BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to plumbing fixtures and the like, and more specifically to a faucet assembly for installation with a conventional bathroom or other sink, which permits different accessories to be installed with the faucet. The present modular faucet assembly includes a single central faucet and control valve, with the opposite left and right ends of the fixture attaching to the conventional valve passages of the sink. Different accessories, such as a liquid soap dispenser pump and a retractable spray nozzle, may then be installed through each end of the modular assembly, or the end passages may be capped as desired.
2. Description of the Related Art
Plumbing and water supply systems have long provided for both hot and cold water at various points in a structure, e.g., kitchen, bathroom, laundry, etc. Traditionally, the hot and cold water supply faucet or fixture comprised a single faucet with two separate hot and cold water control valves. In both cases, the sink, countertop, etc. to which such a system is affixed, requires a central passage for the single handle faucet, as well as separate passages to each side thereof for the hot and cold water controls as required/needed for two handle faucets.
A later development was the single control valve for controlling both hot and cold water flow from a single central faucet or spigot. Such valves may comprise a lever handle, or alternatively a ball-shaped or otherwise configured control. While various principles of operation are used, they all provide the same general function, i.e., the use of a single control and mixer unit for controlling both hot and cold water flow from a single faucet.
Such single control units are plumbed by connecting the hot and cold water supply lines to the input fittings in the base of the control, with all water supply lines either passing through the single central opening in the back of the sink or countertop, or through the sink openings to the left and right of the central opening. Thus, the additional two openings provided conventionally for separate hot and cold water control valves are not needed for such single valve systems, and must be capped or concealed in some manner.
However, many sink installations are provided with additional convenience features, such as liquid soap dispenser pumps, separate spray nozzles and flexible water supply lines therefor, etc. Each of these additional convenience features requires an additional hole or passage in the sink back or countertop. As these features may or may not be desired in any given installation, their installation requires a custom made, or at least custom modified, sink or countertop in order to accommodate these various accessories. Yet, practically all sinks include the additional passages for separate hot and cold water control valves, even though they are not necessarily needed when a fixture using a single central control valve is installed.
The present invention provides a solution to the above problem, by providing a single modular water supply fixture having a single central faucet and single control valve which serves to control the quantity of both hot and cold water, and mix the two, using a single valve. Such devices are well known, as indicated in the discussion further above. Conventionally, such devices attach to the conventional sink passages to each side of the central passage, using fittings to each end of the assembly. The ends of the device do not include any plumbing components, and serve only as attachment points for securing the device to the underlying sink or countertop, or as openings for the hot and cold supply for the faucet.
The present invention also includes left and right passages to each side of the central faucet and control valve, which align with the conventional passages provided in the standard sink back or countertop. The present modular faucet assembly thus allows other accessories, such as liquid soap dispensing pumps and spray nozzles with their flexible supply lines, to be installed through the left and right passages of the device and through the corresponding passages in the standard sink or countertop. These accessory attachment passages also serve as anchor points for securing the fixture to the underlying sink or countertop. Thus, the sink or countertop need not be customized or modified for the inclusion of such additional features, when the present invention is used.
A discussion of the related art of which the present inventor is aware, and its differences and distinctions from the present invention, is provided below.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,571,821 issued on Mar. 23, 1971 to Jack N. Kaiser, titled “Plumbing Fixtures,” describes various embodiments of a specially configured sink to which a single control faucet and other accessories (liquid soap dispenser, drain closure lever, etc.) may be installed. One embodiment is relatively complex, including various dispensers, electrically powered accessories, etc. However, each of the Kaiser embodiments requires a specially manufactured and configured sink, with the sink including a rearwardly disposed pylon to which the other fittings are installed. While Kaiser notes that one can change the fittings and accessories of his assembly by changing the escutcheon atop the sink pylon, the fact remains that Kaiser requires a specially configured sink for installing his fixtures in the first place. In contrast, the present invention comprises a specially configured faucet assembly, which provides for installation on an existing conventional sink and which allows different accessories to be installed therewith, without need to replace an escutcheon or any of the plumbing or sink components. The present invention is thus considerably more versatile and economical than the Kaiser fixture.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,623,638 issued on Nov. 30, 1971 to Sabine Henning et al., titled “Liquid Dispenser For Shower Bath,” describes an add-on assembly comprising a wall mounted liquid soap tank connected to a dispenser which is removably attached to the shower nozzle. The Henning et al. device has no provision for attaching to a sink, and cannot serve as a mounting point for a faucet assembly and other accessories, as does the present fixture.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,625,896 issued on Dec. 2, 1986 to Gianpaolo Rocchelli, titled “Device For Dispensing Liquid Soap,” describes an add-on soap dispenser for attachment to an existing faucet assembly. The Rocchelli device fits around the base of the faucet, and requires that the faucet be at least loosened and raised from its attachment to the underlying escutcheon or plate, in order to install the Rocchelli device beneath the edges thereof. The Rocchelli device is relatively limited in comparison to the present invention, as Rocchelli provides only a soap dispenser which attaches to an existing sink faucet. In contrast, the present modular assembly provides a new faucet and control, which includes means for attaching various other fixtures thereto or capping and concealing the attachment points, as desired.