AC power is obviously an indispensable feature for any shop, to power an array of electric components. For on-demand power (for operation of various electric hand tools), all of us are accustomed to using extension cords and spring-retractable extension cord units. Loose extension cords plug into wall sockets and live a tough life, being dragged around the shop, getting walked on, getting filthy from shop floors, being tangled into a frustrating puzzle when not handled or stored carefully, etc. Spring-retractable power cord units (mounted to a wall or a ceiling) are sometimes finicky during pull-out, position locking and retraction. Also, it’s common for spring-assist units to sometimes wildly whip the cord during fast retraction, with the possibility of the power cord head smacking into the operator or a nearby vehicle. We’ve come to accept these shortcomings as a natural aspect of a shop environment.
Sometimes, technology works in our favor. An example is the new RoboReel power cord system. While the features may at first seem like overkill to some, the benefits quickly become appreciated to even the most stubborn of us.
The 50-foot 12-gauge power cord is stored inside a free-pivoting ball housing that features an electric motor. Two versions are available, including a portable unit and a ceiling-mount unit. The portable version features a built-in carry handle and resting frame. It can be bench-mounted or wall-mounted with the appropriate optional brackets, or carried around the shop to any convenient location. The ceiling mount, as the term implies, mounts to the shop ceiling.
Now for the really cool features. The ball housing pivots in all planes, aligning with the direction of the extended cord. The cord’s power head (where you plug in your tool) features a center-located button that allows you to turn the power on/off and to retract the cord. Simply press the button, and the power shuts off (indicated by the LED lights turning off). Press the button once more, and the electric motor retracts the cord back into the ball housing.
When the cord retracts to a pre-programmed point (yes, you can actually program this unit), the cord slows down until it reaches its stopping point. This slow-down feature eliminates the possibility of cord whipping. The design totally eliminates cord tangling and twisting. It’s like having a personal robot that takes care of cord retraction and storing. No more messy tangles.
By the way, power to the receptacle remains off until you begin to pull the cord out of its housing. When the cord is pulled out to a length of 18 inches, the power activates the receptacle, ready to accept whatever tool or device that you plan to plug in and use (no need to perform a separate step to turn the power head on). LED lights on the receptacle provide indication of available power.