Welding can be dangerous if you don’t have the proper gear for the job. It is easy to get hurt while working with a welding machine. Harm can occur because the electric sparks that are produced usually make bright, high flames. Those sparks and flames can quickly cause eye and facial injuries if you are working without protection. The brightness of the flame can be damaging in itself because it is so bright. The focused ultraviolet and gamma rays that emanate from that vibrant flame can cause a flash burn or even arc eye—injury to the surface layer of the eye. This article will help you find the best welding helmet for you, and we have also provided short , welding helmet reviews as well.

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It is because of this grievous harm that can befall upon you when welding, it is vital to always use a welding helmet that is UV resistant. This entire guide has information about finding the best welding helmet: why you need one, the different kinds, what you should be looking for when shopping for one and the five that I think are the best on the market. We have also given 5 short welding helmet reviews towards the end of the article.

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Why You Should Use a Welding Helmet

Before we begin with why you should wear a welding helmet, we shall first lay out the basic information as to what a welding helmet is and its origins. A welding helmet is a piece of headgear that protects the welder while he/she is welding. Particularly, it comes in handy during arc welding, since you can severely damage your eyes with an arc because of the intense ultraviolet and gamma rays. The very first welding helmet was invented in 1905 by Frederick M, Bowers, the founder of Fibre metal. Since its first inception, there have been many improvements on the design and materials used. You can now get a welding helmet with great features that provide the ultimate in protection.

The design of a welding helmet is like any other helmet. It goes over your head and has a viewing window that you can see out of. A welding helmet should always be worn while operating a welder because it is designed to not only shield the eyes but also averts harm to the face, neck and other exposed parts of skin that is close to that area. This is simply the basic and most prominent purpose of a welding helmet.

The construction of welding helmets varies from company to company and model to model. Some are made out of metal, while other are created from plastic or fiberglass. There are a number of materials that are used to make the viewing window pane of a helmet and can include tinted glass, tinted plastic or different filter made polarized lenses. No matter what material the window pain is made out of, its purpose is the shield the welder.

For your own safety, it’s better to get a well-made helmet that cost’s more. You could get a cheap helmet, but it will not be very comfortable and it will not provide the best protection, particularly if the materials it is made from are subpar or the craftsmanship is lacking. There are a few injuries that can arise from using a welding helmet that is lacking in quality. One of which occurs when the helmet is too heavy and causes neck strain or fatigue that can turninto lasting injuries. Also, if there is a lack of adequate sensors or shade then your eyes can become damaged along with your eyesight. If your viewing window pane does not sufficiently counteract the blinding brilliance of your torch you will experience a limited view of what you are working on. This can be very dangerous for you physically and it is also not good for your work.

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After reading all of that information, I’m sure that you realize the importance of getting the best welding helmet for you. Now finding the best helmet for you doesn’t just mean go to the store and pick up the most expensive one they carry. What you really need to consider is what kind of welding will you most often be performing while wearing your helmet? What kind of features do you like the best? How long will you be wearing your welding helmet at one time? And lastly, how much do you have to spend on a welding helmet? All of these questions are important to answer BEFORE you buy a helmet. While all helmets are designed to protect you while welding, not all helmets have the same features.

 

Varieties of Welding Helmets

The major difference between helmets is the lens and the protection that you get from the helmet. I think I should first delve into what a shade number is and how it is graded. The number of a lens shade implies the amount of protection that it provides. In general, the higher the number of the lens shade, the more protection it provides. A quality welding helmet lens will have a screen filter that screens 100 percent of harmful ultraviolet and infrared rays. The shade number is also how dark the lens is while welding, you should pick the shade that provides you with the ultimate in visibility and protection.

There are several types of welding helmets. They are standard or passive helmets, auto-darkening helmets, professional or intermediate, fixed lens shade, battery and solar powered. Here is some more information about all of these particular kinds of helmets:

Standard or Passive Helmets

These helmets are popular with seasoned welders, but can be difficult for people who aren’t that experienced as it can be difficult to perform certain tasks. They are created from precast plastics and have viewing or filter lenses that have ultraviolet and infrared glazes. Passive and standard helmets are cost-effective and durable but they have some downfalls. It is often difficult for a beginner or part-time hobbyist to position the electrode after snapping. This difficulty can result in unnecessary grinding or imperfections, the inability to stay locked into place, unproductive tack welding or a number of short welding tasks caused by frequent lifting of the helmet.

