It’s dangerous to even think about welding without a helmet. You might be surprised to know I actually did that and had a terrible experience I must say! It was just a simple repair job that wasn’t supposed to take much time. I used my hands to shield the weld and after a few minutes my face felt like it was on fire! I was having a burning sensation in my eyes too. That’s it - I knew I urgently needed a welding helmet to save my eyes and face from burning. I couldn’t afford to repeat this mistake again!
After trying out several welding helmets, I have now realized the other factors associated with using such type of headgear and what are the necessary features that your helmet should have for a better welding experience. Here the Drillly team has picked top 10 choices to help you find the best welding helmet from so many choices.
Why Do You Need Welding Helmets?
Welding helmets are the most essential equipment for a welder to protect their face and neck from sparks, flames, and radiation. You should wear this type of headgear if you are performing welding or watching someone else doing it. Unless you take any safety precautions, the bright light of welding could burn your cornea, or in the worst case scenario, could cause permanent blindness.
You should necessarily have the best welding helmet to stay on the safe side. Working with welding machinery could expose you to harmful ultraviolet rays emitted by the electrical arc and other hazards like electric shocks, burning flames, flying sparks, toxic gases, and loud noise.
Not only will a welding helmet protect you from heavy sparks and help your eyes adjust with the change in brightness in a dark place, but its integrated ear muffs will also safeguard your hearing in the loud working condition.
Welding Helmet - A Comprehensive Buying Guide
1. Size of Viewing Area
The size of the viewing area is a major purchasing consideration. There is no right size and the preference varies from user to user. The amount of the out-of-position welding could also have a role to play here.
Generally, the view sizes could range from 6” to 9” depending on whether you are using it for your home-based project or for commercial purposes. The auto-darkening models measure 97x 62 mm (3.82 x 2.44 inches) or larger.
2. Lens Type
Auto-darkening lenses get dark instantly when you start the torch and vice versa. They possess a liquid-crystal display similar to a TV screen and can be used either with batteries or a solar system, or both can be combined.
Fixed-shade glasses are used in passive lenses that are coated with UV as well as IF protection. While torching, passive lenses usually ensure better visibility. The best part is that they are cheaper and can be easily replaced. They also don’t require batteries or sensitivity controls.
3. Lens Shading
Some welding helmets come with variable shades - some shades are transparent while some are darker. The brighter the electric arc, the darker you need your lenses to be. The shades usually vary from 6-13 but you may have to use the number 5 if you are welding with low amps.
With the fixed shade number, you have limited options and you will be able to use it in specific conditions only. You’ll need a higher number if you are welding with a higher amperage and lower in case of a lower amperage.
This can be the cheapest and the best option for welding helmets. They require a little amount of power to operate. But if you’re going to use your helmet for a long period of time, you better consider battery power.
Most welding helmets are powered with rechargeable internal batteries. This option helps avoid dangerous wire around while you’re welding.
5. User-Replaceable Batteries v/s Non-User Replaceable Batteries
Some welding helmets feature user-replaceable lithium ion batteries while others feature non-user replaceable batteries. The former has the potential for a longer service life when compared to the latter that generally lasts around five to seven years.
6. Lens Clarity
The clarity of the lens is another major factor to consider beside the viewing window size in order to see well what you are working on. Lenses are given a rating of 1-3 in four tested areas where 1/1/1/1 is a perfect score in terms of clarity.
7. Size and Fit
Welding helmets come in both large and small sizes and light and heavy weights. You should make sure your chosen helmet fits your head.
8. Material and Durability
Welding helmets made with materials like tinted glass, tinted plastic or a variable-density filter are more durable.
9. Reliability & Comfort
No matter how comfortable your helmet is, if it doesn’t keep your eyes and skin safe then it will be of no use.
10. Grind Mode
Sometimes you would use your helmet as a mask for face protection only and not to block the light. This is the reason some masks come with the grind mode feature.
11. Cheater Lens
Cheater lens is a small magnifying lens that helps enlarge what you are looking at. Few such headgear actually come with this feature.
12. Numbers of Sensors
Some auto darkening models may feature sensors that help detect flashes and darken the helmet instantly. The presence of four sensors decreases the risk of catching flashes. So, it’s better not to have less than four sensors.
13. Safety Standards
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has outlined some safety guidelines to ensure welders are protected. Check to see if your preferred helmet conforms to the current safety standard set by the ANSI Z87.1 – 2003.
14. Overhead welding
For overhead welding, your vision needs to be really clear and you should be able to move fast. Get a lightweight helmet for this purpose.
You have the opportunity to customize your welding helmet’s color or add unique visuals that show you’re not new to welding.
16. Lens Reaction Time
This is the speed at which the lens changes from light to dark after the initiation of arc. The high-end models usually take the minimum amount of time possible.
