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We wrote a guide for professional welders to help find the best welding helmet. However, those helmets get extremely expensive. You are paying for a high level of visibility and color control throughout the viewing area that is then hardened to withstand years of use.
Most of my readers would love to spend under $100 for their welding helmet. There are a lot of excellent helmets near that price point, so I decided to put together a list that won’t blow the budget, but that will still protect your face and eyes.
Instead of letting you scroll through endless reviews, we’ve read a bunch, tried out some helmets, and talked to a few friends in the industry to uncover some gems.
Here are ten welding helmet reviews to help you save money while getting a reliable helmet.
The 10 Best Cheap Welding Helmets
Miller 251292 Auto Darkening Helmet
Miller makes some of the best welders on the market. While very few of my readers can afford to buy their top-of-the-line commercial welders, their entry-level helmets give you a taste of what it is like to have access to their products.
The first thing you notice is how lightweight this helmet is. It’s comfortable to wear for hours on end. If you are working full-time as a welder or in welding school, you’ll appreciate how light it is. It also had a magnifying lens holder, which is handy for when you need a better view of your work. (A lot of folks call this a “cheater” lens.)
The screen requires 2 AAA batteries to activate the auto-darkening. Since they are AAA batteries, they tend to have more charge than other helmets that use the small watch-style battery, and this one has an expected 2000 hours of use. Once you start welding, the solar cells on the front power the auto-darkening filter. With a rapid switching speed of 1/10,000 second, you have no fear of damaging your weld flash.
The screen is one of the smaller ones. It is only a little more than 5 square inches of the viewing area. However, you are getting better-quality parts, which makes it a worthy trade-off for the user who needs a lot of durabilities.
Miller is going to work on all welding processes, including stick, TIG, and MIG welding.
However, the comfort of the helmet more than makes up for the smaller screen size. Many of the helmets that we look at have problems with the headgear. The ratchet mechanism on this one makes it easy to size, and it is designed to hold up well. With the purchase of the Miller Hard Hat Adapter, this one can also fit the standard fiberglass hard hat.
Additionally, the reliability of the screen — as well as it’s clarity — means that this is one of the best auto darkening welding helmets you could consider.
Hobart 770890 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
Hobart makes some excellent MIG welding machines. This helmet is a high-quality option that challenges the status quo.
The first advantage with this helmet is the 9.3 square inch viewing area with a widescreen layout. This lets you clearly see your weld pool while still being aware of the surrounding area. The larger solar panel captures ample light and ensures that the lens always has enough power. The adjustable shade is between 9-13. You don’t get the lighter 5-8 shades that some of these other welders offer, but most folks are going to weld with a #8 or darker.
As with the other models, we have four independent arc sensors that trigger anytime a weld is started with a 1/25,000 reaction time. You also have controls that you can adjust to get the sensitivity right depending on how much daylight you are working in.
This helmet is great for both welding and in grind mode. The grind mode uses a lighter, #3 shade that gives you slightly better visibility than all of the default #4 shade that most other hoods use.
The Antra brand does not have as much recognition as the Miller Welding Hood. However, it is a fairly lightweight helmet that offers that incredible viewing size upgrades that we were looking for in the Miller Helmet. With a 3.86 by 3.5-inch viewing area, you have a wide lens, which reduces your urge to raise the helmet. In a lot of cases, you are going to forget the helmet is on.
The four arc sensors detect when an arc has been activated, and trigger the auto-darkening filter (ADF) to activate in 1/30,000 of a second. With one of the shortest delays on the market, this offers some of the best protection out there. There is also an interference suppression technology built into the sensor to prevent false triggering when welding outside in the sunlight. Even with this suppression technology, this is a very sensitive filter that will activate on Stick, MIG, and TIG welding, even down to 2 amps, making it perfect for all welding applications.
The base shade will lighten when not in use to a 4, making it perfect for using as face and eye protection for grinding.
There is a 4-9 shade range that works great for MIG welding. The 9-13 range is handy for Higher amperage work.
The passive Ultraviolet protection lens sits in front of the ADF, blocking the harmful UV rays from damaging your eyes over time.
