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Auto-Darkening vs. Passive Helmets | Exploring the Difference

Auto-Darkening vs. Passive Helmets | Exploring the Difference

Becoming a welder requires more than skill; it requires the right safety equipment. One of the most crucial pieces of safety gear you must have during welds is a helmet. When shopping for a helmet, you’ll notice two distinct types: auto-darkening and passive. Keep reading to learn when you should choose auto-darkening vs. passive helmets. Exploring the difference between these two devices will teach you how to find the right helmet for your next weld.


Auto-darkening helmets contain a liquid crystal display in the lens that protects your eyes from the welding arc. This liquid display goes by the name “Auto-Darkening Filter,” or ADF, for short. Auto-darkening helmets work by remaining clear when no torch is present. When you fire up the welding torch, the specialized liquid crystal lens tints to protect you from the intense light. The helmet can do this with the help of devices appropriately called “arc sensors.”

Both passive and auto-darkening helmets can get the job done, but the latter is best for beginners. Auto-darkening helmets are great for beginners because they’re more convenient, helping newcomers avoid bad starts during welds. Plus, welders are far less likely to encounter arc flashes when using auto-darkening helmets, which is certainly a nice safety bonus.


Auto-darkening helmets change shades when you activate the torch, but passive options act quite differently. Passive helmets are always in a protective state. In other words, the moment you put on a passive helmet, the visor is ready to protect your eyes from the light—whether a lit torch is present or not. Instead of a specialized liquid, passive helmet lenses are pieces of glass that contain a special coating for ultraviolet and infrared protection during welds.

Passive helmets are typically cheaper and lighter than auto-darkening helmets. That said, as you can see from our selection of welding protective gear, it’s not very hard to find high-quality auto-darkening helmets that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Now, you should have a better understanding of a choice all welders have to make when shopping for personal protective gear—auto-darkening vs. passive helmets. Exploring the difference, as you can tell from the guide above, is fairly simple. That said, understanding the differences is crucial for finding a helmet that meets your requirements. Both helmets are great for different scenarios, so consider buying both to have on deck when you need them.

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