Coiling up 50-feet of air hose at the end of the day is probably one of my least favorite things to do, so I was more than happy to test the RoboReel Air—a 40-foot self-retracting air hose. The device consists of an orb about the size of a playground ball and is attached to a roll cage. It looks a lot like a Pixar robot.
Accessing the hose is a matter of pulling it out of the orb to the length you need. When you’re finished using the hose, press a button at the hose and it automatically reels in. The device relies on an electric motor instead of a spring so it must be connected to both a compressor and a 120-volt receptacle.
The RoboReel Air is available as a portable or ceiling mounted model. I had the portable, which can be placed on the ground or hung from a wall-mounting bracket. As with the ceiling mounted model, the orb can spin 360 degrees, so no matter where you’re standing in relation to the unit, it is easy to pull the hose out and reel it back in.
If the hose meets any resistance while recoiling, it stops. This protects the hose and keeps it from knocking anything over or tripping anyone while it’s in motion. The recoiling action also slows down as the end of the hose nears the base unit, which prevents any whipping as it enters the orb. You can set the length at which the slow-down occurs. If the RoboReel is mounted to the wall you’d want to set it to slow down as the end of the hose is leaving the floor.
The hose uncoils with little resistance, and once extended, it sits nice and flat on the ground. Overall, the hose has a high-quality feel to it. The female connector at the end has a two-step disconnect that first releases the air pressure from the tool then lets you disconnect it. I can’t say it’s an essential feature, but it’s nice not having to deal with that blast of air as the tool is being taken off the hose.
I’ve used the RoboReel mostly for punch list type work. It’s a big bulky unit and it takes up some added space at the compressor. But the flip side is that it’s nice not to have extra hose cluttering things up. If I need 15 feet of hose, I only use 15 feet of hose. This is especially helpful when working in a busy hallway where a long hose would be all over the place.
The one real issue that I had with the tool is that the last 10 inches of the hose, from the female coupling to the retraction button, is very rigid. This makes the tool you are using feel heavier and reduces its maneuverability. The weight and stiffness of the end of the hose is a minor annoyance when you’re using a framing gun but a serious problem if you’re using brad guns and pinners. To deal with this, I plan on getting a 10-foot hose to keep with the RoboReel. This section of hose won’t reel into the orb but will provide the weight and maneuverability I’m accustomed to.
As for durability, I’ve had a RoboReel Power (which contains an extension cord instead of an air hose) for almost two years and it held up fine on the jobsite. The RoboReel Air is warrantied for four years or 4000 “winds.”
Overall, this is a nice accessory. It isn’t cheap, but worth considering if you make heavy use of pneumatics and dislike coiling and dealing with hoses.
Hose: 40-feet, ¼-inch
Rated to: 300 psi
Ceiling mount model also available
Price: $300 (optional wall bracket $35)