Title:
SELF-LIFTING TOILET SEAT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for automatically lifting a toilet seat is disclosed. The apparatus includes at least one spring that upwardly urges the toilet seat from its down position to its up position and a means for tempering the speed with which the spring or springs upwardly urge the toilet seat. The apparatus may further include a means to lock the toilet seat in the down position.



Inventors:
Pan, Fei (Attleboro, MA, US)
Johnson, Alan B. (Attleboro, MA, US)
Application Number:
11/675951
Publication Date:
08/23/2007
Filing Date:
02/16/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LOEPPKE, JANIE MEREDITH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BARLOW, JOSEPHS & HOLMES, LTD. (40 WESTMINSTER STREET 3RD FLOOR, PROVIDENCE, RI, 02903, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for automatically lifting a toilet seat, comprising: At least one spring upwardly urging a toilet seat from its down position to its up position; and means for tempering the speed with which the at least one spring upwardly urges the toilet seat.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising means for temporarily locking said toilet seat in the down position.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, where said means for temporarily locking said toilet seat in the down position, comprises: at least one locking pin selectively engaging and locking said means for tempering the speed with which the at least one spring upwardly urges the toilet seat.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein said at least one locking pin is spring-biased.

5. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein said at least one locking pin, comprises two substantially parallel and spaced-apart locking pins that are spring-biased; said spring-biased locking pins selectively engaging said means for tempering the speed with which the at least one spring upwardly urges the toilet seat in order to temporarily lock the toilet seat in the down position.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said means for tempering the speed with which the spring upwardly urges the toilet seat, comprises: a hydraulic actuator having an internal, fluid-filled chamber and a movable vane that forces said fluid from one side of the chamber to the other side of the chamber through a restricted passage connecting one side to the other side of said chamber.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said movable vane is rotatable.

8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said hydraulic actuator further comprises: a restriction control to adjust the flow of fluid through said restricted passage.

9. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said hydraulic actuator further comprises: a bypass channel connecting one side of said chamber to the other said of said chamber; a bypass valve having an open position and a closed position and controlling the flow of fluid within said bypass channel; said bypass valve moving to the open position and allowing said fluid to flow into the bypass channel and bypass said restricted passage when a user attempts to reposition the toilet seat to the down position; and said bypass valve moving to the closed position and preventing said fluid flow in a reverse direction through said bypass channel when said at least one spring upwardly urges said toilet seat to the up position.

10. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein said relief valve is a spring-biased ball valve.

11. An apparatus for automatically lifting a toilet seat, comprising: at least one spring upwardly urging a toilet seat from its down position to its up position; and a hydraulic actuator tempering the speed with which the spring upwardly urges the toilet seat, said hydraulic actuator having an internal, fluid-filled chamber and a movable vane that forces said fluid from one side of the chamber to the other side of the chamber through a restricted passage connecting one side to the other side of said chamber.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said vane rotates within said chamber

13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said vane further includes at least one detent on one end, said at least one detent cooperating with at least one locking pin projecting inwardly into the chamber to temporarily hold the vane from moving and thereby locking the toilet seat in the down position.

14. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising means for locking the toilet seat in the down position.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein said means for locking the toilet seat in the down position, comprises: at least one locking pin selectively engaging said vane to prevent the vane from moving within the chamber of the hydraulic actuator.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein said at least one locking pin includes two spaced-apart and substantially parallel spring-biased locking pins

17. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said hydraulic actuator further comprises: a relief valve having an open position and a closed position wherein said relief valve moves to the open position when a user attempts to lower the seat in order to allow the user to quickly lower the seat with minimal resistance from said hydraulic actuator, and said relief valve moving to the closed position thereafter.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein in said relief valve is a ball valve.

19. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein said hydraulic actuator further includes a restriction control to adjust the flow of fluid through said restricted passage.

20. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein said restriction control is a needle valve.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to earlier filed U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/743,316, filed Feb. 17, 2006, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to toilet seats and more particularly to a toilet seat that will reposition itself in the upright open position after use.

2. Background of the Related Art

Public restroom toilets, such as those found in restaurants, offices, schools and malls and shopping plazas, are used by many people. As a consequence, it is difficult to maintain the cleanliness of these public toilets. This can be especially true in male or unisex restrooms where there is a single toilet and no installed or functioning urinal. Even in restrooms that have multiple urinals and toilets, males frequently use the toilets for urinating. In particular, if a male user uses a toilet for urination only and does not lift the toilet seat prior urinating, there is a risk that the male user will splash urine onto the toilet seat. Needless to say, this situation increases the frequency with which the restroom must be cleaned.

This situation may even occur to a homeowner who has occasional guests or house parties.

Therefore, there is a need for a restroom toilet that minimizes the chances that a male user will urinate on the toilet seat. There is also a need for a restroom toilet that makes maintaining the cleanliness of the restroom less burdensome.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention solves the problems of the prior art by providing a self-lifting toilet seat. In particular, the self-lifting toilet seat of the present invention includes a spring that upwardly urges the toilet seat from a closed position to an open position. A hydraulic actuator tempers the speed with which the spring upwardly urges the toilet seat to the open position, yet enables a user to easily and quickly push the toilet seat to the closed position. It is also desirable that the hydraulic actuator provide a positive locking system in the closed position allowing the user adequate time to undress and use prior to allowing the toilet seat to lift into the open position.

Accordingly, among the objects of the present invention is the provision for a device to automatically lift a toilet seat to its up position.

Another object of the present invention is the provision for a device to lift a toilet seat to its up position in a slow and controlled manner and more preferably after a pause in time from when the user of the toilet stands up from being seated.

Another object of the present invention is the provision for a device that automatically locks the toilet seat in the closed position allowing the user sufficient time for use.

Yet, another object of the present invention is a provision for a device to automatically lift a toilet seat that is durable and requires little of no maintenance.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with reference to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawings where:

FIG. 1 is a top partial cross-section view of the preferred embodiment of the present invention with the toilet seat in the down position;

FIG. 2 is a side partial cross-section view thereof;

FIG. 3 is a elevation partial cross-section view of the preferred embodiment of the present invention with the toilet seat in the up position;

FIG. 4 is a side partial cross-section view of the preferred embodiment of the present invention with the toilet seat in the up position;

FIG. 5 is a cross-section view through line 5-5 of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 6 is a cross-section view through line 6-6 of FIG. 1;

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring to FIGS. 1-4, the self-lifting toilet seat of the present invention is shown generally at 10 mounted to a toilet 12 and toilet seat 14. In particular, the self-lifting toilet seat apparatus 10 is pivotally connected to a toilet 12 and toilet seat 14 so that the toilet seat 14 may be pivoted between a closed position and an open position and vice versa. Two torsion springs 18 upwardly urge the toilet seat 14 to the open position. As the toilet seat 14 is moved from the open position to the closed position, and vice versa, it rotates a shaft 16. The shaft 16 is received into a hydraulic actuator 18 having a fluid-filled cylindrical chamber 20 and a valve body 22.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a vane 24 extends from the shaft 16 and into the cylindrical chamber 20 of the hydraulic actuator 18 and rotates with the shaft 16 between the open position 26 and the closed position 28 and effectively divides the chamber 20 into a first side and a second side.

The valve body 22 is connected to the chamber 20 of the hydraulic actuator 18. The valve body 22 has a fluid channel 30, which connects the first side and the second side in fluid connection and allows the fluid to flow from the first side to the second side of the chamber 20 and vice versa. As the vane 24 rotates, it forces the fluid from one side to the other of the chamber 20.

Within the valve body 22 and interposed between the fluid channel 30 and the chamber 20, is a spring-biased ball valve 32, which opens when the toilet seat 14 pivots from the open position to the closed position, but shuts closed when the toilet seat 14 pivots from the closed position to the open position.

