Title:
Tub surface heating device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A combination of a tub surface heating device and a tub has a tub wall with an inner surface which is in contact with water, and an outer surface which stays dry during use of the tub. A heat source heats by conduction the inner surface of the tub wall. A securing configuration secures the heat source on the outer surface of the tub wall. A method for heating the tub wall is also provided.



Inventors:
Castellote, Miguel (Sainte-Marguerite-de-Dorchester, CA)
Application Number:
11/289353
Publication Date:
06/01/2006
Filing Date:
11/30/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F24H1/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CAMPBELL, THOR S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
OGILVY RENAULT LLP (1981 MCGILL COLLEGE AVENUE, SUITE 1600, MONTREAL, QC, H3A2Y3, CA)
Claims:
1. A combination of a tub surface heating device and a tub, comprising: a tub having a tub wall with an inner surface which is in contact with water and an outer surface which stays dry during use of the tub; a heat source which heats by conduction the inner surface of the tub wall; and a securing configuration associated with the heat source so as to secure the heat source to the outer surface of the tub wall.

2. The combination of claim 1, wherein said heat source has a heating panel enclosing a heating element, said heating panel having a first surface and a second surface, said first surface being secured to the outer surface of the tub wall.

3. The combination of claim 2, wherein said heating panel is made of a flexible material so as to conform to the shape of the outer surface of the tub wall.

4. The combination of claim 2, wherein said heating panel has a first layer of a material capable of absorbing heat from the heating element to subsequently transfer heat uniformly to the outer surface of the tub wall.

5. The combination of claim 4, wherein said material is a layer of silicone defining the first surface of the panel, so as to transfer heat to the inner surface of the tub wall.

6. The combination of claim 5, wherein said heating panel has an insulating layer defining the second surface of the heating panel, such that heat from the heating element is generally transferred to the tub wall from the first layer.

7. The combination of claim 2, wherein the heating element of the heating panel is a heating coil powered by an electric source.

8. The combination of claim 1, wherein the tub comprises a water line underneath which there is water during use of the tub, the heat source being secured to a part of the outer surface of the tub wall corresponding to a part of the inner surface of the tub wall above the water line, so as to reduce the temperature variation between the water and the inner surface of the tub wall above the water line.

9. The combination of claim 8, wherein the heat source is secured to the tub wall at a backrest position.

10. The combination of claim 2, comprising at least two of the heating panel.

11. The combination of claim 10, wherein the heating panels are serially interconnected to a single power feed.

12. The combination of claim 10, wherein each of the heating panel comprises an electrical receptacle and an electrical plug protruding from the second surface of each of the heating panels, wherein the electrical receptacle is oriented away from the electrical plug and both electrical receptacle and electrical plug project laterally from a wire connector, for side-by-side electrical connection of the heating panels.

13. The combination of claim 12, wherein adjacent heating panels are spaced apart so as to receive therebetween jets of an air massage system/whirlpool system.

14. The combination of claim 12, wherein the electrical receptacle and the electrical plug are sealingly connected to the second surface of the heating panels, so as to isolate wires therein.

15. The combination of claim 10, wherein the heating panels are each connected independently to a controller, whereby the controller produces different temperatures at different locations in the tub.

16. The combination of claim 7, further comprising a thermal fuse in the heating coil so as to limit a maximum temperature of the heat source

17. A method for heating a tub wall having an inner surface which is in contact with water and an outer surface which stays dry during use of the tub, comprising: securing a heat source to the outer surface of the tub wall; connecting said heat source to a power source; and actuating said heat source to heat the tub wall.

18. The method according to claim 17, wherein the step of securing the heat source to the outer surface is performed by applying an adhesive of the heat source and pressuring the heat source against the outer surface in a selected position.

19. The method according to claim 17, wherein the step of securing a heat source to the outer surface involves securing a plurality of the heat source to the outer surface, and a step of connecting said heat source to the power source involves connecting the heat sources serially and connecting one of the serially connected heat sources to a power source.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This patent application claims priority on U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/631,417, filed on Nov. 30, 2004, by the present applicant.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention generally relates to tubs, such as bathtubs, bathing enclosures, spas, whirlpools and the like, and, more particularly, to a heating system used in conjunction with such tubs.

