Did you know every helmet has features that make them better for either TIG or MIG? This is a little-known fact that even experienced welders don’t realize. Understanding what to look for can help you find the perfect helmet for your needs and keep you from paying for things you won’t use.
TIG Amperage Range
For TIG welding, knowing a helmet’s TIG Amperage Range is essential before you purchase. It’s often not listed at the top of the web page, but if you’re using a site like Welding Supplies from IOC, you can click the “specs” tab to show you all the juicy details.
TIG welding often uses lower amps than MIG, which allows better heat management (one of the big benefits of TIG). However, most auto-darkening helmet sensors detect amps to determine when to darken. Let’s say your auto-darkening helmet has a TIG amperage range of >20 amps, but you’re welding on 10 amps. There’s a good chance the sensors won’t recognize the arc, meaning your helmet won’t auto-darken (making welding very, very difficult).
Here’s another example: The Lincoln Viking 3350 has a TIG amperage range of >2 amps, meaning as long as you’re welding on more than 2 amps, it’ll work great.
Miller’s Digital Elite and Digital Infinity helmets have something called X-Mode. When turned on, the sensors aren’t triggered by amps, but by a number of other factors that are more inline with low-amp TIG welding. This alone is why a lot of TIG welders prefer these helmets.
In order to produce a quality bead with MIG welding, you generally need more power (amps) than TIG. Because of this, the amperage range isn’t nearly as important. You’ll want to focus more on shade ranges (see below).
Every auto-darkening helmet has a range of possible shades, which basically determine how dark or light it will go when the sensors trigger.
Since MIG tends to use more amps, you want a helmet that has a good range of shades from light to dark. For instance, the ESAB sentinel has an excellent shade range from 5-13.
With TIG welding, your range will vary depending on your work. For instance, automobile welders tend to work on thin car panels where heat management is key. Using low-amps means you’ll need a helmet that has the appropriate shade range. Just remember with shade numbers, the higher the number, the darker the shade.
Clarity and Contrast
In the last 5 years, auto-darkening helmets’ ability to show color has far exceeded traditional welding helmets. There’s something really important to note though: Yes, having more colors makes the view look nicer, but it also greatly increases the amount of contrast.
Contrast is how much difference there is between shapes and colors. Back when televisions were black and white, anything that had a color showed up as a shade of gray. When Alfred Hitchcock shot the famous Psycho shower scene, he wanted something that would really stand out from the white bathroom walls and floor. Instead of red blood (that would just be a shade of gray on black and white television), he used chocolate syrup for the blood. The black liquid had significantly more contrast with the white floor, making it much more striking.
Traditional auto-darkening helmets tend to have a hazy green filter, causing everything to run together. You have to really squint to make out the fine details of your welding pool. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, like when laying down an easy bead. But with both MIG and especially TIG, you’re generally having to watch your work closely. Having a clear view with a lot of contrast to help distinguish exactly what you’re looking at is a huge leg up.
For the best contrast and clarity, every top brand has recently developed their own technology. Miller has ClearLight, Lincoln has 4C, etc. While they are all different in the details, they all provide much better color, clarity and contrast.
Ultimately, which helmet you choose should depend on the work you’re doing. If you’re welding low-amp TIG, make sure you get an auto-darkening helmet that’ll still work. At Welding Supplies from IOC, there’s always a great promotion going on. Right now, with any purchase of a Lincoln 3350 Helmet, you’ll get a pair of FR sleeves AND a Lincoln Beanie for FREE. Learn more here and check out a few of our favorite welding helmets below.