How to Choose an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet

Welding helmets are available in a wide range of colors and graphics, making them a welder's most personalized accessory. These visual features are often what catch our attention, but it's important to look for features that best protect our eyes.

Today the most popular helmets sold are equipped with auto-darkening capabilities. These helmets protect from harmful light emissions at all times, and automatically darken in milliseconds to an appropriate shade when an arc is struck. In addition to providing critical protection from damaging arc flash, any helmet must be comfortable enough for a full day's work with flexible and adjustable headgear.

Helmets now are considerably more functional to accommodate a welder's specific needs. Although any helmet should protect your vision, an auto-darkening cartridge makes it easier to adapt to the requirements of a wide variety of welding cutting and grinding applications.

The quick-changing LCD technology in an auto-darkening cartridge allows a welder to see clearly while the helmet is in the down position. This feature allows continuous work, reducing unnecessary stop-and-start time and the need to readjust or lift then flip the helmet down. Most importantly, the display protects against harmful UV and infrared radiation light.

So how do you choose the right auto-darkening helmet? There are a number of factors to consider when selecting a helmet that is safe, comfortable and functional. Taking the time to ask yourself the following questions will help find a helmet that best meets your needs.

  • For anyone involved in extensive welding, a heavy helmet can significantly increase fatigue. Newer, lightweight helmets make welding safer, easier and more comfortable.
  • Likewise, check that the headgear is adjustable up, down, forward and back; and that it is easily tightened around your head. See if the rate of fall and degree of tilt allow the helmet to lower in a controlled manner.
  • Many helmets today have light sensitivity settings on a scale of 9 through 13. This allows welders to optimize the shade for greater comfort. Anyone who changes power settings and welding processes can benefit from this flexibility.
  • If you are TIG welding with low-end amperages, the cartridge should be able to darken to an appropriate level.
  • Most helmets are powered by either batteries or solar panels. While both work well, some welders prefer not to be bothered by changing worn-out batteries in inopportune moments.
  • Another convenience for many welders is the ability to access the front spatter lens, inside cover lens and auto-darkening cartridge.
  • And of course, every helmet should meet current safety standards (ANSI Z87.1) that address light leakage as well as flame and impact resistance.

    Once these functional issues are settled, you can chose from the myriad of cool and goofy graphics. But don't discount cosmetics. Chances are if it's a good helmet, you'll be wearing it for years. Pick one you really like.

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