Experienced welders always caution their apprentices about the importance of using good quality welding helmets to protect their eyes and skin during welding.
I remember an incident when I “as apprentice” was attending practical welding classes. Back then, all we had was a handheld welding guard with dark-shaded glass to protect eyes. Our left hand was occupied holding the guard and right hand with the electrode holder.
We tend to look at the workpiece with naked eyes when we strike the arc since we were not able to view anything through the shaded glass till we strike an arc. Most of us had red and watering eyes for the next few days and had to consult a doctor.
Still, I can say we were lucky. The flash of the welding arc has the power to permanently damage the eyes if you do not use a safety welding helmet. Many people compare the pain of viewing the welding flash with naked eyes to ‘having burning hot sand in your eyes, and it may not be an exaggeration.
Today, you are fortunate to have safety welding helmets with either a single shade lens or with an auto-darkening quality lens, and both your hands are free for doing welding.
You may be a beginner welder, hobbyist welder, or fabricator. You must buy a good quality welding helmet to protect your eyes and face during welding, and here you must think of keeping your eyes safe than worrying about the dollars.
This article is intended to guide and help you buying a quality welding helmet within your budget.
Best welding helmets for professional welders
Best Welding Helmet under $200
Best budget welding helmets under $100
Welding Helmet Buyers Guide
How to choose an affordable and best welding helmet?
The process of welding emits harmful radiations (UV and IR), and you must protect your eyes and skin during welding by wearing a good quality welding helmet along with safety goggles.
A good welding helmet should protect you from flying materials and harmful radiations and be comfortable to wear for continuous work.
You will find a wide range of welding helmets in the market with different price tags, and the considerations given below may help you make a considered and wise decision.
Type of welding helmet
There are basically two types of welding helmets, a passive (fixed shade) welding helmet and a variable shade welding helmet.
A passive or fixed shade welding helmet has only one shade (viewing lens, normally #10) with an ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) filter. The level of protection provided by this lens will not vary according to the amperes you use for the welding or the type of welding you are doing.
You have to flip up the helmet to do the setup for welding and flip down the helmet (by nodding with your neck) before you start welding.
Once you wear the helmet, you cannot view anything outside unless you strike the welding arc. Once the welding is complete, you have to flip up the helmet to inspect the welding.
The variable shade welding helmets have auto-darkening filters (ADF). The ADF is an LCD (liquid crystal display) with two or more light sensors positioned near the lens to detect the welding arc.
When there is no welding, the shade of the LCD filter will be # 3 or #4, and you can clearly view your surroundings through the helmet. When you strike a welding arc, the light sensor senses the arc and darkens the lens to the set range of shade (# 9 to # 13).
The advantage of this helmet is that you can wear the helmet continuously till you complete the welding. No flipping up or down is required, which is advantageous to the hobbyists and new welders.
When welding with different amperes or weld processes (Stick, MIG, TIG, plasma cutting, etc.), the intensity of the arc (due to variation in polarity and amperes) varies. You will need a variable shade lens to protect your eyes.
The auto-darkening welding helmets can be with fixed or variable shade. In a fixed shade helmet, as soon as you strike the welding arc, the lens of the helmet changes to the shade selected by you, which happens immaterial of the amperes used or the chosen welding process.
On the other hand, in a helmet with an automatic shade selection feature, the sensors on the helmet will sense the arc and select the appropriate shade for you. A welding helmet with ADF makes your hands free for work.
A passive welding helmet is less expensive, but it can be a problem for the new or hobby welder. Even for professional welders, using a passive welding helmet is not comfortable in limited spots (no room to flip the helmet).
Points you must check before selecting a welding helmet
The safety standard for welding helmets is ANSI Z87.1-2003 (ANSI stands for American National Standards Institute and Society of Safety Engineers). This standard covers both the helmet and auto-darkening lens manufacturers.
When shopping for a safety welding helmet, you must check if they conform to the safety standard. Many welding helmets in the market may not comply with ANSI Z87.1-2003.
Speed of switching
The shade of the lens will be #3 or #4 when you are not welding, and the moment you strike a welding arc, the shade should become # 9 or above, and the time taken for this is called switching time. The switching time can be a fast of 1/3600th of a second to a high of 1/25000th of a second.
Choosing the wrong switching over time may leave you with tired eyes after the welding is completed.
Source of power
Your ADF welding helmet needs a source of power for its working, and this source is a lithium-ion battery (coin cells) with or without solar assist panels. Those with solar assist panels will have more battery life.
