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Publication numberUS20070251257 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/681,852
Publication dateNov 1, 2007
Filing dateMar 5, 2007
Priority dateApr 28, 2006
Also published asUS7464566, US20070251263
Publication number11681852, 681852, US 2007/0251257 A1, US 2007/251257 A1, US 20070251257 A1, US 20070251257A1, US 2007251257 A1, US 2007251257A1, US-A1-20070251257, US-A1-2007251257, US2007/0251257A1, US2007/251257A1, US20070251257 A1, US20070251257A1, US2007251257 A1, US2007251257A1
InventorsThomas W. Rand, Andrew J. Doberstein, Joseph H. Zyduck, Jennifer U. Straszewski
Original AssigneeRand Thomas W, Doberstein Andrew J, Zyduck Joseph H, Straszewski Jennifer U
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Control for cooler unit
US 20070251257 A1
Abstract
A cooler unit has improved control components. The cooler unit includes a digital control unit with a circuit board having high-voltage components and a display. The refrigeration also includes a control housing with a display window, the display positioned to be seen through the display window and covered by a display cover positioned within the display window. The display cover serves to mechanically and electrically isolate the display. The control housing is mounted to a floor of a cabinet liner that is sloped in a downward direction toward the opening of the cooler unit, the control housing retains food and beverage items that are stored on the floor of the cabinet liner so that the items do not exit fall out of the cooler unit.
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Claims(19)
1. A cooler unit, comprising:
a control unit comprising a circuit board with a high-voltage portion;
a display mounted to the circuit board, the display having a display face;
a display cover sized to overlay the display face; and
a control unit housing with a display window sized to accept the display and display cover;
wherein the display cover is positioned over the display, adjacent to the display face, and within the display window.
2. The cooler unit of claim 1, wherein the display cover is configured to mechanically and electrically isolate from an area outside of the display cover.
3. The cooler unit of claim 1, wherein the display cover is translucent.
4. The cooler unit of claim 3, wherein the display cover has a flame rating of one of 5 VA and 5 VB.
5. The cooler unit of claim 1, wherein the display cover has a thickness configured to thermally insulate the display from an area outside of the display cover.
6. The cooler unit of claim 1, wherein the control unit is mounted to the control unit housing.
7. The cooler unit of 6, wherein the control unit housing further includes a plurality of first ribs and a plurality of second ribs, the first and second ribs configured to receive a first edge of the circuit board and second edge of the circuit board.
8. The cooler unit of claim 1, wherein the control unit further comprises at least one switch and the control unit housing further comprises a paddle configured to activate the switch when actuated.
9. The cooler unit of claim 8, wherein the paddle has a thickness configured to thermally insulate the switch from an area outside of the control unit housing.
10. A cooler unit, comprising:
a control unit for the cooler unit, the control unit comprising a circuit board and a display with a planar face, a first sidewall, and a second sidewall;
a housing for the control unit, the housing including a planar front wall, a plurality of edges defining an aperture in the front wall of the housing, a pair of opposing edges having notches; and
a display cover with a planar front face, a planar back face, a first sidewall, a second sidewall opposite to the first sidewall, a first flange extending from the first sidewall, and a second flange extending from the second sidewall, the display cover being translucent and sized to overlay the face of the display;
wherein the aperture in the front wall of the housing is sized so that the display cover can be disposed in the aperture, wherein the notches of the edges of the housing are sized so that the first and second flange can be disposed in the notches when the display cover is disposed in the aperture in the front wall of the housing, wherein first and second flanges of the display cover are configured so that the first and second flanges engage a face of the front wall of the housing when the display cover is disposed in the aperture in the front wall of the housing.
11. The cooler unit of claim 1, wherein the housing further includes a plurality of first ribs and a plurality of second ribs, the first and second ribs configured to receive a first edge of the circuit board and second edge of the circuit board.
12. The cooler unit of claim 2, wherein the first ribs are formed within a top of the housing and the second ribs are formed within a bottom of the housing.
13. The cooler unit of claim 3, wherein each first rib has a first rib notch formed therein to receive the first edge of the circuit board, and each second rib has a second rib notch formed therein to receive the second edge of the circuit board.
14. The cooler unit of claim 4, wherein the first rib notches form a first line, the second rib notches form a second line, the first line being parallel to the second line and to a longitudinal axis of the front wall.
15. A cooler unit having a cabinet defining a storage cavity having a back side and an opening at a front side, the cooler unit comprising:
a liner disposed in the cabinet, the liner having a bottom wall sloping downward in the direction from the back side to the front side;
a control unit for controlling the cooler unit; and
a housing for the control unit mounted to a front portion of the bottom wall of the liner, the housing extending across a width of the bottom wall;
wherein the control unit is located within the housing and is mounted to the bottom wall of the liner proximate the opening.
16. The cooler unit of claim 15, wherein the bottom wall of the liner has a slope.
17. The cooler unit of claim 15, wherein the housing further comprises a display window.
18. The cooler unit of claim 17, wherein the housing further comprises at least one paddle connected to the housing with a living hinge.
19. The cooler unit of claim 15, wherein the control unit is mechanically and electrically isolated from the housing.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/795,821 filed on Apr. 28, 2006, and entitled “Control for Cooler Unit,” hereby incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein.

