The present invention relates to heating apparatus for heating the atmosphere in a confined area surrounding such apparatus, and, more particularly, to a heating apparatus especially adapted for use in preventing the freezing of pumping and other mechanical apparatus in water well pits and the like.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Water supplies in rural areas are generally obtained through the use of water wells. Water wells are typically drilled to the level of the water table below the ground and include a pit or hole surrounding the well head, the pit being dug below the ground surface level. The apparatus used to pump the water from the water table is generally located in this well pit. Typically, such apparatus includes a pump, pressurized holding tank, and other apparatus to supply water to a given area and its pressureized water system. Although well pits are usually several feet deep and, hopefully below the frost or freezing level in the ground, the apparatus disposed in the well pits is often exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Thus, heating units have been proposed in the past for heating the atmosphere within a well pit in order to prevent the pump and holding tank apparatus from freezing in cold weather. However, the previous heating units have been less than satisfactory for one or more of the following reasons.
First, although well pits are generally covered, they are often exposed to great amounts of rainfall and/or condensation forming on the inside of the pit cover. Such liquid falling into the pit has shorted out, corroded and otherwise caused great problems with the operation of the previously known heating units utilized in well pits. Secondly, the operation of the previous units has been difficult to control. Thus, either the heating units operate continuously thereby wasting energy and making the operation thereof much more expensive when the well pit atmosphere is sufficiently warm to prevent the freezing of the apparatus, or they are somehow otherwise linked to the operation of the pump and other apparatus such that they do not keep the atmosphere sufficiently warm at all times. Finally, the previous heating units have lacked a simple, versatile support which could be utilized to support the heating apparatus in all well pits without the provision of additional, elaborate supporting apparatus. The present invention was conceived and invented in recognition of and as an answer to these several problems.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, it is the purpose of the present invention to provide a heating apparatus especially adapted to heat the atmosphere in a well pit or other confined area, the apparatus being responsive to the temperature of the atmosphere within that area such that the atmosphere is maintained at an approximately constant temperature thereby preventing both inadequate and excessive, wasteful operation thereof. Additionally, the heating apparatus of the present invention may be operated for prolonged periods in adverse moisture conditions, the apparatus being designed to prevent the direct contact of damaging rainfall and other liquids with the electrical apparatus providing the operative heating elements of the device. Further, the apparatus is designed to be stably and securely supported within the well pit or other confined area via its own integral supporting means which may be variously arranged to stake the device into the ground or support the device on top of the ground.
In accordance with these purposes, the present invention provides a heating apparatus including an upstanding tubular support having an integral flexible base, the support including an electrical socket receiving an electrical, radiant energy heating means for heating the atmosphere surrounding the apparatus. An atmospheric temperature responsive thermostat is connected in series with the heating unit and regulates the operation thereof so as to provide heat only when the atmospheric temperature is below a specified, predetermined level.
In order to prevent the direct contact of falling liquids with the electrical apparatus included in the present invention, a shielding hood or cover is releasably supported atop the electrical heating unit and curves outwardly and downwardly covering the entire horizontal, cross-sectional area of the apparatus to prevent liquids from falling thereon. Furthermore, the supporting apparatus is tubular in construction and provides an integral area therein in which the thermostat is encased below the heating unit to prevent any liquid from coming in contact therewith. The thermostat and heating unit are connected via a line cord which extends through the tubular support and passes out through an aperture therein for connection to an electrical supply, the aperture including a grommet for sealingly engaging the line cord. The flexible base included on the support apparatus comprises the lower end of the support which is divided into at least three bendable legs which may be left aligned with the main portion of the support to provide a stake for staking the heating apparatus into ground, or which may be bent into one or more laterally extending legs for supporting the heating apparatus atop the surface of the ground.
Therefore, it will be understood that the present inventive heating apparatus provides an economical, maintenance free heating unit which need only be connected with an electrical supply and thereafter is responsive to the atmospheric temperature to maintain that atmosphere at an approximately constant temperature. Moreover, the apparatus may be operated in the moisture laden atmosphere of a well pit over prolonged periods of time with little or no maintenance since the operative electrical elements thereof are either shielded or encased therein to prevent direct contact with damaging liquids. Finally, the supporting base means of the apparatus provides a flexible base which may be used to support the apparatus either in or on the ground in a substantially vertical orientation.
