Title:
Spa panel with infrared receiver
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An spa panel for a spa. The spa panel is electrically connected to the spa controller for the spa. The spa panel has an encasing that covers control keys that are electrically connected to a printed circuit board. The infrared receiver is mounted onto the printed circuit board and is likewise covered by the encasing. Preferably, the infrared receiver is adjacent to the edge of the spa panel and faces inward to the spa to an area that a spa user would normally sit. In another preferred embodiment, the plastic encasing covers a display screen.



Inventors:
Laflamme, Benoit (Quebec, CA)
Boudreau, Michel (Ste-Foy, CA)
Brochu, Christian (Quebec, CA)
Application Number:
10/272793
Publication Date:
07/03/2003
Filing Date:
10/17/2002
Assignee:
LAFLAMME BENOIT
BOUDREAU MICHEL
BROCHU CHRISTIAN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/00; A61H33/00; G08C23/04; (IPC1-7): A47K3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ross Patent Law Office (Del Mar, CA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A spa panel for a spa, wherein said spa panel is electrically connected to a spa controller, said spa panel comprising: A. an encasing, wherein at least a part of said encasing permits the passage of infrared light, B. a printed circuit board connected to said encasing, C. at least one spa control key electrically connected to said printed circuit board, and D. an infrared receiver mounted on said printed circuit board, wherein said infrared receiver is electrically connected to said spa controller, wherein said encasing covers said at least one spa control key, said printed circuit board and said infrared receiver.

2. The spa panel as in claim 1, further comprising a display screen mounted on said printed circuit board.

3. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said encasing is a plastic encasing.

4. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said spa panel is a keypad.

5. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said spa is a whirlpool bath.

6. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said infrared receiver is a plurality of infrared receivers.

7. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said at least one spa control key is a plurality of spa control keys.

8. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said encasing is waterproof.

9. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said encasing is at least partially transparent, wherein infrared signals are transmitted from an infrared remote control unit through said transparent encasing to said infrared receiver.

10. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said spa panel is mounted to the top of said spa.

11. The spa panel as in claim 1, wherein said infrared receiver faces inward towards a user sitting in the spa.

12. A spa panel for a spa, wherein said spa panel is electrically connected to a spa controller, said spa panel comprising: A. a waterproof, transparent encasing, B. a printed circuit board connected to said waterproof, transparent encasing, C. at least one control key electrically connected to said printed circuit board, and D. an infrared receiver mounted on said printed circuit board, wherein said infrared receiver is electrically connected to said spa controller, wherein said infrared receiver faces inward. wherein said waterproof, transparent encasing covers said at least one control key, said printed circuit board and said infrared receiver, wherein infrared signals are transmitted from an infrared remote control unit through said transparent encasing to said infrared receiver, wherein said spa panel is mounted to the top of said spa.

13. A spa panel for a spa, wherein said spa panel is electrically connected to a spa controller, said spa panel comprising: A. a encasing means, B. a printed circuit board means connected to said encasing means, C. a means for controlling the spa electrically connected to said printed circuit board means, and D. a means for receiving infrared signals mounted on said printed circuit board means, wherein said means for receiving infrared signals is electrically connected to said spa controller, wherein said encasing covers said means for controlling the spa, said printed circuit board means and said means for receiving infrared signals.

14. The spa panel as in claim 13, wherein said encasing means is waterproof.

15. The spa panel as in claim 13, wherein said encasing means is at least partially transparent, wherein infrared signals are transmitted from an infrared remote control unit through said transparent encasing means to said means for receiving infrared signals.

16. The spa panel as in claim 13, wherein said spa panel is mounted to the top of said spa.

17. The spa panel as in claim 13, wherein said means for receiving infrared signals faces inward toward a user sitting in the spa.

18. A spa panel for a spa, wherein said spa panel is electrically connected to a spa controller, said spa panel comprising: A. a encasing, B. a printed circuit board connected to said encasing, and C. an infrared receiver mounted on said printed circuit board, wherein said infrared receiver is electrically connected to said spa controller, wherein said encasing covers said printed circuit board and said infrared receiver.

19. The spa panel as in claim 18, wherein said spa panel is an illumination panel, said spa panel further comprising a light source attached to said printed circuit board.

20. The spa panel as in claim 18, wherein said spa panel is a keypad, said spa panel further comprising at least one control key attached to said printed circuit board.

21. The spa panel as in claim 18, wherein said spa panel is a spa status display panel, said spa panel further comprising a display screen.

22. The spa panel as in claim 18, wherein said spa is a whirlpool bath.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] A spa (also commonly known as a “hot tub”) is a therapeutic bath in which all or part of a person's body is exposed to hot water, usually with forceful whirling currents. When located indoors and equipped with fill and drain features like a bathtub, the spa is typically referred to as a “whirlpool bath”. Typically, the spa's hot water is generated when water contacts a heating element in a water circulating heating pipe system.

