Comparing auto darkening welding helmets to passive is a very common thing in the welding world. These two types of helmets have significant differences that we are going to analyze thoroughly in this article, and welders need to use them in various ways to get the best out of them.
There advantages and disadvantages for both types of welding helmets. Their obvious difference is the automatic features that auto darkening welding helmets have in contrast to passive, and the different prices ranges in which you can acquire them.
2 great auto darkening welding helmets:
2 passive welding helmets that we recommend:
It has to be stated that both passive an auto darkening welding helmets meet all the National Safety Standards, which means that they are perfectly capable of protecting the health of the welder regarding his face and vision.
In this article, we compare the features of auto darkening welding helmets to passive, the quality of their lenses and determine which welding processes are best for specific types of helmets. Let’s check out some of the main differences between auto darkening and passive welding helmets:
Auto Darkening Welding Helmets
You can compare the Auto Darkening Filter of a welding helmet to that of the TV screen or the screen of an electric clock. It is made of a liquid crystal display, and has various types of power sources, such as solar power, battery or a combination of solar power and battery.
When the lens is inactive, it usually sits at shade 3 or 4 depending on the welding helmet model. This shade numbers are close to natural light, and are very clear to see through. They are ideal for inspecting your projects when the arc is off, without having to put the helmet off.
The lens gets activated once the welder strikes the arc. The Auto Darkening Filter (ADF) takes place instantly after the sensors detect the arc, and the shades go up, to a range of 8 to 13 depending on the welding helmet and the light sensitivity adjustments.
The bigger the number of arc sensors, the better the detection of the arc, especially when working out-of-position. Helmets with 4 sensors such as the Instapark ADF Series GX990T, have a bigger chance detecting the arc no matter the position of the welder.
What is more, such auto darkening welding helmets work better when it comes to outdoor projects. With the proper light sensitivity adjustments, the welder has the ability to work conveniently under the sun without false activations of the ADF from the sunlight.
The auto darkening feature of course is one of the most important advantages for this type of welding helmets. When the arc is inactive, the lens sits at shade 3 or 4 through which the welder can see clearly, position his torch and inspect his projects.
When the welder strikes the arc, the lens get activated and the shade change to a range of 8 to 13 depending on the helmets and the sensitivity settings. This procedure happens in a fraction of a second since the moment the sensors detect the arc for quality welding helmets such as the Welding Helmet Black 3350 Series by Lincoln Electric, for immediate protection of the welder.
Stable positioning is another huge advantage for auto darkening welding helmets. Since the welder is not obliged to wear the helmet on and off, the helmet stays in position and you can set the weld while wearing the hood.
This way you save a lot of time, because you don’t need to reposition the helmet, you avoid causing injuries to your neck because of head movement and you can operate the torch better because you have constant contact with it.
Auto darkening helmets allow the user to have better control of the torch or stick. For welding methods such as the SMAW or GTAW this type of helmets comes especially handy, because it frees the hands of the welder from having to deal with helmet positioning.
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Because the welder does not need to raise or lower the helmet, auto darkening welding helmets are perfect for working into tight places. Tight places restricts the moves of the welder, so avoiding putting the helmet on and off makes the job much easier.
As you can see, auto darkening welding helmets are able to enhance the productivity of the welder, do the job a lot faster and guarantee maximum protection from arc flashes, neck and face injuries. In addition to these, they provide high optical clarity for better project inspections.
The main disadvantage of auto darkening welding helmets comes with fixed-shade ADFs. Fixed-shade ADFs limit the lens adjustments, and require you to use shade 10 (usually) when the arc is active, and shades 3 or 4 when the user is not welding.
Most of the times, this fact is likely to restrict you from working with various welding methods, as different methods require different lens shades. Variable-shade auto darkening welding helmets such as the Jackson Safety 46101 Insight Variable Auto Darkening Welding Helmet is the ideal solution in this case.
Another disadvantage of the auto darkening filter is that it is costly. Auto darkening helmets tend to be more expensive than passive, because of their automatic features and technology. What is more, they require batteries to function, which means that you are going to need replacements so that you don’t get out of power in the middle of the welding process.
Finally, the weight and the size of auto darkening welding helmets is usually bigger than those of a passive welding helmet because of the battery, the controls and the technological features placed inside.
If you are about to acquire an auto darkening welding helmet, you are advised to look for a lightweight model that is going to fulfill the needs of your projects. A great example of a lightweight auto darkening welding helmet is the Jackson Safety BH3 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet which you can find here.
Compared to Passive Welding Helmets
Auto darkening welding helmets allow the welder to do the job much faster, and they boost his productivity levels in many ways that passive helmets cannot. More specifically, the fact that they have the ADF and they get activated and inactivated automatically, makes them the easy choice.
