Buying Heavy-Duty Extension Cord Reels, Part 3: Extension Cord Size & Length Considerations

October 10, 2023

This blog is Part Three of our series highlighting questions that should be asked when buying extra heavy-duty extension cord reels. In this blog, we cover extension cord size and length considerations. Read Part One and Part Two here.

Whether you work in construction, manufacturing, or any other industry that requires power on the go, extra heavy-duty extension cords are a critical tool to have on hand. Able to withstand the harshest environments, they offer a reliable choice for any commercial or professional job site that needs extra durability.

When purchasing a heavy-duty extension cord reel, ask questions about factors such as extension cord size and length considerations to determine the best product for your application. 

Buying Extra Heavy-Duty Retractable Extension Cord Reels: Extension Cord Size & Length

1. What is the gauge of a cable, and why is it important?

A wire gauge measures a cable’s diameter, determining how much electrical current an electrical cable can safely carry and its resistance and weight. Additionally, the gauge determines electrical qualities like amperage, load capacity, number of conductors required, and resistance. All these cabling characteristics can be readily ascertained by knowing what gauge a wire is, which helps determine whether it’s right for a certain application.

The size and length of an extension cord within a reel help determine its usefulness to an application. Gauge is the main factor in determining the size of the cabling, while the gauge helps determine the types of equipment that can be used with the reel. Length considerations should consider the maximum distance the cabling will need to extend. For shorter distances, the extent of the unused extension cord will remain wound inside the cord reel.

2. How do you measure an extension cord’s gauge?

In the United States, the method for measuring cable thickness for electrically conductive wiring is the American Wire Gauge (AWG), which works for specifying gauges for both round and solid cabling made from non-ferrous materials. With 40 different gauge sizes, AWG measures cross sections of wires that range between 0.013 mm² and 107.22 mm². Each gauge varies incrementally between each gauge number, determining how much electrical current a wire can handle before it’s damaged. If you need to find the gauge of an extension cord, simply check the packaging.

3. How do you calculate the total length of cord needed when purchasing a retractable extension cord reel?

Certain measurements should first be made to calculate the length of cabling needed for a reel.

Calculations for length should:

  • Start with the required length of cable for the application
  • Add the active length (difference between minimum operating payout)
  • Plus the inactive length (length of cabling that remains outside the reel even when fully retracted)
  • Plus the safety wrap (length of cabling that remains on the reel once maximally paid out)
  • Plus hook-up length (length of cabling – usually 2 to 3 feet – that terminates at both ends)

For stretch reels:

  • Add 10 percent to the total of both active and inactive for the sag factor

For drag or retrieve reels, lift height should also be added:

  • Distance between where cabling lays up along the reel’s center line (maximum of four feet)  

Contact the Experts at Alert Reel Manufacturing

Alert Reel Manufacturing manufactures extra heavy-duty extension cords that are durable enough for any commercial or professional environment. With cutting-edge in-house capabilities, our experienced engineering team can help you find custom solutions for your application. If you have questions regarding our selection of commercial extension cord reels or their requirements, contact the experts at Alert Reel Manufacturing today.