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Publication numberUS20050071914 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/678,394
Publication dateApr 7, 2005
Filing dateOct 3, 2003
Priority dateOct 3, 2003
Publication number10678394, 678394, US 2005/0071914 A1, US 2005/071914 A1, US 20050071914 A1, US 20050071914A1, US 2005071914 A1, US 2005071914A1, US-A1-20050071914, US-A1-2005071914, US2005/0071914A1, US2005/071914A1, US20050071914 A1, US20050071914A1, US2005071914 A1, US2005071914A1
InventorsKeith Marshall
Original AssigneeKeith Marshall
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Flushable toilet with flood control
US 20050071914 A1
Abstract
A toilet comprising a bowl sized to contain a fluid and a valve movable between an open position in which a liquid is delivered to the bowl and a closed position in which the liquid does not flow to the bowl. A sensor is operable to sense a liquid level within the bowl and an actuator is movable between a flush position and an idle position. A controller is operable to move the valve to the open position in response to movement of the actuator to the flush position and a liquid level within the bowl below a predetermined level.
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Claims(20)
1. A toilet comprising:
a bowl sized to contain a fluid;
a valve movable from a normally-closed position in which a liquid does not flow to the bowl to an open position in which the liquid is delivered to the bowl;
a sensor operable to sense a liquid level within the bowl;
an actuator movable between a flush position and an idle position; and
a controller operable to move the valve to the open position in response to movement of the actuator to the flush position and a liquid level within the bowl below a predetermined level.
2. The toilet of claim 1, wherein the valve includes a solenoid-actuated valve.
3. The toilet of claim 1, wherein the sensor includes a liquid level sensor.
4. The toilet of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the sensor is disposed within the bowl.
5. The toilet of claim 1, wherein the sensor detects a pressure and sends a signal to the controller when the pressure exceeds a predetermined value.
6. The toilet of claim 1, wherein the controller inhibits movement of the valve to the open position when the sensor senses a liquid level above the predetermined level.
7. The toilet of claim 1, wherein the controller includes a timer operable to initiate movement of the valve to the closed position after the valve has been in the open position for a predetermined length of time.
8. The toilet of claim 1, wherein the valve is the sole valve used to inhibit flooding and to flush the toilet.
9. An electrically-controlled toilet comprising:
a bowl sized to contain a fluid;
a solenoid-operated valve movable from a normally-closed position to an open position in which a liquid is delivered to the bowl and returned to a closed position in which the liquid does not flow to the bowl;
a liquid-level sensor at least partially positioned within the bowl and operable to sense a liquid level within the bowl;
an actuator movable between a flush position and an idle position; and
a controller operable to move the valve to the open position in response to movement of the actuator to the flush position and a liquid level within the bowl below a predetermined level.
10. The toilet of claim 9, wherein the sensor detects a pressure and sends a signal to the controller when the pressure exceeds a predetermined value.
11. The toilet of claim 9, wherein the controller inhibits movement of the valve to the open position when the sensor senses a liquid level above the predetermined level.
12. The toilet of claim 9, wherein the controller includes a timer operable to initiate movement of the valve to the closed position after the valve has been in the open position for a predetermined length of time.
13. The toilet of claim 9, wherein the valve is the sole valve used to inhibit flooding and to flush the toilet.
14. The toilet of claim 9, wherein the sensor sends a first signal to the controller when the liquid level is below a predetermined value and the sensor sends a second signal to the controller when the liquid level is above a predetermined value.
15. A method of operating a toilet, the method comprising:
providing a bowl operable to contain a liquid;
sensing a liquid level within the bowl;
moving an actuator to a flush position;
opening a valve to provide a flow of liquid to the bowl when the actuator is in the flush position and the liquid level within the bowl is below a predetermined value.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein the sensing step includes measuring a pressure within the bowl.
17. The method of claim 15, wherein opening the valve further comprises energizing a solenoid.
18. The method of claim 14, further comprising comparing the liquid level to a predetermined liquid level and inhibits the opening step when the liquid level exceeds the predetermined level.
19. The method of claim 14, further comprising timing the duration that the valve is open.
20. The method of claim 19, further comprising closing the valve in response to the passage of a predetermined length of time.
Description
BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to a system and method for operating a flushable toilet. More particularly, the present invention relates to a system and method for operating a toilet that is electronically flushable and includes a flood inhibiting mechanism.

