It was once said that eyes are the window to the soul. That may or may not be true, but protecting your eyes from damage when welding is certainly a top priority.Using the right welding hood isn’t just critical for your eyes; it also affects your back and neck and even how well you can do your job. To choose the best welding hood for you, consider five key components:

1. Passive versus auto-darkening

Passive welding hoods have just one shade in them—often a #10 level shade. These are good for welders who weld on only one type of material with just one technique. They’re also best for those who don’t need to wear their hood all day (many welders lower the hood with a snap of their neck, which can lead to neck and back issues over time). Passive hoods are generally cheaper than auto-darkening hoods and provide ample face and eye protection. If you’re just starting out and aren’t sure what type of hood to purchase, keep in mind it’s much more difficult to move from an auto-darkening hood to a passive hood than to switch the other way.

Auto-darkening hoods offer many different shade options. The hood automatically adjusts the filter as needed through sensors mounted on the hood’s side ridges. The Construction Marketing Association recommends purchasing a hood with three to six sensors to provide enough coverage for out-of-position welding when a single sensor might be blocked. Welders who weld on different materials throughout the day – or who weld for long periods of time – benefit the most from an auto-darkening hood. Not having to raise and lower the hood saves stress on your neck and back, and the auto-darkening component can compensate for the difference in amperage when welding different types of metals.

2. Power source

If you decide an auto-darkening hood is best, consider the type of power source your hood will use. Some hoods use an all-battery power source that uses AAA batteries. While replacing the batteries is easy, these hoods also burn through batteries faster than a hood using lithium ion batteries—which last longer and are sometimes rechargeable (but cost more). A third option is a combination power source that uses both batteries and solar energy to power the hood. This allows for extended battery life as long as sunlight is available to power the hood.

3. Weight

For welders who spend all day in their hood, weight is an important consideration. The heavier the hood, the more strain on your back and neck. So, if you wear your hood for a considerable portion of the day, choose the lightest hood you can find with the features you want.

4. Safety

Not all welding hoods are created equal when it comes to safety. The latest standard from the American National Standards Institute is ANSI Z87.1-2020, so look on the packaging to make sure the hood meets the latest standard. A simple “ANSI approved” marking is not enough to prove it meets the safety standard.

5. Comfort

For full-time welders, the hood becomes just like an article of clothing. Just as you don’t want your clothing to be ill-fitting or scratchy, you don’t want your hood to cause you discomfort or irritation. Try several hoods, and choose the one that best fits your head and face. After all, comfort can be as important as safety when you wear your hood all day.

Taking the time to consider your options when it comes to welding hoods is a smart move. Purchase a hood with the best protection and the most comfort you can afford to keep your eyes smiling through every job.

Brian Hollands is the owner of Missouri Welding Institute, which trains the nation’s finest welding craftsmen using a hands-on approach, one-on-one attention and a family-style environment to prepare students for a successful career. Share your thoughts on Facebook or on Tik Tok.