Title:
Pre-chiller System for Ice Making Apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pre-chiller for an ice making system. The pre-chiller provides a coiled conductive tube mounted in an ice storage bin. Water flows through the tube and is chilled by the tube that is cold as a result of heat exchange from the ice in the ice storage bin. This chilled water is then delivered to the water inlet of the refrigeration system. The lower temperature of the chilled water compared to the typical ambient temperature of the water delivered to the refrigeration system lowers the power consumption of the refrigeration system and increases its efficiency.



Inventors:
Martin, David E. (Hudson, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/023513
Publication Date:
08/06/2009
Filing Date:
01/31/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/344, 62/348
International Classes:
F25C1/00; F25C5/18
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ROGERS, LAKIYA G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GLENN L. WEBB (GLENN L. WEBB P.C. 10 Town Plaza #53, DURANGO, CO, 81301, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An ice making system for producing ice wherein said ice making system comprises: a refrigeration system for producing ice; a water inlet on said refrigeration system for receiving water for producing ice; a storage bin for storing the ice; and a pre-chiller mounted inside of said storage bin and connected to said water inlet so that ice stored in said storage bin cools water flowing through said pre-chiller.

2. The ice making system of claim 1 wherein said pre-chiller includes: a tube formed of a conductive material.

3. The ice making system of claim 1 wherein said pre-chiller includes: a conductive tube formed in a series of coils.

4. The ice making system of claim 1 wherein said pre-chiller includes: a conductive tube formed in a series of coils; and an insulative material surrounding the surfaces of said conductive tube that are in direct contact with a surface of said storage bin.

5. The ice making system of claim 1 wherein said pre-chiller includes: said conductive tube is sealed within a sanitary container to prevent contamination of the ice from said pre-chiller.

6. The ice making system of claim 1 wherein said pre-chiller includes: said conductive tube is mounted adjacent a surface of said ice storage bin outside side said storage bin.

7. A pre-chiller unit for providing chilled water to an ice making system having a refrigeration unit and an ice storage bin, said pre-chiller unit comprises: a water inlet for receiving water from a supply; a conductive tube connected to said water inlet and mounted in said ice storage bin so that water flowing through said conductive tube from said water inlet is chilled from heat exchange between the water and ice stored in said ice storage bin; and a water outlet connected to said conductive tube for transporting the chilled water to said refrigeration unit.

8. The pre-chiller unit of claim 7 wherein said conductive tube includes: a series of coils.

9. The pre-chiller unit of claim 7 wherein said conductive tube includes: a series of coils that are mounted in direct contact with a surface of said storage bin; and an insulative material surrounding the surfaces of said conductive tube that are in direct contact with a surface of said storage bin.

10. The pre-chiller of claim 7 wherein said pre-chiller includes: said conductive tube is sealed within a sanitary container to prevent contamination of the ice from said pre-chiller.

11. The ice making system of claim 7 wherein said pre-chiller includes: said conductive tube is mounted adjacent a surface of said ice storage bin outside side said storage bin.

12. A method for increasing the efficiency of an ice making system having a refrigeration unit and ice storage bin, wherein said method comprising the steps of: providing a tube formed of a conductive material; mounting said tube inside of the ice storage bin; supplying water through said tube so that the water is chilled by the heat exchange between the water and ice stored in the ice storage bin; and delivering the chilled water from said tube to the refrigeration unit so that the refrigeration system is not required to freeze ambient temperature water.

13. The method of claim 10 wherein said method further comprises the step of: insulating the portions of said tube in contact with the ice storage bin.

14. The method of claim 10 wherein said method further comprises the step of: providing said tube in a series of coils to increase the surface area of said tube in the ice storage bin.

15. The method of claim 10 wherein said method further comprises the step of: insulating the portions of said tube in contact with the ice storage bin; and providing said tube in a series of coils to increase the surface area of said tube in contact with the ice storage bin.

16. The method of claim 10 wherein said method further comprises the step of: mounting said tube in a sanitary container inside of the storage bin.

17. The method of claim 10 wherein said method further comprises the step of: mounting said tube on an exterior surface of the storage bin.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the field of ice making apparatus and in particular to the field for pre-chilling water for the ice making apparatus.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The use of ice making apparatus is critical in the food service industry as well as other industries where the use of ice is necessary. A typical commercial ice making apparatus has a refrigeration unit that produces ice from water delivered from a water supply. The ice produced from the refrigeration unit is then delivered to an ice storage bin where it is stored until used. These units consume a relatively large amount of energy during the ice making process and are relatively slow in producing the ice.

