Title:
Water heater with integrated securing device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A water heater having a water tank with means for heating water inside the water tank. A support structure is coupled to the water tank and configured to support the water tank when filled with water. A securing device is integrally formed with the support structure and/or water tank. The securing device secures the water heater to surrounding infrastructure to restrict the water heater from tipping over.



Inventors:
Ostler, Jared S. (Alpine, UT, US)
Application Number:
11/999503
Publication Date:
06/26/2008
Filing Date:
12/04/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F22B37/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
GREENIA, SETH GORDON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THORPE NORTH & WESTERN, LLP. (P.O. Box 1219, SANDY, UT, 84091-1219, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A water heater, comprising: a) a water tank, including means for heating water; b) a support structure coupled to the water tank and configured to support the water tank when filled with water; and c) a securing device integrally formed with the support structure, and configured to secure the water heater to surrounding infrastructure to restrict the water heater from tipping over.

2. The water heater of claim 1, wherein the support structure includes an outer case substantially surrounding the water tank, and the securing device includes a beam directly connected to an inner diameter of the outer case and extending through the outer case to an attachment end attachable to the surrounding infrastructure.

3. The water heater of claim 2, further comprising a connector forming a direct connection between the beam and the outer shell, the connector being selected from the group consisting of a threaded fastener, a weld, an adhesive, and combinations thereof.

4. The water heater of claim 2, wherein the beam is adjustable in length.

5. The water heater of claim 2, wherein the beam is integrally formed with a band that extends substantially around the inner diameter of the outer case and is coupled to the inner diameter of the outer case to transfer and disperse loads from the beam to the outer shell.

6. The water heater of claim 5, further comprising a pair of adjustable beams, each adjustable beam coupled to the band and extending through the outer shell on approximately opposite sides of the water heater.

7. The water heater of claim 2, wherein the support structure includes a mounting plate coupled to the inner diameter of the outer shell at an attachment point extending through the outer shell and the adjustable beam is coupleable to the attachment point in the outer shell.

8. The water heater of claim 1, wherein the securing device further includes: a) a vertical frame member coupled to the outer shell, the vertical frame member providing a plurality of attachment points along a longitudinal section of the outer shell; and b) a plurality of adjustable beams, each beam attachable to a different one of the plurality of attachment points and extendable therefrom to attach to infrastructure adjacent the water heater.

9. The water heater of claim 8, wherein the vertical frame member extends above an upper surface of the water heater and is coupleable with infrastructure substantially above the upper surface of the water heater.

10. The water heater of claim 1, wherein the support structure includes an outer shell and the securing device includes an extension integrally formed with the outer shell and extendable to couple with surrounding support structure.

11. A water heater, comprising: a) an internal water tank disposed inside an outer shell with insulation therebetween; and b) a securing device having a discrete connection to the outer shell to distribute loading applied to the strap by movement of the water heater across at least a portion of the outer shell, and having an adjustable strap extendable from the discrete connection to infrastructure adjacent the water heater.

12. The water heater of claim 11, wherein the securing device includes a beam directly connected to an inner diameter of the outer case and extending through the outer case to an attachment end attachable to the surrounding infrastructure.

13. The water heater of claim 11, further comprising a connector forming the discrete connection between the securing device and the outer shell, the connector being selected from the group consisting of a threaded fastener, a weld, an adhesive, and combinations thereof.

14. A method for manufacturing a water heater, comprising: a) placing a water tank inside an outer shell; b) filling a space between the water tank and the outer shell with an insulation material; and c) connecting a securing device to the outer shell with a discrete connector.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the discrete connector is selected from the group consisting of a threaded fastener, a weld, an adhesive, and combinations thereof.

16. The method of claim 14, wherein the securing device includes an adjustable beam extendable between a reinforced attachment in the outer shell and the surrounding infrastructure.

17. A method for securing a water heater to surrounding infrastructure, comprising: a) placing a water heater in a water heater space; and b) securing the water heater to infrastructure adjacent the water heater space with a securing device directly connected to support structure of the water heater and extendable to the infrastructure.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the support structure includes an outer shell substantially encasing the water tank.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein the securing device includes an adjustable beam extendable between a reinforced attachment in the outer shell and the surrounding infrastructure.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

Benefit is claimed to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/872,921, filed Dec. 4, 2006 which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to water heaters and more particularly to securing devices for restraining water heaters from tipping, especially during seismic events.

