Welding is a dangerous profession, so safety gear is essential. One of the things you need is the best auto-darkening welding helmet to protect your eyes from radiation, sparks and other fiery particles, which can cause harm to your face and neck if left exposed. Therefore, we recommend looking for a reliable auto-darkening helmet with highly responsive arc sensors that sense the arc and instantly darken the lens, so you don’t get flashed.
Why Do You Need An Auto Darkening Welding Helmet?
An auto-darkening feature is one of the most vital features in nowadays best welding helmets. Auto-darkening is the capability of your helmet’s lens to automatically sense the light produced when welding and change to block it out. After finishing your weld and no sparks are produced, then your lens automatically returns to the lightest setting so you can see again without having to lift your mask. Therefore, the best auto-darkening welding helmet will protect your eyes without a hassle from you.
The protection this welding helmet offers is like using a quality pair of sunglasses in bright daylight. Besides, the light sensors set near the lens help identify the filter shade required. As soon as you strike an arc, the sensors usually activate and adjust the lens filter accordingly, meaning you don’t have to worry about flipping the lens up and down, switching the helmet to the amount of light generated by the arcs. Now that we understand why an auto-darkening welding helmet is an important, check the best models.
1. DEKOPRO Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet, Solar Powered
The DEKOPRO Welding Auto Darkening Helmet comes with an auto-darkening filter switch of 1/25,000. The unique thing about the helmet is that the helmet remains to protect you from ultraviolet and infrared light in case of electric failure. Besides, the helmet meets ANSI Z87.1 standards, so you are not putting your safety at risk.
The welding helmet is adjustable to fit any head size, crucial for comfort. Moreover, it’s powered with solar power technology making it useful in different work environments. Besides, the lens is spacious and provides angular dependence allowing you to view in any direction with greater perception. Besides, the welding helmet is lightweight with a rounded design for maximum comfort.
However, the main drawback is that the lens can fog up, making it nearly impossible to see your project. Also, the fit is not great, and the headband needs cushioning, particularly if you will use it for some hours.
- Offers high visibility
- Meets ANSI Z87.1 standards
- Adjustable to fit any head size, which is crucial for comfort
- Lightweight with rounded design for maximum comfort
- Protects you from ultraviolet and infrared light
- The headband requires more cushion
- The lens can fog up
2. Antra Auto Darkening Welding Helmet- Wide Shade Range
We recommend the Antra AH6-260 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet if you’re a newbie in welding. The helmet has variable shade levels from 5-13. Though the 17-ounce weight is something good to talk about, it means the plastic material on the hood is a bit thin for industrial use. Banging it on things or getting knocked around means it will wear out quickly. Also, the thin material means overhead welding is not an option because molten slag can easily burn through.
The welding helmet comes with solar for charging batteries and has been certified to automatically darken and protect with TIG, MIG, arc or plasma. Besides, the filter glass is designed to protect from ultraviolet rays and IR whether it is powered up or not. You will notice that adjustable delay and sensitivity controls are unusual in this price range.
- Lightweight and comfortable with glasses
- Feature solar charging with auto turn off
- Welders love the headgear
- Reaction time is about 1/25,000 seconds
- Variable shading levels from 5-13
- Poor build quality for industrial use
3. Lincoln Viking Auto Darkening Welding Helmet, 3350 Series
The Viking 3350 is an electric auto-darkening welding helmet. Lincoln states that it designed this helmet to offer a blend of versatility, comfort and premium optics. Besides, vision through the lens is as good as it can get on this helmet, with a 1/1/1/1 optical clarity rating and real-world colors. Most welders with this Lincoln Viking 3350 Series welding helmet usually praise the optical quality and the variable shade levels from 5-13.
The welding helmet has a design optimized to distribute the weight across the helmet to enhance balance and make it feel lighter. However, some welders complain that the knob to fasten the headgear doesn’t stay tight, slipping when bending over. This auto-darkening welding helmet usually has an adapter to fit a hard hat.
