Safety is one of the biggest concerns in welding!
Welding is dangerous and can cause fatal accidents if safety precautions aren’t implemented. No matter the welding type be it MIG welding, TIG Welding or even plasma cutting or all of the above your eyes and face require protection, yet you also need to maintain that pinpoint accuracy.
Welders are required to wear helmets in order to protect their eyes and skin from spark splatters and potential risk from vision-damaging ultraviolet and infrared rays.
Not only should the helmet be comfortable, but other features like auto-darkening can save welders time and effort.
While wearing an auto-darkening helmet the vision impairment will be about as much as wearing normal sunglasses.
Auto-darkening features make it more convenient and easy, you don’t have to adjust your lens while moving between jobs or using different lenses for higher amperage jobs.
Instead, as the light increases, your helmet will darken without you needing to fiddle with the adjustment.
Some welders perfect the technique of flipping the tint down with a nod of the head.
However, this doesn’t work in some positions or circumstances. The tint also isn’t adjusted so you could suffer eye fatigue from too much light or make a mistake because the tint was too dark.
Helmets also have some style choices to choose from, such as helmet colors and graphics that can reflect their personality to give them some flare.
What should a welder know prior to buying a welding helmet?
Our Reviews Of The Best Welding Helmets
Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 Welding Helmet
When searching for a welding helmet, you want to make sure that you have clear vision of your target and that you are comfortable wearing it.
Lincoln Electric’s welding helmet is not only light weight, but the dial located on the outer shield is easy to reach when adjusting the shade.
As you move, this helmet will also move with you, providing a comfortable helmet that will not get in your way.
Despite its weight, it sits on your head easily and firmly without hindering you from welding.
The Lincoln Electric welding helmet has had many compliments from professional welders about how it is comfortable to wear.
One great feature about this helmet is that its vision is very clear.
For your personal preference, if you lean towards buying a helmet that offers maximum visibility for all ranges, you’ll want to purchase the Lincoln Electric or 3M brand because they offer the widest view from a front and side mirror.
You can also easily dial the helmet to the proper shade, which makes it perfect to use in any welding environment.
The helmet also has a grinding position that you can switch to and from inside the helmet without having to stop and start again.
The helmet is offered in only one appearance, but it’s still a favorite among professional welders.
This is the most expensive helmet being reviewed, but it has the comfort and simple accessibility features that are highly recommended for welders.
3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100
The 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100 is one helmet that can be used for three different types of welding.
The auto-darkening feature instantly transitions from light to dark in 0.1 millisecond. Not only that, but it’s built to mimic the shape of a human’s head for maximum comfort.
The 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100 approximately fits head sizes 6.25 to 8 (50 to 64 cm).
It is extremely lightweight, and you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing the helmet. While the main window first appeared small, there are also side windows to maximize your view.
The auto-darkening settings can be locked, so the lighting will not shift on you while working, which would be best of its benefit to use if you are welding outdoors.
The battery life is approximately 2,800 hours according to 3M.
There are options to purchase the helmet with either large or extra-large lens that are a little heavier that range between one hundred dollars or double the price.
The standard color is black for this helmet it also has a padded headband to not only distribute pressure properly, but to provide the welder with comfort.
This helmet is made in the US.
Antra Welding Helmet AH6-260-0000
The Antra Welding Helmet AH6-260-0000 is the winner for the best of your money’s worth. The Antra helmet is a popular automatic helmet because its size fits almost all welders.
It comes with an affordable price tag that offers additional features such as grinding, sensors, shade variation, and coverage, which are what makes this helmet the most appealing for it’s price.
There is also a side dial that makes it easy to change your level of shade for proper light penetration.
The Antra’s full neck coverage is perfect for protecting against sparks while welding.
It is responsive to electric arcs from TIG, MIG, MMA, or plasma applications. The sensory knobs are easy to adjust for comfort for your eyes.
Chaining the dial located on the side of the helmet may take some getting used to, but once you’re familiar with which way to turn for your specific shade level, you’ll realize how easy it is to adjust!
Included with the helmet are 6 exterior and 1 interior lens covers.
For less than $50, the cost is relatively low for a helmet that offers a variety of features that are found on more expensive helmets.
Unfortunately, this helmet only comes in one style. There are many positive reviews, but there have also been others claiming flashes in the helmet and injuries to their eyes.
Anox Auto Darkening Solar Welding Helmet ADF-206S
Slightly more expensive than the Antra Welding Helmet AH6-260-0000, the Anox Auto Darkening Solar Welding Helmet is the next best helmet to consider money wise.
The features provide are some that are offered with more expensive helmets with about five times less the price.
Included with the Anox welding helmet are fire retardant welding gloves and two replacement lenses.
The gloves are said to be some of the better gloves to use. Inside the helmet is a hard hat adapter.
The auto-darkening feature works incredibly fast and lives up to it’s name.
Whether welding is a hobby or a career, you’ll be off to a good start with this helmet and gloves for the price you pay for them.
This helmet lets you purchase either a dark grey or USA flag design.
DEKOPRO Durable Solar Powered Welding Helmet
The DEKOPRO Durable Solar Powered Welding Helmet is the winner for the best auto-darkening helmet because it transitions from light to dark is within .00004 seconds.
Another feature is it’s excepent UV and IR radation protection.
The auto-darkness freatue makes a welder’s job easier and safer. This helm boasts an incredibly fast response time when it comes to it’s auto darkening feature.
