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Publication numberUS20070298706 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/601,499
Publication dateDec 27, 2007
Filing dateNov 17, 2006
Priority dateJun 22, 2006
Publication number11601499, 601499, US 2007/0298706 A1, US 2007/298706 A1, US 20070298706 A1, US 20070298706A1, US 2007298706 A1, US 2007298706A1, US-A1-20070298706, US-A1-2007298706, US2007/0298706A1, US2007/298706A1, US20070298706 A1, US20070298706A1, US2007298706 A1, US2007298706A1
InventorsSteven Hudon, David Brewer, Valery Safronchik, Mang Cheng
Original AssigneeSpringfield Precision Instruments, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Programmable energy saving register vent
US 20070298706 A1
Abstract
A programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system. The programmable vent includes a vent housing with a front face which has an inset, where the vent housing is configured to allow air flow from the duct. At least one louver is movably connected to the vent housing, an actuator is connected to the at least one louver, a controller module is removably attached to the vent housing and positioned in the inset, the controller module being connected to the actuator when positioned in the inset.
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Claims(36)
1. A programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system, said programmable vent comprising:
a vent housing having a front face with an inset, said vent housing configured to allow air flow from the duct;
at least one louver movably connected to said vent housing;
an actuator connected to said at least one louver;
a controller module removably attached to said vent housing and positioned in said inset, said controller module connected to said actuator when positioned in said inset.
2. The programmable vent of claim 1, wherein said actuator includes an electric motor, said controller module being electrically connected to said electric motor when positioned in said inset.
3. The programmable vent of claim 1, wherein said controller module includes a circuit board with motor controls connected to said electric motor, further including a display, a user input device, batteries and associated wiring all electrically connected to said circuit board.
4. A programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system, said programmable vent comprising:
a vent housing configured to allow air flow from the duct;
at least one louver movably connected to said vent housing;
an electric motor connected to said at least one louver;
a first plurality of electrical terminals connected to said electric motor and fixedly connected to said vent housing; and
a controller module removably attached to said vent housing, said controller module including a controller housing and a controller unit within said controller housing, said controller unit including a second plurality of electrical terminals resiliently contacting said first plurality of electrical terminals.
5. The programmable vent of claim 4, wherein said controller unit includes a circuit board with motor controls connected to said second plurality of terminals.
6. The programmable vent of claim 5, wherein said controller module further includes a display, a user input device, batteries and associated wiring all electrically connected to said circuit board.
7. The programmable vent of claim 4, wherein said controller housing is in a snap fit arrangement with said vent housing.
8. The programmable vent of claim 7, wherein said snap fit arrangement comprises at least one resilient ramped projection connected to said controller housing, and at least one detent in said vent housing, said at least one resilient ramped projection insertable in a corresponding said at least one detent when said controller housing is in said snap fit arrangement with said vent housing.
9. The programmable vent of claim 8, wherein said vent housing further includes a frame in which said controller module is inserted, said frame includes at least one access aperture for accessing said controller module.
10. The programmable vent of claim 4, further including a rack and pinion gear set connected between said electric motor and said at least one louver.
11. The programmable vent of claim 10, wherein said rack and pinion gear set includes at least one pinion gear connected to a corresponding said louver and said motor, and a rack gear slidably connected to said vent housing.
12. The programmable vent of claim 4, further including a temperature sensor providing a temperature input to said controller module, said controller module sensing said temperature input.
13. The programmable vent of claim 12, wherein said temperature sensor is in wireless communication with said controller module.
14. The programmable vent of claim 4, further including an infrared sensor providing an infrared input to said controller module, said controller module sensing said infrared input.
15. The programmable vent of claim 14, wherein said infrared sensor is in wireless communication with said controller module.
16. A building environmental air temperature control system, comprising:
at least one of a heating system and a cooling system;
at least one duct connected to at least one of said heating system and said cooling system;
a programmable vent connected to a corresponding said at least one duct, said programmable vent including:
a vent housing through which air flows from the duct;
at least one louver movably connected to said vent housing;
an electric motor connected to said at least one louver;
a first plurality of electrical terminals connected to said electric motor and fixedly connected to said vent housing; and
a controller module removably attached to said vent housing, said controller module including a controller housing and a controller unit within said controller housing, said controller unit including a second plurality of electrical terminals resiliently contacting said first plurality of electrical terminals.
17. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 16, wherein said controller unit includes a circuit board with motor controls connected to said second plurality of terminals.
18. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 17, wherein said controller module further includes a display, a user input device, batteries and associated wiring all connected to said circuit board.
19. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 16, wherein said controller housing is in a snap fit arrangement with said vent housing.
20. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 19, wherein said snap fit arrangement comprises at least one resilient ramped projection connected to said controller housing, and at least one detent in said vent housing, said at least one resilient ramped projection insertable in a corresponding said at least one detent when said controller housing is in said snap fit arrangement with said vent housing.
21. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 20, wherein said vent housing further includes a frame in which said controller module is inserted, said frame includes at least one access aperture for accessing said controller module.
22. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 16, further including a rack and pinion gear set connected between said electric motor and said at least one louver.
23. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 22, wherein said rack and pinion gear set includes at least one pinion gear connected to a corresponding said louver and said motor, and a rack gear slidably connected to said vent housing.
24. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 16, further including a temperature sensor providing a temperature input to said controller module, said controller module sensing said temperature input.
25. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 24, wherein said temperature sensor is in wireless communication with said controller module.
26. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 16, further including an infrared sensor providing an infrared input to said controller module, said controller module sensing said infrared input.
27. The building environmental air temperature control system of claim 26, wherein said infrared sensor is in wireless communication with said controller module.
28. A method of controlling air flow within a building environmental air temperature control system, comprising the steps of:
providing a programmable vent including housing having a front face with an inset, said vent housing configured to allow air flow from the duct, at least one louver movably connected to said vent housing, an actuator connected to said at least one louver, a controller module removably attached to said vent housing and positioned in said inset, said controller module connected to said actuator when positioned in said inset;
removing said controller module from said programmable vent;
programming said controller module to open and close said at least one louver;
reinstalling said controller module into said programmable vent; and
selectively controlling an air flow exiting said duct using said programmable vent.
29. A programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system, said programmable vent comprising:
a vent housing
a fixed aperture plate connected to the vent housing, the fixed aperture plate including a plurality of apertures configured for accepting air flow through the vent housing from the duct; and
at least one movable aperture plate connected to the vent housing and slidable relative to the fixed aperture plate between an open position which substantially allows the air flow and a closed position which substantially restricts the air flow.
30. The programmable vent of claim 29, wherein at least one said movable aperture plate is horizontally slidable relative to the fixed aperture plate.
31. The programmable vent of claim 29, further including an actuator connected to at least one movable aperture plate.
32. The programmable vent of claim 31, further including a controller module attached to the vent housing the controller module for controlling the actuator.
33. The programmable vent of claim 31, further including a rack and pinion gear set connected between the actuator and at least one said movable aperture plate.
34. A programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system, said programmable vent comprising:
a vent housing;
a fixed ventilation element connected to the vent housing;
at least one movable ventilation element connected to the vent housing and movable relative to the fixed ventilation element; and
a rack and pinion gear set connected between the at least one movable ventilation element and the vent housing.
35. The programmable vent of claim 34, further including an actuator connected to at least one ventilation element.
36. The programmable vent of claim 35, wherein the rack and pinion gear set includes a rack gear and a pinion gear, the rack gear being connected to at least one of the actuator and the vent housing, the pinion gear being connected to the other of the actuator and the vent housing.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This is a non-provisional application which claims the priority benefit of U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/815,702, entitled “PROGRAMMABLE ENERGY SAVING REGISTER VENT”, filed Jun. 22, 2006; and U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/837,155, entitled “PROGRAMMABLE ENERGY SAVING REGISTER VENT”, filed Aug. 11, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to building environmental air temperature control systems, and, more particularly, to programmable duct vents for such systems.

