Due to their adjustable length and high functionality, retractable extension cord reels are practical for several purposes. You can use it in your garage to connect your power tools or inside your home for plugging in any electrical hardware. It keeps your work area free from messy wires and tripping hazards.
Choosing the best extension cord reels can be tricky, though, due to the availability of several brands with varying features. You can follow a buying guide like https://www.circuitsathome.com/best-retractable-extension-cord-reels/ and choose the best one accordingly. But, before you proceed, understand how to use this device to make your life easy and tangle-free.
Choose the Right Cord for Your Requirements
You can find retractable extension cord reels in three main categories according to the user’s needs. They are frequent use, outdoor use, and occasional use. Choosing the right type of cord as per your needs can make the decision easier.
However, if you aren’t sure how to identify various brands for their usage compatibility, look for specific signs. Typically, cord reels with the letter S are perfect for general indoor applications. J cords come with 300-volt insulation, T cords have sturdy jackets made of vinyl thermoplastic, and P cords are the household extension reels having parallel wire construction.
Similarly, cords with W ratings are designed for rugged outdoor use. They differ from indoor cords in their insulation and design. Usually, you can buy outdoor cord reels with bright plastic, vinyl, or rubber covers to keep them safe from the elements.
Check the Cord Length
Once you decide the type of retractable extension cord reel you need, next is selecting the appropriate cord length. Here again, the decision relies on your application needs.
Remember, the cord reels are available in varying lengths that can go up to 50 feet for outdoor applications. If you need this device for indoor use only, buy one with a smaller length to suit constricted spaces.
Check the Operations
A retractable extension cord reel is designed to keep your spaces wire-free. You can retract as much wire as you need without any hanging cords surrounding you. However, don’t forget to check the mechanical function of the reel beforehand. It contains a torsional steel spring that allows the retracting function. It has a ratcheting mechanism, due to which the spool will lock at different rotational configurations when you retract the cord.
This function depends on a spring-loaded gear and pawl. While the gear has teeth covering around 2/3 of the reel’s circumference, the remaining 1/3 portion lets the pawl slip on the teeth in a single direction. However, when it comes to the toothless region, the pawl can quickly change directions and allow smooth retraction.
Choose a 3-Prong Plug Cord
Mostly, the retractable extension cord reels are available with 2 or 3 prongs to suit different needs. In a 3-prong plug design, one prong refers to hot, the second is for neutral, while the third prong acts as a connection to the ground wire. Most importantly, the third-prong reduces the risk of electrical fires or shocks by dissipating the power surges in a safer place.
The only restriction is you need 3-prong outlets to use this extension cord. Houses with outdated wiring may need little upgrades to convert the outlets into safer and advanced 3-prong versions. If you check out the options at expert buying guide websites like https://www.circuitsathome.com/best-retractable-extension-cord-reels/, you will find devices that allow you to reset the circuit breaker, too.
Don’t Overburden the Retractable Extension Cords
Since every electrical cord reel has a maximum amperage or electrical current limit, you should know how to use it safely. You can find extension cords with AWG or American Wire Gauge ratings for measuring the wire gauge system of electrical cords.
For household uses, buy a cord with a lower AWG number that comes with higher capacity and thicker wires. So, check the device you need to connect and match it with the extension cord having the amp rating or AWG rating higher than the device.
For connecting multiple devices, measure the overall amp requirements, and check if your cord can handle them simultaneously. This way, you wouldn’t over-burden your extension cord and avoid the risks of your electrical devices blowing up. However, if the power requirements are specified in watts on a device, you can divide it by 110 for conversion into amps.
In cords without any amp rating, you can estimate their capacity by considering the wire gauge. For example, 16 gauge extension cord reels are perfect for light-duty applications, while you need 10-12 gauge cord for heavy-duty usage in air compressors, chainsaws, circular saws, etc.
Lastly, do not treat your extension cord as a surge protector. A surge protector diverts or blocks power spikes by grounding them. However, extension cords have no such feature, and you may damage your sensitive electronics if even a minor surge occurs.
Keep these safety tips in mind to buy the best retractable extension cord reels and use it without any risks.