Toilets, both private and commercial, are subject to periodic clogging or other problems that can result in water flooding out of the bowl. This flooding can cause damage to nearby structures and can be unsanitary, thus requiring expensive repair and cleanup efforts. To mitigate damages caused by these situations, some toilets are equipped with flood prevention devices. Typically, these devices are independent of the flush mechanism. They function with a second valve, typically in series with the flush valve or flush mechanism, to cut off the water supply to the toilet when a flood is occurring or is about to occur. A sensor may be employed to determine when a flood condition may exist.

As just described, existing flood prevention systems typically include a flood control valve that is separate from the flush mechanism. The separate valve must be closed to prevent flooding. Unfortunately, these valves may remain idle for months or even years between a flood, thereby compromising their reliability.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides a toilet comprising a bowl sized to contain a fluid and a normally-closed valve movable to an open position in which a liquid is delivered to the bowl and returned to a closed position in which the liquid does not flow to the bowl. A sensor is operable to sense a liquid level within the bowl and an actuator is movable between a flush position and an idle position. A controller is operable to move the valve to the open position in response to movement of the actuator to the flush position and a liquid level within the bowl below a predetermined level.

The invention also provides an electrically-controlled toilet comprising a bowl sized to contain a fluid. A solenoid-operated normally-closed valve is movable to an open position in which a liquid is delivered to the bowl and returned to a closed position in which the liquid does not flow to the bowl. A liquid-level sensor is at least partially positioned within the bowl and is operable to sense a liquid level within the bowl. An actuator is movable between a flush position and an idle position and a controller is operable to move the valve to the open position in response to movement of the actuator to the flush position and a liquid level within the bowl below a predetermined level.

In yet another aspect, the invention provides a method of operating a toilet. The method includes providing a bowl operable to contain a liquid and sensing a liquid level within the bowl. In addition, the method includes moving an actuator to a flush position and opening a valve to provide a flow of liquid to the bowl when the actuator is in the flush position and the liquid level within the bowl is below a predetermined value.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The description particularly refers to the accompanying figures in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a flushable toilet of the present invention; and

FIG. 2 is a sectional view of a flush valve.

Before any embodiments of the invention are explained, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangements of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the following drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of “including,” “comprising,” or “having” and variations thereof is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalence thereof as well as additional items. The terms “connected,” “coupled,” and “mounted” and variations thereof are used broadly and encompass direct and indirect connections, couplings, and mountings. In addition, the terms “connected,” “coupled,” and “mounted” and variations thereof are not restricted to physical or mechanical connections or couplings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to FIG. 1, a toilet system 10 including a flood-inhibiting system and an electrically controlled flush mechanism is illustrated. The system 10 includes a bowl 15 attached to a wall 20 for support. In other constructions, the bowl 15 is supported in a more conventional manner on the floor. A drain pipe 25 extends from the bottom of the bowl 15 and forms a drain trap 30 to inhibit the unwanted entry of sewer gas. Within, or behind, the wall 20, the drain pipe 25 connects with other pipes to provide fluid communication between the bowl 15 and a sewage system. A supply pipe 35 also connects to the bowl 15 and functions to provide water to the bowl 15 during a flush operation. The supply pipe 35 delivers water under pressure to the bowl 15, or in other constructions to a tank or other storage device.

A valve 40 is located within the supply pipe 35 to control the flow of water to the bowl 15. The valve 40, best illustrated in FIG. 2, is a solenoid-operated normally-closed valve that includes an inlet 45, an outlet 50, a movable diaphragm 55, and a solenoid 60. The inlet 45 connects to a pressurized water supply 65 capable of supplying a sufficient quantity of water to the bowl 15. The outlet 50 of the valve 40 is in fluid communication with the bowl 15 to deliver water when a flush sequence occurs.

Returning to FIG. 1, the system 10 also includes a sensor 70 at least partially disposed within the bowl 15. The sensor 70 is positioned above a normal water level line 75 near a flood line 80. It is at this flood line 80 that the bowl 15 contains, or is very near containing, its maximum volume. The sensor 70 includes a pressure sensor in the form of a pressure switch 85, a tube 88, and a port 89 disposed behind the wall 20 and in fluid communication with the bowl 15. While a pressure switch 85 is described herein, many other types of pressure sensors could be used to detect when the water level within the bowl 15 exceeds a predetermined value. The tube 88 connects the pressure switch 85 to the sensor port 89 in the bowl 15. As water rises above the sensor port 89, it covers the end of the tube 88 and seals the air within the tube 88. Thus, any further increase in the water level acts to increase the hydrostatic pressure within the tube 88. At a predetermined pressure, the pressure switch 85 generates a flood signal that indicates a flood is occurring or is imminent.