2. Description of the Related Art

Known heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can include a thermostatically controlled furnace unit connected to ducts, where the ducts terminate in louvered vents. An air conditioning compressor with an evaporator coil is connected to the furnace unit. For heating, a blower circulates air across a heat exchanger/burner within the furnace unit where the circulated air is heated, and then into ducts which are routed to various rooms and/or locations within a building. For cooling, the air conditioner compressor circulates a refrigerant through the chilled coil, which coil is routed into the furnace so the blower can circulate air across the chilled coil, which cools the air. The cooled air is similarly circulated into the same ducts which correspondingly provide cooling/air conditioning to the various locations within a building. The vents are placed at the terminus of the ducts, and can also be placed along a duct, as may occur with a relatively long overhead duct such as in a basement or industrial facility. The louvers on the vents can direct the air, and the vent can include cross louvers with a manual lever which a user can adjust to shut off the vent or partially diminish the air flow exiting the vent.

The system described above is typically considered a forced air system. Other types of systems are known such as a gravity system which does not include a blower and where a furnace is located in a basement, and as the burner/heat exchanger warms the surrounding air, the physically lighter or less dense nature of the warmed air naturally rises through ducts and out vents in corresponding rooms or locations located above the burner/heat exchanger. In a home environment which includes a gravity system, cooling can be provided by window air conditioners or whole house fans, for example.

