FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention generally relates to fireplace mantels and shelves, more particularly the invention relates to electrical light sources incorporated into a shelf or shelf portion of a mantel to illuminate objects placed on, near or above the shelf.
Electrical light fixtures are commonly mounted on walls and ceilings above fireplaces to illuminate art work, photos, collectibles, and other objects placed on, near or above a fireplace mantel or shelf. These light fixtures are typically purchased from a different supplier than where fireplaces, fireplace accessories, or shelves are sold. In addition, the installation of light fixtures above the fireplace mantel usually requires the use of a different contractor than the one installing a fireplace mantel. A considerable amount of work and expense can be involved in routing wiring to wall or ceiling electrical fixtures above a fireplace. Accent lighting directed at the fireplace and the objects and artwork placed on or near it, enhance the overall ambiance of the fireplace setting. Often this accent lighting is utilized more frequently than the fireplace itself. It is now common for many prefabricated fireplaces to require an electrical connection in order to operate fans, gas valves and other controls that form part of the prefabricated fireplace. In particular, electric fireplaces including a fireplace mantel and flame simulating assembly, such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,965,707; 5,642,580; and 6,393,207 have become increasingly popular and can be simply placed against a wall and plugged into a nearby electrical outlet. These types of electric fireplaces are portable and have evolved into an item of furniture and do not form part of the building structure or require installation, as do wood and gas fireplaces. They provide an option to renters and condominium owners restricted to alterations that can be made to the dwelling. However, known fireplace mantels or electric fireplace assemblies do not provide integral accent lighting directed upwards at objects placed on, near or above the fireplace mantel.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
There is a need to integrate electrical lighting into fireplace mantels and shelves to provide a more cost effective means of providing accent lighting to illuminate objects placed on, near or above a fireplace mantel or shelf without the prior art method of routing wiring through walls and ceilings to separately purchased electrical fixtures. In addition, there is a need to integrate the electrical power connection and control functions of prefabricated fireplaces with fireplace mantel shelf lighting. It should be understood for example, that most electric fireplaces equipped with a heater use 12 amperes or more of the 15 ampere capacity of typical North American residential electrical circuits and it is therefore important to minimize the energy requirements of an additional mantel shelf light source. In addition, many types of light sources such as incandescent and halogen produce a great deal of heat that can result in surfaces near the mantel shelf light reaching undesirable temperatures that could be a burn hazard when touched, or can deform, melt, or otherwise adversely affect certain objects placed on top of the mantel shelf. Furthermore, certain types of light sources such as compact fluorescent light bulbs are known to interfere with the operation of some wireless remote controls that are used with electric fireplaces. There is a need to provide a built in mantel shelf light that is safe to place objects on, or near, without risk of damage due to heat, and does not cause interference with prefabricated fireplace wireless controls.
In one aspect of the invention a fireplace mantel is provided with a horizontal shelf for displaying objects. The shelf has a hollow cavity located below the top surface of the shelf. An opening is provided on the top surface of the shelf extending into the cavity. A removable light transmitting display panel with sufficient strength to support objects is supported in the opening. An electrical light source is disposed in the cavity directly below the light transmitting shelf panel whereby light is directed from within the cavity upwards through the light transmitting display panel. The removal of the display panel provides access to the light source for bulb replacement or servicing. Whereby objects placed on, near, or above the light transmitting display panel are illuminated even with a relatively low wattage light source. Furthermore, translucent objects placed directly on the light transmitting panel become luminescent themselves due to their proximity to the light source imparting a novel display of certain objects not provided by light sources further displaced from the objects such as with wall or ceiling light fixtures.
In another aspect of the invention a single fluorescent light source in the form of an elongated tube is disposed beneath a plurality of openings spaced from each other that are provided in the top surface of a shelf. Corresponding light transmitting display panels of sufficient strength for supporting objects are supported in each corresponding opening. Light is directed from a single light source through each of the light transmitting display panels seemingly providing a plurality of distinct light sources as viewed from above the shelf. This creates areas of lower and higher illumination along the length of the shelf allowing some objects placed on the shelf to be highlighted, through increased illumination, by placing objects close to one of the light transmitting display panels. Whereby increased visual interest and display utility is provided.