A good feature is that the sensitivity level is at its lowest when first turned on, which allows the user to adjust accordingly.
Not only does it work well, but it is comfortable and light to wear. Unfortunately, the major drawback to keep in mind prior to purchasing is the lack of an air vent.
If you tend to buy helmets with air vents to avoid your glass fogging, this helmet sadly does not come with a cooling vent.
This helmet is available in Red or the Blue and Black color scheme, and it is made in China.
Welding Helmets FAQ
How Long Do Welding Helmets Last?
Ultimately, there are a few factors to consider about a welding helmet that determines its lifespan.
Some variables include battery life, welding lenses, and the way you store the helmet.
Most helmets come with a battery life approximation, but this is usually over-inflated and rarely lives up to the value claimed. A good practice is to use the helmet for a time and see how much battery life was used. You can then estimate when a battery replacement is needed and plan accordingly.
Welding Lenses and Helmet Storage
In regards to storage, it will affect how long your helmet lasts if you have an auto-darkening lens.
It’s best recommended to let your helmet recharge if it’s stored in a room temperature enviroment.
If your helmet doesn’t seem to work properly, placing it in the sunlight for a short amount of time should allow it to recover. If not, there may be other problems with your helmet.
Temperature also plays a factor on the helmet’s lifespan. You should avoid sitting your helmet in cold or hot weather because it will affect its life and have an impact on the lenses.
Some welders have claimed their helmets last well over twenty years. Other welders say that they have to replace their helmet within a few years.
Do Welding Helmets Have Batteries?
Yes. Some welding helmets have internal batteries that cannot be replaced easily.
These are usually charged by the sun via solar panels.
When deciding which welding helmet is the best to buy, there are some different types to choose from with different battery packs.
Solar Powered Batteries
Most ADF, auto-darkening feature, welding helmets are solar powered.
The assumption that this type of helmet doesn’t have batteries is false.
They have a battery pack that powers up the arc and uses low powered rechargeable cells in the PV panel.
It’s best to consider buying a helmet that has a battery pack that is easier and cheaper to replace.
If you want the best battery life, the Lithium battery packs are the most efficient.
The downside to Lithium battery powered solar helmets is that buying the helmet and the replacement batteries can be expensive.
However, they do tend to last longer compared to triple-A.
The lifespan of triple-A battery powered solar helmets is approximately 2,000 hours, which is half the lifespan of some of the best helmets that are compared above.
2,000 hours may seem like a long time, but, when welding and not minding it time passes quite fast. It can be quite inconvenient and dangerous to run out of battery power mid weld.
What are the benefits of using solar powered welding helmets? A huge misconception is that solar panels on a helmet are there to power the battery pack.
While this sounds logical, the battery packs actually power the mask and start the arc.
When the arc starts, the UV light powers the solar panels, and cycles into powering the electronics in the mask. So the battery packs are more like starter kits.
Essentially, the solar panel is doing most of the work powering the helmet while the battery acts as a backup and a starter.
If you forget to turn your helmet off, some offer an auto-shutdown feature that will turn your helmet off after so many seconds of no light activity.
This also preserves the lifespan of your batteries.
What Shade Lens Is Used For ARC Welding?
The shade lenses used for arc current operation will depend on the electrode size to determine the minimum shade protection.
If you’re using shielded metal arc welding, you’ll want the lens value to be no lower than 7.
Some lens values only apply when the arc is visibly seen. Otherwise, the lighter fillers can be used if the arc is hidden by a workpiece.
Of course, these shade settings may also depend on your own personal sensitivity to the light itself, but these are the recommendations for the minimum.
The len shades used in other types of arc welding will vary, but the best tip we can give is to set the shades darker than needed and then adjust to a lighter shade once your eyes feel comfortable.
Not only will this act as a reliable way to adust shades, but you’ll be protected from the light instead of causing potential eye damage if the shade is too light.
What Do Welding Shade Numbers Mean?
When viewing the variety of welding helmets, you see some numbers like 5, 9, 12, and 13 often.
In welding, shade numbers indicate the intensity of light radiation that passes through the helmet’s filtered lens to a welder’s eye.
Shade numbers range from 2 to 14.
The lower the level, the lighter the shade is. Darker shades protect from more powerful rays.
What Is The Best Shade For MIG Welding?
If the arc current is under 60A, the minimum OSHA shade number is 7.
If the arc current is between 60-160A, OSHA minimum is 10, while the ANSI and AWS shade number is 11.
If the arc current is between 160-205A, OSHA shade is 10 and ANSI and AWS shade is 12. Finally, if the arc current is between 250-600A, OSHA shade will still be 10, but ANSI and AWS will be shade number 14.
As suggested before, it’s best to start in the shade zone that is too dark, then gradually shift to a lighter shade appropriately.
The shade recommendations are more cautious in their shade levels, so, as you become more familiar with welding, you’ll understand which shades are the best for you.
The consideration between comfort, accessibility, price, and any other features that one helmet has over the other will help you make your final decision.
Sometimes helmets at a lower price point can offer better featured then more expensive ones but always be careful there more to helmets than pure on-paper specs. Be sure to check reviews and the manufacturer and their track record.
If you are new to welding or looking at it as a hobby, you might be tempted to buy a cheaper helmet but always consider if it’s worth it.
If welding is your profession, you may consider the ones that are more expensive and stick with the winners without worrying over the expense as your health is the primary concern.
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