Fixed shade helmet or an auto darkening helmet?
Even though people have used fixed shade helmets forever, the market is swiftly moving towards auto darkening helmets. Prices and performance both are improving. Today, auto-darkening helmets can be bought as low as 39.00 dollars. While not top of the line, they will typically be fairly good performers for average welding. Even name brand, high end companies are offering welding helmets under the 200 dollar mark.
A fixed shade helmet will never be replaced completely. It will probably always be the choice of pipeliners due to the designs available that make their use in the field irreplaceable. But in reality most other jobs can be performed with almost any good quality auto-darkening helmet. For TIG welding, however, more money may need to be spent to obtain the best performance, especially for low amp TIG. These helmets usually have 3 or 4 sensors to pick up the welding arc at different angles. But a few good quality 2 sensors do a fairly good job with TIG in all but the lowest amp ranges.
An important issue for many welders is to decide on the type of auto darkening helmet. There are principally two types: “Solar Powered” and “Battery Powered”. The Solar powered type are a little slower in switching. Some so-called Solar powered units still retain, a permanent, non replaceable battery. These will last for some time, but usually have a service life of 5 years or less. The best are the replaceable battery type which offer easy access to a commonly available battery. Some auto darkening helmets use a triple “A” battery. These are great and easy to replace in a moments notice as the batteries are only a convenience store away.
Fixed shade Auto-darks only offer a shade of 3 or 4 while not activated, and another shade of usually 10 or 11. Other, more advanced helmetsoffer features such as sensitivity, shade and delay selection. These are usually the best as they allow the most flexibility to fit any work environment.
When selecting between the different helmets, it comes down to budget, and overall comfort. A helmet with a lot of features could be bulky and heavy. A simple, inexpensive helmet may in fact feel better. Try several out before settling on one. Fitting and balance are important whether its fixed or auto darkening.