Title:
Vacuum wand control device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A device is disclosed for controlling the operation of a vacuum cleaning assembly, which assembly includes a vacuum-creating source, a vacuum hose attachable to the vacuum-creating source, a vacuum cleaning head, and a suction wand operatively connecting the vacuum hose to the cleaning head. The device includes a wand connection member having a housing with a first end attachable to the vacuum hose and a second end attachable to the suction wand. A valve element is disposed in the housing. The valve element is movable between a closed position to block the vacuum between the vacuum-creating source and the cleaning head, and an open position to provide full vacuum between the vacuum-creating source and the cleaning head. A transfer mechanism is secured to the housing for controlling the movement of the valve element between its closed and open positions. A control handle engages the transfer mechanism and is adapted to move between first and second operating positions while imparting this movement to the transfer mechanism. The control handle first operating position corresponds to the valve element closed position, while the second operating position corresponds to the valve element open position. A bias mechanism is provided for urging the control handle toward its first operating position. Finally, the control handle is sized and shaped to permit an operator of the device to maintain the handle in its second operating position with one hand while operating the suction wand and cleaning head.



Inventors:
Wallace, Richard E. (Thornton, CO, US)
Application Number:
10/295147
Publication Date:
05/20/2004
Filing Date:
11/15/2002
Assignee:
WALLACE RICHARD E.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47L9/24; (IPC1-7): A47L7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
TILL, TERRENCE R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John L. Isaac, Esq. (Lakewood, CO, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A device for controlling the operation of a vacuum cleaning assembly, wherein the assembly includes a vacuum-creating source, a vacuum hose attachable to the vacuum-creating source, a vacuum cleaning head, and a suction wand operatively connecting the vacuum hose to the cleaning head, said device comprising: a wand connection member, said connection member including a housing defining a first open end attachable to the vacuum hose and a second open end attachable to the suction wand; a valve element disposed in said housing, said valve element being movable between a closed position to block the vacuum between the vacuum-creating source and the cleaning head, and an open position to provide full vacuum between the vacuum-creating source and the cleaning head; a transfer mechanism secured to said housing for controlling the movement of said valve element between said closed and open positions; a control handle engaging said transfer mechanism and adapted to move between first and second operating positions while imparting said movement to said transfer mechanism, said first operating position corresponding to said valve element closed position and said second operating position corresponding to said valve element open position, said control handle being sized and shaped to permit an operator of said device to maintain said handle in said second operating position with one hand while operating the suction wand and cleaning head; and a bias mechanism for urging said control handle toward said first operating position.

2. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said control handle projects outwardly from said connection member housing when in said first operating position and is substantially adjacent the exterior of said housing when in said second operating position.

3. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said housing includes a tubular passageway defining said first and second housing ends, said valve element being disposed within said passageway intermediate said housing ends to substantially seal said passageway when in said closed position.

4. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said valve element comprises a flap member pivotally mounted within said housing to move between said closed position to substantially seal said housing, and said open position to permit substantially unobstructed flow through said housing.

5. The device as claimed in claim 4, wherein said flap member comprises a butterfly valve having a center pivot pin attached to opposite interior surfaces of said housing, said valve pivoting between a substantially vertical orientation within said housing to define said closed position, and a substantially horizontal orientation within said housing to define said open position.

6. The device as claimed in claim 2, wherein said transfer mechanism comprises a gear arrangement secured to move said valve element between said closed and open positions in response to movement of said control handle between said first and second operating positions, respectively.

7. The device as claimed in claim 6, wherein said transfer mechanism comprises a first gear element attached to rotate with said valve element, and a second gear element attached to rotate with movement of said control handle, said first gear element being enmeshed with said second gear element to translate movement of said control handle into movement of said valve element.

8. The device as claimed in claim 6, wherein said control handle includes a base portion and an arm portion extending therefrom, said base portion having a pair of ears overlapping said housing and pivotally mounted thereto to permit movement of said control handle between said first and second operating positions, said base portion having a gear element attached thereto for movement therewith and engaged with said transfer mechanism gear arrangement to move said valve element with corresponding movement of said control element arm and base portions.

9. The device as claimed in claim 8, wherein said arm portion is shaped to conform to the exterior surface of said housing and the suction wand emanating therefrom when said control handle is in said second operating position.

10. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said bias mechanism comprises a resilient member attached to said handle and to said transfer mechanism exterior of said housing to urge said handle away from said housing and into said first operating position to close said valve element.

11. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said bias mechanism comprises a resilient member disposed within said housing and attached to said valve element and said transfer mechanism to normally urge said valve element into said closed vacuum position and said control handle into said first operating position.

12. A device for controlling the vacuum flow of a carpet cleaning wand comprising: a tubular housing having a pair of end portions adapted for vacuum hose connection; a vacuum flow valve disposed in said tubular housing and movable between a vacuum shutoff position and a vacuum flow position; an actuating lever mounted to said housing and movable between first and second operating positions; and a motion transfer mechanism for operatively coupling said actuating lever and said vacuum flow valve wherein said lever first operating position corresponds to said valve vacuum shutoff position, and said lever second operating position corresponds to said valve vacuum flow position.

13. The device as claimed in claim 12, wherein said device further comprises a bias element positioned to urge said actuating lever toward said first operating position.

14. The device as claimed in claim 12, wherein said actuating lever projects outwardly from said housing when in said first operating position and is substantially aligned with the exterior of said housing when in said second operating position.

15. The device as claimed in claim 13, wherein said transfer mechanism comprises a first gear element attached to rotate with said flow valve, and a second gear element attached to rotate with movement of said actuating lever, said first gear element being enmeshed with said second gear element to translate movement of said actuating lever into movement of said flow valve, and wherein said actuating lever includes a base portion and an arm portion extending therefrom, said base portion having a pair of ears overlapping said housing and pivotally mounted thereto to permit movement of said lever between said first and second operating positions, said base portion having said second gear element attached thereto for movement therewith and engaged with said first gear element to move said flow valve with corresponding movement of said actuating lever arm and base portions.

16. The device as claimed in claim 12, wherein said flow valve comprises a flap member pivotally mounted within said housing to move between said vacuum shutoff position to substantially seal said tubular housing, and said vacuum flow position to permit substantially unobstructed flow through said housing.

17. The device as claimed in claim 16, wherein said flap member comprises a butterfly valve having a center pivot pin attached to opposite interior surfaces of said tubular housing, said valve pivoting between a substantially vertical orientation within said housing to define said vacuum shutoff position, and a substantially horizontal orientation within said housing to define said vacuum flow position.

18. The device as claimed in claim 12, wherein said motion transfer mechanism comprises a first gear element attached to rotate with said flow valve, and a second gear element attached to rotate with movement of said actuating lever, said first gear element being enmeshed with said second gear element to translate movement of said actuating lever into movement of said flow valve.

19. The device as claimed in claim 13, wherein said bias element comprises a resilient member attached to actuating lever.

20. A carpet cleaning wand adapted for attachment to a hose coupled to a vacuum source, said wand comprising: a removable cleaning head element adapted for selective vacuum contact with a carpeted surface; a wand suction hose having one end adapted for coupling to said cleaning head element; a wand control element having a housing with one end portion secured to said wand suction hose and a second end portion attachable to a vacuum source hose; a liquid applicator tube for applying cleaning liquid to a carpet proximate said cleaning head element, said tube being attached to said control element housing and said cleaning head element; a trigger mechanism mounted proximate said housing for one-handed operation of said applicator tube for the selective application of cleaning liquid to a carpet; a vacuum flow control valve disposed in said wand control element housing and adapted for movement between a vacuum activation position wherein vacuum is delivered at said cleaning head element, and a vacuum cessation position wherein vacuum is terminated at said cleaning head element; a vacuum actuating lever mounted to said housing and movable between first and second operating positions; a transfer mechanism operatively coupling said actuating lever to said vacuum flow control valve wherein said actuating lever first operating position corresponds to said valve vacuum cessation position, and said actuating lever second operating position corresponds to said valve vacuum activation position; and a mechanism positioned to apply a bias force against said actuating lever to urge it toward its first operating position to require a force in opposition to said bias force to move said lever to its second operating position and said valve to its vacuum activation position.

21. The cleaning wand as claimed in claim 20, wherein said trigger mechanism and said vacuum actuating lever are positioned on said housing to enable simultaneous one-handed operation of both said trigger mechanism and said vacuum actuating lever.

22. The cleaning wand as claimed in claim 20, wherein said lever projects outwardly from said control element housing when in said first operating position, and is aligned substantially adjacent the exterior of said housing when in said second operating position, said actuating lever including a base portion and an arm portion extending therefrom, said base portion having a pair of ears overlapping said housing and pivotally mounted thereto to permit movement of said lever between said first and second operating positions, said base portion having a gear element attached thereto for movement therewith and engaged with said transfer mechanism to move said control valve with corresponding movement of said lever arm and base portions.

