Title:
Automatic toilet seat lid raising and lowering device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toilet seat lid raising and lowering device relies on a motion sensor to trigger its operation. A housing containing the sensor, a motor and a spool is removably attached to a toilet tank. Upon detecting a user approaching the toilet area, the sensor sends an activation signal to the motor causing the motor to rotate the spool. A line is attached to the spool at one end and to the seat lid at a second end such that the rotation of the spool causes the line to raise the seat lid to an open position slightly angled from the tank. Once a user exits the toilet area, the motor returns to a neutral position allowing the spool to rotate in an opposite direction thereby lowering the seat lid by means of gravity. Resistance between the motor and spool prevent the seat lid from “crashing” to a closed position.



Inventors:
Miller, Daniel J. (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Application Number:
10/076815
Publication Date:
08/21/2003
Filing Date:
02/15/2002
Assignee:
MILLER DANIEL J.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/10; (IPC1-7): A47K13/10
View Patent Images:
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20080196150Toilet Clog Removal and Cleaning SystemAugust, 2008Martin
20020038475Splash and overspray guardApril, 2002Garrett et al.
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GREENBERG TRAURIG (LV) (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. An automatic toilet seat lid lifting device removably attached to a toilet comprising: a housing containing a motor coupled to a spool, said spool rotated by said motor; a power means for driving said motor; and a line having a first end attached to said spool, said line extending from said spool through a first opening in said housing to a second end attached to a toilet seat lid whereby the rotation of said spool collects said line thereby raising said toilet seat lid.

2. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 1 wherein said device is removably attached to a toilet tank.

3. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 1 further including means for said motor to cease rotating said spool once said toilet seat lid forms a minimum angle with a front face of a toilet tank, said motor maintaining the spool in place once the minimum angle is formed, said minimum angle being large enough to allow said toilet seat lid to lower to an original closed position by means of gravity should said spool be released by said motor.

4. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 3 wherein said means for said motor to cease rotating said spool is an adjustable clip secured to said line preventing further line from being drawn into said first opening of said housing.

5. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 1 further including a motion sensor communicating with a microprocessor that controls said motor.

6. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 4 wherein said motion sensor sends a signal to said microprocessor upon detecting a toilet user approaching said toilet, said microprocessor instructing said motor to rotate said spool thereby lifting said toilet seat lid.

7. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 4 wherein said motion sensor sends a signal to said microprocessor upon detecting a toilet user has moved away from said toilet, said microprocessor instructing said motor to release said spool thereby allowing said toilet seat lid to lower to an original closed position.

8. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 7 wherein the coupling of the motor and the spool incorporates a sufficient amount of resistance to cause the toilet seat lid to lower gradually to the original closed position.

9. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 1 wherein the power means is batteries.

10. The automatic toilet seat lid lifting device of claim 9 wherein a light emitting diode in communication with said batteries illuminates indicating that said batteries are low on power.

11. A method of lifting a toilet seat lid comprising: providing power to a motor; rotating a spool by means of said motor coupled thereto, said spool and motor contained within a housing removably attached to a toilet tank; and said spool collecting a line attached at a first end to said spool and at a second end to said toilet seat lid.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein said power is provided by batteries.

13. The method of claim 11 wherein said motor ceases rotating said spool once said toilet seat lid forms a minimum angle with a front face of a toilet tank, said motor maintaining the spool in place once the minimum angle is formed, said minimum angle being large enough to allow said toilet seat lid to lower to an original closed position by means of gravity should said spool be released by said motor.

14. The method of claim 11 further including a means for detecting motion near a toilet.

15. The method of claim 14 wherein said means for detecting motion near a toilet is a motion sensor.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein said means for detecting motion sends a signal to a microprocessor in communication with said motor upon detecting a toilet user approaching said toilet, said microprocessor instructing said motor to rotate said spool thereby lifting said toilet seat lid.

17. The method of claim 15 wherein said means for detecting motion sends a signal to a microprocessor in communication with said motor upon detecting a toilet user has moved away from said toilet, said microprocessor instructing said motor to release said spool thereby allowing said toilet seat lid to lower to an original closed position by means of gravity.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein the coupling of the motor and the spool incorporates a sufficient amount of resistance to cause the toilet seat lid to lower gradually to the original closed position.

