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Title:
Portable Restroom With Solar Powered Climate Control
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A solar powered, climate controlled portable restroom.


Inventors:
Tinnell, Jacob (Pottsville, AR, US)
Application Number:
11/420468
Publication Date:
12/14/2006
Filing Date:
05/25/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K11/04
View Patent Images:
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20090308951WASHING DEVICE FOR HUMANS AND ANIMALSDecember, 2009Suter
20070283490DOOR HANDLE SANITATION SYSTEMDecember, 2007Wilt
20040049842Remote control bath mat blower unitMarch, 2004Prehodka
20060260029Toilet seat fittingNovember, 2006Kelly
20090229046ANTI SPLASH TOILETSeptember, 2009Liu
20070074341System controlling shower water flowApril, 2007Tsipov
20060253973Bath control deviceNovember, 2006Brooks
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GARCIA-ZAMOR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW;ATTN: RUY GARCIA-ZAMOR (12960 LINDEN CHURCH ROAD, CLARKSVILLE, MD, 21029, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of providing a solar powered climate controlled portable restroom, comprising: providing a portable restroom having a housing with a door for entry therein; providing at least one solar cell attached to the portable restroom and adapted to convert sunlight into electrical energy; providing a vent fan configured to receive power from the at least one solar cell and adapted to draw air from inside the portable restroom and eject the air outside of the portable restroom; monitoring the temperature of the inside of the portable restroom and automatically activating the vent fan when a predetermined temperature is detected; monitoring air in the portable restroom and automatically activating the vent fan when a predetermined level of particulate is detected; and monitoring the occupancy of the portable restroom and releasing deodorant therein after the portable restroom is vacated for a predetermined period of time.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of monitoring the occupancy of the portable restroom and illuminating the inside of the restroom while occupied.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of providing a vent fan further comprises providing a frame for supporting the at least one solar cell in a configuration that causes air driven by the vent fan to move along an opposite major surface of a portion of the frame that supports the at least one solar cell to provide cooling to the portion of the frame and the at least one solar cell.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the step of providing the frame fan further comprises providing a frame which directs air driven outside of the portable restroom by the vent fan in a direction generally parallel to the at least one solar cell to reduce particulate deposited on the at least one solar cell by vented air.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of monitoring the air in the portable restroom includes providing an air particulate sensor in communication with a controller, the controller being adapted to activate the vent fan.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of monitoring the temperature in the portable restroom includes providing a temperature sensor in communication with a controller, the controller being adapted to activate the vent fan.

7. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing illumination in the portable restroom when a door latch, located on the portable restroom, is positioned to secure the door in a locked and closed position.

8. The method of claim 4, wherein the step of monitoring occupancy further comprises driving air containing deodorant into the portable restroom.

9. The method of claim 4, wherein the step of monitoring occupancy further comprises driving air containing a desired smell into the portable restroom.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising selectively activating illumination within the portable restroom via a selectable control.

11. The method of claim 1, further comprising providing a battery configured to store energy to power the portable restroom during periods when sunlight is available to the at least one solar cell.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising illuminating an interior of the portable restroom whenever the at least one solar cell is not generating energy.

13. The method of claim 11, further comprising a backup energy storage device for storing excess energy produced by the at least one solar cell.

14. A method of providing a solar powered climate controlled portable restroom, comprising: providing a portable restroom having a housing with a door for entry therein; providing at least one solar cell attached to the portable restroom and adapted to convert sunlight into electrical energy; providing a vent fan configured to receive power from the at least one solar cell and adapted to draw air from inside the portable restroom and eject the air outside of the portable restroom; providing a frame that located on the portable restroom for supporting the at least one solar cell in a configuration that causes air driven by the vent fan to move along a portion of the frame that supports the at least one solar cell to provide cooling to the at least one solar cell, the frame being configured to direct air driven outside of the portable restroom by the vent fan in a direction generally parallel to the at least one solar cell to reduce particulate deposited on the at least one solar cell by vented air.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the step or providing the frame further comprising the frame being configured to vent air driven by the vent fan laterally out in directions, generally parallel a plane defined by the at least one solar cell and to vent air between the outer housing of the portable restroom and the at least one solar cell so that particulate in the air ejected from the portable restroom tends to fall away from the at least one solar cell without passing over the at least one solar cell.