The refrigeration unit receives water from a water source normally connected through the building's plumbing. This water is typically delivered at ambient room temperature which ranges from 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit and can even be warmer. The refrigeration unit then must lower the temperature of the water to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below in order to create the ice cubes. This drop in temperature of 30-40 degrees requires a significant amount of power to accomplish.

The production of ice from ambient room temperature water also takes a considerable amount of time as well as energy. The constant cycling and long duration of operation of the refrigeration unit to create ice causes considerable wear on the unit. This wear shortens the life of the units as well the expense of service calls and down time for the units.

Even home ice making systems that are built into home refrigerators/freezers use a similar type of ice making apparatus. These units also consume a significant amount of power to make the ice since the water is supplied to the ice maker at ambient room temperatures.

There have been a number of attempts to pre-chill the water supplied to the refrigeration system in the past. These have been largely unsuccessful for a number of reasons. Most of these systems pre-chill the water supply by the use of additional refrigeration units to lower the temperature of the water. Other systems recirculated the water about the excess water produced during the heat exchange process of the refrigeration system. These systems are relatively expensive both to purchase and to operate. These prior systems also must be installed with the ice making system and can not be retrofitted on existing ice making systems.

Thus a need exists for a pre-chiller system that is inexpensive, effective and can be easily installed either with an ice making system or retrofitted onto an existing ice making system.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention solves these and other problems by providing a pre-chiller for ice making systems. The pre-chiller may be incorporated in original equipment or attached to an existing ice making apparatus as a retrofitted system. The pre-chiller system of the present invention increases the efficiency of ice making systems while lowering the energy consumption and cycle time for producing ice. The pre-chiller system lowers the temperature of the water delivered to refrigeration system so that less power and time is required to produce ice than when the water is delivered at the ambient room temperature.

The pre-chiller system of the present invention reduces the amount of energy to produce ice by about one third which is a considerable energy savings. The system also reduces the amount of time that is required to produce the ice as well. There is also considerable savings in the wear and tear on the refrigeration system as well.

The pre-chiller system of a preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a pre-chiller system that uses a conductive tube to deliver water to the refrigeration unit of an ice maker. The conductive tube is mounted the ice storage bin so that it is cooled by the transfer of heat from the tube through the surface of the ice storage bin which is chilled by ice stored in the bin. Water flowing through the conductive tube is thus chilled as it travels or sits in the tube prior to delivery to the ice maker.

The conductive tube in one preferred embodiment is arranged in series of coils so that the surface area of the tube in contact with the ice storage bin is increased. This increases the heat exchange so that the water is chilled to a greater extent. The series of coils also increases the amount of time that the water undergoes heat exchange.

The conductive tube of a preferred embodiment is mounted within a sealed sanitary container so that the ice is not contaminated by the tube. This is particularly important in the food service industry.

The pre-chiller system of one embodiment is mounted externally of the ice storage bin. The conductive tube is mounted in direct contact of a surface of the ice storage bin so that it is chilled by the contact from the ice stored within the bin.

The pre-chiller system of a preferred embodiment also uses an insulative material to surround all surfaces of the tube that are not in contact with the ice storage bin. This minimizes the increase in heat gain to the conductive tube from the ambient air temperature.

These and other features of the present invention will be evident from the ensuing detailed description of preferred embodiments and from the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a typical ice making apparatus.

FIG. 2 is a view of the embodiment of Figure partially showing the pre-chiller of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the pre-chiller of a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an externally mounted pre-chiller.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention provides a system for increasing the efficiency of ice making systems by pre-chilling the water used in the ice making process. A preferred embodiment of this invention is illustrated in FIGS. 1-4. It is to be expressly understood that the descriptive embodiments are provided herein for explanatory purposes only and are not meant to unduly limit the claimed inventions. The exemplary embodiments describe the present invention in terms of a commercial ice making and dispensing system. The system may also be used with any type of ice making systems including without limitation home refrigeration ice makers and portable ice making systems.

The ice making system 10 as shown in FIGS. 1-4 includes a refrigeration system 12 mounted above a storage bin 20. The refrigeration system 12 receives water from a water supply inlet 14, freezes the water into ice cubes and dispenses the ice cubes into the storage bin 20. The ice cubes can be retrieved as needed through opening 22 covered by door 24. The bin can be insulated to minimize the melting of the ice cubes.

The refrigeration system consumes a relatively large amount of power in order to freeze the water which is normally received at ambient room temperature, typically around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature must be lowered to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower in order to form the water. This requires a relatively large amount of energy for the refrigeration system to lower the temperature by 40 to 50 degrees.