Increasing energy costs have resulted in an increasing interest among building owners and homeowners to reduce heating and cooling costs. Heating and cooling costs can be reduced through the installation of additional insulation and other related products, and the installation of energy efficient furnaces, air conditioners, hot water heaters, and other appliances. Although these are effective ways of reducing heating and cooling costs, there can be a high capital cost associated with such installations, and a significant inconvenience to the building occupants during installation.

Another way of lowering energy costs is to lower the thermostat setting during heating periods, or raise the thermostat setting during cooling periods. This method has the disadvantage of reducing the comfort of the building environment.

There typically may not be a need to heat or cool an entire building at any given time. If rooms or locations within a building can be selectively heated or cooled depending on use, then energy costs can be reduced because the heating and/or cooling system is conditioning a smaller volume of space. For example, in the daytime the bedrooms may not need to cooled or heated, depending on the season, as they are not typically in use; whereas, if someone is at home, the general living areas such as a kitchen, living room, bathroom, family room, etc., may still need heating or cooling during the day. Similarly, the bedrooms may need to be cooled or heated in the nighttime, when the general living areas do not require such environmental conditioning.

For a typical known heating, ventilation and/or cooling system, the furnace blower circulates air into all of the vents simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously, and thereby heats or cools the entire building. If the homeowner or other occupant wants to diminish conditioned air flow into a room or rooms which are not currently used to reduce energy costs, they must manually close the louvers in the vent(s) associated with the room(s). This is a tedious and time consuming process. Additionally, when a person may be in a hurry to leave the building or home, as when leaving for work, it is easy to overlook the need to adjust the vents, which problem is exacerbated if there are numerous vents to open or close.

Systems are known in which motorized dampers are installed in the various ducts. The dampers are controlled by the furnace, or other, controller, which functionality can be selected by the user, i.e., the opening and closing of the dampers for various rooms can be controlled. Although this system can effectively provide selectable temperature control for the various rooms or locations within a building, there are several disadvantages. Firstly, the system requires relatively expensive modified ductwork including the motorized dampers and wiring thereto, which is even more costly to retrofit into an existing system as the ducts may be hidden in walls, floors or ceilings, thereby requiring modification of the structure with the attendant inconvenience, mess and expense. Additionally, the furnace controller, or other controller, needs to be compatible with the motorized dampers, and existing systems generally do not have this capability, which then requires a new furnace when an HVAC system is retrofitted, which again is a very costly expense. Further, the installation or retrofitting of such systems typically requires professional installation technicians, with their attendant cost and scheduling issues, and is therefore not easily accomplished by a typical homeowner as a do-it-yourself project. Yet further, maintenance of such a system can be costly in that if a motorized damper fails to operate properly there may not be easy access to the motor/damper because the ductwork and damper system is typically installed within a structural component such as a floor, ceiling and/or wall, which structural component is damaged and subsequently repaired during the installation/repair process.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,659,359 discloses a motorized vent which includes a temperature sensor, a battery, a driving motor, an electronic circuit board, a signal receiver, and so on, which are accommodated in the vent housing. The motor actuates an eccentric rotary arm and an engaging member for actuating the dampers. A wireless remote controller is provided with opening and closing buttons and a plurality of mode select buttons. If it is determined that the manipulating signal is from a mode select button, the control part compares the temperature range preset according to the select mode in the microcomputer with the current indoor temperature and based upon that compared results, drives the driving motor such that the dampers rotate open and closed. One disadvantage of this system is that it requires a wireless receiver in the vent which can be susceptible to noise and interference, for example, and less cost effective to manufacture as the programming unit does require the receiver. Other disadvantages of this system are that it requires temperature sensor, and opens and closes the dampers based on a preset temperature, instead of a time of day. Further, the eccentric rotary arm and engaging member for actuating the dampers is susceptible to bending.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,837,786 discloses a programmable remote-control motion vent outlet where a motor actuates vent blades via a driving arm. The unit includes a signal receiver on the vent and electrically connected to the motor and a handheld controller wirelessly communicating with the signal receiver to control the rotational movements of the vent blades. A display screen is provided on the handheld controller wherein the user is allowed to program the open and close times of the ventilation guide as a time setting to the timer circuit while the time setting is displayed on the display screen of the handheld controller. Again, this system requires a wireless receiver in the vent which can be susceptible to noise and interference, for example, and less cost effective to manufacture as the programming unit does require the receiver.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,692,349 discloses a computer-controlled air vent which is remotely operated by a wireless wall-mounted controller located in the same room as the vent. A motor actuates the louvers via a configuration of cams, bars and arms. In addition to requiring a receiver in the vent, this system additionally has the disadvantage of requiring a fairly complicated configuration of cams, bars and arms which can be unreliable, and which can also be a fairly inefficient means of energy transfer.

