light (it is #3 or #4 shade) to the state of darkened shade at the start of welding. The faster your eyes are shaded from that light of high intensity light, the better it is for you, as the risk of eye discomfort in the form of dry scratchy sensation (arc flash) becomes almost nil.
- Entry-level lenses: 1/3,600 of a second speed
- Intermediate and professional level: 1/16,000 of a second or even quicker
Further, the quicker the speed, the costlier is the helmet as well as its lens. However, that extra pay is for your eye comfort and safety.
This is the next major consideration if you buying an auto-darkening helmet. Although it is a personal selection, the viewing size is decided as per the amount of out-of-position welding you will do. Usually, the standard viewing size is five inches ideal for light duty applications. However, you can even find the area of 8-10 inches perfect for industrial use.
Number of Sensors
Usually, many helmets have two sensors that are suitable for a helmet designed for hobbyists. However, helmets designed for industrial use will have four sensors. This is because the more sensors ensure better exposure, particularly for out-of-position tasks wherein a sensor might get blocked. While only three sensors can be enough for production work or a clear line of sight, four are optimal for maximum out-of-position and fabrication tasks.
Weight of the Helmet
It is wise to choose a helmet that weighs light because that will minimizes pressure or strain on your neck as well as alleviates fatigue while boosting the level of comfort. Usually, the helmet should weigh as less as possible, below 10 lbs. The best option would be of 1 lbs that may seem inadequate for some short welds but is ideal for working throughout the day.
Adjustable Sensitivity and Delay Controls
The professional as well as intermediate level helmets come with adjusting feature to control the amount of brightness that the arc can trigger for darkening the lens. Similarly, a delay control is equally important feature, as it enables setting the duration for which the lens remains dark after the arc stops.
At the time of tack welding on big project, delay by short time assists in getting the work done faster as you relocate for the subsequent weld. On the other hand, a longer delay time is handy for high amperage welding for averting you from observing the weld zone once the arc turns off.
Varying as per the price and manufacturer, these control features are under the control of toggle switches dedicated for slow/fast delay and high/low sensitivity. For example, a professional level model features infinite range dials for ensuring superior adjustment capability, while the entry-level models do not have these controls.
National Safety Standards
This is perhaps the most essential factor to check out for, when it is the matter of safety. For welding helmets, the latest safety standard is ANSI Z87.1 – 2003, which has made it mandatory for auto-darkening lens manufacturers to authenticate their publicized specifications such as dark shade settings and switching speeds via laboratory tests for ensuring compliance.
Well, these tests are very stringent and check whether the lens and helmet can survive the impact of high velocity, ensure full protection from ultraviolet and infrared irrespective of shade setting, and fulfill published darkness shades and switching speeds even in extreme temperatures. The lenses for auto-darkening helmets need to perform well even at low temperatures such as 23 degrees F for consistent protection.
Therefore, ensure that the helmet you choose is advertized as ANSI Z87.1 – 2003. You can even choose Z87+ as the safety standard. If you can see both the standards in the specifications, it indicates latest approval of the Society of Safety Engineers as well as American National Standards Institute. Remember, just because the specification says “ANSI Approved”, it simply does not indicate that the product has passed the 2003 ANSI standard.
This is something that you need to check seriously, as even the popular helmets lack it, at times. The fit of a helmet is essential to prevent exposing any skin area from spatter or UV rays. If a helmet is not fitting, the exposed skin can get burned critically, particularly while welding aluminum as it is significantly reflective.
In case you find that your helmet is not fitting, you can invest in a welding bib that can fasten itself to the helmet for extra protection, provided you have the heavy-duty protection. Favorable to your working site, you can even buy a helmet having heavier duty protection with hardhat capacity.
2015’s 5 Best Welding Helmets
Keeping in mind the above buying factors, we have picked the ideal welding helmets for you. Here are the top 5:
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00BWAEYV8″ locale=”US” tag=”theplasmacutter-20″][/easyazon_link]This one is suitable for welding at vehicle body shops, light and heavy construction sites, light home chores, and industrial metal fabrication.