These and other objects, advantages, purposes and features of the invention will become more apparent from a study of the following description taken in conjunction with the drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a schematic, cross-sectional view of a typical well pit, the heating apparatus of the present invention being located therein to heat the atmosphere thereof and to prevent the freezing of the apparatus disposed therein;
FIG. 2 is a broken, perspective view of the heating apparatus of the present invention; and
FIG. 3 is a broken, cross-sectional, side elevation of the assembled heating apparatus of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
Referring now to the drawings in greater detail, FIG. 1 shows the typical environment in which the present novel heating apparatus is designed for use. As depicted therein, the heating apparatus 10 is supported on the bottom of a well pit 12 dug below the surface 14 of the earth in the area surrounding the head of a drilled water well 16. Although it is especially adapted for use in well pits, the heating apparatus may also be used to prevent water from freezing in sinks in cold kitchen areas, and to prevent the freezing of engines, batteries, and other mechanisms of tractors, cars and other vehicles overnight and in other periods when they are stored. When used in a well pit such as that shown at 12 in FIG. 1, the heating apparatus 10 will be staked into or supported on the ground adjacent a water pump 18 and pressurized holding tank 20 which are utilized to provide pressurized water to an area to be supplied by the water well 16. The heating apparatus may be connected to an electrical outlet 22 provided as part of the pump 18 or as a separate apparatus within the pit 12. Further, the well pit 12 will be generally covered by a cover 24 to prevent excess amounts of rainfall, dirt, leaves and other foreign materials from accumulating within the pit. However, even though the cover 24 will not completely prevent the accumulation of materials in the pit 12, the heating apparatus will not be effected thereby since it is designed to operate in adverse conditions which are typically encountered in such well pits as will be more fully described hereinafter.
Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, the heating apparatus 10 will be seen to include an upstanding, generally vertical support 30 including an integral, flexible base means 40 which may be arranged as desired to support the apparatus. Supported at the upper end of the upstanding support 30 is the radiant energy electrical heating unit 50 which imparts radiant energy to the surrounding atmosphere in order to heat the same. Finally, a shielding hood or cover 80 is removably secured atop the heating unit 50 to protect the apparatus against falling water when it is disposed within the well pit 12.
As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, support 30 comprises a vertically upstanding tube 32 which, in the preferred embodiment, is circular in cross section and formed from galvanized steel tubing. Of course, the tube need not have a circular cross section, and may be formed from other lightweight non-corrosive materials such as lightweight aluminum tubing, the only requirement being that the support 32 include a hollow interior and be sufficiently flexible that the lower portion thereof may be divided and bent into supporting legs or feet forming the flexible base 40. Further, the support tube 32 is sufficiently long to support the heating element 50 and associated electrical apparatus above any shallow water which may accumulate within the well pit. In the preferred embodiment, the tube 32 is approximately 1 1/2 to 2 feet long.
Rigidly secured atop the support tube 32 via threaded connectors 34 is a cup-shaped receptacle 36 which may be extruded or otherwise formed from lightweight aluminum or another noncorrosive material similar to that from which the support tube is formed. The receptacle 36 includes a separate, threaded collar or flange 38 which may be removed therefrom for the insertion of the electrical socket which receives the heating unit 50, as will be described more fully below.
Formed from the lower end of the generally vertical support 30 is the flexible base 40 as mentioned above. In the preferred embodiment flexible base 40 comprises four integral, flexible legs 42 which are formed by dividing or cutting the lower end of the support tube 32 into four quarters. Each of the legs 42 has a length sufficient to allow it to be bent out horizontally to form horizontal support for the apparatus. In this connection, it will be understood that the flexible base 40 allows the apparatus either to be staked vertically into the ground with one or more of the legs 42 being left in their original or aligned positions with the remainder of support tube 32, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the remaining legs being bent out horizontally to provide lateral support for the apparatus when staked into the earth surface. Alternatively, if the bottom of the well pit 12 is covered with a layer of cement or is otherwise impenetrable, all four of the legs 42 may be bent horizontally into a four legged, stand-like arrangement which allows the apparatus to be placed on a generally horizontal surface and supported thereby without any portion thereof penetrating the surface. Thus, as mentioned above, the material from which the support tube 32 is formed must be sufficiently flexible to allow legs 42 to be bent into this horizontal orientation. Since either aluminum tubing or galvanized steel tubing is non-corrosive and sufficiently flexible to be bent easily by hand, and yet are strong enough to support an apparatus of the type described, they are the preferred materials for the present heating apparatus 10.
Referring now to FIG. 3, radiant energy heating unit 50 forms a portion of the electrical apparatus which is used to heat the atmosphere surrounding the heating apparatus 10. Heating unit 50 is any type of heating unit including an electrical resistance heating coil (not shown in detail) which is sufficiently insulated by a protective cover 52 to prevent electrical shocks therefrom and which also includes a threaded base 54 which allows it to be received in an electrical socket. The heating unit 50 is received in a porcelain or ceramic electrical socket 56 which in turn is seated in the receptacle 36 and retained therein by flange or collar 38. Electrical socket 56 is connected to either an alternating or direct current electrical outlet such as that shown at 22 in FIG. 1, via a standard electrical line cord 58 including two lead wires 60 and 62. Line cord 58 passes through the hollow internal area of the support 30 starting at the base of receptacle 36 and continuing downwardly within the support tube 32 for a few inches and then outward through an aperture 64 provided in the side of tube 32. A grommet 66 formed from a polymeric or other flexible insulating material is fitted around the periphery of the aperture 64 in sealing engagement with line cord 58 to prevent water and other liquids from entering the interior of tube 32. The cord 58 is passed out of the tube above the surface supporting the apparatus to avoid any contact with accumulated water in the well pit and to avoid any interference with the flexible base 40.
