Welders go through a LOT to get their job done. While welding isn’t exactly the most comfortable of jobs, it’s manageable enough if you get right personal protective equipment. With the variety of potential risks that a welder is exposed to every day, PPE is less of an option and more of an essential.
You can’t weld without a welding helmet. And with welding helmets, Miller is always my first choice. But why Miller, exactly? There are so many brands out there, what makes it so special? Well, let me tell you about why Miller welding helmets are the best, and my personal picks if you ever decide to get one.
Why Invest In A Welding Helmet?
First, let’s get one thing out of the way: welding can be a nasty job without a helmet. You have sparks flying around all over the place, arc lighting to worry about, and gases to not breathe in. Welding helmets aren’t just a safe choice: they’re the only choice.
But you can’t just choose any old helmet. You need to choose a welding helmet that’s rated and constructed for the unique demands of welding. Sure, you’ll get some level of protection if you use a full-face helmet, but your welds are going to suffer.
There are several reasons a welding helmet is so necessary:
The Excess Heat
Welding produces a lot of heat. While your gloves can take the brunt of the heat from your welder, you’re going to have your face hovering above your weld for quite some time. That’s a lot of heat generated, and a lot of it is going straight to your face.
And even without the heat, wearing a helmet is hot. If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle out on a hot day, you know what I mean. So a welding helmet has to shield your face from the heat generated by your work AND still be open enough that you don’t bake your head inside of it.
Light & Flare
Welding and lighting have a very complicated relationship, to say the least. I’m not just talking about the sparks; I’m talking about the actual flare produced when you weld something. Welding temperatures can reach up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and that produces a LOT of light. The human eye isn’t rated for that kind of light exposure.
But here’s the problem: you need to see what exactly it is you’re welding. Things get even more complicated when you factor that lighting conditions may not be the same every time you weld. That’s why you need a welding helmet. It can give you the protection you need against welding arc light while still giving you enough light to see, and can help improve the quality of your welds.
Finally, welding produces a lot of gas. Without getting too closely into the science of mixed metals, breathing that in (or letting it hit your face) is a very, very bad idea. I’ve had a few close calls with that situation myself, and I can tell you it’s not a pleasant one.
Welding helmets can help provide some level of protection against these gases. Of course, you’ll still need filters and oxygen masks in intensive work environments, but a welding helmet does a pretty good job at keeping those gases away from your nostrils.
In short, the reason you need a welding helmet is that it’s often the first line of defense between you and most of the things that can go wrong when you weld. Whether you’re welding full time or do it as a hobby, you’re going to need a welding helmet.
Why Choose Miller?
So now that you know why it’s important, why do I recommend a Miller helmet? It’s simple really. Miller combines quality and price in one package.
Miller has been around for a long time, and they’re one of the leading experts and manufacturers in the welding industry. They’ve been around since 1929, so they really know welding inside and out. Their stuff lasts for a long time, is built out of high-quality materials, and is easy on the wallet. I’ve been using Miller helmets for most of my welds, and I’ve never really run into a problem with them.
Here are some features of a Miller welding helmet I find useful:
Auto On/Off Feature
Remember when I was talking about how lights affect the quality of your welds? One reason that can be so difficult is that welding by itself isn’t a static activity: you adjust the length and frequency of your pulses, you have different metals to weld, and sometimes you just weld in different places.
With most welding helmets, their lens filtering is always on, and it can’t be turned off. More advanced models let you trigger this mode, but there’s always going to be a chance that you’ll forget to do it yourself. And once you weld with the lens filter off, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Miller helmets sidestep this problem pretty neatly by using an Auto On/Off feature to turn the lens filters on and off automatically. This is great for welders who weld without having checked if their lenses are on, since the helmet itself turns the lens on by itself once it detects the striking of an arc.
One drawback with most welding helmets is that the lens shading messes up the colors that you can see outside the helmet. And while welding isn’t really a color-centric job like painting, you still need to see the colors and the fine details of your weld, especially if you want to make a clean one.
Most of the time, you’re going to have to pause inspect your welding. That means that every so often, you’ll need to lift the hood, check your welds, put the hood back on again, and repeat until you’re done. This doesn’t sound like a big deal… until you remember eye strain and muscle fatigue are hazards commonly associated with welding.
The ClearLight lenses in Miller helmets complement the colors in welding arcs so you can actually see all the details of your welds. It gives you a brighter view of your surroundings compared to other helmets and allows you to keep on working without having to lift your hood at all. Higher contrast and clarity means more precise welds, which ultimately means better results.
Auto-darkening helmets aren’t a new thing: most brands have adopted them in some form or the other, and they really help with making sure that you’re well-protected no matter your welding conditions. However, this kind of tech still has its flaws. For example, they rely heavily on the sensors to work, which can be an issue when you’re working outdoors and the sunlight can mess with their operation.
Miller’s X-mode technology uses electromagnetic sensors to detect the light from your welds, automatically adjusting your lens shading even in sunlight or bright lighting conditions. This way, your helmet only darkens as much as it’s supposed to, and you don’t have to do any manual adjustments to compensate.
The X-mode is unique to Miller helmets and automatically integrates with the three other lens shading modes. So whether you’re cutting, grinding, welding, or are too in the zone to differentiate, your Miller helmet will automatically do all the shading for you.
