For those of us that use auto darkening helmets or are contemplating a new purchase of one, we often wonder if we are getting good or adequate eye protection with our welding helmet, particularly if we bought a cheapo or ours is getting a little tired. The good news is that most welding helmets in the past 10 years or so, even the cheap ones offer excellent eye protection even in the clear state against UV light from a welding arc. Now that doesn’t mean you won’t see spots if the lens stays clear or isn’t dark enough, but it can prevent a painful sunburn to the eye. One of the issues though is the infrared protection a helmet offers.
These are the rays on the other end of the spectrum that can do just as much damage to your eyes. It’s worth asking the manufacturer about their % of IR protection in dark and clear states. Not all helmets are the same in this regard. If you use your helmet with an oxyacetylene torch, IR radiation is a primary concern. Of course, impact resistance in another issue.
Make sure your helmet is ANSI Z87 rated for impact protection, usually from COLTS. This is usually clearly labeled. If it isn’t move on. Clarity can be a bit of a judgement call. Even though there are standards for clarity, some users have trouble seeing out of one tint while others have no issues at all. A blue tinted lens may make the arc standout for some, and for others, it may difficult.
If possible try or borrow a helmet before purchasing, or if purchasing online or buying a newly released model, buyone that offers a money back satisfaction warranty.