19. The method of claim 12 wherein an light emitting diode in communication with said batteries illuminates indicating that said batteries are low on power.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

[0001] This invention is in the general field of conventional toilets. More particularly, means for raising and lowering a toilet seat lid automatically and without user participation is described herein. The present invention raises and lowers a toilet seat lid automatically in response to a user's location and movements by means of a motion sensor.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART

[0002] Patents related to automatic toilet seats are plentiful and well known. Unfortunately, while plentiful, the patented items are either not marketable or so complicated that they are not practical in the real world. By way of example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 1,276,472, 2,136,684, 3,055,016, 4,807,307, 5,488,743, 5,594,958, 5,829,068 and 5,852,833 are each directed to devices for lifting a toilet seat and/or lid by means of foot pedals. In all instances, a userdepresses one or more foot pedals causing said toilet seat and/or lid to be raised. Each of the aforementioned patented inventions require a toilet user to participate by depressing the foot pedals. Moreover, assembly of the foot pedal devices is difficult and the ultimate product is unsightly.

[0003] More noteworthy than the foot pedal designs is U.S. Pat. No. 6,038,708 (the '708 Patent) entitled “Automatic Toilet Seat With Protective Covering.” The '708 Patent describes a geared mechanism for lifting a toilet seat. The '708 further describes three sensors for operating the invention but only a flush sensor is specifically used to sense the presence of an individual and react thereto. In practice, the mechanism is located within a toilet tank and requires significant installation in connection with an existing toilet or complete integration during a toilet manufacturing process.

[0004] Based on the shortcomings of the aforementioned toilet seat and toilet lid lifting patents, there continues to be a need for a simple toilet seat lid raising and lowering device requiring no user participation and having an unobtrusive appearance. Handicapped individuals and children will especially benefit from the automatic nature of the present invention. The present invention may be installed in minutes and is small enough to remain substantially hidden from view. Further, the present invention operates in a completely automatic fashion such that a user has no responsibility beyond installation.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] An object of the present invention is to provide a device for automatically raising and lowering a toilet seat lid that is simple to install.

[0006] Another object of the present invention is to provide a unobtrusive device for automatically raising and lowering a toilet seat lid.

[0007] A further object of the present invention is to provide a cost effective device for automatically raising and lowering a toilet seat lid.

[0008] Yet another object of the present invention is to provide the handicapped and children with an automatic service which is ordinarily complicated given the specific individual.

[0009] According to the present invention, a line or the like is attached at one end to a spool and the other end to a horizontal toilet seat lid. A motor driving the spool causes said line to withdraw thereby raising said seat lid. A motion sensor in a housing of said motor initiates the automatic raising of the toilet seat lid.

[0010] To remain unobtrusive, the housing is removably attached to an end of a toilet tank. In this location, the sensor is also able to discern the presence of user movement and initiate the raising and lowering processes automatically. Upon sensing user movement, said motion sensor sends a signal to said motor, thus activating said motor, causing the spool to rotate drawing the line within the housing thereby physically raising the toilet seat lid.

[0011] The motion sensor resides within said housing and faces a front area of the toilet through an opening in said housing. The motion sensor can use any type of medium to detect motion, including microwave energy, ultrasonic waves, infrared energy or radio frequency signals to accomplish its sensing objectives. However, it is desirable that the sensor be set at an optimum distance to prevent unwanted raising of the toilet seat lid. In most instances, the sensor will be set to detect movement from less than 10 feet depending on the size of a bathroom facility.

[0012] Preferably, the motor and sensor are powered by conventional or rechargeable batteries. Alternatively, a power cord may be used to connect the present invention to an electrical outlet located in the bathroom facility. Installation of the present invention is limited to attaching the housing to the toilet tank and attaching one end of the line to the toilet seat lid.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 is a top view of the present invention installed on a toilet;

[0014] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the present invention installed on a toilet;

[0015] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the present invention removed from a toilet;

[0016] FIG. 4 is a block diagram of internal components of the present invention; and

[0017] FIG. 5 is a side view of the present invention with a seat lid in a final open position.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

[0018] Reference is now made to the figures wherein like parts are referred to by like numerals throughout. Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a toilet 1 includes a tank 10, tank lid 15, seat 20, seat lid 25 and a bowl 30. The toilet tank 10 supports a housing 35 having line 40 extending therefrom through first opening 42 to attach with the toilet seat lid 25. Although the line 40 can be any rope, cable, string, chain or the like, it is preferably a pliable material conducive to being wrapped, without tangling, about a spool. The attachment of the line 40 to the toilet seat lid 25 is facilitated by means of an attachment member 45 connected to a first end of said line 40. In a preferred embodiment, the attachment member 45 includes a Velcro® portion that removably attaches to a corresponding Velcro® member 50 located on the seat lid 25. Preferably attachment member 50 is held in place on the seat lid 25 by an adhesive. The final location of the Velcro® member 50 is ultimately determined by a toilet user and/or operator to maximize the effectiveness of the present invention. Individual seat lid models may have different sizes and weight configurations requiring, for proper operation, different locations for the seat lid attachment member 50. For example, the attachment member 50 may be placed anywhere along a top surface or bottom surface of the toilet seat lid 25. Alternatively, the line 40 may be permanently attached to the seat lid 25 at a pre-selected optimum position.

