Welding Helmet Buyer’s Guide

Choosing a welding helmet can be a pain. You want something that will protect you, but also be lightweight and versitile.

After considering more than two dozen different helmets, I decided to buy the Antra AH6-260 Series for my welding projects. For me, it’s the perfect balance of price and quality. It has many of the features of the high-end helmets, exceeds some tough safety standards, and it looks awesome. I’ve been really happy with it.

Antra Wide Shade Range 4/5-9/9-13 Auto Darkening...
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Antra Wide Shade Range 4/5-9/9-13 Auto Darkening...
  • 【Safety & Protection】 Passive Filter with Permanent shade 13 to UV/IR, combined with...
  • 【Comfort & Convenience】 Very light total weight, reduces head and neck stress; Fully automatic...
  • 【Performance】 4 Premium redundant arc sensors, with highly responsive detecting and controlling...

The Antra AH6-260 Series welding helmet uses the smart chip controlled 4 sensor auto darkening lens, which is very quickly responsive to electrical arc in TIG, MIG, MMA or Plasma applications. This light weight welding helmet is so flexible it may be used on grinding, welding, welding and cutting applications. It has a great price and has just about everything you need in a welding helmet.

What to look for when buying a welding helmet

Helmets are essential for welders to work safely. They protect your face, eyes, and ears when working on welding and grinding operations. Your eyes are protected not just from sparks and slag but also from ultraviolet and infrared rays that can be damaging for your eyes.

The welding helmet is one of the critical pieces of equipment you do not want to cut corners with. Buying a less expensive helmet may seem like a good idea in terms of saving money, but it can lead to serious long term injuries. Not only will it jeopardize your work, but facial injuries can also have dire consequences on your personal life.

You have a variety of options available to choose a welding helmet. Consider the environment you will be working in and the projects you will work on to determine the best helmet for your needs.

The weight of the helmet

The helmet should not be so heavy it causes neck pain and fatigue for you. Ideally, the helmet should be made from a lightweight material. Quality helmets weigh about 20 oz, and you should be able to work comfortably with helmets of this weight.

If you regularly work for long hours, invest in a lighter helmet. However, if you only work on projects as a hobby for short durations, you may get by with a heavier helmet.

Passive helmets

Passive helmets have been traditionally used in the welding industry for many decades. They have a glass lens at the front that remains darkened. These helmets are rugged and cost slightly less. They are still preferred by many professional pipe welders and metal workers.

The glass lens’ darker shade protects the welder’s eyes from the bright spark. The shaded lens blocks other sources of light. To work, the welder needs to flip the glass lid up, take measurements, and then flip the glass down before they hit the arc.

The repetitive process can cause strain on the neck if you work for long hours. Repeatedly flicking the lens up and down can also waste time, reducing the welder’s productivity. If you are working in a small area, it may also be challenging to flick the helmet up and down because you do not have enough space.

You need to have a certain level of experience to work with a passive helmet when using a welder. You may find it challenging to keep the torch or electrode fixed at the correct welding position after lowering the visor. If your arc starts poorly, it can cause defective welds that should be avoided.

Auto-darkening helmets

Auto-darkening helmets are new and more advanced. The lens shade adjusts automatically in response to inactive and active lighting. The helmet goes dark when the arc is started and becomes lighter when the lighting is at a reasonable level.

Safety is built into these helmets, and they protect your eyes from harmful rays. The lens can darken to the desired shade in a matter of milliseconds due to the LCD technology in the auto-darkening cartridges.

The helmet allows welders to see even when the visor is flicked down. Welders can easily set up materials and position them with the hood down to weld. The helmet can be used with ease even by intermediate users as there is no need to adjust the helmet repeatedly. It allows you to do more in less time, enhancing productivity.

Passive vs. auto-darkening lenses

Passive lens helmets use IR and UV coated glass that is dark-tinted and has a fixed shade value. This value is usually #10 or #11. The helmet is kept in the up position while the welder positions the electrode, torch or gun. After fixing the gun, the operator flicks his neck to bring the lens down just before striking the arc.

Shaded welding lenses have numbers that refer to the ability of the lens to filter light. The number can range from a #8 shade for low-amp application up to a #13 shade for high-amp application.

The lenses on both types of helmets keep the harmful infrared and UV rays out.

Helmets with a passive lens are generally the cheaper option, but they do have downsides.

  • Repeatedly lifting and lowering the helmet can be a difficult task. It may not matter if you are doing slope welding, but the method is inefficient for tack welding or numerous short welds on a single project.
  • If the timing is off or if the helmet does not lock into position with the flick, the welder may see arc flashes inadvertently, which could affect the eyes.
  • New and inexperienced welders may find it difficult to snap the helmet into place and keep the electrode positioned accurately simultaneously. This can lead to poor weld starts, causing defective welds, which will need excessive grinding.
  • Continuously flicking the neck to move the helmet into the necessary position may even lead to injuries.