Other examples of programmable register vents include U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,969,508, 5,833,134; and U.S. Patent Application Nos. 2004/0159713, 2004/0166797 and 2004/0176022.

Notwithstanding these developments, there is needed in the art is an improved device and method of individually controlling conditioned air flow in separate rooms or locations within a building, and which is relatively easy and cost effective to install and maintain.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a programmable vent for a building environmental air temperature control system, which vent can be programmed to open and close at selected times during the day, and which motor controls and circuit board, display, user input device, batteries and associated wiring are integrated into a single removable unit for ease of programming, which are snapped into/out of the vent housing and connected to the motor via terminals.

The invention comprises, in one form thereof, a programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system. The programmable vent includes a vent housing with a front face which has an inset, where the vent housing is configured to allow air flow from the duct. At least one louver is movably connected to the vent housing, an actuator is connected to the at least one louver, a controller module is removably attached to the vent housing and positioned in the inset, the controller module being connected to the actuator when positioned in the inset.

In other aspects of the present invention the actuator includes an electric motor, and the controller module is electrically connected to the electric motor when positioned in the inset. The controller module can include a circuit board with motor controls connected to the electric motor, and further includes a display, user input device, batteries and associated wiring all electrically connected to the circuit board.

The invention comprises, in another form thereof, a programmable vent for a duct used with a building environmental air temperature control system. The programmable vent includes a vent housing configured to allow air flow from the duct, at least one louver movably connected to the vent housing, an electric motor connected to the at least one louver, a first plurality of electrical terminals connected to the electric motor and fixedly connected to the vent housing, and a controller module removably attached to the vent housing. The controller module includes a controller housing and a controller unit within the controller housing, where the controller unit has a second plurality of electrical terminals resiliently contacting the first plurality of electrical terminals.

In other aspects of the present invention the controller unit includes a circuit board with motor controls connected to the second plurality of terminals. The controller module can further have a display, user input device, batteries and associated wiring all electrically connected to the circuit board. The controller housing can be in a snap fit arrangement with the vent housing. The snap fit arrangement includes at least one resilient ramped projection connected to the controller housing, and at least one detent in the vent housing. The at least one resilient ramped projection is insertable in a corresponding detent when the controller housing is in the snap fit arrangement with the vent housing. The vent housing further includes a frame in which the controller module is inserted, and the frame includes at least one access aperture for accessing the controller module. A rack and pinion gear set can be connected between the electric motor and the at least one louver, where the rack and pinion gear set includes at least one pinion gear connected to a corresponding louver and the motor, and a rack gear slidably connected to the vent housing.

In further aspects, the present invention can include a temperature sensor which provides a temperature input to the controller module, where the controller module senses the temperature input. The temperature sensor can be in wireless communication with the controller module.

In further aspects, the present invention can include an infrared sensor providing an infrared input to the controller module, where the controller module senses the infrared input. The infrared sensor can be in wireless communication with the controller module.

The invention comprises, in yet another form thereof, a building environmental air temperature control system which includes at least one of a heating system and a cooling system, at least one duct connected to at least one of the heating system and/or cooling system, and a programmable vent, according to the present invention, connected to a corresponding duct.

The invention comprises, in yet another form thereof, a method of controlling air flow within a building environmental air temperature control system, which includes the steps of: providing a programmable vent including a housing, at least one louver movably connected to the housing, an actuator connected to the at least one louver, and a controller connected to the actuator; connecting the programmable vent to a duct associated with the building environmental air temperature control system; reinstalling the controller module into the programmable vent; and selectively controlling an air flow exiting the duct using the programmable vent.

An advantage of the present invention is that it provides an energy saving floor, ceiling and/or wall register vent that allows users to shut off the flow of heat or air conditioning in select rooms via an internal controller.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a multi-zone heating and cooling system that allows users to shut down rooms at programmed times to reduce the amount of energy wasted on heating or cooling inactive areas of the home

