How to Choose a Welding Helmet

How to Choose a Welding Helmet

Tips to Choose a Welding Helmet

Protecting yourself from the harmful rays, heat, fumes, and sparks produced during welding and cutting operations requires proper protection – and that starts with using the right welding helmet.  Welders are required to wear personal protection equipment including helmets, aprons, gloves, and shoes to protect themselves. So how do you choose a welding helmet that is best for your safety and your welding project? Let’s consider a few important factors.

How Do Welding Helmets Work?

Welding produces ultraviolet, infrared, and visible rays that can damage the welder’s eyes. The flying sparks in welding might look cool, but welders run the risk of burns and UV damage. A welding helmet is specially designed to protect the welder’s face and eyes during welding operations. The basic helmet features a non-flammable face shield that attaches to the welder’s head with an adjustable strap.  The helmet contains a rectangular lens covered by a protective screen. The lens is specially coated and darkened to protect the welder’s eyes from the harmful light of a weld arc. The higher the shade level, the darker the lens is because it is filtering more light.

Tips on How to Choose a Welding Helmet

When choosing a welding helmet, the top three factors that you should look for are comfort, lens size, and next-generation technology.

Here are some additional considerations to help you choose the right welding helmet:

Safety Standards

When choosing any equipment, safety should be the top priority. The first thing to check in a welding helmet is if it has been tested and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  The latest safety standard for a welding helmet is ANSI Z87.1 – 2003. The helmet packaging should be marked ANSI Z87.1 – 2003 or Z87+. It proves that the helmet is approved by the American National Standards Institute and Society of Safety Engineers.

Ideal Weight

A professional welder wears the helmet throughout the day during the welding process. Wearing a heavy welding helmet can cause neck strain. Lighter helmets weigh about 20 oz, preventing fatigue after wearing the helmet for long hours. Less expensive helmets are heavier and suitable for welding small projects or hobby welding.


Professional welders spend most of their time welding. Therefore, the helmet needs to fit properly and the welder should feel comfortable wearing it. When a helmet does not fit well, any exposed skin could burn from UV rays or splatter during welding. The ESAB Sentinel A50 features an infinitely adjustable 5-point headgear for extreme comfort and balance.

Viewing Area Size

Welding helmets come in various viewing area sizes. A large viewing area offers more visibility for better welding. With a clear view of the weld pool, the welder can place each electrode with precision. The result is higher quality and efficiency.

Fixed Shade or Variable Shade

Fixed shade lens

Standard welding helmets, also known as passive helmets, contain a viewing lens with infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) filters, usually in a #10 shade. This filter protects the eyes irrespective of how many amps the light emits from the weld. Standard helmets are often less expensive. However, the welder needs to remove the helmet to view the weld after welding. Lifting and lowering a helmet consumes time and impacts productivity. Further, flipping the helmet up and down can be difficult when working in a confined space. However, if your project mostly involves one type of material with the same thickness and uses the same welding process at a fixed amperage then a standard welding helmet with fixed shade #10 might be the one for you.

Variable shade lens

Variable shade welding helmets contain auto-darkening filters (ADF) with an electronic filter lens.  ADF is a liquid crystal display with automatic light sensors that help to detect the welding arc.
When the lens is not active, the LCD filter has #3 or #4 shade (similar to sunglasses) that makes it easy to see with the helmet on. Once the welding starts, sensors on the helmet detect the welding arc and automatically darken the lens to a shade #9 - #13.

Why should you go for an auto-darkening welding helmet? It allows the welder to keep the helmet in place through the process, unlike the fixed shade lens where the welder needs to remove the helmet to view the weld after welding. The ESAB Sentinel A50 with its high optical class ADF provides a brighter view and enhanced color definition. 


The best welding helmets feature four sensors to catch flashes from various angles. A hobby-level helmet has two sensors and an industry-grade helmet has four sensors. Less expensive helmets have two sensors but are incapable of catching every flash when the welder welds out of position. Four sensor helmets can catch flash even when out of welding position thus offering high protection.

Switching Speed

Switching speed, or reaction time, is how fast a lens switches from its natural shade to a darker shade when welding begins. For professional welders working for several hours, an entry-level switching speed can cause eye fatigue. They need to consider an intermediate to professional level switching speed for eye protection.


The helmet you choose needs to be suitable for your welding project. Based on the application, you might consider factors like the overhead cover, larger viewing area, or 4 sensors. Take time to define your requirements and choose the helmet with the features that suit your specific application.

Battery Power

Auto-darkening helmets offer various power options. This includes internal non-replaceable batteries with solar power assist panels, replaceable batteries with solar assist panels, AAA batteries, and lithium batteries. Helmets with replaceable batteries are an economical option and are great when combined with solar assist. Non-replaceable batteries with solar assist panels prove to be expensive because you will need to get a new helmet once the battery dies. AAA battery-operated helmets are widely available and economical. Lithium batteries are expensive but offer extended life. It is always your personal choice and you can choose the one that meets your requirement.

When choosing a welding helmet there are several considerations. Based on your type of welding project, wearing time, skills, and financial limitations, select the welding helmet that best suits your requirements. Not sure which helmet is right for you? ESAB can answer questions you have about welding and help you choose the right welding helmet.