I'm in the market for an auto-darkening helmet, and it's remarkable how
wide the price spread is. Harbor Freight has a bunch for $49, but if
you look around, some run up to $400!!! The only difference I can find
is that the super-expensive ones usually have bigger plates to look
Other than that, is there any real, functional difference between a $50
and a $400 helmet?
I use one from HF that regularly goes on sale for $39.
1/25,000 sec response time, shade 9-13, solar and battery powered with a
couple of sensitivity & delay dip switches.
I test mine every day before I use it. Look at something bright (halogen,
sun, etc) but not bright enough to damage your eyes, then repeatedly wave a
hand in front of the helmet, it should autodarken.
No complaints. The plastic & headgear assembly is nicer and more durable on
the expensive ones. You'll find lots of opinions on this topic. Get a padded
fake sheepskin headband that velcro's on, makes em much more comfortable to
I bought the HF one, used it for a day or two, and my eyes hurt. I took it
back and bought a Miller XLi from B&R Welding on eBay for $175 and have
since used it everyday all semester as a welding student.
However, nearly all of my classmates stuck with the HF ones, so maybe I was
just too sensitive...
I suggest that you buy the HF one, try it, and if it works for you, spend
the other $125 on steel...
IMHO (and I own a $300 helmet I don't use) an expensive helmet gets
you a better "hat" that doesn't slide down when you don't want it to.
You can spot these from the outside because they have $10 of plastic
webbing and a third adjuster knob, rather than $5 and only the
OTOH, IMHE, the quality of the "works" has been almost inversely
proportional to the price paid. The cheap helmet I actually use has
all four settings adjustable, the expensive Niederman just gives me
"almost dark enough" and "not quite dark enough". It's also solar
powered (doesn't work if you store it indoors) and has a non-standard
There's probably some really cheap junk around at the bottom end, but
I haven't encountered it yet.
I have the $60 ver. from Harbor Freight and only diff. between those two are
the only real difference I've found in the high dollar hoods are that the
hole where the adj. goes through the hood is more tightly closed ( big deal
as this is at the side not front) and they are most times made of a more
durable plastic... the only time this is an issue is if several people use
it and constantly adj. the fit, all in all spend the extra money you save on
those fancy hoods for a few pounds of rods :-)
Peace of mind. When it comes to my eyes, I want the best. I have a NexGen,
and although I am not crazy about it, I like it. I also wear ear protection
ANY time I weld. Also, peace of mind. Cheaper stuff might be just as good
or better, but I like to feel confident. Like riding on good tires. They
can blow, too, but I don't think of them doing that as often as if I were
riding on cheap tires.
I love my $400 Optrel helmet. Fits great, light weight, great for switching
between shades for whatever youre doing with the controls on the outside. I
can change shades on the fly.
I store mine in my locker in the dark over night and weekends and never had
it fail to darken when i needed it.
A great helmet IMHO. Remember you get what you pay for, you may need to buy
a cheap one more often or maybe it isnt protecting you as well as you
thought? Who know but Im not willing to take a chance with my eyes I need
them for my other job.....flying.
That you get what you pay for has to be one ovf the most over used and
false statements out there.
Today there is very little relationship between cost and quality. It
would be very nice if there was but the sad thing is there just isn't.
That being said I pay whay it takes to get what I want. In my case for
a helment it was one of the HF 49.00 specials. My eyes don't hurt and
I love it compared to what I had. Now I don't use it every day and if
I did I would get one with better hardware. This one is much better
even in the hardware than the non LCD models I was using.
In fact in the LCD helment you can pay double just for a paint job. If
you go with the ones at my local farm supply store or welding supply
store. If I wanted one with the "#8" on it it was about double the
exacty same helment in welders standard black.
I truely wish that I could make quality buying decisions based on
nothing but price. It would sure simplify things..