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides energy savings, so that the cost of the item can be recovered through energy savings in a relatively short time.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that multiple programmable vents can be easily installed and customized to a particular building and user requirements to maximize the energy savings potential.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it is relatively easy and cost effective to install.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it is relatively easy and cost effective to maintain.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it is provided in multiple styles, sizes, colors and finishes (such as wood grain, brass, uniform color) to match with the home or building décor and/or ductwork size(s) and locations.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it does not require professional installation.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it is suitable for do-it-yourself projects.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it provides a battery operated DC (direct current) programmable vent fixture that regulates air flow and therefore does not require connection to the AC (alternating current) power and associated wiring.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it can be a universal fit programmable register vent that can be used on floor, wall and ceiling to regulate air flow and reduce energy consumption in the home or other type of building.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it is a programmable vent fixture that allows a user to create heating and cooling sub zones without having to modify the components of their current heating and cooling system such as the furnace, air conditioning and ductwork.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it can provide a decorative screw plug to hide grill holes when the unit is used as a floor register vent, or on the wall or ceiling.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides and opening and closing louver system controlled by a timing device or thermostat device or both.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it can provide an opening and closing vent system that uses a gear box drive motor or solenoid to move a louver or another piece of material that blocks the flow of air.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it can provide a digital, multiple day, programmable vent fixture that regulates air flow to reduce energy consumption in the home.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it provides a manual override feature that allows a user to open the vent anytime without interrupting the programmed open and close timed events.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it can provide an automatic override reset feature that closes and opens the vent on the next programmed cycle.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a wireless temperature sensor which can relay temperature data to the programmable vent, which temperature data can be used to override the programmed vent opening, if desired.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a two-in-one housing which integrates the vent grill and programmable components.

Yet other advantages of the present invention are that it provides a housing design which is interchangeable with existing conventional vents, and which is compatible with plastic, metal, wood or other grids or grills.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a removable programmable timer/control module which is easily removed and reinstalled from the programmable vent to allow a handheld, or other, programming of the module and corresponding vent without removing the vent from the wall, ceiling, conduit and/or other structure to which it is attached.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a removable programmable timer/control module which can be programmed or reprogrammed without the need for an awkward positioning of the user, such as kneeling or squatting in a low position to access a vent which may be installed near the floor, or standing on a ladder to access a ceiling mounted vent.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a removable programmable timer/control module which is easily removed from the programmable vent to allow for easy replacement of the batteries without the need to remove the vent from wall, ceiling, conduit and/or other structure to which it is attached.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a removable programmable timer/control module which is easily removed from the programmable vent to allow easy repair or replacement of the module or other elements of the vent without the need to remove the vent from wall, ceiling, conduit and/or other structure to which it is attached.

Yet another advantage of the present invention is that it provides a removable programmable timer/control module which is easily removed from the programmable vent to allow reprogramming of a parameter without disturbing the other programmed events.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above-mentioned and other features and advantages of this invention, and the manner of attaining them, will become more apparent and the invention will be better understood by reference to the following description of embodiments of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective plan view of an embodiment of a building environmental air temperature control system according to the present invention, as installed in a home;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a programmable vent according to the present invention;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the programmable vent of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a front view of the controller module of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a section view taken along section line 5-5 in FIG. 2, and shown with the louvers open;

FIG. 6 is the section view of FIG. 5 but shown with the louvers closed;

FIG. 7 is a section view taken along section line 7-7 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 8 is an exploded perspective view of the controller module of FIG. 4; and

FIG. 9 is an electrical schematic view of an embodiment of the programmable vent of FIG. 2.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views. The exemplifications set out herein illustrate one preferred embodiment of the invention, in one form, and such exemplifications are not to be construed as limiting the scope of the invention in any manner.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

With initial reference to FIG. 1, there is shown a building environmental air temperature control system 10, such as an HVAC system, located in building 12. System 10 can include at least one of a heating system and a cooling system, such as furnace 14 connected to air conditioning compressor 16. Furnace 14 can typically be a forced air system including a burner/heat exchanger unit and a blower (all not shown), or alternatively a gravity system, or other system. Further, furnace 14 can include other elements such as controls and thermostats (also not shown). At least one duct 18 is connected to furnace 14. Programmable vents 20 are connected to corresponding ducts 18. System 10, and more particularly programmable vents 20, can be used during a daytime setting in a cooling, or summer, season; during a nighttime setting in a heating, or winter, season; or other configurations, for example: a daytime setting in a heating, or winter, season; or a nighttime setting in a cooling, or summer, season. Additional configurations are possible as dictated by user requirements, seasonal conditions, latitude, elevation, weather and other parameters.

Referring more particularly to FIGS. 2-9, programmable vent 20 includes a vent housing 22 and at least one louver 24 movably connected to housing 22. Housing 22 also includes a fixed aperture plate 26. Fixed aperture plate 26 can include fins 27 which also provide a directional control of air through programmable vent 20. An actuator 28 is connected to louvers 24 and housing 22. Actuator 28 can be in the form of a DC motor as is shown, and/or other elements.

