US 3419915 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Jan. 7, 1969 J. H. CLARK, JR 3,419,915
v HEAT BATH APPLIANCE Filed Aug. 9, 1966- Sheet 1 of z 42 INVENTOK, Joye ah H Clark, J11
Jan. 7,' 1969 J. H. CLARK, JR I 3,419,915
HEAT BATH APPLIANCE Filed Au f, 1966 Sheet 2 of 2 4 INVENTWZ Jose ah (Zark J1:
BYyaA I] TIWRNEY.
United States Patent Office 3,419,915 Patented Jan. 7, 1969 23 Claims This invention relates to an appliance in which a person may enter and subject the entire body to a high temperature heat bath.
For many centuries people in the Scandinavian countries, notably Finland, have been enjoying the virtues of heated air baths, more commonly known as saunas. While a sauna is sometimes considered to include a steam bath within its meaning, it is more properly thought of as a high temperature-low humidity bath. The air temperature surrounding the body should be in excess of 150 F. and perhaps over 200 F., depending upon individual preferences and capacities. Humidity should generally be kept low, below percent, in that as the moisture content of the air increases, the temperature which a person can comfortably tolerate decreases; and it is primarily the high heat which is desirable.
These high heat baths are generally considered healthy and desirable for several reasons. The heat is helpful for blood circulation in that it causes the blood to concentrate near the skin and causes the pulse to increase. It is also beneficial to the skin because of the opening and cleansing of the porces caused by perspiration. Many people find the treatment extremely relaxing both mentally and physically, and feel refreshed and invigorated afterwards. In recent years, heat baths have been becoming increasingly popular in this country as their benefits become more widely known. Most generally these arrangements are separate rooms specially constructed for this purpose, and include wooden walls and benches along with high wattage electrical heating equipment. Naturally such arrangement cost thousands of dollars and hence are not practically available to the vast majority of people. In addition, there are on the market some less expensive do it-yourself type structures which can be located in a persons basement, large closet or some other similar available space. However, even these are permanently erected structures and are likely to cost as much as $700. Hence, the price is again prohibitive to a person of average means.
It is the primary object of this invention to provide a low cost portable sauna or heat bath.
It is another object of this invention to provide a selferecting, flexible, inflatable enclosure which when not in use may be conveniently and compactly stored around the inflating unit.
Yet another object of this invention is to provide an inflatable, insulated heat bath structure which defines a space that may be quickly heated to high temperature by an electrical heating means using ordinary household voltage.
The foregoing objects are attained by providing a heat bath appliance for humans including a collapsible enclosure large enough to permit a person to be seated therein with the enclosure being formed by flexible side walls having inner and outer layers, a top wall and optionally a bottom wall. The side wall layers are connected at spaced intervals so that interconnected air passages are formed between the layers. A motor and fan unit positioned adjacent the enclosure is provided with its air output ducted into the enclosure air passages causing the side wall to inflate and become erect. To serve as a heat bath, the appliance may include heating means for maintaining the temperature of the air within the enclosure substantially above human body temperature. With the foregoing described device, the object of low cost and convenient use and operation can be obtained in that the collapsible enclosure is easily erected and is easily stored by being collapsed around the motor and fan unit.
Further features, objects and attendant advantages will become apparent with reference to the following drawings in which:
FIG. 1 shows the portable sauna of the invention in operational position;
FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the device shown in FIG. 1 showing the air flow within the device;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the combined bench and heater and air moving system for the sauna;
FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective, partially cut away, view of the heater and air moving system shown in the power unit of FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the structure shown in FIG. 4; and
FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the sauna shown in its storage position.
Referring now to the drawings and more particularly to FIGS. 1 and 2, the sauna or heat bath appliance of the invention may be seen as including two basic components, an enclosure 10 and a combined bench and power unit 12. The enclosure includes side walls 14 with inner and outer layers 14a and 14b, a top wall 16 with inner and outer layers 16a and 16b, and optionally a bottom wall 18. Preferably, the side and top walls are made of light weight flexible plastic mate-rial such as plasticized vinyl, while the bottom wall may be made of a heavier flexible material.
