US 20060086824 A1
A portable, light-activated, mist sprayer system comprising direct current power supply, an ambient light sensor, electronic circuitry that evaluates an electrical signal received from the light sensor to determine whether a “dusk” or “dawn” light condition exists; a container of treating fluid at a desired concentration; a motor and pump that are activated at the appropriate time as determined by the sensed light condition; at least one sprayer nozzle that will dispense a mist containing the treating fluid whenever the pump is operating; and a timer that turns off the pump after a preset interval to terminate the spraying cycle. A preferred utility for the system of the invention is spraying dilute solutions of insecticide or insect repellent during the periods of significant insect activity that typically occur around dusk and dawn. An RF receiving unit is also disclosed for optional activation using a remote transmitter.
1. A portable fluid mist sprayer system comprising:
a source of treating fluid;
an electrical power source;
a pump for pressurizing the treating fluid as needed to discharge the treating fluid at a predetermined discharge pressure and flow rate;
at least one spray nozzle configured to receive the pressurized treating fluid and to discharge the treating fluid in the form of a mist;
at least one flow conduit providing fluid communication between the source and the at least one spray nozzle;
an ambient light sensor;
an electronic control unit that initiates a flow of pressurized treating fluid to the at least one sprayer head in response to sensed ambient light of predetermined intensity and duration.
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This application is a continuation-in-part of, and claims priority from, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/970,778 as to all subject matter contained in this application that was previously disclosed in said parent application.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to a portable device useful for spraying a fluid mist through a sprayer head to treat the atmosphere in a desired location proximal to the device, and more particularly, to a self-contained, light-activated, pump-driven mist sprayer that initiates a flow of treating fluid in response to a sensed ambient light condition of desired intensity and duration. Once initiated, the flow of fluid mist through the sprayer desirably continues for an adjustable time interval. A preferred use of the system is for eradicating or repelling flying or crawling insects in locations remote from AC power outlets during the periods of significant insect activity that typically occur around dusk and dawn. An insect attractant, either alone or in combination with a pesticide, can also be dispensed using the subject device.
2. Description of Related Art
Problems associated with the presence of mosquitoes and other flying insects are well known, particularly during summer months when people typically engage in many outdoor activities. People have long appreciated the dangers associated with mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and equine encephalitis. More recently, publicity associated with the West Nile virus in has heightened public awareness of dangers that can be associated with mosquito bites. Additionally, people are generally aware of the pain, discomfort and potentially dangerous allergic reactions that can accompany the bites of various flying and crawling insects encountered outdoors in either urban or rural areas.
Various chemical sprays and devices have previously been used to control flying and crawling insects, spiders, and other such pests. Chemical sprays containing environmentally acceptable concentrations of insecticides or pesticides have historically been applied using hand-held sprayers, fogging machines, and the like. Such sprays are sometimes applied by governmental agencies in parks, residential neighborhoods and other high-risk urban areas, but are most often applied by individuals using hand-held sprayers in and around their own homes and yards. In more rural settings, sprayer systems have previously been used to spray insecticides or pesticides in and around barns, livestock holding areas, and the like. Other devices that have previously been used to control insects and other pests have incorporated a lure or an attractant, such as food baits, light, pheromones, or carbon dioxide, to draw the insects or pests to a trap, electrically energized grid, or poison.
Many of the prior art systems and devices for controlling insects and pests are operated directly by the user. Others are controlled by timers that are preset to initiate their function at a particular time and for a particular interval. In some cases, the electrical energy required to operate the devices, particularly those disposed in remote or rural areas where electricity is not readily available, is obtained from batteries or solar cells. U.S. Pat. No. 6,192,621, for example, discloses a pest control device for outdoor use comprising a solar-powered fan that enhances the circulation of odorous repellent to the external ambient environment. U.S. Pat. No. 5,763,873 discloses an agricultural implement for spraying herbicides on weeds that utilizes a photo-detector circuit to avoid spraying the herbicide on bare soil. The photo-detector circuit is not affected by changes in ambient lighting conditions.
In the related parent application, the contents of which are incorporated by reference herein, a system is disclosed that preferably comprises an alternating current power source, ambient light sensor, electronic circuitry that evaluates an electrical signal received from the light sensor to determine whether a “dusk” or “dawn” light condition exists; a container, reservoir or other source of treating fluid at a desired concentration; a pump that is activated at the appropriate time as determined by the sensed light condition; at least one sprayer head and, preferably, an array of spaced-apart sprayer heads, each having a nozzle that will dispense a mist containing the treating fluid whenever the pump is operating; flexible tubing or other conduits providing fluid communication between the fluid source and the sprayer heads; and a timer that turns off the pump after a preset interval to terminate the spraying cycle. The electronic control unit disclosed in the parent application comprises a light level discrimination module, a pump control module, a power supply module, a remote receiver module, and optionally, a remote transmitter for activating the pump control module.