Furthermore, the welding helmet comes in colorful styles varying from robot heads to racing stripes and skull designs. Although this 1.2-pound welding helmet is not the lightest on the market, the big viewing area means more glass, increasing the weight. Therefore, if you are looking for the best auto-darkening welding helmet that professional welders vouch for, count on the Viking 3350 Series.
- Offers large viewing area
- High-quality professional welding helmet to count on
- Feature continuous light-sensing; work on both indoors and outdoors
- Offer a blend of versatility, comfort and premium optics
- Comes in colorful styles varying from robot heads to racing stripes and skull designs
- Some welders complain of the headgear not staying tight
4. ESAB Sentinel A50 Welding Helmet, Low-Profile Design
ESAB’s Sentinel A50 comes with a streamlined design allowing you to close work like wielding cabinets, machinery and cars. The curved shape is also intended to enhance head coverage. Besides, the curved lens is designed for great peripheral vision to avoid collisions. However, most owners report that in-close welding can cause warping damage to the lens.
The welding helmet operation is with a 5-point headgear. This design usually features a basket shape that fits over the top, as most hard hats use. Besides, the 5-point headgear allows shifting the weight of the welding helmet in different directions for critical welding situations like lying on your side.
Some owners usually complain of glare and “fisheye” effects through the viewport. Also, the helmet is not all look either. Additionally, one nice high-technology feature is a smartphone-like color touch screen or the shade and sensitivity settings.
- Features curved lens is designed for great peripheral vision to avoid collisions
- The headgear allows shifting the weight of the welding helmet in different directions
- Comes with a streamlined design allowing you to close work like wielding cabinets, machinery and cars
- Lightweight welding helmet
- Features eight separate memories
- The lens usually suffers from glare issues
5. Antra Auto Darkening Welding Helmet, AH7-360-0000
The Antra AH7-360 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet is similar to the AH6-260, though this comes with upgraded features. Some of the similarities include four arc sensors, a variable shade range of #5-9/9-13 and a fast reaction time of 1/25,000 seconds. Besides, it has the same helmet design, a grind feature and an auto on/off feature. However, when it comes to the viewing area, the AH7-360 usually comes out on top with a significant viewing area of 3.78″ 2.08″.
Additionally, the Antra adjusted the placement of the controls on the AH7-360 model. So, unlike the AH6-260, they are on the inside instead of on the outside. And since they’re on the outside, you will have little chance of bumping them, messing up your settings or even causing damage.
With the updated features, the AH7-360 is priced a bit more than the AH6-260. However, the differences between them are not much significant. Though the performance is the same, if you don’t mind spending some extra bucks, we recommend the AH7-360. With this model, you’re sure of a bigger view area.
- Comes with upgraded features
- Has a fast reaction time of 1/25,000 seconds
- Controls are on the inside
- Offers a bigger view area
- Auto on/off feature
- Comes with a high price tag though the performance is the same as AH6-260
Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
1. Helmet weight and comfort
If you intend to wear your welding helmet for long hours, then the weight and comfort of the helmet will be a crucial consideration. Heavier welding helmets usually add more strain on your neck, making your welding experience uncomfortable and quite painful even if it does not feel that heavy when you wear it for the first time. Besides, lighter welding helmets can reduce the chance of stress injury over time, especially if you are wearing them for a long period.
Conversely, comfort is also worth considering. If you get a lightweight, padded welding helmet, then the chances are you will enjoy the welding experience more because of your comfort. We, therefore, recommend looking for one that fits securely around our heads. Avoid a helmet that can’t fit well since it will move around and distract you when welding.
2. Helmet power source: battery or solar
When shopping for the best auto-darkening welding helmet, you will realize that they’re either powered by lithium batteries, solar power or both combined. The best option has the combination of the two and allows you to extend the battery life of the helmet. It also means that you can rely on the other one if one power source runs out.
Conversely, if your welding helmet uses batteries, the primary consideration is if the batteries are replaceable or not. Welding helmets that use replaceable batteries are preferable since you can attach the batteries and use the helmet right away. Nonetheless, you will always require replacement sets of batteries with you.