23. The cleaning wand as claimed in claim 20, wherein said control valve comprises a butterfly valve having a center pivot pin attached to opposite interior surfaces of said control element housing, said valve pivoting between a substantially vertical orientation within said housing to define said vacuum cessation position, and a substantially horizontal orientation within said housing to define said vacuum activation position.

24. The cleaning wand as claimed in claim 20, wherein said transfer mechanism comprises a gear arrangement secured to move said flow control valve between said vacuum cessation position and said vacuum activation position in response to movement of said actuating lever between said first and second operating positions, respectively, the gear arrangement of said transfer mechanism comprising a first gear element attached to rotate with said flow control valve, and a second gear element attached to rotate with movement of said actuating lever, said first gear element being enmeshed with said second gear element to translate movement of said actuating lever into movement of said flow control valve.

25. The cleaning wand as claimed in claim 20, wherein said bias force application mechanism comprises a resilient member.

26. The cleaning wand as claimed in claim 25, wherein said resilient member comprises a spring element secured to said lever.

27. A vacuum cleaning assembly comprising: a unit for creating vacuum suction; a vacuum hose attachable to said vacuum-creating unit; a vacuum cleaning head; a suction wand operatively connecting said vacuum hose to said cleaning head; a wand control member having a housing with a first end attachable to said vacuum hose and a second end attachable to said suction wand; a valve element disposed in said wand control member housing, said valve element being movable between a closed position to block the vacuum from said vacuum-creating unit to said cleaning head, and an open position to deliver full vacuum from said vacuum-creating unit to said cleaning head; a control handle engaging said housing and adapted to move between first and second operating positions, said handle projecting outwardly from said connection member housing when in said first operating position while corresponding to said valve element closed position, and being aligned proximate the exterior surface of said housing when in said second operating position while corresponding to said valve element open position, a motion transfer mechanism associated with said housing for moving said valve element between said closed and open positions in response to movement of said control handle between said first and second operating positions, respectively; a resilient member for applying a bias force against said control handle to urge it toward said first operating position, said control handle being sized and shaped to permit one-handed operation of said wand connection member valve by maintaining said handle in said second operating position in opposition to the bias force of said resilient member; a cleaning liquid discharge hose secured to said housing and adapted to selectively apply cleaning fluid to said vacuum cleaning head; and a trigger member for selectively activating said cleaning liquid discharge hose and secured to said housing for one-handed operation thereof in combination with one-handed operation of said control handle.

28. The assembly as claimed in claim 27, wherein said trigger member and said control handle are positioned on said housing to enable simultaneous one-handed operation of both said trigger member and said control handle.

29. The assembly as claimed in claim 27, wherein said control handle projects outwardly from said housing when in said first operating position, and is substantially aligned with the exterior of said housing when in said second operating position, said control handle including a base portion and an arm lever extending therefrom, said base portion having a pair of ears overlapping said housing and pivotally mounted thereto to permit movement of said arm lever between said first and second operating positions, said base portion having a gear element attached thereto for movement therewith and engaged with said motion transfer mechanism to move said valve element with corresponding movement of said control handle arm lever and base portions.

30. The assembly as claimed in claim 27, wherein said valve element comprises a butterfly valve having a center pivot pin attached to opposite interior surfaces of said control member housing, said valve pivoting between a substantially vertical orientation within said housing to define said closed position, and a substantially horizontal orientation within said housing to define said open position.

31. The assembly as claimed in claim 30, wherein said motion transfer mechanism comprises a gear arrangement secured to move said butterfly valve between said closed and open positions in response to movement of said control handle between said first and second operating positions, respectively, the gear arrangement of said motion transfer mechanism comprising a first gear element attached to rotate with said butterfly valve, and a second gear element attached to rotate with movement of said control handle, said first gear element being enmeshed with said second gear element to translate movement of said control handle into movement of said valve element.

32. The assembly as claimed in claim 27, wherein said resilient member comprises a spring disposed exterior of said housing and attached to said control handle to urge said control handle away from said housing and into said first operating position to close said valve element.

