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Publication numberUS20020069460 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/061,819
Publication dateJun 13, 2002
Filing dateFeb 1, 2002
Priority dateSep 1, 2000
Publication number061819, 10061819, US 2002/0069460 A1, US 2002/069460 A1, US 20020069460 A1, US 20020069460A1, US 2002069460 A1, US 2002069460A1, US-A1-20020069460, US-A1-2002069460, US2002/0069460A1, US2002/069460A1, US20020069460 A1, US20020069460A1, US2002069460 A1, US2002069460A1
InventorsJeffrey Huffington, James Schiesser, Robert Alvord, Bay Estes, Kimble Vitkus
Original AssigneeRanco Incorporated Of Delaware
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Flexible spa control system and method of using same
US 20020069460 A1
Abstract
A spa communication system for establishing a communication link between a central spa box having a control module and spa components in a spa system. The spa control module is connected to the spa components through a communication link, and the spa control module sends command signals to at least one spa component and receives status information from at least one spa component on the communication link.
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Claims(17)
What is claimed is:
1. A spa communication system for establishing a communication link between a spa box and spa components in a spa system comprising:
a spa box having a spa control module, said spa control module having a communication link;
at least one spa component being in communication with said spa control module through said communication link; and
whereby said spa control module controls said spa component by providing a command signal on said communication link to said spa component.
2. The spa communication system of claim 1 wherein said spa component provides at least one status parameter, said at least one status parameter communicated to said spa control module via said communication link, said spa control module providing said status parameter to a user interface panel in response to a user selection.
3. The spa communication system of claim 1 wherein said spa control module controls at least one spa component on said communication link with a control signal, said control signal including a spa component identification address portion and a control portion, said at least one spa component having a spa component identification address, said at least one spa component performing an operation in response to said spa control module when said spa component identification address portion of said control signal matches said spa component identification address.
4. The spa communication system of claim 3 wherein said at least one spa component comprises at least one jet for directing water flow within a spa enclosure and at least one pump for pumping water to said at least one jet.
5. The spa communication system of claim 4 wherein said at least one spa component further comprises heating means to heat the water as the water flows through the spa, said heating means maintaining the water near a user settable temperature setpoint, said heating means including an interlock mechanism to prevent said heater from heating the water when water temperature exceeds a temperature safety cut-off level, said spa control module providing commands on said communication link to said heating means, said at least one pump, and said at least one jet to circulate and heat water and create a turbulent water flow within said spa enclosure.
6. The spa communication system of claim 3 wherein said communication link comprises an I2C interface and said control signal is configured as an I2C control signal.
7. The spa communication system of claim 3 wherein said communication link comprises an RS-485 interface and said control signal is configured as an RS-485 control signal.
8. A method of providing control signals in a spa system having a spa box and spa components, the spa box having a spa control module and a user interface panel, the method comprising the steps of:
addressing a command signal to at least one of said spa components;
sending said command signal on said communication link to at least one of said spa components; and
controlling said at least one of said spa components.
9. The method of claim 8 further comprising the steps of:
requesting status information from at least one of said spa components;
providing at least one status parameter of said at least one of said spa components to said spa control module through said communication link; and
providing said status parameters to the user interface panel.
10. The method of claim 8 further comprising the steps of:
requesting status information from at least one of said spa components;
providing at least one status parameter of said at least one of said spa components to said spa control module through said communication link; and
storing said status parameters in memory.
11. The method of claim 8 further comprising the steps of:
providing a plurality of said spa components with a spa component identification address; and
controlling said plurality of said spa components with a plurality of control signals on said communication link, each one of said plurality of control signals having a spa component identification address portion and a command portion; and
each of said plurality of spa components performing an operation in response to said control signal when said spa component identification address portion of said control signal matches said spa component identification address.
12. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of formatting said control signal for the I2C standard.
13. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of formatting said control signal for the RS-485 standard.
14. A method of detecting and controlling an additional spa component in a spa system, the spa system having a communication link between a spa control module and spa components, the additional spa component having a spa component address and connected to the communication link, the method comprising the steps of:
performing one of polling spa component addresses in the spa system and providing a general call command on said communication link, the general call command requesting an answer from each spa component on said communication link;
receiving a response from the additional spa component;
determining the spa component address of the additional spa component;
providing a request for control information to said additional spa component with said spa control module on a communication link, the request sent to the spa component address of the additional spa component;
receiving the control information; and
storing the control information in memory, the control information used to control the additional spa component.
15. The method of claim 14 further comprising the step of pre-assigning the spa component address, the step of pre-assigning comprising the steps of:
listing said spa components and potential additional spa components of said spa system;
determining a range of spa component addresses for said spa control module to control;
assigning each of said spa components and said potential additional spa components a spa component address within said range of addresses.
16. The method of claim 14 further comprising the steps of:
assigning zones within said spa system where spa components are located;
determining which zone each of said spa components is located;
assigning each of said zones a zone range of addresses; and
assigning each of said spa components an address within said zone range of addresses assigned to the zone where each of said spa components is located.
17. The method of claim 16 further comprising the steps of:
determining which of said zones said additional spa component is located within;
assigning said additional spa component an address within said zone range of addresses assigned to the zone where said additional component is located.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS

[0001] This patent application is a divisional of copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/653,748.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The instant invention relates to spa systems, and more particularly to a spa control system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] It is well known that spas, whirlpools, therapeutic baths, and the like are designed to provide relaxation and a hydrotherapeutic massage. In the past, spa controllers were specifically designed and built for a known spa configuration. These spa controllers had to be replaced with new spa controllers whenever any new feature or component to the spa was added or additional spa controllers had to be added. This required significant engineering and manufacturing effort to modify the spa and was not cost effective.

[0004] As consumers demanded more features, the industry responded. Features such as the ability to remotely control the spa were added to the controllers. These features made operating the spa system easier and more consumer-friendly, but the ability to add components was still problematic and required significant effort and cost to add components to the spa system.

[0005] In response to consumer demand, more sophisticated controllers were offered with limited expansion capabilities. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,245,221 ('221) issued to Schmidt, et al. shows a spa control system having limited expansion capability. In the '221 patent, additional control circuit cards are added to the basic control system. Each additional control circuit card carries a separate control circuit for the particular function that is being added to the spa system. The number of cards that can be added is fixed, which limits the ability to add additional features. Additionally, this approach requires the consumer to open up the controller, remove the old spa control card and add the new spa control card. Many problems are associated with doing this. An unsophisticated consumer could bend connector pins, install cards in the wrong place, or damage the controller in a number of other ways. Requiring the consumer to open the controller can make the manufacturer liable if the consumer is injured while going through the above installation process and also makes warranty claims questionable.

[0006] Spa systems are increasingly becoming more and more complex. New components are being developed. Spa component manufacturers are incorporating connections for microprocessor based control of simple devices such as light fixtures and are even providing intelligent spa components that themselves are microprocessor controlled.

[0007] There is a continued need for a spa controller that includes a basic operational system that can control simple devices as well as intelligent spa components, and that has the flexibility to easily add additional spa components to the spa system.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] In view of the foregoing, it is therefore an object of the instant invention to overcome these problems and other problems associated with the current state of spa control systems. More particularly, it is an object of the instant invention to provide an expandable spa controller that can control both intelligent spa components and simple spa components. It is a further object of the instant invention to provide a flexible spa control system that can accommodate the addition of optional modular spa features. It is an additional object of the instant invention to provide a spa control system that is compact in design, that requires a minimum amount of electrical wiring for controlling spa components, and that is cost and labor effective to install.

[0009] In accordance with these and other objects of the invention, it is a feature of the instant invention to provide a communication system that allows communication between the spa controller and spa components. It is a further feature of the instant invention to provide a spa control system that provides a user interface that allows a user to check operational status and spa components at a single location.

[0010] To accomplish the above and other objectives, and in accordance with the above and other features, a spa control system is provided comprising a central spa box having a spa control module, at least one spa component, and a communication link between the spa controller and the spa component. The spa controller provides command signals and status request signals to the spa components through the communication link. These signals include a spa component identification portion that identifies which spa component is being addressed by the spa controller.

[0011] In accordance with the above, a method of detecting and controlling an additional spa component in a spa system comprising the steps of assigning a spa component identification address to the additional spa component, connecting the additional spa component to a communication link, determining the address of the additional spa component with the spa controller, providing a request for control information by the spa controller and using that control information to control the additional spa component.

[0012] These and other aims, objectives, advantages, and features of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description all taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

[0013] Other objectives and advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014]FIG. 1 is a simplified block diagram of the system according to the invention;

[0015]FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a spa heater component operating in the system in accordance with the invention;

[0016]FIG. 3 is an illustration of a structure of a signal used in the system according to the invention;

[0017]FIG. 4 is a flow diagram showing how addresses are assigned according to the invention;

[0018]FIG. 5 is a flow diagram showing how additional spa component addresses are assigned according to the invention; and

[0019]FIG. 6 is a simplified block diagram of the invention with additional components added.