2. Related Art

Conventional electric or natural gas water heaters generally include a cylindrically shaped water tank between about four and six feet tall. This tank is usually oriented in an upright position with respect to a support surface. These types of water heaters should remain in an upright position in order to prevent broken natural gas pipes and water pipes during inadvertent or unwanted shifting in the support base, such as occurs during a seismic event, flooding, or other natural disaster. Common methods for securing water heaters in an upright position is to wrap a simple cable or strap around the water heater and attach the cable or strap to a nearby wall. These strap systems have commonly included wall brackets and metal straps providing sufficient strength to support the weight of a fully loaded water tank.

Unfortunately, these strap systems are problematic in that each installation site will place the water heater a different distance from the wall so that cables or straps of various lengths are required, and installation time is lengthened. Additionally, such straps can be very difficult to manipulate around the water heater in the confined space afforded most water heater installation sites. Moreover, obtaining the proper tension in the straps around the water heater can be difficult.

Furthermore, the straps are often made of metal and have very sharp edges that are particularly detrimental to installers. The metal straps have been fairly rigid, making them even more difficult to install. Additionally, wherever the straps have been punched, cut, or bent back on themselves points of weakness have been created substantially degrading the integrity of the strap system.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It has been recognized that it would be advantageous to develop a water heater having a securing device that is integrated with the support structure of the water heater. Additionally, it has been recognized that it would be advantageous to develop a water heater with an integrated securing device that can secure the water heater from movement and provide a variety of securing locations to accommodate the installation process of the water heater.

The invention provides for a water heater having a water tank with means for heating water. A support structure can be coupled to the water tank and configured to support the water tank when filled with water. A securing device can be integrally formed with the support structure and/or water tank. The securing device can secure the water heater to surrounding infrastructure to restrict the water heater from tipping over.

The present invention also provides for a method for manufacturing a water heater including placing a water tank inside an outer shell. A space between the water tank and the outer shell can be filled with an insulation material. A securing device can be connected to the outer shell with a discrete connector.

The present invention also provides for a method for securing a water heater to surrounding infrastructure including placing a water heater in a water heater space. The water heater can be secured to infrastructure adjacent the water heater space with a securing device integrally formed with a water tank and/or support structure of the water tank and extendable to the infrastructure.

Additional features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the detailed description which follows, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which together illustrate, by way of example, features of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a water heater in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a fragmentary cut away view of a wall of the water heater of FIG. 1, showing a securing device integrally formed with an outer shell of the water heater of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a water heater in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a water heater in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a water heater in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a water heater in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Reference will now be made to the exemplary embodiments illustrated in the drawings, and specific language will be used herein to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Alterations and further modifications of the inventive features illustrated herein, and additional applications of the principles of the inventions as illustrated herein, which would occur to one skilled in the relevant art and having possession of this disclosure, are to be considered within the scope of the invention.

The present invention provides generally for a water heater with a securing device integrally formed with the water heater to restrict tipping of the water heater. The water heater can include a water tank and a support structure, such as an outer shell substantially encasing the water tank. The securing device can be coupled to the internal structure of the water heater during formation or fabrication of the water heater. For example, the securing device can be coupled to an outer surface of the water tank and/or an inner surface of the outer shell. The securing device can transfer loads from the securing device to the support structure of the water heater. The securing device can be coupled to surrounding infrastructure to secure the water heater to the infrastructure, thereby restricting unwanted tipping of the water heater due to movement of a base surface or floor, such as during an earthquake, flood, tornado, and the like.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1-2, a water heater, indicated generally at 10, is shown in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The water heater can have a water tank 20. The water tank can have an outer surface 26 and an internal water storage reservoir 28. The water heater can also have a thermal energy source 22 for heating water inside the water tank. For example, the thermal energy source 22 can be a natural gas burner, an electric heating element, and the like. The natural gas burner or electric heating element are examples of means for heating water inside the water tank. Other means for heating water can also be used as the thermal energy source.

The water heater 10 can also include a support structure, indicated generally at 30, coupled to the water tank 20 and configured to support the water tank when filled with water. The support structure 30 can include an outer shell 32 that substantially encases the water tank 20. An insulation material 70 can be disposed between the outer shell 32 and the water tank 20. The outer shell 30 can be formed of metal to provide sufficient structural support to a filled water tank.

The water heater 10 can also include a securing device 40 that can be coupled to the support structure 30. The securing device 40 can secure the water heater 10 to surrounding infrastructure, such as wall studs 6, floor joists, and the like, in order to restrict the water heater from tipping over in the event of unexpected movement, such as from an earthquake. The securing device 40 can be coupled to the internal support structure 30 of the water heater 10 during formation or fabrication of the water heater. For example, the securing device 40 can be coupled to an outer surface 26 of the water tank and/or an inner surface 36 of the outer shell 32. The securing device 40 can transfer loads from the securing device to the support structure of the water heater.

