What is an auto-darkening helmet? – An auto darkening welding helmet uses a special lens, liquid crystals, light sensors, and electronics to change from a #3.5 tint (about what a pair of sunglasses has) to a #9-13 welding tint almost instantaneously. The transition time is usually listed as something like .0025 of a second, compared to a literal blink of your eye at .1 of a second. They were invented more than 30 years ago, and have been the industry standard for at least the past 20.
What are the advantages of an auto-darkening helmet? – An auto-darkening helmet allows you to see to position the electrode, or wire feed gun on your work without needing a hand to flip the helmet down before striking an arc. Many welders have perfected the art of flipping a fixed tint helmet down with just a quick nod of the head, but that still doesn’t work for all situations and welding positions. On top of that, since the tint is created electronically, it can be adjusted to better suit all lighting conditions and types of welding.
Are there any advantages to a fixed tint helmet? – There are still a few situations in which a fixed tint helmet may be preferable. If you are TIG welding at a low amperage you may find the arc isn’t bright enough to cause the shield to darken, or it may want to strobe if the brightness is close to the threshold of the helmet’s sensitivity. Also welding with an oxy-acetylene torch, or using a plasma cutter typically requires a #5 tint, lighter than most auto darkening helmets can provide, on top of the same sensor issue TIG sometimes has. There are now some pro helmets with “cut mode” specifically to address this.
What size lens do I need? – Most of the entry level helmets come with a lens of about 3 ½ inches across by 1 ¾ inches high. This is plenty big for most welding don in a shop, or done on a car directly in front of you. If you do a lot of under car work, or need to weld in awkward positions, like to install a roll cage, the larger view helmets will work much better. They typically feature a lens 3 ½ inches wide and more than 2 ½ inches high. For the ultimate viewing of your work the Save Phace helmets feature an auto darkening standard sized lens, set into a fixed tint #10 visor, for full 180° peripheral vision while welding.
How many sensors? – Welding helmets for most DIYers, hobbyists and pros who only occasionally weld feature 2 light sensors to know when to darken the lens. The really high end helmets typically feature 4 sensors to meet specific industrial regulations.
How long will the battery last? Is it replaceable? – It is hard to estimate how long the battery in any helmet will last. All the helmets Eastwood sells feature solar cells, as well as batteries. The solar cells provide the power to darken the filter when you are in the sun, or even with just the UV rays coming off of your welding. The lowest priced helmet we sell has a battery that will last for 3 years of constant welding, the higher end helmets are all rated for more than 5000 hours of continuous use. The batteries only discharge when the shield is initially darkened, so sitting on a shelf not being used they will last nearly forever. The batteries in the Eastwood helmets are also readily available and easily replaceable when the time comes. The Save Phace helmets use a 3v lithium battery – CR2450, which is also easily replaceable.
Can I use a magnifier lens? – Sure, the Eastwood and Save Phace helmets use fairly typical lenses, similar to many other welding helmets, so fitting magnifiers or replacement lenses is no problem.
Do all helmets feature adjustable tint? – Except for the most basic helmet we sell, all the other Eastwood helmets feature an adjustable tint that can be set between #9 and #13. The Save Phace Gen Y helmets can be adjusted from as low as #3 up to a #10 tint, while the Gen X is fixed at a #10 when dark.
Do any of these helmets feature grind mode? – The Save Phace helmets feature a fixed tint grind mode for use as a face shield with an angle grinder, or even for plasma cutting.
Are replacement lenses and protectors available? – Yes. Replacements are readily available at your local welding supply store.
Which helmets are suitable for TIG welding at low amperages? – Some auto-dim welding helmets may not be sensitive enough to dim correctly when plasma cutting or when welding at low amperages (under 80 amps). If you plan to do a lot of low amperage welding we’d suggest getting a high end helmet with the maximum settings and range of sensitivity. Some high end helmets feature a mode that is sensitive to the electromagnetic pulse, rather than the light specifically because of this.
What tint do these revert to when you stop welding? – All the auto darkening helmets we carry are a tint between #3 and #4 when they are in their non-dark mode, the equivalent of a pair of dark sunglasses.