At first glance, the number of options when a choosing an auto darkening welding helmet can be a bit overwhelming. Battery or solar powered, viewing area size, weight, lens shade options & adjustment.
What does it all mean - and more importantly, what difference does it really make?
We’ve pulled together a check list to help you select the right helmet:
- Budget: Generally the more you spend, the better the quality of the helmet. How much welding are you doing and how important is to you to have some of the features on offer.
- Amount Of Protection: Are you predominately MIG or TIG welding? You may want a larger head top for added protection in high amperage applications.
- Sidewindows: Do you want peripheral vision or will that distract you from the job in hand?
- Weight: The lighter the better.
- Automatic Park: When you lift the helmet back, will it stay in the upright position?
- Durability: Is it robust enough to withstand fairly severe knocks or high What happens if you drop it? The design should withstand a fall.
- Consumables: Are the inner & outer protection plates readily available & easy to fit?
- Multi Functioning: Thinking about TIG welding or plasma cutting? Then it maybe worth buying a helmet with a filter lens that covers these processes. Typically, shade 5 to 8 is ideal for plasma whilst low amperage TIG welding may require additional sensitivity settings to adjust the arc sensors.
- Grinding Capability: Some helmets incorporate a clear grinding visor underneath the mask. More expensive, but a real time saver and prevents having to have two head tops.
- Build Quality: Will the helmet stand the test of time?
- Viewing Area: A lot of manufacturer’s offer different sizes. The bigger the better, depending on your budget.
- Battery Life: Most of the higher quality auto darkening helmet filters are powered by replaceable batteries. Be aware that most of the solar powered models only have internal batteries which can’t be removed.
- Headgear: Is it comfortable & more importantly can you re-adjust it when it’s on your head?
- Spectacle Wearer?: Some helmets offer an adjustable rack on the headband to allow more room for the use of spectacles. In some cases, manufacturer’s offer magnification lenses which are relatively easy to fit which eliminate the need for wearing glasses.
Passive vs. Auto-Darkening Lens
Traditional welding helmets have passive lenses – that is they have a fixed shade value. They are worn in the up position to prepare the welding material and then moved downwards immediately before work begins. While they are cost effective, repeatedly lifting and lowering the helmet is inefficient and if the helmet isn't lowered in time there is danger of arc flashes.
An auto-darkening lens does what the name suggests. In its inactive state it has a low shade which is relatively easy to see through. When sensors on the helmet sense an arc start, the lens darkens in a fraction of a second. The helmet stays in position before, during, and after the weld which has the potential to improve weld quality and ease the neck strain associated with snapping the helmet into place.