All welders understand the supreme importance of a good helmet. Flying sparks and molten metal can severely burn your eyes, face, and head. In addition, your eyes need protection from the damage that can be caused by prolonged exposure to a welding arcs infrared and ultraviolet rays. In other words, this is one piece of equipment that is not only essential, but potentially worth its weight in gold. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a helmet’s weight in gold to get a quality model. You will have to decide what type of model best meets your needs and what optional features and conveniences mean the most to you.
One consideration that many novice welders tend to overlook when shopping for a new welding helmet is hard-hat compatibility. If your job requires a hard hat, make sure the welding mask you choose is designed to accommodate hard hats.
Another thing to think about if your helmet has battery-powered controls is finding one with an auto-shutoff feature. This can help make sure you don’t start your next job with a dead battery because you forgot to turn it off after the last job.
On the comfort and convenience side, be sure to find a helmet that fits your head comfortably and includes reasonably comfortable adjustable straps.
If you want to be able to flip up your mask to inspect your work, choose a model that has a face mask that will flip up. You can find models with face masks that will stay locked in the upright position and others that you’ll have to hold in that position.
Now that the easier and more minor considerations are out of the way, it’s time to talk about the major features of any good welding helmet. One of those major features is the weight of the helmet, or more precisely, the distribution of the helmet’s weight. Good welding helmets might be worth their weight in gold, but that doesn’t mean you want them to actually weigh more than is necessary. Hours of extra weight on your head, especially if you spend a lot of your time bent over a workbench, can lead to neck strain and back pain. Look for a helmet that feels lighter than the rest and well balanced when you hold it in one hand.
When it comes to face and head protection, you should look for a maximum-coverage model if you do tight-space or overhead welding since such welding will result in molten metal and sparks raining down on you or coming at you from several different directions.
Saving the best and most important feature for last, it’s time to discuss different levels and types of eye protection offered by welding helmets. The lenses in welding helmets can have darkness levels that are either adjustable or fixed. When it comes to the adjustable-darkness variety, you can select lenses that you adjust manually or those that are self-adjusting based on light conditions. Self-adjusting lenses are the most convenient, especially those that have controls you can use to set the sensitivity and delay. These controls allow you to determine minimum and maximum darkness levels and/or how long the helmet waits to adjust the lens when light changes. As you might expect, these models are among the priciest, but the convenience and added efficiency can pay for themselves in terms of productivity. Manually-controlled models might have exterior controls, or the controls could be inside of the helmet. If making adjustments without removing the helmet is important, you’ll want to opt for exterior mounts. If you engage in only one type of welding and want to save a few bucks, you can opt for a fixed darkness lens. As the name implies, what you see is what you get. Make sure that you select the proper darkness rating for the type of work that you do. Most welding helmet lenses are universal and interchangeable, so you should be able to keep a couple of different darkness levels on hand and swap them out fairly easily if you need to.
Visit best welding helmet reviews for reviews (including pros and cons) of some of today’s top models.