In another aspect of the invention a fireplace mantel having a shelf for displaying objects provides a cavity for housing a flame simulating assembly and an mantel shelf light. The shelf having at least one opening extending through the top surface into the cavity with a light transmitting display panel capable of supporting objects disposed in the opening. The flame simulating assembly having a simulated firebox enclosure including a simulated fuel bed; a flame effect apparatus; a diffusing screen positioned behind the simulated fuel bed to display images of flames; an internal light source; an electrical power connection; and a separate mantel shelf light source assembly operatively connected to the flame simulating electrical power connection. Control circuits allow the independent and selective operation of the mantel shelf light and the flame simulating assembly. The mantel shelf light source is disposed in the mantel cavity to direct light upwards through the light transmitting display panel to objects placed on, near or above the mantel shelf. Wherein the flame simulating assembly and mantel shelf light can be operated independently to provide either or both the ambiance of a simulated fire and accent lighting on objects placed on, near or above the mantel shelf.
In still another aspect of the invention a light transmitting heat shield is disposed in a spaced relationship beneath the light transmitting display panel to prevent the over heating of the light transmitting display panel from heat emitted from a light source and/or a prefabricated fireplace assembly.
In still another aspect of the invention a light reflector element is provided to increase the amount of light directed upwards through the light transmitting display panel and to facilitate the positioning of a light source to minimize heat produced by a light source from being directed onto the light transmitting display panel.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In a further aspect of the invention a ventilation air passageway is provided to the shelf cavity housing the mantel shelf light source to facilitate the ingress and egress of room air to prevent the overheating of the light source and/or the light transmitting display panel.
The invention may be more completely understood in consideration of the following detailed description of various embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective front view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention of an example electric fireplace assembly with a mantel shelf light.
FIG. 2 is perspective front view of another embodiment of the present invention of a shelf with an integral light source.
FIG. 3 is an enlarged side view taken along section line 3-3 of FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 is an enlarged side view taken along section line 4-4 of FIG. 2.
FIG. 5 is an enlarged side view taken along section line 4-4 of FIG. 2 showing another embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6 is an enlarged side view taken along section line 4-4 of FIG. 2 showing another embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 7 is a perspective front view of the shelf of FIG. 5 with an integral light source providing illumination above and below the shelf.
FIG. 8 is a perspective front view of a fireplace mantel and prefabricated fireplace showing another embodiment of the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 9 is an enlarged front view of the mantel of FIG. 8 with the shelf removed.
Referring to the drawings, an example electric fireplace assembly in accordance to the present invention is shown generally at 10, having a flame simulating assembly 11, fireplace mantel 12 with shelf 13 and hearth 14. An example shelf 13 for displaying objects is constructed with length, width and depth dimensions to provide an internal cavity 22 of sufficient size to house an electrical light source 23. Shelf 13 has a generally horizontal top section 15 on which objects can be placed. Cavity 22 is located below top section 15. An opening 16 is provided in top section 15 that extends into cavity 22. A removable light transmitting display panel 17 of size and shape to substantially cover opening 16 is supported in opening 16 with the top surface of light transmitting display panel 17 positioned to lie generally flush with the top surface of top section 15. Light transmitting display panel 17 is constructed of a light transmitting material such as glass, acrylic, plastic or similar materials capable of supporting the weight of objects placed on top of it, as light transmitting display panel 17 serves as both a light transmitting medium and a display surface. It is preferable that light transmitting display panel 17 is translucent to obscure from above, the view of objects below the display panel such as the light assembly, support brackets, wiring etc. Light source 23 is mounted in cavity 22 positioned to direct light upwards through light transmitting shelf panel 17 illuminating objects and surfaces on, near or above shelf 13.
Referring to FIG. 1, shelf 13 forms the top portion of a fireplace mantel 12 of example electric fireplace assembly 10. Rays of light 18 (illustrated as dotted lines) emanate from light transmitting display panel 17.
Referring to FIG. 2, another embodiment of the invention is illustrated whereby shelf 13 is shown as a display shelf for mounting on a vertical structural element such as a wall.
Referring to FIGS. 1 and 3, an electric fireplace assembly 10 has a fireplace mantel 12 having a front section 19, top section 15 and side panels 20 and 21 that form a decorative enclosure with a substantially hollow cavity 22 sufficient in size to house flame simulating assembly 11 including a separate mantel shelf light source 23. Materials and methods for constructing fireplace mantels are well known and generally the same as those used in household furniture and cabinets. For example, mantel 12 would typically be constructed of an assembly of wood panels and moldings glued, screwed and/or nailed together, or, made in molds using glass reinforced gypsum, cast stone, plaster, polyurethane, resins or other suitable materials. The front portion of flame simulating assembly 11 is positioned in opening 24 that is centrally located on front section 19.
