US 20080066252 A1
The present invention includes a flexible hose with at least two end fitting. The first end fitting is inserted into the wall valve of the central vacuum cleaner system. The first end fitting is generally rectangular in shape and may have a kill switch located thereto. The first end fitting may be used as a receiver. In addition the first end fitting may include a generally cylindrical coupling member. The coupling member may include at least one contact member. The contact member may be located on the outer circumferential surface of the coupling member. The second end fitting may be shaped like a handle for controlling the power head. In addition the second end fitting may be used as the transmitter. Located on the second end fitting may be an indicator light that lets the user know if the handle is transmitting to the first end fitting.
1. A hose assembly comprising a flexible hose having a first end and a second end, said first end having a handle assembly with a nozzle, said second end having a connection means removably securing said hose to a vacuum source, said handle assembly having a means for transmitting a radio frequency signal to said vacuum source, said radio frequency signal being capable of activating the vacuum source so that a vacuum is present at an end of said nozzle.
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This application claims priority on U.S. Application Ser. No. 60/794,023 filed Apr. 21, 2006, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to improvements in vacuum systems. More specifically, the present invention relates to a vacuum handle having a radio frequency transmitter and an associated receiver for operating a vacuum system, in particular a vacuum system such as a central vacuum system. The vacuum handle communicates with the system through a receiver via a radio frequency remote control. The receiver may be an endfitting on the hose itself or on the system or elsewhere.
A central vacuum power unit sits in an out-of the-way area such as your garage, basement, or utility room. Wall inlet valves are then installed in various locations throughout the home and connected to the power unit through tubing. Generally, the tubing can be run through the attic, basement or cold air returns, and then dropped behind the interior walls to complete the installation. After installation, the system can be activated by simply plugging the lightweight hose into a wall inlet. The system then carries the dirt, dust, animal dander and allergens out of the room into the main power unit and deposits all of the debris into the canister. Most commonly used central vacuum cleaner systems today implement a hose assembly that has at least two end fittings. Generally, one end fitting is inserted into the wall valve, and the other end fitting, usually a handle, is attached to the opposite end of the hose assembly, which allows the user the ability to easily control the movement of the suction head. As is the case with most central vacuum systems, there exists the need to control the motor of the central vacuum cleaner system (hereinafter CV) via a switch located on the handle. This allows the user to start and stop the CV without going back and forth to the CV unit, generally located in an out of the way area of the home. Also associated with most CV units are wall valves, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, not to mention different contact locations.
This invention relates to a transmitting handle and a receiver associated with the system in, for example, an end fitting, that is used with central vacuum systems. Central vacuum systems are increasingly popular. Central vacuum systems are commonly found in a variety of buildings, notably family residences. As mentioned above, a typical central vacuum system includes a vacuum pump connected to an electric motor for driving it, a plenum for generating a vacuum and duct work to another plenum for collecting debris in a vessel such as a bag and allowing exhaust air to be vented. The motor, vacuum pump and plenums are generally located in the basement or other relatively remote locations within a house. A network of tubing or ducts connects the central vacuum cleaner to each of the rooms to be serviced. One or more vacuum hose connection points are located in each of the rooms to be serviced. These openings are generally covered by an airtight flap or valve to prevent the induction of air through unused openings and to maintain a vacuum within the system. A hose with a wand end is connected to one of the connection point openings when that room is to be vacuumed. The wand normally includes a handle for the user to hold and a suction head for drawing in the air and collected debris.
A difficulty with prior central vacuum systems lies with turning the central vacuum motor on and off conveniently and reliably. Generally, because of the normal basement location of the central pump motor, climbing up and down the stairs every time the user desires to use the system is inconvenient and tiring. As a result, several approaches to this problem of providing a convenient switch for operating the vacuum motor have been developed in the prior art. One such attempted resolution involved mounting an electrical switch on the handle of the portable hose and routing two low voltage wires along the hose to a coupling ring on the end of the hose, as will be discussed below, this configuration has some disadvantages.
As mentioned above within the central vacuum cleaner market it is desirable and considered a feature for the user to be able to operate the on/off functions from the handle. Generally the switch may communicate with central vacuum unit or the power head at the end of the wand. When the hose is fastened to the wall opening valve, as by use of a bayonet mount or screw mount, contact points on the coupling ring engage matching contact points on the fitting in the wall opening. The contact points on the wall opening fixture are connected to a light gauge wire pair that runs along the tubing to an electrical relay which switches the vacuum motor on and off. This system suffers from at least four serious disadvantages. First, it is inordinately expensive to provide hoses and tubing or ducts having a wire pair running the length of the hose and tubing. Second, these wires are prone to breakage, creating an open circuit that is difficult to locate and expensive to repair. Third, because the cleaning implement is often subject to rough use and handling, the contact points on the coupling members frequently wear out or break, preventing the user from switching the system on. Finally, the flexible hoses that are generally used with these central vacuum cleaner systems are usually equipped with at least two wires running through the body of the hose. These wires are generally manufactured from steel, copper and the like, thus making these types of hoses heavy and a burden to carry around.
