Did you know that at least 21 welding-related accidents happen to every 100,000 workers in the United States? This rate is staggeringly high compared to those of workers in other industries and professions. Needless to say, you have to do everything in your power to make sure that you lessen your chances of being hurt while you are busy with your welding job.
The most effective way to protect yourself during a welding job is to wear layers upon layers of personal protective equipment (PPE). One of the most indispensable pieces of protective gear that you should have is a welding helmet. Auto-darkening helmets provide protection for your face, especially your eyes, as welding produces harmful light that can damage your eyes and eyesight.
What is an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet?
As you may already know, welding introduces hazards that can result in many life-threatening and irreversible injuries. However, don’t throw away your torch just yet. The good news is that you can still enjoy your hobby and continue working on your weekend projects without worrying about such injuries and health hazards.
Thanks to an auto-darkening welding helmet, you can protect your eyes from what is commonly known as “welder’s flash.” This is the extremely bright light that your welding torch produces. Aside from its blinding intensity, it is also made of harmful ultraviolet (UV) light that can cause a wide range of health conditions. Most welding helmets are designed against such hazards.
What Are the Benefits of Wearing an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet?
Some welders tend to skimp out on their safety. As seasoned welders and enthusiasts already know, due to experience or otherwise, you simply cannot cheap out when it comes to protective gear. When you buy substandard safety equipment, you put yourself at risk. Here are some of the benefits of using a proper auto-darkening helmet that you may have missed!
Protects Your Vision
Welders know how harmful the bright light from the torch arc can be. Short-term effects may include blurred vision, mild pressure in the eyeballs, and redness of the eyes. While many people carelessly shrug these effects off, long-term exposure to arc light can cause severe ailments such as cataracts and even blindness.
In addition, around 25% of welding injuries involve the eyes. As such, the importance of eye protection for welders cannot be emphasized enough. Wearing a welding helmet drastically reduces the risk of short-term eye ailments and developing more serious eye-related problems over time. Your future self will surely thank you for putting your eye health first.
Shields You From Sparks
Doctors advise against exposing your skin to sunlight for extended periods of time. This is because of the UV light that can be harmful to your skin. In addition, different skin ailments can be caused by extended exposure to UV light rays. Likewise, the UV light from welding torches can also cause burns and skin ailments like skin cancer.
Fortunately, in addition to eye protection, a welding hood protects your delicate skin from the harmful UV light produced by the welding process. The extended helmet design prevents hot metal sparks from reaching the skin on your face down to your neck. Some welding hood designs even include a bib to cover more of your skin.
Protection When You Need It
What makes auto-darkening welding helmets different from conventional ones is their auto-darkening feature. While wearing conventional welding hoods, your vision is impaired and limited by the black tint that covers the welding lens. As a result, you have to frequently move the helmet up and down as you work. This can negatively affect your workflow and even your safety.
Meanwhile, the auto-darkening welding helmet only darkens when you start up your torch. The eye protection kicks in at the precise moment when you need it. The helmet does this by taking advantage of the built-in arc sensors that activate the different layers of filters on your helmet. Once these sensors detect an arc, your vision will instantly darken, protecting you from arc rays.
Fit Into Tight Corners
A common problem that welders face when it comes to personal protective equipment is freedom of movement. Because of how bulky and heavy their safety gear are, their movement and dexterity become extremely limited. What this means for fabricators are more time on the job and a less efficient workflow. That’s the tradeoff between safety and efficiency.
However, auto-darkening welding helmets are generally narrower than their conventional counterparts. Due to the auto-darkening mechanism, welders no longer need extra room to make space for lifting up their helmets. Reaching into tight spaces and narrow crannies won’t be difficult with an auto-darkening welding hood.
Better Control and Workflow
Veteran fabricators know the struggles of using a conventional passive welding hood. Once worn over their face, they literally can’t see anything in front of them. This results in difficulty with handling materials and tools, which makes the job extra challenging. They would only begin to see anything once the arc is struck since only its bright light can pierce through the darkness.
Using an auto-darkening welding hood, you can see clearly what is in front of you before and after lighting the torch up. No longer do you have to grasp blindly in the dark, hoping to place the tip of your torch in the right place. The darkening mechanism kicks in within mere milliseconds of starting up the arc.
What Should I Look for in an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet?
Before you proceed to browse through the plentiful options online, you first have to set some standards for the best budget auto-darkening welding helmet for your fabricating needs. For you to nail down the best option for you, you should know what to look for in an auto-darkening welding helmet. As such, consider the following specifications when buying one.
