Best Auto Darkening Welding Helmets 2018

Construction welder with helmet

Construction welder with helmet

With all the talk in the welding world today about safety and efficiency it’s easy to oversee that a part of equipment can improve your safety and speed so much: Auto-darkening welding helmets.

I’m convinced when I say that without an auto welding helmet, there’s no such thing as efficient and safe work.

That sounds pretty fanatic. But I will explain why I think so.

First of all, in a nutshell, what does an auto-darkening welding helmet do at all?

An auto-darkening welding helmet instantly darkens upon within ms when exposed to the welding arc.

While not welding, the shade is clear to see through.

It will also help to satisfy your customer even more because of your quick and safe work.

Table of Contents

Why buy an auto darkening welding helmet?

Why should you use an auto-darkening welding helmet?

Even when you are already used to do your welding job with a “conventional” welding helmet?

In my opinion, there are three main reasons, why it is worth to invest in a auto-darkening welding helmet:

Safety, quality and speed.

1

Optimize your safety

As you know, the process of welding exposes welders to dangerously hot material, fumes and UV rays. A good welding helmet protects your eyes, face and skin from flash burn, UV light, sparks, infrared light, and also heat.

Ignoring work safety is a HUGE mistake.

Why? Uncovered skin and eyes result in significant health implications.

Moreover, ignoring safety principles can lead to flash burn or even blindness in the long run.

Red eye

Red eye

Possible eye damage:

  • Arc eye (Photo Keratitis) is a severe damage of the cornea. Red-eye, tearing, light sensitivity and feeling “sand in the eyes” are common symptoms. Although very painful this usually heals within several days.
  • Cataracts: Long-term exposure of the eyes to UV leads to cataracts with irreversible damage. In surgeries, the lens of the eye is removed and replaced by a plastic lens.
  • Also, the bright light in the visible spectrum can fatigue and damage your eyes.

However, proper safety gear like an auto-darkening welding helmet reduces the risks involved.

Here’s an example:

Even though you are a welding expert, mistakes happen. Just imagine, you accidentally switch on your welder too early and directly look at the arc. Because your helmet’s shade automatically darkens you don’t have to worry at all.

2

Improve your quality

5 star rating for qualityConcentration contributes a lot to work quality.

I doubt you wouldn’t agree, that once you can concentrate on your main task (welding), your work quality will automatically increase.

The auto-darkening welding helmet takes care of shading your sight.

You don’t have to take care yourself.

You can concentrate on your weld seams.

Moreover, you can look through the shade when you are not welding. Thus it is easier for you to initiate the arc as you can see the position of your MIG gun, as well as your welding material.

3

Increase your speed

Safe time.

Just get rid of the time you are handling your helmet.

No need to remove the helmet from your sight and putting it back in front of your face again. An auto welding helmet will take care of that automatically.

All in all, it helps you to work continuously because you won’t have to stop to make any adjustment to your helmet.

As I said, safety, quality and speed are the three main reasons, why you should cover your face with a professional welding helmet.

Okay so far, but how does an auto-darkening helmet for welding work?

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How does an auto-darkening welding helmet work?

The Speedglas Auto-Darkening Filter was invented back in 1981 by a Swedish manufacturer called Hornell International. Later all patents and product rights were bought by 3M. Now let’s get into technical details.

Auto darkening welding helmets are a piece of high tech equipment that features a see-through faceplate that quickly darkens upon exposure to the intense UV light.

The auto darkening filter contains a sensor to detect UV light of the welding arc

Auto darkening welding helmets

Worker with auto darkening welding helmet

Basic functionality

The light sensors are close to the lens and detect the initial welding arc.

When you initiate the welding arc, the sensors detect the light and the LCD darkens your lens according to your sensitivity and shade settings. The auto darkening welding helmet stays put throughout the process.

Even without activating lens filter, good devices provide protection against UV and IR light.

Additionally, the helmets filter cartridges can receive power from a combination of battery and solar power. The solar energy can come from the welding arc.

