Ask any welder what their most important piece of equipment is, and if they know what’s good for them, they’ll have a fast answer: their welding helmet. Given the dangers associated with welding, no welder would be able to carry on long without a quality helmet protecting their eyes, face and head.
But with so many options on the market today, how can a welder be sure the one they’re using is going to protect them? Fortunately, there are a few best practices to follow in order to choose a helmet that can help ensure safety.
There’s more to choosing a helmet, however. Putting aside the safety protocols that come with choosing a welding helmet, comfort and productivity are also key factors. It’s important, therefore, to note that there is no one helmet considered ideal for every type of work. As a good example, the best helmet for TIG welding will likely differ from one used in MIG welding. Before knowing which welding helmet is the best for you, read on to get an idea of how this important accessory functions.
A welding helmet is designed to protect the eyes and face of the welder. Ultraviolet and infrared light is produced in the process, each of which are dangerous to the eyes and skin. Even the novice welder is familiar with the heat and sparks generated during the process. Fortunately, any basic helmet has an inflammable face shield, which is attached to the head of the welder through an adjustable strap and covers the entire face.
Within the face shield is a rectangular portion that covers the eyes. This portion consists of a lens that is darkened to protect the eyes of the operator from harmful light rays. There are differences in lenses, too, depending on the helmet.
The quality of the lens is one of the most important features to consider before making a decision on a helmet purchase. Based on the lens, helmets can be divided into two main types: passive and auto-darkening.
Passive helmets: A passive helmet includes a dark tinted lens. The lenses are usually permanently dark, which means they won’t switch from dark to light or vice versa. To inspect a completed weld, the helmet must be removed from the face as the lens is too dark to see through. This can be a disruption that causes production delays.
The perk of having a passive helmet, aside from its light weight, is that it comes in a shade 10 lens, which means it offers great protection to the eyes as no ultraviolet or infrared light can come through to create damaging effects.
The weight of a welding helmet impacts its level of comfort. Heavy helmets can be difficult to remove and put a strain on the neck. This is another reason welders prefer the passive helmet – its lightweight body.
Auto-darkening helmets: An auto-darkening helmet has variable shades, which allows the user to change to preferred shades according to their need. These helmets are in high demand and are the most preferred type by welders today.
Welders get the option of selecting their preferred lens, ranging from shade 8 through 13, unlike the passive helmets, which come with a shade 10 lens. Another perk is the automatic adjustment capabilities, which means the lens darkens as the welder works. When it’s time to check the quality of a weld, a sensor will lighten the lens and the welder can clearly see out, which means there is no need to flip the helmet up.
The downside of an auto-darkening helmet? Price. These are more expensive than the passive helmets, so it can be cost prohibitive to those on a budget. Furthermore, welders that switch from auto-darkening helmets to passive ones find the adjustment quite difficult.
Is there a “best” helmet?
The best and the preferred welding helmets on the market are those that comply to the ANSI z87.1 standard, which is the current standard of safety glasses set in the United States and
As for quality, there are several producers putting out great helmets today, including Hobart’s Impact helmet, which is a well-known brand to welders. The Hobart Impact consists of shades that are perfect for light conditions. They are comfortable to wear and have an effective ventilation system, making long periods of work easy.
Another quality welding helmet is the Lincoln 3350. It offers one of the largest viewing areas that make work very comfortable and efficient. They also have perfect optical clarity that makes inspection of welds easy.
Taking the welding helmet inspection checklist into consideration, the 3M Speed glass auto-darkening is a quality helmet. This one has a large view area and good exhaust vents.
And, with its high-quality auto-darkening lenses and a touchscreen panel, welders can set the best shades for their type of work. Overall, the “best” welding helmets are decided by comparing such specs.
Features of a good helmet
When it comes to finally narrowing down a helmet purchase, there are a few final features to consider, including the number of sensors, the viewing area and the sensitivity of the helmet.
The number of sensors in a welding helmet can set the tone of your work. If you are a hobbyist, then a welding helmet with around two sensors might be perfect. For professional work, a welding helmet with three to four sensors is needed. With more sensors, welders get better coverage of their work, which makes a big difference when the weld is out of position.
In terms of the viewing area, a helmet that offers a larger one can make work easier to see. Out-of-position welds can also be made easier to see with a larger view area. For most welders, this is one of the most crucial features when choosing a helmet.
The sensitivity of a helmet determines the amount that the view needs to be darkened. A good auto-darkening welding helmet gives the user an option to determine how light-sensitive the helmet should be.
Frequently asked questions
For anyone that’s still on the fence, the following questions should help.
How dark should my welding helmet be? The recommended shade for welding is in the range of 10 to 13. These shades prevent damage to the eyes. The higher the number of shade, the darker it gets.
Are cheap welding helmets any good? There are a lot of cheap welding helmets that are considered of sound quality, including the Antra Auto-Dark, which is highly affordable and has a variety of shade levels. Keep in mind, however, that if a helmet isn’t rated according to the ANSI z87.1 standard, you might want to keep shopping. Keep in mind, however, that if a helmet isn’t rated according to the ANSI z87.1 standard, you might want to keep shopping.
Why do welders wear helmets? Welding is a dangerous process. Harmful sparks and light are emitted throughout the process and can injure the face and eyes. Therefore, a helmet is highly recommended during welding to prevent any harm to the worker.
Whether the welder is a hobbyist or professional, the welding helmet is a crucial piece of the puzzle. With a little research, however, getting the right one for the job should be an easy task.