When you start shopping for a new welding helmet, you’ll find that the cost of the best auto darkening welding helmets can be somewhat off-putting. There are options which start under $100, along with premium models which are priced above $500.
For a beginner or a hobbyist, that’s a lot of money to spend on some safety equipment. The price of the welding helmet may be more than what you paid for the welder in the first place!
Shopping depends on your budget. You must know what you want to get out of your new welding helmet. Think about your shade range and the work you do as a way to save money. Do you cut with a torch? Then a shade adjustment down to 5 is useful. If not, don’t spend the money on the feature.
Why an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet Is Helpful
As a beginner, hobbyist, or busy welding expert, eye protection must be one of your top priorities. Looking at the light of an arc is the equivalent to looking at a solar eclipse without protection. It will cause eye damage if you stare at it long enough.
For some people, the burns they suffer on their retinas from looking at a welding arc may create permanent issues with their sight.
To have proper protection against this type of exposure, your welding helmet comes equipped with a protective shade. When you own an auto darkening welding helmet, it will provide you with responsive protection that is based on the brightness of the light it senses.
If you require shade 10, then that is what it offers. It will go from shade 5 to shade 13 in milliseconds to protect your eyes.
Compare that to a passive welding helmet which offers one fixed shade as protection.
At the same time, you are able to maintain protection for your face throughout the entire job when using an auto darkening helmet. With a passive design, welders are forced to lift their face shield to inspect their work. That issue disappears when the helmet is responsive.
Stick Welding and the Auto Darkening Helmet
When you’re preparing to weld something, especially with a stick welder, then your position is the key which unlocks your success. If you can see what is going on with your stick welder, then you can keep your equipment at the ready and strike an arc at the precise time you need to work.
Passive helmets don’t allow you to see what you are doing. When it is time to strike the arc, you’re going to be in darkness until the light presents itself. Unless you’re experienced with the process, you won’t know where your rod is as you scratch out the starting process.
Production welding benefits from the use of an auto darkening helmet as well. Stopping and starting frequently can lead to a lot of strain on your neck and shoulders after a full day of work. When you’re not forced to lift your welding helmet every time to look at something, you’ll save time and energy.
The pain reduction is a nice added benefit too.
Selection Considerations for an Auto Darkening Helmet
When searching for an auto darkening helmet, there are three primary concerns to address.
· Is the helmet safe?
· Is it comfortable?
· Is it functional for your needs?
We can discuss style and convenience all day long, but without these three core elements, the helmet will be worthless to you.
The best auto darkening welding helmets will provide the welder with a full-coverage shell. This design protects against spatter while resisting impacts.
Take the size of the viewing window into account too. Although some of this is based on preference, a better view will make it easier to see your work. Using LCD technologies, some manufacturers have created models which are about 4 inches by 2.5 inches in size.
Light sensitivity is an issue with some helmet models in this category, so be sure to look at its specific settings. You may have the option to toggle between specific ranges, which allows you to optimize your comfort while having the proper level of protection while working. If you move between different process, as you might with a multi-process welder, then it may be worth the investment into this technology.
You might even be able to create delays in how fast the shade changes for the helmet. Some models allow you to alter the shade settings to provide a customized welding experience. Depending upon the product, the delays may set anywhere from one-quarter of a second to two full seconds.
Is an Auto Darkening Helmet Necessary?
Despite their convenience, an auto darkening helmet isn’t something that every welder must have. They are expensive when you’re first getting started, so a passive helmet makes for a better investment if you’re trying to see if welding is for you.
Some welding jobs don’t require the responsive action that an auto darkening helmet provides either. If most of the work you do is stop-and-start welding, you may get by with a passive helmet which offers the correct shade of protection.
For most welders, it may be better to spend the extra money on a better welder than it is to purchase a better welding helmet. Your equipment will become an extension of yourself over time, which makes it easy to know what, when, and where your skills are required.
That makes this product more of a luxury than a necessity for some.
If you do decide that an auto darkening helmet is the right choice, then look for the number of light sensors that come equipped. When you have more sensors available, there is less of a risk that the automatic darkening function will fail.
Only you know what will work best for your needs. If you don’t like taking your welding helmet on and off a lot, an auto darkening product is an investment which makes sense. For those who don’t care about lifting their helmet, this helmet type may not be as beneficial as it is for others.