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Publication numberUS20030061776 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/969,379
Publication dateApr 3, 2003
Filing dateOct 2, 2001
Priority dateOct 2, 2001
Publication number09969379, 969379, US 2003/0061776 A1, US 2003/061776 A1, US 20030061776 A1, US 20030061776A1, US 2003061776 A1, US 2003061776A1, US-A1-20030061776, US-A1-2003061776, US2003/0061776A1, US2003/061776A1, US20030061776 A1, US20030061776A1, US2003061776 A1, US2003061776A1
InventorsRobert Alderman
Original AssigneeAlderman Robert J.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Insulation system having a variable R-value
US 20030061776 A1
Abstract
An inflatable/deflatable heat insulation system for a structure is responsive to changes in atmospheric temperature to change its volume, thereby changing the rate of heat transfer therethrough. A phase change material, a reflective material, and/or a fixed R-value insulation, such as a fiberglass blanket, can be used in combination with the inflatable insulation system.
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Claims(61)
I claim:
1. An inflatable/deflatable heat insulation system for placement between the temperature-controlled areas and the non-temperature-controlled areas of a building structure comprising:
a layer of pre-installed insulation;
a layer of phase change material configured to change from a liquid to a solid at a predetermined phase change temperature range, said layer of phase change material overlying said layer of pre-installed insulation;
an inflatable insulator configured to inflate and deflate to various degrees in response to a control variable, said inflatable insulator overlying said layer of phase change material; and
a controller attached to said inflatable insulator for producing the control variable, the control variable being a function of a change in the non-temperature-controlled area temperature.
2. An insulation system comprising:
a controller configured to produce a control variable; and
an insulator having a variable R-value, said variable R-value responsive to said control variable produced by said controller.
3. The insulation system of claim 2, wherein the insulator comprises an inflatable chamber, said inflatable chamber configured to selectively inflate and deflate in response to said control variable.
4. The insulation system of claim 3, wherein the controller comprises:
a temperature sensor configured to produce said control variable; and
a pump configured to actuate in response to said control variable produced at said temperature sensor.
5. The insulation system of claim 4, wherein said pump is a fan.
6. The insulation system of claim 4, wherein said pump is configured to inject gas into said inflatable chamber.
7. The insulation system of claim 4, wherein said pump is configured to remove gas from said inflatable chamber.
8. The insulation system of claim 6, wherein said gas is air.
9. The insulation system of claim 6, wherein said gas is carbon dioxide.
10. The insulation system of claim 6, wherein said gas is argon.
11. The insulation system of claim 6, wherein said gas is xenon.
12. The insulation system of claim 6, wherein said gas is a mixture of different gases, said mixture of gases configured to produce a predetermined insulation value.
13. The insulation system of claim 4, wherein said temperature sensor is a thermostat.
14. The insulation system of claim 3, wherein the controller comprises a phase change material.
15. The insulation system of claim 14, wherein said phase change material is configured to change from liquid to gas at a known phase change temperature.
16. The insulation system of claim 14, wherein said phase change material is configured to change from solid to gas at a known phase change temperature.
17. An inflatable/deflatable insulation system comprising:
an inflatable heat insulator configured to inflate and deflate in response to a control variable; and
a controller responsive to a variable condition, said controller configured to produce the control variable.
18. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the controller is attached to the inflatable heat insulator.
19. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the controller is detached from the inflatable insulator.
20. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the control variable is a function of the requirement for more heat inside the structure and the temperature outside the structure exceeding the temperature inside the structure.
21. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the control variable is a function of the requirement to cool the temperature-controlled areas inside of the structure and the temperature outside the temperature-controlled areas of the structure being lower than the temperature inside the structure.
22. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the control variable is a function of the time of day.
23. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the control variable is a user input.
24. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the controller comprises a thermostat.
25. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, wherein the controller comprises:
a thermostat configured to produce a control variable; and
a pump configured to actuate in response to the control variable produced by said thermostat.
26. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, said inflatable insulator comprising opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material, said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material configured to form a gas-containing chamber.
27. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17, further comprising at least one heat-reflective surface positioned within said gas containing chamber.
28. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 26, wherein said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material further comprises at least one protective outside surface.
29. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 26, wherein the heat-transfer characteristics of said inflatable insulator are proportional to the degree of inflation of said inflatable insulator.
30. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 17 further comprising a layer of phase change material superposed with said inflatable insulator.
31. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 30 further comprising at least one additional inflatable insulator and at least one additional layer of phase change material, wherein said at least one additional inflatable insulator and said at least one additional layer of phase change material are arranged in alternate overlying layers.
32. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 30 further comprising additional layers of phase change material superposed with said inflatable insulator, each additional layer of phase change material having a different phase change temperature.
33. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 26, wherein said inflatable insulator is superposed to a fixed R-value insulation layer.
34. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 33, wherein the fixed R-value insulation is a standard fiberglass insulation layer.
35. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 33, wherein the fixed R-value insulation is a styrofoam insulation layer.
36. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 33, wherein the fixed R-value insulation is a cellulose insulation layer.
37. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 33, wherein the fixed R-value insulation is a reflective insulation layer.
38. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 33, wherein the fixed R-value insulation is a bubble-pack insulation layer.
39. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 33, further comprising a layer of phase change material superposed with said inflatable insulator.
40. An insulation system comprising
inflatable/deflatable heat insulating means for insulating a structure: and
control means for providing a control variable for selectively inflating and deflating said inflatable/deflatable heat insulating means.
41. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 40, wherein the control variable is a function of the temperature gradient across said inflatable insulator.
42. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 40, wherein the control variable is a function of the temperature gradient across a layer of insulation.
43. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 40, wherein the control variable is a function of the time of day.
44. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 40, wherein the control variable is a user input.
45. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 40, said inflatable insulating means comprising opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material, said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material configured to form a gas-containing chamber.
46. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 45, wherein said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material comprises means for reflecting heat.
47. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 45, wherein said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material comprises means for avoiding accumulating dust from said inflatable insulation means.
48. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 47, wherein said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material comprises means for avoiding the accumulation of moisture from said inflatable insulation means.
49. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 45, wherein said opposing sheets of gas-impermeable material comprises means for repelling dirt from said inflatable insulation means.
50. The inflatable/deflatable insulation system of claim 40, wherein the heat-transfer characteristics of said inflatable insulating means is proportional to the degree of inflation of said inflatable insulating means.
51. A method for adjusting the heat transfer characteristics of an insulation system, comprising the steps of:
superposing an inflatable insulator on a layer of insulation in a structure, the layer of insulation in the structure having overlying layers of fiberglass insulation and phase change materials;
receiving a control variable; and
adjusting the volume of an inflatable insulator to various degrees in response to the received control variable.
52. A method for adjusting the heat transfer characteristics of an insulation system, comprising the steps of:
receiving a control variable; and
adjusting the volume of an inflatable insulator in response to receiving a change in the control variable.
53. The method of claim 52, wherein the control variable is a function of temperature gradient across an inflatable insulator.
54. The method of claim 52, wherein the control variable is a function of the time of day.
55. The method of claim 52, wherein the control variable is a user input.
56. A method for adjusting the heat transfer characteristics of an insulation system in a building structure, comprising the steps of:
superposing an inflatable insulator on layer of insulation;
receiving a control variable; and
adjusting the volume of an inflatable insulator to various degrees in response to the received control variable.
57. A method for adjusting the heat transfer characteristics of an insulation system of a building structure, comprising the steps of:
superposing an inflatable insulator on a layer of phase change material used in insulating a structure;
receiving a control variable; and
adjusting the volume of an inflatable insulator in response to the received control variable.
58. A heat insulator for insulating a building structure comprising:
an insulator defining a chamber inflated with gas, and
a reflective surface positioned within said chamber.
59. The heat insulator of claim 58, further including a phase change material formed in a layer with said chamber.
60. The heat insulator of claim 58, further including fiberglass formed in a layer with said chamber.
61. The heat insulator of claim 58, further including control means for inflating and deflating said chamber in response to changes in conditions outside said chamber.
Description
TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates generally to insulating devices. More specifically, the present invention relates to multi-layered inflatable/deflatable insulation systems having variable R-values, which provide a heat transfer barrier within a structure.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Building structures constructed for human occupancy typically maintain the temperature and humidity conditions inside the building at a comfortable level for its occupants with the use of heating and air conditioning equipment controlled by a thermostat, whereas the temperature outside the building varies with atmospheric conditions. In a twenty-four hour day, during most days of a year in most inhabited locations of the world, the temperature of a roof or an external wall that faces the sun typically ranges to levels below and above the desired indoor temperature, which is usually in the mid seventies, Fahrenheit.

