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Which is Better? Air- vs. Water-Cooled TIG Welding Torches



What's the difference between an air-cooled torch and a water-cooled (actually coolant-cooled) torch? Why would you have one, the other or both? Kevin shows his air-cooled TIG welding torch, a WP-26F, and his water-cooled TIG welding torch, a WP-20, and explains that the numbers indicate the size of the head and the size of the cup. That's of some importance as he compares them head-to-head. Kevin then explains how the water-cooled TIG welding torch works, with the coolant circulating through the torch itself, then heading back to the cooler. By cooling the torch, you can weld at higher amperages for longer periods of time. Kevin points out that his water-cooled torch will actually get a little warmer because it's larger, but predicts there will still be a surprising difference between the temperature of the two torches after welding. He's using the same tungsten in each torch with his Longevity TigWeld 250 AC/DC set at 200 amps. He tests the air-cooled torch first, welding for one minute, then shooting it with an infrared thermometer. At the trigger, the air-cooled torch is 105 degrees. At the junction where the tungsten is, the torch is 170 degrees, and 102 at the collet. Next, he welds one minute with the water-cooled torch. The difference is dramatic: the welding torch is 89 degrees at the trigger, 89 degrees at the tungsten, and 145 degrees at the collet. That's how much the water-cooled torch helps after just one minute of welding. The benefits: the water-cooled torch lets you weld longer and get more work done. The down sides: the water-cooled torch is heavier, with a bigger and heavier cable, making it harder to handle. He also discusses fixed head versus flexible head torches, and how a fixed head water-cooled torch can't be flexed without the possibility that the head might crack and release fluid, creating a potential electrocution hazard - and a mess. As for cost, the water-cooled torch runs $50 - 100 more than the air-cooled torch. Kevin's cooler, which has two radiators and some fans, draws the coolant (which is not antifreeze) in one end and blows it through the radiators to cool it down. It cost about $450 new, but he bought it used from someone via the Longevity forum for about $225. Kevin then explains how the cooler hooks up to the welder. He also explains that he installed a 110 volt plug into his welder and plugs his cooler into it to make sure the cooler always comes on with the welder so he doesn't burn out the torch by forgetting to turn on the cooler itself. So which is better? If torch handle heat is an issue for you or you want to be able to weld as long as possible, and the weight and cost is not a problem, a water-cooled torch may be right for you.

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