Spliced internally of one of the lead wires 60 or 62 is a small, miniaturized thermostat element 70. Thermostat 70 is enclosed or encased within the interior of tube 32 and comprises a bimetallic strip or other atmospheric temperature responsive element (not shown in detail) which is manufactured to complete the circuit via lead wires 60 when the atmospheric temperature surrounding the heating apparatus 10 reaches a specified, predetermined level. In the preferred embodiment, thermostat 70 will complete the circuit at a temperature a few degrees above the freezing temperature of water at sea level (32° F.), i.e., at a temperature approximately 40° F. Thus, whenever the ambient atmospheric temperatures surrounding the heating apparatus 10 drops below 40°, the thermostat 70 will respond thereto and complete the circuit via lead wire 60 thereby allowing electrical energy to reach the electrical socket 56, and thus heating unit 50, via line cord 58. The thermostat 70 itself is encased in an insulating material (not shown) for protection against a short circuit or electrical contact with the interior of tube 32. The adverse effects of any moisture in the atmosphere will also be minimized by such an insulating cover.
As is also shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the last remaining element of the heating apparatus 10 comprises the shielding hood or cover 80 as mentioned above. Hood 80 includes a shielding member 82 formed from sheet aluminum or another similar lightweight, non-corrosive material into a convex shape as shown in FIG. 3. A pair of resilient, flexible spring-like legs 84 are bent from a length of similar material and are riveted or otherwise secured via securing means 86 to the shielding member 82. The hood 80 is supported atop the heating unit 50 via legs 84 which may be compressed and inserted inside a peripheral, inturned flange 53 on the top of unit 50 which is especially useful for this purpose. Legs 84 include an integral curvature such that the extremeties thereof match the inturned flange 53. Shielding member 82 is therefore positioned over the entirety of the apparatus 10 with its extremeties extending outwardly and downwardly thereover. It will be understood that the surface area of shielding member 82 is larger than the horizontal cross-sectional area of any of the remainder of the apparatus except for the extremities of feet 42 when they are bent into their horizontal supporting positions. Thus, any water falling substantially vertically on apparatus 10 will be intercepted and redirected by hood 80 such that it falls harmlessly around the periphery of the base thereof thereby preventing damaging and corrosive contact with the electrical circuitry included in heating apparatus 10. Moreover, the hood 80 in combination with the tubular support 32 and receptacle 36 form a preventive means which keeps the potentially damaging water and other liquids which are likely to fall on the heating apparatus in a well pit away from the operative elements thereof. Thus, the electrical connections as well as the thermostat 70 are all encased within the interior of tube 32, line cord 58 being electrically insulated and sealingly engaged by grommet 66 where it extends therefrom. Therefore, the combination of the shield 80 and the encasing of the electrical elements within the body of the supporting apparatus protects against and minimizes the effects of the ever-present moisture in a well pit.
As will now be understood, the heating apparatus 10 comprises an efficient, simply constructed radiant energy heating means which is especially useful in preventing the freezing of pumping apparatus used in connection with water wells and the like. It is economically operated since it includes an atmospheric temperature responsive thermostat which causes it to heat the surrounding atmosphere only when the temperature thereof drops below a certain level, previous heating apparatuses either being required to operate continuously or requiring constant attention to prevent their operation when the atmosphere was warmer than a certain level. Furthermore, the present invention is especially adapted to operate in adverse environments wherein large amounts of moisture are present such as in well pits. In this connection, the apparatus includes preventive shielding means which both shield and encase the electrical elements included in the heating apparatus against the potentially dangerous and corrosive effects of the ever-present moisture therein. Finally, the apparatus includes a simple yet flexible base which is adaptable to support the apparatus either on softer surfaces when it may be staked therein, or on harder surfaces wherein the staking elements are bent outwardly to form horizontally oriented supporting legs therefor. Thus, the apparatus comprises an extremely simple, economical and easily manufactured apparatus which avoids the problems encountered with previous apparatuses for the same purpose.
The terms "horizontal," "vertical," "upper," and "lower," as well as other similar directionally oriented terms, will be understood to have been used only for descriptive purposes, and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention described thereby.
While one form of the invention has been shown and described, other forms will now be apparent to those skilled in the art. Therefore, it will be understood that the embodiment shown in the drawings and described above is merely for illustrative purposes, and is not intended to limit the scope of the invention which is defined by the claims which follow.