The solar power strip powers the lens pretty well. When the lithium battery dies, it is easy and cheap to replace.
As with some of the other helmets in this category, this one lacks in headgear. If you are looking for a helmet to wear to welding school or on the day job, this is an excellent choice — once you upgrade the headgear.
Jackson Safety 46131 Variable Auto Darkening Helmet
Jackson Safety doesn’t make a cheap helmet. They offer a line of entry-level passive lens helmets for the at-home user who wants cheap eye protection. However, their auto-darkening helmets all start at a higher price point, demonstrating their commitment to only selling the best products.
This Jackson Safety Insight helmet comes with a variable 9-13 shade range with complete control on your sensitivity and delays adjustments. You can set how dark you want the helmet to get. While it doesn’t give you the most visibility, the 3.93″ x 2.36″ viewing area is bigger than a lot of them in this price range. It also comes with the grind mode, so it doubles as eye protection when grinding.
As you’ve come to expect, this one also has four arc sensors. These auto-dimming sensors help guarantee that you have immediate protection even if you are working close and accidentally block a lower sensor with your hand.
The headgear is of better quality. The easy-to-turn adjustment knob lets you easily adjust it to your head size, and it seems like it should up well over months of daily use.
The helmet is lightweight but still seems to hold up well when welding.
For new folks just getting into weld school and homeowners who want a lightweight helmet with a lot of control and no risk of flash, this is a good choice.
TekWare Welding Helmet With Hemispherical 4C lens
I’ve provided a little extra credence to Hobart and Miller since those are two, well-known welding companies, and we have more experience with their products.
However, this Tekware comes to the market with a unique design and a lot of cool technology.
What sets this helmet apart is the mask shape. Being designed like a futuristic astronaut helmet adds a layer of stylistic choice, and this helmet also offers excellent visibility with added lens protection.
Sitting outside of the auto-darkening filter is a curved lens that blocks ultraviolet and infrared rays. It also helps to protect the lens from the flying sparks. At the time of writing in March 2020, a replacement lens for this clear piece is being shipped to the US. (My guess is that the delivery of this replacement lens will be delayed by the Corona-virus).
This helmet looks great and works great. Its weakness is in the headgear. It is extremely difficult to get the headgear to work, and then the headgear might fail under heavy use. Thanks to the helmet’s unique design, the replacement headgear is not as readily available as it is on some of these other designs.
Instapark ADF Series GX990T Welding Helmet
The Instapark is a strong contender for the Antra. It seems like the headgear on it might hold up a little better, but the advertised 1/30,000 second auto-darkening feature seems to not be quite as consistent.
But I’m getting ahead.
This is another large viewport hood with a 3.94 by 3.86-inch large viewing area. You’ll appreciate the lightweight composite material that is designed to reduce neckwear and to help you stay refreshed during long shifts. The padded headband seems to be more comfortable than the Antra, and it also might hold up a little better.
As with the other welders, this one starts with a shade four lens that is great for grind mode and plasma cutting. When the welding starts, the four arc sensors pick up on the arc from TIG, MIG, or arc welding to activate the variable shade. The shade darkens in the 5 to 13 range. There is a little knob on the site that lets you set the darkening range.
It’s one of the few helmets where they have published an estimate on battery life. Thanks to the solar panels, this one has an expected battery life of 3500 to 5000 hours.
The other thing I like about this helmet is the little lip on the bottom that helps deflect spatter and keep sparks from going down your neck.
Overall, this helmet’s headgear helps us a lot in feeling more comfortable. However, there might be a higher chance of weld flash.
YESWELDER Solar Power Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
The YESWELDER LYG-M800H offers a super-wide lens. Those of you who have felt claustrophobic by the small screens that come on the other welders will appreciate how the larger screen on this helmet opens up your vision. You have a viewing area of 3.94 by 3.66 inches.
High-end helmets are measured on a few different categories and this helmet score well in all areas with a score of 1/1/1/2 for optical clarity. The true color view that this helmet offer puts it close to the level of helmets costing much more. You’ll be amazed at how accurate the colors of the real world come through instead of being heavily tainted with that green color of other lenses. Compared to the three previous helmets, this one has some of the best colorations.