I was reading in USA today this summer how some magizine had listed to
10 worst cars of all times. On this list was the Ford Bronco II. I
have an 88 with 177,xxx miles on it and my son has an 87 with 18x,xxx
miles and they are both still in service with no real problems. Now I
have a friend that I used to work with that won't touch a Ford because
they are "junk". So he buys Nissian and the last pick up he had the
manual transmission litterly burned up twice in the first 100,000
miles. But he still thinks they are tops and bought one of the new
One of the Engineers on the 7x10 list rants about Fords because he had
one that the AC went out twice on. My 95 F150 with 201,000 has never
need any freon added and still wqorks fine.
Now there are poor qualiy items out there but price sure doesn't go
hand in hand with quality.
Maybe you can't have cheap and high quality but you can sure have high
prices and poor quality...
If the helmet you're looking at conforms to the ANSI Z87.1-1989 standard,
and I believe all of the ones offered by HF do, you're protected from UV
even when it's off or not working. I'm not an expert on the subject but
this has been discussed many times here before and I've finally found a
couple of sites that seem to back up what others have said. Here's what
Usually ,in addition to the autodarkening element there is a polycarbonate
cover on the outside and often on the inside of the element and according to
an article in The Fabricator Magazine:
"Optical-grade polycarbonate is specifically formulated to absorb 100
percent of UV radiation up to 380 nm, but it does not make an effective
sunglass material because of the high transmittance of visible light."
I'm just a hobby weldor and I often work around my son who's not the best at
warning people when he's about to weld. I've been flashed many times and
have made it a habit to wear clear polycarbonate safety glasses all the time
when he's working around me. I have yet to burn my eyes.
Of course that doesn't mean that you won't get "dazzled" by the flash but it
should protect you from getting weldor's flash which is basically a sunburn
on the surface of your eyes.
Also, according to the ANSI standard, you should have additional protection
from the autodarkening element depending on its on and off shades based on
So an autodarkening helmet that is a shade 3 when it's off will still block
99.93% of UV and 91% of IR.
I can't find the table on the ANSI site because you apparently have to be a
paying member to view it and since Oberon is trying to sell their wares I'm
not 100% sure this is valid but it fits what Ive read from other sources.
Now the real $64k question is whether a Chinese manufacturer that says their
product conforms to the standard is telling the truth. :-)
I've had a HF helmet, model 46092 for about 2 years and have been very happy
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
I bought a cheap one from Princes Auto here in Canada. It works well but the
plastic protection window on both sides scratches very easily when being
cleaned. These scratches scatter lit of light and impair visibility. Does
anyone know of tougher windows? Polycarbonate perhaps or even thin glass?
Got Knock? - see:
Viatrack Printed Circuit Designs http://www3.sympatico.ca/borism /
They probably _are_ polycarbonate. It's very tough, but it scratches
quite easily. If you get glass, make sure that the glass is suited to
the job - the "protector plate" is often the impact protection of the
helmet system, as well (which is one reason it's likely to be
Polycarbonate actually scratches rather easily, as I found out when I paid
extra to get polycarbonate lenses in my prescription glasses. It is tough in
the sense that it doesn't shatter easily, but not in the sense of not
My helmet is midrange at $150 and made by Arc One.....Works great
for me !
The Book says it protects from UV even in the light state......as in not
Also, a cool way to test your helmet is point an IR remote ( TV, BoomBox,
etc ) at it and press some buttons...It'll make it go dark every time. If
both are working that is :)
They all provide UV protection all the time. They all turn on to reduce
visibile light in 1/1000 or a second or less. What you pay for are
features, better design, construction and reliability, a warranty that
actually is worth something, availability of replacement parts and
accesories, etc.. I have a $400 NexGen I didn't have to pay for. I use it
about half the time. The rest of the time I use a $20 old fashioned helmet.
IMHO the Harbor Freight helmets are a good deal at $49. But I do know some
folks who didn't like them and upgraded to a name brand like Jackson.
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