Title:
Surface Warming Air Blanket
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention generally provides a system for warming an outdoor surface. The system includes a heat exchange unit to provide heated air for use across the surface to melt snow or ice or to warm, evaporate or distribute water. The heat exchange unit is used to recapture the heated air. The present invention also generally provides a method of warming an outdoor surface. The method comprises the steps of providing heated air across the surface to melt snow or ice or to warm, evaporate or distribute water, recapturing the heated air, and redistributing the heated air across the surface.



Inventors:
Dyer, Michael (Bloomington, IN, US)
Application Number:
12/058132
Publication Date:
10/02/2008
Filing Date:
03/28/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
432/32, 432/36, 432/74, 432/221
International Classes:
F24H3/02; F24J3/00; F24J3/06
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
NDUBIZU, CHUKA CLEMENT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS (300 NORTH MERIDIAN STREET SUITE 2500, INDIANAPOLIS, IN, 46204, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system to warm an outdoor surface, the system comprising: a heat exchange unit configured to provide heated air for use across the surface to melt snow or ice or to warm, evaporate or distribute water, the heat exchange unit configured to recapture the heated air.

2. The system of claim 1 further comprising an air distribution system to provide the heated air across the surface, wherein the air distribution system includes a rail, wherein the rail includes a deflection louver, wherein the deflection louver establishes a distributed air pattern of the heated air across the surface.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein the deflection louver directs the heated air either across the surface or substantially down onto the surface for dispersion across the surface.

4. The system of claim 1 further comprising an air collection system to recapture the heated air, wherein the air collection system includes an air duct network to direct the heated air to the heat exchange unit.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the air collection system draws a vacuum to recapture the heated air.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the heat exchange unit includes a blower, forced air, or compressed air system.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein the heat exchange unit includes a sensor to calibrate heat loss from the heated air.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein the heat exchange unit is operated by electric or gas, wherein the heat exchange unit includes a geothermal component.

9. The system of claim 1 further comprising a drainage tract adjacent to the surface, the drainage tract to remove water from the surface.

10. The system of claim 1 further comprising a control including an activation system, a remote or switch, wherein the control is coupled to the heat exchange unit, the control including at least one of a sensor or a manual switch, wherein the control is located either on the heat exchange unit or indoors.

11. The system of claim 1 further comprising a lighting system to provide decorative or visual lighting for the surface, wherein the lighting system is controlled by an timer or a sensor.

12. A method for warming an outdoor surface comprising the steps of: (a) providing heated air across the surface to melt snow or ice or to warm, evaporate or distribute water, (b) recapturing the heated air, and (c) redistributing the heated air across the surface.

13. The method of claim 12 further comprising before step (c) the step of calibrating the loss of heat to the heated air.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein the heated air creates a thermal zone covering the surface.

15. The method of claim 12, wherein step (a) includes the step of melting snow before the snow encounters the surface.

16. The method of claim 12, wherein the heated air includes a temperature within the range of greater than 32 degrees Fahrenheit to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein at least a portion of the heated air is warmed under geothermal conditions.

18. The method of claim 12, wherein providing heated air across the surface includes directing the heated air substantially down onto the surface for dispersion across the surface.

19. The method of claim 12, wherein recapturing the heated air includes recapturing greater than about 50% of the heated air.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein recapturing the heated air includes recapturing more than about 75% of the heated air.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/909,043, filed Mar. 30, 2007, the entire disclosure of which is expressly incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a system for melting snow and ice from surfaces.

BACKGROUND

The need for a system which would maintain usable surfaces under severe climatic conditions has long been recognized. This problem is especially acute in winter seasons and in extreme regions of the world. Many proposals have been set forth to solve this problem. Such proposals have included the use of heating elements, salt and snow plows or blowers for removing accumulated snow and/or ice. Installing heating mechanisms within surfaces has also been attempted. Installed systems have used heating means extending the length of the surface including heat coils, heating elements and heating conduits.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention includes a system to warm an outdoor surface comprising a heat exchange unit configured to provide heated air for use across the surface to melt snow or ice or to warm, evaporate or distribute water, the heat exchange unit configured to recapture the heated air.

The present invention further includes a method for warming an outdoor surface. In one embodiment the method comprises the steps of providing heated air across the surface to melt snow or ice or to warm, evaporate or distribute water, recapturing the heated air, and redistributing the heated air across the surface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above-mentioned and other features of this invention, and the manner of attaining them, will become more apparent and the invention itself will be better understood by reference to the following description of embodiments of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is schematic diagram of surface warming system of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of components of the surface warming system according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is the schematic diagram of components of a surface warming system according to another embodiment of the present invention.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views. Although the drawings represent embodiments of the present invention, the drawings are not necessarily to scale and certain features may be exaggerated in order to better illustrate and explain the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

The embodiments disclosed below are not intended to be exhaustive or limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed in the following detailed description. Rather, the embodiments are chosen and described so that others skilled in the art may utilize their teachings.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a surface warming system 10 is shown. Surface warming system 10 may be used for melting snow and ice 12 from surfaces 14. Surfaces 14 could include driveways, sidewalks, runways, roadways and bridges made from a variety of different materials including concrete and pavement. For example, surfaces 14 may also include points of ingress and/or egress such as at retail stores. Surfaces 14 may also include locations where melting snow and ice 12 by other means such as salting is restricted or prohibited for a variety of reasons including the temperature is too low or for environmental restrictions.

