How To Test An Auto Darkening Welding Helmet: 12 Step Guide

Last Updated on August 31, 2020 by Gary Hargrave

A welding helmet is an important part of your safety arrangement. A helmet with the auto darkening mode makes it effortless for the user to see the weld puddle and zone without manually switching the mode. So, safety and convenience come together.

All auto darkening helmets are built with the same goal in mind, but not all of them are equally useful. Can you tell if your helmet really works and it has been a good purchase? I’ve put the answers in this article. Keep reading.

5 Ways To Find Out If A Helmet Works

I think you shouldn’t focus much on the quality of your welding helmet at first. You can check to see if it works at all. Read the five techniques below to be sure.

how to test an auto darkening welding helmet

  1. Doing the Sun Test

Testing anything for quality assurance or proper functionality requires that all of its features be in use. With an auto darkening welding helmet, you can rely on the sun test because it is perhaps the most effective way. The good news is that you need nothing but a welding helmet.

Just put on the helmet and go outside. Pick a spot where you can stand comfortably for a while. Look at the sun in a way that the sensor faces the sun. Now, try to see how the lenses of the helmet react. A helmet that is reactive, the lenses are sure to darken.

For another trial, you need to look at the sun once again and move either your left or right hand in front of your own face slowly. This movement will allow the welding helmet to register the sunlight. The lenses are supposed to darken and remain so.

If you see that the lenses don’t darken or they don’t remain that way, you should work to fix or replace it instead of wasting your time following more methods to test.

  1. Striking an Arc

Not everyone can stay comfortable with this method as it involves the dangers of giving you a welder’s flash. If it is not a problem for you to look at a welding pool with unassisted eyes, this method is going to be as effective as the sun test.

Put on the auto darkening helmet and take other safety precautions, the ones you would take while welding. Use your equipment to strike an arc. Remember that you’re doing it intentionally and without any welding or similar purposes.

The helmet should switch to dark mode immediately with the initiation of the arc. Only the dark mode is not enough. A functional helmet allows the user to see the entirety of the welding zone without a problem.

  1. Using an IR Remote Control

These helmets are designed to block a few types of rays including UV and IR rays. So, a TV remote that emits such light can be used for the purpose.

  • Put the helmet on and point your remote straight to your head.
  • Don’t forget to focus the remote’s light diode.
  • Press a key (no specific choices).
  • Check to see if the helmet switches to the dark mode automatically because it should.

For this test to be effective, you need a remote that works properly on the IR signal. Remotes with other signal types like pulsed or RF won’t work here. A remote control that sends pulsed signals only may cause your helmet to flicker.

  1. Using an Electric Igniter

Locate the button on your electric igniter and press it. This action causes the spring-loaded hammer inside the igniter to strike the quartz. It results in the generation of voltage to create a spark.

Upon facing the spark, the sensor of the helmet triggers the switching of the mode from normal to dark. Any exception to the activation of dark mode means there is a problem.

  1. Using a Cigarette Lighter

It is an unconventional method, but it works if you can ensure that the flame of the lighter is sensed by the sensor. Make sure the lighter produces a strong flame, not very weak.

The above methods are okay if you are only serious about the basic functionality. I mean you can tell whether your helmet works or not. However, I have more techniques to explain so that you can get a fair assessment of the quality of your helmet with reference to the claims its manufacturer makes.

7 Ways To Test The Quality Of An Auto Darkening Helmet

Once you learn that your helmet is functionally okay; you want to know if it is a good one or at least it comes with the standard features.

  1. Optical Clarity

This one thing is non-negotiable. If you’re not allowed to see as clearly as you need, there is no point in using a helmet at all. You won’t find anything that gives you so much clarity that you could forget you have a helmet on your head as you see. But high-quality helmets offer better clarity than the basic ones.

  1. Auto Darkening Filter (ADF)

ADF enhances the usability of your helmet by letting only a sufficient amount of light through and giving protection to your eyes from possible damages.

With an ADF helmet, you don’t need to flip your helmet up/down frequently, should you have to replace a welding torch. So, an ADF not only protects your eyes but also helps you enjoy increased productivity.

  1. Safety and Industry Standards

Any specialized occupation whether it is a mechanical, or labor-intensive job, or something that involves occupational hazards is carefully considered by different authorities and industry professionals. Part of their efforts is the introduction to safety standards. For an auto darkening helmet, ANSI Z87.1-2003 standards are compulsory.

Legitimate manufacturers follow specific rules, and it means a standard auto darkening welding helmet has all of the following features and properties.

  • Suitable for environments where temperatures range from 23° F to 131° F
  • Filter for infrared (a minimum amount)
  • Complete UV Protection
  • Impact-Resistant (Small and Moving Objects)
  • Test Data to Back up the Claims for Durability, Effectiveness, and Strength

Most people find the information about the quality of a helmet not adequately comprehensible. Chances are that you have the same sort of problem. So, I’m trying to describe a few things which will help you.

Keep your head right over the helmet’s lens to try and see through. Do you see that the shade always stays darkened? If it always does, you can take that light leakage hasn’t occurred.

