One of the most fundamental pieces of equipment you will need to get before you even think about that torch, is of course your welding helmet. A welding helmet is crucial for safety reasons as it protects your eyes and face from the bright flares and sparks that are emitted. But if you are newer to welding, you may be left dazed and confused when met with the different terms and features that come with different welding helmets. Between auto-darkening lenses, variable shades, switches speeds, and more, purchasing a helmet that will meet your specific requirements may leave your head spinning. But don’t worry, once you get the key features explained you will be off
and ready to hit the stores or sites with just the right welding helmet in mind!
The lenses that come in welding helmets are one of the biggest aspects to consider before you make your purchase, and
there are two distinct kinds: standard glass and auto-darkening. Standard lenses will be cheaper than the latter, with prices ranging between $20 and $30 which can get the job done to cover your basic needs if you are on a tighter
budget. These lenses are coated with ultraviolet and infrared and usually come with a shade rating of #10. These
lenses are put up and down manually, and that is one of the disadvantages of these standard ones. If you pay more to get an auto-darkening lens you won’t have to constantly be flipping your neck or repositioning your helmet because these lenses automatically adjust the tint for you. Because of their design they quickly switch from a #3 or #4 shade that you can clearly see through and then to a #9 through #13 once your arc starts. This not only allows you to better manipulate the torch and saves you pains in your neck, but also can make you more efficient and save you time, especially if you are tack welding.
Next we come to either a fixed or variable shade, with all standard lenses being fixed and the more basic helmets with auto-darkening lenses too. A variable shade gives you more protection against the illuminated arc, especially if you are working with multiple materials that span a wide welding amperage. If you are serious about welding, you’ll want to go with a variable shade lens that will let you alter the settings from #9 to #13 on the outside face of your helmet.
Another point to consider is the lens reaction time on your helmet. This can vary between 1/3,600 of a second to 1/16,000 of a second, and the less expensive ones will rate on the slower side. It is best to have a faster lens reaction time, or switching speed, because you will be able to work longer and more comfortably as your eyes won’t have to strain as much. The less time your eyes are exposed to bright lights, the better they will hold up by the end of the day.
There are other features you can choose to have your welding helmet equipped with such as delay controls and adjustable sensitivity. Delay control lets you choose the length of time your lens will stay darker once you stop the torch and adjustable sensitivity facilitates low amperage welding tasks. Then you may want to look at the weight of your helmet as obviously the less your helmet weighs the less strain it will cause your neck, back, and shoulders. And of utmost importance you want to be absolutely sure that your welding helmet has passed the latest inspection standards of the ANSI. On the box look for ANSI Z87.1-2003 or the label Z87+ to make sure it is current with the most recent American National Standards Institute’s guidelines.
Okay, so putting it all together, what are some of the best helmets to pick from? By looking at all the different makes and models found at Baker's Gas, and prepared with all the information you need, you can go find the helmet that’s best suited for you!