One of the most important specifications that you should take into consideration is the welding hood’s switching speed. What this means is how fast the welding helmet switches from clear vision to darkened filters. When you work with harmful arc light, you must seek a welding helmet that has the fastest switching speed to save your eyes from UV light exposure.
If you end up with a welding hood that is too slow to activate its protective filters, you might still develop eye-related problems over time. Ensure that there is no gap in the time between lighting up the arc and the helmet switching to darker shades. The process should be instantaneous and without noticeable delay for you to enjoy the most optimal protection from the helmet.
Unlike conventional passive welding helmets, auto-darkening welding hoods need electricity to function. The arc sensors aboard this kind of helmet are powered by electricity which can be provided by different sources. Some helmets can be powered using replaceable batteries such as AA and AAA batteries, while others have solar panels for sustainability.
You should consider which kind of batteries are the most accessible for you. Some prefer AA batteries because they hold more charge than AAA batteries. Others prefer the latter because of the cheaper cost per unit. Aside from replaceable batteries, some welding helmets also have built-in rechargeable batteries which can be plugged into a power outlet to charge.
It’s not unusual for fabricators to work on their projects for long periods of time. As such, aside from your safety, your comfort should be one of your priorities. While wearing helmets leaning towards the heavier side, you might experience neck pain and overall fatigue sooner than you would with lighter helmets. Don’t forget to check for the welding helmet’s weight!
While lighter helmets are usually more preferable than heavier ones, you are making a tradeoff when it comes to lighter helmets. Either you shed some of the protective material to make the helmet lighter or utilize innovative materials that won’t compromise its durability for lighter weight. The latter option is usually more expensive because of higher manufacturing costs.
How much you can see from inside the helmet affects how efficient your workflow is. Reaching for tools in your peripheral vision can be possible with a viewing area that is wide and large enough to accommodate extended viewing angles. However, if your viewing area is too narrow, your vision could be very limited which would make you turn your head more often.
The downside of larger viewing areas is that they are more expensive. Unlike passive helmets, auto-darkening welding helmets have multiple layers of delicate materials that offer protection from arc light and UV rays. These materials are not cheap and could really skyrocket the costs of helmets with large viewing areas.
Welding helmets don’t come in a single shade. Depending on the specific welding hood you have, it may or may not feature different levels of shade. Having a wide range of shades can be useful when working with different welding processes. However, more flexible welding helmets can be more expensive than fixed-shade ones. Be sure to note the helmets’ shades!
Some welding processes could benefit from lighter shades. For instance, if you work with lower amp welding processes such as MIG, then lower shades would be more suitable as they would allow you to see the arc better as you work. There are many other advantages that come with using the proper shade levels for respective welding processes.
Who Makes the Best Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet?
Now that you are well-acquainted with the basics of an auto-darkening welding helmet, you should also familiarize yourself with the big names in the industry. Out of all the leading brands of welding safety equipment in the market, we chose the following three as they carry the highest quality welding helmets and consistently live up to their reputation.
Based in the United States, Lincoln Electric is one of the leading welding products manufacturers in the world. Their product portfolio includes welding equipment for numerous welding processes and welding consumables. As a Fortune 1000 company, Lincoln Electric remains one of the most recognizable names in the welding industry.
Specializing in personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in the welding industry, Jackson Safety has a wide range of welding safety equipment to offer. True to its commitment of designing and manufacturing only top-quality safety gear, Jackson Safety rigorously tests its products in compliance with national and international safety standards.
If you have been in the welding industry for a long time, then you would probably already be familiar with Miller Electric. As one of the leading names in the fabrication industry, Miller Electric offers a variety of welding products, including welders for TIG, MIG, and stick welding processes, and welding consumables for their welding equipment.
What Is the Best Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet: Our Recommendations
If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available on the market, don’t worry because we’ve got your back! We searched high and low to come up with a list of candidates for the best auto-darkening welding helmet for your fabrication needs. Keep reading to discover which welding helmets made the cut!
Lincoln Electric Viking K3034-4
Specs at a Glance
- Available on Amazon for $345.00
- Crystal clear vision thanks to 4C Lens Technology
- Boasts a 1/1/1/1 optical rating for welding lens quality
- Features a 12.5-inch welding lens fit for many applications
- Very comfortable fit thanks to its X6 headgear
- Powered by CR 2450 batteries and a solar cell array
- Comes with a low-profile tactile button to switch between modes
- Every purchase comes with a 3-year warranty
Crystal Clear Lens
One common problem that fabricators face during a welding job is blurry vision. If you can’t see what’s in front of you clearly, you run the risk of getting yourself hurt. Aside from workplace injuries, you also become more inefficient as your workflow is slowed down by blurry vision. Fortunately, the Lincoln Electric K3034-4 Viking comes with clear vision features.