Now referring to FIG. 2, surface warming system 10 includes blower 16, configured to provide air such as forced or compressed air, and heat exchanger 18. It is understood that blower 16 and heat exchanger 18 may be included in one heat exchange unit. Blower 16 may be configured to provide a fixed or variable airflow distribution rate such as cubic feet per minute. A variable airflow distribution rate may depend upon the amount of snowfall or the amount of snow accumulation within surface 14, the environmental temperature, the wind, and the size of surface 14, for example the difference in size between a sidewalk and a driveway.

Blower 16 and/or heat exchanger 18 may be electric or gas operated. Blower 16 and/or heat exchanger 18 may include a geothermal component. System 10 can be used to generate heated air 28 with a temperature greater than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In one embodiment, system 10 generates heated air 28 with a temperature within the range of greater than 32 degrees Fahrenheit to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In another embodiment, system 10 generates heated air 28 with a temperature within the range of about 33 degrees Fahrenheit to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In yet another embodiment, system 10 generates heated air 28 with a temperature of about 34 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature may depend upon the amount of snowfall or the amount of snow accumulation within surface 14, the environmental temperature, the wind, and the size of surface 14.

Surface warming system 10 may create thermal blanket 20 or air zone 20 of warmer, heated air 28 above freezing temperatures covering surface 14. System 10 may raise the overall air temperature within zone 20 high enough to melt snow and ice 12 which has fallen within proximity of surface 14. Similarly, the relatively warm earth temperature in conjunction with thermal blanket 20 may melt snow and ice 12.

System 10 may include air duct system 22 including air distribution rail 24 and air intake rail 30 installed on opposing sides of surface 14. Air duct system 22 may be composed of aluminum, steel, or metal. Air duct system 22 may also include insulation such as fiberglass or polystyrene. It should be understood that air distribution rail 24 and air intake rail 30 may include one or more rails. Air distribution rail 24 and air intake rail 30 may each rise above surface 14 or lower to surface 14 or below surface 14. Air distribution rail 24 and air intake rail 30 in raised positions may block wind or other environmental currents from disturbing thermal blanket 20.

Air distribution rail 24 may force heated air 28 across surface 14. Rail 24 may use deflection louvers (not shown). Deflection louvers may be composed of aluminum, steel, or metal. Deflection louvers may establish evenly distributed air pattern 26 (FIG. 3) across surface 14. Heated air 28 being distributed from this rail 24 is provided at sufficiently high air flow in cubic feet per minute (CFM) to reach the opposite side of surface 14. Deflection louvers can point heated air 28 down towards surface 14. Deflection louvers may disperse heated air 28 along surface 14. As previously mentioned, system 10 may use compressed air for applications wherein surface 14 spans larger distances. In such applications, compressed hot air may be blown into air distribution rail 24. Deflection louvers may optionally include screen (not shown) across the front of deflection louvers. Alternatively, deflection louvers may shut when not in use.

Still referring to FIG. 2, air intake rail 30 may draw in and capture heated air 28 moving across surface 14 for recirculation. In one embodiment, air intake rail 30 is configured to recapture greater than about 50% of heated air 28. In another embodiment, air intake rail 30 is configured to recapture about 75% or more of heated air 28. The relatively low temperature of heated air 28 provides relatively dense air which aids in recapture by air intake rail 30 since heated air 28 may not rapidly rise. Air intake rail 30 may draw a vacuum to recapture heated air 28. Captured air 28 may be carried through air intake rail 30 and fed into heat exchanger 18 or heat exchange unit 18 to sense the temperature of captured air 28 and compare captured air 28 temperature to an operator controlled requested temperature in order to calibrate heat necessary for proper operation. Heat exchange unit 18 may heat the air to a temperature above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and continue the distribution of the air back into blower 16 to redistribute the air back into air distribution rail 24.

Operation of system 10 may create an air circulation pattern across surface 14 forming a warmer thermal blanket 20 or air zone, as best shown in FIG. 1. Falling snow and ice 12 which enters this zone may be melted by warmer, heated air 28. This is due to the propagation of heat contained within the air which will be transferred into snow or ice 12. This transfer of heat may penetrate snow or ice 12 to reach an equilibrium temperature rising above the 32 degrees Fahrenheit freezing point causing the snow or ice 12 to melt. This may result in warm water resting upon surface 14.

Snow and ice 12 that enters zone 20 which does not melt on contact with warmer air 28 may have its melting properties accelerated. Warm water resting upon surface 14 formed by the melted snow may accelerate any melting process.

Whether or not precipitation of snow or ice 12 has stopped, continued circulation of warmer air 28 across surface 14 may act as a drying agent causing water left on surface 14 to evaporate. Rail type system 22 may include a drainage tract (not shown). Drainage tract is incorporated into rail system 22. Drainage tract may be composed of aluminum, metal, or polymer and may assist in water removal from surface 14. Natural gravity runoff created by surface 14 and by water which is being carried across surface 14 from the force of the moving air may facilitate the removal of water located on surface 14.

Surface warming system 10 may include an automatic activation system which may be utilized with a sensor device located on surface 14. This sensor device may analyze the current atmospheric conditions and determine the status for activation and deactivation based upon the weather conditions. The activation system may also incorporate an on/off switch that can be manually activated, as well as input closure contacts for remote activation from a switch or relay located inside a business or residence.

Surface warming system 10 may also include a lighting system 32. Lighting system 32 may be installed on rail system 22 to provide decorative and visual lighting applications for surface 14. Lighting system 32 may be controlled by an activation timer control or photocell sensor application. System 10 may also incorporate a manual activation input controlled by closure contacts from a remote activation switch or relay located inside a business or residence.

While this invention has been described as having an exemplary design, the present invention may be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. This application is therefore intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention using its general principles. Further, this application is intended to cover such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which this invention pertains.