Title:
Cooler
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cooler system having improved insulative properties. The cooler system includes, in various preferred embodiments, thicker sidewalls having insulative materials with improved thermal qualities, one or more reflective surfaces, a sealing mechanism to minimize the leakage of cold air, an insulative apron for containing cold air around the contents of the cooler, compression mechanisms for compressing the upper lid against the side walls of the cooler and many other features to improve the thermal benefit of the cooler.



Inventors:
Stanwix, Leslie (Franktown, CO, US)
Pitcher, Jill (Franktown, CO, US)
Application Number:
09/943978
Publication Date:
03/06/2003
Filing Date:
09/01/2001
Assignee:
STANWIX LESLIE
PITCHER JILL
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/371, 62/457.2
International Classes:
F25D3/14; F25D23/06; (IPC1-7): B65D81/38; B65D83/72; F25D3/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JONES, MELVIN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GLENN L. WEBB (DURANGO, CO, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An insulated cooler, said cooler comprising: an outer wall surface on the sides and the bottom of said cooler; an inner wall surface on the sides and bottom of said cooler; an insulating material between said outer wall surface and said inner wall surface; and an upper lid; and sealing mechanism for minimizing the escape of cold air from said cooler.

2. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler includes: a highly reflective surface applied to the outer surface of said upper lid and said outer wall surface on said sides of said cooler.

3. The cooler of claim 2 wherein said highly reflective surface includes: a reflective surface of eighty-five percent UV rating or greater.

4. The cooler of claim 2 wherein said highly reflective surface includes: an adhesive surface for affixing onto said surfaces of said cooler.

5. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said sealing mechanism includes: a sealing member extending downward from the lower surface of said upper lid; and an opposing sealing member extending upward from the upper surface of said side surfaces of said cooler for mating engagement said sealing member on said upper lid to minimize the escape of cold air from said cooler when said upper lid is closed.

6. The cooler of claim 5 wherein said sealing member of said upper lid includes: a plurality of contact surfaces, and said opposing sealing member includes a plurality of contact surfaces for engaging with said plurality of contact surfaces of said sealing member of said upper lid.

7. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler includes: a mechanism for compressing said upper lid against the upper surfaces of said sides of said cooler.

8. The cooler of claim 7 wherein said mechanism for compressing said upper lid against the upper surfaces of said sides of said cooler includes: at least one compression strap; and a mechanism for tightening said compression strap.

9. The cooler of claim 7 wherein said mechanism for compressing said upper lid against the upper surfaces of said sides of said cooler includes: at least one fastener mechanism for tightening said upper lid against said upper surfaces of said sides of said cooler.

10. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: an insulating apron for covering items contained in said cooler.

11. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: at least one light mounted within said cooler.

12. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: a drain port; and a bottom surface of said cooler canted towards said drain port.

13. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: about three inches of a lightweight material having an insulation rating of at least R7 per inch.

14. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: a thermometer for monitoring the internal temperature of said cooler.

15. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: a pocket formed of insulated material for holding dry ice; and an elastic mechanism for compressing said pocket as said dry ice evaporates.

16. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: at least one built in compartment that is externally accessible.

17. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: compartments for holding containers.

18. The cooler of claim 1 wherein said cooler further includes: shelve compartments.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to the field of portable insulated cooler systems.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Portable coolers are widely used to store and transport items in a chilled environment. These coolers are typically of a “chest” design with thermally insulated plastic or Styrofoam walls, tops and bottoms. Such coolers are generally effective for only a relatively short period of time, particularly when exposed to direct sunlight. Coolers of this type are used not only for transport and storage of food items for recreational purposes but also for such uses ranging from food vendors, construction industry to medical transport of organs, blood, medicine and other critical items. All of these uses and other uses would greatly benefit from an insulated cooler system having greatly increased thermal benefit.

