Safety is your number one priority when performing welding or metal projects, like working with the Chicago Electric 240 or any other plasma cutter for that matter. For that, you need a reliable, durable welding helmet for that. Chances are you’re already asking how to choose a welding helmet. More to the point: “What makes a good helmet?”
That’s a good question to ask. But if you want to maximize the many benefits of wearing a welding helmet, you should be asking yourself this question instead: “Which welding helmet is the best for me?” when I’m out in the field, doing work with the engine driven welder I just bought from Atlantic Aspiration, wink, wink.
To find the welding helmet that best suits your needs, some deliberation is required. Remember, safety is the last thing you want to compromise when doing welding work. Wearing a faulty welding helmet while welding comes with numerous potential hazards, including temporary or permanent blindness, neck strain, welding mistakes, fatigue, and more.
Why Should You Use a Welding Helmet?
The quick answer couldn’t be simpler: to protect yourself from UV rays, sparks, and bright light while using a welding machine or torch.
“Protect yourself at all times,” as a boxing referee would put it.
Chances are you’ve already seen a welder at work. Seeing the sparks alone should be telling enough why a welding helmet is critical to safe welding. The light from a torch is bright enough to burn the cornea, which could result in temporary or even permanent blindness. Moreover, wearing a safety helmet protects your face and body from flying sparks, which can lead to potential burns.
A welding helmet is also used for utility purposes. For one, it comes with auto-darkening properties that allow your eyes to adjust to sudden changes in brightness that are typical in every welding job. If you’re doing higher AMP welding, you need a welding helmet with variable shades to help your eyes adjust to frequent changes in brightness. However, if you’re welding in steadier amperages, a helmet with a fixed shade will serve you better.
You might be wondering: How does a welding helmet do all that?
The components of a welding helmet include:
- Helmet shell
- Filter lens (reduces the amount of light that’s reaching your eyes).
- Outer cover plate
- Clear retainer lens
Types of Welding Helmets
To determine which welding helmet is best for you, you need to establish first what you’ll be using it for. There are many types of welding helmets to choose from, and if you choose the wrong type, it will not do you much good even if the helmet you purchased isn’t a bad product.
And with that, let’s go over the different types of welding helmets one by one.
Solar-powered welding helmets
Are solar-powered welding helmets any good? Well, that depends on your personal preferences and the types of welding projects you’re working on.
So, what makes solar-powered welding helmets different from other types of welding helmets?
The first reason is obvious: it uses the light of the sun as its main power source. These helmets do so via photovoltaic cells placed on top of them. That said, these helmets also come with batteries to serve as an extra power source once the power sourced from the sunlight has ran out. It bears noting that these batteries can store energy through solar means as well.
Another advantage of using a solar-powered welding helmet is that it cuts down on energy costs, saving you a lot of money. Solar-powered welding helmets also have automatic features. Some turn on automatically as soon as an arc is detected, protecting your eyes from potential hazards. Because solar-powered welding helmets are mostly automatic, most of them have smaller controls, making them lighter than traditional welding helmets.
Last but not least, using solar-powered welding helmets are effective for all types of welding projects, whether you’re working indoors or outdoors.
Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
Traditional welding helmets have a fixed shade. When you put one on, your vision will be dimmer than usual throughout the welding process. While this helps in protecting your eyes, flipping your helmet up every time to see what you’re doing “in a better light” can get annoying, not to mention that it’s a waste of time.
To do away with the endless helmet flipping, you can use an auto-darkening welding helmet instead. When an arc is struck, these helmets darken automatically to protect your eyes from light emissions. When the arc is down, your helmet automatically lightens up, allowing you to see better.
Auto-darkening welding helmets can pull this off using auto-darkening LCD technology. By wearing one, you can adjust and position your equipment and materials while keeping the helmet down throughout the entire welding process. This helps with productivity and accuracy, allowing for a more efficient welding process.
When picking an auto-darkening welding helmet, you must pick one that meets ANSIZ87.1 and CSA Z94.3 safety standards. You don’t want to strike an arc expecting the auto-darkening lens to adjust accordingly and then failing. You might also want to buy one with a lime green color spectrum to make your helmet more UV- (Ultraviolet) and IR-(Infrared) resistant.
Welding Helmet Reviews: Top Picks from the Best Brands
If you want to pick the best welding helmet off the lot, it’s always recommended that you go to the best brands. The welding market is fierce, with many welding equipments and accessory manufacturers vying for market share dominance over the last decade.
Of course, that can only mean good news for us, whether you’re a beginner or a long-time welder.
There are many good selections of welding metals out there, but we understand how overwhelming it can be to pick one out of the lot. To help you out, we listed our top picks and wrote a review for each. Go over them and you’re bound to find the best welding helmet for you, regardless of your budget.