[0003] The roof and exterior wall structure of a typical modern building includes at least one layer of thermal insulation material that retards the transfer of heat between the inside and outside surfaces. If the insulation material present in the typical insulated wall or ceiling is sufficient, then the transfer of heat during the high temperature portion of the day from the hot outside portion of the wall or ceiling to the lower inside temperate portion of the wall or ceiling will be sufficiently slow so that the air conditioning unit of the building can adequately compensate for any undesirable increases in temperature. Later, during the same day, the exterior portion of the wall and ceiling will cool during the low temperature portions of the day, usually to a temperature that is lower than the inside temperature of the building. In a like manner, the heating unit of a sufficiently insulated building should be able to adequately compensate for any undesirable decrease in temperature.

[0004] The rate at which heat will flow through a wall or ceiling into or out of a room maintained at a substantially constant temperature is dependent upon at least two factors: (1) the temperature gradient between the controlled temperature air space (i.e., the living space or the inside of the building structure) and the uncontrolled temperature air space (i.e., the attic space or the outside of the building structure), and (2) the efficiency with which the ceiling or wall conducts heat. Thus, in order to reduce heat transfer across a wall or ceiling, either more efficient insulating material may be used, or a greater amount of insulating material may be used. Unfortunately, the type of material and the amount of material used for insulation is typically fixed (i.e., not readily changeable). Hence, once the insulation of a structure has been installed, the heat transfer characteristics of the insulation are fixed. This, in turn, leads to a less than optimal insulating efficiency because the heat transfer characteristics of the insulation remains fixed regardless of the fluctuating external temperature.

[0005] There is, therefore, a need in the art for a more efficient method of insulating a structure.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] Briefly described, the present invention relates to an insulation system having a variable R-value.

[0007] One embodiment of the present invention provides an inflatable/deflatable heat insulation system for a building structure, to be installed in an attic, wall, floor or other structure positioned between a temperature controlled inside area and the outside atmosphere or other area that in a short period, such as in a day, usually becomes hotter than and colder than the controlled inside temperature.

[0008] The system is inflatable to reduce heat transfer between the inside and outside portions of a building structure, such as a roof or ceiling. This reduces the undesired effect of the outside temperature on the inside temperature.

[0009] The insulation system is also deflatable to allow for an increase in the transfer of heat through the roof or wall. This allows the outside atmospheric temperature to more readily transfer to the inside of a building structure to cool the inside of the building structure when the outside temperature is lower than the inside temperature, or to heat the inside of the building structure when the outside temperature is higher than the inside temperature.

[0010] In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, an inflatable/deflatable insulator is configured to inflate and deflate to various degrees in response to a control variable, which is produced by a controller.

[0011] In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, a method for insulating a structure is presented, wherein a control variable is received, and the volume of an inflatable insulator is adjusted to various degrees in response to a change in the control variable.

[0012] The invention can also include a phase change material that is combined with the inflatable/deflatable system that changes from solid to liquid and back again in response to the atmospheric temperature passing from below to above the phase change temperature and later passing from above to below the phase change temperature. As the phase change material changes phase, it maintains a constant temperature, thereby reducing the amount of heat passing through the insulation structure.

[0013] The invention can also include reflective material for reflecting heat. Preferably the reflective material is positioned interiorly of the heat insulation system so as to avoid the accumulation of dust, dirt or other elements that tend to reduce its reflectivity.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] The above and further features, advantages, and benefits of the present invention will be apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters refer to like parts throughout.

