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Invest in a quality helmet to protect your eyes from ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths

Laurie Potter
Successful Farming magazine Deputy Machinery Editor

Whether you're a beginning welder or a seasoned veteran,
there's no getting around the fact that welding requires a helmet and some form
of eye protection.

But how do you decide whether to go with a less expensive
model rather than one with all the bells and whistles? Eric Sommers, Miller
Electric Mfg. Co., says it all comes down to the type of welding you do and how
much time you spend welding.

"It used to be farmers looked at welding as just one
more task that they do, so investing in a more expensive helmet didnt seem
practical," he says. "However, a lot more farmers are actually
purchasing helmets with added features because they do a significant amount of
welding and they are willing to pay extra."

Jamy Bulan, Lincoln Electric, says that a helmet's
appearance is often what appeals to welders, but it's important to look for
features that best protect your eyes.

Here are 5 points to consider before you make a purchase.

Passive vs. auto-darkening helmets

"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," says Bulan.
Another bonus is the improvement in weld quality with an auto-darkening helmet.

"There is a much greater difference in the quality of
welding with an auto-darkening helmet compared to a standard model, especially
for occasional welders, because you can see exactly where you begin the arc and
can vary the shade to better see the arc while you're welding," Sommers
says.

Solar-powered vs. battery-powered

How you power your helmet is a personal preference, but
there are key features to consider.

"Battery-powered helmets are a better choice if much of
what you weld will be done indoors. Solar-powered units actually have to be
exposed to bright sunlight to recharge the internal battery fully,"
Sommers says.

Bulan says both work well, but some welders prefer not to be
bothered by changing worn-out batteries at inopportune times.

Switching speed

"A helmet with a faster switching speed (the time
between when the arc starts until the lens darkens up) results in less eye
fatigue," Sommers says.

Fixed or variable shade

Shade depends on how involved the process is. "If you
occasionally use a stick welder for a simple repair, a fixed shade would
probably be sufficient. If it's a more extensive repair and youre using a few
different processes, then it would be good to have variable shade,"
Sommers says.

Safety standards

Every helmet should meet current safety standards (ANSI
Z87.1) that address light exposure as well as flame and impact resistance.

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