17. Respirator Systems
It is best for you to buy a helmet with a dust shield inside. This is necessary because you will have to stick your head inside the small space in the helmet and move while welding.
You can expect a 3-year warranty from your choice if you get a high-quality one. This is the average period that most of today’s helmets come with.
There are many models ranging from $30 to $500. Your budget will determine the quality you will get.
Welding Helmets: Care & Maintenance Tips
You need to take good care of your welding helmet because it’s the most important safety equipment for a welder. Your welding helmet protects your eyes, face, and respiratory system after all. So, you can’t be careless about its maintenance because your own safety counts here.
- Maintain a regular schedule to clean your welding mask. You can use a number of materials for this purpose, such as lens cleaner wipes, multipurpose cleaning brushes, gentle air cleaners, soft cotton towels, baby wipes, and clear gear disinfectant sprays.
- Never clean your filters using compressed air. This may create holes in the filter that will harm its filtering capacity. Change the pre-filter regularly though it can be a bit expensive.
- Always carry your helmet in a helmet bag. This is necessary to protect the lenses from scratches. The purple coating on your lenses blocks UV/IR, so it’s necessary to make sure the lenses are not scratched or damaged.
- The cover lenses of your helmet go through the most ‘tortures’ and that’s why you need to change them as soon as they get damaged to maintain your clear vision. You should also inspect frequently whether your helmet has any crack or damage in order to ensure complete protection.
Welding Safety Tips
Welding exposes you to many risk factors that could cause physical harms. So, it’s really important that you take some safety precautions during your operation. Keep these factors in mind and you’ll be safe and sound.
- Read the manual containing safety information
- Make sure the helmet fits you right and you are always comfortable
- Use auto-darkening helmets since they provide you with the best eye protection
- Wear a helmet with UV protection or you can wear UV protective safety glasses under your helmet
- Button up your shirt and make sure your skin is not exposed to IR and UV rays
- Wear flame-resistant clothing
- Use respirator or exhaust hood to ensure clean breathing
We provided you with a comprehensive and detailed guide about choosing the right type of welding helmet that suits your needs the most. We chose the best 10 welding helmets to assist you in finding the ideal model to make your welding job easier. After reading our reviews, you know which factors should be considered before purchasing a welding helmet and which are the top rated welding helmets on the market.
Our first pick YESWELDER EH-101H should be a standout choice with its modest price and top features. For those in need of an advanced model, Lincoln 3350 Series is a great option. Equipped with one of the largest viewing windows and high shade variability, you won’t regret purchasing this headgear.
We hope you have already decided on the best choice for you. Remember about your budget and specific needs. Happy shopping!
1. How dark should my welding helmet be?
Ans: It depends on the type of welding you’re doing. The more amperage you use the darker shade you’ll require to ensure that your eyes don’t get burned. We recommend you to use a shade between 8-10 for lower amperage and 10-14 for higher amperage.
2. What welding shade is darker?
Ans: The higher the shade number, the darker the lens is. Shade 14 is the darkest shade available till date but this shade is not available in most welding helmets. Typically, your auto-darkening welding helmet will go up to shade 13.
3. What shade of welding lens should you use for MIG welding?
Ans: The recommended shade for MIG welding is between shade 10 to 13. The shade number increases with the increase of amperage and vice versa.
4. What is the ideal lens size on a welding helmet?
Ans: For basic welding jobs, the standard dimension of 3.5-1.75 inches is sufficient. You should consider a larger lens for heavier welding jobs as you will require a larger view to work in different positions. In that case, the width should be more than 3.5 inches and the height should be more than 2.5 inches.
5. What is an auto-darkening welding helmet?
Ans: Auto-darkening welding helmets have special lenses made of liquid crystals. It uses light sensors that automatically switch from light to dark in around 1/25000 second, depending on the number and quality of sensors used. The settings option allows you to adjust the sensitivity, shade and delay setting.
6. Do welders go blind over time?
Ans: Yes there is a risk because of working long hours and using cheap welding helmets that give poor eye protection. UV rays keep passing through those defective lenses exposing the welders to arc radiation.
7. What is the TIG Amperage Rating?
Ans: The TIG amperage rating is an indicator of the minimum amperage necessary for the helmet to function properly. The lower rating means the lenses are more sensitive. For TIG welding, the minimum TIG amperage rating should be 10 amps.
8. How long do welding helmets last?
Ans: It depends on how often you use it and how well it is taken care of. The irreplaceable batteries usually last around 7 years and replaceable ones around 3 years. But in some cheap helmets the batteries may malfunction only after a few months. The best choice for you should be a helmet that supports both solar power and replaceable batteries.
9. How bad is welding for your eyes?
Ans: If your eyes are not sufficiently protected during welding, it can be extremely dangerous for your eyes. The radiation emitted during welding and all the extreme heat can harm your cornea and eventually lead to permanent blindness.