- Offers: Larger viewing area of 3.86” l x 1.78” h, four premium light sensors, and variable shade of 4/5-9/9-13 ensuring welding in any plasma cutting setup
- Weighs: 1 lbs
- Protects: While performing MIG, MAG, TIG, SMAW, and plasma arc projects
- Switching Speed: 1/20000 of a second
- Safety: ANSI Z87.1/DIN/EN397 CSA Z94.3
[easyazon_link identifier=”B0085T1LDS” locale=”US” tag=”theplasmacutter-20″][/easyazon_link]This one is known for its largest viewing area, lightweight design, quality materials of carbon fiber, and comfort features.
- Offers: Viewing area of 10 square inches, two sensors, low battery indicator, 9-13 lens shade, light shade #4, aerodynamic design for moving the helmet in and out of tight spots for difficult jobs, and adjustable sensitivity & delay controls
- Weighs: 1.8 lbs
- Protects: While performing SMAW, GMAW, GTAW, FCAW, GTAW, PAC, and PAW welding
- Switching Speed: 1/25000 of a second
- Safety: ISO9001-2008/ANSI Z87.1/CSA/NZS/ CE/AS/EN379
[easyazon_link identifier=”B005J4P2SM” locale=”US” tag=”theplasmacutter-20″][/easyazon_link]This one is known for its quality and cool design, Miller is a reliable brand in the welding world. However, its classic series helmet is unbeatable in terms of quality and utility. However, it is not for TIG welding below 20 amps.
- Offers: Large viewing area of 5.15 square inches, light sensitivity features for delaying sensitivity to be fast or slow (rarely found in other helmets), lightweight frame and small dimensions, visor and several glass layers for extra protection, two sensors, 8-12 lens shade, light shade #3, and durable detents for keeping the helmet in place
- Weighs: 2.1 lbs
- Protects: While doing light industrial and DIY welding projects
- Switching Speed: 1/20000 of a second
- Safety: ANSI Z87.1+2010 and CSA
Jackson Safety W70 BH3 Grand DS Auto Darkening Helmet
[easyazon_link identifier=”B00AAQ4ZPK” locale=”US” tag=”theplasmacutter-20″][/easyazon_link]This one is perhaps one of the costly welding helmets but has the most rarely found feature of auto-on ADF (auto-darkening filter). This feature has the best EN 379 scores for luminous transmittance variation, light diffusion, optical quality, and angle dependence class.
- Offers: Large viewing area of 8 x 2.7 inches, two arc sensors, adjustable delay control, variable shade range from 9 to 13, high-density plastic shielding, cheater/magnifier lenses compatibility, aerodynamic curved front cover plate for alleviated heat accumulations, fogging, and reflections
- Weighs: 2.1 lbs
- Protects: While doing diverse welding projects
- Switching Speed: 0.15 microseconds
- Safety: ANSI/ISEA Z87.1+2010
Wel-Bilt Variable-Shade Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
[easyazon_link identifier=”B005G2S0WW” locale=”US” tag=”theplasmacutter-20″][/easyazon_link]This one is known for its affordable price at which it can fulfill almost all welding needs of any project, including the most demanding ones.
- Offers: Large viewing area of 86 x 1.73 inches, low battery indicator, adjustable fit, 9-13 variable shades, stylish design, comfortable 5-point ratcheting headgear, replaceable sweatband for moisture control and eye safety, adjustable sensitivity control
- Weighs: 2.1 lbs
- Protects: While performing MIG, Flux, TIG, and Arc welding processes
- Switching Speed: 1/25000 microseconds
- Safety: ANSI Z87.1-2003, CSA Z94.3
We have listed and reviewed the most reliable and popular welder helmets here. However, this is not a universally applicable list, as not all of us will have equal requirements. Therefore, we strongly recommend getting familiar with all types, styles, and features to select the right mode as per the unique requirements. As a fact, there is no perfect welding helmet to handle all types of jobs in all any kind of condition.
In most cases, your welding environment and the types of job you take will help you determine the best welding helmet for you. At the same time, you also need to consider the pros and cons of each helmet type so that you are aware of its maintenance. With the right information in hand, you will be satisfied with your choice.