BACKGROUND ART

Tubs are well known for their primary use, namely a washroom installation in which a user person washes and bathes. Tubs have however evolved to add pleasure and comfort to practicality, and are found in many forms, such as bathtubs, spas, whirlpools. For instance, tubs are now provided with air jet systems and whirlpool systems. There is an increasing variety of products, such as bathing oils, creams, lotions, that emphasize the therapeutic and health-beneficial aspects of bathing.

One of the factors that is adjusted by bathers is the temperature of the fluid within the tub. Taking a hot bath has a soothing effect, while taking a cool bath can be refreshing. In some cases, however, there is a temperature variation between the walls of the tub and the fluid in the tub. For instance, the walls of the tub above the water line can often be cooler than the water.

As bathers typically rest or lean against parts of the tub above the water line, the skin of the bathers contacting these surfaces transmit a feeling of discomfort to the bather.

In order to warm up tub walls, some air ducts systems have been added about hidden surfaces of tub walls so as to heat the tub wall with warm air (i.e., by convection). However, such systems are bulky, and are inefficient in distributing heat to the tub walls uniformly. Moreover, as tubs are often equipped with other systems such as air massage systems, air ducts can not be used due to a lack of space about the hidden surface of the tub wall.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

Therefore, it is a feature of the present invention to provide a tub surface heating device to heat parts of walls of a tub.

It is a further feature of the present invention to provide a tub surface heating device and method that addresses issues associated with the prior art.

Therefore, in accordance with the present invention, there is provided a combination of a tub surface heating device and a tub, comprising a tub having a tub wall with an inner surface which is in contact with water and an outer surface which stays dry during the bath, a heat source which heats by conduction the inner surface of the tub wall, and a securing configuration, said configuration securing the heat source on the outer surface of the tub wall.

Further in accordance with the present invention, there is provided a method for heating a tub wall having an inner surface which is in contact with water and an outer surface which stays dry during the bath, comprising securing a heat source to the outer surface of the tub wall; connecting said heat source to a power source; and actuating said heat source to heat the tub wall.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A preferred embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a plan view of a tub surface heating device in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a rear elevation view of the tub surface heating device of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of the tub surface heating device of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a heating system in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, as mounted to a tub;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view showing an installation of the heating system to the tub; and

FIG. 6 is a schematic view of a heating circuit of the heating device of FIG. 1.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the drawings and, more particularly, to FIG. 4, a tub surface heating system in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention is generally shown at 10. The heating system 10 is shown as positioned for use with a tub A, and is secured to the hidden surface B of the tub wall. It is pointed out that the expression “hidden surface” is used together with the expression “outer surface” to identify the surface of the tub that remains dry during a bath.

The tub surface heating system 10 has tub surface heating devices 12. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, the heating system 10 has three heating devices 12, but may have one or more of the heating device 12. The heating devices 12 are serially interconnected, and are connected to a controller 13 by wire 14. The controller 13 is connected to a power supply by feed line 15. A user interface 16 is provided on an exposed surface C of the tub A.

Referring concurrently to FIGS. 1 to 3, the tub surface heating device 12 is shown having a heating panel 20. The heating panel 20 has a first surface 20A and a second surface 20B. An electric plug 21 is provided at an upper end of the panel 20 on the second surface 20B, and is wired to a heating circuit 22 (FIG. 6) within the panel 20. An electric receptacle 23 is oriented away from the electric plug 21, and is also wired to the heating circuit 22 (FIG. 6). The heating circuit 22 generates heat that will be distributed by the heating panel 20 to the tub wall, so as to heat the tub wall. The electric plug 21 and the electric receptacle 23 both project laterally from wire connectors 24, which protrude from the second surface 20B of the heating panel 20.

The wire connectors 24 are sealingly connected to the second surface 20B of the heating panel 20, so as to isolate live wires therein. The assembly of the wire connectors 24 with the heating panel 20 is sturdy, so as to prevent exposure of the wires in the wire connectors 24, and thus prevent electrical shocks or short circuits.

In an embodiment, the heating panel 20 receives heat generated by an electric source, i.e., the heating circuit 22. However, it is contemplated to provide other types of heating, such as heat-transfer fluid piping in the heating panel 20.

As seen in FIGS. 4 and 5, the heating panel 20 is secured to the tub A, with the first surface 20A against the hidden surface B of the tub A by a securing configuration. The heating panel 20 is glued or attached to the hidden surface B of the tub A, as shown by glue surplus 25 at the edge of the heating panel 20. Any other way of securing the panel 20 to the tub A is considered. For instance, the heating panel 20 may be integrally formed in the fiberglass reinforcement of the tub A, or mechanical fasteners can provide mechanical support to the heating panel 20.