As can be seen in FIG. 2, the inner and outer layers of side walls 14 are joined or connected by vertically extending heat welds or seams 20 to form a plurality of vertically extending air passages or tubes 22. The inner and outer layers of the top wall 16 are also joined at spaced intervals by radially extending scams or welds 24 which in conjunction with the inner and outer layers define radially extending passages or tubes 26. The upper ends of the side wall air passages 22 and the lower ends of the top wall passages 26 are interconnected by an annular tube 28 so that the passages may be inflated from a single source. a
When the enclosure walls are inflated as shown, the side walls form a generally cylindrical shape and the top wall has a conical shape. The overall enclosure is sized to provide adequate space for a single person to sit. Hence, for example, the inside diameter of the enclosure is approximately three feet while the height to the top of the cone is approximately six feet. A certain amount of material may be saved by using the conical top wall as opposed to a flat wall in that the side walls need not be quite so high.
To enter the enclosure 10 there is provided a suitable closeable entryway 30 located in side walls 14. In a preferred arrangement, this is merely an opening between the sealed vertical edges of two of the tubes or air passages 22. Thus the entryway may conceivably be formed at the ends of the sheets of material used to form the side walls. While the air pressure within the tubes tends to cause them to take a vertical tubular shape which forces the entryway closed, they may be easily parted to permit the bather to enter the enclosure and the air pressure within the tubes will then cause them to snap back to their original shape. Such an arrangement permits the user to make a hasty exit from the enclosure also in the event the heat becomes uncomfortable. If necessary to minimize heat loss through the entry, auxiliary sealing means may be provided in conjunction with the entry.
In addition to the enclosure structure, it is necessary that the heat bath appliance include means for inflating the enclosure to cause it to become and remain erect and it is desirable that the device include means for generating and distributing heat within the enclosure to raise the temperature to the level necessary to obtain the sauna effect. Also, while not absolutely necessary, it is highly desirable that a suitable seat or bench be provided within the enclosure to be used by the bather during the heat bath. In accordance with the invention, these three functions are uniquely integrated into the combined bench and power unit 12. As can be seen most easily in FIG. 3, the bench includes an upper seating surface 32, a central supporting structure 36 with an enlarged lower portion 36a and a lower supporting base member 38. Within the lower enlarged portion 36a of the central structure, there is positioned an electric motor 40 driving a blower 42 and a blower or fan 44.
As can be seen by the arrows in FIGS. 2 and 3, blower 42 is utilized to inflate and maintain the air pressure in the enclosure 10. It is designed to move a reasonably large volume of air so that the enclosure walls are quickly inflated and yet produce and maintain adequate pressure to keep the structure erect. The function of blower or fan 44 is to circulate air within the enclosure and hence it is basically designed as a high volume-low pressure type air moving device. It is, of course, possible to utilize only one air moving device to perform both functions; however, since their optimum design parameters are considerably different, it has been found preferable to utilize two devices.
As can be seen from FIGS. 4 and 5, there are provided a plurality of resistance heating elements 46 mounted between suitable insulating supports 48. High temperatures within the enclosure can be obtained by utilizing heaters totaling approximately 1500 watts, which can, of course, be energized from conventional 1l5-volt, electrical outlets. The blower 42 and blower or fan 44 are located in a suitable housing 50 which includes an upper portion 50a and a larger lower portion 50b. Blower air outlets 52 and 54 connected to housing portion 50a are tangentially positioned with respect to blower 44. By locating the heating elements 46 within the air outlets 52 and 54, the heat is efficiently transferred to the air flow. The air intake for blower 44 is through aperture 56 located in the upper portion of column 36 as seen in FIG. 3. As shown by the arrows, the air is drawn in through aperture 56, downwardly through the bench support column 36 and axially into blower 44 through openings 56a where it is tangentially forced outwardly through outlets 52 and 54 and escapes from the supporting column of the bench through a pair of screened openings, one of which is shown at 60 in FIG. 2. An adjustable thermostat 62 is positioned in the air flow of column 36 to control the energization of heating elements 46.