Miller Black OPS Digital Infinity Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
If you want an auto-darkening welding helmet, you can’t go wrong with the Miller brand. A Miller welding helmet like Digital Infinity Black Ops, for instance, is equipped with clear light lens technology to make it easier for you to see the position of an arc no matter how dark (or bright) your surroundings are. Coupled with a 13.4-inches wide viewing area,Black OPS has much to offer in the way of visibility, especially when you have to work with awkward angles.
This welding helmet is packed to brimming with useful features. First and foremost is the amazing Info track technology, which allows you to track time, set different timer functions, and adjust arc time, among many others.
Despite its attractive and stylish design, the Digital Infinity is comfortable to wear, while putting a premium on functionality at the same time with its full range of support and adjustability features.
Also coming in handy is the X-Mode feature that allows the helmet to automatically sense if an arc is present, thus adjusting the darkness of the filters without any effort on your part—and even if the sensors are deactivated.
To top it off, this “hood” has intuitive controls that let you adjust the helmet’s settings on the fly and when it’s necessary. Whether you’re using TIG, MIG, or STICK, the Miller Digital Infinity provides you with everything you need to make that perfect weld.
- Big viewing field
- Info track technology for better visibility
- Superior comfort
- Automatically turns on and off
- 4 modes (including X-Mode)
- Intuitive controls
- Not cheap
- A little heavy
Jackson Safety 46120 True Sight II Welding Helmet
Visibility is critical to great welding. And when it comes to providing superior visual clarity, the True Sight II by Jackson Safety is simply one of the best. For starters, this helmet’s digital lens offers multiple adjustment settings, ensuring that you can maintain optimal clarity even under variable conditions. Better yet, this welding helmet boasts a massive square viewing area, giving you full visibility even when you’re working with odd angles.
One drawback with the True Sight II is that it’s made of thin material, making it susceptible to impact damage. It could be a non-issue, as long as you take care not to drop it or don’t use it in conditions or places that would expose the helmet to heavy-duty damage.
- Stunning visual clarity
- Multiple lens settings
- Big viewing area
- Auto-dimming hood offers variable shade settings
- Automatically adjusts sensitivity and delay settings
- Made of thin material
- The narrow build takes some getting used to
Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350
The VIKING 3350 by Lincoln Electric is equipped with 4C Lens Technology to give the welding experience not just much-improved visual clarity but also enriched colors. You’ll notice the difference the moment you put it on!
This one also comes with a solar battery—so no need to worry about your helmet “dying” on you while you work. As long as you’re working in a location with good access to sunlight, you’re good.
The Electric VIKING 3350 is equally effective in variable conditions thanks to its 2A TIG amp rating. Does your welding project require you to switch modes often? This helmet’s grind mode lets you do that in seconds.
This helmet has a lightweight design that puts a premium on comfort. The weight distribution is such that it prevents neck strains, and it comes with easy-to-reach controls and knobs that allow you to make adjustments with minimal effort.
- Lets you see more colors
- Superior comfort
- Provides stunning visual clarity
- Designed for easy adjustment
- Quick responses to different lighting and arc conditions
- Can be used in
- Padding at the back can be uncomfortable for some
- Feels a bit awkward when overhead welding is involved
ESAB Sentinel A50
If you want a welding helmet that delivers in terms of functionality and comfort, you can’t go wrong with ESAB’s new offering: the Sentinel A50.
This welding helmet has a lot to offer when it comes to enhancing visibility. It’s equipped with True Color lenses to provide clarity of vision while protecting your eyes from severe brightness. The view screen is so wide you won’t feel like you’re wearing any helmet at all. Also, the 4 grinding shade selector is within easy reach, allowing for easy shade adjustment.
The ESAB Sentinel A50 only weighs 1.4 lbs, and coupled with its ergonomic “Halo” design, neck strains and calluses will be a thing of the past. Make no mistake—you’ll be hard-pressed to find another welding helmet that is as comfortable to wear as this one.
- Wide-sized lens
- Superior comfort
- Full-color LED screen with touch screen functionality
- Responsive 4 sensors
- Grinding shade selector for easy adjustments
- A bit pricey than most welding helmets (although justified)
3M SPEEDGLAS 9100
The 3M Speedglas 9100 is the welding helmet of choice by most professionals and for many good reasons. If you sit a professional welder down and ask them which qualities they want in a welding helmet, this latest offering by SPEEDGLAS ticks all the right boxes.
First and foremost, the helmet’s 9100XX welding lens is the largest in the Speedglas catalog. It doesn’t hurt that the visual quality is just as impressive. Its Auto-Darkening filters come with 3 arc sensors, allowing for quicker transitions even with variable lighting conditions. Moreover, this helmet’s equipped with 3-channel exhaust vents that allow exhaled air to escape, preventing the buildup of heat, fogginess, and humidity as you work.