An alternative approach to solving this problem is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,829,626, issued to Harkonen et al. on May 16, 1989. Harkonen discloses a method for controlling a vacuum cleaner that includes a battery operated electrical sound signal generator mounted in the handle of the wand. When the signal generator is activated, it generates and transmits a sound signal through the tubing, which in turn is sensed by a receiver which generates an electrical pulse to start the motor of the vacuum cleaner. In the Harkonen system, when an operating lever located in the handle is moved to the on position a flap in the wand opens, allowing air to be drawn through the wand and the network of tubing to the vacuum cleaner and permitting the sound generated by the electrical signal generator to travel more easily to the receiving equipment located close to the vacuum cleaner motor. The sound signal is only generated momentarily in order to start the motor. Once the sound signal has been transmitted for the predetermined brief time, the sound generator is turned off. If the motor has started as intended, the motor keeps running until the flow of air through the system is blocked. It is intended that the flap in the hose near the wand be manually swung into a position across the inlet of the hose, thereby blocking the flow of air. Then a detector detects the stopping of the flow of air and, in response, turns off the vacuum motor.
As mentioned above a typical central vacuum system generally includes an endfitting, which is inserted into the user's wall valve. Currently there are approximately 20 different types of wall valves that are used in today's central vacuum market. Each of which have different contact locations as well as different inside diameters. Because of the many different wall valves most users are limited to use the hose that is supplied with the central vacuum system. Thus, if a user wanted to attach a special attachment, such as an agitator or a brush, to the wall valve, there existed the potential of not having the contacts line up in the wall valve and the needed attachment.
Known universal hose end fittings, as these are called, typically include an electrical connector body having two prongs connected to power conductors in the hose. The connector body can be detached from the hose, either by disassembling the end fitting or by releasing a screw or similar fastener, reversed in direction, and reattached (the connectors are never disconnected). However, this requires that the connector body be realigned, so that the prongs protrude the correct distance in the correct direction to mate with the female contacts in the outlet, thus making for a most difficult procedure. Previous prior art have tried to correct this disadvantage by implementing a universal endfitting, such as U.S. Pat. No. 5,387,117, issued to Moyher, Jr. et al, assigned to Electrolux Corp.
It is an object of the present invention to provide an RF controlled vacuum system for houses and other buildings.
It is an object of the present invention to provide an RF controlled vacuum system that is operated from the handle by the user.
It is a further object of the invention to provide an RF controlled vacuum system where the handle has a transmitter that controls operation of the system through a receiver that may be connected to the system any of a variety of locations.
It is an object of the present invention to produce a central vacuum RF controlled endfitting and handle that is cost effective to produce and easy to manufacture.
It is another object of the present invention to produce a RF controlled endfitting and handle that is easy to maintain and simple to install.
It is another object of the present invention to produce a RF controlled endfitting and handle that may be used in a variety of different wall valves.
It is still another object of the present invention to produce a RF controlled endfitting and handle that will only communicate with each other when the endfitting is inserted into a wall valve.
It is still a further object of the present invention to produce a RF controlled endfitting and handle that will only communicate with each other when the appropriate button is pressed in on the handle.
In the broadest aspects, the present invention is concerned with a control system which includes a vacuum handle held by a user that has a radio frequency transmitter that communicates with a receiver. The receiver is activated by a transmitted radio frequency signal generated by a transmitter in the handle. The handle encloses a battery and a transmitter control circuit. A switch such as a push button switch is provided so that when it is activated by the user the transmitter generates an RF control signal via an antenna for transmission to a receiver. In one embodiment there may be a transmitter which generates a signal. The signal is broadcast to a system control circuit via an antenna. The receiver includes an antenna for receiving RF signals from the transmitter. In one embodiment the transmitter can include an encoder for generating an encoded signal as the button is depressed by a user. The encoder is connected to a RF signal generating circuit for combining the encoded signal with a RF carrier signal. The encoded RF signal is amplified by an amplifier and broadcast to the system control circuit via the antenna. The RF signal generating circuit, amplifier, and antenna can be an LC oscillator. It is to be understood that other wireless for communicating with the system control unit can be used. For example, the transmitter can be provided with circuitry for modulating the encoded output signal from the encoder into an infrared signal or ultrasonic signal. The receiver in the system control unit can be provided with corresponding circuitry for receiving encoded infrared or ultrasonic signals.
