What is a MIG welder?
MIG stands for metal inert gas. A MIG welder uses a solid wire electrode that is continuously fed through the welding gun into the weld pool. This then joins the two materials you’re using together. The MIG welder also uses a shielding gas that is sent through the welding gun at the same time as the wire is fed through it, which protects the weld pool from contamination.
Many of the models in our reviews, such as the Forney Easy Weld 140 MP, also include flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), which replaces the solid wire with flux-cored wire. This eliminates the need for shielding gas since the wire itself can prevent contamination in the arc.
Features to consider when choosing a MIG welder
When choosing a MIG welder for home use, there are a few features to consider.
A decent 110V MIG welder should have a wide current range, like the 10-140 Amp range on the Forney Easy Weld 140 MP. This is because the output needs to be specific to the materials you’re welding, as well as their thickness, which we’ll discuss more below. Using the wrong output will affect the quality of the weld, which is why most brands include an amperage chart to help you choose the proper levels.
Maximum material thickness
The 110V MIG welders in our reviews aren’t heavy-duty models. They generally handle materials with a maximum thickness of about ½-inch. Of course, this depends on the unit you’re using, so be sure to check out the instructions. If you go over this size, the weld may not hold as well as you expect, so a heavy-duty unit may be needed for thicker materials.
Wire feed speed/speed options
The wire feed speed also affects the quality of the weld. If you have it set too slow, the wire burns back after contact with the metal and possibly clog the tip. If it’s too fast, the wire bends when it touches the metal, where it could cause blow-through and a lot of spatter.
Thinner materials usually need lower speeds, while corners need higher speeds.
The length of the cord tells you how close you need to be to an outlet to run your welder. Shorter cords may have you working to close to a wall, requiring the use of an extension cord to give you the room you need to work. Longer cords give you much more room, allowing you to work wherever you like.
The duty cycle is usually displayed as a percentage. This tells you how long you can run the welder in a 10-minute period at a specific amount of amps before it will overheat and need to cool down. For instance, the Miller Electric MillerMatic 141 has a duty cycle of 20%, so you can run it for 2 minutes out of 10, then cool it down for the extra 8 minutes before using it again.
The higher the duty cycle, the longer you can run your MIG welder.
The unit’s dimensions tell you how portable and compact it is. If you’re doing your welding in a huge workshop with plenty of space, this may not be an issue. Those with limited space or who take their welder with them to various places may need a unit like the Miller Electric MillerMatic 141, which is the smallest one in our reviews.
The weight of the unit is also something to look into, especially if you need to move it around or take it back and forth between home and a job site. The heavier it is, the harder it’s going to be to travel with it. The Hobart Handler 140 is the heaviest model at about 57 pounds, plus adding a spool of wire will increase this weight, so it isn’t the most portable model around. On the other hand, the Sungoldpower MIG-140 is very light at under 23 pounds, making it much easier to transport.
A good warranty protects you if the unit you buy isn’t working as it should. The longer the time frame the warranty has, the more time you have to try out the MIG welder to ensure all of its parts and features are working correctly.
There are a few extras you may want to look for to ensure you’re getting the best 110V MIG welder for the money. A few extra accessories, like helmets, brushes, or spools of wire, are handy to have. A comfort grip handle makes it easy to carry. If the unit has both gas and gasless functions, this increases its versatility. You also may want to look at safety features, like overload protection.
Whether you’re new to welding or a pro, there are a few safety tips to remember to ensure you are well protected as you work.
- Wear protective clothing, including leather footwear, full-length cuff-less pants, a flame-resistant long-sleeve coat, leather gloves, safety glasses, a welding helmet, and a bandana.
- Remove all fire hazards from the welding area.
- Clean the bare metal with a metal brush or grinder before you start.
- Clamp only on clean metal to ensure proper wire feeding performance.
- Check all cables to ensure they are secured and free of damage.
- Cover the welder when not in use to protect it from dust or debris.