The securing device 40 can include a beam 44 that can be directly connected to the support structure and extend from the support structure away from the water heater. In one aspect, the adjustable beam 44 can be coupled to an inner surface or inner diameter 38 of the outer shell 32 and extend through the outer shell away from the water heater 10 toward a wall 8. The beam 44 can be adjustable and can have an attachment end 48 that can be attached to the surrounding infrastructure, such as the wall 8. The adjustable beam can be adjustable in length so as to be sizable to reach and attach to the surrounding infrastructure.

In one embodiment, the beam 44 can form a band 46 that can extend substantially around the inner surface or diameter 38 of the outer shell 32, thereby substantially circumscribing the water tank 20. Thus, the beam 44 can provide structural strength to support the water tank when filled with water, and can be configured to transfer and disperse loads from the beam 44 to the entire outer shell 32.

In another embodiment, the band 46 can be coupled to the inner diameter 44 of the outer shell 32, and the adjustable beam 44 can be coupled to the band 46 by means of a suitable fastener, such as a bolt 43. For example, as shown in FIG. 1, a pair of adjustable beams 44 can be coupled to the band 46 and extend through the outer shell 32 on approximately opposite sides of the water heater 10. In this way, the adjustable beams 44 can laterally support the water heater from side to side rocking motion, as might be caused by an earthquake.

It will be appreciated that the beam 44 can be coupled to the support structure by any suitable joining means as know in the art, such as by a fastener, an adhesive, welding, or the like. Thus, as shown in FIG. 2, the beam 44 and/or band 46 can be coupled to the inner surface 38 of the outer shell 32 by a weld 42. Additionally, the band 46 can extend substantially around the entire inner diameter 38 of the outer case 32, and can be coupled to the inner diameter of the outer case, such as by welding, to transfer and disperse loads from the band to the outer shell.

The beam 44 is one means for securing the water heater 10 to surrounding infrastructure, such as a wall 8 or wall stud 6 that is integrally coupled to an outer surface 26 of the water tank 20 and/or an inner surface 38 of the outer shell 32.

It is a particular advantage of the present invention that the beam 44 is integrally formed with or coupled to the internal structure of the water heater 10. This allows the beam 44 to distribute loads due to movement of the secured water heater to the internal support structure 30 of the water heater and also eliminates the need by the plumber installing the water heater to maneuver and manipulate an awkward strap around the water heater.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, a water heater, indicated generally at 100, is shown in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The water heater 100 can be similar in many respects to the water heater 10 shown in FIGS. 1-2, and described above. The water heater can have a water tank 20, a support structure, indicated generally at 130, and a securing device, indicated generally at 140.

The support structure can include an outer shell 132 and a plurality of mounting plates 160 directly coupled, such as by welding to the inner surface of the outer shell 132. Each mounting plates 160 can have a discrete attachment point 162 that can directly connect one end 142 of the adjustable beam 144 to the mounting plate. The mounting plates 160 can form reinforced attachment points for directly connecting the securing device 140 to the water heater 100.

The securing device 140 can include the adjustable beam 144 which can extend from the attachment 162 to an opposite end 146 that is coupleable to surrounding infrastructure, such as wall 8 or stud 6. The mounting bracket 160 can be adhered, such as with an adhesive, welding, or the like, to the inner surface of the outer shell 132. The mounting bracket 160 can be sized, shaped and oriented to transfer and distribute loads from the beam 144 to the outer shell 132. In this way, the loads carried by the beam 144 in the event of a tipping motion by the water heater 100 can be distributed through out the entire outer shell 132.

The beam 144 is one means for securing the water heater 100 to surrounding infrastructure, such as a wall 8 or wall stud 6 that is integrally coupled to an outer surface 26 of the water tank 20 and/or an inner surface of the outer shell 132.

As illustrated in FIG. 4, a water heater, indicated generally at 200, is shown in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The water heater 200 can be similar in many respects to the water heater 10 shown in FIGS. 1-2, and described above. The water heater 200 can have a water tank 20 and a support structure, indicated generally at 230, including an outer shell 232.

Additionally, the support structure 230 can include a vertical frame member 234 coupled to an inner surface or diameter of an outer shell 232. The vertical frame member 234 can be positioned near a back or rear end 231 of the water heater such that when the water heater is placed in a water heater space in a building, the vertical frame 234 can be relatively close to the surrounding infrastructure. The vertical frame member 234 can have a plurality of attachment points 236 disposed along a longitudinal section of the outer shell 232 that can be accessed from the outer surface 235 of the outer shell.

