Three best welding helmets

By
tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

A welding helmet protects your eyes, face, and neck from hazards such as ultraviolet light, infrared light, heat, and sparks. It is lightweight and not designed to protect the wearer from impacts.

Safety is often a matter of precaution. You put on a bike helmet so you're protected in case you fall. However, there are times when a situation is so dangerous that it's impossible to complete a task without wearing the proper protective gear. Welding is one of those situations. You get one set of eyes. Protect them with a welding mask.

There are a few considerations you'll need to mull over before choosing the best welding helmet for your needs. This guide will walk you through the essentials so you can purchase once and get it right.

Considerations when choosing welding helmets

Settings

A passive welding helmet -- one that remains a constant shade -- is extremely effective when it comes to protecting the wearer's eyes, but it lacks versatility. Because of this, auto-darkening welding helmets have proliferated on the market. These helmets typically have three settings: sensitivity, shade, and delay. These are most often located inside the helmet to help protect them.

Sensitivity: The sensitivity setting determines the amount of light it takes to trigger the helmet's auto-darkening feature.

Shade: This setting determines how dark the triggered shade will be. The brighter the arc, the darker you will likely want your shade. Remember: you need to be able to clearly see your puddle to achieve the best welding results.

Delay: Since brighter arcs fade more slowly, this setting determines how long it takes your helmet to un-shade.

Welding helmet features

Test button: This allows you to manually trigger the auto-darkening feature on your helmet. This is useful in helping you to achieve optimum optical conditions. If your helmet doesn't have a test button, a lighter may be used to trigger the settings instead.

Memory: Once you've found the best balance for your settings, you can save all three values if your helmet has a memory feature. You can then store and repeatedly call up your ideal preference without fussing before each new project.

Vision: The larger your viewing area, the better you will be able to see your environment while working. Some welding helmets are equipped with side lenses for a 180° field of view.

Weight: If you'll be working for extended periods of time, even a small amount of weight will eventually become burdensome. Lighter welding helmets provide greater comfort so you can better focus on your task.

Welding helmet prices: For a beginner or hobbyist, it's possible to find a decent welding helmet that is both safe and durable in the $100 range. When you drift below this level, you lose flexibility and convenient features. For the professional who needs larger viewing windows and greater comfort, versatility, and durability, you can expect to pay around $300 or $400 for a high-end welding helmet.

FAQ

Q. What is a flash burn?

A. Just as the sun can cook your skin, the bright ultraviolet light from welding can burn your cornea (the clear tissue that covers your eye). Although the cornea can heal itself in about 48 hours, if left untreated, complications can lead to loss of vision.

Q. If my auto-darkening helmet doesn't darken until after the welding arc is struck, won't that damage my eyes?

A. The lens shade feature does not directly correspond with eye protection. A quality welding helmet will provide ultraviolet and infrared protection whether the shade is engaged or not. However, for maximum comfort, your helmet should respond in less than half a millisecond.

Welding helmets we recommend

Best of the best: Jackson Safety Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet 

Our take: A high-end welding helmet with a variable shade range of 9 to 13 and exceptional optics.

What we like: Variable shade, sensitivity, and delay controls allow you to fine-tune the helmet's response and operation. It's lightweight and has been designed for optimum optical clarity at different angles.

What we dislike: No lower-end shade options or grinding mode available.

Best bang for your buck: Lincoln Electric Variable-Shade Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet 

Our take: A versatile, powerful, high-end welding helmet with a variable shade range of 5 to 13.

What we like: Four arc sensors to help reduce the possibility of getting flashed. Also features a grind mode, has variable shade, sensitivity, and delay controls, and is solar powered.

What we dislike: Viewing technology isn't as impressive in outdoor situations. Lens can fog up in certain conditions.

Choice 3: Metal Man Variable-Shade Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet 

Our take: Versatile welding helmet that best serves the hobbyist.

What we like: Affordably priced helmet with a number of features usually only found on high-end models. You get a grind mode, four arc sensors, and adjustable sensitivity and delay dials. Also functions using battery and solar power.

What we dislike: Variable shade levels aren't precise. Extreme care must be taken to keep all sensors clean so they function properly.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.