[0015]FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system that is installed on support joists in a ceiling of a typical house with the system shown in the inflated condition.

[0016]FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the inflatable/deflatable insulation system of FIG. 1 with the system shown in its deflated condition.

[0017]FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system that is installed between adjacent support joists in the ceiling of a typical house.

[0018]FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the inflatable/deflatable insulation system of FIG. 3, with the system shown in its deflated condition.

[0019]FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system having two inflatable/deflatable chambers interposed by a thermal phase-change material.

[0020]FIG. 6 is an exploded view of the insulation system of FIG. 3 taken from the broken line area of FIG. 3.

[0021]FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system that is installed between adjacent purlins of a roof structure.

[0022]FIG. 8 is an exploded view of the insulation system of FIG. 7 taken from the broken line area of FIG. 7.

[0023]FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system having two layers of thermal phase-change material, each layer having a different phase change temperature.

[0024]FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system having additional inflatable insulators placed between ceiling joists.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] Having summarized various aspects of the present invention, reference will now be made in detail to the description of the invention as illustrated in the drawings. While the invention will be described in connection with these drawings, there is no intent to limit it to the embodiment or embodiments disclosed therein. On the contrary, the intent is to cover all alternatives, modifications, and equivalents included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

[0026]FIGS. 1 and 2 show a cross-sectional view of an inflated 100 and deflated 200 inflatable/deflatable insulation system that is installed onto adjacent support structures 150, 155, in a ceiling 160 of a typical house. In a preferred embodiment, a pre-existing insulation system 170 is “retrofit” with an inflatable insulator 110. In such a system, a first layer of insulation 140, which is typically a standard fiberglass insulation, is installed between joists 150, 155, 158 located above a ceiling 160 of a house. A second layer of insulation comprising a solid/liquid phase change material (S/L PCM or, simply, PCM) 130 is installed above the first layer of insulation 140 to provide additional insulation to the structure. The S/L PCM layer 130 changes from liquid to solid, and vice versa, depending on changes in temperature above and below the phase change temperature range, and thereby maintaining a constant temperature during the change of phase. This allows for greater efficiency in insulating the interior of a structure (e.g., a house) from exterior temperature fluctuations because, with the constant temperature maintained by the S/L PCM layer 130, the insulation system is more immune to fluctuations than it would be with only the fiberglass insulation layer 140. Details of S/L PCM thermal insulation are described in Alderman's patent, U.S. Pat. No. 5,770,295, which is fully incorporated herein as if set forth in full.

[0027] The retrofit installation of the inflatable insulator 110 allows for improved efficiency in insulating a structure because, in addition to the improved insulation provided by the S/L PCM layer 130, the inflatable insulator 110 further allows for variable R-values by increasing and decreasing the thickness of the insulating material. Since the R-values are a measure of resistance to heat flow, the variability of the thickness of the insulating material manifests itself as a system that allows for varying degrees of insulation.

[0028] The inflation and deflation of the inflatable insulator 110 is accomplished through a controller 175, which is responsive to changed conditions, and a pump 185 that is connected to the inflatable insulator 110 via a inflation valve 120. As a non-limiting example, the controller may be a thermostat that is responsive to changes in temperature. Thus, if there exists a minimal temperature gradient between the inside and the outside of a structure, or, alternatively, if it is desirable to use the exterior temperature to adjust the interior temperature, then there is no need to have as good an insulation between the inside and outside of the structure. Hence, the controller 175 would cause the inflatable insulator 110 to deflate, as shown in FIG. 2. On the other hand, if a large undesirable temperature gradient exists between the inside and outside of a structure, then a greater insulation between the inside and the outside of the structure would be needed. Thus, the controller 175 would actuate the pump to cause the inflatable insulator 110 to inflate, as shown in FIG. 1. The inflation of the inflatable insulator 110 would provide an increased “thickness” in the insulating material, and thereby increase the amount of insulation between the exterior and the interior of the structure.