16. The method of claim 15, further comprising the step of using energy from the at least one solar cell to illuminate an inside of the portable restroom.

17. A solar powered, climate controlled portable restroom, comprising: a housing having a door for entry therein, the housing containing at least some bathroom facility; at least one solar cell electrically connected to the portable restroom; a frame positioned along the housing and configured to support the at least one solar cell on an outside of the housing in a spaced apart relation therefrom; a vent fan positioned in the housing and powered by the at least one solar cell is configured to drive air out of the housing between the housing and the at least one solar cell so that particulate in the ejected air will tend to fall away from the at least one solar cell.

18. The portable restroom of claim 17, wherein the at least one solar cell is generally parallel to the portion of the housing proximate to its perimeter, a mesh material being located between the at least one solar cell and the housing and extending around the perimeter of the at least one solar cell.

19. The portable restroom of claim 18, further comprising: a backup energy storage device in electrical communication with the at least one solar cell and the vent fan; a temperature sensor in electrical communication with the vent fan and adapted to monitor the temperature inside of the housing; a particulate sensor in electrical communication with the vent fan and adapted to monitor the air inside of the housing; and a timer mechanism in electrical communication with the vent fan.

20. The portable restroom of claim 19, further comprising a second vent located through the housing, the second vent guiding air into the housing and over a deodorant while the vent fan drives air out of the housing.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to and benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/686,562, filed on May 25, 2005, entitled “Solar Powered Exhaust Fan For Porta Potti”, invented by Jacob C. Tinnell, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein as if fully set forth in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The present invention is generally directed to portable restrooms and, more specifically, to a portable restroom with solar powered climate control.

Conventional portable restrooms tend to have poor climate control which makes their use most unpleasant. While mechanisms can be added to improve the interior climate within the portable restroom, powering such mechanisms is problematic due to the remote locations and extended placement of many portable restrooms.

It would be advantageous to provide a solar powered climate control portable restroom that is easy to use, maintain, and manufacture.

SUMMARY

Briefly speaking, one embodiment of the present invention is directed to a method of providing a solar powered climate controlled portable restroom. The method includes: providing a portable restroom having a housing with a door for entry therein; providing at least one solar cell attached to the portable restroom and adapted to convert sunlight into electrical energy; providing a vent fan configured to receive power from the at least one solar cell and adapted to draw air from inside the portable restroom and eject the air outside of the portable restroom; monitoring the temperature of the inside of the portable restroom and automatically activating the vent fan when a predetermined temperature is detected; monitoring air in the portable restroom and automatically activating the vent fan when a predetermined level of particulate is detected; and monitoring the occupancy of the portable restroom and releasing deodorant therein after the portable restroom is vacated for a predetermined period of time.

In another aspect, the present invention is directed to a method of providing a solar powered climate controlled portable restroom. The method includes: providing a portable restroom having a housing with a door for entry therein; providing at least one solar cell attached to the portable restroom and adapted to convert sunlight into electrical energy; providing a vent fan configured to receive power from the at least one solar cell and adapted to draw air from inside the portable restroom and eject the air outside of the portable restroom; providing a frame that located on the portable restroom for supporting the at least one solar cell in a configuration that causes air driven by the vent fan to move along a portion of the frame that supports the at least one solar cell to provide cooling to the at least one solar cell, the frame being configured to direct air driven outside of the portable restroom by the vent fan in a direction generally parallel to the at least one solar cell to reduce particulate deposited on the at least one solar cell by vented air.