Auto-darkening Helmets

These helmets are great for those of you who are beginning or the occasional welders. They are light reactive which means that they get darker when the torch is lit. A nice feature of these auto-darkening helmets is that you are still protected even before the helmet darkens. They are designed to help maintain accurate torch position and maneuverability which reduces the possibility of neck discomfort and poor performance when tact welding. Auto-darkening helmets typically come with adjustable electronic filters and some light sensors that are placed close to the lens. These light sensors can darken the lens according to the brightness of the welding arc which makes certain that the lens is not too dark to see clearly. Both of those features help to ensure that you have an easy welding experience. There are a couple of variations to auto-darkening helmets: professional or intermediate, battery and solar powered.

Professional and Intermediate

This is a certain level of auto-darkening helmet that usually has adjustment controls. These controls are useful when you are welding with an arc that isn’t as bright or that does not use as many amps as other types of arcs. It is great to have a helmet that you can adjust when it becomes too dark for you to see.

Battery and Solar Powered

These kinds of helmets are distinguished because they have a solar panel and a rechargeable lithium battery. It does need to be charged before you can use it, which isn’t great for those of you who are itchy to start welding ASAP. A good thing about this model is that if the battery drains, the solar panel will continue to power the helmet.

Fixed or Variable Lens Shades

A fixed shade helmet will be an okay pick for you if you only use the same weld process on the same material every time you weld. That is because the shade doesn’t change and therefore is only suitable for use during the process with which it is intended. However, since most people don’t just work with one type of metal or even the same welding process every time, a variable lens shade is probably a better choice. A variable lens shade adjusts the darkness according to the brightness of the surroundings which ensures adequate coverage no matter what job you are doing.

Welding Helmet Specifications

All welding helmets provide protection from UV and infrared rays that occur during the welding process. However, they are not all the same and feature many different specifications that cater to dissimilar tastes. Here is a list and some information about the diverse features of welding helmets.

Switching Time

You are going to want a helmet that has a fast switching speed because it will provide the most protection from the harmful UV and infrared rays that are emitted from the arc. The switching speed is the time that a helmet takes to go from its state in natural light to the state of darkened shade when the torch is lit. The faster that the helmet switches, the better it is for your eyes. Entry-level lenses typically darken in around 1/3600 of a second while the intermediate and professional level lenses can darken in as little as 1/16000 of a second. It’s worth noting that the faster the switching speed of a helmet, the more expensive the helmet will be. You just have to decide if you are willing and able to pay more for a safer helmet.

Viewing Size

Another important consideration when picking out a welding helmet is what size viewing area you would want. The standard viewing window size is five square inches but they can get up to eight or ten square inches. It’s all a matter of personal preference, whether you like a bigger viewing area or not. A smaller viewing area may work for a part time welder and many industrial workers use the helmets with bigger viewing area.

Quantity of Sensors

Four is the ideal number of sensors to have on a welder. Unlike the helmets that just have two, the four sensor helmet is less likely to have a blind spot where a sensor doesn’t pick up. You want to have immediate protection whenever there is a spark or flame. The worker who does a lot of out of position work or fabrication would get the most benefit from the four sensors. There are many helmets that have only two sensors, but you will not get as much exposure.

Heaviness of the Helmet

You are going to want to get a helmet that isn’t very heavy. The heavier the helmet the more pressure and strain that is on your neck which causes fatigue and discomfort. About ten pounds is the weight limit of any helmet you should buy. If you can get down to one pound, you’d be better off if you have to wear a helmet throughout the day.

Modifiable Sensitivity and Delay Controls

Not all helmets come with these controls, only the professional and intermediate helmets. They can come in handy when working on tack weld. The sensitivity control adjusts the view depending on how much ambient light is present and the intensity of the welding arc. That feature is important because by it provides a much better view of your work. The delay control governs how long the helmet will stay dark after the arc has stopped. A lengthier delay time can be good when you are working with high amperage welding because it protects your eyes from looking at the weld area after the arc is shut off.

National Safety Standards

You are getting a welding helmet to protect yourself, so it’s kind of defeating the purpose if you get one that isn’t up to code with the latest safety standards. ANSI Z87.1 – 2003 is the newest safety standard to come out. It mandates that auto-darkening lens manufacturersconfirm their claimedspecs like dark shade settings and switching times with laboratory tests. This mandate ensures that the helmets do perform as stated.

The tests done in laboratories on the welding helmets are incredibly rigorous and check a variety of things like if a helmet can withstand a high velocity impact, the protection level from infrared and UV rays by shade and the performance of the helmet as well as the features under extreme conditions such as cold and heat.

