The use of quality personal protective equipment and safe welding practices must be a top priority for welders, regardless of the type of welding process. Welding PPE includes, but is not limited to, eye, face, hand and body protection. Safety glasses should always be worn under the welding helmet. In addition, the welding environment should be evaluated to ensure appropriate ventilation and respiratory protection.
One of the foundational features of any helmet is safety and compliance. In the United States, welding helmets need to meet ANSI standards — and in Canada the helmets need to be CSA compliant. General standards ensure that the helmet lens protects the welder from anything that could affect the eyes, which includes ultraviolet and infrared filtering regardless of the shade settings. Safety must be a top priority.
Style of helmet
There are two common styles of welding helmets, a passive and an auto-darkening variable shade.
A passive helmet has a dark tinted lens, typically a shade #10. When the helmet is in the down position, you will see through the dark lens. The lens will not switch from a light state to a darken state. It will remain dark. Therefore, when inspecting the weld, you will need to remove the helmet. These helmets are generally lightweight, however because you can’t select your shade level and the constant dark tinted lens, certain weld processes — as well as viewing your work area in-between welds — may be difficult.
Auto darkening helmets are available for every welding level, from the hobbyist to the professional. An Auto-darkening helmet, fixed-shade combines the economy of a fixed-shade helmet and the benefits of auto darkening. If most of your welding involves similar material using the same welding process a fixed-shade auto-darkening helmet may be the right choice.
An Auto-darkening helmet, variable shade allows you to select the shade preference, this allows you to adjust the shades based on different welding processes and applications. Typical weld shade ranges are between shade #8 to #13. When the helmet is in the down position, you will see through a light lens allowing for clear visibility and evaluation of the weld piece and the surrounding area. Once the weld arc is struck, the helmet will automatically darken to the shade you have selected.
General features of an auto-darkening helmet
Welding light state:
How light or dark the welding filter is when not welding, the lighter the welding filter, the better the welder can view the work area and weld piece. Miller® auto-darkening helmets have a light state of 3.
Determine how dark the welding filter gets when the welding arc is struck. Market standard shades are 8-13 with 13 being the darkest. See the chart below to determine the correct shade number for your welding applications.
Number of sensors:
The number of sensors ranges from two for a hobby level helmet to four for an industrial grade helmet. More sensors mean better coverage, especially for out-of-position welding where a sensor could be obstructed. Three sensors may be sufficient for production work or when you have a clear line of sight to your work. Four is optimal for most fabrication and out-of-position work.
Determines the amount of light required in order to darken the welding filter. Most auto-darkening helmets allow the welder to select how sensitive to light the welding helmet is.
Welding helmets come in a multitude of viewing areas. A larger viewing area provides more visibility to the weld and the weld area while a smaller viewing area provides a more focused view. When looking at a larger viewing area, weight of the helmet may be a consideration.