[0029] As can be seen from this non-limiting example, the inflatable insulator 110 provides a variable thickness in insulating material in response to changes in the temperature gradient between the interior and exterior of the structure, thereby providing a variable R-value. Thus, an increased efficiency in insulating a structure is achieved.

[0030] It is worthwhile to note that, while the above non-limiting example shows the installation of the inflatable insulator 110 to joists 150, 155, 158 in a ceiling 160, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that the support structures 150, 155, 158 are not limited to joists in ceilings, but, rather, include studs in walls, rafters in residential roofs, or purlins in commercial steel roofing systems (as will be shown in FIGS. 7 and 8). Moreover, while the non-limiting example above allows for inflation and deflation in response to changes in the temperature gradient between the interior and exterior of the structure, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that the controller may be programmed to inflate 100 and deflate 200 the inflatable insulator 110 at different times of the day by using a timer in place of, or in conjunction with, a thermostat. Furthermore, the inflation or deflation may be accomplished in response to user input or any variety of inputs. Also, while the above description provides for inflation and deflation through an inflation valve 120, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that the inflation may be accomplished through the inflation valve 120 while the deflation may be accomplished through a different release (or vent) valve 125.

[0031] While a controller and pump are used in FIGS. 1 and 2, other approaches may be used to selectively inflate and deflate the inflatable insulator. For example, rather than using a controller and a pump, one may insert a liquid/gas phase change material (L/G PCM) having a specific heat of vaporization into a sealed inflatable insulator. In doing so, the inflatable insulator would selectively inflate and deflate as the temperature rose above, or fell below, the specific heat of vaporization. The control mechanism would, therefore, be the known specific heat of vaporization, and the inflation/deflation mechanism would be accomplished by the vaporization and condensation of the specific phase change material. Similarly, rather than using a L/G PCM, a solid/gas phase change material (S/G PCM) may be used as the inflation/deflation mechanism. In extreme environments,, the use of S/G PCMs, such as dry ice, as the inflation/deflation mechanism would not be inconceivable.

[0032]FIGS. 3 and 4 are cross-sectional views of an inflated 300 and deflated 400 inflatable/deflatable insulation system, which is installed between adjacent support structures 150, 155 in a ceiling 160 of a typical house. Unlike the “retrofit” installation shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, in this embodiment, the insulation system is positioned between the pair of support structures 150, 155. Additionally, the insulation system is placed adjacent to the upper surface of a ceiling panel 160. In the present non-limiting example, the insulation system comprises a first thick layer of insulating material 140, which is typically a standard fiberglass insulation, seated on the upper surface of the ceiling 160 between the support structures (joists) 150, 155. A thin layer of S/L PCM 130 is superposed between the joists 150, 155 onto the first layer 140 to modulate the temperature gradient across the inner layer of insulation. This layer of S/L PCM 130 controls the temperature gradient by maintaining a constant temperature across the S/L PCM layer 130 as it undergoes a phase change, thereby allowing for negligible heat transfer across the S/L PCM layer 130. As a non-limiting example, consider a calcium-chloride (CaCl) PCM layer 130, which has a PCM phase temperature of approximately 81 degrees Fahrenheit (F.), positioned between a cool (i.e., below 81 F.) living area and a cool attic space. If the attic temperature rises from below 81 F. to above 81 F., then the CaCl layer undergoes a phase change from solid to liquid. During this time, there is negligible heat transferred across the CaCl layer and, thus, the ceiling temperature is maintained at 81 F. until the CaCl has completely melted. Additionally, should the temperature subsequently drops from above 81 F. to below 81 F., the CaCl layer once again undergoes a phase change, and thereby maintains a temperature of 81 F. until the CaCl layer has completely solidified or “frozen.” In this sense, the S/L PCM layer 130, in the non-limiting example, modulates the temperature gradient by providing a time lag between the temperature change in the attic space and the temperature change in the living area.