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,650,470 issued on Mar. 17, 1987 to Harry Epstein, titled “Portable Water-Jet System,” describes various embodiments of an assembly which attaches to an existing water faucet or tap. The Epstein assembly essentially comprises a diverter valve which threads to the end of the faucet, a solution mixing container, and a flow control valve. The Epstein assembly provides only the relatively limited function of diverting water flow from the faucet, mixing a substance therewith, and dispensing the water and substance mix. Epstein does not provide any structure for attachment to an existing water supply system, which structure allows the modular installation of various accessories therewith as desired, as does the present modular faucet assembly invention.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,671,316 issued on Jun. 9, 1987 to Irlin H. Botnick, titled “Faucet Manifold,” describes a fixture having a base formed of stamped components, rather than being conventionally cast. The Botnick fixture is adapted for use with a plumbing system having separate hot and cold water control valves, with the hot and cold water lines extending to respective valves to each side of the central faucet, rather than being connected to a single central mixer valve, as in the present modular faucet assembly. As the Botnick fixture utilizes the left and right openings in the back of the sink or countertop for the water supply lines to pass therethrough, he cannot provide for the modular installation or replacement of other accessories in those openings, as provided for by the present invention.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,114,048 issued on May 19, 1992 to Robert M. Minke, titled “Faucet Assembly Having Integral Liquid Product Dispenser,” describes an assembly which makes use of the space to each side of a single mixer control valve and faucet unit, by incorporating a liquid soap and/or lotion dispenser to each side thereof. However, the Minke assembly also requires that the dispensing lines from the two dispensers extend to the water outlet end of the faucet, where the soap or lotion is dispensed. The Minke unit is thus relatively limited in function, as it cannot be adapted for the installation of a retractable spray nozzle on a flexible hose, as can the present modular assembly. Moreover, Minke does not provide for the capping of one or both sides of his assembly if the dispenser(s) is/are not needed.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,465,749 issued on Nov. 14, 1995 to Bruce M. Sauter et al., titled “Top Mounting Faucet Assembly,” describes an assembly having a top plate with anchor fingers extending therebelow. Tightening threaded fasteners from the top of the plate, locks the fingers against the underlying structure. Sauter et al. provide for an embodiment having a single central faucet and mixer control valve, as is used in the present assembly as well. However, Sauter et al. route the water supply lines through the left and right openings in the underlying structure, and through a manifold within the single control valve embodiment. This precludes the use of the openings to each side of the single faucet, for any purpose other than water line connections. Thus, Sauter et al. cannot provide any other accessories with their faucet assembly.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,660,203 issued on Aug. 26, 1997 to Werner Gnauert et al., titled “Deck-Mount Mixing-Faucet Assembly,” describes a single valve, single faucet assembly which mounts to the underlying surface through a single hole or passage provided therethrough. Gnauert et al. provide a specific threaded mounting structure to secure their faucet assembly to the top of the surface, by securing it with a threaded fastener from beneath. Gnauert et al. do not disclose any additional holes or passages to either side of the single passage disclosed, and thus cannot add any other components laterally to their faucet assembly, as is provided by the present modular faucet assembly.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,822,811 issued on Oct. 20, 1998 to Hsi-Chia Ko, titled “Extensible Faucet Structure Of Kitchen Cabinet,” describes an assembly having a single faucet and mixer control valve. Ko provides a sprayer extension from the faucet spigot, with the extension being connected to the mixer valve by a flexible hose or line which passes concentrically through the faucet nozzle or outlet, rather than from a separate fitting on the fixture body, as in the case of the present invention. Ko cannot provide additional accessories to either side of the central faucet and control valve, as he utilizes those areas for attaching the assembly to the underlying sink or countertop structure. Ko does not provide any through passages in these areas, for the installation of other accessories.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,906,319 issued on May 25, 1999 to Ronald D. Crowl, titled “Water/Soap Sprayer For Kitchen Faucets,” describes a single faucet and mixer valve assembly having a mobile spray attachment with a separate soap supply. Two flexible hoses or lines connect the sprayer attachment respectively to the central mixer valve and to the soap supply container. Crowl provides a separate passage through the sink backboard or countertop for his spray attachment, and only a conventional faucet and mixer valve assembly for providing water flow to his spray attachment. No additional passages through the faucet body assembly or escutcheon are disclosed by Crowl, which precludes the installation of any accessories through the conventional passages in the sink top or countertop which are used with the present modular faucet assembly.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,000,626 issued on Dec. 14, 1999 to Dennis M. Futo et al., titled “Hand Operated Water Sprayer And Soap Dispenser,” describes a combination device having a soap reservoir. Futo et al. do not disclose any means for mounting or attaching their sprayer to a sink, faucet assembly, or any other structure.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,370,712 issued on Apr. 16, 2002 to Leonard J. Burns et al., titled “Top Mount Plumbing Fixture,” describes a specific structure for securing a plumbing fixture to a sink top or deck. The Burns et al. assembly uses a pair of projecting buttons which expand laterally after being pushed through the sink top opening. A threaded collar is then tightened to secure the assembly against the laterally projecting buttons. However, Burns et al. only disclose a two valve handle assembly, with the laterally opposed hot and cold water valves passing through the conventional passages in the sink top to either side of the central faucet. Accordingly, the Burns et al. assembly cannot provide for the modular installation of any other components therewith.