A bleed channel 34 bypasses the ball valve 32 and fluid channel 30 and has an adjustable flow control 36 thereon. The bleed channel 34 allows a restricted amount of fluid to pass from the first side to the second side of the chamber 20 while the ball valve 32 is closed. The flow control 36 may be adjusted to lessen or increases the fluid flow through the bleed channel 34. Preferably, the flow control 36 is a needle valve.

Air bleed plugs 38 are included on the valve body 22 to bleed off excess air and allow the hydraulic actuator 18 to operate smoothly.

Extending from the chamber 20 of the hydraulic actuator 18 is a pressure accumulator 40. The pressure accumulator 40 supplies fluid to the shot pin 43 to lock in vane detent 42. The vane 24 will be locked in this position at angle d until it is further rotated to the closed position 28 and then bleeds out the accumulated pressure allowing the shot pin 23 to retract and the toilet seat 14 to return to the open position.

In use, a user can quickly and easily pivot the toilet seat 14 from the open position to the closed position. As the user pivots the toilet seat 14 with sufficient force to overcome the torsion springs 18 connected to the toilet seat 14, the vane 24 forces the fluid from the second side into the first side of the chamber 20 through the fluid channel 30 and ball valve 32. The user can then sit on the toilet seat 14. After the user leaves the restroom, the torsion springs 18 urge the toilet seat 14 upwardly, causing the toilet seat 14 to pivot the shaft 16 and the attached vane 24. The vane 24 forces the fluid from the first side of the chamber 20 and into the fluid channel 30. However, because the ball valve 32 remains closed, the fluid is forced through the bleed channel 34 instead at a restricted rate. Because the bleed channel 34 is restricted by the flow control 36, the fluid flow is impeded, which in turn impedes the movement of the toilet seat 14 as it rises. The flow control 36 can be adjusted to allow the toilet seat 14 to rise as fast or as slow as desired.

In particular, the flow control 36 can be adjusted to provide a momentary pause between when the toilet seat 14 is placed in the closed position and begins to rise to the open position. This advantage enables the user of the toilet 12 to leave the restroom prior to the toilet seat 14 resetting itself to the open position.

Referring now to FIG. 6, the hydraulic actuator 18 also includes the ability to temporarily lock the toilet seat 14 in the down position for the convenience of the user. In particular, the hydraulic actuator 18 includes a pair of spring-biased shot pins 43 that project inwardly into the chamber 20. Two shot pins 43 are preferred for redundancy and added strength. Although FIG. 6 shows only a single shot pin 43, the other is spaced-apart and substantially parallel to the shot pin 43 shown. The tip of the shot pin 42 cooperates with a vane detent 42 on the end of the vane 24 to positively hold the toilet seat 14 slightly above the down position at angle d, which is about five degrees offset from the closed position. Vane detent 42 can be a single detent or a pair of corresponding detents. When a user sits on the toilet seat 14, the shot pins 43 are dislodged from the vane detent 42 as the toilet seat 14 is move from angle d to the closed position. After the user rises from the toilet seat 14, the torsion springs 18 rotate the shaft 16 and vane 24. As the vane 24 passes the shot pins 43, the speed and force of the vane 24 is sufficient that the tip of the shot pins 43 merely ride over the vane detent 42 rather than engaging it, which allows the toilet seat 14 to rise fully to the open position.

Therefore, it can be seen that the present invention provides a unique solution to the problem of maintaining the cleanliness of the toilet seat. Because the toilet seat is self-lifting, a male user can never forget to lift the toilet seat prior to urinating. Moreover, other people that use the toilet will be appreciative of the effort to ensure that the toilet seat is clean.

It would be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made to the illustrated embodiments without departing from the spirit of the present invention. All such modifications and changes are intended to be within the scope of the present invention except as limited by the appended claims.





 
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