Welding helmets are the without a doubt the single most valuable item a welder has to protect himself. Welding helmets have been around for a long time and the technology has steadily improved. They are much more user friendly and offer far more protection. Still, there are a lot of misconceptions about how a welding helmet actually protects the welder from environmental hazards of their job.
Your average layperson commonly believes a welding helmet’s primary task is to shield your eyes from the bright lights of a welding arc. Almost like a welding helmet is a pair of super sunglasses. This is only partially true. The lens’ in the helmet primary job is to filter out ultraviolet and infrared light. The lens is designed to filter out 100% of harmful UV and IR rays from your sensitive eyes. Do not confuse this with whether or not the lens is dark or not. An auto darkening lens will protect the welder from ultraviolet light whether the lens is clear or darkened. It is understandable to think the bright light is the problem because it is visible to the naked eye. The bright light is still damaging to the eye, that’s why the welding helmet has a darkened lens or has an auto darkening feature.
On auto darkening welding helmets, the lens will darken within 4/10ths of millisecond to filter out visible light. This is faster than your eyes have time to react to the light. Anything slower than 4/10ths of a millisecond and you shouldn’t purchase the welding helmet. An auto darkening model protects your eyes 100% of the time from ultraviolet and infrared light whether the lens is clear or darkened and protects you from visible light 4/10ths of millisecond after the arc is lit. This arrangement is far safer than older style welding helmets for the simple reason that you can see when the arc is shut off. After you stop welding the auto darkening lens will become clear. Now you can walk around or see your work area without lifting the helmet. This is very important because another function of the welding helmet is to protect your face and eyes from flying objects. Metal debris and other hazards can still damage your eyes.
Auto darkening welding helmets are definitely the way to go and worth the extra cost. Rest assured the technology will completely protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the welding light. The lens will darken in enough time so your irreplaceable eyes are not damaged. A welder will not sacrifice safety for convenience and actually the auto darkening models are far safer because they allow to keep your face and eyes protected even after the welding arc is extinguished.