RoboReel has come up with a new solution to an old problem- the tangle of air hose that follows you across the workshop floor. Yes, I know that the idea of a hose reel is not a new one, but RoboReel has taken a decidedly high tech approach to “building a better mousetrap.” Unlike spring-operated or crank hose reels, RoboReel uses a small electric motor and “smart” controls to prevent the “whipping” action that happens when you let go of spring loaded reels. RoboReel manufacturer Great Stuff Inc. provided one for us to review.
RoboReel’s air hose reel comes in two styles: a ceiling mounted model for shop use, or a portable model for jobsite use or other more mobile applications. The portable model also includes a wall-mount bracket for storage and garage use. Both models share the groovy, space-age spherical styling that make them look like a futuristic space orb, or Marvin, the paranoid android from “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Not only is the RoboReel orb shape fun, but it is practical as well. The enclosed reel keeps the hose from skipping off the reel and tangling, and it keeps the hose clean while it’s stored away.
Unpacking the RoboReel, it is pretty much ready to work out of the box. No assembly is required, other that the three screws needed to hold up the bracket, if you choose the hanging option. The one major consideration is that the RoboReel requires an outlet nearby to operate. This may require the installation of an outlet on the ceiling, so plan your location carefully. Also, think about proximity to your compressor. Is it close enough to connect with a short hose, or do you need to think about running a hard air line? Again, this is not a problem for the portable model, but a serious consideration for shop use.
The RoboReel swivels 360º, and the 40’ hose provides a workspace 80’ in diameter, plenty of room for most home shops. Mounted at the tool end of hose is a remote control unit housed in a high-impact plastic ball that doubles as a hose stop. With the single button, you can not only retract the hose, but you can also set what the manufacturer calls “docking speed”- that is the point at which the hose slows down at the end of the retraction sequence. This allow you to avoid the hose “whipping” at the end, something spring-loaded units are notorious for. This can prevent all sorts of unexpected consequences, like spilling your coffee all over the workbench, cracking a window or sending a co-worker to the dentist. There is also a retractor button on the unit itself, although it doesn’t help much on the ceiling mounted unit. It’s a good backup, though, if the remote unit’s battery dies on a jobsite, you can still roll up the hose to put it back in the truck.
The hose itself is a nice, high quality, and I like the fact that it is replaceable. In fact, most of the parts are serviceable, including the remote. This tool is made very well, with longevity in mind. I also like the fact that the printed Users Guide is extremely well written and well illustrated, with step-by-step instructions for care and maintenance of the unit. The User’s Guide is also available as a PDF at the RoboReel website. The RoboReel is not cheap, but neither is it cheaply made. It very much feels like a professional-grade accessory that could hold up to industrial applications.
Great Stuff Inc. the manufacturer of the RoboReel air hose (not to be confused with Great Stuff spray foam, owned by Dow Chemical) also offers other excellent versions of the RoboReel for electrical extension cords and garden hoses. Great Stuff is headquartered in Austin, Texas and owned by entrepreneur Jim Tracey. Available for $299 with free shipping through Amazon.