A welding helmet is a type of headgear used by a welder while performing welding tasks. It protects the face, eyes and neck of the welder from heat, flash burn, UV light, sparks and infrared light, which can cause extreme damage to the welder. Welding helmet is very important for the welding hobbyists and those professionals whose only profession is welding. There are many types of welding helmet available in the market and it can be very confusing for the buyers to decide which welding helmet will best suit their welding type. So here are some basic guidelines that will help the users in buying a good welding helmet to maximum extend. There are some common considerations to be kept in mind while purchasing a welding helmet;
Type of helmet
There are basically two types of Welding helmets that are mostly used, standard or passive welding helmet and the auto darkening welding helmet;
1. Passive welding helmet
Passive or standard welding helmets are also known as the traditional welding helmets. These have been very popular welding helmets and are widely used from the very beginning. Shade 10 is offered in all the passive welding helmets. The user has to wear the passive welding in the up position while positioning the electrode, torch or gun; when the positioning is done and the user is ready to strike the arc, just before striking, the helmet is immediately flipped into position by a quick snap or node of the neck of the operator.
- The passive welding helmet lens uses ultra violet and infrared coated dark-tinted glass.
- This type of helmet offers rugged and inexpensive safety protection.
- The standard welding helmets are specially made from moulded plastics, so these welding helmets are offered at quite low prices and so these helmets are very easily affordable.
- For the less experienced welders or a person who doesn’t weld often, the passive welding helmet can be problematic as it might be difficult for the welder to position the electrode or gun when the helmet is snapped in the position and this might result in poor weld starts leading to welding defects.
- The repetitive process of flipping of the helmet up and down might cause neck fatigue of the welder and in some extreme cases this can also cause stress injuries to the neck.
- Track welding or other numerous short welds can be very difficult and less sufficient due to the need of repetitive flipping of the welding helmet, as the welder cannot see through the viewing lens of this type of helmet.
- Sometimes failure of the helmet to position and lock in time before striking the arc might lead to inadvertent arc flashes which might cause blackout.
2. Auto-darkening welding helmet
Auto-darkening welding helmets are the light reactive welding helmets and the more advanced type. These helmets are the modern types that are quite different from the passive or the standard ones. The auto-darkening helmet usually has a viewing lens of shade 3 or 4 when it is inactive, that allows the welder to see through it. When the sensors on the welding helmet senses any arc start, in a fraction of a second the lens darkens to shade 8 to shade 13 according to the type of welding or the heat received by the sensors.
- No need of flipping of the helmet repetitively as the helmet allows the user to see through the viewing lens and the positioning of the electrode or gun can be done perfectly.
- The welding work can be carried out easily without any discomfort or neck fatigue and injury risk.
- Track welding and numerous short welds can be processed easily without any disturbances.
- The auto-darkening helmets are more expensive due to the advanced technologies and materials used in the manufacturing of these helmets.
- There are risks of the helmets being damaged if not handled very carefully and also the sensors of the helmet might fail or wear out with time.
- These helmets use battery power in order to be active, so one will have to pay for lifetime for purchasing new batteries.
Auto-darkening welding helmet considerations
Auto-darkening hamlets have many more optional specifications that one would like to consider;
- Fixed shade: Some less expensive auto-darkening welding helmets have a fixed shade. When the arc start is sensed by the sensors then the lens of the helmet automatically darkens to a fixed shade 10. This type of auto-darkening welding helmet has the combination of the economy of fixed shade and the benefits of the auto-darkening technology. Fixed shade auto-darkening welding helmet is the best choice for those welders who deal with same type of materials with similar thickness, using same welding type with a limited range of amperage.
- Variable shade: A welding helmet with variable shade lens has many shade options, which mostly varies from shade 8 to shade 9. This type of welding helmet is perfect for those welders who use different welding processes as well as different materials and thickness. The welding helmet with variable shade lens not only allows the user to comfortably and properly protect the eyes but also offers clear view of the puddle while welding.
One of the most important considerations while purchasing an auto-darkening welding helmet is the view size. Typical view size of the welding helmet ranges from 6 square inch for light duty welding to 9 square inch for heavy duty or industrial use. One must decide the view size depending on one’s personal comfort and preferences and also keeping on mind the amount of out-of-position welding that one is likely to do.
Time of lens reaction
Time of lens reaction is the amount of time the lens takes to switch the shade from normal inactive shade of 3 or 4 to the active shade 8 or more. The lesser the time taken by the lens to switch shade and the quicker the eyes of the welder is shaded from the high-intensity light, the more better the helmet is. Normally the entry-level welding helmet lenses are rated at 1/3600 of one second, whereas the industrial welding helmet lenses are rated at 1/20000 of one second. For numerous short welding it is best to have the welding helmets with 1/20000 lens reaction time rate.
The number sensors that a welding helmet consists of, is one important consideration. Usually the number of sensors range from two for entry level welding helmets to four for industrial use welding helmets. The more is the number of sensors, better is the coverage, especially for those welding works that deal mostly with out-of-position welds in which the sensors might be obstructed. For industrial welding use, it is best to purchase a welding helmet with four sensors.
Most of the auto-darkening welding helmets have adjustable sensitivity control. It is best to get a welding helmet that has adjustable sensitivity control, which allows the welder to adjust the amount of brightness that will trigger the darkening of the lens. Sensitivity control is very useful when the welding is being done at low amps and the arc isn’t much bright.
It is very important to have adjustable delay controls in the welding helmet as this can be very useful. This control feature allows the user to set how long the lens needs to remain dark after the arc work is finished. Short delay is good for the track welding process as this will help the user to do the work faster. At very high amperage welding, long delay can be very helpful as the molten metal might still emit harmful radiations until the weld is cooled down.
Battery or solar powered
Battery powered welding helmets might use up lots of charge and it will add up to the electricity bill and one might also need to change the battery often. These days, solar powered welding helmets have come up with built-in in solar panel and non disposable lithium battery. The solar powered welding helmets are good but sometimes it can create a nuisance when the battery is not charged and needs to weld right on that time.
Weight and adjustability
Weight of the welding helmet must also be considered, as heavy weight welding helmet can cause strain to the shoulder of the welder when doing the work for long period in a single shift. Light weight welding helmets are much better. One should always go for a welding helmet with multiple bands instead of a single band, as in case the helmet has a single band then the whole weight of the helmet gets concentrated in one band, which makes the user feel the helmet heavier.
While buying the welding helmet one should try it on and it must be made sure that the helmet can be adjusted up, down, front and back. One must also make sure that the welding helmet can be easily tightened around the head and does not simply fall off when one bends.
Welding helmets are the necessary elements; the only need of the welding helmet is to protect oneself from those harmful radiations, burns, heat and sparks while welding, so it is recommended to get the best welding helmet available on one’s budget.