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 the right one. More to the point: “What makes a good one?”
That’s a good question to ask. But if you want to maximize the many benefits of wearing one, you should be asking yourself this question instead: “Which one 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 one that best suits your needs, some deliberation is required. Remember, safety is the last thing you want to compromise when doing work. Wearing a faulty product comes with numerous potential hazards, including temporary or permanent blindness, neck strain, mistakes, fatigue, and more.
Why Should You Use One?
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 wearing one 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 one protects your face and body from flying sparks, which can lead to potential burns.
It 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 job. If you’re doing higher AMP welding, you need one with variable shades to help your eyes adjust to frequent changes in brightness. However, if you’re welding in steadier amperages, an option with a fixed shade will serve you better.
You might be wondering: How does it do all that?
The components include:
- Filter lens (reduces the amount of light that’s reaching your eyes).
- Outer cover plate
- Clear retainer lens
To determine which one is best for you, you need to establish first what you’ll be using it for. There are many types to choose from, and if you choose the wrong type, it will not do you much good even if the one you purchased isn’t a bad product.
And with that, let’s go over the different types one by one.
Are solar-powered ones any good? Well, that depends on your personal preferences and the types of projects you’re working on.
So, what makes solar-powered welding models different from other types?
The first reason is obvious: it uses the light of the sun as its main power source. These models do so via photovoltaic cells placed on top of them. That said, they 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 them is that it cuts down on energy costs, saving you a lot of money. They also have automatic features. Some turn on automatically as soon as an arc is detected, protecting your eyes from potential hazards. Because they are mostly automatic, most of them have smaller controls, making them lighter than traditional ones.
Last but not least, using solar-powered welding ones are effective for all types of projects, whether you’re working indoors or outdoors.
Traditional ones 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 it 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 ‘flipping, you can use an auto-darkening models instead. When an arc is struck, they 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 models can pull this off using auto-darkening LCD technology. By wearing one, you can adjust and position your equipment and materials while keeping it down throughout the entire process. This helps with productivity and accuracy, allowing for a more efficient process.
When picking an auto-darkening model, 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.
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 top brands. The market is fierce, with many pieces of equipment 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 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 one for you, regardless of your budget.
Miller Black OPS Digital Infinity Auto-Darkening
If you want an auto-darkening model, you can’t go wrong with the Miller brand. A Miller product 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.
It 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 it 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 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
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, its digital lens offers multiple adjustment settings, ensuring that you can maintain optimal clarity even under variable conditions. Better yet, it 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 it 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 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 it “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? Its grind mode lets you do that in seconds.
It 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 one that delivers in terms of functionality and comfort, you can’t go wrong with ESAB’s new offering: the Sentinel A50.
It 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 anything at all on your face. 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 option 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 pricier than most other options (although justified)
3M SPEEDGLAS 9100
The 3M Speedglas 9100 is the option of choice by most professionals and for many good reasons. If you sit a professional down and ask them which qualities they want, this latest offering by SPEEDGLAS ticks all the right boxes.
First and foremost, its 9100XX 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, it’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 its 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 other options
Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade Hydrographic
The Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade model has a lot to offer for novice and professionals 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. It has a lightweight construction for easy transport as well.
If you want an affordable option that has all the essentials, you can’t go wrong with the Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade Hydrographic model.
- 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 products that you can actually rely on, you may also be interested in knowing some of the key differences between one type 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 needs.
The same way that there are different types of engine welders, waste oil heaters and fuel transfer tanks, there are also different types 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.
It is the most important piece of safety equipment, 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 model from a company that you can’t trust, but rather consider spending slightly more money on a reliable model.
With the right one, 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 one 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 it 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 it 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 models, 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 they provide, it comes down to making sure that you actually have one 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 they will be able to offer, but you should also be buying one that has been manufactured by a manufacturer that you feel you can trust. The shade 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 projects, it may simply be too inconvenient having one that will solely rely on the sun’s rays.
When you get a better power source, you will also end up with a type that will be able to last you for a very long time, and there are some of the models that will have better batteries than others.
When you plan on welding for a long time inside every single time you are working, it is especially important that you consider the battery. 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 it up 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 capacity to be limited by the fact that your helmet can’t provide the continued safety you need.