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The present invention relates generally to the field of energy conservation, and more specifically to an apparatus and system to reclaim lost heat from the air in the attic of residential buildings. The invention is readily adaptable to all existing residential housing as well as being a must for new construction. The device more specifically is a vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit. The unit is not specifically dependant upon solar heat for energy savings it can also recover the heat that is radiated upward from the living space. This heat is typically created by a furnace or other heat source and usually radiates up thru the ceilings 24 hrs a day. The invention further relates to use of the vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit.
Up tp 25% of the heat generated within a residence for heating the living space is lost up through the ceiling into the attic by radiation. In addition, on sunny days there is an abundance of solar energy impinging on the roof which also heats the attic air (on cloudy days the heat gain is minimal). U.S. Pat. No. 4,103,825 to Zornig proposes to utilize some of the solar energy trapped in the attic for heating a building (not residential), but it involves considerable modifications to the buildings structure.
Further, household items such as furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, and exhaust fans, cause a negative air pressure withing the residence as they consume and/or exhaust air from within. This negative air pressure can cause incomplete combustion and poor stack action on fireplaces and wood/coal stoves (due to the lack of adequate airflow). It also causes drafts and air seepage around doors and windows of the house as the higher pressure air outside forces its way into the dwelling. Also, with fireplaces and wood/coal burners much air is needed immediately to insure proper ratio of air to flame.
Finally, for good health and a safe living environment experts have suggested that the air in the living spaces should be exchanged once every 3 hours or so. Typical houses do not incorporate adequate means to bring in fresh air, and as such the air become stale and unhealthy. In the warmer seasons, windows can be opened to provide fresh air, but in the colder seasons this is not practical, as the house would soon become too cold and a significant amount of energy would be wasted reheating the living spaces.
Thus there is a need in the art for a simple and inexpensive device/invention that is designed to supply warm make-up air to a habitable space that has been summarily depleted by the needs of combustion, exhaust fans and creature comforts.
The present invention is a vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit. The unit includes an enclosure having at least one side wall, and being open to airflow at the top and bottom thereof. The vertically operational barometric air reclaimer further includes a barometric damper plate rotatably disposed on a fulcrum within the enclosure. The fulcrum is connected to the barometric damper plate such that the fulcrum is not disposed at the geometric centerline of the barometric damper plate. The barometric damper plate being weighted on one end so as to: i) balance the barometric damper plate in a generally horizontal position within the enclosure when the air pressure above and below the barometric damper plate is equal, thereby blocking airflow through the air reclaimer unit; and ii) allow the barometric damper plate to swing on the fulcrum to an open position when the air pressure above the barometric damper plate is higher than the air pressure below the barometric damper plate, thereby allowing air to flow through the air reclaimer unit from above the barometric damper plate to below the barometric damper plate. The vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit further includes stops for the barometric damper plate mounted within the enclosure. The stops prevent the barometric damper plate from swinging beyond the closed generally horizontal position when the air pressure above and below the barometric damper plate is equal.
The vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit may further include an air filter covering at least one of the top or bottom of the enclosure and may also include an air duct grating over at least one of the bottom or top of the enclosure. The enclosure and barometric damper plate may be formed from a material selected from the group consisting of metals and plastics. More preferably the enclosure and barometric damper plate are formed from metal, most preferably galvanized steel such as 30 gage galvanized steel. Further, the interior surfaces of the enclosure, the surfaces of the barometric damper plate and the surfaces of the stops may be covered with sound dampening material.
The vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit is designed to be mounted between the attic and living space of a residential dwelling and provide for one way flow of air from the attic to the living space. The unit is typically mounted within a hole in the ceiling board of the living space and projects substantially into the attic. The vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit may be mounted via spring clips or spring straps.
FIG. 1 depicts an embodiment of the vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit of the present invention;
FIG. 2 depicts a three-dimensional characterization of an embodiment of the air re-claimer 1 of the instant invention;
FIG. 3 depicts a residential home including an air reclaimer unit 1 of the present invention, specifically showing how the air reclaimer unit of the present invention functions in a house having an attic space and a living space.
The present invention is a attic heat reclaimer intended for the recovery of heated air in the attic of houses and other such structures. The unit works on differential air pressure. The present invention specifically comprises a vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit. Turning to FIG. 1, there is shown therein an embodiment of the vertically operational barometric air reclaimer unit 1 of the present invention. The reclaimer unit 1 includes an outer enclosure 2 into which is disposed a damper plate 3. The damper plate 3 is pivotally mounted on fulcrum 4. The damper plate 3 is mounted on the fulcrum 4 such that the fulcrum is not on the geometric centerline of the damper but is offset toward the upper end. Thus the upper segment 3a (above the fulcrum 4) is shorter than the lower segment 3b. Thus segment 3b has a longer lever arm than segment 3a. To compensate for the difference in length, the upper segment is weighted. This weighting can be accomplished by making the top segment thicker or of heavier materials, or alternatively weights can be added to the top. The overall effect is to balance the damper plate 3 in a closed position, but leave it sensitive to differences in air pressure between the air on top of the damper plate 3 and the air on the bottom of the damper plate 3. When the air pressure is higher on top of the damper plate 3, the damper plate opens (depicted stylistically as 3′) and allows air to flow through the barometric damper 1. When the damper plate 3 is in its closed position it is stopped in position by stoppers 5.