The preferred embodiment of the present invention lowers the temperature of the inlet water without incurring a significant energy cost. The pre-chilled water is supplied to the refrigeration system at a temperature in the range of 33-50 degrees Fahrenheit so that the refrigeration system only needs to lower the temperature an additional 10-20 degrees. This significantly reduces the energy consumption of the refrigeration system. It also greatly reduces the amount of time needed to produce ice, which in turn reduces the amount of time that refrigeration system operates. The cost of maintaining and servicing these systems is considerable so there is a considerable benefit in reducing the wear and tear on the system from its operation. This benefit is increased as the system becomes older and less efficient.

The pre-chiller system 30 of the preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a tube 32 made of copper or other conductive material. The tube 32 is formed in a series of coils 34 and mounted in adjacent the bottom or sides of the ice storage bin 20 as shown in FIGS. 2-4. The tube 32 is mounted within a sealed sanitary container 36 so that the ice will not be contaminated by the tube 32.

In this preferred embodiment, the pre-chiller system 30 is mounted on the lower surface of the ice storage bin 20. The cold from the ice in bin 20 is transmitted directly to the tube 32 to chill the tube.

The ambient temperature water enters the pre-chiller 30 through inlet 38 and the chilled water exits the pre-chiller through outlet 40. Outlet 40 is connected to the water inlet 14 of the refrigeration system 12 by delivery tube 42.

In use, water enters the pre-chiller 30 mounted on the bottom surface of the ice storage bin 20 and is chilled as it flows through the series of coils. The coils are being chilled by the transmission of the cold from the ice through the bottom of the ice bin. The amount of heat being exchanged from the water and the ice can be increased by increasing the number of coils and cumulative surface area of the tube 32 in the ice bin. The water has been significantly chilled by the time it exits from the pre-chiller and is transported to the water inlet of the refrigeration system 12 thus reducing the power consumption and time for producing ice.

Another preferred embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 4. The tube 32 is mounted in an insulated block 36, such as Styrofoam or other insulated material. The tube and block are mounted outside of the ice storage bin 20 and in direct contact with the surface, such as the bottom surface of the ice bin. The upper surfaces of the tube 32 are exposed for direct contact with the bottom or sides of the ice storage bin 20. The bottom surface of the bin can also be formed from a material that will optimally conduct the cold to the tube. Mounting the pre-chiller outside of the ice bin ensures that the ice itself is not contaminated and kept sanitary for food service use.

The insulated block 36 maintains the temperature of the tube 32 so that the cold is conducted away by water flowing through the tube. Heat gain by the tube from the ambient air temperature is thus minimized. The only exposed surfaces of the tube are flush against the bin so that there is minimal increase in the temperature of the tube except from the water.

In this preferred embodiment, the delivery tube is insulated as well and can be either incorporated through the wall 16 of the ice maker 10 or mounted to the exterior surface of the ice maker 10. The insulation will maintain the temperature of the chilled water without significant increase in temperature.

In use, water enters the pre-chiller 30 mounted adjacent the bottom surface of the ice storage bin 20 and is chilled as it flows through the series of coils. The coils are being chilled by the transmission of the cold from the ice through the bottom of the ice bin. The amount of heat being exchanged from the water and the ice can be increased by increasing the number of coils and cumulative surface area of the tube 32 in contact with the bottom of the ice bin. The water has been significantly chilled by the time it exits from the pre-chiller and is transported to the water inlet of the refrigeration system 12 thus reducing the power consumption and time for producing ice.

Often, the ice is only produced for short periods of time. Thus the water is not flowing when ice is not being produced and stays stationary with the tube 32 for relatively long periods of time which further increases the efficiency of the system.

The pre-chiller 30 may be incorporated as an integral component of the ice making system 10 during the manufacture of the system or it can be retrofitted to existing ice making systems. The pre-chiller 30 can be mounted directly onto a bottom surface, side surface or within the storage bin 20. The delivery tube 42 can be mounted externally to the ice maker and connected to the water inlet 14 of the refrigeration unit 12.

The pre-chiller 30 of another preferred embodiment is contained on the interior of the ice storage bin 20. The pre-chiller of this embodiment is simply the coiled tube 32 in direct contact with the ice in the storage bin. The direct contact with the ice allows the water flowing through the tube to be quickly chilled prior to flowing to the refrigeration system.

These and other embodiments of the pre-chiller system for ice making systems are considered to be within the scope of the present invention. The above embodiments are intended only for descriptive purposes and are not meant to unduly limit the scope of the present invention.