STATEMENT OF FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to cold storage units, such as coolers and refrigerators, and in particular, the invention relates to cooler units with an improved control unit and control unit housing.

Cold storage units, such as refrigerators, freezers and beverage coolers, are well known, virtually indispensable appliances. Compact refrigerators, especially built-in undercounter beverage and wine coolers, have especially attractive attributes because they can be installed in homes, offices, boats, and recreational vehicles. There has thus been numerous refinements and improvements made to these devices to address and correct deficiencies in the prior art. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,935,712, which is herein incorporated by reference, discloses a cooler unit with improved storage and accessibility features.

Another improvement is greater control of temperature using digital control units. Digital control systems can control a wide range of temperatures, allowing the user to easily set the cooler to a certain temperature. Digital control units for a cooler unit can usually include a display to provide temperature information to the user, and user inputs that allow the user to control the temperature of the cooler unit. The display and user inputs are usually placed on near the front interior of the unit so that the user can see the display and access the user inputs. The display and user inputs are electrically connected to the control circuit of the digital control unit. The control circuit can be located elsewhere in the unit (e.g., near the compressor) with electrical lines connecting to the display and user inputs or the control circuit can be located near the display and user inputs and the control circuit can be electrically connected to the refrigeration components (e.g., the compressor). In either of these configurations, a transformer, rectifier, and/or power regulator may be required and these components may need to be located separate from the control circuit, which can make the unit more costly to produce.

Another problem is that digital control units can have sensitive electrical components that are configured to operate in a temperature range and may malfunction if operated outside of that range. For example, semiconductors typically require a heat sink to transfer heat from the semiconductor into the air surrounding the heat sink in order to maintain the semiconductor's proper operating temperature. Placing a digital control unit near the compressor and coils may negatively impact the ability of the heat sink to dissipate heat from the semiconductor. In fact, heat may be transferred from the heat sink to the semiconductor if the heat sink is placed in a heated environment like the environment that can surround the compressor and coils.

Another issue is that safety standards and regulations may require that the digital control unit be contained in a housing made of materials with certain properties. For example, the control unit housing may be required to have a minimum Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.® flame rating if the digital control unit contains high-voltage and/or high-power components. The display and user inputs may also need to be mechanically and/or electrically isolated from a user if the display and user inputs are mounted to a circuit board having high-voltage and/or high-power components.

Another issue with compact cooler units is the maximal use of interior space for storage. Such units typically have a liner on the interior of the cabinet with a liner floor that slopes in a downward direction towards the door, either for drainage or because of the draft angle required to remove the liner from the mold. The liner floor can be used to store food and beverage items; however, the liner floor can prove to be unsuitable for food and beverage item storage. This is because the slope can cause the food and beverage items to rest against the door of the unit when the door is closed. When the door is subsequently opened, the food and beverage items are no longer restrained by the door and can fall out of the cooler unit. Thus, a user is not able to use the liner floor to store food and beverage items, and this available storage space is wasted.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a solution to the above problems of the prior art. In one aspect, the invention provides a cooler unit having a digital control unit including a control circuit having a high-voltage portion and a display. A display cover overlays the display and is positioned in a window of a control unit housing.