Parts of the ADF filter lens

The auto darkening filter lens (ADF) consists of the following parts:

  • Liquid crystal display (LCD) to adjust the shade
  • Electronic components to read the sensor and control the LCD
  • Sensor to sense the light emission by the welding arc
  • Solar cells or batteries
  • UV and IR filter

What if the battery is empty?

Once the battery is empty, safe welding helmets are designed to stay dark and have a permanent shade like standard welding helmets.

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How to choose the ideal welding helmet?

The best welding helmet for your needs depends on the combination of functionality, comfort options, safety features and budget.

1

Functionality

Designed to accommodate a welder’s specific needs, the latest choice of welding helmets is technologically different from conventionally fixed headgear.

Also read: Top custom and cool welding helmets.

Professional helmets provide a whole lot more of functionality. This can include:

MIG welder

MIG welder

Number of operation modes

Additionally, some helmets provide different operation modes (shade levels) for cutting, welding and grinding. Go for these if you do more than just solder metal.

The lens

Moreover, the lens size and clarity will determine the quality of work. Thus, a large and crystal clear lens in your auto-darkening welding helmet will be helpful when working at awkward angles.

Magnifying lenses can help to increase the field of view.

Typical arc welding helmets come in a range of shades from #9 to #14, where #14 is the darkest you can get. Welding goggles for arc welding, plasma cutting, plasma welding, MIG welding and TIG welding require welding goggles with a shade up to shade #13. Please check also this article here for further information.

A thing a lot of people do not know is, that all well designed welding lenses filter out at least 99.9% of the UV and IR waves. In contrast, the shade rating just tells how dark the glasses make your sight.

The light sensor

More sensors are usually better in detecting the initial arc thus making the reaction time shorter and more reliable.

Protection

Some helmets have a full-coverage shell that resists impact and sheds spatter with ease.

Shade adjustments

Good helmets allow to adjust shade levels, sensitivity and reaction delay time.

2

Your comfort requirements

Please take a look at the following items that rely to the comfort of a welding helmet.

Adjustable headgear

You will agree, comfort is essential, and an adjustable headgear will just be more convenient. Adjustable headbands give additional secure and comfortable fit.

Weight

The weight of the helmet is vital considering the hours you will be working. A light helmet will reduce fatigue and neck pains, allowing you to work for more extended periods. Lithium batteries in general are lighter than conventional batteries.

A light helmet will reduce fatigue and neck pain

Leather welding jacket

Protection gear

Power supply

Some auto-darkening helmets power up via replaceable lithium batteries, but the best have an additional solar power input. Light emitted during the weld process will power up your helmet. The lifespan of these cells does not vary much, but for those with replaceable batteries, you should have replacement batteries on hand all the time. Solar powered helmets provide additional comfort because you don’t need to take care of recharching / replacing batteries too often.

Several auto darkening welding helmets have addional solar power input

Auto on/off

In contrast to conventional welding helmets, you must sometimes remember to press the OFF button whenever the device is not in use. Professional masks with solar cells or auto on/off do not require to be switched off.

Auto on/off function gives you more comfort because you don’t have to switch on and off your mask each time. And if you forget to switch it off your battery won’t be emty.

Enough space for prescription glasses

If you wear prescription glasses you should get a welding helmet that states that has enough space for glasses.

Knob – placement and adjustment

The adjustment knobs can be placed inside or outside the helmet. If placed inside, you have to remove your helmet for adjustments. If placed outside the knobs are easier to reach and that makes adjustments or little tweaks quicker. On the downside an outside knob can be damaged accidently.

There are also differences in the adjustments, some have infinite adjustments while other let you only select predefined or even no ranges.

Design and style

Another factor for your decision is also the style. Today’s helmets even come in various shapes, fancy colors and pre-imprinted graphics that distinguish between male, female and awesome welders. 🙂 See below a USA style welding helmet.

Auto darkening welding helmet - USA style

Auto darkening welding helmet – USA style

3

Safety features

Furthermore, you should prefer a quality product that complies with official standards like ANSI Z87.1-2010 and EN 379 4/9-13 and similar. The helmet needs to protect your eyes, cover your head and neck.

An auto darkening welding helmet has to meet high safety standards.