[0033] As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, an inflatable insulator 310 is also superposed onto the S/L PCM layer 130 between the joists 150, 155. This inflatable insulator 310, which has a variable “R-value,” facilitates the melting and freezing of the S/L PCM layer 130. Considering again the non-limiting example of CaCl positioned between a living area and an attic space, the inflatable insulator 310 allows for greater control over the melting and freezing of the CaCl layer by selectively inhibiting and facilitating the melting and freezing of the CaCl layer. For example, in summer, the inflatable insulator 310 would deflate at night, when the outside temperature is cool, thereby facilitating the freezing of the CaCl layer. On the other hand, the inflatable insulator 310 would inflate during the day, when the outside temperature is warm (i.e., higher than the melting point of the S/L PCM), thereby inhibiting the melting of the CaCl layer. This process would be reversed in winter, where the inflatable insulator 310 would inflate at night to inhibit freezing and deflate during the day to facilitate the melting of the CaCl layer.

[0034] Similar to the operation of the invention described in FIGS. 1 and 2, the inflatable insulator 310, which is positioned between the joists 150, 155, would inflate 300 and deflate 400 in response to changes in conditions as described with respect to FIGS. 1 and 2. Additionally, the control signal for inflating and deflating the inflatable insulator 310 may be derived by sensing the temperatures adjacent or near the S/L PCM layer.

[0035]FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of an insulation system 500 having two inflatable/deflatable chambers 510, 515, interposed by a S/L PCM layer 130. In this embodiment, the insulation system 500 is positioned between the pair of support structures (joists) 150, 155. Additionally, the insulation system 500 is placed adjacent to the upper surface of a ceiling panel 160. In the present non-limiting example, the insulation system 500 comprises two inflatable insulators 510, 515, with a thin layer of S/L PCM 130 superposed between the two inflatable insulators 510, 515. This allows for a greater level of flexibility in controlling the heat transfer characteristics of the insulation system 500 because the degree of flexibility has now increased two-fold due to the additional inflatable insulator 515, which replaces the traditional fiberglass insulation (140 of FIG. 3).

[0036]FIG. 6 is an exploded view 320 of the insulation system 300 of FIG. 3. The exploded view 320 shows several features that may be added to the inflatable insulator 310 to further improve insulation. The exploded view 320 shows an inflatable insulator 310 having inner reflective surfaces 620, which allows for greater heat deflection away from the interior of the structure. In addition to the heat reflective inner surfaces, FIG. 6 shows the inflatable insulator 310 comprising a protective outer layer 610 designed to minimize the accumulation of dust and moisture, and thereby minimizing the heat absorption by the inflatable insulator. Heat reflective surfaces are well known in the art, and, therefore, will not be discussed further. However, it is worthwhile to note that, if both inner surfaces are heat-reflective surfaces, these inner surfaces will be effectively nonfunctional with respect to heat reflection when the inflatable chamber is collapsed. In other words, if the two reflective surfaces are adjacent to each other with no gap separating the two reflective surfaces, then there will be little or no heat reflection provided by the inner reflective surfaces. Protective surfaces for preventing dust and moisture accumulation are also well known in the art and, therefore, will not be discussed further.

[0037] It is, however, worthwhile to note that, while the above non-limiting example shows both internally facing surfaces of the inflatable insulator 310 having heat reflective material 620, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that the heat reflective material 620 may be placed on the upper surface, the lower surface, both surfaces (as shown), or neither surface. Similarly, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that the outer protective layer 610 may be placed on one side, or neither side, or both sides (as shown) of the exterior of the inflatable insulator 310. Alternatively, the protective layer may be a separate layer of sheet material placed exterior to, or interior to, the inflatable insulator. Preferably, the reflective material 620 is located within the inflatable insulator 310 so as to protect it from accumulating dust, dirt, moisture, etc. that would reduce its reflectivity.

