US 20060057954 A1
A flexible inspection and access view port window that conforms to the shape of air ducts present in forced air heating, cooling and ventilation systems and held in place using a border layer which is magnetic or peelable adhesive, so that it can easily be installed, removed and re-installed without tools. This device allows the user to visually inspect the air ducts by sighting the clarity of a graphic viewing target with border attached within the duct. The graphic will be obscured with an accumulation of dust or other contaminants. Air pressure integrity inside the air duct system is maintained without the use of sealing gaskets or screws. The viewer can assist inspection with the aid of an optional light by activating a switch at the time of inspection. An optional dust alarm can also be installed that will trigger an audible or visual alarm when the accumulated dust level inside the duct exceeds a preset threshold.
1. A flexible view port window that forms a flexible inspection window for an HVAC duct and comprising:
a panel of flexible translucent material;
an attachment border secured around said panel;
releasable bonding material on said attachment border for bonding said border to said duct.
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This invention relates to a view port window of visually inspecting for indications of unacceptable IAQ contamination, and for checking cleaning and routine maintenance of ventilation air duct systems that are present in Heating, Ventilation, Air-conditioning (HVAC) and related systems.
In recent years the issue of indoor air quality in home and work environments has become a major concern. There is convincing evidence that poor indoor air quality (I.A.Q.) is damaging people's health. The Center for Disease Control has recognized that there is an alarming increase in asthma and allergy sufferers, pulmonary diseases and other health issues nationwide. It is also apparent that the increase in these conditions is not due to the outdoor environment, but the indoor environment coupled with our changing life styles. Buildings can harbor chemicals, spread disease, and in some cases can even be the source of the problem, such as mold growth in ductwork or chemical off-gassing from building materials.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has rated poor IAQ as being among the top environmental risks to human health. Due to rising energy costs, buildings are better insulated and constructed more airtight in an effort to minimize HVAC operating costs. A disturbing drawback to improved energy savings and efficiency is that we live and work in closed, climate controlled, buildings with materials and products that are made of highly sophisticated chemicals in climates that are also comfortable living and breeding grounds for bacteria, molds, viruses, and a host of chemicals which re-circulate through forced air ventilation systems.
Many companies and homeowners are now aware that mold and bacterial growth in buildings and within HVAC systems is not hygienic and can be associated with health outcomes and impact building systems operations. In an attempt to reduce IAQ related legal liability and alleviate this suffering, the only solution to control diminished indoor air quality and develop a proactive approach for maintaining acceptable indoor air quality, is to hire duct-cleaning companies on a routine basis to have the air handling ventilation systems cleaned and disinfected professionally.
Most ventilation systems are either hidden or not designed and constructed to be easily accessible, so it is difficult for occupants to visually inspect and determine their acceptable contamination levels for IAQ improvement programs. The need for professional duct cleaners has risen as a result of this difficulty. Indeed, air duct cleaning is a buyer-beware industry, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. Some companies, nicknamed “blow and go” businesses, don't have the proper equipment to suck out all the dirt. The association warns consumers to avoid gimmicks, such as $99 whole-house specials and sweeping claims about health benefits. Duct cleaning operators use large and expensive equipment to access, enter and reach the inside areas of the air duct systems and ensure the cleaning procedure is thorough.
Improvement toward good indoor air quality requires a planned IAQ approach of periodic visual inspection or constant monitoring by an alarm system in ventilation air duct systems at home and in work environments to determine when cleaning is required.
Viewing devices occur in other areas where air filtration is widely practiced. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,779,456 Cantoni, being aware of the great need of clean air for engines, describes a complex device for visually checking the air filter of an automobile. U.S. Pat. No. 3,199,488 Farr, again in an automotive function, describes a window for checking for contaminates behind a filter. While air filtration of engines is widely practiced, we recognize that it is much more important to protect the delicate structure of the human lung.
HVAC access doors are typically used in industrial and commercial practices. Ductmate Industries for example, catalogues a ‘Sandwich observation access door’, which has an airtight advanced pressure vessel design with a safety glass window view port surrounded by a galvanized steel or a specialty metal frame.
