It’s tough to stay cool in the hot summer months, let alone when you are “under the hood” welding. Unfortunately, that heat can take a toll on your body, mind and performance. In addition to affecting your mental acuity – causing loss of concentration or, in extreme cases, confusion – excessive heat can also affect your motor skills, cause irritability and increase fatigue.
Consuming liquids throughout the day is a critical part of staying cool. It is also helpful to supplement that approach with smart equipment selection and other cooling options. Consider these tips.
Tip One: Don’t go over amperage
As a general rule, selecting the lightest, most flexible MIG gun for the application is the best choice. In the case of a 400-amp application, a MIG gun rated at 300 amps may suffice for your application. That is because MIG gun amperages reflect the temperatures above which the handle or the cable on a MIG gun becomes uncomfortable. They do not indicate the point at which the MIG gun risks damage or failure.
Also, you spend time in the day doing other things besides welding – moving parts, prepping materials or fixturing them. It’s highly unlikely that you will be operating the MIG gun at full amperage and full duty cycle at all times. Duty cycle is defined by the amount of arc-on time in a 10-minute period that the equipment can be operated at maximum capacity. Some MIG guns will offer 100 percent duty cycle, while others are rated 60 percent or below.
It is important to research the MIG gun’s duty cycle prior to purchasing it in order to ensure it offers the necessary capacity for the application. But in most cases you don’t have to match your MIG gun amperage to the exact amperage of your application to get the job done. A lower amperage MIG gun can often suffice and keep you cooler.
Staying cool in the hot weather is important to your health and performance. Take steps to protect yourself from the heat.
Tip Two: Get a good handle
Selecting a MIG gun with the appropriate handle, neck and cables for your application can also help you stay cool. Typically, as a MIG gun’s amperage decreases so too does the size of the gun handle and the cable. That decrease in size and weight can help minimize the amount of energy you exert and reduce heat stress.
Decide what type of MIG gun handle is most comfortable for you. MIG gun manufacturers often offer handles in curved and straight models. Regardless of the one you choose, make sure it is a lightweight, comfortable style that also meets the MIG gun and application’s amperage and duty cycle requirements. Typically, a smaller handle will be easier for you to maneuver.
Additionally, some MIG gun manufacturers offer ventilated handles, which help reduce heat and are more comfortable to hold when welding for longer periods of time. In some instances, a water-cooled MIG gun may provide the smaller size desired for an application and would be a good choice to reduce fatigue on higher amperage applications, especially in a shop setting.
Tip Three: Stay light and flexible
When selecting power cables, choose the smallest and shortest power cable possible that can still meet the needs of your application. Smaller and shorter power cables are lighter and more flexible, and can help reduce your fatigue. They can also minimize clutter in the workspace and prevent excessive coiling that may be cumbersome to unravel or that could lead to poor wire feeding. An added advantage is that smaller and shorter cables tend to be less expensive, as well.
Also, consider using a MIG gun with a rotatable or flexible neck to minimize unnecessary movement. Flexible necks can be easily adjusted to fit different welding angles. This feature helps minimize additional straining to reach a particular weld joint, and reduces the risk of fatigue or injury. Similarly, rotatable necks are a good option for welding out-of-position (including overhead), as they can be adjusted to reach the weld joint without changing the gun handle or its position. Bernard offers neck couplers, too, which allow you to connect multiple necks together to reach especially difficult joints more comfortably.
Tip Four: Consider a cool option
Cooling vests are one option for beating the summer heat, but these can make some people uncomfortable and actually increase fatigue. Instead, you may want to consider a lighter cooling option like a cooling belt.
For example, the CoolBelt™ from Miller Electric Mfg. LLC (an Illinois Tool Works company that Bernard is a division of) provides constant airflow over the welder’s head and face. The fan on the CoolBelt is secured on the lower back. Air flows upward through a piece of tubing that fits into your helmet; it’s then dispersed through the vents. The CoolBelt can reduce the temperature as much as 17 degrees. One advantage of the CoolBelt, compared to a cooling vest is its weight — it is significantly lighter so it helps improve stamina throughout the workday. Additionally, the CoolBelt doesn’t obstruct your range of motion, allowing you to perform more efficiently.
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