Fitting Ability

You should really look for a welding helmet with a good fit. Not only will a well-fitting helmet give you more protection, but it will also give you more comfort. If your helmet fits correctly, you will not have any exposed skin that is in danger of absorbing UV or infrared radiation. It will also protect you from getting hot molten spatter on your skin, saving you from horrific burns. If you have noticed that your helmet could fit better, you would get a welding big that attaches to the helmet and provides extra protection.

2015’s 5 Best Welding Helmets Reviewed

Here is the list of the top 5 welding helmets. Try to keep in mind what you need and what typically works best for most folks when you are looking these over.

1. Rhino RH01 Large View Auto-darkening Helmet

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This one is pretty light and protects from a variety of welding processes. It has the largest viewing area on this list and is constructed from quality materials that are designed for lightness and comfort.

  • Weight—1.2 pounds
  • Protection from SMAW, GMAW, PAC, FCAW, GTAW and PAW welding
  • Switching Speed—1/25,000 of a second
  • Safety—ANSI Z87.1 / CE / CSA / AS/NZS / EN379 / ISO9001-2008
  • Material—lightweight nylon shell
  • Features: Large carbon fiber viewing window: 4 inch by 2.6 inch = over 10 sq. inches; grind auto-darkening; ratchet style headgear; dark shades 9-13, light 4; adjustable sensitivity and delay controls; low battery indicator.

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2. Jackson Safety W70 BH3 Auto Darkening Helmet

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This is a very expensive choice when compared to the others on this list, but it boasts the best clarity and diffusion of light, among other things. It has the hard to find auto-on auto-darkening filter.

  • Weight— 576g
  • Protection for MIG, TIG and arc welding
  • Switching Speed—0.15 microseconds
  • Safety—ANSI / ISEA Z87.1+2010
  • Material—high-density plastic
  • Features: Auto-darkening filter lens (ADF) received the EN379 ratings for Optical clarity, Variations of luminous transmittance,Diffusion of light and Angular dependence; variable shade range from 9 – 13; sensitivity and delay settings; aerodynamic curved from cover plate helps to lessen heat build-up, reflections and fogging; three head gear adjustments.

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3. Miller 251292 Classic Auto-Darkening Helmet

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This is a plain black welding helmet made by Miller that is auto-darkening. The power source is batter powered with solar assist. The battery has a life of two-thousand hours and the helmet itself weighs 2.1 pounds.

  • Weight—2.1 pounds
  • Protects when doing light industrial and do-it-yourself welding projects
  • Switching Speed—1/10,000 of a second
  • Safety—ANSI Z87.1+2010 and CSA
  • Material—nylon
  • Features: Light sensitivity features; small measurements and visor; a number of glass layers for additional safety; two sensors; ratchet headgear; viewing area: 1 2/5 inch by 3 ¾ inch.

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4. Wel-Bilt Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet

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Here is a solar powered auto-darkening helmet designed for MIG, flux, TIG and arc welding. Has a pretty fast switching speed and an easy to reach adjustment knob. An overall solid pick for a welding helmet, although it isn’t the lightest on the market.

  • Weight—2.1 pounds
  • Protection for MIG, TIG, flux and arc welding
  • Switching Speed—1/25,000 of a second
  • Safety—ANSI Z87.1-2003, CSA Z94.3
  • Material—high impact nylon
  • Features: Solar powered; easily reachable sensitivity control on the outside of the helmet; five-point adaptable ratcheting headgear with replaceable sweat band; viewing area: 3.86 inches by 1.73 inches.

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5. Antra AH6-260-0000 Solar Power Auto Darkening Helmet

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This one is another solar powered auto-darkening helmet. It is made from nylon, so its very lightweight at just under a pound. The Antra AH6-260-0000 has a pretty fast switching speed and provides protection for harmful rays even if an electrical failure happens to occur.

  • Weight—435 g
  • Protection for MIG, MAG, TIG, SMAW and Plasma Arc
  • Switching Speed—1/25,000 of a second
  • Safety—ANSI Z87.1/DIN/EN397 CSA Z94.3
  • Material—high impact polyimide nylon
  • Features:adjustable delay time and sensitivity control; very lightweight; light state shade is a 4; dark state shade is a 16; 0.00004 of a second switching speed; cheater lens compatible.

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Conclusion

There are many different helmets out there claiming all kinds of special features and specs. It’s really up to your preferences and needs when picking the best welding helmet. Keep in mind what exactly you will be doing when wearing your helmet as well as what you want it to do and always look for a helmet that has passed the national standards lab tests.

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