In preferred embodiments, the display cover is translucent and configured to mechanically and electrically isolate the display from an area outside of the display cover. Additionally, the display cover may be comprised of a material having a flame rating of one of 5 VA and 5 VB. The display cover may also have a thickness that is configured so that the display cover thermally insulates the display from an area outside of the display cover. The control unit can be mounted to the control housing and sit between a plurality of slots in a first set of ribs and a plurality of slots in a second set of ribs. The control unit can include a switch that is activated when a paddle formed in the control unit housing is actuated, the paddle serving to mechanically and/or electrically isolate the switch from an area outside of the control unit housing. The thickness of the paddle may have a thickness configured to thermally insulate the switch from an area outside of the control unit housing.

Another aspect of the invention provides a cooler unit with a control unit that has a circuit board and a display. The control unit is mounted in a control unit housing having an aperture in a front wall. A translucent display cover overlays the display and is positioned in the aperture. The display cover includes flanges positioned within notches that are positioned on opposite sides of the aperture, the display cover further positioned against the inner wall of the control unit housing.

In preferred embodiments, a plurality of notched ribs help to hold the control unit in a position that is parallel to the front face of the control unit housing.

Another aspect of the invention provides a cooler unit with a liner disposed in the cabinet, the liner having a bottom wall that may be sloped downward from the rear of the cabinet to the cabinet opening. The control unit housing is mounted to the liner floor near the cabinet opening and retain food and beverage items stored on the liner floor. The control unit housing may further include a display window and a paddle having a living hinge. The control unit housing may be mechanically and electrically isolated from the control unit and/or the components of the control unit.

The foregoing and other objects and features of the invention will appear from the following description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of the cooler unit of the present invention with a pair of beverage items;

FIG. 2 is a partial side cross-sectional view taken along line 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged partial side cross-sectional view within arc 3-3 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a partial side cross-sectional view take along line 4-4 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a partial exploded assembly view of a base of a control unit housing, a control unit with a display, a display cover, a front face of a control unit housing cover, and an overlay;

FIG. 6 is an exploded perspective view of the control unit housing and the control unit with the display cover removed, and the control unit housing cover separated from the base and rotated to show a plurality of ribs; and

FIG. 7 is an exploded perspective view of the control unit housing of the control unit with the display cover attached to the display, and the control unit housing separated from the base.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows a cooler unit 10, the term used herein to mean any self-contained cold storage unit, for example, a refrigerator, freezer, ice maker, a wine and/or beverage cooler, and combinations thereof. The cooler unit 10 generally includes a thermally insulated cabinet 12 defining a storage cavity with an access opening at the front face of the cabinet 12. The opening is sealed by a thermally insulated door 14 pivotally mounted to the front of the cabinet 12. The cooler unit 10 includes a compressor, a capillary tube, and interior and exterior heat exchanger coils containing a standard refrigerant, as known in the art, for lowering the temperature of the air inside the cabinet 12. The compressor and exterior coils are contained in a compartment in the bottom of the cabinet 12 accessible from the back side of the unit (not shown).

A control unit housing 16 contains a control unit comprising a circuit board with a low-voltage portion and a high-voltage portion (see FIGS. 2-7). The control unit is configured to receive a desired storage cavity air temperature to be maintained from a user input, receive and/or determine the storage cavity air temperature, maintain the storage cavity air temperature at the desired temperature by controlling the cooler unit 10, provide a switch to power an internal light, and provide a switch to power on/off the cooler unit 10. The control unit is electrically coupled to a high-voltage power supply, compressor, and other electrically activated and/or powered components. High-voltage power supply generally means the line-in voltage for a building, such as 110/120 VAC or higher.