A first plurality of electrical terminals 30 are connected to electric motor 28 via wires 32, and terminals 30 are fixedly connected to vent housing 22. Changing the polarity of the voltage on terminals 30 reverses the rotation of the shaft of motor 28. Controller module 34 is removably attached to vent housing 22. Controller module 34 includes a controller housing 36 and a controller unit 38 within controller housing 36. Controller unit 38 including a second plurality of electrical terminals 40 resiliently contacting motor terminals 30 when module 34 is mounted in vent housing 22. Controller unit 38 includes a circuit board 42 with motor controls 44 connected to terminals 40 to operate motor 28. Controller unit 38 also includes a controller 46, such as a microprocessor, application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and/or other programmable controller devices, and can include other electronic devices as are shown particularly in FIG. 9.

Controller module 34 can further includes a display 48, a user input device 49 which has pushbuttons 50, 52, 54 (or other switch or input element types, such as a touchpad), display backlight 56, batteries 58 and associated wiring all electrically connected to circuit board 42 and controller 46. Controller module 34 can also include a front cover 60 with a hinged door 62 which provides access to user input device 49, and when closed, prevents inadvertent programming of vent 20, and battery cover 64.

Controller housing can be in a snap fit arrangement with vent housing 22. For example, the snap fit arrangement includes at least one resilient ramped projection 66 connected to controller housing 36, and at least one detent 68 in vent housing 22. Ramped projections 66 are insertable in a corresponding detent 68 when controller housing 36 is in the snap fit arrangement with vent housing 22. Vent housing 22 further includes a frame or inset 70 in which controller module 34 is inserted. Frame 70 includes at least one access aperture 72, or in other words a finger hole, for accessing and removing/reinstalling controller module 34.

A rack and pinion gear set 74 is connected between motor 28 and louvers 24. Rack and pinion gear set 74 includes at least one pinion gear 76 connected to a corresponding louver 24 and motor 28, and a rack gear 78 slidably connected to vent housing 22. Each of louvers 24 includes an axis of rotation 80 which is rotatably connected to housing 22. Pinion gears 76 are also rotatable about a corresponding axis of rotation 80. Motor 28 is mounted to housing 22 and the shaft of motor 28 is connected to at least one of louvers 24 such that when the motor shaft rotates, so rotates the louver 24 and corresponding pinion gear 76. This pinion gear 76 linearly actuates rack gear 78, which rotatably actuates the other pinion gear 76 and the other louver 24. Pinion gears 76 and rack gear 78 can be spur gears, although other types of gears are possible, and pinion gear 76 can be approximately partially circular, as shown, or other shapes. Although the embodiment shown in FIGS. 2-9 includes two louvers 24, the present invention can include a single louver, or more than two louvers, as required by the size and style of programmable vent 20. As shown particularly in FIGS. 5-6, manual override lever 82 is connected to rack gear 78, and protrudes through the front of aperture plate 26 so that a user can manually open or close louvers 24 by displacing lever 82 and therefore rack gear 78, which in turn rotates pinion gears 76 and corresponding louvers 24, and thereby manually overrides the programmed opening and/or closing of louvers 24.

Battery holder 84 holds, and provides the electrical terminals (not shown) for connection to the batteries, which batteries are electrically connected to, and provide electrical power for, controller 46 and the other electronic components on circuit board 42, motor 28, display 48, display backlight 56, a user input device 49 with pushbuttons 50, 52 and 54 (or other input devices) and, if needed, other electrical/electronic components as required.

The vent can have a decorative screw plug system (not shown) to hide mounting holes 86 in aperture plate or grill 26. Other elements can be used in place of motor 28, such as solenoid, to move louver 24 or another element that can block the flow of air through vent 20. The present invention can include a plastic grill 26 and a plastic housing 22, or other combinations of plastic, wood and metal, such as a plastic housing 22 and a metal aperture plate 26. A low battery audible alert function can be provided by an annunciator (not shown) and controller 46. Display 48 can be a liquid crystal display (LCD) or other display type, and further, can include a tilting feature or element (not shown) that allows a user to adjust the LCD, or other display device, to an angle that improves visibility and the ability to program the timing function.

Removable controller/timer module 34 can be removed from programmable vent 20, for reprogramming, repair, and/or replacement, or replacement of the batteries, without disturbing the mechanical configuration of programmable vent 20. Further, the circuit board 42 can have a backup battery (not shown) which can maintain the programmed settings during a main battery 58 change, for a limited time.