In most constructions, the sensor 70 generates a simple signal representing either “flood” or “no flood”. Generally, a high voltage (e.g., 5 volts) is used to indicate the flood condition, while a low voltage (approximately zero volts) is used to indicate no flood. Thus, the signal is actually a zero-voltage signal when no flooding is present and is a 5-volt signal when flooding exists. Of course, these conditions could be reversed so that the zero-voltage signal represents a flood condition if that were desired. In addition, a simple switch could be used to open or close a circuit when a flood condition exists. In still other constructions, more than two discrete signals are used. For example, an analog signal range (e.g., 4-20 mA, or 0-5 volts) can be used to represent a pressure range. A signal value above or below a predetermined level would then represent a flood condition.

In another construction, the sensor 70 directly detects the presence of water at the elevated level and sends a signal indicating a flood may be in progress. For example, a simple float switch can be used to indicate the presence or absence of a flood condition. In yet another construction, an optical sensor is positioned within the bowl 15 to detect the presence of water at an elevated level. As one of ordinary skill will realize, many different sensors 70 are capable of detecting the level of water within the bowl 15. In addition, there are many forms that the signal can take beyond those described herein. As such, the invention should not be limited to those few sensors or signals described herein.

One of ordinary skill will also realize that there are many possible locations for a sensor 70 other than the one illustrated in FIG. 1. For example, the sensor 70 could be located below the normal water line 75 or in the drain pipe 25. In addition, hidden chambers could be formed in the bowl 15 to hide the sensor 70 location to inhibit tampering. Therefore, the invention should not be limited to only the use of sensors 70 located as shown and described herein, as these represent but a few of the possible locations.

An actuator in the form of a push button 90 is positioned adjacent the bowl 15 to allow the user to initiate a flush. The push button 90 generates a flush signal when it is moved. Like the sensor signal, the flush signal is generally one of an “on” or “flush” signal and an “off” or “idle” signal. One common flush signal would employ a 5-volt signal representing the flush signal and no voltage or power representing the idle signal. As with the sensor signal, these voltages could be reversed or other signals could be employed if desired.

In other constructions, a lever or other type of actuator is used to initiate the flush sequence. In still other constructions, sensors are used to determine when a flush is needed. For example, one construction uses an optical sensor to detect the presence of a user. The sensor also detects the user's exit from the area and sends a flush signal. In yet another construction, a simple timer periodically sends a flush signal. Furthermore, multiple actuators could be used in conjunction to assure adequate flushing of the bowl. For example, a manual button 90 in combination with a timer could be used to periodically flush the bowl 15, while still allowing a user to flush the bowl 15 whenever the button 90 is actuated. It should be understood that the particular actuator used to generate the flush signal is not important to the function of the invention so long as a flush signal is generated.

A controller 95 receives the flood signal and the flush signal and uses these inputs to control the valve 40 as will be described below. One controller 95 suited to this purpose is the Time-Trol Modular Valve Controller marketed by Acorn Engineering Corporation of Industry, California. Other constructions may employ other types of electronic controls (e.g., digital, analog, PLC, microprocessor based, and the like). In still other constructions, a series of relays control the flushing operation rather than an electronic control.

With reference to FIG. 2, the valve 40 includes a first flow path 100 between the inlet 45 and the outlet 50 and a second flow path 105 between the inlet 45 and the outlet 50. The diaphragm 55 separates the inlet 45 from the outlet 50 in the first flow path 100 and inhibits flow when the valve 40 is closed. The diaphragm 55 rests on a seat 110 when in the closed position to inhibit flow through the valve 40. In preferred constructions, the diaphragm 55 is made from a elastomeric material. However, other constructions may employ other suitable materials (e.g., copper, brass, tin, composite, plastic, ceramic, other metals, and the like). An aperture 115 extends through the diaphragm 55 and provides fluid communication between the inlet 45 and a first chamber 120 disposed on the side opposite the diaphragm 55 from the outlet 50. High-pressure fluid passes through the aperture 115 and biases the diaphragm 55 into the closed position. In addition, a biasing spring 125 in contact with the diaphragm 55 further biases the diaphragm 55 in the closed position. Fluid from the first chamber 120 passes through a duct 130 into a second chamber 135 adjacent the solenoid 60. With the valve 40 in the closed position, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the fluid remains trapped in the second chamber 135. The aperture 115, first chamber 120, duct 130, and second chamber 135 define a first portion 140 of the second flow path 105.