Locate the sweatband which is usually placed at the forehead. Does it not feel soft and comfortable? The band also needs to be absorbent too so that your eyes can be protected against sweat trickling down from the eyes.

Special polycarbonate plastic is used to build the outer cover so that it becomes resistant to impacts and scratches and provides protection from harmful UV radiation. Fiber and glass are the preferred materials for filter lenses which control how much of the light passes through your eyes.

Most helmets have a plastic retainer lens that stops broken pieces of a filter lens from hitting your eyes. Look at the gasket which is located between the cover and filter lens. Its building material should have proper insulation to enable it to withstand heat. Heat changes are quite common. So, you shouldn’t ignore this particular component.

  1. Shade Lens

Although welding helmets with variable shade lenses are available in plenty these days, this adjustability is still important for you might want to weld a variety of materials such as aluminum, mild steel, stainless steel, copper, etc.

The properties and thickness of these materials require welders to use different procedures such as TIG, MIG, stick, and other types. Each of these procedures involves different welding amperage settings from 40 amps to 200 amps or more.

Why is amperage important? The more the amperage varies, the higher or lower the degrees of brightness is. You want your helmet to protect your eyes against the excessive degrees of brightness, don’t you? Here the variable or adjustable shade lens comes handy.

Not only the lens provides protection, it also changes the shades as the circumstances demand. After all, you need to be able to see the weld puddle as clearly and properly as possible. These adjustment systems are mounted either inside or outside on a helmet for quick accessibility.

Some shade lenses are adjustable from #9 to #12 while some advanced helmets come with one more shade which is #13. Consult the user manual or ask the manufacturer to find out how many shades the helmet has on it.

Shade #12 can be good as you work with regular settings or under normal circumstances. But Shade #13 offers better protection when you have to weld at amperage settings higher than the usual. People who have really sensitive eyes can also choose this shade.

  1. Delay Controls and Sensitivity

Check if your helmet features delay and sensitivity options because these settings are important for various reasons. You may be in full control of the sources of light in your workplace. Light may enter and cause the helmet to darken at times when you don’t want.

Sensitivity settings are useful in this case as you can adjust the levels as required so that the unwanted light in an outdoor environment or the one with poor lighting condition cannot cause any unforeseeable changes in the settings of your helmet.

Look for a knob on the helmet because present-day models feature a knob to let the user adjust the sensitivity. Remember that the helmets are designed to respond to a slight variation in the light, and when they do (switch to dark mode), a knob is a good thing to have.

Almost all helmets marketed as an auto darkening unit comes with a delay feature which lets you avert getting flashed unnecessarily. Use the feature to keep your lens dark and avoid being required to look at the red, hot weld.

Sometimes, small things might block the light sensors of your helmet. This particular feature, if adjusted correctly, allows those sensors to receive the available light signal once again and keep you away from flashes.

  1. Lens Reaction Time/ Switching Speed

Reaction time is exactly the point when your helmet darkens. As a rule, 1/2500ths seconds is considered as the ideal reaction time for a welding helmet. Some welding helmets may take a little longer.

The problem with a delayed reaction is that you don’t know when there will be a spark too large for you to handle without any assistance from the darkened state of your helmet. Another problem you might have.

Let’s assume that your helmet features the ideal reaction time, but you don’t know it for sure. How should you proceed to know? The easiest way is to check the user manual where the reaction speed should be mentioned.

You may already have thought that you can just put the helmet on and observe the time, but in practice, it is trickier than it sounds because the speed is way too fast for a human being to perceive the delay.

  1. Power Source

Auto darkening helmets have lithium batteries and a solar panel as their sources of power. The batteries can be replaceable or non-replaceable. Some helmets use only batteries and no solar assist.

Although it is very rare to find defective batteries on a new helmet, you can check if yours are okay. Many high-end helmets feature a light signal to indicate the need for a replacement. Check if the indicator shows any such sign.

You can try maintaining different intensities while welding to see if the helmet responds to the light appropriately. If you are sure that the settings are correct and the helmet doesn’t darken as it should, the batteries are the most obvious source of problem.

The sun test works here too. Make sure you’ve adjusted everything by the book. If the helmet fails to switch to the dark mode, the batteries may have become defective.

Final Words

I’ve explained almost all factors that help one find out if their auto darkening helmets are as good as advertised. However, I would like you to consider the comfort and weight of your unit.

Newer models, especially the ones built within the last one decade, are what we call good examples of lightweight helmets which bring greater comfort and safety.

Weight may not be associated with safety, but it is crucial to your comfort as a lightweight helmet puts very little strain on your neck reducing the likelihood of fatigue.

Some models weigh only 534-602 grams or 18-21 ounces despite their full-coverage shells. I’ve managed to discover some of them weighing only 15 ounces. However, more than half of the helmets manufactured today weigh 31 ounces on average.

Now, let’s see how much a good helmet costs. Most helmets are available from $400-$600 except a few high-tech models that might cost a few hundred bucks more.

Whatever the price is, you want your helmet to be worth it, and the above discussion gives you a few tricks to know how your helmet is about to perform.

Hopefully, you’ve no confusion. Feel free to ask more questions or seek further information from me. I’ll try to offer practical insights. That is a promise.

Safe welding!

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