Ruskin Co. also catalogues a “Standard access door” with round plexi glass or safety glass window.
These large and rigid access doors are inflexible and do not conform to the variable ventilation configurations, unlike the present invention. Furthermore the cost of the ‘sandwich observation access door’ is considerably higher than the present invention.
The present invention provides a view port window to allow the user a quick and frequent visual inspection view port system for determining contamination levels present which may be occupant IAQ unacceptable.
The view port window also is designed to permit visual verification that the duct cleaning work has been properly performed throughout the ventilation ducts including the heavily contaminated areas of joist liner rafter ducts.
The purpose of the view port window is to be able to visually inspect, identify or rule out the presence of indoor contaminants, their sources, causes and pathways and design, operation or maintenance issues regarding the HVAC building systems. The view port window facilitates access into forced air ventilation ducts to visually determine when they need to be cleaned, thereby improving the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) program for residential, institutional, public, commercial and industrial buildings. The view port window enables systems that have been cleaned to be visually checked to ensure the treatment was effective.
The view port window also allows for opening, entering and illuminating the ducts repeatedly to determine when the cleaning needs to be done again without the use of screws or duct tape.
The view port window so includes an optional viewing light and an optional electronic dust alarm that will automatically alarm the consumer when cleaning service is needed.
In a proper duct cleaning procedure, access holes are cut into the sheet metal of the main ventilation ductwork. These access openings allow for the removal of contamination levels and permit a subsequent check visually of the interior condition of the ventilation system after cleaning. These holes are then closed with sheet metal covers and/or duct tape and attached to the ductwork with several sheet metal screws. Although it is possible to remove these covers later on, it is not as simple or as practical as the present invention, which allows the user an immediate view into the ventilation ducts through its transparent viewing layer. Furthermore, the inner area of the air duct may be easily accessed by peeling off the magnetic or adhesive layer by hand, without the use of tools. This facilitates the retrieval of debris or foreign matter that has fallen or crawled into the ventilation duct system, which is a common problem. The flexible and conforming features of this invention allow installation on the elbow of a duct bend or turn, thus enabling the viewer a bi-directional and horizontal inspection.
The present invention provides a view port window which facilitates the need for routine maintenance and cleaning of the HVAC systems, by introducing voluntary user proactive initiatives as an appropriate practice for solving IAQ problems. There are many HVAC filter systems on the market for the purpose of filtering out airborne particles. It is quite common for homeowners and maintenance workers to visually check the filters and replace them whenever necessary. If the entire ventilation duct system is not cleaned regularly and a new filter is installed, the filter becomes clogged almost immediately by the rampant particles within the ventilation system. Once a filter is clogged, airflow is reduced; heating and air-conditioning equipment lose their efficiency and consequently are subject to more dust and wear. In this event, forced air is no longer properly filtered and the air quality suffers. Thus, it is important to ensure that the ventilation system and the equipment are not heavily contaminated before replacing or cleaning a filter.
The view port window offers a means of visually inspecting the ventilation duct system easily and inexpensively by any layperson. Therefore, it would raise the HVAC industry standards and assist for the improvement of air quality in home and work environments.
This invention consists of a flexible view port window that forms a flexible inspection window which is attached by releasable bonding devices or substances, such as by magnetic strips or by a peelable adhesive, to ventilation air ducts which are present in forced air heating and cooling systems.
The view port window consists of a flexible, heat-resistant and transparent plastic layer which is sealed to a flexible, heat-resistant flat border. The border is either a magnet or a peelable adhesive layer. An opening is cut into the duct itself and the view port window closes the opening.
The view port window is flexible and will conform to the different contours and shapes of ventilation ductwork. Further, it may be cut, trimmed or shaped with common scissors to make any allowance for variable duct designs, plumbing pipes, electrical wiring or other such obstacles, which exist within or protrude through ventilation ducts. The optional viewing light consists of a housing, a switch, a battery and an illumination source such as a LED and is mounted into the side of the view port window. The on/off switch, which activates by push/turn control is accessible by the user at a corner on the device. Its housing protrudes through a hole in the view port window and duct and the viewing light aims forward illuminating the interior of the selected ventilation duct, so that dust and dirt accumulation may be easily recognized.