Weight of the welding helmet and its fitting
The weight of the welding helmet is an essential factor, and you need a light and comfortable welding helmet when you are welding continuously. Also, the headgear should be comfortable to wear.
The optical clarity is important (the better you see, the better you can weld) and is regulated by European Standards EN 379.
The ratings are displayed by four numbers, each indicating one aspect viz. optical class (distortion), diffusion of light (blurriness), the disparity in luminous transmission (uniform shade), and angle dependence.
The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 3 for each aspect (1 is perfect and 3 is worst). So, a score of 1/1/1/1 indicates perfect clarity.
The sensitivity indicates the amount of light needed by the sensor to darken the welding filter or lens, and most of the auto-darkening welding helmets allow you to select the sensitivity level.
Place of work
Will you be working inside your garage or outside in the open? This is important because many welding helmets may not function properly due to bright sunlight.
If you are working in the sun, you need to clarify with the seller about the functioning of the welding helmet during daylight.
Viewing area and the number of sensors
Some welding helmets allow you to view a larger area of your surroundings and some helmets allow you to focus on the area of the welding only. You have to select your preference. You need a convenient viewing size and decide based on your need. Remember, a larger viewing size makes the helmet bigger and heavier.
The higher the number of sensors higher and better is the coverage. The sensors will be able to sense the welding arc quickly and change the shade of the lens. There should be at least two sensors.
This is another crucial factor. Please study and understand the warranty period and warranty clauses clearly. Ask for clarifications if you are in doubt.
Some more points you must check before selecting a welding helmet.
- Check for availability and adaptability for cheater lens (cheater lens enhances the view).
- Check the headgear for the helmet, is it comfortable, and can it be replaced with the headgear of other manufacturers. The welding helmet quality is good in many cases, but the headgear does not last for long. You can make the welding helmet more comfortable if you can fit a good quality headgear (of other brands) suiting the helmet.
- Check if there is a provision for a respirator with the welding helmet and can you upgrade it if you need.
Selecting a welding helmet is an individual’s choice and may depend on whether you are a hobbyist, beginner, or professional welder. Since this is a safety gear concerning your eyes, you must select the welding helmet wisely.
Go for a welding helmet that is safe, comfortable to wear and work, and within your budget. Most welding helmets will have a ‘return policy.’ If the welding helmet does not meet your expectations, do not hesitate to return it.
Review of 10 Best Auto Darkening Welding Helmets | Top Picks & Reviews
Now let us explore some good quality auto-darkening welding helmets. The selection of the welding helmets is made keeping the requirement of the beginners and hobbyist welders, and the choice is a mix of medium budget and branded welding helmets.
We recommend you go for an optimum minimum quality welding helmet or a high-end branded one (if you can afford it). You may take the advice of your senior welder also.
Best Welding Helmet Overall
Lincoln Electric 3350 series has premium optics and features the exclusive 4C lens technology that gives you a crystal clear, true-color view of the welding arc and puddle. This reduces your eye strain, enhances control, and improves weld quality.
The 12.5 square inch auto-darkening lens provides a wide field of view.
Optical clarity rating of 1/1/1/1. Item weight-3 pounds. Cheater lens compatible. Lens shade rating-5 to 13. Light to dark switch time: 1/25000 second. With 4 arc sensors.
Welding helmets safety compliance: ANSI Z87.1
The X6 headgear provides good comfort and contours to the welder’s head to evenly distribute the weight on all six key contact points. Rotatable padded headband, flexible cushioned back pad, and adjustable resting position.
Innovative external grind/weld button to switch between the weld and grind modes without removing the helmet.
3 years limited warranty (check with the seller for warranty clauses and terms and conditions).
Works on 2 numbers CR 2450 battery assisted by solar.
This helmet has optimized performance for all the welding and cutting processes and environments.
• Branded and reliable product.
• Optical clarity rating of 1/1/1/1.
• 4 Arc sensors.
• Viewing area-12.5 square inches.
• Lens shade rating: 5 to 13.
• Available in 15 different shades.
• Innovative external grind/weld button.
• Not affordable for beginners and hobbyists.
Miller digital infinity black welding helmet with clear-light technology presents you with 4 modes of digital versatility for extreme welding and cutting applications, and the modes include welding mode ranging from 8-13 and cutting mode from 5-8, grinding mode is 3, and X-mode ranging from 8-13.
