Title:
Drain clog removing apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A drain clog removing apparatus. An apparatus for use with a plumbing drain includes a conduit, a drain isolation device for sealingly connecting the conduit to the drain, and at least one releasable connector for attaching and detaching a pressure source to the conduit. The apparatus may include multiple releasable connectors for use with corresponding multiple pressure sources. The apparatus is useful for removing liquids, as well as clogs, from drains.



Inventors:
Tackett, Shelby G. (Garland, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/436078
Publication Date:
11/22/2007
Filing Date:
05/17/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LOEPPKE, JANIE MEREDITH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH IP SERVICES, P.C. (P.O. Box 997, Rockwall, TX, 75087, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Apparatus for use with a plumbing drain, the apparatus comprising: a conduit; a drain isolation device for sealingly connecting the conduit to the drain; and at least one releasable connector for attaching and detaching a pressure source to the conduit.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pressure source is a source of compressed gas.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pressure source is a source of negative pressure relative to atmospheric pressure.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pressure source is a source of pressurized water.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus includes at least two of the releasable connectors.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus includes at least three of the releasable connectors.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a swivel interconnected between the conduit and the releasable connector.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a threaded fitting having an outer housing and a hardenable substance within the housing, and wherein the hardenable substance is molded about an externally threaded portion of a fitting for the releasable connector.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising interchangeable lengths of the conduit.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein multiple pressure sources are capable of simultaneously communicating with the conduit.

11. Apparatus for use with a plumbing drain, the apparatus comprising: a conduit; a drain isolation device for sealingly connecting the conduit to the drain; and at least two releasable connectors for attaching and detaching at least two pressure sources to the conduit.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein one of the pressure sources is a source of compressed gas.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein one of the pressure sources is a source of negative pressure relative to atmospheric pressure.

14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein one of the pressure sources is a source of pressurized water.

15. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein one of the pressure sources is a source of hot water.

16. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the apparatus includes at least three of the releasable connectors.

17. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a swivel interconnected between the conduit and one of the releasable connectors.

18. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a threaded fitting having an outer housing and a hardenable substance within the housing, and wherein the hardenable substance is molded about an externally threaded portion of a fitting for one of the releasable connectors.

19. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising interchangeable lengths of the conduit.

20. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the pressure sources are capable of simultaneously communicating with the conduit.

Description:

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates generally to plumbing devices and methods and, in an embodiment described herein, more particularly provides a drain clog removing apparatus.

When a clog is experienced in a household drain, it is common practice to initially attempt to loosen or remove the clog using a plunger. If the plunger is unsuccessful, a chemical drain cleaner may be attempted. If success is still not achieved, a plumber may be summoned at substantial expense of time and money.

Unfortunately, the typical plunger is difficult for frail or disabled persons to operate, and its effectiveness is severely limited by the operator's physical strength. In addition, no matter how strong the person operating a plunger, the amount of air or liquid the plunger can displace is limited by its internal volume. Chemicals having sufficient reactivity to dissolve most common clogs are not environmentally friendly, and can damage plumbing and septic systems.

Therefore, it may be seen that improvements are needed in the art of clog removal. It is among the objects of the present invention to provide such improvements.

SUMMARY

In carrying out the principles of the present invention, an apparatus is provided which solves at least one problem in the art. One example is described below in which a clog removal apparatus has provisions for releasably attaching various pressure sources to the apparatus. Another example is described below in which the apparatus has uses other than in removal of clogs.

In one aspect of the invention, an apparatus for use with a plumbing drain is provided. The apparatus includes a conduit, a drain isolation device for sealingly connecting the conduit to the drain, and at least one releasable connector for attaching and detaching a pressure source to the conduit.

The pressure source may be a source of compressed gas, a source of negative pressure relative to atmospheric pressure, or a source of pressurized water (hot or cold). The apparatus may be configured for use of any combination of pressure sources.

