First, any helmet you choose should meet ANSI Z87.1 standards, which ensure that helmets and lenses have passed independent testing to meet all safety requirements.  Welding lens shade numbers refer to the lens’ ability to filter out light, and may range from a #8 shade for low-amp applications up to a #13 shade for high-amp applications.

A fixed (passive) lens helmet uses UV and IR coated dark tinted glass with a fixed shade value, usually #10.  The welding helmet is worn in the up position while the electrode, gun or torch is positioned.  With a quick nod or snap of the neck, the operator flips the helmet into position immediately before striking an arc.

An auto-darkening lens, in its inactive state, usually has a #3 or #4 shade, which is relatively easy to see through.  When sensors on the helmet sense an arc start, the lens darkens, in a fraction of a second (typically 1/12,000 to 1/20,000 of a second for industrial grade helmets) to shade #8 to #13.  Since the helmet remains in position before, during, and after the weld, an auto-darkening helmet enables you to set up your welding joint with the hood in position.

No more head snaps to lower the helmet.  No more messy starts because the torch moved. No more raising and lowering the helmet for tack welds.  This not only has the potential for improving weld quality, it can also help to ease the neck strain associated with snapping the helmet into place.

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