The auto on/off power controls activates the lens as soon as the welding arc starts. The improved digital controls help the user easily adjust the mode and settings.
The premium headgear gives enhanced adjustability settings for better fit and comfort.
13.4 square inch large viewing area. The shell material is nylon. Net weight is 1.44 pounds.
X-mode senses the welding arc electromagnetically and eliminates the interference of the sunlight.
4 Arc Sensors Premium Headgear Info Track 1.0 – tracks arc time and features a clock Specifications 5 Amps and Below TIG Rating 1/20,000 Sec Lens Speed.
Standards- ANSI Z87.1 and CSA Z94.3.
Batteries-Lithium ion coin type battery.
3 years warranty (check with the seller for warranty terms and conditions).
• 13.4 square inch viewing area.
• Clear Light TM Lens technology.
• X-mode-Electromagnetically senses the weld to eliminate the interference of sunlight.
• Info Track TM- Exclusive arc tracking technology.
• Gen 3.5 Headgear.
• Four operating modes weld, cut, grind, and X-mode.
• Digital controls.
• High-end welding helmets, beginners and hobbyists may not afford.
Optrel Crystal 2.0 welding helmet has an adjustable shade level from 4 to 12 with shade 2.0 light state, so you can see clearly what happens before, during, and after the welding process.
Perfect choice for beginners, hobbyists, and regular welders.
Adjusts automatically to the changing light conditions of the current welding process.
Lightweight and weighs 1.7 pounds. The ergonomic design minimizes strain on the head and neck and ensures comfort throughout the working time.
The headband is comfortable and ensures an optimum weight distribution for any head shape.
Switch quickly and easily between weld mode and grind mode using external controls.
Gradually lightens lens from dark to light state to ease eye fatigue.
Continuously variable sensitivity control allows the adaptation of the sensor sensitivity to the workplace surroundings. This function is also helpful for welding at low amperages, and the ADF is darkening.
• Adjusts automatically to the changing welding process.
• Continuously variable sensitivity control.
• Known brand.
• The twilight feature eases eye fatigue.
• Quickly and easily switch between weld mode and grind mode.
• Costlier for beginners and hobbyists.
User-selectable dark shades 8-12, light shade 3. Viewing area of 1.7ʺ ×3.7ʺ.
Lightweight 15.5 ounces (0.97 pounds) allows you to make multiple adjustments for optimum comfort.
3M Speedglass welding helmet comes with an auto-darkening filter, and the advanced optics almost instantly adjust after it detects the welding arc and maintains optimum welding view.
It comes with a lens that offers three sensitivity settings, typical for most welding types (both indoor and outdoor), a setting when welders are working nearby, and a setting for low-current or stable arc welding.
Three sensitivity levels for reliable arc detection. 2 arc sensors. Buttons to select sensitivity and delay.
Permanent UV/IR protection shade 12.
ADF battery life is 1500 hours. Works on 2 lithium-ion coin cell batteries.
The user-selectable dark shades enable you (the welder) to have an enhanced view of the welding area.
Safety standards: ANSI Z87.1-2010-approved for eye and face protection, ANSI Z89.1-approved when used with an appropriate hard hat, and also meets the Canadian standard CSA Z94.3.
Use it for MMAW, TIG>10 amperes, MIG, arc welding, and also as a grinding mask.
This welding helmet can be used in combination with many reusable respirators. Easy install of magnification plates.
It has a grinding mode that locks the filter to light shade 3.
• Reliable brand.
• Lightweight 15.5 ounces (0.97 pound).
• User-selectable dark shades 8-12, light shade 3.
• Permanent UV/IR protection shade 12.
• Buttons to select sensitivity and delay.
• Beginners and hobbyists may not be able to afford this.
• The viewing area is 1.7ʺ ×3.7ʺ.
The Jackson Welding Helmet is a lightweight (2 pounds) helmet and has 4 sensors to reduce any blockage.
Has 1/1/1/1 optical clarity with True Color. Has a viewing area of 3.93ʺ ×2.36ʺ.
Lightweight HLX 100 shell and has a narrow shape for working in narrow spots.
It has a digital control – This helmet has variable shades, 9-13, and has user-friendly digital controls for adjusting the sensitivity and delay for different processes and durations. This feature enables the welder to enjoy enhanced visibility and color recognition. You can choose grind or weld modes.
Use it for MIG, TIG, Stick, and arc welding processes. This has a 370-speed dial easy grip/turn headgear system.