Vent 20 according to the present invention can have a snap-fit design where housing 22 has recesses in which corresponding tabs of aperture plate 26 can snap into, when assembling housing 22 to aperture plate 26. Housing 22 can be assembled to aperture plate 26 using other methods or materials such adhesives, potting, welding, slide locking tabs on housing 22 and aperture plate 26; and/or engaging sliding rails on housing 22 and aperture plate 26.

Programmable vent 20 includes a display 48 and a user input device 49, both connected to controller 38. User input device 49 has a set pushbutton 50, an hour pushbutton 52, and minute pushbutton 54 as shown, and/or other devices such as touch pads, switches, knobs and the like, or other devices as required by the functionality of programmable vent 20. Display 48 can include a current time indicator 88, a close time indicator 90, and a open time indicator 92, and/or other devices as required by the functionality of programmable vent 20. An example of how controller module 34 can be programmed to open and close louvers 24 is as follows. Vents 20 may typically be installed close to the floor, or high up on a wall, and/or have a piece of furniture in front of the vent, or otherwise be inconveniently located. Although not strictly required, as controller module 34 can be programmed while installed in vent 20, the first step may typically be removing controller module 34 from vent 20. The novel structure of the present invention has all of the moving parts which directly actuate louvers 24 remain in place in vent 20 when controller module 34 is removed from vent 20, which eliminates alignment issues, and associated breakage and wear and tear, when controller module 34 is removed/reinstalled. Press set pushbutton 50 once, and the legend “12H” or “24H” flashes in current time indicator 88 signifying twelve hour clock or twenty-four hour clock, respectively. Press hour pushbutton 52 to set timer in twelve hour clock format, or press minute pushbutton 54 to set timer in twenty-four hour clock format. Press set pushbutton 50 again and the hour and minute flashes in current time indicator 88. Press hour pushbutton 52 to set hours, and/or press minute pushbutton 54 to set minutes. When finished, press set pushbutton 50 and the day will be flashing. Press hour pushbutton 52 or minute pushbutton 54 to set the current day (M-Su). Two weekday (M-F) cycles and two weekend cycles (Sa-Su) are possible. To set the close and open time for the first weekday cycle, press and hold set pushbutton 50 for two-three seconds, and the timer in controller 34 enters the CLOSE time setting mode, and the close time flashes in close time indicator 90. Press hour pushbutton 52 to set hours, and/or press minute pushbutton 54 to set minutes. After setting the close time, press set pushbutton 50 to enter the OPEN time setting mode, and the open time flashes in open time indicator 92. Press hour pushbutton 52 to set hours, and/or press minute pushbutton 54 to set minutes. When finished, press set pushbutton 50 and a second weekday cycle is programmed similar to above, then a first weekend cycle, then a second weekend cycle. If any of these cycles are not desired then set pushbutton 50 twice after programming the previous cycle. After being programmed in this manner, the motor 28 is energized to open the louvers 24 at the OPEN time and energized to CLOSE the louvers at the close time. To keep the louvers 24 always closed, press and hold minute pushbutton 54 for two seconds. To hold the louvers open, press and hold hour pushbutton 52 for two seconds. On the next programmed open or close cycle, the module will resume its preprogrammed schedule. The time control module 34 program can be suspended by pressing and holding hour pushbutton 52 and minute pushbutton 54 at the same time for 2-3 seconds and the program will be suspended. To resume the program, press and hold hour pushbutton 52 and minute pushbutton 54 at the same time for 2-3 seconds and the programmed settings will be restored and the unit will function normally.

The programmable vent 20 can be in wireless communication with temperature sensor/transmitter 94, in which case, programmable vent 20 additionally includes an antenna 96 and receiver 98 for sensing, receiving and demodulating wireless signal 100 from temperature sensor/transmitter 94. Temperature sensor/transmitter 94 includes a temperature sensor such as a thermocouple or thermistor, or other temperature sensors. Additionally, temperature sensor/transmitter 94 includes an antenna and transmitter for broadcasting wireless signal 100. Wireless signal 100 is typically a wireless electromagnetic signal; however, wireless signal 100 can be other types of signals such as ultrasonic, or conducted electromagnetic signals through wires, fiber optics, coaxial cable, network cable, etc. Additionally, wireless signal 100 can include various spectrums of electromagnetic signals such as radio, microwave, millimeter wave, infrared and other electromagnetic spectrums. Wireless signal 100 includes temperature data relative to ambient temperature conditions in the near vicinity of temperature sensor/transmitter 94. Programmable vent 20 can use this data to temperature override the timed opening and closing of programmable vent 20. For example, if programmable vent 20 is not scheduled to open until 5:00 pm, but the room temperature falls below a setpoint override temperature of 50° F. for example, which is sensed by temperature sensor/transmitter 94, the louvers open allowing air to exit programmable vent 20. Alternatively, temperature sensor/transmitter 94 can be part of controller module 34 with the temperature input conducted to controller unit 38 via metal conductors, fiber optics, etc., in which case there is no need for the various antennas, and wireless transmitter/receiver pair.