The apparatus may include any number of the releasable connectors. Examples are described below wherein the apparatus includes one, two and three of the connectors.

The apparatus may include a swivel interconnected between the conduit and the releasable connector. The apparatus may include interchangeable lengths of the conduit.

The apparatus may include a threaded fitting having an outer housing and a hardenable substance within the housing. The hardenable substance may be molded about an externally threaded portion of a fitting for the releasable connector.

These and other features, advantages, benefits and objects of the present invention will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art upon careful consideration of the detailed description of representative embodiments of the invention hereinbelow and the accompanying drawings, in which similar elements are indicated in the various figures using the same reference numbers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a partially cross-sectional schematic view of a drain clog removing apparatus embodying principles of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a partially cross-sectional schematic view of a first alternate configuration of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partially cross-sectional schematic view of a second alternate configuration of the apparatus of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged scale partially cross-sectional schematic view of an internally threaded fitting for use in the apparatus;

FIG. 5 is an elevational view of an optional swivel device as used in the apparatus;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged scale partially cross-sectional view of an optional fitting for use in the apparatus;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged scale cross-sectional view of another optional fitting for use in the apparatus; and

FIG. 8 is an enlarged scale cross-sectional view of a further optional fitting for use in the apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

It is to be understood that the various embodiments of the present invention described herein may be utilized in various orientations and in various configurations, without departing from the principles of the present invention. The embodiments are described merely as examples of useful applications of the principles of the invention, which is not limited to any specific details of these embodiments.

Representatively illustrated in FIG. 1 is an apparatus 10 which embodies principles of the present invention. The apparatus 10 is used in conjunction with a plumbing drain 12, which may be any type of drain. The drain 12 may be in a shower, sink, commode, basement, floor, or any other location. The drain 12 may be in a house, recreational vehicle, boat, plane, commercial building, or any other facility.

The apparatus 10 provides for applying positive or negative pressure to the drain 12. This pressure may be applied, for example, to loosen, remove or dissolve a clog, or to displace fluid out of the drain 12, etc. One purpose for displacing fluid out of the drain 12 would be to winterize a recreational vehicle or house (i.e., to prevent fluid from remaining in a P-trap of the drain and freezing), or to allow disassembly or maintenance of the drain and associated P-trap without spillage of fluid, etc.

The apparatus 10 includes a conduit 14 made of a tubular material, such as metal or PVC pipe. A cap 16 is threaded onto a lower end of the conduit assembly, and an opening 18 is provided in the cap.

The opening 18 is preferably sized to adequately restrict flow between the conduit 14 and the drain 12, so that very sudden pressure surges are not applied to the drain. A diameter of approximately 3/16 inch has proven satisfactory for this purpose, but other sizes may be used for the opening 18 if desired.

A drain isolation device 20 is attached at a lower end of the conduit 14. As depicted in FIG. 1, the device 20 is similar is some respects to a lower end of a conventional plunger. However, the device 20 is configured to permit fluid communication between the conduit 14 and the drain 12, while isolating the drain from the external environment. Note that the device 20 may have other shapes, and may have other means of providing sealed communication between the conduit 14 and the drain 12, in keeping with the principles of the invention.

To secure the device 20 to the conduit 14, a coupling 22 and short conduit section 24 are threaded to the conduit and cap 16. This threaded connection of the section 24 between the coupling 22 and cap 16 allows the device 20 to be compressed between the coupling and cap. Locking washers 26 may be used to prevent loosening of these threaded connections.

The apparatus 10 as depicted in FIG. 1 permits any of three pressure sources 28, 30, 32 to be releasably connected to the conduit 14. Valves 34, 36, 38 are provided for the individual pressure sources 28, 30, 32, so that pressure may be applied from each source independently and as needed.

Note that it is not necessary for all three pressure sources 28, 30, 32 to be connected to the apparatus 10 simultaneously. Instead, a particular circumstance may call for connecting only a single one of the pressure sources 28, 30, 32, and other circumstances may call for connection of a combination of two or three of the pressure sources.