The heating panel 20 is preferably made of a flexible material, so as to conform to the shape of the hidden surface B, and be in an optimized thermal coupling therewith. The material of the heating panel 20 must also transfer heat of the heating circuit 22 uniformly, while being capable of sustaining heat. For instance, the heating panel 20 has a layer of silicone hosting the heating circuit 22, and defining the first surface 20A of the panel 20, so as to transmit uniformly heat from the heating circuit 22 to the tub wall.

The heating panel 20 preferably has an insulating layer defining the second surface 20B of the panel 20, such that heat generated by the heating circuit 22 is mostly directed to the tub wall.

The orientation of the electric plug 21 and the electric receptacle 23 is such that the heating device 12 is readily connectable in series with other heating devices 12, for a single power feed. This is well illustrated in FIG. 4, in which three heating devices 10 are serially connected. It is also contemplated to connect the heating devices 12 independently to the controller 13. The controller 13 may then control the heating devices 10 individually to produce different temperatures at different locations in the tub A.

The preferred configuration of the heating device 12 and its electric plug 21 and receptacle 23 is such that when the heating devices 12 are serially connected, as in FIG. 4, there is a space between panels 20 of adjacent devices 12. Therefore, overlapping arrangements of jets of air massage systems/whirlpool systems with the heating system 10 of the present invention, so as to provide multiple effects to the user of the tub.

For instance, as shown in FIG. 4, a pair of pipes D having jets E of a massage system are shown positioned in spaces between adjacent pairs of heating devices 10. Moreover, the tub surface heating system 10 in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention may be installed on a tub already equipped with massage system piping because of the space between adjacent heating panels 20.

Referring to FIG. 6, the heating circuit 22 is schematically shown within the heating panel 20, and with the electric plug 21 and the electric receptacle 23. The heating circuit 22 has a heating element 30 (e.g., heating resistor, heater wires). The temperature of the heating panel 20 is regulated by way of a regulator 31 (e.g., thermostat). The regulator 31 is for instance a preset regulator adapted to maintain the temperature at a predetermined value. A knob (not shown) may be provided for the manual adjustment of the temperature setting.

As an additional safety feature, a thermal fuse 32 is provided in the heating circuit 22, to prevent overheating of the heating panel 20. The thermal fuse 32 is adapted to break off at temperature above the temperature setting of the regulator 31 (ensuring that the heating shuts off to avoid burning the skin of the occupant of the tub A).

A temperature sensor 33 may also be provided in the heating panel 20. The temperature sensor 33 is wired to the controller 13 (FIG. 4), so as to provide temperature readings to the controller 13.

Referring to FIG. 4, the electronic controller 13 is shown connected to the serially connected heating devices 12 by wire 14. The controller 13 receives a power supply from the feed line 15, and selectively transmits the feed to the heating devices 12, according to commands from the user interface 16. The user interface 16 has an on/off switch, such that the occupant of the bath may actuate the heating system 10 of the present invention.

Additionally, the user interface 16 may be provided with a temperature regulator, such that a user person may set a temperature for the heating system 10. The user interface 16 is connected to the electronic controller 13, which will control the power sent to the heating devices 12 in accordance with the temperature settings entered by the user person with the user interface 16. As an example, the user interface 16 has a digital display to indicate the settings of the heating system 10, as well as the temperature measured by the user interface 16.

In order to adjust the temperature of the heating devices 12, the controller 13 may be wired to the sensor 33 of any one of the heating devices 12, and thus modulate the power supply in accordance with the desired temperature.

In an embodiment in which a heat transfer fluid is used rather than electric power to transmit heat to the tub surface, the controller 13 is a pump controlling the feed of the heat transfer fluid to the heating panels 20.

The heating system 10 of the present invention may be used with any type of tub/spa material, such as acrylic, ABS, steel (e.g., stainless steel), cast iron and the like. The heating devices 12 are preferably secured to parts of the hidden surface of the tub corresponding to parts of the exposed surface of the tub wall above the water line (e.g., the maximum water line), so as to reduce the temperature variation between the fluid and the tub wall. The heating devices 12 are strategically positioned where the bather contacts the tub wall, such as at the backrest of the exposed tub surface.

It is within the ambit of the present invention to cover any obvious modifications of the embodiments described herein, provided such modifications fall within the scope of the appended claims.





 
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