It meets ANSI Z87.1 2010 standards and is CSA compliant.
Works on lithium coin cell batteries.
2-year limited warranty on ADF.
It is highly recommended for hobbyists as well as professionals.
• Established brand.
• 1/1/1/1 optical clarity with True Color.
• Variable shades, 9-13.
• The viewing area is 3.93 x 2.36 inches, offering unobstructed views.
• User-friendly digital control.
• Costlier for a beginner and hobbyist welder.
• The helmet is small and flimsy.
Large 9.3 square inch viewing area and wide frame give you good visibility.
Shade range #3 #9 #13. Modes-weld and grind. Analog controls.
It is made from polyamide nylon- weight: 1.25 pounds.
Four independent arc sensors ensure dependable arc detection.
To avoid the darkening of the screen, the helmet has a grind mode for clear visible grinding. Reaction time is 1/25,000 per second.
Works on lithium-ion coin cell batteries.
Selector knobs for sensitivity, delay, and shades.
Most of the user reviews are positive and encouraging.
• Large 9.3 square inch viewing area.
• Four independent arc sensors.
• Shade range #3 #9 #13.
• Modes-weld and grind.
• Lightweight 1.25 pounds.
• Bit costlier for beginners and hobbyists.
• The helmet does not work efficiently in the sun.
Suitable for TIG, MIG, and MMA welding and plasma cutting and has a grinding mode.
3 LCD screens that work independently and synchronously. The front viewing area is 3.94ʺ × 2.64ʺ, and the two side windows are 1.38ʺ/2.56ʺ ×2.36ʺ.
Optical clarity 1/1/1/1. True color view. Item weight-2.2 pounds.
This has three auto-darkening view filters with 6 sensors.
Wide range of shade level DIN 5-9/9-13 and the grinding light shade DIN 4.
The 180º panoramic viewing area allows the complete view of the welding area and gives good control to the welder.
Compatible design and has adaptability for cheater lens (magnifying lens).
Suitable for beginner or hobbyist welders as well as professional welders.
The headgear has an oversized comfort cushion and provides good adjustability, settings, and improved fit and comfort.
Meets the safety and the technical standard of EN 379 and ANSI Z87.1.
Average battery life-3000 hours.
Button for selecting grind or weld mode, knobs for selecting sensitivity (from low to high), delay (fast to slow), and knob and button for choosing the shade range.
One-year limited warranty.
• Three auto-darkening screens that work independently and synchronously with 180º panoramic viewing.
• Optical clarity 1/1/1/1, auto-darkening with six premium sensors.
• Shade level DIN 5-9/9-13 and the grinding light shade DIN 4.
• Meets the safety and the technical standard of EN379, EN175, EN166, ANSI ISEA Z87.1, and CSA.
• Comfortable pivot style headgear with oversized comfort cushion.
• The long-term reliability of the product is unknown.
• Heavy headgear.
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Passive filter with a minimum permanent shade of 13 to UV and IR, combined with triple-layered auto-dimming LCD shutter, provides a sufficient and accurate range of shades within 4/5-9/9-13 to visible lights.
Wide viewing area 3.86ʺ × 3.23ʺ (12.5 square inches) for a clear view.
1/1/1/2 top optical class.
Shade settings with memory to avoid accidental changes and are suitable for use in narrow spaces.
4 premium arc sensors, highly responsive and provide fast switching time and accurate auto shading, minimize bypass of harmful radiations to protect eyes.
Interference suppression technology minimizes false triggering. Less sensitive to sunlight, workshop lights and very responsive to the welding arc.
The arc sensors in the corner provide more coverage and reduce blockage in complicated welding positions.
Use it for plasma cutting, abrasive wheel cutting and grinding, DC TIG, AC TIG, MIG/MAG, and MMA/Stick welding.
Easy to adjust digital settings. Set to grind mode, the lens will not be activated by any arc. Knob control for shade, sensitivity, and delay.
Safety-Meets ANSI Z87.1 standard.
3 lithium-ion coin cell batteries power it.
Suitable for the fabrication industry as well as hobbyists.
• Viewing area 3.86ʺ × 3.23ʺ.
• The true colored lens with sensors on 4 corners.
• Easy to adjust digital settings.
• Users’ reviews are positive.
• 1/1/1/2 top optical class.
• Safety-Meets ANSI Z87.1 standard.
• The long-term reliability of the brand is unknown.
