Best Welding Helmet Reviews 2017 – Buying Guide
Buying a welding helmet will be one of the most important investments you will make – besides the actual welder of course. That’s why it’s critical to choose the right one. Here you’ll find comprehensive guides and thorough reviews of the top brands to help you find the best welding helmet.
Best Welding Helmet Buying Guide
How to choose the best welding helmet?
Choosing the best welding helmet can be a daunting task but we’re here to help. Prices range from below $100 to $500+ so the features and quality varies from each helmet. Generally the more expensive hoods offer more features at a higher quality but many of the sub $100 helmets provide excellent value. Below you’ll find everything you need to know and what variables to keep in mind when choosing a helmet.
Auto Darkening or Standard Glass Lens
- The auto darkening filter (ADF) darkens automatically whens the sensors detect the bright welding arc
- Powered by battery or a combination of battery and solar
- When the lens is not active its resting shade is usually #3 or #4 so you can easily see
- Makes starting the arc easier because you can see the position of the stick or gun
- Once the sensors see the arc the lens darkens to a shade of #8 – #13
- Eyes are always protected
- No more snapping your head to lower the hood
- Lens is a set shade that you have to manually cover your eyes with by nodding forward so the hood shuts down
- Usually a #10 shade coated with UV and IF protection
- Much cheaper
- Can be tough for beginners to get used to
- Because of the need to flip the helmet welding is restricted spaces can be difficult
- Will work 100% of the time
Do I Need Fixed or Variable Shade
When looking for the best welding helmet you’ll have to choose either fixed shade or variable shade.
Fixed shade is sufficient if you do certain types of welding using the appropriate amperage (see chart below). The standard fixed lens is shade #10 and it offers the same protection no matter what amps the light emits. All standard glass helmets are fixed shade.
Variable shade lenses are on all helmets with auto darkening filters (ADF). It is activated when the arc sensors detect bright light, activating the filter and darkening the lens to the appropriate shade. To properly protect your eyes and get a view of the whole weld, variable shade lenses are preferred. It automatically adjusts to the intensity of the arc offering much more versatility. Most variable shade lenses range in shade from #8 – #13. This best welding helmet guide is going to focus on auto darkening welding helmets only.
Switching Speed (Lens Reaction Time)
The lens switching speed is an important factor when considering the best welding helmet. It refers to the time it takes to switch from its natural state to a lower shade once the arc is struck. The faster the better, too slow of a reaction speed will result in eye fatigue or may cause arc eye/ welders flash a painful side effect cause by ultraviolet radiation.
Solar Power or Battery
For most people this is just a personal preference, both do the same thing when charged. Auto darkening welding helmets have three main power options: solar, battery and a combination of the solar and battery.
With solar powered welding helmets you’ll never have to worry about batteries and they offer thousands of hours of storage. Just remember to put it in the sun every so often.
Battery powered helmets allow you to use it right out of the box. If you run out of power simply replace the batteries. Keeping it simple.
Battery with solar assist makes sure you never run out of power. If the batteries run out the back up solar cells kick in saving you from harmful rays. For safety and convenience we recommend the best welding helmet have this.
Weight should be a main consideration for everyone but especially if you weld as a professional. If you’re going to be wearing one for 8 – 12 hours a day it’s important that the helmet isn’t a strain on your neck. The best welding helmet is extremely lightweight but very durable, allowing the user to work pain free.
Comfort is just as important as weight because if your welding helmet isn’t comfortable you’ll be miserable and in pain. Look for a helmet with lots of adjustable straps so you can customize it your your exact head shape. Welding should be a pleasure.
Generally, the bigger the viewing screen the more you’ll be able to see and the better you’ll weld. This is especially important for a beginner welder who needs to see the whole job. You’ll also want a big viewing area if you do a lot of out of position welding at odd angles.
Internal or External Controls
Internal controls are a bit of a hassle because you have to remove your helmet every time you need to change something. External controls allow you too adjust your settings with ease saving you time and energy. If you work in tight spaces you need controls on the outside.
Number of Arc Sensors
Arc sensors are the key components to an auto darkening welding helmet. It keeps you from danger. The best welding helmet will have two or more sensors. The sensor reacts to the arc causing the lens to go dark. If a sensor is covered or obstructed it will fail to darken so its always safer to have more sensors.
National Safety Standards
All of the helmets that we review are rated with the ANSI Z87.1 – 2010 safety standard so you can be sure it will keep you safe. They test the helmets for high velocity impacts, 100% UV and IR filtering and proper switching speeds.
Be aware: Not all helmets conform to safety standards. If you are buying a helmet somewhere other than topweldinghelmets.com make sure you check the details or you could get seriously hurt.
Tips for Choosing the Best Welding Helmet
Confused yet? Don’t be! Here are a few tips for helping you decide which helmet to choose:
Brand Matters – When it comes to your health and safety why take a chance with some off-brand inferior hood? Sticking with the tried and tested brands ensure that you’re always protected. We only review the highest quality brands so you know you’re getting the best welding helmet for your money. Some of the top brands include: 3m Speedglas, Antra, Hobart, Jackson, Lincoln, Miller, Optrel and Save Phace.
Stick to your budget – Helmets differ wildly in price, so it’s important that you know how much you can spend. It’s easy to drop $500 on the best welding helmet with the latest technology but if you’re just starting out, it’s probably not necessary. Figure out your needs, figure out your budget and don’t be tempted by all the bells and whistles.
Buy Online – I know, I know, a website telling you to buy online…right. But I’m serious, most welding stores have deals with 1 or 2 brands and will try to sell you on those brands regardless if it’s in your best interest or not. Buying online is better in every way: it’s cheaper because its going straight from the manufacturer, you have more options because every brand is available and it arrives right at your doorstep.
Look for extras – Some helmets come with bonuses like a carrying bag or replacement lens covers. While this shouldn’t be a deal breaker, be on the lookout for hoods that come with additional accessories. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
Best Welding Helmet Brands
3M Speedglas is one of the most trusted best welding helmet brands in the world. Their helmets range from beginner level to professional and everything in between. Their focus on quality is outstanding in whatever helmet you choose and they offer an impressive set of features. Whether you’re looking for a hood with a massive viewing area with all the latest features you didn’t even know existed or just a basic helmet that will protect you no matter what, 3M has you covered.
Hobart is an authority on all things welding so when you choose a Hobart welding helmet you know you’re getting quality. With that in mind their best welding helmet is also one of the most affordable. You get everything that a professional level hood offers for an entry level price. Forget all the fancy gadgets and gizmos, you need a helmet that is comfortable to wear all day, will darken when the arc flashes and wont put you in debt. The Hobart welding helmet lineup does just that. And the best thing? They come in plenty of unique shell graphic designs so you can pick one that fits your taste and style.
There’s a good reason welders choose Jackson Safety as their best welding helmet. From their massive viewing areas (which are the biggest in the industry) to their perfect 1/1/1/1 optical ratings, Jackson outperforms the competition when it comes to auto darkening lenses. They also offer the longest warranty available at 5 years and they’re one of the oldest welding brands so you know you’re getting a time tested hood.
Lincoln Electric is an industry leader when it comes to welders, so its not surprising that their expertise translates well to helmets too. Their Viking series is a top contender for best welding helmet which is why it’s one of the best selling hoods on the market. They use 4C Lens technology to get a perfect optical rating which even some of the top brands have failed to achieve. They also offer some awesome custom paint jobs so you can stand out from the crowd.
Miller welding helmets are the perfect combination of affordability and functionality. They offer a wise range of helmets from their entry-level Classic series to their professional-level Titanium series. Their most popular and best welding helmet is the Digital Elite which is the perfect balance between hobbyist and veteran. The wide viewing area, rugged shell design and the much sought after ratchet-style headgear make Miller a stellar option.
Swiss engineered and trusted by welders across the globe, Optrel is the leader in premium welding helmets. With their uniquely designed external controls to the True Color filter that gives you an unparalleled view of the weld, Optrel consistently ranks among the best welding helmets around. The sleek aerodynamic shell design not only looks amazing but also serves to guide smoke and gas away from the face, keeping you safe from toxic fumes.