Various solar-powered devices have previously been disclosed that utilize solar-powered batteries to store electrical energy during daylight hours for use in operating electric timers capable of turning one or more outdoor lights on and off daily and, in some cases, for powering those lights. The use of photocells for activating or deactivating a mechanical device upon receipt of light is also well known. Photocells are most often triggered by the impingement or interruption of a directed light beam and not by ambient light. U.S. Pat. No. 6,756,758 discloses receiver circuits for detecting a target light source that effectively remove “noise,” including ambient daylight, during the operation of such devices. Other devices have been disclosed that turn one or more lights on or off in response to predetermined levels of ambient light.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,015,366 discloses a highly automated agricultural production system comprising a weather sensor package used to measure weather conditions, including the sunlight energy spectrum, the intensity of which is measured using a plant growth photometer said to be available from International Light, Inc. The system is said to optionally include a fluid delivery system useful in controlling insects and diseases, but is complex and not desirable for home use.
Mosquitoes, flies and other insects are most easily controlled when they are most active, often during the time around sunrise and sunset. The use of timers alone to activate spraying or misting systems is often inadequate for initiating spraying at the onset of the relatively short periods when such pests are most active. Timers alone are not responsive to variations in daylight hours, weather conditions and topography that can all affect ambient light levels and insect activity at a particular time of day in a particular location.
Notwithstanding the systems and devices previously disclosed, a mist sprayer system is needed that is portable and does not require an AC power source, that will activate automatically at dusk or dawn and spray for a preset interval, that can optionally be activated manually or by using a remote transmitter, and that will be effective for eradicating or repelling flying and crawling insects, spiders and the like from outdoor areas in which the system is deployed. A portable mist sprayer system is also needed that can be easily inserted into any of a variety of desired carrier devices, such as, for example, a simulated lamp, lantern or decorative torch.
The present invention is a portable, self-contained, mist sprayer system that preferably comprises a direct current power supply, an ambient light sensor, electronic circuitry that evaluates an electrical signal received from the light sensor to determine whether a “dusk” or “dawn” light condition exists; a container of treating fluid at a desired concentration; a motor and pump that are activated at the appropriate time as determined by the sensed light condition; at least one sprayer nozzle that will dispense a mist containing the treating fluid whenever the pump is operating; flexible tubing or other conduits providing fluid communication between the fluid source and the pump inlet, and between the pump outlet and the sprayer nozzle; and a timer that turns off the pump after a preset interval to terminate the spraying cycle. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the electronic control unit comprises a light level discrimination module, a pump control module, and optionally, a remote transmitter for activating the pump control module.
One preferred application for the system is for spraying a mist comprising a treating fluid useful for eradicating or repelling flying or crawling insects such as mosquitoes, wasps, bees, spiders, and the like, that may be injurious to humans or livestock. Examples of outdoor areas that can be serviced by the systems of the invention include, for example, residential or commercial yard and patio areas, swimming pools, outdoor restaurants, horse and livestock barns, garbage dumpsters and compactors, food processing plants, parks and picnic areas, boat houses, dog kennels, zoos, amusement parks, industrial sites, and the like. Systems of the invention can similarly be used for controlling insects and the diseases they carry in vineyards, vegetable fields, orchards, greenhouses, nurseries and such, or for repelling dogs and wild animals such as foxes, squirrels, rabbits, and the like, that can become pests in gardens or other restricted areas. The portable mist sprayer system of the invention can desirably be installed and used in a variety of different carrier devices such as, for example, a torch, lamp or lantern.
The system of the invention can be easily, effectively and reliably used to dispense a variety of treating fluids, most preferably liquids, but optionally, gases or liquids containing dissolved, entrained or suspended gaseous or powdered solid components. The treating fluids are preferably dispensed as a mist, and are preferably selected from known, commercially available insecticides, pesticides, insect or pest repellents, fungicides, biocides, and the like, and can optionally include an attractant component as a lure. It will also be appreciated upon reading the disclosure that the subject system can likewise be used for dispensing other treating fluids “on demand” including, for example, liquid fertilizers, air fresheners, cooling water, and the like, and at times other than dusk and dawn.