[0019] Housing 35 includes a second opening 43 providing a line of sight for a motion sensor 55. The motion sensor 55 faces a front area of the toilet such that user movement is detected by said sensor 55. Although the sensor 55 may rely on any means, including microwave energy, ultrasonic waves or radio frequency signals, to detect a user approaching said toilet 1, infrared means are preferred. Infrared technology allows the size of the motion sensor 55 to be minimized. Moreover, infrared means are accurate and may be narrowly focused to avoid detecting extraneous movements. Preferably, the sensor 55 is adjustable so that a user and/or operator may adjust the aim of the sensor 55 to insure a proper coverage area. In other words, with too large a coverage area the present invention will be unnecessarily activated and with too small a coverage area the present invention will not activate when required. In an alternative embodiment, given the standard nature of toilets and bathroom facilities, the sensor 55 may be preadjusted during a manufacturing process.

[0020] Now referring to FIG. 3, to facilitate the removable attachment of the housing 35 to the toilet tank 10, two hooks 60 extend from a top surface of said housing 35. Attachment of the housing is accomplished by removing the toilet tank lid 15 and placing the hooks 60 over a top perimeter of the tank 10 such that the housing 35 hangs adjacent an outside surface of said tank 10. Preferably, the housing 35 is located near a front of the toilet 1 thereby assuring the coverage area of the sensor 55 includes areas directly in front of the toilet 1 and on an opposite side of the toilet 1 from the attached housing 35.

[0021] FIG. 4 illustrates, in a block diagram, the internal components of the housing 35. The housing 35 contains the sensor 55, a motor 65, a spool 70 and a power means 75. The sensor 55 communicates with said motor 65 that is coupled to, and drives, said spool 70. Therefore, when sensor 55 detects a user approaching said toilet 1, it sends an activation signal to motor 65, more particularly a microprocessor 66 in communication with the motor 65, causing said motor 65 to rotate said spool 70 thereby retrieving the line 40 compelling said seat lid 25 to raise. The microprocessor 66 does not need to be highly sophisticated as it functions primarily as a conduit between the spool 70 and the motor 65. The power means 75 powers the sensor 55, microprocessor 66 and the motor 65. A clip 80 removably attached to said line 40 provides the impetus for the motor 65 to stop rotating the spool 70 but continuing to hold the spool 70 and seat lid 25 in place. The clip 80 restricts the line 40 from entering the opening 42 once the seat lid 25 is in the final open position. Although the clip 80 is described, any attachment on the line 40 may be used to perform the same function. The clip 80 is to be positioned along line 40 to stop the motor 65 while the seat lid 25 still defines a small angle (shown as angle A in FIG. 5) with a front face of said tank 10. As illustrated in FIG. 5, the angle must be large enough that, when unencumbered, gravity will return the seat lid 25 to a closed position. Upon detecting the user leaving the toilet 1 area, the sensor 55 sends a signal to the microprocessor 66 in communication with the motor 65 causing said motor 65 to return a neutral position thus releasing the spool 70 causing gravity to lower said seat lid 25 to the closed position. The connection of the motor 65 and spool 70 involves sufficient resistance to prevent the toilet seat lid 25 from free-falling to the closed position but not enough to prevent the seat lid 25 from returning to the closed position.

[0022] If the present invention is prefabricated according to a specific toilet and toilet seat lid, the microprocessor 66 may be programed to cease the motor 65 at precisely the correct time so that the toilet seat lid 25 forms the proper angle with the toilet tank 10. In this manner, the use of clip 80 can be eliminated.

[0023] Preferably, power means 75 comprise off-the-shelf Alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries may also be used. In either embodiment, a light emitting diode (LED) in communication with said batteries illuminates to indicate that said batteries are low on power and need to be changed or recharged. Light from the LED shines through a third opening 85 in said housing 35. Alternatively, a power cord (not shown) plugged into a standard electrical outlet in a bathroom facility powers the present invention.

[0024] An on-off switch 90 allows the present invention to be turned off to facilitate adjusting the location of attachment member 50, adjusting the location of said clip 80 along said line 40 and adjusting said sensor 55. When turned off, the resistance between the motor 65 and spool 70 is eliminated allowing the line 40 to be pulled to any length from within the housing 35. Thereafter, a combination of common sense and trial and error dictate the final location of the attachment member 50 and the clip 80 to guarantee the seat lid 25 raises and lowers properly. Once the attachment member 50 and clip 80 are optimally located, the user need only change the batteries intermittently as required. A removable top of said housing 35 provides means for the sensor 55 to be adjusted if necessary.

[0025] Although the invention has been described in detail with reference to a preferred embodiment, additional variations and modifications exist within the scope and spirit of the invention as described and defined in the following claims.





 
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