Industrial Extension Cable Reels: Types, Applications & Advantages

April 24, 2023

Factories, processing plants, warehouses, and other industrial facilities often need to supply electricity to equipment not conveniently located near a power supply. To deal with such situations, many facilities utilize robust extension cabling to bring electricity to where it’s needed. However, these industrial cables are much longer than typical extension cords used in households, making them more challenging to store. One solution frequently used within industrial facilities for storing longer cabling is industrial extension cable reels.

How Industrial Extension Cable Reels Work

Also known as cord reels, industrial extension cable reels are adaptable and can be easily installed on carts, ceilings, equipment, floors, and walls.

While managing the reach of an industrial extension cable, reels are often used to support the cabling during use. The required length of cabling is pulled out only as far as necessary to bring electricity to where it’s needed. When extended, cabling is in a payout position, also used for unwinding ropes.

Once extended to the necessary length, the equipment, device, or tool’s power cord can be inserted into the cable or receptacles installed into the industrial extension cable. Reels keep any unused length of cabling coiled around the drum. Many of these reels are also retractable, featuring a winding mechanism that enables cabling to rewind back onto the reel’s drum easily.

Understanding Various Types of Industrial Extension Cable Reels

These industrial extension cable reels come in various types and configurations. The best type depends on the application, which an engineer or other experienced technician can advise. There are a few basic types of reels used for managing industrial cabling. These cabling reels feature configurations that allow them to lift, drag, stretch, or retrieve the cables they control.

When choosing a retractable cord reel, it’s also essential to consider the type, cost, electrical constraints, environment, requisite length, shape, UL standards, and weight of the industrial extension cable. Reels for cabling also have operating parameters that consider length, which look at active length, hookup length, inactive length, lift height, payout angle, and sag allowance. Other considerations include whether the cable pays out horizontally or vertically, whether a ratchet is required to lock the reel in place once extended, and whether constant tension is necessary for the cable to follow the equipment.

Lift Reel

With the ability to feed an industrial extension cable vertically, reels used for lifting are typically mounted on ceilings and remain stationary. These are the cable reels most commonly used, not just in industrial settings but for other applications as well. They allow cables to be pulled down either by hand or mechanically, and their design usually only allows the reel to handle the cable’s weight, along with an outlet box. Lift reels often use ratchets to lock the cable once extended to the needed length. For industrial extension cables, reels like these are the most commonly used in classrooms, factories, retail stores, and many other applications and industries.

Drag Reel

In contrast, drag reels are usually mounted on or close to the floor, dragging cabling horizontally along the ground or through supports. Like the lift reel, it’s also installed stationary, with the cable pulled out by hand or mechanically. It also features a ratchet that allows the operator to lock the cabling once extended to the desired length.

Stretch Reel

These reels stretch out the industrial cable horizontally and are usually installed in an elevated position above the ground and sometimes even from the ceiling. Designed to mechanically and horizontally payout or rewind the industrial extension cable, these reels are either mounted on moving equipment or installed stationary. Because stretch reels allow some sag, a length equivalent to about ten percent of the distance it’s meant to stretch to must be accounted for with the cabling.

Retrieve Reel

This is a specialty reel used for railcars and similar applications. Paying out or winding up lengths of industrial extension cable, retrieve reels are generally mounted on mobile equipment or other moveable objects. Paying-out actions occur when the machinery on which the reel is mounted moves away while cabling winds up onto the drum when it approaches.

Cable Reel Materials 

Industrial extension cable reels are made from stainless steel, plastics like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), fiberglass, and aluminum. Those made from metal or metal alloys can support heavier and thicker cabling; these cable reels are often coated to prevent corrosion from harsh industrial conditions or weathering. In contrast, plastic reels tend to be used for lighter cabling and usually are relegated to indoor use. Additionally, higher-end industrial reels for cabling can withstand extreme conditions and are often made to be dust-proof, non-sparking and water-resistant, and resistant to shock, vibration, and weather.

Advantages of Using Industrial Extension Cable Reels

Used commercially and by many industries, reels extend the life of industrial extension cabling. They do this partly by only exposing the cable necessary for an electrical connection. But perhaps the central advantage cable reels provide is improving safety in industrial settings.

Advantages of industrial extension cable reels include: 

  • Averting accidents due to tripping over cabling.
  • Preventing cables from becoming nested or tangled.
  • Protecting industrial cables from abrasion, wear, and other damage that can lead to failure.
  • Reducing the risk of electric shocks when a live power cable comes into contact with water or other liquids used in an industrial setting.
  • Storing industrial extension cabling safely and securely.

Cable reels are a practical means for protecting and managing industrial extension cabling. Reels make industrial workplaces safer and are essential in many manufacturing environments. When cable reels are of the right type for the application, utilized correctly, installed appropriately, and have the proper specifications, they offer considerable convenience for those who use them.

Industrial Extension Cable Reels from Alert Reels

As a leading manufacturer of retractable reels for power cords and cables, along with other cable and cord management accessories, Alert Reel Manufacturing’s products are sold to commercial and industrial facilities throughout the United States and Canada. Our team takes great pride in designing and building custom cord reel solutions for our customers, with capabilities and processes available in-house to shorten lead times and increase efficiency. To learn more about how Alert can help make your commercial or industrial space more productive, we invite you to contact us today.