US 20010044954 A1
A control for controlling the flow of water to a bathtub and shower which may be readily assembled using standard electrically operated valves. The control includes a pair of electrically operated variable position valves, one in each of the hot and cold water supply pipes or lines for regulating the flow of water through the associated line. A manifold is provided downstream of the hot and cold water supply lines. A pair of pipes or lines extend away from the manifold to the tub and to the shower, each line being provided with a normally closed electrically operated “on/off” valve. An electrical control circuit is provided for operating the various valves so that water flow can be initiated either to the bathtub faucet or to the shower head, and so that hot and cold water flow rates may be varied.
1. A control for bathtub and shower which controls the flow of water from hot and cold water supply lines to either a tub faucet or a shower head, the control including:
an electrically operated variable position valve in each of the supply lines for regulating the flow of water through the line;
a manifold downstream of the hot and cold water supply lines which may receive the water from the hot and cold supply lines;
a first line leading from the manifold to the bathtub and a second line leading from the manifold to the shower, each of the first and second lines being provided with an electrically operated “on/off” valve; and
an electrical control circuit for operating the various valves so that water flow can be initiated to either the bathtub faucet or shower head, and so that hot and cold water flow rates may be varied.
2. The control for bathtub and shower as set forth in
3. The control for bathtub and shower as set forth in
4. The control for bathtub and shower as set forth in
 Applicant claim priority from his provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/178,380 filed Jan. 27, 2000.
 The present invention relates generally to a control for a bathtub and shower, and more particularly to an control system which may be readily assembled using standard electrically operated valves for controlling the flow of water to a shower or bathtub.
 Control devices for tubs and showers are well known in the art. By far the most common devices are manually operated valves, with one valve in the hot water supply pipe or line controlling the flow of hot water and another valve in the cold water supply pipe or line controlling the flow of cold water. The output from the two valves are merged into a common pipe which leads to the tub faucet, the pipe to the tub faucet also being connected to a shower head pipe or line. If the tub faucet is not blocked, flow will be to the tub faucet when one or both of the manually controlled valves are open. However, if the flow to the tub faucet is blocked when the manually controlled valves are open, then the water will be discharged through the shower head.
 In another widely used control system, both the hot and cold water lines are connected to a mixing valve, which when opened may be progressively turned from an all cold water position to an all hot water position, with many intermediate positions. In this type of system, the output is typically directed to the tub faucet, but it may be diverted to the shower in the same manner as the system described above. The disadvantage of this type of system is that frequently the mixing valve needs repair after a period of time, and since the mixing valve is typically proprietary to a specific manufacturer, it may be difficult to secure repair parts. In addition, with the vast majority of mixing valve arrangements, it is not possible to vary the output flow, thus the flow either being too much for some, and not enough for others.
 The patent literature discloses various approaches to electrical controls of water for tubs and showers. U.S. Pat. No. 4,923,116 (reissued as 35,018) and U.S. Pat. No. 4,700,884 both disclose such devices, in each of these an electronically controlled mixing valve is employed. U.S. Pat. No. 4,420,811 discloses the used of variable position hot and water valves which are controlled electronically, however, this apparatus uses a microprocessor control, as do the other two references mentioned above. None of these devices have enjoyed commercial success, and it is believed that they have failed to gain commercial success due to their complexity and attendant high costs.
 It is an object of the present invention to provide a control for tubs and showers of low cost, which control employs readily available components including electrically operated valves, and which may be readily installed.
 The foregoing is achieved by utilizing four commercially available electrically operated valves, which valves are assembled in a new manner with the hot and cold water supply lines each having a reversible electric motor operated variable position valve, the flow from the hot and cold water supply lines being merged into a manifold, and the discharge from the manifold being through shower and tub lines, each of these lines being provided with a normally closed two position solenoid valve. The valves are controlled by an electrical circuit, the electrical circuit being under the control of user controls, which include a number of touch pads mounted above membrane switches, there being an “off” touch pad which causes both the shower and tub line valves to be moved to their closed position, an “on” touch pad for the shower, and also an “on” touch pad for the tub, for selectively moving the associated valve to its open position. In addition, there are touch pads marked “+” and “−” for increasing or decreasing the flow of either hot water or cold water through the associated reversible electric motor operated variable position valve. All connection with either the plumbing or the electrical service can be readily made, and all components are mounted in one of two housings, one for the electrical user controls, and the other for the electronics and plumbing controls.
FIG. 1 is a view of a bathtub and shower which has been provided with the electrical user control of this invention for controlling the flow of water to either a bathtub faucet or a shower head.
FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the bathtub and shower shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is an enlarged view taken generally along the line 3-3 in FIG. 2, the valves and plumbing within the plumbing housing being shown in full lines.
