Buying Heavy-Duty Extension Cord Reels, Part 2: Electrical Considerations

October 5, 2023

This blog is Part Two of our series highlighting questions that should be asked when buying heavy-duty extension cord reels. In this blog, we cover electrical considerations. You can go back and read Part One here.

Heavy-duty extension cord reels are essential for any commercial application that requires durable, reliable power away from an electrical outlet. Made of rugged materials and coated to enhance their strength, these reels allow workers to pay out easily and rewind cabling, ensuring a safe and efficient work environment. From construction sites to workshops, extension cord reels are valuable for any business needing portable power solutions.

When deciding on the best heavy-duty extension cord reel for your application, be sure to research specific questions about important factors, such as electrical considerations, to determine the option that makes the most sense. 

Buying Heavy-Duty Retractable Extension Cord Reels: Electrical Considerations

1. What electrical considerations are there when choosing a retractable cord reel?

As many reels come with their own cabling and often with electrical outlets, it’s essential to look at several electrical aspects of both the cord and the reels themselves. You must consider the application for which it will be used, as a heavy-duty extension cord reel’s casing protects the cabling and any electrical components that must be protected from damage. Along with amperage, voltage, and electrical resistance, other electrical considerations include certifications and ratings for the cabling and the reel if it features electrical outlets. Electrical aspects of a cord reel will also help determine the size and length of the reel needed for the application.

2. Where can reels be used?

The type of environment and the conditions that heavy-duty extension cord reels must withstand help determine what type should be used and where, and various rating systems help determine under what conditions a reel can be used. Where cord reels are used include factories, municipal and maintenance facilities, repair shops, retail stores, schools, and warehouses. Motor-driven retractable cable reels are often used in commercial settings like construction sites, mines, refineries, water treatment facilities, and so much more.

3. How do you determine amperage requirements?

Amperage requirements of heavy-duty retractable extension cord reels are determined by the cable’s gauge, just like with loose extension cords. It’s important to check the equipment specifications with which the reel will be used to ensure it’s a good fit so the cord reel isn’t overloaded. Usually, specifications for cord reels will be available in the instruction manual or on a manufacturer’s website.

4. What are voltage ratings for retractable cord reels, and why are they important?

As retractable cord reels that include cabling are also rated by voltage, voltage ratings above that the reel can handle should not be used with the reel. This rating is based upon an AC RMS (alternating current root mean square) equation, which describes the voltage a reel can handle. The thickness of the plastic insulation surrounding the cabling determines voltage rating, with a “J” often added to the extension cords’ exterior to indicate a standard limitation of 300 volts. Heavy-duty extension cord reels won’t have this indicator, as they have double the insulation and are rated for 600 volts. These ratings determine the voltage at which cabling will remain stable while transporting electrical current. Voltage ratings also help determine certain specifications or standards for cabling in cord reels.

5. What is UL certification, and what does it entail for a heavy-duty extension cord reel?

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a nonaligned organization that rigorously evaluates an array of electronics like cord reels to determine any possible risks due to design or function. UL certifications are related to testing and inspecting heavy-duty extension cord reels to determine their safety and quality. A cord reel will have a UL stamp on it, indicating that it has numerous safety features, such as a grounding terminal or automatic circuit breaker. These tested attributes of a cord reel ensure workers are protected from electrocution or electrical fires from a short circuit, abnormal peaks in current, or other electrical dangers.

6. What is the NEMA rating for retractable cord reels, and what does it indicate?

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) determines the environments in which heavy-duty extension cord reels work through a relatively simple rating system. Not only does this system guide whether a cord reel can be used in indoor or outdoor environments, as well as for dual use, it also indicates how well the casing can protect internal components from contaminants, corrosion, moisture, temperature, and other conditions that can lead to hazardous situations.

7. What physical conditions can NEMA-rated retractable cord reels withstand?

High-quality extension cord reels offer greater protection and extend the longevity of the cabling. Many of these higher-end cords and reels can resist corrosion, impact, temperature, vibration, and water, with some even protecting against sparking. Each retractable cord reel will be individually rated with the appropriate NEMA rating based on the level of protection it provides.

8. What is an IP rating for retractable cord reels?

This rating applies to how well heavy-duty extension cord reels seal against foreign contaminants, including moisture. They help determine the specific environment in which the cord reel can be used.

9. What is a heavy-duty extension cord reel’s duty cycle?

A duty cycle is the proportion of time the reel’s cabling will need to handle an electrical load. For example, a 70 percent duty cycle would mean cable would be in the off position 30 percent of the time and in the on position 70 percent of the time.

Contact the Experts at Alert Reel Manufacturing

Alert Reel Manufacturing manufactures durable, reliable heavy-duty extension cords that will do the job in any commercial environment. Our experienced engineering team can help you find custom solutions for your application.

When deciding on the best heavy-duty extension cord reel for your application, let our experienced team guide you through the process. If you have questions on our selection of commercial extension cord reels, contact our team at Alert Reel Manufacturing today. 

Stay tuned for Part Three of our series, highlighting questions that should be asked when buying heavy-duty extension cord reels. In the next blog, we cover electrical considerations.