[0003] Typical portable coolers presently are of a chest design with a hinged upper lid or small soft sided bags. The insulation material is normally polyurethane or polystyrene material, up to two inches thick on the walls and one seven/eighths on the upper lid. Basically, the coolers presently available are typically boxes having one to two inches of insulation material. These coolers tend to have a removable tray, handles and a drain port. The industry standard color for at least the lids is white. These coolers tend to be effective for only short periods of time depending on the amount of time in direct sunlight and the outside ambient temperature and the amount of coolant and or ice.

[0004] The soft bag coolers are typically flexible PVC lined bags with a small amount of foam insulation. Also available are drink holders that have a small amount of neoprene or foam insulation into which a drink can be inserted.

[0005] There are more complex cooling systems, but these tend to be expensive and difficult to transport and maintain.

[0006] There presently is a need for a cooler that has improved thermal benefit to enable stored items to maintain their temperature and still be affordable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The present invention provides an affordable cooler system that greatly increases the thermal benefit over existing coolers. The cooler of a preferred embodiment of the present invention can be produced in a variety of sizes and shapes for use not only for recreational users but for such diverse markets as medical transport, military, floral, fishing industry, military, catering, recreational vehicles, boating, food delivery, tail-gating, golfing, special events, sporting events and many other uses.

[0008] The preferred embodiment of the present invention includes a cooler having increased insulative properties by using thicker sidewalls with insulation material having greater thermal insulation ratings. In a preferred embodiment, the cooler includes side walls having a three inch cavity filled with expanded foam polyurethane have a rating of R7 or greater per inch.

[0009] Another feature provided in some preferred embodiments of the present invention is the use of highly reflective vinyl surfaces. In one preferred embodiment, the cooler uses vinyl surfaces having a reflective rating of 85% UV or greater. The vinyl surfaces may be applied onto the surfaces by adhesives.

[0010] Some preferred embodiments use unique “tooth” designs on the upper surfaces of the side walls with a mating “tooth” on the lower surface of the upper lid. This “tooth” design minimizes the leakage of cold air from the interior of the cooler. In one preferred embodiment, the tooth design provides four continuous points of contact around the periphery of the cooler. Other embodiments provide differing number and types of continuous points of contact.

[0011] Compression mechanisms are also provided in some preferred embodiments to compress the upper lid against the upper surfaces of the side walls to further minimize the leakage of cold air from the interior of the cooler. These compression mechanisms can include the use of compression straps, along with cam operated buckles. Another type of compression mechanism that can be used either alone or in combination with the tooth design and/or the compression straps include the use of buckles, snaps or other types of fasteners that pull the upper lid into engagement with the upper surfaces of the side walls.

[0012] Another feature of a preferred embodiment of the present invention includes an insulative apron formed of an insulated foam material with or without a reflective surface and waterproof lining. The insulative apron may include rounded or split corners to enable it to be tucked around the contents of a cooler to trap the cold air around those contents. Other features that the apron may include are beveled edges, pockets for certain items, a thermometer, and a fastener, such as hook and loop fasteners, to enable it to be secured to the upper lid when not in use in order to add insulation to the upper lid.

[0013] Dry ice pockets may be included in preferred embodiments of the present invention for the convenient use of dry ice. These dry ice pockets include an overlapping wrap bound by an elastic band to maintain compression of the wrap around the dry ice as it evaporates.

[0014] The cooler of a preferred embodiment may also use pour bottles having a layer of insulation foam. Water or other liquids may be pre-frozen in the pour bottles that are then used to chill the cooler and for dispensing the liquid as needed.

[0015] Battery powered lights may also be mounted within the cooler to enable their use in dark environments. Also, clips or hook and loop fasteners similar those used with the apron may be incorporated to enable flashlights to be clipped into the cooler.

[0016] The cooler of a preferred embodiment may also include externally accessible compartments and inserts such as a cutting board to improve the convenience of the cooler. The cooler may also include horizontal and vertical grooves for shelves and/or cooler compartmentalization.

[0017] Other features that may be included in a cooler of the present invention includes a large port drain with a screw cap, a lower surface of the internal shell canted towards the drain port to enable drainage without the necessity of tipping the cooler, hand grips molded into the external shell, stainless steel hardware for strength and durability, axle and wheels with a tow handle for larger sizes, a soft plastic or aluminum tag with adhesive mounting for identification purposes and other convenient features.

[0018] Other preferred embodiments of the present invention include quick wraps usable with beverage packs, individual beverages and for individual frozen or cold food items.

[0019] These and other features will be evident for the ensuing detailed descriptions of preferred embodiments along with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the cooling system of the present invention.

[0021] FIG. 2 is a side cut-away view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 showing the lid and a portion of the upper surface of the lower shell.

[0022] FIG. 3 is a side view of the compression strap of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0023] FIG. 4 is a front view of the compression strap of FIG. 3.

[0024] FIG. 5 is a side view of the buckle system of embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0025] FIG. 6 is a top view a preferred embodiment of the insulative apron of the embodiment of FIG. 1.

[0026] FIG. 7 is a side view of a preferred embodiment of the dry ice pocket of the present invention.

[0027] FIG. 8 is a side view of the dry ice pocket of FIG. 7.

[0028] FIG. 9 is a front view of a preferred embodiment of the lighting system of the present invention.

[0029] FIG. 10 is a cut-away view of a preferred embodiment of the shelves-compartmentalization of the present invention.

[0030] FIG. 11 is a rear perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the cutting board—compartments of the present invention.

[0031] FIG. 12 is a flat view of a quick-wrap cooler for use with beverage packs.

[0032] FIG. 13 is a flat view of a quick-wrap for an individual beverage bottle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0033] A preferred embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 1-11. It is to be expressly understood that the descriptive embodiments are provided herein for explanatory purposes only and is not meant to unduly limit the claimed inventions. The preferred embodiment of the present invention includes an insulated cooling system for use in transporting and/or storing items in a chilled environment. This preferred embodiment can be in any variety of shapes and sizes as may be desired by a user. It is also to be expressly understood that the claimed inventions include not only various combinations of the features discussed herein but may also include each feature individually in separately claimed inventions not requiring the other disclosed features.

[0034] In the preferred embodiment, shown in FIG. 1, cooler 10 is in the design of a chest. Cooler 10 includes a durable outer surface including sides 12, 14, 16, 18, bottom 20 and upper lid 22. One example of the material for the durable outer surface is three millimeter thick ABS plastic, but other durable materials may be used as well. Handles 24, 26 are formed in opposing sides 12, 16. The handles 24, 26 are, in a preferred embodiment, molded into the side surfaces 12, 16 of the cooler. In other embodiments, the handles may be attached.

[0035] Upper lid 22, in this preferred embodiment, is pivotally mounted to the rear surface 18 by living hinges, hinges, retaining strips or other pivoting mechanisms. Alternatively, upper lid 22 can be separate from the sides of the chest altogether. The upper lid may also include side grips to assist in opening the upper lid. Latches 28, 30, discussed in greater detail below, secure the upper lid to the chest. In the preferred embodiment, the hardware for the cooler 10 are formed of a durable material, such as stainless steel.

[0036] In a preferred embodiment, the cooler 10 includes a soft durable tag, formed of soft aluminum, plastic or other materials. The tag is either permanently affixed to the cooler, or includes an adhesive surface to affix onto the cooler. The tag is able to be permanently marked by a sharp object with markings, such as a name, to permanently identify the owner of the cooler.

[0037] In the preferred embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIG. 1, straps 32, 34 compress the upper lid against the side walls to prevent cold air from leaking out of the cooler. Cam buckles 36, 38 assist in the compression of the upper lid against the side walls. A drain port 40 is formed in the lower section of side wall 12 to periodically drain melted water from the cooler. The drain port 40 may be closed with a screw cap, plug or other type of enclosure.

[0038] Reflective surfaces 42 are secured to the side walls 12, 14, 16, 18 and upper lid 22. The reflective surfaces 42, in the preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, are formed from a highly light diffractive film, such as PRISMcal® or GENaration™ films, manufactured by FLEXcon, Spencer, Mass. These films were originally designed for decals. In the preferred embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 1, these highly light-diffractive films are effective at reflecting direct sunlight in order to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the cooler. These films include surface diffraction gratings that split white light into a rainbow of colors and add a colorful shine to the cooler. These films are affixed to the surfaces of the cooler by adhesives. It is to be expressly understood that other reflective surfaces may be used as well in order to reduce the heat absorption by the cooler. Preferably, the reflective surfaces have a eighty-five percent UV (ultraviolet) reflective capacity or greater.

[0039] The cooler 10 also includes inner side walls 44 spaced from the outer side walls 12, 14, 16, 18. In the preferred embodiment, the inner side walls are spaced approximately three inches from the outer side walls. The cavity formed from this spacing is filled with high density urethane. This increased thickness and use of high density urethane greatly improves the cooling retention and/or thermal benefit of the cooler. The upper lid 22 is also filled with high density urethane, preferably in a three inch cavity between the inner and outer surfaces. In the preferred embodiment, the cavity is filled with a highly expansive, R7 per inch or greater spray polyurethane insulation. It is to be understood that other insulation materials may be used as well.

[0040] The inner bottom surface of the cooler 10, in the preferred embodiment, is canted slightly downwardly toward the drain port 40. The drain port 40 may include a plug to prevent leakage when not desired. The canted bottom surface enables drainage of melted ice without the necessity of tipping the cooler and upsetting the contents.

[0041] In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the cooler 10 includes a unique sealing mechanism to minimize the leakage of cold air from the cooler. As shown in a cross-section view of the cooler 10 in FIG. 2, the upper surfaces 50 of the side walls 12, 14, 16, 18 of the cooler 10 include an engaging seal member 52. In this preferred embodiment, the engaging seal member 52 includes a first angular surface 56 extending upwardly at an angle from the outer lip 54. An upper ridge surface 58 extends parallel to the lip portion 54 and connected between first surface 56 and second angular surface 60 extending downwardly at an angle to form a “tooth” member. The second angular surface 60 ends in a substantially “v” shaped groove 62. An inner lip portion 64 extends from the groove 62.

[0042] The upper lid 22 includes an opposing sealing member 70 that includes corresponding lip portion 72, inwardly extending angular first surface 74, a recess surface 76, a downwardly extending angular surface 78, and a substantially “v” shaped tooth 80. These features engage in a mating relationship with seal member 50 of the upper surfaces 50 of the side walls of the cooler. This engagement minimizes the escape of cold air from inside the cooler 10 to the outside. This greatly improves the thermal benefit of the cooler 10.

[0043] In the preferred embodiment, the seal member 52 of the side walls and the opposing seal member 70 engage in at least four points of contact around the entire circumference of the cooler. It is to be expressly understood that the seal members 52, 70 can be designed in other embodiments with more or less points of contact. This feature is designed to increase the sealing capability beyond the use of flat or minimally engaging surfaces. Other embodiments are also included in the present invention. For example, a rubber seal, gasket or other types of seals could be used as well between the upper lid and the side walls of the cooler.

[0044] In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the cooler 10 includes compression straps 32, 34. The compression straps may be affixed directly onto the cooler 10, inserted in grooves formed on and/or in the outer surfaces of the cooler, or simply secured around the cooler. The compressions straps, in a preferred embodiment are formed of nylon but may include other materials as well. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the compression straps 32, 34 include cam buckles 36, 38. It is to be understood that other types of fasteners for the straps may be used as well. These cam buckles 36, 38 provide a mechanical advantage to enable the straps 32, 34 to be secured tightly to further force the upper lid 22 against the side walls of the cooler 10. These straps are usable particularly with the seal members 52, 72 as discussed above, but may be used with non-sealing coolers. The straps 32, 34 and buckles 36, 38 also securely lock the upper lid to prevent accidentally opening and/or spillage of the contents of the cooler.