The optional electronic dust alarm consists of a sensor, the electronic circuitry, a sound or light alarm, a reset button and a small battery. The alarm can be affixed into a small opening in the view port window or off to the side within the duct. It is able to measure the contamination level by means of a light source and photo sensor, which triggers an alarm by obscuring the light transmission if the concentration of dust particles exceeds a preset, adjustable threshold. At high levels of dust, a visual or audible alarm goes off to warn the user of excess contamination. This device may be strategically placed within the duct to constantly monitor for dust accumulation and levels of contaminants. The electronic warning alarm can then be reset and the air duct system cleaned.
Several features and advantages of the present invention are:
Simple visual inspection is possible trough the view port window for observing contamination levels within the ventilation system.
Quick and easy access to otherwise inaccessible areas for retrieval of articles.
Optional light system to assist in visual inspection.
Optional electronic dust alarm to automatically indicate excessive levels of contamination.
Flexible material and conforming to changing configurations of ventilation design.
Assists duct cleaning technicians with additional visibility observation ports for a more precise cleaning.
Provides permanent visual observation of proper cleaning by duct cleaning trades.
Allows for interior visibility to view other HVAC mechanical related equipment.
Graphic viewing target affixed within the duct which aids in observing increasing contamination levels.
Removable and replaceable without tools. May be easily trimmed with eg. scissors.
Easily installed system allows for multiple viewing and bi-directional inspection areas.
Will level and equalize out to the contours of sheet metal without use of a gasket.
Introduces simple voluntary user initiative assisted by visual inspection, for routine cleaning practice as user-friendly procedure for improving I.A.Q.
Provides all the above advantages at a reasonable cost.
Current duct cleaning practices involve cutting a hole out of the underside of the ventilation duct (3), which after cleaning is covered over with a duct cleaning metal cover plate (5). This hole is cut out for purposes of viewing the interior of the ventilation duct (3) and the removal of contamination and dust levels.
A smaller round hole is sometimes also cut out with a hole saw in order to insert an air-pressure cleaning tool often called a skipper ball, air rake, snake, scorpion rod which may be used for a more precise cleaning. At completion of cleaning, a duct cleaning plastic plug (6) may be inserted to cover the hole or is covered with duct tape.
This installation shows the flexible and conforming nature of transparent viewing layer (1) and border (2).
Transparent viewing layer (1) and border (2) when installed onto the end cap of a joist rafter cavities (7) ventilation duct (3) allows for the visual inspection of the interior of these typically high-level contaminated ducts. The lower level ventilation duct (3) also has transparent viewing layer (1) and border (2) of magnetic peelable adhesive sheet layer installed for further horizontal visual inspection.
The light emitting diode LED (8) conforms to the LED board (9) which is bonded to the retainer ring (10) where the battery (11) is set inside of the battery housing (12) and the light switch on/off (13) is fixed inside of the battery housing (12).
The light switch on/off (13) is on the outside of transparent viewing layer (1) and border (2) which is on the outside of the ventilation duct (3).
This allows inspection to be done by engaging light switch on/off (13) which activates the light emitting diode LED (8) thereby providing illumination to the interior of the ventilation duct (3).
Although the above description is rather specific, it should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention, but merely providing illustrations of some of the currently preferred embodiments of this invention.
A hole of suitable shape, for example circular, is made with tin snips or a hole saw, and is cut to ¼″ inch larger diameter than the viewing layer (1) but less than the diameter of border (2). When fitted and placed over the hole, the border (2) covers any uneven metal cutting to the viewer and presents a very neat surface presentation. Since the viewing layer (1) is ¼″ inch smaller than the diameter of the hole which is cut, the view to the interior of the ventilation system is completely unobstructed by any peripheral duct work. The dimensions of the device can vary according to the size of ducts to be provided with an inspection system. The view port should not be used on a duct which consistently generates initial heat source of over 180 degree F.