1/1/1/1 Welding Helmet Clarity Ratings: What It Means and How ClearLight 2.0 Compares | MillerWelds

1/1/1/1 Welding Helmet Clarity Ratings: What It Means and How ClearLightâ„¢ 2.0 Compares

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Learn how to cut through the clutter of clarity ratings and invest in a helmet that enhances your ability to work more efficiently.
welder welding with a miller helmet

You cannot work well if you cannot see clearly, so using a welding helmet that provides optimal clarity is key. With so many welding helmet options on the market, it can be challenging to understand how different lenses and their ratings will affect your time on the job. Here’s how to cut through the clutter of clarity ratings and invest in a helmet that gives you the best visibility and improves your ability to work efficiently.

What are optical clarity ratings in welding?

Optical clarity determines how well a welder can see through their welding helmet, and that clarity (or lack thereof) impacts the quality of welds. In the U.S., clarity is measured and regulated in welding helmets via the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Some manufacturers also benchmark their lens through European standards (EN) that rate the optical quality of auto-darkening lenses differently via the x/x/x/x rating method. In the U.S., OSHA only requires and uses the ANSI standard to ensure welding helmet manufacturers are providing the best clarity and safety to welders.

ANSI Z87.1 (USA standard for welding helmets)

All welding helmets in the U.S. are required to have an ANSI marking to indicate compliance to this standard. The U.S.-based ANSI Z87.1 standard ensures first and foremost that even if the lens is malfunctioning or turned off, it passively protects the welder's eyes and face.

Secondly, the Z87.1 standard also regulates how much visibility a welder receives at each shade setting measured by a light transmittance test. This standardized test measures how well you can see the welding arc through a welding helmet from 0-100% (0% meaning no visibility of the arc and 100% being a naked view of the arc). For each lens shade, there is a minimum percent of visible light allowed to ensure that welding helmets provide the best clarity, but also a maximum percent to protect the human eye and reduce fatigue.

All Miller®helmets exceed the required safety standards for eye protection defined by ANSI Z87.1, which is the number one priority when manufacturing protective gear for welders.

welding lens visibility standard bar chart

EN 379 (European standard for welding helmets)

The European Norm (EN) that governs auto-darkening welding helmets in Europe incorporates alternative ratings for optical clarity that are not required in the USA. These optical clarity ratings via the EN 379 standard measure the quality of the light from the welding cartridge, as well as scattered light from the cartridge's layers. Rating tests occur across four classes of optical clarity1 (x/x/x/x):

  1. How distorted is the welding lens?
  2. How uniform is and how many impurities are in the welding lens?
  3. How consistently dark is the welding lens?
  4. How consistently clear and dark is a welding lens when looking at the arc at a sharp angle? 

Helmet ratings are graded across those four rating classes from 3-1, with 3 being the lowest rating and 1 being the highest. The ratings are typically shared as x/x/x/x (e.g., 1/1/1/2). These optical clarity ratings only rate one qualitative aspect of a welding lens and are separate from required ANSI welding helmet ratings.

What is (and is not) important when it comes to optical clarity ratings?

Light is imperative to seeing the job at hand and doing that job well. You could have a lens that is as clear as crystal, but if there is not sufficient light you still will not be able to see clearly, and it can also cause eye fatigue.

If you want to find the welding helmet that truly gives you the best clarity in the U.S.:

  1. First, look for a helmet with the highest percent clarity rating within the safe limits of the light transmittance test in the ANSI Z87.1 standard when the lens is in the light and dark states.
  2. Second, ensure that your environment is well lit. If it is not, utilize lighting solutions either integrated into the welding helmet or stand-alone to improve visibility.
  3. Third, ensure you are using high-quality, ANSI manufacturer-certified magnifying lens and cover lenses to get the clearest view.
  4. Lastly, if provided, look for the optical clarity ratings with the EN standard. The first three (1/1/1/x) are most important because they directly impact welding 100% of the time. The fourth rating (x/x/x/1) is less prevalent in welding operations because the difference is hard to notice and only applies at extreme viewing angles.

In a perfect world, a welding lens would achieve the highest clarity ratings in both U.S. & EN standards. In practice, if you target perfect EN optical clarity with the fourth rating (1/1/1/1), you sacrifice up to 50% reduced visibility as benchmarked by ANSI light tests. This means manufacturers and welders must currently choose between the two standards and cannot meet the highest optical clarity benchmarks in both.

Since visibility is a priority for all welders, it is clear why experts in the U.S. do not require the EN optical rating and why 1/1/1/1 is not the best visibility rating. A welding helmet with EN 1/1/1/2 rating can have 2X better clarity benchmarked under Z87.1 compared to leading 1/1/1/1-rated helmets. There is no need to sacrifice up to 50% of your visibility when technology innovation provides it all with ClearLight® 2.0 Lens Technology.

What is ClearLight™ 2.0 Lens Technology, and how does it compare to 1/1/1/1 ratings?

ClearLight 2.0 Lens Technology is designed by welders for welders with the goal of providing the best visibility BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER a weld. This industry-leading lens technology provides a more natural and real view, eliminating the artificial blue, green or yellow tints that reduce contrast and clarity. This allows welders to see their workpiece, puddle and wire clearly for more accurate, high-quality welds.

There is even more to say on benefits of ClearLight 2.0, but all you need to remember is the power of 2:

ClearLight 2.0 provides 2X better visibility vs. the leading 1/1/1/1 lens benchmark by ANSI tests1

  • Increased productivity and less rework: Because they can see the workspace more clearly before, during and after every weld, operators enjoy a streamlined setup and can create higher-quality welds.
  • Enhanced safety and comfort: Continuous visibility between light and dark states eliminates the need to constantly flip the helmet up and down, mitigating eye injuries and reducing neck strain and fatigue.
clearlight vision versus 1/1/1/1 vision

It is clear to see that the best welding helmets enhance a welder's ability to work efficiently and lay quality welds. For a noticeably different work experience, choose a helmet that trumps all others by prioritizing light state and visibility across the welding process. Use the comparison chart to determine the best ClearLight 2.0 helmet for you so you can see more of what matters while on the job.


[1] As defined in the April 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety