Whether you weld full-time as a profession or occasionally at home--for that matter, if you use any type of welder period--one of the most important components you need to be outfitted with isn't necessarily the most expensive. Regardless the type or quality of machine used, what really counts when it comes to your personal safety is having the best face protection you can afford. Your eyesight is not expendable, so do yourself a favor and take the precautions to ensure you're properly covered whenever you strike an arc!

When it comes to choosing the right welding helmet, there are two major factors to consider first: quality and comfort. Obviously, you should have the best technological features available, but as with anything, that all comes with a price. At the same time, the most expensive helmet on the market might not turn out to be the best-fitting for you. Unless you're familiar with a particular brand or style, it's a good idea to visit a welding supply or two and try a few different models on for size. Keep in mind that you want to provide protection, not distraction, so weight, ergonomics, and physical attributes (lens size, adjustability, and location of controls) should all be considered.

Back to the technology aspect, while not all of us are of the auto-darkening mode when it comes to welding helmets, quality still matters. For the "nodders" out there who still prefer a standard type helmet, having the proper shade characteristics (most often #10 filter, but higher-amp arcs will require more shade) and appropriate UV/IR coating is very important. Beyond that, it pretty much boils down to personal preference when it comes to the remaining aspects. On the other hand, auto-darkening helmets are like anything that offers added convenience--loaded with features--thus require more things for you to consider!

Just like the standard-lens helmets, ultimately you want your auto-darkening one to have the right filtering capabilities to protect your eyes. But at the same time, you also want the automatic shading to perform accurately and consistently. By design, this type of lens is constructed with a sealed liquid crystal that relies on sensors (powered by battery or solar--or both) to activate the darkening function. While cheaper no-name helmets may indeed perform this task, who's to say for how long or even how precise? Furthermore, those helmets may not meet current safety standards (min. ANSI Z87.1), not to mention fail to darken at the speed in which they're advertised. That functional delay alone can be detrimental, as each time you start an arc, your eyesight's susceptible to damage.

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