The system of the invention replaces standard timers or programmed controllers previously used in automated dispensing systems, and, because the dispensing cycles are triggered by prevailing ambient light levels, will typically operate only during the times when flying and crawling insects and pests are most active. By automatically initiating chemical treating for defined intervals during the periods of greatest insect activity, the user is able to reduce the amount of treating fluid required, and to thereby achieve better results at lower cost. The system is automatically responsive to use in various time zones and topographies, and will automatically adapt to the lengthening and shortening daylight hours that are normally associated with seasonal changes. In addition to having an automatic light-activated capability unlike that of other known portable sprayer systems and devices, the mist sprayer system of the invention can also be activated manually or by using a wireless remote transmitter if desired.
The apparatus of the invention is further described and explained in relation to the following drawings wherein:
Printed circuit board 76, pump 48 and motor 50 are all preferably mounted on frame 24. Ring 32 is desirably threaded onto the bottom of frame 24 and tightened using downwardly projecting, circumferentially spaced twist grips 34. Batteries 46, preferably four 1.5 volt cells, are disposed in recesses at opposite sides of ring 32, and are contained in that position by the interior walls of collar 40, which is threaded into engagement with the upwardly extending portion of ring 32. Sealing rings 36, 38 are provided in annular grooves on the outside of the lower portion of frame 24 and on the outwardly facing surface of ring 32, respectively. Motor 50 is preferably a 6-volt DC motor with a gear box driving pump 48. Batteries 46, RF receiver 72 (for use with an associated remote transmitter, not shown), switch 70 and light sensor 74 (preferably a cadmium sulfide sensor) are each connected to printed circuit board 76, although the wires and electrical connections are not all depicted in order to simplify the drawings. Dome 62 is preferably rotatably mounted above pump 48 and motor 50 by means of a retainer flange 68 disposed beneath inclined dome base 64. Because dome 62 is rotatably mounted on inclined dome base 64, both the radial spray direction and the vertical spray angle of spray nozzle 58 can be adjusted by rotating either dome 62 or the entire mist sprayer system 16. An alternate position for spray nozzle 58 when it dome 62 is rotated relative to dome base 64 is shown in dashed outline in
Container 20 is preferably a plastic or metal bottle, most preferably made of high density polyethylene (“HDPE”), that desirably contains a replaceable liner bag 22 in which treatment fluid 30 is prepackaged. Bag 22 is preferably flexible, and is most preferably made of metallized plastic. Treatment fluid 30 is preferably a liquid capable of being pumped through at least one spray nozzle 58 and into the surrounding air. Treatment fluid 30 can comprise a pesticide, insecticide, or other liquid material that can be dispensed from mist sprayer system 16 to achieve a beneficial purpose. Although a liquid, which can be atomized by spray nozzle 58, is preferred for use as treatment fluid 30, treatment fluid 30 can also be selected from gases, suspensions, and mixtures thereof. Where gas is used as treatment fluid 30, container 20 can be pressurized and pump 48 and motor 50 can be replaced, for example, by a suitable gas dispensing mechanism.
Pick-up tube 28 is preferably made of HDPE and desirably extends downwardly to a point near the internal bottom of replaceable bag 22 inside container 20 to facilitate substantially complete utilization of treatment fluid 30. Nipple 26 is threaded onto or otherwise attached to a similarly threaded neck at the top of bag 22. The top of pick-up tube 28 is desirably in fluid communication through nipple 26 with flexible tubing 52, which is attached to the inlet of pump 48, as is more easily seen in
Parallel nand gates receive the signals from the discriminators, and assuming that the pump start criteria have been met, signal pump controller module 102 to start motor 50 and pump 48. Pump controller module 102 preferably comprises a misting duration selector, a misting duration timer, and a DC pump controller. Three-way switch 70 is provided for use in turning battery power to light sensor 74 and RF receiver 72 of spray mister system 16 on or off. The third switch position activates a test circuit that operates mist sprayer system 16 for a preset interval such as about five seconds. When system 16 is powered up, motor 50 and pump 48 can be activated either by light sensor 74 or by an RF signal received from an optional remote transmitter, not shown. Ambient light sensor 74 is desirably positioned so that it is not blocked from receiving the prevailing ambient light by trees, overhangs, screening structures, or the like, although it is not necessary that it be positioned to receive direct light from the sun or another light source. When positioning portable mist sprayer system 16 and light sensor 74, care should also be given to avoiding locations where flood lights, car lights, or the like, are likely to impinge directly on the sensor, thereby impeding the ability of the sensor to monitor the prevailing ambient light conditions.
Although the use of batteries is disclosed herein as the electrical energy source for the preferred embodiment of the invention, it will be appreciated that solar cells can also be use to power such portable, light-activated mist sprayer systems if desired.
Other alterations and modifications of the invention will likewise become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading this specification in view of the accompanying drawings, and it is intended that the scope of the invention disclosed herein be limited only by the broadest interpretation of the appended claims to which the inventors are legally entitled.