To open the valve 40, the solenoid 60 is first energized to move a plunger 145 to an open position. Movement of the plunger 145 exposes the second chamber 135 to a second portion 150 of the second flow path 105. The second portion 150 of the second flow path 105 is made up of a plurality of ducts 155 that facilitate flow between the second chamber 135 and the outlet 50 of the valve 40. With the second flow path 105 open, water trapped within the first and second chambers 120, 135 is free to drain into the outlet 50 of the valve 40. As the water drains, the pressure on the first chamber side of the diaphragm 55 drops to a level that allows the pressure on the diaphragm 55 adjacent the inlet 45 to lift the diaphragm 55 against the biasing spring 125. Once lifted, high-pressure water flows into the outlet 50 of the valve 40. The increased diaphragm surface area exposed to the high-pressure flow causes the diaphragm 55 to move to the full open position.

To close the valve 40, the solenoid 60 is deenergized, thereby allowing a biasing spring 160 to move the plunger 145 into the closed position. Once closed, the second flow path 105 is again interrupted and high-pressure water again fills the first chamber 120 and the second chamber 135. With the first chamber 120 filled with high-pressure water, the water pressure on either side of the diaphragm 55 is approximately equal. Thus, the biasing spring 125 is able to move the diaphragm 55 into the closed position. Once the diaphragm 55 is in the closed position, the high-pressure water on the outlet side of the diaphragm 55 drains and the diaphragm is held in the closed position by the high-pressure water in the first chamber 120 and the biasing spring 125.

In operation, the controller 95 of FIG. 1 receives a flush signal when the push button 90 is moved to a flush position. The controller 95 energizes the solenoid 60 only if no signal is received from the flood sensor 70, or a signal is received that indicates that no flood is occurring. Once the flush sequence is initiated, the controller 95 times the duration that the valve 40 is in the open position. After a predetermined length of time, the controller 95 deenergizes the solenoid 60 and the valve 40 closes.

If the controller 95 receives a flood signal, actuation of the push button 90 will not initiate a flush sequence. Thus, the single valve 40 acts to control the flush sequence, while inhibiting flooding. In addition, because the valve 40 is normally closed, any failure in the system 10 will generally result in the prevention of flow to the bowl 15. Furthermore, valve reliability is improved as the valve 40 that is used to inhibit flooding is typically cycled on a daily basis.

In many constructions, the duration that the valve 40 is open can be adjusted. In addition, some controllers 95 are capable of controlling hundreds or even thousands of valves 40 simultaneously. Furthermore, many constructions allow for remote adjustments to one or more of the valves 40. This allows a single control station to adjust the time that one or more valves 40 remain open when actuated, or prevent the opening of one or more valves 40 if desired. In addition, the remote station can be used to remotely flush one or more bowls 15 if desired.

Although the invention has been described in detail with reference to certain preferred embodiments, variations and modifications exist within the scope and spirit of the invention as described and defined in the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7814582Jun 29, 2005Oct 19, 2010Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.System and method for measuring and monitoring overflow or wetness conditions in a washroom
US8613115Nov 5, 2010Dec 24, 2013Airbus Operations GmbhMonitoring device for a vacuum toilet
US20110004990 *Oct 12, 2006Jan 13, 2011Jair Scherrer LeitaoToilet flushing system using compressed air
EP2060683A2 *Nov 11, 2008May 20, 2009Vectair Systems LimitedAutomated flush system
Classifications
U.S. Classification4/427
International ClassificationE03D3/00, E03D5/10, E03D11/00, F16K21/16
Cooperative ClassificationE03D5/105, E03D11/00, E03D3/00, F16K21/16
European ClassificationE03D5/10, F16K21/16, E03D3/00, E03D11/00