Is the Speedglass 9100 safe? You bet! Thanks to the helmet’s UV/IR-resistant face and eye protection, you don’t need to worry about sparks, heat, and spatter compromising your safety.
- 3 arc sensors offer fast transitions
- Minimal chance of overheating and fogginess
- Massive view area
- Superior comfort
- Very safe
- A bit expensive
- A little heavier than most welding helmets
Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade Hydrographic Welding Helmet
The Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade welding helmet has a lot to offer for novice and professional welders alike. It has a large viewing range, allowing you to perform precise welds even when working with awkward angles. The Auto Darkening lens is super reliable (with a response time of 1/20,000 of a second!) even with erratic lighting conditions. With the filters always keeping the brightness of the arc at bay, you can work without any blind spots compromising your vision. This helmet has a lightweight construction for easy transport as well.
If you want an affordable helmet that has all the essentials, you can’t go wrong with the Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade Hydrographic welding helmet.
- Viewing range is huge
- Auto-darkening lens respond fast
- Lightweight build
- Easy to use
- Lens replacements aren’t readily available all the time
Solar powered vs auto-darkening
Besides looking for one of the brands that consistently produces welding helmets that you can actually rely on, you may also be interested in knowing some of the key differences between one type of helmet versus the other. By knowing the differences between the two and really having them compared, we’re sure you will end up making a great choice that matches your welding needs.
The same way that there are different types of engine welders, waste oil heaters and fuel transfer tanks, there are also different types of welding helmets that will serve different people better or worse. While we previously touched on the two types, this section is aimed at trying to ensure that you are making the right choice in the process, so you don’t end up spending hundreds of dollars on a piece of equipment that you won’t actually end up being excited about.
The helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment for a welder, ensuring that your eyes aren’t getting damaged in the process. While there are many different safety precautions that need to be taken when you are working with metal in this way, you won’t simply be able to repair your eyes if damage does occur to them. For that very reason, it is always our recommendation that you are sure that you don’t simply buy a cheap helmet from a company that you can’t trust, but rather consider spending slightly more money on a reliable model.
With the right helmet, your eyes won’t just be protected, but you will be able to comfortably engage in the activity that you have been looking forward to getting better at, ensuring proper protection from the harmful ultraviolet and infrared rays that you would otherwise be exposing yourself to. The right helmet gives you the visibility to see what you are working on, while viewing through a protective filter you can rely on.
Fumes, flames and debris are other things that the helmet will end up protecting you against, although the damaging rays to your eyes are arguably the most dangerous one, being able to permanently damage your eye sight.
With the main distinction being whether the helmet uses either solar power or batteries, or a combination of the two, here are certain things that you should be considering.
The short answer is that the type that we prefer is the auto darkening welding helmets because they combine the best of both worlds, however keep reading in order to get a better understanding of the advantages and limitations that each type may have. With the auto darkening welding helmet, you are getting an option that doesn’t rely on either of the two power sources, battery or solar, but can instead utilize either. It should come to you as no surprise as they are therefore also the ones that are considered the most technologically advanced ones, and are going to last longer than any of the other types. With their superior longevity, you may also have guessed it – they do cost a little bit more.
There are various of these options to choose from, and you may even have formed some sort of preference on the basis of the article that you read above, but you obviously figured out that a helmet that relies on solar power will need to have its power coming from somewhere, and that place being outside. If you are planning on welding a lot outside, this may be the right option for you, but if you are planning on doing most of the work indoors, we wouldn’t recommend an option that relies fully on solar power.
When it comes to the safety that the helmets provide, it comes down to making sure that you actually have a helmet that is properly produced and provides the level of protection that is promised. We do have our individual article that talks about the different welding glasses and shades that these helmets will be able to offer, but you should also be buying a helmet that has been manufactured by a manufacturer that you feel you can trust. The shade of the helmet is what provides the necessary level of protection for your eyes.
The power source isn’t in fact what provides the safety, but rather what provides convenience in a lot of different situations. If you are doing a lot of indoor welding, it may simply be too inconvenient having a helmet that will solely rely on the sun’s rays.
When you get a better power source, you will also end up with a type of helmet that will be able to last you for a very long time, and there are some of the helmets that will have better batteries than others.
When you plan on welding for a long time inside every single time you are welding, it is especially important that you consider the battery of the helmet. Are your welds more brief on the other hand? In that scenario the longevity of the battery may not be quite as crucial. For someone who is picking up welding as a hobby, you may not have to choose one of the more expensive models that can weld for longer, but if you are running a metal work shop, you don’t want your welding capacity to be limited by the fact that your helmet can’t provide the continued safety you need.