[0045] In the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the cooler 10 also may include buckles 28, 30. These buckles, as shown in greater detail in FIG. 5, are secured to the front panel 14 and upper lid 22 of the cooler 10. The clasp 80 of the buckles 28, 30 engage over catch members 82. The rotation of member 84 downward locks the upper lid into compressed engagement with the upper surfaces of the side walls. Preferably, the buckles 28, 30 are recessed into the front panel and upper lid 22 of the cooler. It is to be expressly understood that these buckles can be used with or without the compression straps and with or without the use of seal members 52, 70. Other types of fasteners may be used as well, such as snaps, straps, clamps, etc.

[0046] In another preferred embodiment of the present invention, cooler 10 also includes an insulated apron 90. Apron 90 is formed from one-half inch thick EVA foam in this embodiment, although other insulative materials and sizes may be used as well. Preferably, although not essential, a reflective surface may be applied onto one surface of the apron. Also, the apron 90 should, in the preferred embodiment be waterproof to protect against ice, melted ice and other liquids. The apron 90 is of slightly larger dimensions than the inner dimensions of the cooler 10. Preferably, the upper edges 92 of the apron are beveled, as shown in FIG. 2. The beveled edges 92 engage against the angled tooth 82 of the seal member 70 of the upper lid. Apron 90 also includes hook and loop securing fabric 94 on its upper surface for engagement with the upper lid 22. In the preferred embodiment, the apron 90 also includes pockets 96 for insertion of a thermometer, ice, dry ice, utensils, and other items. Handles may also be formed on the apron 90 as well. In other embodiments of the apron 90, the apron may be formed of vinyl, polyester, plastic or other materials. The apron may also include doubled or weighted edges to enable the apron to be tucked around the contents more efficiently. Also, as shown in FIG. 6, the apron may include rounded edges having a slit 98 to allow overlap of the corner edges to enhance tucking the apron around the cooler contents. The apron can be pushed down against the cooler contents and fit tightly against the internal sidewalls of the cooler to capture the cold air against the contents. When not in use, the apron 90 may be attached to the underside of the upper lid 22 by the hook and loop fasteners to increase insulation.

[0047] The cooler may also include a plastic encased thermometer to ensure the proper temperature of the cooler. This thermometer may be left loose in the cooler, tucked into a pocket in the apron or stored in a compartment formed inside the cooler.

[0048] In an alternative embodiment, the cooler 10 includes dry ice pockets 120, shown in FIG. 7. These dry ice pockets may be formed in the inner surface of the cooler 10, formed in the apron 90 or created as a separate item. The dry ice pockets 120 include an outer elastic band 122 that pulls outer flap of the pocket over the inner pocket. As the dry ice inside the pocket 120 evaporates, the elastic band 122 pulls the outer flap to form a smaller pocket. The pocket 120 may include side pleats 124 as shown in FIG. 8 that further enhances the compression of the pocket 120. This compression minimizes the evaporation of the dry ice thus improving the cooling life of the dry ice. The pocket may also include a reflective surface as well to reduce the evaporation of the dry ice.

[0049] The cooler 10 also includes, in a preferred embodiment, pour bottles with a layer of insulating foam around for the bottle. This allows the bottles and their contents to be pre-frozen as an internal coolant for the cooler as well as for drinking water.

[0050] In another preferred embodiment, the cooler 10 of the present invention includes one or more battery powered, switch operated lights, such as lights 100, 102, 104, 106 shown in FIG. 9. These lights enable access into the cooler 10 even in dark environments. In an alternative embodiment, the cooler 10 includes clips or hook and loop fasteners into which small flashlights be held.

[0051] Cooler 10, in another preferred embodiment, includes grooves formed horizontally and/or vertically in the inner surfaces of the cooler 10. Shelves can be inserted into the horizontal grooves while separators can inserted in the vertical grooves. This provides compartment separation for the cooler to isolate the contents. The cooler may also include tubs, trays, racks or other structures that can be held in the grooves.