The auto-darkening helmet may be more expensive, but it solves all these issues. When the helmet is inactive, the lens usually has a shade of #3 or #4. This is relatively easy to see through, even indoors. When an arc is initiated close to the helmet, its sensors pick up the signal and automatically darken the lens. The whole process takes less than a second. When the arc is shut, the lens returns to its original shade.

As the auto-darkening helmet does not move before, during, and after the weld, it allows you to carefully set up your welding joints without moving the hood. You don’t have to snap your head to bring the lens down or worry about defective welding starts. The helmet is especially useful for tack welds. There is also no risk of seeing the arc inadvertently due to problems with the hood.

The auto-darkening helmet improves weld quality. It also reduces the chances of neck strains due to flicking the neck to get the helmet into the required place.

Additional considerations

If you go with auto-darkening helmets, then there are other factors you should consider. These considerations will help you choose a helmet that meets your needs in the best way.

Comfort

Comfort should be the number one factor for choosing a helmet. Welders often have to work on a project for the whole day, so get a helmet that is comfortable to wear for hours with no problems. The helmet should not be too high because that can add fatigue quickly.

Before you purchase a helmet, try it out with the visor down to determine your comfort level. If it fits nicely and you see no problems with it, then it can be a good match.

Coverage

Some helmets offer half coverage and protect the face and cheeks, down to the chin with no headcover. Full-coverage helmets resist spatter and other impact forces. They cover the full head and much safer, especially when grinding metal.

Viewing size

The viewing size of the helmet is also something to consider. Some helmets have a minimal viewing space, just across the eyes, while others offer a much greater viewing area that improves the operator’s peripheral vision.

Welders who work on large projects, such as metal frame assembly, prefer a helmet with a large viewing size because it allows them to look at the complete project without moving around. Helmets with limited vision are more useful when the welding area is concentrated in a small space.

Shade range

Most auto-darkening helmets offer a variable shade range that can be specified according to the user’s needs. For instance, entry-level helmets allow the user to choose from #9 to #13 for shading. More expensive helmets can be toggled in the range of 5 to 13.

The additional scale of shading allows welders to optimize the helmet’s shade for greater comfort on different projects. This is useful for welders who need to move between different applications in welding.

Color spectrum

The color spectrum offered by the newer helmets is also a feature worth considering. Previously, auto-darkening helmets used to have a lime green color spectrum, which was fixed. Several manufacturers have now developed technology which allows the user to change the lens color spectrum to get a more natural view. The ability to change color gives users better control over the weld puddle in different lighting conditions while also reducing red-eye fatigue.

Delay controls

Delay controls are used to increase or decrease the time it takes for the helmet to return to the lighter shade after the shutting down the welding arc. Shorter delays are useful during tack welding when the welds are made in short bursts, and the operator is looking to move quickly through the welds.

The duration of the delay can be increased when carrying out long welds on thicker materials. When there is a delay of 1 or 2 seconds, the welder will not have to see the hotter, more massive weld puddle after shutting down the arc. This better protects the eyes.

Typically, delays can be set for anywhere between 0.1 seconds to 1.0 second, but some helmets allow longer delays. Users can also control the sensitivity of the helmet’s delay.

Arc sensitivity

The user can also modify the arc sensitivity of the helmet to ensure that it will darken as the user desires. This is useful if other welders are operating nearby. The helmet would darken every time someone else lights up an arc. If the sensitivity is reduced, it will prevent the shade from triggering when other welders strike their arc.

Also, check the number of arc sensors that a helmet possesses. Some auto-darkening helmets have one or two arc sensors while other, more expensive helmets can have up to four arc sensors. The more arc sensors there are, the better. Sensors ensure that the lens will darken in response to lighting up an arc. With more sensors, there is a lower chance that the helmet will fail to work as required.

Helmet controls

Helmets can have two types of controls on them; internal and external. Both models come with their pros and cons.

External controls allow the welder to adjust the setting while the helmet is on the head. This can be useful if you do not want to keep taking the helmet on and off repeatedly. However, most external controls come with additional wiring that can be exposed to impacts or damage as they are positioned outside the helmet.

Internal controls are usually positioned on the lens cartridge. As these controls lie inside the helmet, they are more protected. There is little risk of damage or need for additional wiring. However, you will need to remove the helmet every time to change settings, which can be tedious.

Battery and powering

Unlike passive helmets, auto-darkening welding helmets require a source of power to operate. Some have replaceable lithium batteries, while others use a combination of batteries and solar cells. Either type of model is great, but helmets with solar cells are preferred for outdoor work.

The batteries on the helmets are either replaceable or non-replaceable. Helmets with replaceable batteries can have a long service life as you can continue to use them for many years without trouble. Helmets with non-replaceable batteries can work for 5 to 7 years. If the helmet has an on/off switch, it is advised to turn the helmet off after usage.