The receiver can include an antenna for receiving encoded RF signals from the transmitter. The RF signals are processed by an amplifier and then demodulated into digital signals by a RF regenerative detector, which is tuned to the transmitter frequency, and digitizing operational amplifiers. The digital signals are decoded by a decoder, which opens the normally closed relay to turn on the system. When the button is depressed again, the relay returns to its normally closed relay. It will be appreciated that there may be other means for using an RF circuit to operate the switch.
In the prior art previously citied, Harkonen et al, there are present significant drawbacks. The battery and sound generator combination occupy a significant volume within the handle of the wand, making the wand heavier, larger, and more unwieldy. In the present invention a battery and a tiny transmitter are only needed, thus allowing for a smaller size handle. Accordingly, there is a need for a remote control switching system for central vacuum systems that can reliably be turned on from the wand without direct connections back to the main power unit. It would therefore be desirable to provide remote operation of the central vacuum appliance so that the operator does not have to go back to the wall socket to disconnect the system. The present invention also includes a means for maintaining optimum battery life. In a preferred embodiment the handle has an RF button so that the battery will only be discharged when the user presses down on the button. However, the end fitting, because its circuit does physical work by holding power to the relay, therefore power preservation is critical. When the endfitting is disconnected from the wall valve it is conceivable that the RF circuit within the end fitting would still power up. One example would be when the user was ready to store the hose after operation. In order to solve this, a simple universal kill switch has been implemented, which only when depressed upon insertion into the wall valve does the circuit within the end fitting power up to respond to signals from the handle circuit. The button linked to the kill switch is of special design, as it must be able to turn the end fitting circuit on if depressed only partially. In addition it preferably is able to retract completely into the housing while maintaining the circuit in a powered up state. The kill switch feature of the present invention is also compatible with the many different types of wall valves in the market today. This is accomplished by a spring loaded, telescoping button, the spring force of which is designed to overcome the kill switch spring only in the event the button is depressed.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty with the method of Harkonen lies in the means for stopping the vacuum cleaner. In the normal course of using a vacuum cleaner, many possible events that could block the flow of air through the hose suggest Harkonen themselves. In some cases, merely pressing the vacuuming head hard against a surface to be vacuumed can block the flow of air sufficiently to cause the vacuum motor to stop. This is particularly the case when the vacuum head is operated near or on non-porous materials. Further, items too large to pass conveniently through the tubing may be inadvertently sucked into the vacuum head, thereby turning it off.
In addition to the improved switch of the present invention, the end fitting inserted into the wall valve is also equipped with an improved universal adapter. Prior art such as Moyer, Jr. et. al., implements a reversible rotably attached connector body, however with this type of end fitting, one could only use this type of end fitting with a limited type of wall valves. In addition, this type of universal end fitting is bulky, and there exists the potential for bending or breaking of the leads. The universal adapter of the present invention has individual contact pads that permits use with a variety of different wall valves, via these pads. In addition, the contact pads are spring loaded, thus these two features allow the end fitting of the present invention to maintain a snug fit regardless of what manufacturer's wall valve is used.
It is now virtually standard to have a switch built into the outlet so that insertion of the metal probe of a vacuum hose acts to contact a low voltage supply, which operates the central vacuum motor. The hose is then extended from the wall outlet to a simple handle/nozzle. The handle/nozzle may be operated with a brush, but the general idea is to suck the dirt into the system and into the central dust collector. The present invention allows the user to efficiently and easily turn the central vacuum cleaner on and off via RF. Although the use of RF for remote control is not new, one has yet to utilize it with a CV in a manner like the applicant. The present invention liberates the user of the need for these heavy flexible hoses, because the handle communicates with the end fitting via Radio Frequency, (hereinafter RF).