As explained, the air output of fan 42 is used to inflate the enclosure. For this purpose there is a suitable coupling 64 connected to housing 50 and forming a radial outlet for the fan. The other end of coupling 64 is joined to a flexible hose 66 which has its opposite end connected to a coupling 68 located in the inner wall 14 of the side walls 14. The air inflates the air passage or tube 22 carrying coupling 68 and then flows upwardly to annular tube 28 from where it is distributed downwardly to the other side wall air passages 22 and upwardly to the top wall air passages 26.
As shown in FIG. 3, the intake air for fan 42 enters through a duct 70 within base 38 which connects with a tunnel 72 extending beneath the sauna bottom wall 18 to the exterior of the sauna side walls. The purpose for utilizing external air for inflating the enclosure is to cool the motor 40. Note that the motor is positioned in the lower portion of the bench column 36a so that the incoming air for fan 42 flows directly over the motor to provide excellent cooling. In this regard, note also that the blower 44 and heating elements 46 are positioned above on the opposite side of fan 42 so that the heat from the heating element is remote from the motor 40. While these cooling provisions have been included, it should be understood that the necessity of utilizing external air for cooling the motor depends upon the characteristics of the motor selected which, in turn, is dependent upon the cost in that a motor which can withstand a higher degree of heat generally is more expensive. However, another factor to be balanced is that by utilizing external air for inflating the enclosure walls, there is a certain amount of heat loss from the interior of the enclosure to and through the enclosure walls. Hence, the heating system is more eflicient if air within the enclosure is also utilized for inflating the enclosure. Naturally the exact nature of the enclosure materials and their ability to contain the heat must also be considered in determining the inflation air source.
As a unique incidental feature, note that the power cord 74 has been conveniently placed within tunnel 72 to reach an electrical outlet to the exterior of the appliance. The cord is thus easily available for energizing the fan motor to erect the enclosure.
One of the primary aspects of applicants invention is that the device can be easily and conveniently stored in a compact package. By merely disconnecting the motor power cord, the enclosure walls will begin to deflate and collapse. To assist the evacuation of the air preparatory to storing the device, one or more auxiliary closeable openings may be formed in the walls of the enclosure for this purpose. When deflated, the enclosure walls may be folded in and around the combined bench and power unit as illustrated in FIG. 6. Note that the space beneath the bench seating surface 32 surrounding the central column 36 forms a convenient annularly shaped storage area 75 for the flexible enclosure walls. The top wall 16 rests directly on the upper seating surface 32 while the edge portions of the top wall are folded under the bench seating surface with the side walls. Also, note that the enclosure bottom wall 18 is folded upwardly within the annular storage space along with the flexible hose 66. Storing the enclosure walls in this fashion requires a small amount of manual care to see that all portions of the enclosure are placed near the bench and requires only a few minutes.
Suitable means can also be provided for holding the enclosure walls in position against the bench. For this purpose, there is shown in FIG. 6 an exterior cover 76 including a top wall 77 and depending side walls 78. The cover is preferably rigid and may be made of Wood, plastic or other appropriate material. Note that the lower edges of the side walls mate with and rest on the outer periphery of the base 38. As alternatives, the top wall of the cover may be supported directly on the top surface of the bench or the cover side walls may directly rest on the floor or other supporting surface of the bench. The exterior of the cover may be finished in a wide variety of fashions to suit a desired purpose. For example, the top wall 77 may be covered with a layer of cushioning 80 so that the unit may serve as a comfortable hassock or bench. As another possibility, the exterior may be provided with a suitable decorative appearance.
As alternate means for storing the device, the enclosure walls maybe held in place by straps (not shown) or some such arrangement and the unit simply covered by a flexible fabric (not shown) or plastic. The device could still be used as an extra bench by sitting directly upon the sauna seat.