In another aspect, the present invention is directed to a solar powered, climate controlled portable restroom including a housing having a door for entry therein. The housing contains at least some bathroom facility. At least one solar cell is electrically connected to the portable restroom. A frame is positioned along the housing and configured to support the at least one solar cell on an outside of the housing in a spaced apart relation therefrom. A vent fan is positioned in the housing and powered by the at least one solar cell is configured to drive air out of the housing between the housing and the at least one solar cell so that particulate in the ejected air will tend to fall away from the at least one solar cell.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the present invention will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there are shown in the drawings embodiments which are presently preferred. It is understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a portable restroom according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the portable restroom has at least one solar panel positioned on an upper end thereof,

FIG. 2 is a partial cross sectional view of the solar powered vent fan of the portable restroom of FIG. 1, schematic arrows illustrate airflow created by fan operation;

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of the portable restroom of FIG. 1 illustrating a door senor, a latch sensor, a temperature sensor, an air particulate sensor, and a timer mechanism; and

FIG. 4 is a partial view of a second embodiment of the portable restroom of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Certain terminology is used in the following description for convenience only and is not limiting. The words “right,” “left,” “top,” and “bottom” designate directions in the drawings to which reference is made. The words “inwardly” and “outwardly” refer to directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the portable restroom 10 and designated parts thereof. The term “controller”, as used in the claims and the corresponding portions of the specification, means “any one of a circuit, an integrated circuit, a printed circuit board, or the like”. The term “selectable control”, as used in portions of the specification, means “any one of a physical switch, a touch switch, a button, a voice activated switch, a control knob, a remote control switch, or any other known operating mode selection device”. The term “activated state”, as used with lights, means that the light and/or speaker has been manipulated to emit light. The language “at least one of ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’,” as used in the claims and in corresponding portions of the specification, means “any group having at least one ‘A’; or any group having at least one ‘B’; or any group having at least one ‘C’;—and does require that a group have at least one of each of ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’.” Additionally, the words “a” and “one” are defined as including one or more of the referenced item unless specifically stated otherwise. The terminology includes the words above specifically mentioned, derivatives thereof, and words of similar import.

Referring to FIGS. 1-4, wherein like numerals indicate like elements throughout, there are shown preferred embodiments of a solar powered, climate controlled portable restroom 10. Briefly speaking, the portable restroom 10 uses solar power to operate climate control devices which make use of the portable restroom 10 more convenient. This is accomplished by modifying interior illumination, air quality, odors, temperature, etc. The present invention can also be used with sheds, storage units, and other enclosures without departing from the scope of the present invention.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 3, the solar powered, climate controlled portable restroom 10 preferably includes a housing 18 having a door 38 for entry therein. The housing 18 may include a door open sensor 40 and/or a door latch sensor 36. These sensors can be used to determine if someone is in the restroom by monitoring when the door is latched closed in a locked configuration. Additionally, the sensors can be used to determine when the unit is vacant based on the unlatching of the door, followed by an opening and closing of the door without the door being latched after a predetermined time.

The housing 18 is preferably generally rectilinear in horizontal cross section with a narrow upper section. The narrow upper section is formed by two angled panels that are positioned proximate the top end of the portable restroom 10.

The housing is preferably made from a suitable heavy duty polymer. However, those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate from this disclosure that the housing can be of any shape and formed of any suitable material such as sheet metal or the like without departing from the scope of the present invention. The housing contains at least some bathroom facility, such as a waste receptacle/toilet.

A solar panel may be formed by solar cells in an array or a single solar collector or photovoltaic cell. The portable restroom includes at least one solar cell 14 electrically connected to the portable restroom 10.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, a frame 30 is positioned along the housing 18 and configured to support the at least one solar cell 14 on an outside of the housing 18 in a spaced apart relation therefrom. Referring specifically to FIG. 2, the frame includes vertical members 30 that preferably sandwich a mesh 16 therebetween. The vertical members 30 extend around the opening of the housing and are preferably connected to the fan shroud to allow the solar powered vent fan to be detached from the portable restroom 10. It is preferred that the frame 30 include a plate which is generally parallel to the portion of the housing 18 which surrounds the solar cell(s) 14. The plate supports the at least one solar cell 14. A light 60 can be positioned on a bottom portion of the vent fan 20 to allow illumination in the housing 18. The illumination can be operated by a selectable control 56, be activated when the door is latched, when the solar cell 14 receives light, or when the solar cells 14 are not receiving light, as desired.