[0052] Cooler 10 may also include an axle and wheels permanently affixed to the bottom surface of the cooler or grooves that enable an axle and wheels to be snapped onto as needed. The cooler 10 may also include a pull-out handle or strap to tow the cooler.

[0053] In another preferred embodiment, the cooler 10 includes a built-in cutting board insert 120 as shown in FIG. 10 on the upper lid 22. The upper lid 22 may also include a built in compartment 126 having an upper lid 128. The compartment 126 is useful for storing utensils, paper goods and other items that do not need to be a chilled environment. The compartment can be accessed externally without opening the internal contents of the cooler.

[0054] Another alternative preferred embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 12. This cooler is intended for use as an individual cold purchased drink wrap. The drink wrap cooler 200 is formed of a flexible foam insulation material, such as expanded foam, neoprene, etc. This drink wrap cooler includes a reflective surface, such as discussed above, on the external side of the cooler. Edge surfaces 202 include a strip of adhesive tape with a removable protective paper edge. Fold lines 210 may be perforated. The size and shape of the cooler is variable to accommodate typical six-pack sizes of beverage cans or bottles, twelve-pack sizes, single serving sizes of cans or bottles, etc. The rectangular, six-pack size is illustrated in FIG. 12, but the claimed invention is not intended to be limited to this particular size and shape.

[0055] In use, the beverage pack is placed in the middle of the cooler wrap 200. Short edge is folded up around the top of the pack within one long edge folded to meet over the top. The adhesive strip 202 is used to connect the two edges and seal the corners at the same time. This is repeated for each side and edge until all four edges are taped together. The handle 212 will meet tightly across the middle top of the pack and is inserted through handle holes 214, 216. In smaller sizes, the cooler 200 will use adhesive strips above and below the opening of the handle 204 to attach to each other. In the larger sizes, one flap will fold over the existing pack handle using an adhesive strip to secure it in place and another adhesive strip along the edge to secure the remaining corner.

[0056] Other embodiments of the wrap cooler include eliminating the handles. The edges completely fold over the top with an adhesive strip on one flat situated on the top to enclose the cooler around the beverage. The wrap cooler can also include fitted and precut holes for beverage box handles. Another embodiment uses pre-made cooler wraps with pre-adhered, stitched or hook and loop fasteners on the edges as a slip-on cover. Another embodiment uses hook and loop fasteners in lieu of the adhesive strips. Advertising may also be applied to the external surfaces and flaps of the wrap coolers.

[0057] Another embodiment of the wrap cooler is illustrated in FIG. 13. The wrap cooler 300 is intended for use with single cylindrical containers, such as a wine bottle. The wrap cooler 300, formed of materials as discussed above, includes slits 320, 322, 324 cut into the bottom of the wrap cooler at intervals 302, 304, 306, 308. One section 308 includes an adhesive tab 310 (or hook and loop fasteners) as well as tabs 312, 314 along the length of the cooler and tabs 316, 318 at the ends of the pull around wraps at the top of the wrap cooler. The bottle is placed in the middle so the bottom of the bottle is at the top of the slits. Each slit is folded over the bottom of the bottle. The two middle tabs 312, 314 are secured around the bottle. The top arms 326, 328 are wrapped around the bottle and secured. An alternative embodiment simply engages about substantially the entire outer surface of a bottle or box with an elastic fit to account for handles, or other features on the bottle or box.

[0058] Individual wrap coolers, in another preferred embodiment, are also designed for use with frozen or cold food, such as ice cream, Popsicles, etc. Pockets may be created to wrap such items.

[0059] It is to be expressly understood that the descriptive embodiments are provided for explanatory purposes and are not meant to limit the claimed inventions. Also, the claimed inventions may include one or more of the descriptive features and their equivalent structures either singly or in various combinations of one another.