HomePartner UpdatesPowering School Bus Engine Block Heaters – Safely & Efficiently

Powering School Bus Engine Block Heaters – Safely & Efficiently

Prepped and Ready with Power All Winter

When Bullock Creek School District in Midland, Michigan, went looking online for a solution to some cord management issues in their school bus parking lot, they found the answer in the KH Industries Cord Reel Power Station. With retractable cord reels properly positioned for their bus fleet, the durable stations helped provide efficient power to their engine block heaters efficiently while keeping cords off the ground.

After years of outdoor damage to the engine block heater cords, the district’s goal was to keep cords from being damaged from plowing or from laying on the ground in water and snow.

Director of Transportation Mark Murray said their new Cord Reel Power Stations will “save money and time by not repairing cords all the time.”

After being included in a district bond project, Bullock Creek was able to install multiple cord reel stations around its property this past fall.

Where It Began

And Bullock Creek is far from the only school district bus fleet to take advantage of Cord Reel Power Stations.

Back in 2014 in Suffolk County, New York, Stony Brook University was looking for a way to power the engine block heaters for its campus vehicles without dragging extension cords across the parking lot.

In 2015, an electrical contractor in the Northeast was looking for a way to get safe, reliable power to their customer’s engine block heaters used by the fleet in frigid temps.

And the list went on.

Many universities and school districts were trying to solve the same problem – looking for power and cord management solutions in extreme cold weather areas. Knowing that other options like extension cords are likely to have a shorter shelf life and higher failure rates, customers looked for another answer. They wanted to reduce their down time caused by lesser quality solutions and considered a more robust, high quality option.

In many cases, the customer called KH Industries to see if there was a way to use heavy duty retractable outdoor cord reels to provide power and keep cords off the ground at the job site. From there, the KH Industries Cord Reel Power Station was born.

KH engineers developed the Cord Reel Power Station to provide on-site power by ensuring it could withstand the outdoor elements, provide proper cord management and meet customer specifications – a critical factor. By engineering a system that supplies power and utilizes heavy duty cord reels listed by UL & CSA, it ensured the equipment was being produced to meet stringent requirements on quality and safety.

How Can You Get One?

“It usually starts with an email or a phone call with what a customer is looking for, but that is just the beginning of the process to ensure we meet the needs of each specific application,” said Wendy Caparco, technical sales engineer at KH Industries.

From there, Caparco or another knowledgeable person on the KH team works with a variety of people before a sale.

“Each cord reel station installation is a little bit different,” she said. “Sometimes it’s for a large fleet, other times just a few vehicles. Sometimes we are working with a general contractor, other times a distributor, maybe an architect, or directly with the district representative from their maintenance or transportation department. The project can be part of a new facility or a retrofit to an old garage or bus lot. We are ready for any modifications that must be made.”

Download the product sheet.

The Cord Reel Power Station is designed with several standard models available and has the flexibility to be customized. Variants include 1-4 cord reels, 3’ or 6’ powder coated steel poles, and a variety of cord lengths.

And while every weather resistant Cord Reel Power Station has NEMA 4X cord reels, GFCI protection, 20 Amp rated cord reels and lifting hooks for easy installation, there are some additional options to choose from as well. Features like power indicator lights, high amperage panels, timers, power distribution/breaker panels, breakaway cables and raised foundation/Jersey barrier mounting kits are among the options.


Though he came in after the Cord Reel Power Station project began at Bullock Creek School District, Murray said he was pleased with the quick delivery and installation.

“The installation and setup seemed to go quickly; an electrical contractor performed the work. The LED indicators are nice to let us know if the power station is on and if it senses a load (block heater),” he shared.

What’s been critical for many districts is finding an easy-to-install, turnkey system they can implement successfully.

Whether a standard configuration or an order with a special custom feature, KH Industries has been able to provide customers with what they are looking for. Because the product is both designed and manufactured in the US, the sales team works directly with the in-house engineering department for ideal results.

More and more, customers have particular specifications to suit their needs, such as Grandview Central School District in Washington, which outfitted its bus fleet facilities with customized Cord Reel Power Stations with lights and timers in 2018.

So far the overall response to the Cord Reel Power Stations has been very good at many schools and universities, including Bullock Creek.

“The drivers like them. The maintenance department commented it will be nice not to worry about cords laying down in the snow frozen to the ground,” said Murray. “I like the indicator lights showing operation and the breakaway cables.”

Interested in contacting KH Industries to help create a power solution for you? Call us at 716-312-0088 or email us at


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