[0020] While the invention will be described in connection with certain preferred embodiments, there is no intent to limit it to those embodiments. On the contrary, the intent is to cover all alternatives, modifications and equivalents as included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0021] In general, the present invention is applicable to spas, whirlpools, therapeutic baths, and the like. For purposes of illustration only, general concepts and principals of the present invention are illustrated in a spa system. As used hereinafter and in the claims, the term “spa system” shall be understood to include spas, whirlpools, therapeutic baths, and other sorts of liquid containing vessels in which humans or animals are immersed for a variety of reasons.

[0022]FIG. 1 illustrates a spa system 20. In the spa system 20, various spa components such as jet pump 22, jet pump 24, bubbler 26, and water heater 28 are connected to a spa control module 30 located within a spa box 32 through a communication link 34 as will be described in detail hereinbelow. While FIG. 1 shows jet pump 22, jet pump 24, bubbler 26, and water heater 28, it is recognized that the spa system 20 may have additional spa components such as remote control panels, ozone generators, etc. that are connected to spa control module 30 via the communication link 34.

[0023] In addition to the spa control module 30, the spa box 32 also has a power transformer element 36 and user interface 40. The transformer element 36 is used to convert electric power from an electric power source 38 to a control power and it provides the control power to the spa control module 30. A user interface 40 provides user input to the spa control module 30. The user interface 40 can be a touch screen, a key pad, a keyboard, a wireless interface, a voice recognition system, etc. It should be understood that these are just representative examples of devices to interface to the spa control module 30.

[0024] The jet pump 22 and jet pump 24 operate in conjunction with bubbler 26 and water heater 28 to circulate and heat water and create a turbulent waterflow within the spa system as is known in the art. Jet pumps 22, 24 may be standard jets or pulsating jets. Bubbler 26 may be integrated with jet pump 22 and jet pump 24.

[0025] A representative example of water heater 28 is shown in FIG. 2. Spa control module 30 regulates the spa water temperature based upon user input and verifies that thermostat relay 56 is working properly. In FIG. 2, heater control 50 receives on/off control commands from spa control module 30 via communication link 34. Heater control 50 operates thermostat relay 56 based upon control commands from spa control module 30. The thermostat relay 56 is cycled on and off by heater control 50 to provide power from heater power source 52 to heating element 58. An interlock relay 60 is connected in series with thermostat relay 56 to safeguard against overheating of water beyond a preset upper limit, typically about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Heater control 50 provides status information to spa control module 30 through communication link 34. This status information includes an acknowledgment that a command was received, water temperature as detected by temperature sensor 54, and thermostat relay status. It should be understood that alternative heater devices can be used for controlling the temperature of the spa water.

[0026] In accordance with further features of the invention, a communication signal 64 is shown in FIG. 3. Communication signal 64 has a spa component address portion 66, an acknowledgment portion 68, and a data portion 70. The communication signal 64 can follow any standard protocol such as the I2C protocol, RS-485 protocol, or any other communication standard. Communication signal 64 could also follow a proprietary communication protocol. The spa component address portion 66, the acknowledgment portion 68, and the data portion 70 can be any number of bits. In some protocols, the acknowledgment portion 68 is not necessary. The data portion 70 is either a control command or a status signal or a feedback signal.

[0027] Each spa component is assigned a spa component address portion 66. FIG. 4 shows a flow diagram of how spa components in an initial spa configuration are assigned addresses and controlled. A number of spa component addresses that will be controlled by the spa control module 30 is determined (block 76). The initial number of spa component addresses is based upon the size of the spa system and the number of additional spa components that are likely to be added in the future. Additional spa component addresses can be added when necessary for further expansion of the spa control system. The range of addresses is then mapped and a portion of the addresses is assigned to be certain functions such as jet pump, bubbler, etc. (block 78).

[0028] Each spa component is then assigned a spa component address (block 80). For simple devices such as light fixtures or remote control terminals, this can be accomplished by setting a series of dip switches on these devices or any other method that is known in the art. For intelligent spa components, the spa component address can also be assigned in that spa component's software or by programming an EEPROM with the address.

[0029] Each spa component is connected to communication link 34 (block 82). Spa control module 30 detects the spa components by polling each address within the range of addresses on communication link 34 (block 84). Each spa component on the communication link 34 issues an acknowledgment to the spa control module 30 on communication link 34. The acknowledgment may be a simple acknowledgment or it may comprise status information of a variable length. The spa control module 30 reads the information until a stop address appears. Alternatively, spa control module 30 can detect components by issuing a general call address on the communication link 34. This general call address addresses every spa component connected on the communication link 34 and requests a return acknowledgment from every component.