Flame simulating assemblies are also well known and typically include: a simulated firebox enclosure 25 with a front opening 26 for viewing the simulated fire; an internal light source 27; moving light reflective elements 28; a light diffusing screen 29; flame effect element 30; simulated fuel elements 31; an electrical supply connection 32; and switches, motors and controls (that are well known and not shown) are operatively connected. Electrical supply connection 32 is shown as a cord with a plug but alternatively could be leads or terminals for hard wiring connections to the building electrical supply circuitry. Light from the internal light source 27 is directed at, and transmitted by, moving light reflective elements 28 through (or past) flame effect element 30, and through the light diffusing screen 29 positioned behind simulated fuel elements 31 so that when viewed from a vantage point in front of flame simulating assembly 11, a representation of a wood fire with moving flames in a firebox is simulated. In addition, it is very common for flame simulating assemblies to include an electrical heater 33 and air circulation fan 34. In accordance to a preferred embodiment of the present invention a new and useful improvement has been made to prior art flame simulating assemblies by providing a separate mantel shelf light source 23 mounted externally and independently from simulated firebox enclosure 25. Light source 23 is coupled together with simulated firebox enclosure 25 with wiring 35 operatively connected to flame simulating assembly electrical supply connection 32. Control circuitry allows independent operation of light source 23 and flame simulating assembly 11. Light from light source 23 is directed out through light transmitting display panel 17 on to objects or surfaces on, near or above the light transmitting display panel 17. A light reflector 36 is positioned beneath light source 23 to redirect light up through light transmitting display panel 17.
For example, fluorescent type T12, T10 and T8 tubes for use with light source 23, represent a good low cost light source for this application with minimal heat generation, high lighting efficiency and low energy consumption. For further illustrative purposes for example, a light source 23 using a 15 watt, 18 inch long T8 fluorescent tube which has a one inch diameter provides a low profile light source suitable for use inside cavity 22 of shelf 13 capable of providing effective accent lighting of objects placed on, near or above shelf 13. Light source 23 is supported on cross member 37 that extends between, and is secured to, the inside surfaces of the upper portions of side panels 20 and 21. A switch to control light source 23 (not shown) may be mounted at convenient locations on either the flame simulating assembly 11 or mantel 12. In addition, or alternatively, a wireless remote control can be used to operate either or both the flame simulating assembly 11 and light source 23. Top section 15 has an opening 16 extending into cavity 22. Light transmitting display panel 17 is located in opening 16 supported on brackets 38 secured to the inside edge of opening 16. The top surface of display panel 17 is positioned to lie generally flush with the top surface of top section 15. As an alternative to support brackets 38, opening 16 may be made with an inwardly projecting edge (a rabbeted edge) to provide sufficient surface bearing area to support display panel 17 as illustrated in FIG. 5.
Referring to FIGS. 4,5 and 6 which show several side views along section line 4-4 of FIG. 2 illustrating embodiments of the invention where shelf 13 is a shelf only for mounting on vertical surfaces such as a wall. However, these same embodiments can be utilized in other constructions where shelf 13 forms part of a fireplace mantel such as with a mantel 12 or electric fireplace assembly 10. With specific reference to FIG. 4, shelf 13 is illustrated as a built up assembly of panels and moldings typically made of wood forming a shelf of hollow construction with a cavity 22 located below a top section 15. An elongated opening 16 extends through top section 15 into cavity 22 with the long edges of opening 16 extending substantially parallel with the two long edges of top section 15. Light source 23 includes a fluorescent tube 39, electronic ballast 40 and light source housing 41. Ballast 40 is positioned to the side of fluorescent tube 39, as opposed to below it, so as to minimize to minimize the required height of cavity 22 and therefore the overall thickness of shelf 13. Light reflector 36 redirects light from fluorescent tube 39 up through light transmitting display panel 17 for increasing the illumination above display panel 17. Bottom section 42 is provided for overall shelf aesthetic reasons and to conceal light source 23 from view but it could be omitted to reduce manufacturing costs. The rear portion of shelf 13 is uncovered providing a rear opening 43 into cavity 22. A switch and electrical supply connections for light source 23 are well known and not shown.
