|Publication number||USRE39093 E1|
|Application number||US 10/364,510|
|Publication date||May 9, 2006|
|Filing date||Feb 12, 2003|
|Priority date||Jul 13, 1993|
|Also published as||CA2127662A1, CA2127662C, US5335160, USRE40228|
|Publication number||10364510, 364510, US RE39093 E1, US RE39093E1, US-E1-RE39093, USRE39093 E1, USRE39093E1|
|Inventors||Paul F. Savoca|
|Original Assignee||Duraline, A Division Of J.B. Nottingham Co., Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (46), Non-Patent Citations (51), Referenced by (5), Classifications (17)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This reissue application of U.S. Pat. No. 5,335,160 was merged with reexamination application Nos. 90/005,715; 90/005,719 and 90/006,130 previously filed on Apr. 28, 2000, May 4, 2000 and Oct. 16, 2001, respectively, and is the parent of continuation reissue application No. 10/960,901 filed Oct. 8, 2004.
This invention generally relates to outdoor lighting systems for illuminating highways or airports and the like, and is specifically concerned with an improved system of the type wherein outdoor lights are mounted on a plurality of spaced-apart tubular masts and powered by a common, underground circuit breaker.
Outdoor lighting systems for illuminating streets and highways are known in the prior art. Such lighting systems typically include a plurality of lighting units spaced along the road or highway, each of which includes an electric light that is supported on the distal end of a tubular mast whose proximal end is anchored into the ground. In some instances, the lights are suspended over the street or highway by a cantilevered support member attached to the mast. In other instances, a ring of high intensity lights circumscribes the distal end of the mast. In either instance, an electric power cable connects each of the spaced-apart, mast-supported lights to a common power source in the form of the output of an above-ground circuit breaker. The electric power cable for each lighting unit includes a first portion that is connected to the light source and disposed within the hollow mast, and a second portion disposed underground and connected to a power source in the form of either the aforementioned circuit breaker, or the power cable of an adjacent lighting unit. Additionally, both a fuse assembly and a lighting arrestor are disposed within the hollow end of the mast and connected between the first and second portions of the electric cable for preventing current overloads to the light fixture, and for protecting the circuit breaker from current surges caused by lightning. To provide access to the fuse assembly and lightning arrestor, a removable panel is usually provided at the base of the mast. Additionally, the wrenching tensile forces applied throughout the length of the cable just before the breakage thereof at the fuse assembly splices often weakens splices and other connections made with adjacent lighting units, setting the stage for future maintenance problems that are difficult to diagnose and solve.
While such prior art lighting system are widely used to illuminate streets, highways, and virtually any place where large amounts of outdoor lighting is required, the applicant has observed a number of shortcomings associated with the design of these systems which significantly impairs their overall usefulness.
For example, if one of the masts of such a system should be knocked down as a result of an automobile collision, the stresses applied to the cable within the mast often causes it to break at the connections made with the fuse assembly. As these connections are typically made by way of splices, the tension applied to the cable from the automobile collision tears the splices apart, dangerously exposing wires that are “hot”. These exposed, hot wires can in turn conduct dangerous electrical currents through the knocked-down mast (which is typically made of a conductive metal) or even the body of the colliding car. Even if the collision causes the exposed conductors of the broken cable splice to short circuit and trip the circuit breaker, this somewhat safer result is not particularly desirable, as such tripping will cut off the current flowing to all of the other mast-supported lights that are serially connected to the breaker, thus surrounding the area around the broken mast in total darkness if the collision occurs at night. Additionally, the wrenching tensile forces applied throughout the length of the cable just before the breakage thereof at the fuse assembly splices often weakens splices and other connections made with adjacent lighting units, setting the stage for future maintenance problems that are difficult to diagnose and solve.
Still another shortcoming of prior art lighting systems results from the positioning of the fuse assembly and lightning arrestor in the base of the hollow mast in each lighting unit. Because such masts usually have openings at their upper ends or sides for structural reasons, the interior of such masts often becomes the home of wildlife that is either potentially hostile (such as wasps, poisonous snakes, or rats) or of the type apt to build nests around these components (such as birds or squirrels). The presence of such animal life significantly impairs the replacement of fuses of burned-out lightning arrestors by either assaulting the maintenance personnel who carry out such operations, or by creating physical obstructions (such as nests) that must be removed incident to such operations. Additionally, the spliced connection between the lightning arrestor and the cable that supplies electrical power to the light source makes it difficult to replace this component in the event of a burn out of the surge arrestor circuit in the arrestor from a bolt of lightning striking the conductive mast.
A final shortcoming of such prior art systems results from the relatively easy access to the components and cables located inside the masts near the proximal ends thereof. The present access panels are easily opened by vandals who may tamper with or destroy the components inside, or by thieves who attach the cable leading to the circuit breaker to a truck and pull it out of the ground for the purpose of selling the relatively large amounts of copper in it. In recent years, such vandalism and theft has been a major drain on the maintenance budgets for such lighting system in both the public and the private sectors of the economy.