FIG. 4 is a view of a touch pad used for controlling the operation of the valves, this view being taken generally along the line 4-4 in FIG. 2.
FIG. 5 is a view showing the fluid lines and valves in graphic symbols.
FIG. 6 shows the overall electrical control circuit for operating the various valves, including a power supply circuit.
FIG. 7 shows only the portion of the membrane touch control switches associated with the touch pad shown in FIG. 4.
FIG. 1 illustrates a typical bathtub/shower combination which is indicated generally at 10. Such a combination includes a bathtub 12 having a faucet 14, and a shower head 16, the tub being mounted within an enclosure having front, side, and back walls. In a typical bathtub/shower combination, fixtures are provided for controlling the flow of hot and cold water, and for also directing the flow to either the shower head or to the faucet in the bathtub. However, it is a feature of the present invention to replace such fixtures with electrically operated valves, the valves in turn being controlled by electrical user controls which are illustrated generally at 18, and which are carried by a housing 20 (FIGS. 2 and 3). The housing 20 is mounted on the wall of the shower between the faucet 14 and the shower head 16. Thus, the housing 20 will typically be secured to a stud (not shown) which extends vertically behind the wall of the shower, the housing having a portion which extends through the shower wall. Mounted on the front of the housing, that is to say the side accessible by the person who may be using the bathtub or shower, is a touch panel 22 best illustrated in FIG. 4. By touching the various touch pads illustrated in FIG. 4, and causing membrane switches behind the touch pads to be closed, the volume of the hot and cold water may be individually adjusted, and in addition, the discharge from the hot and cold water supply may be turned “off”, or it may be sent either to the shower or to the bathtub. The electrical controls will be described in greater detail below.
 With reference now to FIG. 3, the present invention includes two housings, the electrical user control housing 20 receiving the various electrical controls 18, and the valve housing 24 also receiving various valves, plumbing lines and connections, and electrical components, including the valve operators and power supply. The housing 24 is readily accessible for service. With further reference to the valve housing, a manifold 26 is mounted within the housing 24. The hot water supply line 28 is provided with a coupler 30 which can be quickly connected to a corresponding fitting 32 carried by a housing mounted hot water supply line 34 which is secured to manifold 26. A reversible electric motor operated variable position valve 36 is mounted in the housing hot water supply line 34. The reversible variable position valve can be moved between a full open position and a closed position through a plurality of intermediate positions so that the flow of hot water to the manifold may be regulated. The motor is under the control of the electrical circuit, and its operation will be more fully described below. The valve may be a DynaQuip™ Automated Ball Valve model 189023.1 manufactured by DynaQuip Controls of St. Clair, Mo.
 The cold water supply line 38 is connected to the manifold 26 in a similar manner. Thus, the cold water supply line 38 is provided with a coupler 40 which can be quickly connected to a corresponding fitting 42 carried by a housing mounted cold water supply line 44 which is secured to manifold 26. A reversible electric motor operated variable position valve 46, identical with the valve 36, is mounted in the housing cold water supply line 34. This valve is also under the control of the electrical circuit.
 Also mounted within the valve housing is another pair of valves, these valves being normally closed two position solenoid valves. One valve 50 is mounted within the bathtub line 52 mounted within the housing 24, and the other valve 54 is mounted within the shower line 56 mounted within the housing. The housing mounted bathtub line is connected to an external bathtub line 58 which extends to the bathtub faucet by couplers 60, 62, of conventional design. Similarly, the housing mounted shower line 56 is connected to external shower line 64 which extends to the shower head by conventional couplers 66, 68. The valves 50, 54 may be type 266 2 way n/c pilot operated solenoid valves manufactured by M & M International. These valves will always return to their closed position in the event of a power failure, which is an important feature of this invention. Furthermore, a water hammer arrester 70 may be installed on the manifold 26 to eliminate back pressure noise due to closure of the solenoid operated valves.
 The control circuit for the bathtub and shower valves 50 and 54 as well as for the reversible variable position hot and cold water supply valves 36 and 46 is shown in FIG. 6. This circuit includes a regulated 5 v. power supply which supplies current to various normally open membrane switches SW1-SW7, to various normally open coil operated relays RY1-RY4 as well as to various solid state relays SR1-SR6. While all of the electrical components are shown in a single figure, it should be noted that the membrane switches SW1-SW7 are mounted in housing 20 as shown in FIG. 7, the membrane switches being mounted on board CB-1 behind the touch panel 22, which is not shown in FIG. 7. The remaining electrical controls and power supply are mounted in the valve housing 24 on one or more circuit boards, for example boards CB-2 and CB-3.