[0002] FIG. 1 shows prior art hot tub spa 1. Spa controller 52 is programmed to control the spa's components, such as the spa's water pumps 1P and 2P, air blower 3, ozonator 7, stereo 1A, and light 1L. In normal operation, water is pumped by water pump IP through heater 5A where it is heated by heating element 5B. The heated water then leaves heater 5A and enters spa tub 2 through jets 11. Water leaves spa tub 2 through drains 13 and the cycle is repeated.

[0003] A user of the spa can control the spa's components by pressing keys on spa panel 8. Spa panel 8 is also commonly referred to as a keypad. Also, spa 1 includes monitor 9. When an error occurs (such as a failure of water pump 2P), the source of the error is displayed on monitor 9. Currently, the spa user typically operates the spa with controls located within the spa or next to the spa by manipulating controls on spa panel 8 or by transmitting a remote wireless signal to spa controller 52.

Prior Art Keypad

[0004] Spa panel 8 is mounted over a small cutout in the top of spa 2 (FIG. 3). Spa panel 8 houses control keys 42, digital display screen 43, printed circuit board (PCB) 44. A preferred spa panel 8 is manufactured by Gecko Electronique inc., model no. TSC-8-SL-AD-NO, part no. 0200-007072. FIG. 2 shows a top view of spa panel 8.

[0005] A user of the spa can control the spa's components by pressing keys 42 on spa panel 8. Spa panel 8 is designed to be waterproof to protect its electrical components from the outside elements and water that is contained in the spa.

[0006] Transparent plastic encasing 45 is attached to the shell of spa 2 by two ‘L’ shaped brackets 131. Plastic encasing 45 is made of plastic and is waterproof. It covers and protects control keys 42, digital display screen 43, printed circuit board (PCB) 44. Graphic overlay 47 is backed with an adhesive and is glued on a top recess of the plastic encasing 45. Silicone rubber pads 132 are installed over control keys 42 and allow the user a flexible and waterproof interface by which he can press control keys 42. PCB 44 is connected to spa controller 52 via wire (see also FIG. 1).

Prior Art Remote Control of Spa

[0007] FIG. 1 shows infrared (IR) receiver 20 mounted to the shell of spa tub 2. A user of the spa can transmit control signals to spa controller 52 by aiming a remote control IR transmitting device at IR receiver 20. The control signal is then transmitted via wire from IR receiver 20 to spa controller 52. The control signals control spa components such as the spa water pumps, the air blower, the spa stereo and spa lights.

Problems with Shell Mounted IR Receivers

[0008] There are problems associated with the current method of mounting the IR receiver to the shell of the spa tub. To mount the IR transceiver to the shell, an extra hole must first be drilled into the shell so that the IR transceiver can be properly installed. The drilling of a hole into the shell compromises the integrity of the spa tub shell. Also, drilling into to the shell and making the necessary wire connections can be a difficult and time consuming job for a technician during an after-market installation on the field. Furthermore, a manufacturer who wants to offer the possibility of later upgrading a spa to add IR control would need to pre-drill a hole in all of the shells he manufactures to allow for the upgrade. This would add costs to the production of the spa and also unnecessarily damage the integrity of the spa for users who would not want the upgrade. Also, the IR receiver is currently mounted in the interior of the spa for the benefit of someone sitting inside the spa. However, for individuals outside of the spa wishing to control the spa via remote control, range is very limited. Moreover, the spa cannot be operated effectively unless the individual's remote control device is facing the IR receiver.

[0009] What is needed is a better method of spa control eliminating prior art problems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] The present invention provides an spa panel for a spa. The spa panel is electrically connected to the spa controller for the spa. The spa panel has an encasing that covers control keys that are electrically connected to a printed circuit board. An infrared receiver is mounted onto the printed circuit board and is likewise covered by the encasing. Preferably, the infrared receiver is adjacent to the edge of the spa panel and faces inward to the spa to an area that a spa user would normally sit. In another preferred embodiment, the plastic encasing covers a display screen.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] FIG. 1 shows a prior art spa.

[0012] FIGS. 2 and 3 show a prior art spa panel.

[0013] FIGS. 4 and 5 show a preferred embodiment of the present invention mounted to a spa.

[0014] FIGS. 6 and 7 show a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 8 shows a top view of a spa prior to mounting a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0016] FIG. 9 shows a top view of the spa of FIG. 8 after a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been mounted.

[0017] FIG. 10 shows another preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 11 shows another preferred embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0019] A preferred embodiment of the present invention can be seen by reference to FIGS. 4-9. An IR receiver is mounted to a spa panel. The spa panel is then mounted to a spa. The spa panel has a plastic encasing that is waterproof and protects the IR receiver from moisture that could damage it.