The cleverness and the convenience of the enclosure can be particularly appreciated during the assembly operation since it is only necessary to remove the cover 76 from the unit and plug the power cord into an available electrical household outlet. Immediately the motor is energized and the air output from fan 42 causes the enclosure to become unfolded and forced away from the power unit. The air passages within the side walls of the enclosure begin to inflate and become rigid, and within a few minutes, the entire enclosure is completely erected. Another advantageous feature of the arrangement is that since the motor is energized at all times, minor leaks which might develop within the plastic enclosure walls are not significant in that the air output of the fan is more than adequate to maintain the enclosure in erect position.
In the event the motor 40 or fan 42 should malfunction in some fashion, it may be desirable as a safety feature to include a provision whereby the heating element 46 will not be energized until the enclosure is at least partially erect. For this purpose there is provided a unique feeler switch 82 as seen in FIG. 3 which is suitably connected to the heating circuit. The switch can be arranged such that when the enclosure walls are pressed against the arm 83 of the feeler switch, the elements are not energized. However, when the enclosure Walls are pushed away from the bench and power unit by the inflation air, the feeler switch arm 83 is free to move, thus allowing the switch to close and the heating elements to become energized.
The device heretofore described is primarily designed as a heat bath or sauna wherein high temperatures with low humidity are employed. Generally temperature in a range from 150 F. to 200 F. are desired with relative humidity below 15 percent. Such a system will produce the necessary increased body temperature and pulse rate commonly associated with the sauna effect. With the structure set forth, the temperature within the enclosure may be brought up to the desired temperature level in excess of 150-160 F. within a matter of ten to fifteen minutes. At that point the device is ready to provide the heat bath desired by the user. The ability of the appliance to attain and maintain temperatures at this level is, of course, partially dependent on the heat loss to the surroundings. -'In this regard, the double layered walls with air spaces therebetween provide excellent heat insulating means. Optionally, a suitable timer or other signaling means may be incorporated into the unit to indicate to user when the proper bath temperature has been reached.
Although the primary use of the invention is as a sauna, it should be realized that by varying the heating means to maintain temperatures in the area of 115 F. to 120 F.
and by introducing steam generating means, the ap pliance may be employed as a steam bath. In effect, the desired combination of temperature and humidity can be obtained by selecting proper components. The appliance may also serve diverse functions simply as a convenient inflatable enclosure with or without heating means.
It will be appreciated that the unique appliance of the invention can be easily moved to various locations since it is so convenient to assemble and disassemble. Hence, it is contemplated that the unit may be used in various rooms of a :home such as a bedroom, bath, playroom, or basement. It may also be conviently used beside a swimming pool or at many other outdoor locations. In this regard, it might be quite convenient to take on a trip to a beach or swimming area in that many individuals who take heat baths desire to immediately take a cold shower or a plunge into a pool.
There are certain features of the appliance regarding ease of assembly which have not yet been specifically pointed out.. That is, the side walls of the enclosure may be readily connected to the bottom wall by snaps or other suitable separable means. Similarly the inner portion of the bottom wall may be connected to the base of the power unit by snaps as indicated at 84 in FIG. 3. Further, it is not mandatory that a bottom wall be provided at all in that the weight of the enclosure is adequate to provide a reasonably tight seal for minimizing heat loss at the lower edge of the side walls of the enclosure. Hence, if the surface upon which the sauna is to be placed will not be damaged by the heat generated by the unit, it may be placed directly on such surface. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of heat loss to the supporting surface when a bottom wall is not used, and to minimize such loss an insulated bottom wall may be provided. It may also be desirable to have suitable means on the bottom wall of the enclosure to protect wooden floors, particularly if waxed.
It should be understood that in addition to the preferred embodiment and the various modifications and alternate constructions that have been set forth, additional changes and variations may readily come to mind. Hence, it is intended that all such changes and modifications within the true spirit and scope of the invention be included Within the appended claims.