 The relays RY2 and RY3 are wired and configured to become latching relays. Once one of these relays become energized by pushing either membrane switch SW2 or membrane switch SW3, two things happen. For example, when the normally open membrane switch SW2 is pressed, a circuit is closed causing the normally open relay RY2 to be closed. At this time the other relay RY3 becomes disabled, i.e., latched out. When the relay RY2 is closed, the high voltage relay RY4 is closed and at the same time 5 v. DC is supplied to the shower solid state relay SR5. This will in turn cause the normally closed valve 54 to open, permitting flow of water to the shower head 16. As long as relay RY2 is closed, relay RY3 will stay in its open disabled position. They can both be reset to their normal open position by touching the touch pad 22 to close the “off” membrane switch SW1.
 Control valves 36 and 46, as well as the solenoid valves 50 and 54, are 120 v. operated. The valve control circuit includes 6 solid state relays SR1-SR6. These solid state relays are “double back-to-back SCR controlled” due to the inductive loading of the solenoid coils. When either one of the “Shower” or “Tub” relays RY2 or RY3 is closed, the other relay RY2 or RY3 will be latched open, and 5 volts is supplied to the solid state relay SR5 or SR6, respectively. The valve 36 or 46 associated with the selected solid state relay SR5 or SR6 stays activated and energized until the “OFF” relay RY1 is momentarily energized by closing membrane switch SW1.
 The switches or touch pads SW4-SW7 for operating the solid state relays SR1-SR4 are shown in both FIGS. 6 and 7. When one of the switches SW4-SW7 is depressed momentarily, the regulated 5 volts is fed to the solid state relay SR1-SR4 associated with the depressed switch. The selected solid state relay is activated only the length of time the switch is depressed, the relays SR1-4 causing 120 v. AC to be supplied to the motor actuators on valves 36 and 46, but only for the length of time the associated switch SW4-7 is depressed.
 The power supply includes a step-down 120 v./6.3 v. transformer Tl which is connected to an AC supply of 120 VAC at 60 Hz. The input to the transformer is protected by a 2.5 Amp fuse F1. The secondary side of the transformer is rectified by a bridge diode D1, filtered by an electrolytic capacitor C1, regulated by a regulator transistor U1, and indicated by a LED D2. The regulated 5 volts@ 1.5 amps is then distributed by via output terminals B+ and B− in the manner illustrated in FIG. 6.
 The first time the control of this invention is used, all the valves 36, 46, 50 and 54 will be in their closed position. Typically the user of the shower/tub combination will press the touch pad 22 above the membrane switch SW3 to open the normally closed valve 50 to the tub. At this time the normally open relay RY4 will be closed which permits 120 v. ac to flow to the valves 36, 46, 50, 54. Next, both switches SW4 and SW6 will be closed for a length of time sufficient to initiate the desired flow into the tub. While these switches are closed, the motor associated with each of the valves 36 and 46 will move the valve from a fully closed position to an open position. The operator may hold the switches down long enough to fully open both valves, or the operator may hold them down only long enough to partially open both valves. In any event, after both valves 36 and 46 are opened, the operator will then further adjust the temperature of the water by momentarily contacting one of the switches SW4-SW7. For example, if the valves 36 and 46 had been open only to an intermediate position, and if the water is running too hot, the operator may touch switch SW6 to cause the cold flow to be increased. Alternatively, the operator may close switch SW5 momentarily to cause hot water flow to be decreased. The operator, now having set the desired temperature the first time, may now proceed with either a shower or a bath. If after setting the desired flow rate and temperature, the operator decides to take a shower, the operator will first cause the switch SW1 to be momentarily closed. This is necessary, since as long as the tub switch SW3 is closed, the operator cannot switch directly to a shower, and the shower switch SW2 is latched open when the tub switch SW3 is closed. When switch SW1 is closed, relay switch RY4 will return to its normally open position, which will in turn cause valves 50 and 54 to be returned to their normally closed position. After SW1 had been momentarily closed, the operator may now cause switch SW2 to be closed. This will cause current to flow to relay SR5, opening valve 54, as the high voltage relay RY4 has been closed. As both valves 36 and 46 are open at this time, flow will be initiated thought the shower line 56 and shower head 16. During the shower the operator may adjust the temperature of the shower by closing any one of the switches SW4-7. At the end of the shower, the operator will normally press the “off” switch SW1, which will cause the high voltage relay RY4 to open, which will in turn cause the valve 50 and 54 to be returned to their normally closed position.
 While the best modes of this invention known to applicant at this time have been shown in the accompanying drawings and described in the accompanying text, it should be understood that applicant does not intend to be limited to the particular details illustrated in the accompanying drawings and described above. Thus, it is the desire of the inventor of the present invention that it be clearly understood that the embodiments of the invention, while preferred, can be readily changed and altered by one skilled in the art and that these embodiments are not to be limiting or constraining on the form or benefits of the invention.