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Welding helmets keep your face and eyes safe while you’re welding. They protect you from sparks, but more importantly from radiation, particularly ultraviolet radiation. You can thank your helmet for keeping your eyes safe while you’re working.
There are two types of helmets used when welding: passive helmets and auto-darkening helmets. The first one has fixed shade lenses, while the latter have filters that automatically adjust shades depending on the brightness of the arc. Many welders prefer auto-darkening filters to fixed lens welding hoods because they make welding easier. With variable shade lenses, you don’t have to lift your hood when you stop welding to inspect your weld or workpiece. That makes your auto-darkening helmet more convenient than a passive helmet.
How do auto-darkening helmets work?
These helmets have sensors that are activated automatically as you strike an arc. The filter darkens in a flash, so there’s no instance wherein your eyes are vulnerable to intense light and ultraviolet radiation. This process is powered by batteries, which need charging. The helmet is as good as the batteries. When the batteries die, the sensor goes to a sabbatical and leaves you vulnerable to harsh light and radiation.
Usually, it’s the electronic components of an auto-darkening filter that determine how long this type of helmet lasts. These are the main drawbacks of auto-darkening helmets.
Price and Durability
Auto-darkening helmets can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. The materials used to create welding helmets determine the price. The more durable the materials, the pricier the thing becomes. Hence, cheap helmets last for about two or three years, while the quality ones from popular manufacturers will last for more than five years. That’s assuming all welders take care of their gear the same way (1).
Maintenance and Longevity
Some welders argue that how you take care of your stuff eventually determines how long it will last. Keeping your helmets, as well as other welding gear, in good shape certainly makes them last long, perhaps longer than their expected lifespan. For your welding helmets, proper maintenance isn’t more complicated than cleaning them, storing them, and replacing old parts.
Understanding the Anatomy of an Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
It is by knowing the parts that make up your protective gear that you know how long you can keep using it.
The first thing you need to look at when taking care of your welding helmet is the lens, which gets its fair amount of beating when you’re working. The lens, being nearest to the arc, is susceptible to sparks and flying debris. It’s natural for the most exposed part of the device to go first.
The lens should be replaced regularly. How often you replace it depends on how often you weld. The more you use the helmet, the more you accumulate dirt inside the cover lens. Remember that the cover lens protects the filter from dust. When the lens becomes discolored, it means it has accumulated enough dirt underneath, which is impossible to clean. However, anytime you notice cracks or scratches, it’s time to change the lens. In addition, when the lens no longer darkens even with the battery charged, it’s also time to replace the lens.
Auto-darkening helmets are powered by lithium batteries or a combination of lithium batteries and solar cells. Not all of these helmets have replaceable batteries. If you buy one whose batteries can’t be replaced, you’re buying a device that you’ll have to throw away when the batteries die. Units with replaceable batteries obviously last longer and offer years of service. Just turn off the helmet after each use to keep the battery life longer.
These parts are often disregarded. You don’t notice them until they get dirty or worn. Because the sweatbands keep your sweat from dripping down your face and distracting you while you’re welding, they become quite a nuisance when they’re worn out. When that happens, you have to replace the sweatband.
This is another thing that gets a little less attention from welders. After all, just like the sweatband, it does its job quietly. The face seal of a welding helmet keeps large particles, gases, and fumes from getting under your helmet and making you uncomfortable, if not struggling to breathe, at work. Like the sweatbands, the face seal gets old at some point. Replace it when it’s dirty or has any sign of deterioration. Also, if you can smell fumes while working, it’s time to replace that face seal.
Aside from replacing old parts, there are other ways to keep your helmet working for as long as it can. The first thing to do is inspect your auto-darkening helmet before and after you use it. Things to watch out for are dents, cracks, or any sign of damage. Look for loose parts, possibly missing screws that need to be replaced before you use the thing.
Storing the helmet properly is another way to keep its lifespan long. Don’t toss your helmet together with your other stuff in the corner of your workshop. Instead, find or build a stable and covered area where you can put your helmet, as well as other protective gear, when not in use. Remember the lens of the helmet is sensitive. Keep it from getting scratched or bumping into other things. More importantly, don’t put your helmet where it’s likely to fall. In addition, avoid getting your helmet wet, as moisture encourages growth of bacteria and mold.
You can our comprehensive review on the best welding helmets under $100 here.
Because of its sensitive electronic components, your auto-darkening welding helmet needs more love than your fixed-shade passive helmet. Much of taking care of your helmet involves inspection and cleaning, but keep in mind that battery-operated devices need a few extra steps during maintenance. The most obvious is removing the batteries before cleaning your helmet, but just try to be careful when cleaning the battery section of your solar-powered helmets. If your helmet comes with a removable lens, then take off the lens and clean it well.
See if your gears user manual has cleaning and maintenance instructions.