[0030] Once the spa control module 30 detects a spa component on the communication link, it sends a signal on communication link 34 addressed to the spa component (block 86). This signal can be a status information request signal or a control signal. The spa control module 30 controls a spa component by issuing control signals on communication link 34 addressed to that spa component (block 88). The spa components send status information back to the spa control module 30 on communication link 34 if requested by spa control module 30. The spa control module 30 uses the status information to control the spa component and to provide status information when requested by the user (block 89).

[0031] The present spa control system provides the capability to the user to easily add spa components. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 6, an ancillary panel 90 can be added to do limited control of the spa system from a remote location. These limited control functions may include features such as programming the temperature setpoint, activating a clean-up cycle, controlling a dimmer module to adjusting light intensity, etc. An ozone generator 92 can be added for oxygenating water within the spa system. A pH or pH/ORP sensor 94 can be added to sense the pH level of water within the system and determine the oxidizing or reducing properties of the water within the spa system. A chemical maintenance component 96 can be added for automatically controlling the level of sanitizing chemicals in the water within the spa system. It should be noted that these are representative examples of spa components and that other types of spa components can be added.

[0032] The capability to add spa components is accomplished in one embodiment by providing a number of pre-selected control functions that a user can select from a menu system on the user interface 40. The user selects which control function the spa component fits within. For example, a user would select bubbler from the menu system if a bubbler module is being added to the spa system. Once the control function is chosen, the spa control module 30 assigns an address to the added component. The user sets the added component to the assigned address as previously described.

[0033] In another embodiment, a “plug and play” concept is used. This inventive concept is accomplished by following a subset of the steps in FIG. 4 as shown in FIG. 5. Once a new spa component is installed and connected to the communication link 34, the spa control module 30 detects that a new component has been added at start-up through periodic polling or by periodically issuing a general call address on communication link 34. When the new spa component issues an acknowledgment on the communication link 34, the spa control module 30 then streams the menu choices to the new component on the communication link 34. Based upon the new spa component's response, the spa control module 30 uses that information to control the spa component and the appropriate instruction set is streamloaded via the communication link 34 to the new spa component. The spa control module 30 adds that spa component to its list of devices that are attached to the communication link 34.

[0034] In one embodiment, the spa components are assigned to control zones. Each control zone is assigned a range of addresses and spa components located within the control zone are assigned an address that is within the range of addresses assigned to that control zone. When a new spa component is added, the spa component is assigned an address in which the control zone the component is located using the user interface approach or the “plug and play” approach. Alternatively, other approaches to assign addresses can be used. An example of where control zones are used is in a spa system having multiple spas. Each spa in the system and its associated spa components are assigned to a control zone. This allows the spa control module 30 to easily control spas in a multiple spa system independent of the other spas.

[0035] A spa control system has been described that provides a user with the capability to easily add spa components to a spa system. The spa control system provides command signals to spa components and obtains status information from spa components on a communications link. Numerous modifications and alternative embodiments of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art in view of the foregoing description. Accordingly, this description is to be construed as illustrative only and is for the purposes of teaching those skilled in the art the best mode for carrying out the invention. The details of the structure may be varied substantially without departing from the spirit of the invention, and exclusive use of all modifications that come within the scope of the appended claims is reserved.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6782309 *Nov 21, 2001Aug 24, 20049090-3493 Quebec, Inc.SPA controller computer interface
US6993415Apr 8, 2004Jan 31, 2006Kohler Co.Distributed control system for a whirlpool tub
US7489986 *Nov 7, 2000Feb 10, 2009Gecko Alliance Group Inc.Spa controller computer interface for spas
US8112164Dec 12, 2008Feb 7, 2012Balboa Instruments, Inc.Low maintenance spa control system
US8392027Sep 28, 2009Mar 5, 2013Balboa Instruments, Inc.Spa control system with improved flow monitoring
US8453275Mar 5, 2009Jun 4, 2013May Manufacturing LLCCombination bathtub and spa
US20110220229 *Mar 11, 2010Sep 15, 2011Shih-Chang ChenWater supply apparatus of hydrotherapy system
WO2005101153A2 *Apr 4, 2005Oct 27, 2005Kohler CoDistributed control system for a whirlpool tub
Classifications
U.S. Classification4/541.1
International ClassificationA61H33/02, A61H33/00
Cooperative ClassificationA61H33/601, A61H33/0087, A61H33/005, A61H33/02, A61H2033/0058
European ClassificationA61H33/00N, A61H33/02