Hose Reel Basics


Hose reels are more than just an option in the pressure washing business. A 50, 100 or 200 foot or longer hose just left piled in a heap is dangerous, counterproductive and unprofessional. A hose reel is the simple solution.

Reels not only save wear and tear on hoses, extending hose life, but also saves time in deployment and retracting allowing for more productive cleaning time without tangles. It is important to choose the correct reel designed properly for the equipment being used and the task at hand.

Things To Consider When Selecting A Hose Reel.
What cleaning applications and in what environments will the reel be used? Leaks are among the biggest complaint when it comes to pressure washer hose reels in general. The material used in the reel’s individual components is a big factor in the pressure washing industry. Many systems use harsh chemicals and other cleaning agents that can be corrosive to not only the plumbing of the reel but the exterior as well. Many reels now have powder coatings verses the wet paint coating. Stainless steel is the ultimate construction material that can be implemented by a manufacturer. Stainless Steel is a more expensive option, however. Perhaps the most popular solution is the black powder coat over a heavy steel, which creates a much stronger and more durable reel.

All coatings are not equal, if the powder coating is not prepped properly, then a poor finish will result. A product could develop flaking or cracking if improperly prepared prior to the coating process. Powder coating is a delicate process. Too little powder will result in “bleed through” allowing the uncoated metal to show through. While, too much powder will result in a very brittle finish that will chip and crack easily.

In addition to the type of coating used, the reel’s construction material needs to be substantial enough to support the application. Industrial grade carbon steel is the most effective for this. The pipe of the reel should be stainless steel if the reel is used with harsh chemicals. Many reels feature PVC drums because they resist crushing and harsh chemicals. However, hot water can sometimes melt or warp PVC drums. Once it warps, it’s weakened and can fail.

The swivel is the heart of the hose reel and should be constructed of chemical-resistant material such as stainless steel or brass. It must be able to rotate under pressure while maintaining a tight seal. A good swivel should also be repairable with a seal kit. Choose a swivel rated at 5000 psi to handle the typical 4000 psi pressure washer, which will spike several more hundred psi with a typical trapped pressure unloader. The swivel should also have ball bearing support and a grease fitting.

Some pressure washer unloaders will maintain pressure throughout the system when the trigger gun is cycled. During this cycle, the system can actually see a significant spike in pressure. This type of unloader allows any hose left on the reel to act just like a boa constrictor when the gun is cycled, squeezing the life out of the integrity of a reel’s drum, a strong metal construction is best in this case. Occasionally you get a “python effect” as neatly wound hose on the reel, when energized, causes each winding of hose to exert pressure on the hose next to it. This compounding of hose constriction can lead to tremendous forces exerted inwardly to the center core, which can eventually lead to crushing of the core. For best results make sure the hose is mostly uncoiled from the reel before energizing and inversely wind the hose up then shut down the pump.

The internal plumbing on the hose reel should match the machine. For instance, you do not need a reel with 3/4” internal plumbing if the pump only puts out 1500 psi and 2gpm. The reverse is also true. A reel with 3/8” internal plumbing is not necessary if the pump puts out 5000 psi and 6gpm. Matching the reel to the pump will ensure the chemical injector efficiency to remain 100 percent.

Mounting The Hose Reel.
There are three basic types of mountings: wall mounting, vehicle mountings, and mounting directly to the pressure washer. Wall mountings only work well if the system is going to be washing in the same place all the time, such as a wash bay. Pivot reels work well in these types of situations.

A pivot reel is designed to rotate so that it can face toward the same direction that the hose is being pulled and used. Some models will spin 180 degrees, while others are designed to spin a full 360 degrees. These are ideal for portable washer frame mountings. Pivot reels are great for shop, home, garden and lighter industrial applications. For more demanding applications, however, such as heavy industrial, automotive and truck mounts a rigid mount is required. Pivot reels are generally more user friendly because the hose does not get hung up on the flanges as it is being pulled out. It also makes for easier rewinding since the reel is already aligned with the hose.

Vehicle mountings can encompass everything from bed mounting, stacked systems, or mounting to the inside wall of an enclosed trailer. Be sure the reel is specifically designed for extreme-duty applications, because mobile was rigs will definitely put their durability to the test.

Finally, mounting the reel directly to the frame of the portable pressure washer, this makes sense if the pressure washer is used in many different locations. This type of mounting can be either permanent (bolted or welded) or temporary, so that the reel can simply be lifted off the washer frame to allow for easier portability. Although non-pivot reels can be effectively used for this application, pivot reels seem to work extremely well since the user is typically moving around the item being washed.

When two reels are to be mounted side by side, they can be built mirror image to allow inlet connections to be in one place. Outlet risers can be located top or bottom rewind for mounting location demands. Hose reels often come with a number of feature, either standard or as options. Here are a few of the most popular:

Braking Mechanisms
A drag brake is a hose reel brake designed to prevent unwanted roll out of the hose once the user stops pulling. A variety of drag brakes are available. Some are constant tension brakes, meaning the brakes drag is on all the time while the hose is both pulled out and reeled back in. As the user is pulling hose off of the reel a drag brake keeps a constant drag or brake on the axle of the reel. This means when the hose is no longer being pulled, the reel does not continue turning and unwinding the hose on the reel.

Cam-lever is a type of brake design that applies drag to the reel while in the “on” position then releases the brake for easy rewinding when flipped to the “off” position. Ideally, you want the brake’s drag released while rolling the hose back onto the reel. A third style of brake is a built in design that automatically applies tension while the hose is being pulled out, then auto-releases the tension when the hose is being reeled back in. It is important to make sure the amount of drag is adjustable on any brake style.

Hose Guides
The primary purpose of a hose guide is to help direct the hose both off and back on to the reel. A hose guide helps keep the hose on the spool during rewinding. There are several types of hose guides available. Some incorporate rollers, while other do not. A level wind feature actually guides the hose back onto the reel in a hands-free manner but is usually not used on manual rewind hose reels, the most common type of pressure washer reel.

Spring driven reels often feature four-way guide rollers. Large frame reels do not usually ship with guide rollers, but they are available. The guide rollers greatly reduce friction and extend the life of the hose. They also soften the transition the hose makes in the even that it is pulled at a sharp angle. Hose guides serve additional purposes as well. They usually turn into more of a grab handle for the user to hold onto while rolling the hose back onto the reel.

Level Wind Assemblies
This option guides the hose with precision back onto the reel. This allows a tighter wind and increases the capacity of the reel. It is especially useful when using longer lengths of larger ID or unmanageable hose.

Assisted Rewind
Trying to roll up 100 or more feet of one-inch thick walled hose onto a reel by hand is difficult if not impossible. This is where a strong electrical motor comes in handy. Electric rewind reels utilize a 12v DC, 24v DC, or 115v AC motor to retract hose. These reels are most often used with large diameter hoses or lengths greater than 100 feet. The desired amount of hose is manually pulled off the reel and a switch is used to actuate the motor and retract the hose. The time saved as well as wear and tear on the hose would more than justify the initial cost of the hose reel.

Locking Mechanisms And Reels
A locking mechanism and pin lock keeps the reel from un-spooling during transport. The pin should be 3/8 “ stainless steel to prevent shearing. There is really no question whether a pressure washing system needs a hose reel or not. Safety and increased efficiency alone make the decision of purchasing a hose reel, a no-brainer, also it extends the life of your hose.

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