As seen in
In the preferred embodiment, there is a hose assembly 10 connected with a central vacuum system. It must be pointed out that the hose assembly of the present invention may be implemented with all types of central vacuum systems known in the art. As is with all central vacuum systems, there exist wall valves located throughout different areas of the house. A typical wall valve 60 may be seen in
As mentioned previously the hose assembly 10 of the present invention has two end fittings. First end fitting 20 may have a RF assembly 21. RF assembly 21 may have a front surface 21 a, a rear surface 21 b, a top surface 21 c, a bottom surface 21 d, and two opposing side surfaces 21 e and 21 f, as seen in
Kill switch 26 may include an internal spring 26 b and a button 26 a. Switch button 26 a may be located on front surface 25 a of member 25. In addition switch button 26 a may extend perpendicularly from front surface 25 a of member 25. The distance that switch button 26 a will extend will be determined by the manufacturer during fabrication of end fitting 20. The shape of switch 26 a may be any suitable shape known in the art including, but not limited to a circle, a square, a rectangle, or the like. In the preferred embodiment one implemented a generally cylindrically shape for button 26 a of switch 26. Switch button 26 a may be implemented to automatically shut down end fitting 20, when end fitting 20 is removed from wall valve 60. In order to be compatible with the many different varieties of wall valves on the market today, switch button 26 a may be a spring loaded, telescoping button, which may be designed to overcome internal spring 26 b of switch 26. In addition, switch button 26 a may be designed to turn end fitting circuit on if depressed partially, and switch button 26 a may be designed to be able to retract completely into member 25 while maintaining the circuit in a powered up state. In normal operation when end fitting 20 is inserted in to wall valve 60, switch button 26 a will overcome the force of internal switch spring 26 b, thus activating internal circuitry of end fitting 20. When end fitting is removed from wall valve 60, switch button 26 a will be forced back to an extended position by internal switch spring 26 b, thus powering down internal circuitry of end fitting 20.
Extending from top surface 24 b of flange 24 may be a generally cylindrical shape coupling member 40, as seen in
As mentioned above hose assembly 10 has two end fitting 20 and 30, the first 20 is used as a receiver, as previously discussed, and the second 30 is used as a transmitter. In the preferred embodiment a vacuum handle 30 is the second end fitting. Vacuum handle 30 may be any suitable shaped handle known in the art. In the preferred embodiment there is a handle 30 that has a member 31 for grasping the handle and a member 31 a used for attaching to the desired attachment. Grasping member 31 may be generally rectangular in shape, as seen in
Hose assembly 10 as mentioned previously may have a hose member 70. Any suitable type of known hose in the art may be used including, but not limited to a single wire reinforced, a double wire reinforced, and a hose with no reinforcement. In the preferred embodiment one implemented a reinforced light weight flexible hose. As mentioned in the background of the invention, this invention can eliminate the need for the wire reinforced hose if desired in some applications, because no electricity is being transmitted through the hose. In normal operation one end of hose 70 will be attached to end fitting 20 and the other end of hose 70 will be attached to second end fitting 30.
In normal operation, with all the features discussed above working together, the user simply inserts end fitting 20 into wall valve 60. Once inserted kill switch button 26 a of kill switch 26 will be depressed, thus activating the internal circuitry of end fitting 20. The user can then remotely operate the central vacuum system by depressing button 32 of grasping member 31. When the user desires to deactivate the central vacuum system, the user simply depresses button 32 of grasping member 31 a second time. Thus, there is no need for the user to go back and forth to the central vacuum system, and there is no need to lug around a heavy hose.
The assembly also has outer hose anchor sleeve 112. Anchor sleeve 112 receives an end of hose over the raised ridges 112 a. The anchor sleeve is inserted into the open end 101 b of first housing member 101 opposite open 101 a. Swivel 113 is inserted into the assembly to permit the hose to rotate about the assembly during use or being moved.
The second housing member 102 also has a stem 20 which is connected to the outlet 60. The second member 102 has one or more recesses 45 for receiving contacts 50. The contact 50 has a contact spring 120 that keeps the contact in position. A contact support 121 holds the contact in the recess 45. Each contact is electrically connected to the board 110 by wires 110 b. As shown in
The handle 30 may be made up of two clam shell members 200 and 201 that fit together to form the handle assembly 30. The handle assembly has one end 202 that receives the hose 70 and a second end 203 that receives the nozzle 204.
The handle end 202 that receives the hose 70 may have a ball valve 204 that is held in place by a swivel 205 and a clip ring 206. Over the clip ring outer hose handle connector 207 may be positioned.
The nozzle end 203 has nozzle extender 208 that extends from the end 203. Over the end of the nozzle extender opposite the end 203 a bleed valve 209 may be positioned over which a nozzle 204 is placed.
The hand grip portion 31 of the handle 30 may have a recess for receiving a battery 210. The battery may be held in place by a cover 211. The RF transmitter board and antenna 212 is positioned in a recess in the arm and is connected to button 32. As the button is initially depressed, the RF transmitter sends a signal to the receiver to open the switch to operate the vacuum. When the button is again depressed, the RF transmitter signals the receiver to shut off the system.
As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. In the view above it will be seen that several objects of the invention are achieved and other advantageous results attained.