Gone are the days of knobs and dials. While they were a big hit when they were first introduced to welding helmets, most welders quickly realized that they only got in the way. Adjustable settings on a welding helmet were great, but most of the time the effort required to actually just adjust these settings was a pain to go through.
Digital controls are much better, much simpler, and are less prone to getting in your way. Unlike physical adjustments, you can determine the exact lens shading that you want. With enough time and practice, you can change your settings on the fly without having to remove your helmet at all, which is very useful for those long welding sessions.
Miller helmets take this one step further by having intuitive design and large controls that are easy to push even with gloves on. An in-helmet digital display makes it easy to see what shades you have on and if you need to adjust based on what you’re welding.
All these features are pretty useful for novice and pro welders alike. They’ve definitely saved me a lot of time during my welds, and the convenience of using them makes it easy for me to concentrate on my work. Because I don’t have to do much in the way of adjustments, I can keep welding for longer without having to worry about any hazards.
My Top 3 Picks For The Best Miller Welding Helmet
Miller is no slouch with their product lines: there’s a ton of different welding helmets you can buy, shifting from design, features, and overall functionality. However, I recommend these three welding helmets to anyone who’s looking for a Miller:
Miller Digital Elite, Black: Best Bargain For Price
If there was ever such a thing like an “entry-level” Miller helmet, it would be this one. It’s a great option for amateur and veteran welders alike, with all the features you need to weld comfortably. It’s one of the lighter models, so you can weld longer without having to strain your neck because of the added weight.
One feature that I’m sure a lot of you will appreciate is that it has clearly delineated shading options for welding and grinding. I personally use shades 8 to 12 if I need to weld, and shades 3 to 5 if I need to grind. Like all Miller helmets, this lens shading system is excellent for reducing eye strain if you’re going to weld for a long time.
As a “basic” model though, it has the drawback of being a little more difficult to fit on your head. You can adjust the settings of the helmet, but it may not be ergonomic enough for most people. An issue I’ve found is that the helmet’s weight settles on the back of the helmet, so you might get a minor ache around the shoulders by trying to compensate for it. But if it fits you well enough, you should have no problem with it.
Miller Digital Elite, Vintage Roadster: Best For Comfort
If you don’t mind shelling out a little more for a helmet with better comfort, I’d gladly recommend the Vintage Roadster. Because it has a narrower profile, it fits snugly around the head better than the Black Digital Elite. Even if it has the same strap system, sometimes that extra half-inch or more of hold really makes all the difference.
This is a welding helmet that definitely makes a statement. With a classic retro look, it combines form and function into one stylish package that’ll make you stand out in the workplace. I remember when I first brought this thing into the shop, everyone definitely took their time checking it out. And with 1/20,000s of a second of lens reaction time, I could definitely still concentrate on my welds.
One drawback that I have found with this helmet is that the recharge time can take a little long. Sure, it has around 3000 hours of lithium-powered battery life, but you don’t get to those numbers without a long charge time. Fortunately, the solar cells also do their work in getting the lenses powered up, but it’s best to not leave this helmet on a low charge if you’re planning on using it regularly.
Miller Digital Infinity: Best Overall
Something I never really liked about welding helmets was that the view was just too cramped. Most high-end welding helmets, for all their lenses and special features, still haven’t grasped the fact that sometimes all you really need is a bigger view. That’s where the Miller Digital Infinity really shines.
With one of the biggest view areas compared to most welding helmets on the market, the Digital Infinity offers a better view of your welds. Better views mean that you’re much closer to getting the exact welds that you want, and the Digital Infinity can provide you with the tools to get that done. Combined with Miller’s own lens technology, you get the view AND the protection that you need.
If there’s one drawback to all that extra window space, it’s that this model can feel a little flimsy. This is not a helmet that you want to drop, and I’ve had a few heart-stopping moments when I nudged it a little too hard on the lens. So far, the build has held up to all the usual dings and scrapes you’d expect from a welding table, but I’m definitely a little more careful with this helmet than the other ones I use.
As a bonus, all the Miller helmets I’ve talked about already come with the tech that I mentioned earlier. It just goes to show you how much work Miller really puts into making all of their helmets, regardless of the type. And as someone who’s used their helmets for years, I can say that commitment paid off.
All these Miller helmets are also quite budget friendly, even the more advanced models. They’re great choices for anyone who’s looking into welding seriously without breaking the bank, or pros who are looking for a replacement to their old helmets.
No self-respecting welder would ever take on a job without a good protective helmet, and no experienced welder would settle for anything less than a Miller helmet. The combination of features, build quality, and overall price make these helmets my favorite recommendation to any welder looking for better protection.
Of course, it’s equally important that you don’t forget your other PPE as well. A helmet won’t do you much good if you don’t have gloves to protect your hands from the sparks! A full set of PPE means a well-protected welder. If you have confidence in your protection, then you can focus on your welds.
If you’re not sure about other pieces of protective equipment (or have other questions about welding helmets in general), look around online. There are plenty of dedicated communities out there of welders who can give you the information you need. I check out r/Welding when I don’t know something.
So next time that you’re in the market looking for a welding helmet, choose Miller. I’ve had plenty of close calls I’ve avoided because of their helmets, and even better welds too!