[0038]FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system 700 that is installed between adjacent purlins 750, 755 of a metal roof structure. In this embodiment, two inflatable insulators 710, 715 are positioned between two purlins 750, 755 of a roofing system. The system is configured to have the first inflatable insulator 715 having its width span the distance between the two purlins 750, 755, and its length extend parallel to the lengths of the purlins. A S/L PCM layer 130 is superposed onto the first inflatable insulator 715, and its width also spans the distance between the two purlins 750, 755, and its length extends parallel to the purlins. A second inflatable insulator 710, similar to the first inflatable insulator 715, is then superposed onto the S/L PCM layer 130 so that the S/L PCM layer 130 is sandwiched between the two inflatable insulators 710, 715. A sheet of roofing material 720 overlies the two purlins 750, 755 above the two inflatable insulators 710, 715 and above the S/L PCM layer 130, thereby protecting the insulation system 700 from the elements. Thus, in this non-limiting example, rather than positioning the insulation system 700 adjacent to the roof structure (i.e., the portion of the roof that is closer to the interior of the house), the insulation system 700 is placed adjacent to the sheet material 720 for roofing (i.e., the portion of the roof that is closer to the exterior of the house).

[0039]FIG. 8 is an exploded view 800 of the insulation system 700 of FIG. 7. Similar to the non-limiting example of FIG. 6, the exploded view 800 here shows the insulation system 700 of FIG. 7 further having features of the system described in FIG. 6. The first inflatable insulator 715 is shown, in this non-limiting example, as having reflective inner surfaces 625 and a protective outer layer 815. Similarly, the second inflatable insulator 710 is also shown as having reflective inner surfaces 620 and a protective outer layer 810. However, as mentioned with respect to FIG. 6, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that the reflective inner surfaces 620, 625 and the protective outer layers 810, 815 may be applied to one surface, both surfaces (as shown), or to neither surface. The reflective material can be a separate sheet positioned inside the inflatable/deflatable insulator.

[0040]FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system having two layers of thermal phase-change material, each layer having a different phase change temperature (or melting point). In this non-limiting example, an additional S/L PCM layer 135, having a different phase change temperature from the first S/L PCM layer 130, is added to the insulation system of FIG. 1. This added S/L PCM layer 135 allows for a greater range of gradient modulation because, as each S/L PCM layer changes from solid to liquid, or vice versa, each S/L PCM layer maintains a constant phase-change temperature. Hence, the resulting multiple phase change temperatures allow the S/L PCM layers 130, 135 to maintain constant temperatures, in a stepwise manner, at each melting point. Also, while only two S/L PCM layers 130, 135 are shown in FIG. 9, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that additional S/L PCM layers having different melting points may be installed. Moreover, while FIG. 9 shows two distinct S/L PCM layers with one layer installed atop the other, in another embodiment, one S/L PCM may be interspersed with the other S/L PCM, rather than installed as superposed sheets.

[0041]FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of an inflatable/deflatable insulation system having additional inflatable insulators placed between ceiling joists. Similar to FIG. 1, this non-limiting example comprises a S/L PCM layer 130 that is placed atop ceiling joists 150, and an inflatable insulator 110 superposed to the S/L PCM layer 130. Additionally, standard fiberglass installation 140 is installed between the ceiling joists 150 to provide greater insulation. As shown in FIG. 10, additional inflatable insulators 1010, 1012, 1014 may be placed between the ceiling joists 150 and adjacent to the ceiling 160 to further supplement the insulation. This allows for the lower insulators 1010, 1012, 1014 and the upper insulator 110 to be adjusted independently, thereby allowing greater control in adjusting R-values, which, in turn, results in greater efficiency.

[0042] In operation, the inflatable/deflatable insulator usually will be inflated to provide maximum insulation protection between the controlled temperature space inside the building structure (for example 73 degrees F.) and the outside uncontrolled temperature space (for example in a range of temperatures that spans lower than and higher than the inside temperature in the period of a 24 hour day). The reflective material and/or the S/L PCM can be used with the inflatable/deflatable insulator to enhance the heat transfer resistance.

[0043] However, the inflatable/deflatable heat insulator can be deflated to provide less heat insulation, if desired. For example, if at the end of a hot day when the outside temperature has been higher than the inside temperature and the inside temperature has risen to a level higher than desired and then the outside temperature drops to a level lower than the inside temperature, the inflatable/deflatable insulator can be deflated to allow the now cooler outside temperature cool the inside to the building structure.

