A popular model by a trusted name in the industry that earns praise for its smooth operating rollers and solid steel build throughout. Comes with a 3/8 in. x 50 ft. hose.
It's heavier than most, making it challenging to install in some locations such as ceilings. The hose fittings have been known to leak, but this doesn't affect the reel performance.
An excellent deal, thanks to its sturdy craftsmanship, 3/8 in. x 50 ft. polymer hose and affordable price. Earns praise for smooth retraction that rarely fails.
Not quite built for professional level use, but it provides features and reliability that suit most users' needs.
Lightweight and fairly straightforward to install. 3/8 in. x 50 ft. hose included in the sleek-looking enclosed design.
Roller mechanism has been known to stick, lock up, or not recoil smoothly. Long-term durability is questionable considering the plastic construction.
A versatile, steel hose reel that can be mounted or placed on the floor – no-slip rubber bottom "boots" keep it in place at floor level. Built to last – constructed of 13-gauge steel.
Doesn't come with a hose – just 5 ft. of leader hose. You also have to purchase hardware for installation. Some reports of rust developing with outdoor use. Hose connection is in an awkward location.
Versatile mounting and 9 arm positions make it practical for most uses. Solid steel build that includes 3/8 in. x 50 ft. rubber air hose and limited 1-year warranty that adds to its value.
The downside of the heavy-duty build is that it's somewhat awkward to install. Occasionally catches/locks/wobbles when recoiling.
To get the best use out of your compressor – whether you want mobility in the workshop or around the house and yard – you often need more hose than is supplied as standard. The problem with loose hose is that it can soon end up snaking around everywhere. It's not just untidy; it's also a dangerous trip hazard. The answer is a good air hose reel, either a model that you can wind your existing hose onto or one that comes with its own hose.
The air hose reel market offers a surprisingly wide range of features. We've been looking at what's available so we can give you the benefit of our research. In addition to the models we recommend, we've put together this buyer's guide, which provides all the details you need to help you decide which one is right for you.
Most air hose reels for the homeowner are intended to be dual purpose. You can either attach it to your compressor or to a water supply. With the proper fitting on the end, the reel allows you to do anything from inflating your car tires to watering the lawn. The other areas we’ll look at are the mounting type, the type of hose (when supplied), and any other features that might have an impact on your choice.
The mounting brackets on air hose reels are invariably steel, with either two holes or four.
Two holes: Relatively lightweight homeowner models usually only require two holes. Mounting plates are slender, and quite discreet as a result. Some are also hinged, so you can swivel the air hose reel itself 90° and leave it flush against a wall when not in use.
Four holes: Open reels, with a more industrial focus, often have four holes, and many can be mounted to the floor, wall, or ceiling. With a potential capacity of up to 200 feet of hose, these reels need to be very secure if they're fixed in an overhead position.
It's important not to overlook the type of hose provided with the air hose reel. Note that the ends of the hose near fixings are the most prone to kinking. As a preventative measure, many manufacturers fit bend restrictors, something worth looking out for.
Please note: These temperatures are a guide only. These are all synthetic materials and manufacturers might create their own hose chemistry, thus increasing operating range.
PVC: Polyvinyl chloride is cheap and very lightweight, but it isn’t as flexible as other materials and can kink badly, leading to damage. The typical temperature range for PVC is 20°F to 145°F.
Hybrid polymer: This is a good material for mid-priced general-purpose hose and is quite resistant to kinking. The typical temperature range is -10°F to 150°F.
Rubber: This material is very flexible, won't kink, and comes at a similar price to hybrid polymer. Its one drawback is that it's quite heavy. The typical temperature range is -20°F to 165°F.
Polyurethane: This hose is flexible, light, strong, and doesn't kink easily, but it's expensive. The typical temperature range is -40°F to 160°F.
Most air hoses are rated for a maximum air pressure far higher than people usually need: 150 pounds per square inch (psi) is the lowest we came across, and 300 psi is common. As long as the hose is undamaged, these operating pressures incorporate a wide safety margin.
Most air hose reels are fitted with a retractable hose that rewinds automatically, usually via a spring mechanism. Good reels are fitted with a ratchet to stop the hose from doing this every time you let go. You can pull out the length you need and it will stop there until you want to put it away.
An additional convenience on some air hose reels is an auto level system. Not only does the hose rewind itself but it also fills the reel evenly. There's very little chance of a jam, and it will play out smoothly the next time you use it.
The guide arm on an open air hose reel can be one- or two-sided. In general, two-sided provides more support and resists twisting. However, the thickness of the metal used has an impact, and high-quality single-sided arms seem just as resistant to flex as their more expensive counterparts.