Clearly, there is a need for an improved outdoor lighting system having some sort of means for preventing the creation of dangerous exposed “hot” wires in the event of a collision between an automobile and a mast, as well as a means for preventing dangerous destructive forces generated by such collisions from being transmitted from the power cable inside the mast to other splices and connections all throughout the system. Ideally, such a system should deploy the fuse assembly and lightning arrestor in a location which is reasonably accessible to maintenance personnel, but completely inaccessible to potentially hostile wildlife. Such a system should further make is difficult, if not impossible, for vandals or thieves to destroy or steal large lengths of heavy copper cables or other valuable components located inside the masts. Finally, it would be desirable if such a system could be easily retrofitted onto prior art, mast-type outdoor lighting systems in a relatively quick and cost-efficient manner.
The invention is an improved outdoor lighting system of the type including at least one lighting assembly having a tubular mast, and an electrical cable extending through the mast and underground for connecting a light source located at a distal end of the mast to a circuit breaker that overcomes or ameliorates all of the aforementioned shortcomings associated with prior art outdoor lighting systems. The invention comprises an electrical connector assembly in the electrical cable near the proximal, ground-mounted end of the tubular mast for spontaneously disconnecting the cable at that location upon the application of a tensile force indicative of a vehicle collision with the mast. In the preferred embodiment, the electrical connector assembly includes first and second matable connectors which spontaneously disconnect upon the application of a tensile force much less than that which would damage the connection between the electrical cable and the underground circuit breaker (or other source of power) such as, for example, a force of between 20 and 30 pounds. The first and second matable connectors each include means for isolating the conductive pins and barrels contained in each from ambient water to prevent corrosion of the metals forming the conductive pins and barrels.
The improved system preferably further comprises an underground fuse assembly that electrically interconnects the circuit breaker with the underground portion of the cable that extends up from the ground and into the hollow interior of the tubular mast and which terminates in one of the two aforementioned electrical connectors. In the preferred embodiment, the underground fuse assembly includes a junction box connected to the portion of the cable that extends above ground and into the tubular mast, and a male fused connector detachably matable with the junction box. Similar to the aforementioned connector assembly disposed in the bottom of the mast, the fuse assembly connector disconnects upon the application of a tensile force which is less than the amount of force that would damage other connections within the vicinity of the fuse assembly, i.e., on the order of between 20 and 30 pounds. The fuse assembly and all connections are preferably mounted within an underground box which helps to isolate these components from the ambient ground and moisture. Additionally, the lid is secured with fasteners that are removable only with specially made tools to deter would-be vandals and thieves from tampering with or stealing the fuses and cables of the lighting system.
Finally, the improved system may include a lightning arrestor mounted in the same box that contains the fuse assembly. The lightning arrestor includes a surge suppressor circuit which is connected to a ground rod which extends outside the surrounding box. Preferably, the junction box that forms part of the fuse assembly also functions to electrically connect the cable leading from the light source to the surge suppressor circuit of the lightning arrestor, as well as to the power cable of an adjacent lighting unit. A third electrical connector may be provided in the cable between the junction box and the surge suppressor circuit so that the surge suppressor circuit may be easily replaced if burned out as a result of lightning striking the light source connected to the mast.
The invention further encompasses a method for improving an outdoor lighting system of the aforementioned type wherein a fuse assembly and a lightning arrestor is mounted within the hollow interior of the mast, and connected by way of splices to the cable inside the mast that connects the light source with the circuit breaker. In this method, the fuse assembly and lightning arrestor are removed from the interior of the mast, and the spliced ends of the cable disposed within the mast are replaced at least in part with a second cable that terminates in an electrical connector near the distal end of the mast. The fuse assembly and lightning arrestor are relocated in an underground box, and are electrically connected between the circuit breaker and the cable disposed within the mast by means of a second cable that terminates in a second connector which extends above ground within the interior of the mast, and which is matable with the first connector that ultimately leads to the light source.
Both the improved system and the method of the invention results in an outdoor lighting system that is far safer in the event of an automobile collision with one of the masts of the systems, since the forces associated with the collision will only cause the electrical connector assembly at the proximal end of the mast to spontaneously disconnect without exposing any dangerous wires, and without transmitting any potentially damaging tensile forces to other cables and connectors of the system. Locating the fuse assembly and lightning arrestor in an underground box, instead of within the hollow base of the mast, discourages vandals from stealing or damaging these components while freely allowing maintenance personnel with the proper tools to safely access these components without disturbing potentially hostile wildlife.
With reference now to
In the lighting system 1, the electrical power cable 15 of each of the light assemblies includes a first portion 18 that is connected between the light source 7 and the fuse assembly 19 by way of a splice connection 21. The cable 15 further includes a second portion 22 connected between the fuse assembly 19 and a power source in the form of either the circuit breaker 17, or the fuse assembly of an adjacent light assembly. Finally, each of the light assemblies 2 includes a lightning arrestor 23 that is connected by way of a cable 24 to a fuse assembly 19 by way of other splice connections 25. A ground rod 26 forms part of each of the lightning arrestors 23 in order to ground out current surges flowing through the power cable 15 and fuse assembly 19 caused by lightning striking the metallic mast 3. To provide access to both the fuse assembly 19 and lightning arrestor 23 of each of the light assemblies 2,2′, includes an access panel 28 at the base of its mast 3.
