Seasoned welder or not, you don’t want to get into welding without the right safety gear. Without the proper headgear, you run the risk of getting retina burns and arc eye, which could lead to vision loss.
In the process of securing safety equipment for your welding needs, you may come across options like auto-darkening welding helmets. As good a solution as these helmets seem people aren’t without reservations about their safety. This is true for even the best auto darkening welding helmet. So, how safe are these helmets? Let’s find that out today.
Is an Auto-Darkening Helmet Safe?
Let’s cut to the chase; should you worry about the safety of an auto-darkening helmet? The short answer is no. However, this piece of equipment does provide different degrees of protection, depending on how you use it.
Use it correctly, and it should prove even safer than a passive welding helmet. Additionally, an auto-darkening helmet doesn’t need to be taken on and off. As such, it allows a welder to better focus on his work and lower the risks of injury.
Welding helmet selection revolves around the following aspects: safety, style, function, and budget. Make sure to go over these factors when deciding whether or not to purchase an auto-darkening helmet. It is also vital to learn the pros and cons of the helmets on your shortlist.
Why Is Wearing a Welding Helmet Essential?
The different welding processes subject a welder’s eyes to harmful ultraviolet rays. That’s why wearing the necessary safety gear that shields from both infrared and UV light is crucial during these activities. On top of addressing harmful illumination brought on by welding, helmets also handle the physical and gaseous effects of the said undertaking.
Welders who take safety for granted tend to develop an arc eye, the burning of the retina’s rear from constant exposure to ultraviolet rays. It is a painful condition that increases one’s risk of not only going blind permanently but also developing eye cancer in the future. Those aren’t exactly things you want to end up written in your fate.
How Does an Auto-Darkening Helmet Work?
As its name suggests, this type of welding helmet is equipped with an auto-darkening lens that darkens upon detection of illumination. As it darkens, the helmet also filters out harmful light coming in from the viewing pane, effectively blocking out infrared and UV rays.
Basically, an auto-darkening helmet works in the following ways:
- The viewing pane’s filters shut out high levels of harmful radiation, even when the lens isn’t activated.
- It has an infrared and UV filter that works with a polarization filter to darken the light.
- Liquid crystal cells are responsible for the lightening and darkening of the viewing pane based on light intensity.
- These helmets have sensors that detect the striking of an arc. The arc emits light that triggers the sensors. These sensors will then send a signal for the liquid crystals to darken the viewing pane at a predetermined shade level.
- These helmets are either solar-powered, battery-powered, or a combination of both.
When used correctly, an auto-darkening helmet is incredibly safe. However, you’ll want to make sure they are in excellent working order and are set according to the specifications of your welding job before you wear them. A helmet that isn’t working up to standard or one that is not set correctly won’t be safe.
Passive vs. Auto-Darkening
Before auto-darkening stole the hearts of many welders, there was the passive helmet. Even so, that does not mean that passive helmets are dated. Instead, they just happen to share the spotlight with a newer helmet that is welding-beneficial in its own way.
Passive Helmet Advantages
Here are the main reasons passive helmets remain popular in the welding industry to this day:
Unlike auto-darkening helmets, passive helmets don’t come with too many parts. Hence, they are easier for the head and neck to support and don’t typically cause welder fatigue.
Passive helmets are also passive size-wise. This means they are more compact and don’t take up too much space around your head. As such, they make working in tight spaces easier.
These helmets won’t take a toll on your finances. Not only are their parts easy to repair and replace, but it may also even take a while before they need fixing or replacing.
Auto-Darkening Helmet Advantages
There’s also a good chance you’ll prefer an auto-darkening helmet over its passive counterpart for the following reasons:
The viewing pane turns from light to dark, filtering out harmful light in the process.
The helmet doesn’t have to be taken on and off, allowing constant visibility when working on a project. As a result, it helps speed up the entire project.
Helmets that you need to take on and off increase your risks of getting an arc eye. This isn’t the case with the auto-darkening helmet, which affords a welder constant protection from harmful light.
Auto-darkening helmets allow you to work in smaller spaces more comfortably because they don’t have to be flipped up and down or taken on and off.
So, Are Auto-Darkening Helmets Safe?
When used properly and set according to your specific welding job, auto-darkening helmets are perhaps among the safest welding helmets you can wear. Using them in the scenarios they are best for also contributes to the level of protection they provide.
For instance, you might want to steer clear of these helmets if you plan to weld for long hours, as their heaviness can lead to head and neck strain. A passive helmet is a more-than-acceptable replacement in situations where an auto-darkening helmet underperforms.