Whether you are working on the job or just fixing something in your garage, welders need to protect themselves from the harsh working conditions that they face. Welding is a risky job that exposes you to high temperatures and molten particles that shoot off, potentially damaging the eyes and skin.
Welding also increases your risk in developing bad eyesight as well as certain eye infections due to continuous exposure to ultraviolet rays and infrared light emitted during welding applications.
Using a welding helmet can help protect your face and your eyes from these injuries. Finding a good quality helmet is an important step to ensure that you are provided with a comfortable fit and ensured of safety without hampering your welding abilities.
Selecting a good helmet can be quite confusing if you are not familiar with the essential features one must have. With the variety of welding helmets available today – from basic to more advanced; choosing what suits you can take some time.
To help you find what you’re looking for, here are important features to consider when choosing which welding helmet to buy:
Auto-Darkening vs Standard Glass Lens
Auto-darkening helmets are equipped with an electronic filter lens with sensors located near the lens to detect changes in heat and monitor arc initiation. Through these sensors, the viewing screen of the helmet can automatically brighten or darken according to the emission of radiation.
Standard glass lens, on the other hand, is more of an economical choice that features a helmet with a dark tinted glass. These lenses are usually in the #10 shade, with coatings of ultraviolet and infrared protection.
The welder is required to manually cover the eyes by nodding forward for the hood to move down.
Fixed vs Variable Shade
Choosing one with a fixed shade is usually #10 as it offers the same protection no matter what amps is emitted. This can be enough for welding applications that are limited to using a certain type of material like stainless steel or aluminum, using a specific welding technique with the same amperage settings.
All helmets with auto-darkening filters offer variable shades. When the arc sensors detect bright light, the filter is activated to lighten or darken the shade appropriately.
This feature offers more versatility and a whole view of the weld as it adjusts your view automatically based on the intensity of the arc.
Lens Reaction Time
This refers to the amount of time it takes for the screen to switch from bright to dim. The process of shading instantaneously begins once the arc is struck.
A smaller number will mean a quicker reaction time. Quicker is better since a slower reaction can result in eye fatigue or the painful “Welder’s eye”. Welder’s eye is an irritation caused by ultraviolet radiation which could affect your eyesight for days.
Sensitivity and Delay Control
Professional auto-darkening helmets offer sensitivity options that allow users to manually adjust the brightness settings to start at a specific brightness level. The delay control feature allows the user to set how long the screen remains dimmed after the arc is extinguished.
Auto-darkening helmets usually have three options: solar, battery, and a combination of both.
Solar-powered helmets require charging over a certain period of time in the sunlight before use and during inactivity as well. It offers long hours of storage as long as you don’t forget to charge it often.
Battery operated helmets can be used right out of the box. No charging is required as long as you have spares in case you run out of batteries.
A combination power source is a battery with solar assist. This helmet operates on batteries and only runs on solar power as back up when the batteries die during use.
Number of Arc Sensors
This component is essential when choosing auto-darkening welding helmets since these sensors will regulate the darkening of the lens depending on the light coming from your environment as well as the welding technique you apply. Having two or more sensors is recommended to ensure safety.
A larger screen will provide a wider viewing area. This is especially pertinent for beginners as it will provide you a better view for welding at odd angles.
Weight and Comfort
These aspects are important to consider for everyone, however increasingly prominent for professional welders who may have to wear the helmet for long periods. A lightweight helmet made with strong materials is recommended to prevent neck strain. Adjustable straps for a more comfortable fit are also an added benefit.
National Safety Standards
Not all helmets conform to National Safety Standards. In order to provide maximum protection against heat and high velocity impact, your choice of welding helmet should conform with the ANSI Z87.1-2003 safety standards.
This new safety standard requires manufacturers to validate product details through independent laboratory tests.