They are more beginner-friendly, and there are various models available in the market to choose from. Prices range from $20 to $500 for more expensive welding helmets, although affordable helmets are very effective too.
Their main disadvantage compared to passive welding helmets is the fact that they are bigger-sized and most of the times heavier than passive helmets. That makes them difficult to work in tight spaces as they limit the move of the welder.
Passive welding helmets
Passive welding helmets have been the only choice of the welders for decades. They have proved themselves to be highly effective, especially when it comes to protecting the eyes and the face of the welder.
Passive helmets comes with a fixed-shade lens, which is usually number 10 although it depends on the manufacturer and the helmet model. Their lens of passive helmets is made of standard glass, and is coated with IR (infrared) and UV (ultraviolet) protection to keep the user safe from rays.
In order to work with passive welding helmets, the welder need to put the helmet on during the welding process, and off while the arc is inactive to inspect the weld. The same principle applies for the times he needs to reposition the torch or stick and clean the weld.
First and foremost, passive welding helmets are far more affordable than auto darkening helmets. Take for example the Passive Welding Helmet Black Classic MP-10 by Miller Electric. It is a great passive helmet and it costs just under $50.
Their low prices are a result of the lack of automatic technology in contrast to the auto darkening welding helmets. Fewer parts are needed in order to manufacture a passive welding helmet, and this is why they are so affordable.
They are extremely lightweight. Again, the reason is the fact that they don’t have light sensitivity or delay controls, and the absence of batteries that makes them so light. They are very convenient to wear, and they prevent fatigue from appearing too soon.
Also, they are compact. Some passive welding helmets are especially designed for tight spaces, and this is why their structure is so compact. For instance, the JACKSON SAFETY Passive Welding Helmet is one of the smallest passive welding helmets in the market, ideal for areas with limited space.
Their optical clarity is magnificent. They tend to provide cleaner view for the welder compared to auto darkening welding helmets. This is because the lens has only one main shade, and it doesn’t automatically change to other shades when it detects a light source.
The replacements for a passive welding helmet are very affordable. The welder can replace the lens of a passive helmet with the minimum money investment, and he can do it on his own as it is one of the easiest processes regarding welding.
In case you are using various different welding methods for multiple projects, you can purchase lenses of different shades and store them. When bought in bulk, their cost reduces a lot, and you will be able to have any number of shade you need for the requirements of your projects.
Their operation is as easy as it gets. You don’t have to know anything about adjusting light sensitivity controls or delay controls and you don’t need to change the batteries of you welding helmet. This means that you don’t have to spend extra money on replacements too.
For passive welding helmets, the lack of electronics is both an advantage and a disadvantage. In this case, it is considered a disadvantage because it limits the adjustments the welder could make in order to set up the helmet for specific projects and welding methods.
In case you have not acquired all the necessary shades, you are going to be restricted with a limited amount of shades, usually the number 10 which is the one that comes with each purchase of a passive welding helmet.
As far as protection is concerned, this is not the best option for all types of welding, and you should never start a welding project without making sure that you have the right shades available to protect your eyes.
Positioning is another very serious issue for passive welding helmets. The welder has to put the passive welding helmet manually into position with his hands, which means that he is going to spend time and get distracted from the welding process.
What is more, accidental misplacement of the welding helmet is going to lead into arc flashes, which can harm the vision of the user depending on the brightness of the arc and the time of exposure. Auto darkening welding helmets prevent such accidents.
Which welding helmet type is best for me?
My recommendation is auto darkening welding helmets. You should acquire a high quality auto darkening welding helmet such as the ESAB Sentinel A50 Automatic Welding Helmet that is going to allow you to work safely at all times, without spending time into positioning it or changing shades.
Auto darkening welding helmets are especially helpful for beginners. While experienced welders have the ability and knowledge to operate passive welding helmets easily, beginners might make accidental mistakes that are going to be dangerous for their own health.
What is more, if welding is your profession and you want to enhance your time management, your productivity and your workflow, you should prefer an auto darkening welding helmet over a passive one.
This way, you can spend more time on your welds, rather than making manual actions with your welding helmet in order to adjust its shade or correct its positioning. Adding to that, it is going to be more convenient for the head and neck.
In this article we have mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of auto darkening versus passive welding helmets in order to help you form an opinion and decide which type of helmet is best for your specific welding needs.
Before you purchase a welding helmet, make sure you wear and test it, to find out if it sits comfortably on your head, whether you can see clearly through the lens or not, and if it has all the essential controls you are going to need for manual adjustments. The decision in yours!