Are Auto-Darkening Welding Goggles Worth It? A Few Things to Know Before Buying a Pair

welder setting up plasma cutter

Welding Buddy Experts

November 16, 2021
auto darkening welding goggles

Welding goggles are a vital piece of eye equipment for any welder. They come in different types, but all have one thing in common: they protect the eyes from welding sparks and flying metal. 

Tinted welding goggles like that of round-lens welding goggles used to be made with fixed shades. However, just like auto-darkening helmets, they now come with an automatic visibility change feature for a more efficient way of seeing while welding. Thus, we now know them as auto-darkening goggles or glasses.

You will surely want to add auto-darkening glasses to your personal protective equipment (PPE). So, to make it easier for you, we have gathered the things you need to know about auto-darkening welding goggles before you make any purchase.

What Are Auto-Darkening Glasses?

Auto-darkening glasses are eye equipment that quickly activates when exposed to bright light sources such as arc welders or flame cutters. They change visibility during and after welding, which can be beneficial as they allow you to immediately see the quality of your work. Consider it as a high-tech version of regular construction safety goggles.

The most basic function of auto-darkening goggles is to provide light-sensitive lenses that darken upon exposure to bright light. When exposed to UV lights, these welding goggles quickly switch into a protective mode by darkening within milliseconds to prevent eye damage. The lenses remain transparent in the absence of UV radiation, so you will still have good visibility and won't lose your pace when working on projects. 

They provide the same eye protection with auto-darkening helmets, with the difference being that they can be detached. In addition, they have sensors on each side of the goggles, and they have adjustment settings that give you shade options for different types of welding.

They Provide Additional Eye Protection

Wearing goggles is mandatory if you plan to do any welding or cutting with an open-faced helmet or welding hood. The US Department of Labor, through the OSHA standards, requires welders to wear PPE. The only exception is when using a face shield with an attached hood instead of a bare welding helmet or goggles because these already provide full head protection.

Welding helmets and goggles fall under categories 1910.133 (eye and face protection) and 1910.135 (head protection) of PPE. Wearing protective eyewear is essential to help protect against harmful UV radiation that can damage your cornea in just seconds.

In addition to protecting you from UV radiation, wearing goggles helps prevent hot sparks or metal, or other debris from flying into your eyes. 

Welder working with autogenous welding tool in workshop with a colleague in the back

You Need to Use Them Along with Other PPEs

Wearing the goggles alone is harmful. It may cause unwanted burns or other health risks that may occur when exposed to spatters. 

If the auto-darkening glasses or goggles you bought didn't come with a mask, you need to attach it to a mask or helmet you have on hand. Depending on the brand you choose, some models have easy detachment and attachment features so that you can pair them with different welding hoods and helmets.

For beginner welders, it is important to understand that you cannot start welding with glasses or goggles only. Your eyes may be safe, but it will leave your nose, mouth, and skin exposed to the byproducts of welding, such as metals and fumes. 

Thus, we highly advise you to avoid using them as your sole protective gear. Instead, wear the mask that comes with it or buy an open mask that fits the goggles.

The Health Risk of Not Wearing an Eye-Protective Gear

Welders and metal workers who don't wear protective eyewear are exposed to high levels of harmful UV radiation. As mentioned, it only takes seconds for UV light to damage the cornea, which is why we highly recommend wearing goggles or glasses that offer protection against it.

Many welder-related accidents result from failing to use PPE, such as welding masks and auto-darkening lenses, causing eye injuries like cataract formation. In addition, temporary vision loss may happen when welders lack sufficient protection from UV rays emitted by an arc welder or flame cutter. It causes severe pain and discomfort after exposure, making them unable to open their eyes for minutes.

When welding, wearing eye protection gear reduces the risk of serious injury because UV light does not penetrate the lenses to reach the cornea. As a result, this helps reduce the risk of vision loss.

Positive and Negative Reviews from Welders

Some welders discuss on the Internet whether or not you need auto-darkening glasses, especially when auto-darkening helmets are available in the market. Their reviews are a mix of both positive and negative, depending on the brand and model they have tried and the type of welding they usually do.

Since this type of goggles has many cheap models online, many bought them and found them ineffective. However, high-end goggles come with other gear and additional features that many welders enjoyed.

But the question remains: do you need it? 

On account of safety, yes, you do need it, especially if your current auto-darkening lens isn't protecting your eyes from flashes or if you don't have an auto-darkening lens at all. However, it is an extra cost when you can use a welding mask or helmet that already provides the protection you need. 

To make a wise purchase, you may check demos online and see the effectiveness of the glasses.

What to Look For When Buying Auto-Darkening Glasses

The number one thing you should look out for is compliance with ANSI Z87, the national standard for personal eye and face protection devices. It tells you that those goggles are indeed capable of protecting your face while following up-to-date industry guidelines for face and eye protectors.

The next thing that you should keep an eye out for is the number of shade options the goggles can provide. While having compact auto-darkening glasses sounds good enough, you must consider how they can adapt to different types of welding. For example, if you mostly do arc welding, you must specifically look for goggles made for electric arc welding.

A man in welding glasses on red background

How to Choose Shade Grades

A higher shade number means it can block more intense UV light from entering through your lenses while welding. It also means less overall exposure, which improves safety and reduces the risks associated with high levels of radiation.

Here is a short guide of the different shades or grades that should be used in different welding operations.

Shade NumberWelding Operations
Shade #2Torch soldering
Shade #3Torch brazing
Light oxygen cutting
Shade #4Medium oxygen cutting
Light gas welding
Shade #5Heavy oxygen cutting
Medium gas welding
Shade #6Plasma arc welding
Heavy gas welding
Shade #7Shielded metal welding
Gas metal arc welding and flux-cored arc welding
Shade #8Shielded metal arc welding
Gas tungsten arc welding
Plasma arc welding
Light plasma arc cutting
Shade #9Medium plasma arc cutting
Shade #10Shielded metal arc welding
Gas metal arc welding and flux-cored arc welding
Gas tungsten arc welding
Light air carbon
Plasma arc welding
Heavy plasma arc cutting
Shade #11Shielded metal arc welding
Heavy air cuttingPlasma arc welding
Shade #14Carbon arc welding

We hope this table helps you choose the appropriate shade corresponding to the welding operation you usually do. For example, if you do more carbon welding, you should get welding goggles in grade 14. For arc welding, you can get arc welding goggles shade 13. 

On the other hand, if you do more gas welding, then you can get gas welding aluminum goggles in shade 4 for light (under 25 electrode current), 5 for medium (25–150 electrode current), and 6 for heavy welding (over 150 electrode current).

If you don't follow these suggested shades, chances are your eyes will not be safe from optical radiation, and you will waste money on a product that won't work. So, make sure you buy the right number, or, at the very least, it should be in the range applicable to plasma arc welding; you can buy arc welding goggle shades from 6 to 11. If you purchase lower than that, the goggles won't be dark enough to protect you from the blinding light.

The Takeaway

If you are looking for a product that can offer more safety at work, then welding glasses are what you need. Whether you will use them to protect your eyes from harmful UV light or shield them during high-heat operation, these auto-darkening glasses will do the job well.

However, if you already have an arc welding helmet and standard protective eyewear, take time to weigh the pros and cons before deciding to buy a pair. For instance, if buying it means extra expenses on equipment even though it makes no difference, then you should just probably use what you already have.

Auto-darkening glasses are a good investment. However, you need to use them properly and for the right job where they can be of more help. It's easy enough to find high-quality products online, so take time shopping around before buying one! 

So, are auto-darkening goggles worth it? Only if you know what they offer and how much value these items can bring into your life and at work!

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