For example, if the apparatus 10 is to be used for displacing water out of a P-trap, then only the pressure source 30 may be connected to the apparatus. The pressure source 30 may be a source of compressed gas, such as an air compressor, accumulator or storage tank.

As another example, if the apparatus 10 is to be used for loosening a clog in the drain 12, then both of the pressure sources 28, 32 may be connected to the apparatus. The pressure source 28 may be a source of negative pressure (relative to atmospheric pressure), such as a shop vacuum. The pressure source 32 may be a source of pressurized fluid, such as a municipal water supply. In this manner, alternating positive and negative pressures may be applied to the drain 12 (by alternately opening and closing the valves 34, 38) to loosen the clog.

Releasable connectors 40, 42, 44 are included in the apparatus 10, so that the pressure sources 28, 30, 32 may be conveniently connected to the conduit 14 in any desired combination. For example, the connector 40 may be a slip-on adapter for a shop vacuum, the connector 42 may be a conventional air chuck, and the connector 44 may be a conventional water hose connector.

A water hose connector may be most convenient, since a pressurized water source is typically located near a drain. To assist in dissolving a clog, a hot water source may be used.

An additional conduit section 46 and T-fittings 48 are provided so that the valves 34, 36, 38 and connectors 40, 42, 44 are conveniently arranged. However, it will be readily appreciated that a wide variety of configurations of conduits, fittings, etc. could be provided, instead of the particular configuration depicted in FIG. 1, while still permitting selectable fluid communication between the conduit 14 and the various pressure sources 28, 30, 32 and permitting the pressure sources to be releasably connected to the conduit.

FIG. 2 depicts a configuration of the apparatus 10 in which only the pressure sources 30, 32 are releasably connected to the conduit 14. FIG. 3 depicts a configuration of the apparatus 10 in which only the pressure source 32 is releasably connected to the conduit 14. Any combination of the pressure sources 28, 30, 32 (or other types of pressure sources) may be used in keeping with the principles of the invention.

In addition, note that the conduit 14 has different lengths in FIGS. 1-3. The conduit 14 may have interchangeable lengths (for example, by providing threaded connections at each end of the conduit, so that it is conveniently replaced) to provide for different circumstances of use. One length may be appropriate for use in a shower drain in a house, while another length may be appropriate for use in a sink in a recreational vehicle, etc.

In operation, the availability of multiple pressure sources (as in the configurations of FIGS. 1 & 2) provides a variety of options for removing a clog. This allows the user to select which of the options is best for a particular situation. For example, in the FIG. 2 configuration, air pressure may be applied first, followed by water pressure, or vice versa. As another example, a mixture of air and water may be applied, followed and/or preceded by either air or water pressure.

Although only a single pressure source is used, the configuration of FIG. 3 still uses the T-fitting 48 to connect the valve 38 to the conduit 14, because the T-fitting provides a convenient handle for carrying the apparatus 10, stabilizing the apparatus while in use, etc. For this purpose, a conduit section 50 and cap 52 are provided in this configuration, but it will be appreciated that these elements and the T-fitting 48 are not necessary for use of the apparatus 10, since the valve 38 could instead be connected directly to the conduit 14.

In the configurations of FIGS. 1 & 2, the valve 36 and an associated pressure gauge 54 are connected to the conduit assembly via an internally threaded cap 56. If the cap 56 is constructed of a relatively soft or thin-walled material, such as a PVC fitting, merely forming threads in an outer housing 58 of the cap may not provide sufficient pressure-holding capability or strength.

FIG. 4 depicts a manner in which this problem may be solved. A hardenable substance 60, such as epoxy, may be poured into the housing 58 and allowed to set. Threads 62 formed in the housing 58 and hardened substance 60 will be much stronger and capable of holding pressure than if they were formed only in the housing.