If your welding helmet depends on solar power, this can be cost-effective since you don’t need to worry about replacing the batteries. The auto-off capability is a handy feature you should look for on your best auto-darkening welding helmet. This feature usually helps to turn the power off to save energy automatically.
3. Viewing area
We recommend looking for a welding helmet with a viewing area taller tha 2 inches. However, it all comes down to the [project you are working on and personal preference. If you work in an area with restricted space, you will want the largest viewing area possible since it will be tricky to adjust your body to view clearly.
4. Switching speed
The switching speed, in this case, refers to how fast the lens changes from its natural state to becoming dark after the arc is started. If you don’t have enough switching speed, it can result in eye fatigue. Besides, if you find that a switching speed feature doesn’t suit you, you might want to move to an intermediate or even professional level switching speed. The lenses will adjust in a fraction of a second. The best professional lenses are usually rated up to 1/20000 of a second.
The more regularly you weld, the more crucial having a fast lens reaction time is. If 8you are frequently starting arcs, then the slight increase of exposure to the arc can result in eye fatigue; therefore, you will want it to adjust to dark as fast as possible.
5. Sensitivity control
When shopping for the best auto-darkening welding helmet, pay attention to the features that the helmet offers. Most auto-darkening welding helmets usually can set the minimum brightness value that activates the darkening. The manual adjustment is handy if you are welding at low amperage, where you might require increased sensitivity. Also, it’s ideal if you are working in an environment where there are lots of arcs from other welders. The sensitivity control feature allows you to increase and decrease the sensitivity, so other welder’s arcs are not activating it.
6. The number of arc sensors
Before buying the auto-darkening welding helmet, consider the number of arc sensors. Sensors usually sense flashes while you wild and darken the helmet in seconds to protect your eyes. Unfortunately, the less expensive ones have two or fewer sensors, while the high-end models have three or four. Though having two sensors can work fine, it raises the risk of not catching the flash, especially if welding out of position. On the other hand, having four sensors reduces the risk of the welding helmet failing to catch a flash that might arise after objects like pipes obstruct the sensors.
Welding helmets are available in different styles with the artwork. So instead of the classic grey or black color, there are more different colors to choose from. You can as well get graphic designs like eagles, flames and flags, which are popular styles of helmets that will sometimes find as alternative color options when choosing a welding helmet to buy. Besides, quality welding helmets are available from different brands; therefore, you can go for their products if you prefer a certain brand like Miller or Lincoln.
8. Optical class
All auto-darkening welding helmets lenses you will come across are tested and rated for quality and provided with an optical class. This usually corresponds to the visual clarity through the glass. These lenses are evaluated in four different clarity categories and provided with four numbers graded either 1, 2, or 3, with 1 being the top best. Thus, the best optical class rating is 1/1/1/1. The difference between the 1/1/1/1 optical class and 1/2/1/2 is not that great, though an experienced welder will instantly notice the change when it comes to the clarity of the workpiece.
9. Safety standards
It would be best to prioritize your safety at all times when welding. So, when shopping for the best auto-darkening welding helmet, ensure it meets the safety standards and regulations. ANSI standards usually require that a welding helmet provides full and enough protection to those wearing them. In addition, there is thorough testing that welding helmets have to pass to achieve ANSI national safety standards, which comprise protection from impact, infrared, ultraviolet and temperature. The safety standard at the moment is ANSI Z87.1-2003.
10. Lens shade options
The good thing with an auto-darkening welding helmet is that it comes with different lens shade options to choose from. The more shades you have, the more flexible you can be with applications. You will benefit from different shade options if you regularly change processes and settings. A 9-13 shade is usually normal though if you are working on low amperages where it’s challenging to see the arc, then a 6-13 shade is a great option.
Last but not least, check out the price of welding helmets. If you have a set budget, this will help when choosing, though the more expensive ones might be the best helmets. We have listed different budgets in this guide, ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive. Therefore, you can be sure to find one that will offer value and be worthy of the investment.