Guide arms are usually fitted with rollers, not only to give a smooth action but also to prevent the hose abrading. It's worth checking, though, because some guides have steel components that could wear the hose eventually.
Air hose reels should come with a stopper (it looks a bit like a rubber ball or a donut) that clamps around the hose near the end. When the hose is retracted, the stopper rests against the hose guide, keeping the hose neat and easily accessible. It's particularly important on enclosed reels because it stops the hose from disappearing inside!
Most preloaded air hose reels are supplied with a leader hose that runs from the reel to your compressor, but some aren’t. You might already have something suitable, but if not, check before ordering. Also check the length supplied. Some are only three feet long, which could be too short if you're mounting the hose reel on a wall or ceiling.
Most hoses are 3/8 inch in diameter with 1/4 inch National Pipe Tapered Thread (NPT) connectors. There are always exceptions, though. Check when ordering.
Bear in mind that if you have a modest compressor – as many homeowners do – you could experience a performance drop in your tools when using a long hose. It's not actually the pressure that's less but rather the airflow, the cubic feet per minute. As a general rule, use the shortest hose possible. If you only need 25 feet, it's not necessarily a good idea to buy a longer hose because you think it might come in handy one day. If you absolutely need a long hose, you might have to upgrade your compressor.
If you already have a hose and you're just looking for a carrier, there are some very cheap air hose reels around.
Carts: We would avoid all-plastic models. Some of the carts are fine for garden hose, but we prefer the durability of steel. You'll find good, epoxy resin-coated reels at around $35 for a 50-foot capacity model, rising to just under $100 for big 200-foot versions.
Enclosed reels: These are popular as a dual-purpose option for the homeowner. Most fall within a fairly narrow price range of between $80 and $100. You'll usually get 50 feet of hose included, though a few are only 30 feet, so be careful.
Open reels: Open air hose reels tend to be the professional's choice. These are generally more ruggedly built to put up with industrial and engineering environments, and they usually cost a little more. It's unlikely you'll find one that costs much under $100. Most of the best ones are in the $200 to $300 range, and you can pay up to $400 for really heavy-duty models.
Take care of your air hose reel. Check the fixings and connectors periodically and retighten if necessary. Lightly oil moving parts occasionally with a silicone lubricant.
Avoid rewinding a dirty hose. Grit and other contaminants could damage the mechanism. Wipe the hose down before putting it away. If your air hose reel retracts automatically, just hold a clean cloth around it while it works.
Don’t cross-thread connections. Many hose fittings are brass, which is much softer than steel. Be careful when making connections that you don't cross-thread them. It will not only damage the components but will also almost certainly cause leaks.
Empty the hose of water before winter. If you're using your air hose reel for water, and it's going to be outside over the winter, use your compressor to blow through and clear out any remaining water. If it freezes in the hose or fittings, it could split them.
If you're looking for a tough, basic model with plenty of capacity (and you don't mind winding the handle), the Ironton Air Hose Reel is made from 18-gauge steel, powder coated for protection, and will take 100 feet of standard 3/8-inch hose (not included). You'll seldom be criticized for buying DeWALT, and its DXCM024-0343 Double Arm Hose Reel is another example of the company's build quality and attention to detail. It's got auto-retraction, self-leveling wind system, four-roller hose guide, and an operational range of -40°F to 150°F. The Milton Industries 260-50D Dual-Arm Auto-Retractable Air Hose Reel is a high-quality, heavy-duty device that can be mounted on floor, wall, or ceiling. With its premium nylon-reinforced rubber hose, it's definitely aimed at professional users.
Q. Are enclosed air hose reels better than open models?
A. Many people feel they're tidier, particularly if you want one in the backyard. However, the quality of the enclosure is important. Plastic shells can be damaged easily if you're not careful, and some are criticized for poor mechanisms. If they jam, you might have to disassemble the case. It's certainly not a problem with all enclosed air hose reels – some are praised for how well they work – but an open reel has fewer things that can go wrong and they’re generally considered the professional option.
Q. Is a hybrid air hose better than rubber?
A. Hybrid is a very good compromise between the light weight of PVC and the flexibility and durability of rubber, though the latter remains popular, and there's often little difference in price. Be careful with specification, though. There are lots of different hybrids available, and some don't cope as well with the cold as others. Rubber is better when temperatures get below freezing.
Q. What's the difference between SBR rubber and NBR rubber?
A. Both are synthetic rubbers. SBR is general purpose and what you'll see most often. NBR has high resistance to oils and petroleums but is considerably more expensive, so it’s usually used on professional air hose reels in garages or engineering workshops. You will occasionally see EPDM rubber, which is known particularly for its resistance to harsh weather.
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