[0020] FIG. 4 shows a side view of spa 60. Spa panel 61 is mounted to the top of spa 60. Spa panel 61 is also commonly referred to as a keypad. A top view and a side view of spa panel 61 is shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, respectively. Spa panel 61 is identical to prior art spa panel 8, shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, with the exception that spa panel 61 also includes infrared (IR) receiver 65 mounted on PCB 44. As is the case with spa panel 8, spa panel 61 is waterproof. Therefore, IR receiver 65 is protected from the outside elements and the water that is contained in the spa. Also, as stated above, the edge of plastic encasing 45 is transparent enabling infrared signals to reach IR receiver 65 (FIG. 6).

Mounting Spa panel to the Spa

[0021] As shown in FIG. 8, cutout 70 is drilled through the top of the shell of spa 60. Spa panel 61 (having IR receiver 65) is then installed onto the top of spa 60 and clamped via “L” shaped brackets 403 (see FIG. 9 and FIG. 7). Preferably, spa panel 61 is mounted so that IR transceiver 65 faces inward towards the part of the spa that a spa user sits to get optimum range for the spa user. The spa user will then be able to aim IR remote control unit 66 at IR receiver 65 to transmit spa control signals. FIG. 7 shows connectivity to the spa controller.

Remote Control Unit

[0022] FIGS. 4 and 5 include range lines 80 and 81. In a preferred embodiment, remote control unit 66 is manufactured by Gecko Electronique Inc. with offices in Quebec, Canada, model no. IRMT-4. As shown in FIG. 4, remote control unit 66 is capable of floating in the spa water. A spa user sitting in the spa can pick up and operate remote control unit 66 when he wants to send a control signal to the spa controller.

Extended Operating Range

[0023] As shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, in addition to coverage within the spa the range of the IRMT-4 model extends approximately 7 feet to the right of the rightmost edge of spa 60 and approximately 7 feet to the left of the leftmost edge of spa 60. The range is able to extend to the left because infrared light emitted by an IR transmitter is absorbed by the transparent edge of plastic encasing 45. For example, a user standing 7 feet to the left of spa 60 can operate the spa's components via a remote control device even though the user is not directly facing IR receiver 65. The IR light generated by the remote control device is absorbed in the edge of plastic encasing 45 and transmitted to IR receiver 65.

[0024] It is desirable to be able to remotely control the spa at locations other than within the spa or in direct line-of-sight of the IR transceiver. For example, a user may want to turn on the spa's components prior to entering the spa. Or, user may want to turn on the spa's components without ever getting in the spa or adjacent to the spa. For example, the user may just want to turn on the spa's lights for extra backyard lighting or he may want to turn on the spa's stereo so that he can enjoy music while relaxing in the backyard.

Other Embodiments

[0025] A feature of the present invention is that preferably the infrared receiver can be effectively mounted to an spa panel that houses other components used for spa operation. For example, the above embodiment discussed the utilization of spa panel 61 (also known as a keypad). Spa panel 61 includes a PCB onto which control keys and a display screen are mounted. However, there are other spa panels besides a keypad that can be utilized. For example, FIG. 10 shows infrared receiver 65 mounted to PCB 44 of spa status display panel 201. Spa status display panel 201 has status display screen 202. Status display screen 202 functions primarily to display the operating status of the spa. Preferably status display screen 202 is a digital display screen. Alternatively, digital display screen 202 can also be replaced with a plurality of light indicators to display indicate spa status. Also, FIG. 11 shows infrared receiver 65 mounted to PCB 44 of spa illuminating panel 301. Spa illuminating panel 301 includes a plurality of light emitting diodes (LEDs) 302. LEDs 302 function primarily to provide illumination for the area around the spa, inside the spa and under the water contained in the spa.

[0026] Although the above-preferred embodiments have been described with specificity, persons skilled in this art will recognize that many changes to the specific embodiments disclosed above could be made without departing from the spirit of the invention. For example, although it was shown in FIG. 7 how spa panel 61 is attached to the spa via “L” shaped brackets, spa panel 61 could also be attached via a gasket with adhesive on both sides. Also, although the above preferred embodiment showed only one IR receiver 65 attached to spa panel 61, it would be possible to attach a plurality of IR receivers to spa panel 61. Also, it should be understood a variety of various types of switching technology can be used for control keys 42. These include a variety of electromechanical switches, piezo transducers, membrane switches and capacitive switches. Also, plastic encasing 45 was described as being transparent. It is also possible to make plastic encasing 45 semitransparent or translucent so that sufficient IR light is allowed through to reach the IR receiver. For example, plastic encasing 45 could be made out of a colored plastic material. Or, plastic encasing 45 could be made out of another material besides plastic, such as a clear epoxy, polymer, glass, or any other material that would allow the IR light to reach the IR receiver. Therefore, the attached claims and their legal equivalents should determine the scope of the invention.