An overlay 18 is attached to the control unit housing 16 and includes a plurality of flexible pads 20 and a translucent display window 22. As discussed hereinafter, the pads 20 are associated with switches of the control unit and can include symbols and/or text to indicate with which switch they are associated. The display window 22 may be tinted, colored, and/or treated to otherwise enhance the display. The inside of the cabinet 12 is fit with an insert liner 24 supporting a plurality of shelves (not shown). The control unit housing 16 sits on top of the insert liner floor 26 and is attached to the cabinet 12. The perimeter of the door 14 mounts a flexible magnetic seal typically used with conventional refrigerators. A pair of beverage items 28 are shown placed on the insert liner floor 26 and retained by the control unit housing 16.

Turning now to FIG. 2, control unit housing 16 is configured to maximize storage space in the cabinet 12 and to act as a retainer that prevents the beverage items 28 placed in the bottom of the storage space from exiting the cooler unit 10. The insert liner floor 26 slopes an angle of a (a is shown as 10) in a downward direction towards the door 14 as a result of the manufacturing process for the liner 24. As is known in the art, an insert liner floor may slope more or less than 10 depending on how the cabinet is configured. Beverage and/or food items placed on the insert liner floor 26 may tend to roll and/or slide downward towards the door 14 and would exit the cooler unit 10 when the door 14 is open if the control unit housing 16 did not stop the items from exiting the unit 10. The beverage items 28 are retained by the control unit housing 16. The control unit housing 16 can prevent valuable beverage and food items from falling out of the cooler unit 10 and becoming damaged. Additionally, the floor of a cooler unit interior may include an angled rack for storing beverage and food items in a semi-upright position, the control unit housing 16 can act as a retainer so that the beverage and food items can be stored in such a position.

Referring now to FIGS. 3-7, a control unit 30 is mounted to the control unit housing 16. The control unit 30 comprises a printed circuit board 32 with a display 34. The control unit 30 includes a control circuit (not shown) on the printed circuit board 32 comprising various components (not shown) to control the cooler unit 10. The printed circuit board 32 include the electrical components necessary to receive power from a power supply and condition and/or transform the power to be used by the control circuit and the refrigeration components of the cooler unit 10. The display 34 can be an LCD display, LED display, other conventional display, or an unconventional display configured to provide a visual indication of temperature or other information provided by the control circuit. A bottom edge 36 of the printed circuit board 32 rests in a plurality of slots 38 formed in a plurality of ribs 40 of a base plate 42 for the control unit housing 16. The slots 38 are formed in a line that is parallel to a front wall 44 of a housing cover 46 of the control unit housing 16. A top edge 48 of the printed circuit board 32 fits within a plurality of slots 50 formed in a plurality of ribs 52 of the housing cover 46. The slots 50 are formed in a line that is parallel to the front wall 44. The slots 38 and 50 hold the control unit 30 so that the control unit 30 is parallel to the front wall 44 and so that the circuit board 32 remains a fixed distance from the front wall 44. A display window 54 and a pair of notches 56 are formed within the front wall 44, the notches 56 being disposed on opposite sides of the display window 54. A planar display cover 58 includes a pair of flanges 60, the flanges 60 each having a flange first portion 62 that extends perpendicularly down from a front side 64 of the planar display cover 58 and a flange second portion 66 that extends perpendicularly away from the first portion 62 in a direction that is away from the front face 64. The display cover 58 is sized to overlay the display 34 so that the first portions 62 of the flanges 60 can be friction fitted and/or compression fitted to opposite sidewalls 68 of the display 34, thus, the display cover 58 is removably attached to the display 34. The display window 54 is sized to fit within the display window 54. The notches 56 formed in the front wall 44 of the housing cover 46 are sized so that the first portions 62 of the flanges 60 of the display cover 58 can fit within the notches 56. The flange second portions 66 of the display cover 58 are configured to engage an inner face 70 of the front wall 44 of the housing cover 46. Thus, the control unit 30 is mounted to the housing 16 in a fixed position. To prevent the control unit 30 from moving within the housing 16, a pair of shallow slots may be formed in the inner face 70 of the front wall 44 of the housing cover 46 where the flange second portions 66 engage the inner face 70 (not shown). Similarly, a portion of the display 34 can extend into the display window 54 so that the sidewalls of the display 34 overlap the sidewalls of the housing front wall 44 that define the display window 56, the sidewalls of the housing front wall 44 blocking the display 34 and thus the control unit 30 from moving (not shown).