In the event that an automobile should collide with the mast 3 of any of the light assemblies 2,2′, the resulting tensile forces applied to the electrical power cable 15 often causes the cable to break at the splice connection 21 between the first portion 18 of the cable 15, and the fuse assembly 19. Depending upon the geometry of the fracture of the mast 3, these exposed “hot” wires could electrify the metallic mast, or the metallic body of the colliding automobile, thereby setting the stage for dangerous electrical shocks to the driver of the automobile, or to rescue workers or onlookers. Even if the exposed wires from the broken splice 21 are short circuited to the extent that the circuit breaker 17 trips, the situation is still not fully satisfactory, as such a tripping would cause the lights on all of the light assemblies 2,2′, etc. to turn off, thereby leaving the areas surrounding the accident in total darkness if the accident occurs at night. Finally, because the fuse assembly 19 and lightning arrestor 23 are contained within the hollow mast 3 of each of the various light assemblies 2,2′, and because some types of hostile wildlife often reside in or build nests within these masts 3, the persons who remove the panels 28 to perform maintenance operations on the light assembly 2 may be stung or bitten by such wildlife.
To solve these and other problems set forth with more specificity in the “Background . . . ” section of this application, the improved lighting system 30 illustrated in
In the preferred embodiment, the electrical connector assembly 40 is a combination of a Model MTP-3 and FTP-3 three pin and three barrel connector manufactured by the Duraline Division of J. B. Nottingham and Company, located in Central Islip, N.Y. Such connectors require an engagement force of 25 pounds in order to mate into position illustrated in
With reference now to
The underground utility box 38 for each of the light assemblies, includes a fuse assembly 52 in the form of a fused male connector 54 which plugs into a junction box 56 as shown. In the preferred embodiment, male connector 54 is a Model 3MFP3 16-5 adaptor-type plug likewise manufactured by the Duraline Division of J. B. Nottingham and Company. Such plugs are capable of holding two 5 amp, 600 volt fuses (not shown) in a tubular recess inside the plug. The fuses may be installed or replaced by simply screwing out the male connector pins that project outwardly from the face of the connector 54. Each of the two current carrying pins includes integrally molded 0 rings for providing a water-tight seal when mated and fully seated to the distribution block 56. In the preferred embodiment, distribution block 56 is a Model 3B5-2 block which again is manufactured by the Duraline Division of J. B. Nottingham and Company. Like the previously discussed connector assembly 40, an engagement force of 25 pounds is required to fully mate or disconnect the fused male connector 54 from the female connector contained with the junction box 56. The junction box 56 is connected to a source of power by means of inlet cable 58 which in turn is spliced to the end of second cable segment 50 of cable portion 36. While not specifically shown in the drawing, junction box 56 is mounted within the walls of the utility box 38 to insulate the splice connection 60 from any tensile forces applied to box 56 by male connector 54.
Finally, the underground utility box 39 includes a lightning arrestor 64. The lightning arrestor 64 includes an inlet cable 65 leading from the junction box 56 to a surge arrestor circuit 66. An electrical coupling 69 is provided in the inlet cable 65 so that the surge arrestor circuit 66 may be easily replaced in the event that it is burned out as a result of lightning striking the metallic mast 3, which in turn could cause a current surge through cable segment 48 and from thence through junction box 56. A ground rod 71 is connected to the surge arrestor circuit 66 by means of an electrical wire 73 clamped thereon. Additionally, the ground rod 71 is attached to the ground wire of the cable segment 50′ which interconnects the fuse assembly 52′ of the adjacent light assembly 2′ with the outlet of the circuit breaker 17 as indicated. The purpose of such a connection is, of course, to assist the lightning arrestor 64 in grounding out any current surge applied to power cable 32′ as a result of lightning striking the mast 3′.
The utility box 38 is located in the ground as shown, and is sealed in a water-tight fashion by means of a lid 73 which prevents any local wildlife from entering or residing in the interior of the box 38. The lid is secured over the top end of the box 38 by means of tamper proof hardware 79 of a type known in the prior art which can only be removed with the use of special tools to discourage vandals from tampering with or stealing the components within the box 38.
The method of the invention may be used to convert the lighting system I illustrated in
Various modifications and additions to the improved lighting system 30 of the invention will become evident to those skilled in the art. All such modifications and additions are intended to be encompassed within this invention, the scope of which is confined solely by the claims appended below.
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|U.S. Classification||362/431, 174/45.00R, 361/601, 362/802, 174/38, 362/276, 362/153.1, 439/474|
|International Classification||H02G9/10, H02G7/20, F21S13/10|
|Cooperative Classification||Y10S362/802, H02G9/10, H02G7/20, H02G2200/10|
|European Classification||H02G7/20, H02G9/10|