Similarly, programmable vent 20 can include an infrared sensor/transmitter 102 providing an infrared input 100 to, and which is sensed by, controller module 34. Infrared sensor 102 can include an infrared sensor such as a pyroelectric detector, or other infrared sensors. Additionally, infrared sensor 102 includes an antenna and transmitter for broadcasting infrared input 100, which may have attributes similar to wireless signal 100. Wireless signal 100 includes infrared data relative to ambient infrared conditions in the near vicinity of infrared sensor 102. Wireless signal 100 can be emitted from temperature sensor/transmitter 94 and/or infrared sensor/transmitter 102 and can include the associated temperature and/or infrared input. Programmable vent 20 can use this data to override the timed opening and closing of programmable vent 20. For example, if programmable vent 20 is not scheduled to open until 5:00 pm, but infrared sensor 102 detects the presence of infrared energy indicative of a person walking into the room, controller module 34 can use this information to override the programmed event, open the louvers allowing air to exit programmable vent 20. As with temperature sensor/transmitter 94, infrared sensor 102 can be part of control module 34, providing a conducted input to the controller module.

In alternative embodiments, the present invention can include different types of louver options such as hinged louvers, sliding louvers, flip up louvers, or other types of louvers. For example, the programmable vent according to the present invention can include a sliding louver arrangement which includes a fixed aperture plate, a sliding louver and actuators in the form of push-pull solenoids which slide the sliding louver relative to the fixed aperture plate. Such a programmable vent can include a housing, a controller and circuit board with other components, a display, and a user input device, and other elements, as previously discussed.

The present invention can include a low battery icon which will show on display 48 when the batteries are running low, and controller module 34 can include an annunciator which produces a periodic audible signal, for example, every 40 seconds.

The present invention saves energy by closing vents in areas of a building where heating or cooling is not needed at that time. However, for proper airflow heating and/or cooling system 10 needs some of the total register vents open when the system is operating. For example, vent 20 can be installed in multiple locations in a home, but a user must count the total vents in the building/home and program them so that a minimum percentage, for example 60%, of all vents in the home are open when the heating or cooling system 10 is running. This percentage can vary depending on system 10 characteristics and the particular locations of the programmed vents. Consequently, a system may need approximately between 20% and 90% of the vents open at any given time, if system 10 is running.

While this invention has been described as having a preferred design, the present invention can be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. This application is therefore intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention using its general principles. Further, this application is intended to cover such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which this invention pertains and which fall within the limits of the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7656664 *Apr 18, 2007Feb 2, 2010Hong Fu Jin Precision Industry (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd.Airflow direction controlling apparatus
US7835149 *Dec 22, 2008Nov 16, 2010Hong Fu Jin Precision Industry (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd.Computer enclosure with airflow guide
US8248794 *Apr 5, 2010Aug 21, 2012Fu Zhun Precision Industry (Shen Zhen) Co., Ltd.Heat dissipation device and electronic device using the same
US8991638 *Aug 10, 2012Mar 31, 2015General Electric CompanyWater seepage abatement in water heaters
US20110096501 *Apr 5, 2010Apr 28, 2011Fu Zhun Precision Industry (Shen Zhen) Co., Ltd.Heat dissipation device and electronic device using the same
US20130043252 *Aug 10, 2012Feb 21, 2013Jonathan D. NelsonWater seepage abatement in water heaters
Classifications
U.S. Classification454/256
International ClassificationF24F11/00
Cooperative ClassificationF24F11/04, F24F13/15, F24F11/0012, F24F2011/0068
European ClassificationF24F11/04, F24F13/15
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 22, 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: COMERICA BANK, A TEXAS BANKING ASSOCIATION, MICHIG
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:SPRINGFIELD ACQUISITION CO., LLC;REEL/FRAME:023691/0826
Effective date: 20091207
Oct 7, 2010ASAssignment
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HUDON, STEVEN;BREWER, DAVID;SAFRONCHIK, VALERY;AND OTHERS;SIGNING DATES FROM 20061107 TO 20061110;REEL/FRAME:025107/0781
Owner name: SPRINGFIELD PRECISION INSTRUMENTS, INC., NEW JERSE
Effective date: 20091207
Owner name: SPRINGFIELD ACQUISITION CO. LLC, MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SPRINGFIELD PRECISION INSTRUMENTS, INC.;REEL/FRAME:025105/0306