International Patent Publication No. 81/00,251 published on Feb. 5, 1981 to Domingos A. Bahi, titled “Automatic Three-Duty Faucet,” describes an electrically powered system for supplying liquid soap and antiseptic at the single water faucet nozzle of the assembly. The containers for the various liquids are installed beneath the sink, and their supply lines extend upwardly through the single passage for the single faucet. No base with additional passages therein is disclosed by Bahi, and thus Bahi cannot provide for the installation of additional accessories with his system.
Finally, International Patent Publication No. 00/45,071 published on Aug. 3, 2000 to American Standard International, titled “Faucet With One-Piece Manifold Body,” describes various embodiments of a faucet assembly having a single faucet and mixer valve control. American Standard discloses such a device with a spray attachment in FIGS. 17-23. However, the manifold portion of the American Standard assembly is laterally asymmetric, with one laterally extending branch which connects to one water line, and with the second water line connecting directly beneath the faucet and control valve. Only the overlying escutcheon of the assembly provides an appearance of symmetry, with the spray attachment extending upwardly from a hole or passage in the end of the escutcheon opposite the distal water line connection. The American Standard assembly cannot provide a truly modular installation, as no means is provided for installing anything other than a water line in one end of the device. In contrast, the present assembly is truly laterally symmetrical, with passages on each end providing for the installation of accessories therein as desired and with all water lines for the present assembly passing upwardly through the center hole of the sink or countertop to connect to the single central valve mechanism and faucet.
None of the above inventions and patents, taken either singly or in combination, is seen to describe the instant invention as claimed. Thus a modular faucet assembly solving the aforementioned problems is desired.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention comprises a modular faucet assembly configured for installation upon a standard, conventional sink top or countertop having a series of three equally spaced passages therethrough. The conventionally located passages in such sinks and countertops comprise a center passage for a single central faucet or spigot and left and right passages for water control valves, with the left passage generally being used for the hot water valve and the right passage for the cold water valve. Where a single control valve is used, the water lines may be routed through the left and right passages and into the faucet assembly, or may be routed through the single central passage.
Where the water lines both pass through the single central passage, the two outlying passages are unused in conventional installations. The present invention makes advantageous use of this situation, by providing a modular faucet assembly which includes corresponding passages to each side of the central faucet and control valve. These faucet assembly passages are configured to align with the conventionally spaced sink or countertop passages (generally two inches apart on center in relatively smaller bathroom sinks, and four inches apart on center for larger kitchen, laundry, and other sinks) The corresponding passages through the sink or countertop and the present modular faucet assembly, provide for the installation of additional accessories or components, such as a liquid soap dispenser pump and/or retractable spray nozzle assembly, etc., as desired.
The concentric left and right passages of the present modular faucet assembly and its underlying sink or countertop, also facilitate attachment of the device to the sink or countertop. Concentric threaded fasteners may be used to secure the corresponding accessories in the assembly, as well as to secure the assembly to the countertop or sink. If installation of an accessory in both the left and right ends of the assembly is not desired, a decorative closure cap or cover may be installed in lieu of an accessory, at either or both ends of the device as desired.
Accordingly, it is a principal object of the invention to provide a modular faucet assembly having a single central faucet and mixer control valve therewith, and incorporating left and right accessory passages therewith which register with the conventional passages of a sink top or countertop when the present assembly is installed therewith.
It is another object of the invention to provide such a faucet assembly which includes at least one accessory installed in a corresponding one of the lateral passages of the assembly and underlying sink or countertop, with accessories such as liquid soap dispensing pumps and retractable spray nozzles being compatible with the present invention.
It is a further object of the invention to provide such a faucet assembly which may be configured for installation with a smaller bathroom sink having passages two inches apart on center, or with a larger kitchen or other sink having passages four inches apart on center.
Still another object of the invention is to provide at least one decorative closure cap or the like for closing any unused accessory passages, in the event that an accessory or accessories is/are not installed with the present modular faucet assembly.
It is an object of the invention to provide improved elements and arrangements thereof for the purposes described which is inexpensive, dependable and fully effective in accomplishing its intended purposes.
These and other objects of the present invention will become readily apparent upon further review of the following specification and drawings.