You can rely on the innovative 4C Lens Technology that comes with this welding hood to give you crystal clear vision. In fact, the optical clarity is so good that it is rated with a 1/1/1/1 optical rating. As far as optical ratings go, it is the highest rating that any welding helmet can achieve. You can be assured that from behind the hood, you will be able to see even the smallest details.
Super Large View Area
To cut manufacturing costs, some manufacturers tend to skimp out on their lenses. They shave a few inches off the viewing area so that they could use less material which reduces costs to manufacture. What this means for you is more limited visibility and narrower viewing angles. If your eyesight is impaired due to your welding hood, you put yourself at greater risk.
Fortunately, the Lincoln Electric welding helmet comes with a 12.5-inch welding lens that provides a large and wide viewing area. While wearing this welding hood, you no longer have to struggle with limited vision and impaired eyesight. You can easily see what’s in front of you as well as those in your peripheral vision without even turning your head!
Sold with a price tag of $345.00, the Lincoln Electric K3034-4 Viking can be too expensive for beginner welders and fabricators. With such a steep price tag, this welding helmet is better recommended for seasoned professional welders who can’t settle for anything less than the best protective gear available in the market.
Miller Electric Digital Elite Vintage Roadster
Specs at a Glance
- Available on Amazon for $367.99
- Built with digital controls for ease of use
- Tactile buttons for control feedback
- Designed with four arc sensors for low-amp welds
- Comes with multiple modes for flexibility
- Uses electromagnetic sensors to detect arc light
- Features a redesigned headgear for better comfort
- Powered by a lithium button cell battery
Great For Outdoor Welding
Auto-darkening welding helmets make use of an arc sensor to detect the bright arc light and trigger the shade filters. Unfortunately, depending on the quality of your welding helmet, the arc sensor may not be 100% accurate. This can lead to dangerous and risky situations such as having your eyes accidentally exposed to the bright arc light.
The Miller Electric Digital Elite Vintage Roadster welding helmet comes with the state-of-the-art X-mode that utilizes electromagnets to detect arc light. Instead of relying solely on the four arc sensors onboard the welding helmet, the Miller Electric welding hood uses advanced welding lens technology to eliminate interference coming from sunlight, making it perfect for outdoor jobs.
ClearLight Technology For Clear Vision
After going through multiple welding hoods throughout your career, you might have noticed that most of them develop a yellowish or bluish tint. While this does provide a layer of eye protection for you, it also diminishes vision clarity which can severely affect your workflow and safety. ClearLight Technology allows more natural tones of light for more accurate and clearer vision.
Coming from one of the premium brands in the welding industry, the Miller Electric Digital Elite Vintage Roadster definitely has a steep price tag. If you need the best protection powered by state-of-the-art technology, then you can consider this welding helmet as a worthy investment. However, if you are looking for an entry-level welding hood, this option might not be for you.
Specs at a Glance
- Available on Amazon for $70.54
- Comes with a grinding feature for various applications
- Equipped with an adequate 3.93” x 3.66” viewing angle
- Boasts a 1/1//1/2 optical clarity rating
- Built with a pivot-style headgear for comfortable use
- Reduced greenish tint due to True Color Technology
Bang for the Buck
Up until now, we have only featured auto-darkening helmets with expensive price tags. If you are looking for the best auto-darkening welding helmet under $100, then look no further than the Yeswelder LYG-M800H! Despite its very affordable price, this welding helmet comes with features that you can also find in the more premium options in the market.
Impressive Optical Clarity
The most important specification that you have to check is how clear your vision would be behind the welding helmet. The Yeswelder welding helmet comes with an optical rating of 1/1/1/2 which translates to an impressive optical clarity.
Due to its cheap price, the Yeswelder welding hood comes up short in some aspects, particularly in comfort and durability. Some fabricators would find the light plastic shell lacking and fragile. In addition, the headgear’s size could be a hit or miss, depending on your head’s unique size and shape.
The importance of the best welding helmet cannot be stressed enough. Many welders experience some kind of eye problem throughout their fabrication career. As such, you need to equip yourself with the best welding helmet that provides enough protection for your eyes and skin. So take your pick from any of the candidates we have listed above and get back to welding!
If you find yourself sweating due to layers upon layers of protective equipment, be sure to check out our welding cooling solutions guide here!