In a preferred method of forming the threads 62, an externally threaded fitting (such as a pipe nipple) is threaded through the housing 58, so that it extends into the interior of the housing. The substance 60 is then poured around the fitting in the housing 58 and is allowed to set, so that the threads are effectively molded into the hardened substance.

The externally threaded fitting may be removed after the substance 60 has hardened, or it may be left in place and used to connect the valve 36 and pressure gauge 54 to the cap 56. Of course, other means of connecting the valve 36 and pressure gauge 54 to the conduit assembly may be used, without departing from the principles of the invention.

Referring additionally now to FIG. 5, an optional feature of the apparatus 10 is representatively illustrated. In some circumstances, space for use of the apparatus 10 may be limited (for example, in recreational vehicles, boats, planes, etc.), or another reason for changing the orientation of the releasable connectors 40, 42, 44 may exist (convenience of connecting the pressure sources 28, 30, 32, etc.).

For this purpose, a swivel 64 may be provided between any of the releasable connectors 40, 42, 44 and the conduit assembly. This allows the connectors 40, 42, 44 to be oriented as desired for maximum convenience in connecting the pressure sources 28, 30, 32.

Referring additionally now to FIG. 6, a cross-sectional view of a portion of the apparatus 10 is representatively illustrated with an optional fitting 66 used in place of the coupling 22, conduit section 24, cap 16 and lock washers 26 shown in FIGS. 1-3. The fitting 66 provides for a simpler, more economical construction of the apparatus 10.

A lower end 68 of the fitting 66 has external threads formed thereon for threading into the device 20. An upper end 70 of the fitting 66 has internal threads formed therein for receiving the conduit 14 therein.

An internal passage 72 of the fitting 66 may provide the flow restricting function otherwise provided by the opening 18 in the cap 16 as described above, or the cap or another flow restricting element could be used in conjunction with the fitting 66. However, it should be understood that it is not necessary for flow to be restricted at the device 20, fitting 66 or cap 16 in keeping with the principles of the invention.

Referring additionally now to FIG. 7, a cross-sectional view of another optional fitting 74 is representatively illustrated. The fitting 74 may be used in place of the T-fitting 48, cap 56 and associated conduit sections shown in FIGS. 1-3. The fitting 74 provides for a simpler, more economical construction of the apparatus 10.

The fitting 74 has an internally threaded lower end 76 for receiving the conduit section 14 or 46 therein, an internally threaded end 78 for receiving the conduit section leading to the valve 34 therein (alternatively, the valve 34 could be threaded directly into the end 78 of the fitting 74), and an internally threaded end 80 for receiving the valve 36 and pressure gauge 54 assembly therein.

Preferably, the fitting 74 is molded as a single element. If, for example, the pressure source 28 is not used, then the end 78 could be plugged or capped off. As another example, if the pressure source 30 is not used, then the end 80 could be plugged or capped off.

Instead of plugging or capping off the ends 78, 80 if a particular pressure source is not used, the fitting 74 may be formed without the respective internal threads. In FIG. 8, the fitting 74 is illustrated in a configuration in which it may be used in the apparatus 10 if the pressure source 28 is not to be used. Note that the end 78 is not internally threaded, but is instead solid.

In another configuration, the end 80 could be solid and the end 78 could be internally threaded. In this configuration, the fitting 74 may be used in the apparatus 10 as depicted in FIG. 3 (i.e., with only the pressure source 32 being used). Thus, it will be appreciated that many different configurations of the apparatus 10 are possible in keeping with the principles of the invention.

Of course, a person skilled in the art would, upon a careful consideration of the above description of representative embodiments of the invention, readily appreciate that many modifications, additions, substitutions, deletions, and other changes may be made to these specific embodiments, and such changes are within the scope of the principles of the present invention. Accordingly, the foregoing detailed description is to be clearly understood as being given by way of illustration and example only, the spirit and scope of the present invention being limited solely by the appended claims and their equivalents.