What You Need to Know Before Purchasing a Welding Helmet

welding beginners guideGenerally, welding helmets are made to protect the eyes and face from the ultraviolet rays, infra-red rays emitted by the welding arc and other particles flying off during welding. However, some hoods offer higher protection than others. When it is time to buy a welding helmet, choose a strongly made product that will not only offer you the required protection but will last longer and offer you maximum comfort. To enable you choose wisely, here are some factors that you should put into consideration.

Buy a helmet that meets the standards of ANSI Z87.1 – 2003

Welding helmet constructed in compliance with these standards is able to offer maximum protection to the eyes against the UV and infrared rays emitted by the welding arc regardless of the shade setting. High velocity impact from flying objects have no effect on such welding helmets.

Know the type of helmet you are buying

There are two types of lenses used in creating welding helmets today. They are the auto-darkening lens and standard glass lens also known as the passive lens. Before you order, it is necessary to know more about these lenses in order to know which one will serve you better. The standard or passive lens is more affordable but offers basic protection to the eyes. It comes with a UV- and IR-coated dark-tinted glass which provides a fixed shade. It has some imperfections that make usage difficult. For example, flipping up and down the lens can result in neck discomfort. Positioning the electrode while the helmet is put in place can be difficult resulting in low quality weld.

Auto darkening lens on the other hand does not have a fixed shade and thus, it makes up the imperfections of the passive welding lens. It normally has three or four shade when it is in inactive state. The welder can easily see through this level of shade. But it comes with a sensor which senses the arc immediately the welding is started. The lens darkens to shade 8 to 13 as soon as the arc is sensed. Given that the lens darkens by itself, there is no raising and lowering of the helmet, no more head snaps to bring down the helmet and other imperfections of the passive welding helmet.

Auto darkening helmet is available in two of types:

Fixed or variable shade which combines the power of the standard fixed lens and auto darkening lenses by darkening to a fixed 10 shade. This type of auto-darkening helmet is an option for you if you use the same welding process on similar materials with the same thickness.

Variable auto-darkening helmet lens is not limited to darkening to 10 shade when the arc is detected. It all depends on the shade you set. This type of helmet is an option for people that weld with different techniques such as TIG, MIG and Stick which require them to vary the arc’s brightness as well as the welding amperage.

Lens reaction time

Another point that you should consider when you are shopping for a welding helmet is the lens reaction time which refers to how long it takes the lens to darken when the arc is detected. This helps to reduce eyes fatigue and the effect of UV rays and infrared rays on your eyes. It is advisable that you go for a lens with high reaction time. The rating for basic lenses is 1/3,600 second but professional or industrial grade helmet has a lens reaction time of 1/20,000.

Viewing size

Make sure that the viewing size of the welding helmet you choose suits the type of welding you do. The typical viewing size for a light duty application is about 6 sq. while for industrial use is about 9 sq.

Number of sensors

The number of sensors a welding helmet has determines a certain extent the level of coverage it offers. If you are a do-it-yourself welder, a welding helmet with two sensors should be ok while a type with four sensors is suitable for industrial welding.

Adjustable sensitivity control

Normally auto darkening welding helmets of intermediate and professional grades have a feature that allows user to set the sensitivity of the lens. Buy a type that comes with this feature, especially if you are going to weld at a very low amperage, especially TIG when the brightness of the arc is lower when compared with other types of welding.

Adjustable delay control

With this feature, you’ll be able to set how long the lens remains darkened after the welding arc has been extinguished. If you are welding at a high amperage, you’ll require a longer delay time, as the molten metal may radiate dangerous rays until it cools.


Buy a welding helmet that is light on your head to reduce neck fatigue and enhance comfort.

Power source

There are some welding helmets that come with replaceable battery and solar support, and some that come with non-replaceable battery and a solar assist. The disadvantage of the last one is when the battery runs out during work, you have to stop work and recharge it under the sun. But this is not the case with the first one. You can replace the battery with another one when it runs out. Two types of batteries are AAA battery which has a lower run time and replacement cost and lithium battery which has a longer run time and high replacement cost.

So, looking for a welding helmet, take above points into consideration to make an informed decision.