A vent fan 20 is positioned at least partially in the housing 18 and is preferably powered by the at least one solar cell 14. Alternatively, the vent fan 20 and other climate control equipment can be powered by an electric conduit, batteries, or any other suitable power supply. The vent fan 20 is configured to drive air out of the housing 18 between the housing 18 and the at least one solar cell 14 so that particulate in the ejected air will tend to fall away from the at least one solar cell. Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, a preferred air flow path is shown by the arrows labeled 24.

As mentioned above, the at least one solar cell 14 is generally parallel to the portion of the housing 18 proximate to its perimeter. The mesh material 16 is located between the at least one solar cell 14 and the housing 18 and extends around the perimeter of the at least one solar cell 14.

As best shown in FIG. 2, the restroom 10 preferably includes a backup energy storage device 32, such as a battery, in electrical communication with the at least one solar cell 14 and the vent fan 20. A temperature sensor 44 is preferably located in the portable restroom and is in in electrical communication with the vent fan 20 and is adapted to monitor the temperature inside of the housing 18. When a predetermined temperature is detected, the vent fan 20 can be activated or its speed of operation increased to increase airflow through the restroom 10.

A particulate sensor 46 may also be included in the portable restroom 10. If so, the particulate sensor 46 is in electrical communication with the vent fan 20 and is adapted to monitor the air inside of the housing 18. When a predetermined particulate level is detected, the vent fan 20 can be activated or its speed of operation increased.

A timer mechanism may also be included in the portable restroom 10. The timer is preferably in electrical communication with the vent fan 20 to allow the fan to run according to a predetermined schedule. Referring to FIG. 3, the portable restroom may include a second vent 58 located through the housing 18. It is preferred that the second vent 58 is located at a lower level of the portable restroom to allow air to be carried upwardly along the interior of the housing 18. The vent preferably has multiple plates along the outer surface of the housing that are angled downwardly and outwardly to prevent rain from entering the restroom. The vent may be positioned to guide air through a deodorant container 52. A supplemental fan 54 can also be used to drive air through the restroom 10.

Referring to FIG. 4, a second preferred embodiment of the climate controlled portable restroom 14 is shown. Here the frame supports the at least one solar cell 14 along a perimeter thereof. A vent fan 20 is positioned proximate a corner of the solar cell(s) 14 with a light 60 located nearby. A back up energy source 32 is attached along an edge of the frame 30. A selectable control 56 is preferably positioned along an interior wall of the housing 18 in a location convenient for a user to operate while using the portable restroom 10. This allows a user to adjust light, airflow, and deodorized air to taste while occupying the restroom 10.

One method of the present invention preferably operates as follows. The steps of the method of the present invention can be performed in any order without departing from the scope of the present invention. To the extent that portions of the solar powered, climate controlled portable restroom are already described above, it is preferred that the structure is generally the same and operates in generally the same manner unless otherwise described below. The first preferred method of providing a solar powered climate controlled portable restroom is as follows.

A portable restroom 10 is provided that has a housing 18 with a door 38 for entry therein. At least one solar cell 14 is attached to the portable restroom and is adapted to convert sunlight into electrical energy. A vent fan 20 is provided and configured to receive power from the at least one solar cell 14. The vent fan 20 is preferably adapted to draw air from inside the portable restroom 10 and eject the air outside of the portable restroom 10;

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, a frame 30 is preferably located on the portable restroom 10 for supporting the at least one solar cell 14 in a configuration that causes air 24 driven by the vent fan 20 to move along a portion of the frame 30 that supports the at least one solar cell 14 to provide cooling to the at least one solar cell 14. The frame 30 is preferably configured to direct air 24 driven outside of the portable restroom 10 by the vent fan 20 in a direction generally parallel to the at least one solar cell 14 to reduce the amount of particulate deposited on the at least one solar cell 14 by vented air 24.