[0044] Also, if the inside temperature is lower than desired, the inflatable/deflatable insulator can be deflated when the outside temperature becomes higher than the inside temperature to allow the transfer heat from the outside into the inside of the building structure.

[0045] In order to automatically control the inflatable/deflatable insulator, a thermostat control system will detect both the outside and inside temperatures and deflate the insulator in response to a condition when the outside temperature exceeds the inside temperature and the thermostat is placed on a “heat” setting, or in response to a condition when the outside temperature is lower than the inside temperature and the thermostat is placed on a “cool” setting.

[0046] Although exemplary embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that a number of changes, modifications, or alterations to the invention as described may be made, none of which depart from the spirit of the present invention. For example, although the non-limiting drawings illustrate insulating the ceiling of a structure, the same may be applied to walls, rafters, roofing systems, etc. Additionally, while a specific order is provided for the insulating material (e.g., inflatable insulator, then S/L PCM, then standard fiberglass insulation), the order of application of such material may be changed without altering inventive nature of the inflatable/deflatable insulating system. Furthermore, while air is used as the insulating gas in the preferred embodiment, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that other gases, such as carbon dioxide, argon, xenon, or other mixtures of gases having higher heat-insulation capabilities, may be used. Moreover, while a pump is used in these non-limiting examples, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that gases may be introduced using other approaches, such as compressed air canisters, and expelled from the inflatable insulator using other approaches, such as pressure sensitive vents. Also, while the term “pump” is used in these non-limiting examples, it will be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art that this term refers to any device that may be used to transport a volume of gas from one locale to another.

[0047] The embodiments of FIGS. 3 through 8 also include an inflation control means, such as the combination of a thermostat 175 to detect changes in atmospheric air in an attic, a pump 185 or compressor responsive to the thermostat 175 to move air from the attic atmosphere into the inflatable insulator, and an inflation valve 120, also responsive to the thermostat 175, to transfer air between the inflatable insulator and the atmosphere. Additionally, a bladder valve 125 may be used as a pressure release controller to release excess pressure in the event of inadvertent over-inflation. Alternatively, the inflation valve 120 may serve also serve to release pressure.

[0048] All such changes, modifications, and alterations should be seen as within the scope of the present invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7052563 *Dec 10, 2003May 30, 2006Owens Corning Fiberglas Technology, Inc.Apparatus and method for fiber batt encapsulation
US7770353 *Jan 22, 2007Aug 10, 2010Cliff OlsenMethod of sealing an attic access opening and an insulated attic access over
US7827743 *Nov 14, 2005Nov 9, 2010Campisi Francis HEnergy conserving active thermal insulation
US8336822Jun 9, 2009Dec 25, 2012Airbus Operations LimitedApparatus for providing variable thermal insulation for an aircraft
US20130205700 *Aug 24, 2011Aug 15, 2013Per Gösta SundbergClimate positive building envelope for housing
CN101845886A *May 20, 2010Sep 29, 2010同济大学Phase-change temperature control large-volume concrete formwork and preparation method thereof
WO2006091424A1 *Feb 13, 2006Aug 31, 2006Keith R BrowerThermal filtering insulation system
WO2013040404A2 *Sep 14, 2012Mar 21, 2013Phase Change Energy Solutions, Inc.Composite construction panels and applications thereof
Classifications
U.S. Classification52/404.1, 52/2.11, 52/406.1, 52/407.5
International ClassificationF28D20/02, E04D13/16, F24J2/40, E04B9/00, E04B1/76
Cooperative ClassificationF24J2/407, Y02E10/40, F28D20/02, E04B1/7654, E04B9/001, Y02B10/20, E04B1/76, E04B1/7662, E04B1/7666, E04D13/1618, Y02E60/145, E04D13/1625, E04B2001/7691
European ClassificationF24J2/40D, E04D13/16A1C, E04B1/76E, E04B1/76, E04B1/76E2B1, E04B9/00A, F28D20/02, E04B1/76E2B, E04D13/16A1B