4

Budgets

Prices for welding helmets range from $25 up to $900.

I’d recommend not to go for the cheapest helmets because there is probably a reason why they can sell them for cheap prices. This can be lack in functionality, comfort quality or even safety. Think about what your health is worth for you.

Also check out our thread on auto-darkening welding glasses as an alternative.

Additionally you should also consider the provided warranty period before buying.

Now, If you need even more advice, Lincoln electric gives more hints on how to choose a welding helmet here.

Risks on auto-darkening welding helmets?

Darkening speed is essential for your eye protection.

I recommend you to get one that is very quick and has low reaction time.

Why? Because auto darkening helmets have a reaction time of around 0,1 ms. During this reaction time, visible light radiation may flash your eye. The shorter the reaction time, the better it is for your eye.

However, good auto-darkening helmets complying with ANSI Z87.1+ provide UV and IR protection even when the lens is not darkened.

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How to use an auto darkening welding helmet?

Take a look at this video to get an idea of how to properly use the welding helmet.

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Best auto darkening welding helmets – top list

Miller electric, black, Digital Elite

Miller Electric is a welding equipment manufacturing company based in Appleton, WI. Founded back in 1929 they have a vast experience in developing superior welding equipment like welders, gloves, helmets and jackets. The Digital Elite series is one of the best welding helmets that provides exceptional functionality.

Auto Darkening Welding Helmet, Black, Digital Elite, 3, 5 to 8 / 8 to 13 Lens Shade

Last price update as of November 8, 2018 2:09 pm PST More Information
$279.99 $340.20

Lincoln electric, Viking 2450 with C Lens Technology (K3028-3)

Lincoln Electric is a global welding equipment and welding systems manufacturing company based in Cleveland, Ohio which was founded already back in 1895.

The Lincoln auto-darkening welding helmet is rigid and lightweight. It comes with replaceable lithium batteries. 2 Arc sensors continously monitor and control your shade. Sensitivity and shade levels can also be continously adjusted.

Additionally included in the package is a magnifying cheater lens, a hard hat adaptor and extra cover lenses.

Auto Darkening Welding Helmet, Black/Orange, Digital Elite, 3, 5 to 8 / 8 to 13 Lens Shade

Last price update as of November 8, 2018 2:09 pm PST More Information
$370.65 $409.99

Lincoln Electric K4134-1 Lone STAR

Another Lincoln welding helmet is the K4134-1 Lone star with an awesome eye catching design.

Auto Darkening Welding Helmet, Black/Blue, Digital Performance, 3, 5 to 8 / 8 to 13 Lens Shade

Last price update as of November 8, 2018 2:09 pm PST More Information
$252.00

Esab SENTINEL A50 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

Esab is a swedish manufacturer of welding equpment founded in 1904. The Sentinel A50 provides a unique shell design through high impact resistance nylon.A grind mode with external grind button is additionally included.

Esab SENTINEL A50 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

Free shipping
Last price update as of November 8, 2018 2:09 pm PST More Information
$299.00

Hobart 770753 Pro Variable Auto-Dark Helmet

Hobart was acquired years ago by Illinois Tool Works located in Glenview, Illinois. With a reaction time of 1/30,000 secods it is pretty quick. It is made of lightweight, durable polyamide.

Hobart 770753 Pro Variable Auto-Dark Helmet

Free shipping
Last price update as of November 8, 2018 2:09 pm PST More Information
$169.99 $179.86

3M Speedglas Black Welding Helmet 100

This well known 3M Speedglas welding helmet with ADF (Auto Darkening Filter) is recommended for stick and MIG welding applications.

3M Speedglas Black Welding Helmet 100 with Auto-Darkening Filter 100V- Shades 8-12, Model 07-0012-31BL

Free shipping
Last price update as of November 8, 2018 2:09 pm PST More Information
$198.44 $199.59

There is a seperate thread on Jackson welding helmets here.

Please don’t hesitate to share your expierence on welding helmets and leave your reply in the comment section below.

Image Credits: Pixabay, agnesliinnea/Pixabay, mcmurryjulie/Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay

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