What is claimed is:
1. An appliance for providing heat baths for humans comprising: a collapsible enclosure large enough to permit a person to be seated therein for-med by side walls and a top wall; said side Walls including flexible inner and outer layers, means connecting said layers at spaced intervals so that interconnected air passages are formed between the layers, air inlet means formed in said side walls for permitting air to be introduced to said passages; a motor and a fan unit adjacent said enclosure having its air output ducted to said air inlet means for inflating said air passages causing said side walls to become and remain erect; and heating means for maintaining the temperature of the air within the enclosure substantially above human body temperature.
2. The invention of claim 1 in which said enclosure has a storage position wherein the flexible side walls are deflated and folded adjacent said motor and fan.
3. The invention of claim 1 including means forming a closeable entry in said side walls to permit a person to enter the enclosure.
4. The invention of claim 1 in which said top wall includes inner and outer flexible layers interconnected at radially spaced intervals to form radially extending air passages in communication with said side wall air passages.
5. The invention of claim 1 wherein said enclosure side walls are formed of lightweight air impervious plastic material and when erected form a generally cylindrical shape.
6. The invention of claim 1 wherein said motor and fan are positioned within said enclosure.
7. The invention of claim 6 including a bench for a person to sit on within the enclosure, said motor and fan being combined with and positioned beneath the bench.
8. The invention of claim 7 wherein said enclosure has a storage position in which the flexible side walls are deflated, folded and held around said motor and fan beneath the top of said bench and said enclosure top wall rests on top of and around the bench.
9. The invention of claim 8 including a rigid cover which fits over said bench and enclosure when in the storage position.
10. The invention of claim 8 including a switch for controlling the energization of said heating means, said switch being held in its off position by said enclosure walls when the enclosure is in its storage position and said switch being in an on position when said enclosure walls are inflated and moved into operational position.
11. The invention of claim 1 in which said heating means includes a blower for circulating air within said enclosure and a resistance heating element located in the air output of the blower.
12. The invention of claim 11 in which said blower is driven by said motor and said fan is positioned between said blower and said motor so that said heating element adjacent said blower is remote from said motor.
13. The invention of claim 1 in which said air passages extend vertically when inflated to support said enclosure.
14. The invention of claim 13 wherein said air passages are interconnected by an annular tube located at the top of said side wall air passages.
15. The invention of claim 1 including an air intake means for said fan opening to the exterior of said enclosure.
16. The invention of claim 15 in which said air intake means is a tube which extends beneath said bottom wall.
17. The invention of claim 15 in which said air intake means for said fan is positioned so that the incoming air flows adjacent said motor to cool the motor before reaching the fan.
18. The invention of claim 15 including a power cord for said motor extending from the motor through said air intake means to the exterior of the enclosure.
19. The invention of claim 1 including a bench positioned within said enclosure having an upper seating surface supported on a hollow central column mounted on a base member, said central column being of smaller cross-section than said seating surface so that an annular storage area is formed surrounding the column beneath the seating surface, said enclosure side walls being foldable into said storage area when the device is not in use, said motor and fan unit and said heating means being mounted within said central column.
20. The invention of claim 19 including a rigid cover having integral depending side walls which fit over said bench and enclosure to hold the enclosure side walls in the storage area.
21. An article of manufacture comprising: a collapsible, inflated enclosure large enough to permit a person to be seated therein comprising side Walls, and a top wall; said side walls including flexible inner and outer layers, means joining said layers at spaced intervals so that interconnected air passages are formed between the layers, air inlet means formed in said enclosure for permitting air to be introduced to said passages; a motor and a fan unit positioned within said enclosure having its air output ducted to said air inlet means for inflating said air passages causing said side walls to become and remain erect; said enclosure having a storage position wherein said walls are deflated and folded around said unit; and means for holding said enclosure in said storage position.
22. The article of claim 21 in which said holding means is a rigid cover which fits over the enclosure and the motor fan unit.
23. The article of claim 21 including electrical means combined with said motor and fan unit for heating the enclosure.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 829,281 8/1906 Monro 4--160 1,518,078 12/1924 Kowalski 4160 2,174,445 9/1939 Oliver 4-160 X 2,873,453 2/1959 Kirschner 4160 PATRICK D. LAWSON, Primary Examiner.