Referring to FIGS. 5 and 7, FIG. 5 details a molded construction of shelf 13 with a material such as glass reinforced gypsum with a projecting edge (rabbeted edge) in opening 16 to support light transmitting display panel 17. Pieces of wood or metal are molded into the shelf to provide strength for fastening reflector 36, light source 23, and the installation of shelf 13. An additional opening 44 is provided in bottom section 42 beneath light source 23 whereby light from light source 23 is transmitted both up through light transmitting display panel 17, and down through opening 44 for providing illumination above and below shelf 13. In this embodiment, light reflector 36 is constructed in a convex shape with surfaces that redirect light from light source 23 up through light transmitting display panel 17 and down through opening 44. A light transmitting panel (not shown) could be secured to bottom section 42 to cover opening 44. FIG. 7 is a perspective front view illustrating light 18 (shown as dotted lines) directed outward and upward from light transmitting display panel 17 for illuminating objects and surfaces on, near or above display panel 17, and light is also directed outward and downward through opening 44 in bottom section 42.
Referring to FIG. 6, a light source 45 uses a halogen type bulb 46 that generates a substantial amount of heat and is strategically offset from opening 16 so that much of the heat produced is directed away from light transmitting display panel 17 to prevent its top surface from becoming undesirably hot. A removable light transmitting heat shield 47 is positioned between light source 45 and display panel 17 to reduce the amount of radiant and convection heat produced by halogen bulb 46 from raising the surface temperature of display panel 17 to an undesirable level. Heat shield 47 is supported around its perimeter by a continuous support flange 48 secured to top section 15 so that a general seal is formed to minimize the amount of heated air flowing past heat shield 47 onto display panel 17. A light reflector 49 is constructed with reflective surfaces to redirect light from light source 45 up through display panel 17 for increasing illumination above display panel 17. A ventilation passageway 50 is provided to cavity 22 to allow the ingress and egress of room air to reduce cavity temperatures via ventilation opening 51 provided in bottom section 42 and a gap 52 provided at the rear edges of shelf 13 by spacers 53 that hold the rear surface of shelf 13 from fitting tight against a vertical surface such as a wall. Light source 45 has a housing 54 with ventilation apertures 55. To prevent the built up of heat in a dead air space beneath display panel 17, a secondary ventilation air passageway 56 is provided between light transmitting shelf panel 17 and heat shield 47 through gap 57 located between the adjoining edges of opening 16 and display panel 17 maintained by the deliberate under sizing of display panel 17 in relation to opening 16. For example, an average 1/16″ gap around the perimeter of display panel 17 is provided. Support brackets 38 are approximately ½″ in length and do not obstruct ventilation passageway 56.
Referring to FIGS. 8 and 9, shelf 58 is constructed as a removable portion of mantel 59 and has a substantially hollow construction. Shelf 58 has a top section 60 with three separate oval shaped openings 61, 62 and 63 spaced from each other. The openings are arranged in general alignment with the front edge of shelf 58 with the central opening 62 being larger in size than the outer openings 61 and 63. Openings 61, 62, 63 extend through top section 60 into mantel cavity 64 defined by the inner surfaces of mantel 59. Light source 65 uses a 4 foot fluorescent tube 66 and is mounted in cavity 64 below openings 61, 62 and 63. The outer edges of the openings 61 and 63 are horizontally spaced approximately 4 feet from each other to correspond to the linear dimensions of light source 65. Three separate light transmitting display panels 67, 68 and 69 of corresponding size and shape are positioned in their corresponding openings 61, 62 and 63. Light 18 (illustrated as dotted lines) emanate from a single light source below top section 60 and is directed outward and upward from seemingly three distinct sources through three separate and spaced apart light transmitting display panels 67, 68 and 69. This creates areas of lower and higher illumination along the length of top section 60 providing greater visual interest and opportunities to highlight specific objects (through increased illumination) by strategic placement of objects on or close to one of the light transmitting display panels 67, 68 or 69. A light reflector (not shown) with a profile similar to light reflector 36 shown in FIG. 3 is preferably incorporated into this construction. Removal of shelf 58 provides service access to replace four foot long fluorescent tube 66.
It is to be understood that what has been described is a preferred embodiment to the invention. The invention nonetheless is susceptible to certain changes and alternative embodiments fully comprehended by the spirit of the invention as described above, and the scope of the claims set out below.