It is preferred that the frame 30 is configured to vent air 24 driven by the vent fan 20 laterally out in at least one direction, generally parallel a plane defined by the at least one solar cell 14 and to vent air 24 between the outer housing 18 of the portable restroom 10 and the at least one solar cell 14 so that particulate in the air 24 that is ejected from the portable restroom 10 tends to fall away from the at least one solar cell 14 without passing over the at least one solar cell 14. This maximizes the cleanliness of the at least one solar cell 14 and, accordingly, maintains their energy generation capacity at a higher efficiency than otherwise possible. Preferably, energy from the at least one solar cell 14 is used to illuminate an inside of the portable restroom 10.

A second preferred method of providing a solar powered climate controlled portable restroom 10 is as follows. A portable restroom 10 having a housing 18 with a door 38 for entry therein is provided. At least one solar cell 14 is attached to the portable restroom 10 and is adapted to convert sunlight into electrical energy. A vent fan 20 is provided and configured to receive power from the at least one solar cell 14 and is adapted to draw air 24 from inside the portable restroom 10 and eject the air 24 outside of the portable restroom 10.

The temperature of the inside of the portable restroom is monitored and the vent fan 20 is automatically activated or its speed increased when a predetermined temperature is detected. Any suitable temperature sensor 44 can be used without departing from the scope of the present invention. Air 24 in the portable restroom 10 is monitored and the vent fan 20 is activated or its speed increased when a predetermined level of particulate is detected. The occupancy of the portable restroom 10 is monitored and deodorant is released in the portable restroom 10 after the portable restroom 10 is vacated for a predetermined period of time. The air 24 can be driven through the deodorant container or the like by the vent fan 20 and/or the supplemental fan 54.

It is preferable that the portable restroom 10 is illuminated while occupied. It is also preferred that a frame 30 is provided for supporting the at least one solar cell 14 in a configuration that causes air 24 driven by the vent fan 20 to move along an opposite major surface of a portion of the frame 30 that supports the at least one solar cell 14 to provide cooling to the portion of the frame 30 and the at least one solar cell 14.

It is preferred that the frame 30 directs air 24 that is driven outside of the portable restroom 10 by the vent fan 20 in a direction generally parallel to the at least one solar cell 14 to reduce particulate deposited on the at least one solar cell by vented air. An air particulate sensor is preferably provided and, if so, is in communication with a controller 42, the controller 42 being adapted to activate the vent fan 20. A temperature sensor 44 is preferably provided and is in communication with a controller 42, the controller 42 being adapted to activate the vent fan 20.

Illumination can be provided in the portable restroom 10 when a door latch 36, located on the portable restroom 10, is positioned to secure the door 38 in a locked and closed position. Deodorant is preferably driven into the portable restroom. Alternatively, air containing a desired smell can be driven or sucked into the portable restroom 10.

Referring to FIG. 4, illumination can be selectively activated within the portable restroom 10 via a selectable control 56. A battery 32 may be provided and can be configured to store energy to power the portable restroom 10 during periods when sunlight is available to the at least one solar cell 14. The interior of the portable restroom 10 can be illuminated whenever the at least one solar cell 14 is not generating energy. A backup energy storage device 32 can be used for storing excess energy produced by the at least one solar cell.

It is recognized by those skilled in the art that changes may be made to the above described methods and/or portable restroom 10 without departing from the broad inventive concept thereof. It is understood, therefore, that this invention is not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but is intended cover all modifications which are within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the above specification, the appended claims and/or shown in the attached drawings.