Buyer's Guide: Welding helmets

Agriculture.com Staff 11/04/2009 @ 10:21am

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 didn’t 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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 you’re using a few different processes, then it would be good to have variable shade," Sommers says.
  5. Safety standards
    Every helmet should meet current safety standards (ANSI Z87.1) that address light exposure as well as flame and impact resistance.

    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.

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