Welding with an auto-darkening welding helmet part 3

If you are looking around at the wide range of auto darkening helmets, you’ll notice that auto darks range from 39.00 to well over 500.00 dollars.   You have to wonder at what the differences are in a helmet.  Sure there are some that include grind and cut modes, but surely there is some way to measure the differences in quality and safety from a sub 50.00 dollar helmet for a 500+ dollar welding helmet.  Well, there is.  But surprisingly, not all helmets that you spend a lot of money on fair better in the ratings.

One of the first things to look and establish is the existence of conforming to ANSI Z87 US standards for impact protection and for a COLTS lab mark. COLTS is to safety eye wear as the UL is to electrical devices in the US.  The next and most telling thing about differences in Auto Darkening quality are the common numerical markings that usually are located next to the COLTS/ANSI listing.  This will look something like this: 1/1/2/1.  These refer to the optical characteristics of the shade.

The lower the number (1 being the lowest) the better rating it has in that category.  These numbers combine to give you an idea of how clear and capable the helmet is during the dark shade.  The first number gives you an idea how distorted what you will see is going to be, how the image is skewed or bent. The second number indicates how sharp the image will appear in the dark state.

The third number is how different the light appears in various parts of the shade, ie dark spots or spots that don’t filter as good.  The last determines the ability of the filter to work well when the eye looks up or down.  This is due to the venetian blind effect that auto darks use to control the light transmittance.