To allow a user to input various commands, the control unit 30 includes a plurality of user inputs. For example, the control unit 30 may allow a user to power on/off the cooler unit 10, control an interior light(s), and input the desired interior air temperature with cooler and warmer switches. In an embodiment of the invention, the control unit 30 includes a plurality of switches 72 that are mounted to the circuit board 32 and in electrical communication with the control circuit of the control unit 30. A plurality of paddles 74 are formed in the front wall 44 of the housing cover 46, the paddles 74 are each connected to the front wall 44 by a living hinge 76 so that the paddle 74 can be pressed and moved towards the inside of the housing cover 46. Each paddle 74 includes a square boss 78 that is positioned adjacent to one of the switches 72 when the control unit 30 is installed in the housing 16. The paddles 74 do not activate the switches 72 unless pressed. Each paddle 74 is associated with an adjacent flexible pad 20 when the overlay 18 is attached to the control unit housing 16. The flexible pads 20 have symbols and/or text on their outward showing faces so that a user may select which pad 20 to press for a desired input command. For example, a light bulb could be printed on a flexible pad 20, the flexible pad 20 associated with a switch 72 that controls the interior light(s). A user presses a selected flexible pad 20 which in turn causes the paddle 74 and its boss 78 to move towards its associated switch 72 thereby depressing the switch 72 and, thus, sending an input command signal to the control unit 30. Once released, the paddle 74 is caused to return to its un-pressed position by the paddle's associated living hinge 76 and the switch 72 is no longer depressed.

The printed circuit board 32 of the control unit 30 may include a combination of high-voltage components, high-power components, low-voltage components, and low-power components. Therefore, various regulations and standards concerning consumer products, such as those developed by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.®, may require for safety purposes that the circuit board 32 be housed in a structure composed of materials having certain properties (e.g., flame resistance, electrical characteristics, thermal characteristics) and dimensions (e.g., thickness). For example, the housing 16, display cover 58, and paddles 74 may be required to have a certain flame rating with an acceptable range. Additionally, there may be further standards or requirements for the structures positioned nearest to the circuit board 32.

In one embodiment of the invention, the display cover 58 is molded out of PolyOne® M4810 RPVC and has a thickness of 2 mm, which gives the display cover 58 an Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.® flame rating of 5 VA or 5 VB. In an embodiment of the invention, the paddles 74, including bosses 78, have a thickness of 5 mm. Furthermore, the housing 16, display cover 58, and paddles 74 can be made of materials that electrically and/or mechanically isolate the circuit board 32 and a display 34 from the control unit housing 16 to prevent injury to a user. The thicknesses of the display cover 58 and paddles 74 may also serve to thermally insulate the display 34 and switches 72, respectively, from an area outside of the display cover 58 and control unit housing 16, respectively.

Illustrative embodiments of the invention have been described in detail for the purpose of disclosing a practical, operative structure whereby the invention may be practiced advantageously. However, the apparatus described is intended to be illustrative only, and the novel characteristics of the invention may be incorporated in other structural forms without departing from the scope of the invention. Accordingly, to apprise the public of the full scope of the invention, the following claims are made:

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7878009Mar 5, 2007Feb 1, 2011U-Line CorporationCooling unit with data logging control
Classifications
U.S. Classification62/331
International ClassificationF25D23/12
Cooperative ClassificationF25D2400/361, F25D2331/803, F25D29/005
European ClassificationF25D29/00D
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 6, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: U-LINE CORPORATION, WISCONSIN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:RAND, THOMAS W.;DOBERSTEIN, ANDREW J.;ZYDUCK, JOSEPH H.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:018968/0224
Effective date: 20060620