The air reclaimer unit 1 is mounted into the ceiling wallboard 7 such that the most of unit 1 is above the wallboard 7. The unit 1 is held into place by any means known in the art for such purposes, such as screws, nails, adhesive, clips, etc. Preferably the unit is held in place by spring clips 6. The spring clips are resilient and are squeezed out of the way as the unit is slid into the opening in the wallboard 7. Once the spring clips 6 have passes through the wallboard 7, they snap back into their original shape and lock the unit 1 into place. Alternatively, the unit can be held in place by spring type straps attached to all four sides which exert tension on the ceiling wallboard 7 opening to hold the air reclaimer unit 1 in place. The air relcaimer unit 1 further includes a ceiling grating 8 which covers the opening to the air reclaimer unit and provides it with the proper aesthetics for installation in a home environment. Further the grating 8 can be a fire damper grating such as a Hart & Cooley model 661 fusible link fire damper grating. The fire damper grating uses a fusible link. The fusible link includes a set of overlapping metal tabs with holes at each end for attachment purposes. The overlapping metal tabs will separate into two pieces at a preset temperature. These overlapping tabs are held together with precision solder that melts at a specific temperature. A fusible-link damper is the result of mounting a fusible link to the damper of a register. The end result is a register damper that is fully operational as one would expect, but has the added benefit of closing if the temperature becomes too hot. Specifically, Hart & Cooley's fusible link is about an inch long with a standard temperature rating of 165° F. or an optional link with a 212° F. rating. The unit further can include an air filter 9 which is useful to keep contaminants from the attic space from entering the house. Further, the surfaces of the of the air reclaimer unit 1 which come into contact with the damper plate 3 may be covered with sound dampening materials such as stick-on sound insulation.
The barometric damper unit 1 can be formed from typical materials used for home building, such as metals and plastics. Preferably the outer enclosure 2 of the unit and the damper plate 3 are formed from galvanized sheet metal which is more preferably 30 gage thick. In a specific embodiment, the physical dimensions of the enclosure are 8 inches by 14 inches and 24 inches tall. This provides 112 square inches of free air opening for air movement.
Turning to FIG. 2, there is depicted therein a three-dimensional depiction of an embodiment of the air reclaimer 1 of the instant invention. Specifically shown is the relationship between the outer enclosure 2 into which the damper plate 3 is disposed and balanced on the fulcrum 4.
Finally turning to FIG. 3, there is depicted a residential home including an air reclaimer unit 1 of the present invention. FIG. 3 depicts how the air reclaimer unit 1 functions in a house having an attic space 20 and a living space 21. Solar radiation 12 or escaping thermal radiation 13 heats the air 10 in attic space 20. It is this warm air 10 that can be reclaimed. The heated air 10 in the attic 20 has a greater pressure than the air in the living space 21 below because air is generally expelled from the living space by combustion appliances (furnaces, wood stoves, etc.) and air exhaust fans. This air pressure differential in turn causes the damper in the air reclaimer unit 1 to be pushed open, allowing fresh, warm make-up air 10 to be pushed into the living space 21. As the warm make-up air 10 is pushed into the living space 21, replacement air 11 enters the roof soffits and replaces warm air 10.
The present invention reclaims available heat within the attic space and this warm air is used to ventilate the living space and to eliminate negative pressures within, re-using heat that would have been lost. The invention operates on the principle of pressure differential allowing the attic air to equalize the pressure in the space below. Unlike U.S. Pat. No. 4,262,608 to Jackson, which attempts to extract exhaust heat from the furnace and water heater vent pipes, the present invention reclaims heat from the attic where it will be eventually lost to the environment if not reused.
The present invention works when there is no furnace or water heater. While letting fresh air into the living space, the present invention eliminates the negative pressures that causes incomplete combustion and poor stack action on fireplaces and wood/coal stoves. It also eliminates the drafts and air seepage around doors and windows due to negative pressures. With fireplaces and wood/coal burners much air is needed immediately to insure proper ratio of air to flame. The present invention can supply the needed air by the function of the vertical barometric damper with it's one way action of letting the proper amount of air in, but letting none out. The barometric damper is not unique in and of it self, but with the present design it is made to operate in the vertical plane and allowing air to travel in only one direction. The overall operation of the unit is solely controlled by the damper which determines the exact amount of air needed. When the pressure equalizes in the living space below the damper closes and air movement stops. Unlike other devices, the present invention air reclaimer unit is not controlled by a furnace or any other appliance which means it needs no outside power to make it function. Its operation is automatic and self adjusting.
The disclosure and discussion set forth herein is illustrative and not intended to limit the practice of the instant invention. While there have been described what are believed to be the preferred embodiments of the instant invention, those skilled in the art will recognize that other and further changes and modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit of the invention, and it is intended to claim all such changes and modifications that fall within the full scope of the invention. It is the following claims, including all equivalents, in combination with the foregoing disclosure and knowledge commonly available to persons of skill in the art, which define the scope of the instant invention.