The water heater 200 also includes a securing device 240 that can include a plurality of adjustable beams 244 that can be directly connected to the attachment points 236. A connector 237 can directly connect a beam 244 to one of the attachment points 236 to form a discrete connection to the water heater. The connector can be a threaded fastener, a weld, an adhesive, and the like.

The beam 244 can extend from the attachment points 236 to an adjacent wall 8 or stud 6. The beams 244 are one means for securing the water heater 200 to surrounding infrastructure, such as a wall 8 or wall stud 6, that is integrally coupled to an outer surface of the water tank 20 and/or an inner surface of the outer shell 232. Advantageously, the vertical frame member 234 eliminates the need for a band to extend around the water tank 20 since the vertical frame 234 is coupled to the outer shell 232 which already extends circumferentially around the water tank.

As illustrated in FIG. 5, a water heater, indicated generally at 300, is shown in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The water heater 300 can be similar in many respects to the water heater 10 shown in FIGS. 1-2, and described above. The water heater 300 can have a water tank 20, a support structure, indicated generally at 330, and a securing device 340.

The support structure 330 can include a vertical frame member 334 coupled to an outer surface of the water tank 20 and/or an inner surface or diameter of an outer shell 332. The vertical frame member 334 can have a plurality of attachment points 336 that can be accessed from the outer surface 335 of the outer shell.

Additionally, the vertical frame member 334 can include an upper portion 333 that can extend above an upper surface 12 of the water heater 300. The upper portion 333 can form the security device 340 and can include a plurality of attachment points 342. The attachment points 342 can be coupleable with infrastructure, such as floor joists roof trusses, and the like, located substantially above the upper surface 12 of the water heater 300.

The upper portion 333 of the vertical frame member 334 is one means for securing the water heater 10 to surrounding infrastructure, such as a wall 8 or wall stud 6 that is integrally coupled to an outer surface of the water tank 20 and/or an inner surface of the outer shell 332.

As illustrated in FIG. 6, a water heater, indicated generally at 400, is shown in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The water heater 400 can be similar in many respects to the water heater 10 shown in FIGS. 1-2, and described above. The water heater 400 can have a water tank 20, a support structure, indicated generally at 430, and a securing device 440.

Additionally, the support structure can include an outer shell 432 that have beams 444 integrally formed with in the outer shell and extending away from the water heater. In one aspect, the beams 444 can be stamped or cut into the outer shell 432 and pulled or bent away from the outer surface 426 of the outer shell 432 when extended to the surrounding infrastructure.

The beams 444 can form the securing device 440 and can have an attachment end 442 that is coupleable to the wall 8 or wall stud 6. Advantageously, the beams 444 can eliminate the need for a band to circumscribe the water tank 20 since the outer shell already circumscribes the water tank.

The beams 444 are one means for securing the water heater 10 to surrounding infrastructure, such as a wall 8 or wall stud 6, that is integrally coupled to an outer surface 26 of the inner surface of the outer shell 432.

The present invention also provides for a method for manufacturing a water heater including placing a water tank inside an outer shell. A space between the water tank and the outer shell can be filled with an insulation material. A securing device can be connected to the outer shell with a discrete connector.

The discrete connector can be a threaded fastener, a weld, an adhesive, and the like. Additionally, the securing device can include an adjustable beam extendable between a reinforced attachment, such as a mounting plate couple to the outer shell and the surrounding infrastructure.

The present invention also provides for a method for securing a water heater to surrounding infrastructure including placing a water heater in a water heater space. The water heater can be secured to infrastructure adjacent the water heater space with a securing device integrally formed with a water tank and/or support structure of the water tank and extendable to the infrastructure.

In one aspect, the support structure can include an outer shell substantially encasing the water tank. In another aspect, the support structure can include a substantially vertical frame member that can be coupled to an outer surface of the water tank and/or an inner surface of the outer shell. Additionally, the securing device can include a rod or beam that can extend between a reinforced attachment in the outer shell or vertical frame member and the surrounding infrastructure.

Additional embodiments of the water heater of the present invention can be found in appendix A attached hereto which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

It is to be understood that the above-referenced arrangements are only illustrative of the application for the principles of the present invention. Numerous modifications and alternative arrangements can be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. While the present invention has been shown in the drawings and fully described above with particularity and detail in connection with what is presently deemed to be the most practical and preferred embodiment(s) of the invention, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous modifications can be made without departing from the principles and concepts of the invention as set forth herein.