The pivot style headgear is designed to make it easy to raise and lower the helmet without constantly readjusting it. After all, when you are suited up with your welding gloves, it is hard to readjust everything. That said, the headgear is a thinner material of some better headgear designs. Most aggressive users have found the need to buy replacement headgear and upgrade the headgear for more comfort.
For the hobbyist, this is an excellent helmet. Professionals find that it also meets their needs after a few upgrades. But it lacks some of the solid durability that we want to see in a top-grade helmet that is going to be used 10 hours a day.
Antra AH6 Budget Welding Helmet
If you want a really cheap helmet, this one might be worth a closer look.
It isn’t the cheapest one out there — but it scales down a lot of the features in order to deliver a solid helmet for the hobbyist.
The solar cells on this helmet use the light from the arc to help power the auto-darkening filter. As soon as one of the four sensors detects an arc from MMA, TIG or MIG welding, it activates the lens. A small switch lets you choose between 5-9 or 9-13 shades of darkening. The delay/retard dial helps you choose how quickly the lens engages, and the sensitivity dial allows you to adjust the sensitivity down when you are working in direct sunlight.
A lot of folks will try a cheap Harbor Freight mask on their first try. This is a perfect step-up from that. You get great resting clarity when the mask isn’t engaged, which lets you work without raising the hood.
Overall, an excellent hood for using around the house.
DEKOPRO Solar Powered Welding Hood
This light use solar-powered welding helmet from DEKOPRO is perfect for the hobbyist. You get the convenience of the auto-darkening filter that switches in 1/25,000 of a second, putting it on part with many of the other models that we looked at.
The viewing size is 3.85 inches by 3.15 inches, which makes it one of the larger ones on this page. The shade settings can be adjusted from 9 to 13. In the light state, it has shade darkness of 4, which gives you the light you need for grinding mode, and when positioning the metal for welding.
Thanks to the solar panel, the battery is expected to last for up to 5,000 hours of use.
It’s a smaller hood size, which makes it great when working in tight areas. However, it lacks the full neck coverage that you see with the other helmets. The smaller size helps to reduce the weight, keeping the entire helmet under 1 lb and making it more comfortable for folks with neck problems.
Overall, this is a great option for light-duty work when you need professional-level eye protection, but don’t want to pay for the professional-level durability.
Hobart 770286 Flip Front Welding Helmet
Some of you may feel like I haven’t produced the cheapest welding helmet.
If you are willing to skip the auto-darkening filter and go with a passive-filter, you can get an extremely affordable helmet.
My top pick is the Hobart. This one is fairly lightweight while still being extremely durable and providing full protection of your face.
The ANSI Z87.1 lens sits in a handy flip-up window. This lets you flip up the lens to check your work and then flip it down when you are ready to weld. This feature is handy as it lets you get your hands in position, and then you can flip the lens down just as you squeeze the trigger.
For newbies, the challenge is always in that split second of darkness when the lens is flipped down, but the welder hasn’t started yet. The flip-feature helps you decrease that momentary blindness that is hard for the new guys.
At some point, you will want to buy and auto-darkening face mask. However, this can be a good backup to keep on hand for the apprentice. Works just fine and fits the bill as being one of the cheapest welding helmets on the market that still provides ample eye protection.
- Headgear – Many of these cheap helmets have very poor headgear. After all, the online shopper generally overlooks the headgear and focuses on the auto-darkening features. You want a model that has a good headpiece, or that sells replacement headpieces.
- Image Quality – Not every auto-darkening lens is the same. You want to buy one that has better clarity. This will improve your confidence and skill as you are working.
- Adjustability – Once again, if you can get the helmet to kick in quickly and drop the visibility to a shade 9, you will mostly be set. However, each user may be a little different. Having knobs that give you adjustable controls will help you dial in the helmet to your taste.
- Customer Support – Some of the brands like Hobart, Miller, and Antra have well-known warranty departments. Others like Jackson Safety and Dekopro might not have as easy-to-find warranty details. If you plan on owning the helmet for a while, you might find one that has a better warranty.