Best Cheap Welding Helmet
Suitable for different welding processes, TIG, MIG, MMS, Plasma, and grinding mode.
4 premium sensors. Large viewing area: 3.93ʺ ×3.66ʺ. True color view with optical quality 1/1/1/2.
Better comfort with pivot style headgear. Item weight-2.2 pounds.
This helmet’s upgraded true color technology improves visibility and reduces eye strain by minimizing the lime green coloring in the helmet view screen.
Meets the safety and technical standards of EN379 and ANSI Z87.1.
Headgear has an oversized cushion for comfort and has good adjustability, settings for better fit and comfort.
Selection knobs for shade, sensitivity, delay, and weld, or cut, or grind option, and all the knobs are on the outer side of the helmet.
• Meets the safety and technical standards of EN379 and ANSI Z87.1.
• Large viewing area-3.93ʺ ×3.66ʺ
• 4 premium sensors.
• True color view with optical quality 1/1/1/2.
• More battery life.
• The long-term reliability of the brand is unknown.
• The helmet has technical issues, e.g., flickering on and off when in grind mode.
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Best Welding Helmet for Beginners
Good for arc, SMAW, MIG, GTAW, and other welding processes but cannot be used for laser welding.
Viewing area-3.54ʺ ×1.38ʺ (90 mm×35 mm). Switching time-0.5 millisecond at room temperature.
Shade range-DIN 4, variable 9-13. Sensitivity-adjustable, low/high. Adjustable knob for shades.
Lightweight 1.32 pounds.
The light level of the filter is DIN4, and the time delay from dark to bright state can be set from 0.1 seconds to 1 second.
Auto-darkening feature protects your eyes and face from harmful sparks, spatter, and radiation during normal welding conditions.
The head strap is adjustable and ensures a tight fit, and leaves your hands free for welding. The headband has a quality foam head strap for good comfort.
This welding helmet uses the latest LCD technology to automatically tint the viewing window as soon as you strike an arc.
Comply with CE and ANSI Z87 standards.
Powered by CR 2032 lithium-ion battery with a solar panel, the battery life is 5000 hours.
• Low and highly affordable price.
• Shade range-DIN 4, variable 9-13.
• Good for arc, SMAW, MIG, GTAW, and other welding processes but cannot be used for laser welding.
• The long-term reliability of the welding helmet is unknown.
• Lens sometimes does not darken every time and is inconsistent.
Frequently asked questions
What is a welding helmet, and what is so special about it?
The welding helmet is safety gear. A welder wears this during welding to protect his or her eyes, face, and neck from ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) emissions and flying particles.
The specialty of a welding helmet is that it has a lens (either a fixed shade or a variable shade with an auto-darkening filter (ADF) to filter the harmful UV and IR reaching the welder’s eyes.
What is the safest welding helmet?
The safest welding helmet and the lens used in it should conform to the safety standard ANSI Z87.1-2003 (ANSI stands for American National Standards Institute and Society of Safety Engineers).
Also, the helmet should be comfortable to wear for a long welding duration, and you should be able to use it along with a safety goggle and respirator. There are many brands available in the market.
What should be my budget for the purchase of a welding helmet?
The budget depends on your usage. If you are a beginner welder or hobbyist, it is better to go for an auto-darkening helmet, and you may be able to find a reasonably good one for around USD 100, and a branded helmet can cost you from USD 300 upwards.
Study the details of the helmet thoroughly, go through the user reviews, note down your questions and clarify from the seller before you buy it. This is a safety gear related to your eyes and hence go for good quality.
What is the difference between a passive and a variable shade welding helmet?
A passive or fixed shade welding helmet has only one shade (viewing lens, usually #10) with an ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) filter. The level of protection provided by this lens will not vary according to the amperes you use for the welding or the type of welding you are doing. Once you wear the helmet, you cannot view anything outside unless you strike the welding arc.
The variable shade welding helmets have auto-darkening filters (ADF). The ADF is an LCD (liquid crystal display) with two or more light sensors positioned near the lens to detect the welding arc. When there is no welding, the shade of the LCD filter will be # 3 or #4, and you can clearly view your surroundings through the helmet. When you strike a welding arc, the light sensor senses the arc and darkens the lens to the set range of shade (# 9 to # 13).
Our final verdict
The above paragraphs have taken you through some of the buying tips for buying a good quality welding helmet, a review of the popular welding helmets, and a few frequently asked questions.
Hopefully, you are wiser now to take a decision on buying a welding helmet for yourself.