New generation of ceiling mounted cord reels provide real solutions

A Hubbell “rethink” on cord reel design make them one man installable, self-powering and UL 355 compliant, with full Open Neutral Protection in GFCI.

For generations contractors have loved the time-saving convenience of their cord reels, and no wonder. Just plug it in and you have instant power nearly anywhere on the job site you want to be. Want to be somewhere else? Just pick it up, take it with you, and you have power there too.

It was just a few years ago though that, after years and years as a strictly “carry around” workhorse, a new application was envisioned and users began to install cord reels in the ceilings of specific rooms, in lieu of other extended power options such as table or floor mounted receptacles. College and high school labs and workshops, especially, may have dozens in one room, with the cords hanging down and delivering power right where it needs to be. The huge advantage is endless flexibility; reconfigure the space anytime without worrying about being committed to hard-wired infrastructure.

Rethinking the venerable cord reel

But adapting this mobile workhorse to a “semi-permanent” status was not without its challenges. Being that cord reels could weigh upwards of 50 pounds, installing them up in the ceiling could be a two or three man, intensely back breaking job. Hubbell heard this issue time and time again from contractors, and the company came up with a solution—a special bracket that could easily be installed by one person, which then allowed the new inREACH® cord reel to be more readily and smoothly slipped into place. Contractors quickly praised this “back saving” solution. And, although we couldn’t have predicted it at the time, now, in the age of COVID, by eliminating the need for installers to be “right on top of each other” on the worksite, it has become a likely life saving solution as well.


As Hubbell designers continued to rethink the cord reel installation process, and, listening to our customers, the company added another innovation—the outlet box can be mounted directly adjacent to the bracket rather than separately in the ceiling, saving installation time and the need for additional wiring.

And speaking of ceiling, Hubbell recently delivered the first plenum-rated enclosure, a smartly designed metal box which houses the cord reel. Full of well-thought out quick-installation features, it’s a UL 2416 listed enclosure which allows easy installation in drop ceilings while isolating it safely from the ceiling space per national and local building codes.

Safety is the greatest innovation of all

Indeed, with safety the paramount focus in every device we build, Hubbell pioneered another innovation in the inREACH cord reel series that is perhaps the most impactful of all. As cord reels began to be used more and more by nonprofessionals, especially students, optimum foolproof user safety began to become more and more of a concern. A frequent observation was ensuring that cord reels had GFCI protection, with a circuit breaker built in that would shut off the power in the event of a ground fault—a potential life saver in the event of an electric device getting accidently immersed in water, for example. Unfortunately, however, GFCI cord reels could sometimes lose their efficacy if the neutral inside the cable were to be damaged, and still deliver a dangerous shock. This issue was exacerbated by the fact that the cord in a cord reel would undergo more frequent movement and manipulation, as opposed to cords in many other types of applications.

For these reasons, UL updated the UL 355 Standard for cord reels to include Open Neutral Protection on GFCI cord reels. Complying proved to be a technical challenge, and I’m proud that Hubbell was the first to solve it—by creating a separate module with the Open Neutral Protection that can identify issues without interfering with the GFCI protection.

I can’t stress to contractors enough how vitally important it is to ensure that every cord reel you install in a school environment—or anywhere—is fully compliant with the latest UL 355 Standards—and the inREACH series makes it easy to do so.

Try a quick install bracket—on us

Want to get the first taste of some of the benefits of the inREACH cord reel? We’ll make that easy for you also. We’ll give you a free quick install bracket to try. It’s a “win-win”—we know that once you use one in a room full of “traditional” cord reel ceiling installs we are certain that you will be back to Hubbell with an order for more. But, first things first—call us or your distributor and try one out on your next job site. You will be amazed. Really, “reely” amazed.

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