Learning From a Retractable Extension Cord Reel Restoration

My brother gave me this reel, which I think he got from an estate sale.

My garage only has an outlet on the wall by the house and one in the ceiling by the garage door opener, so this will come in handy as a quick way to get power anywhere in the garage. There really wasn’t much to restoring it. I cleaned it up, gave it some paint, and put a new grounding cord outlet on it.

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I love bringing things like this back to life because we’ve become too quick to discard things. Taking stuff apart also allows me to learn. I’ve often wondered how the wiring worked in a retractable mechanism like this. It’s pretty cool. I bet if I took apart my small wet/dry floor vacuum, the retractable cord in there would be built similar to this. Now I’m curious how retractable air hoses work!

There’s always a risk of breaking something when taking it apart though and that’s exactly what happened to me. The spring snapped when I would it up in the wrong direction. I was able to fix it by cutting the spring, drilling a new hole, and using a nail as a rivet. Hopefully it lasts.

I put everything back together and hung it in the garage.

New Table Saw Switch

Now that I’ve been in my workshop again, it’s time for some table saw upgrades I’ve been wanting to do. The bigger project I had planned for yesterday couldn’t happen because of part damaged during shipping, so I went with the easy one. Here’s the old switch on my saw.

It worked fine, but I wanted something cooler and safer, so I ordered one from Amazon for about $13. The hardest part was finding an electrical box to would work with the location where I wanted to install the switch. Then I built a simple scrap wood box around it and wired everything.

The START button is recessed and you really have to push it, so there is almost no chance of accidentally turning on the saw. The STOP paddle is a big target and at knee height, which will make it easy to turn off the saw without moving my eyes or hands if an operation becomes dangerous.

Tesla Wall Connector

Two weeks ago, I forgot my mobile charger on a trip up to Rogers City, where I charge with the same type of plug I have in my own garage. After 50 minutes on the road I turned, drove home to pick up the charger, and then had to stop in Bay City to supercharge because I’d already used over 100 miles of range. As I thought about it later that day, since the weather isn’t freezing anymore, I could have made it to my parents’ place with enough range to take a different route home, and supercharge in Gaylord.

Oh well, it was better to be safe than sorry. That night I told myself I wouldn’t let it happen again though, so I ordered a unit I could install in my garage. Then I could keep the mobile charger in the trunk where it belongs.

I also bought a new circuit breaker and wire in order to supply more current (amps) to the unit.

  • Tesla Wall Connector – $530
  • 25′ of 6/2 Romex Wire – $46
  • 60 Amp 2-pole Breaker – $19
  • Labor – $0

My total cost was just under $600 since I did the install myself. I’ve read on various Internet forums of people paying anywhere from $300 to over $2,000 for an electrician!

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I found a good spot in my garage to mount the plate and ran the wire from there down to the electrical panel.

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Installing a breaker and wiring it up can be scary and extremely dangerous, so a lot of people are smart to pay a professional. If you take your time and understand how the system works, it’s quite easy to do though. I turned off the main line and confirmed with a multimeter. The 30 amp 2-pole breaker in the lower right had been used for a hot tub several years ago and wasn’t even wired to anything anymore. I swapped it with the new 60 amp breaker. I closed everything up, turned on the main, flipped the breaker, and voila!

I love when everything works on the first try. Of course, I installed everything to code. 😉

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My Model 3 was already charged to 90%, which is as high as you want to charge the car for normal daily driving. I bumped the limit for a quick test and plugged in the car. With a 60 amp breaker, the maximum output of the charging unit is 48 amps, so I was in business. According to Tesla’s documentation, this should charge at a rate up to 44 mi/hr of range. It showed 36 here, but in my experience it takes a few minutes to ramp up and the chargers tend to slow down as they approach the charging limit, so I’ll have to check again after a day of driving. With the mobile charger and a 240 volt 20 amp outlet, my previous charge rate was 14 mi/hr of range, so it’ll be nice to have this boost.

The entire installation took a little over 2 hours since I was working alone and went slow to avoid mistakes.

Charging Upgrade

I drove up to Rogers City for the weekend to work on the charging situation before it gets too cold outside. Last night I plugged into a standard outlet (NEMA 5-15), which should only be able to charge at a speed of 3-4 miles of range per hour, according to Tesla’s home charging documentation. Somehow I was getting 5, which is still really slow.

I brought wire and a new NEMA 6-20 outlet with me, which is the same thing I have in my garage. So this morning we ran a line and installed the outlet. The box in my parents’ garage already had a free 240 volt 20 amp breaker, which made installation a breeze. It took 20-30 minutes for the charge speed to ramp up, which could be due to the colder weather, but I’m getting the same 14 miles/hour I get at home. Much better!

NEMA 6-20

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I’ve never used this outlet in my garage, but I’ll be using it a lot very soon. It is rated for 20 amps at 240 volts and is called a NEMA 6-20. The outlet was pretty old, so I replaced it with a new one, which cost less than $6, including the face plate.

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What will I be using this for? To charge my Tesla Model 3! The Model 3 can plug into a standard home outlet in the United States, which is a NEMA 5-15 (120 volt / 15 amp). The charge speed is really slow though, only getting 3 miles of range per hour. A NEMA 6-20 can produce 15 miles of range per hour. To put that in perspective, if the car was down to 10% battery it would get back up to 90% in about 16.5 hours.

When I replaced the outlet I noticed that the wiring was only 14 AWG, which is good for 15 amps at 240 volts. It should be using 12 AWG for 20 amps, so we’ll see what kind of charging speed I get when I have the car. If it’s only able to pull 15 amps, then the charge rate would drop to 11 miles of range per hour. Even that should be plenty of juice for my driving habits, but I’ll have to see.

I could always reroute an existing 30 amp circuit that isn’t used and install a NEMA 10-30 (240 volt / 30 amp) outlet, which gets 22 miles of range per hour. Or go big by installing a 50 amp breaker and a NEMA 14-50 (240 volt / 50 amp) outlet, which charges at 30 miles of range per hour and could provide a full charge overnight. If I’m really in a bind I can always drive over to the Meijer in Bay City which has Tesla Superchargers.

Upgrade an Old Extension Cord

My Dad had this old extension cord. When I looked in the female end I could see a lot of corrosion though. It’s a really long cord and from the feel of it, the wiring is high quality, so I didn’t want to trash it.

Easy upgrade. I cut the ends off and replaced them with new ones, which were about $4 each.

Circuit Breaker Install

My brother had asked me to help him upgrade some wiring for his shop, because he only had one 15 amp circuit powering the entire shop. Running his planer along with a shop vac would trip the breaker. I’d never installed a circuit breaker, but I was up for the challenge. This weekend I finally got some time to make a trip down.

For the new circuit we decided to use a 20 amp breaker in case he gets a machine that requires more juice. We (Mostly him, because crawling around in the hot attic was all on him.) ran 12/2 Romex wire through the attic and across the porch roof. Then we did a bunch of outlet rewiring to swap two 15 amp outlets with 20 amp ones connected to our new circuit. We also added a new 15 amp outlet from this circuit on the outside of the shop where they could plug in their patio string lights.

We saved the scary part of installing the new breaker for last, which might have actually been the easiest part of the job. The inside of that box is still extremely dangerous when MAIN is turned off, so I just had to be careful not to touch the wrong things (or die). After closing up the box and flipping the switches everything worked as planned!

Tinkering with a Bathroom Fan and Heater

I’ve been busy with travel, the truck, and summer, so I haven’t posted any projects or videos lately. Several weeks ago I did mess around with a bathroom fan and heater. Here are some pieces of random video from that process.