33. The assembly as claimed in claim 27, wherein said resilient member comprises a spring disposed within said control housing and attached to said valve element and said transfer mechanism to urge said valve element into said closed position and said control handle into said first operating position.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates generally to vacuum cleaning systems and, more particularly, to carpet cleaning systems especially adaptable for mobile applications. Specifically, the present invention relates to wand control devices and structures for vacuum cleaning systems.

[0003] 2. Description of the Prior Art

[0004] Traditionally, the starting and stopping operations of vacuum cleaners, central vacuum systems, carpet cleaning apparatus and the like are carried out by means of switches positioned in connection with the vacuum cleaner, and oftentimes located in the vacuum cleaner handles. In fact, some of the newer vacuum cleaner systems have incorporated microchip electronics in the handle switching system to control one or more motors of the vacuum cleaning systems. Examples of such devices are illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. 3,579,706, No. 3,588,953, No. 4,357,729, No. 4,654,924, No. 5,363,534, No. 5,495,636, and No. 5,515,572. However, all of these illustrated devices are canister-type vacuum cleaners typically for use in a home environment. None are particularly adaptable for carpet and upholstery cleaning on a commercial basis.

[0005] U.S. Pat. No. 5,018,238 and No. 5,060,341 also disclose vacuum powered cleaning devices that utilize a hand held wand with an electrical switching mechanism. As in the prior illustrated devices, the electrical switching system is located in the hand held wand component. Finally, U.S. Pat. No. Re. 36,584 illustrates a central household vacuum cleaning system designed with a wand control device which incorporates a vacuum closure flap in combination with a sound or pressure impulse element in the wand for controlling the vacuum start and stop procedure thereof. However, this particular system requires that a vacuum source be mounted in a fixed location so that the sound pressure impulses can interact with a receiver component thereon, and that the vacuum creating source itself start and stop each time.

[0006] Commercial carpet cleaning systems utilized for cleaning residential or commercial carpeting frequently include two or more vacuum hoses and cleaning nozzles originating from a single vacuum device or source. In this manner, two or more operators can clean the carpet of a residence or commercial structure simultaneously in order to reduce the amount of time required to complete the particular job. These carpet cleaning systems are frequently mobile with the vacuum-creating source been mounted in a truck, van or the like. The cleaning whip hoses in each instance generally include a wand at the end having a vacuum nozzle for sucking up cleaning liquid and dirt as well as a fluid nozzle for applying cleaning liquid to a carpet.

[0007] When both hoses and wands are operating with the respective vacuum nozzles in contact with a carpet, a vacuum is created in both lines from the source located in the truck or van. A frequent problem occurs, however, when an operator of one of the vacuum wands lifts the nozzle head off the carpet in order to applying liquid or move the nozzle head to a different location. When this happens, the vacuum suction in that line becomes temporarily interrupted until the nozzle head is placed back into contact with the carpet. Unfortunately, this action also temporarily breaks the vacuum in any other hoses and wands attached to the same vacuum source. The devices outlined in the referenced patents above are not designed to address this particular problem which is frequently inherent in commercial carpet cleaning systems. Moreover, the vacuum source cannot be completely turned on and off each time an operator wants to change the wand location. Therefore, there remains a need, particularly in the commercial carpet cleaning industry, to have an in-line vacuum control system wherein one vacuum line can be lifted off the carpet without affecting the vacuum in the remaining lines attached to the same vacuum-creating source.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] Accordingly, it is one object of the present invention to provide an improved vacuum cleaning system.

[0009] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved carpet-cleaning wand attachable to a vacuum source.

[0010] Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a control device for a vacuum-cleaning wand, which enables the operator to control the vacuum at the cleaning head without turning off the system.

[0011] Still another object of the present invention is to provide an improved vacuum cleaning wand and assembly particularly adaptable to mobile cleaning applications.

[0012] To achieve the foregoing and other objects and in accordance with the purpose of the present invention, as embodied and broadly described herein, a device is disclosed for controlling the operation of a vacuum cleaning assembly. The assembly typically includes a vacuum-creating source, a vacuum hose attachable to the vacuum-creating source, a vacuum cleaning head, and a suction wand operatively connecting the vacuum hose to the cleaning head. The device of the invention includes a wand connection member having a housing with a first end attachable to the vacuum hose and a second end attachable to the suction wand. A valve element is disposed in the housing. The valve element is movable between a closed position to block the vacuum between the vacuum-creating source and the cleaning head, and an open position to provide full vacuum between the vacuum-creating source and the cleaning head. A transfer mechanism is secured to the housing for controlling the movement of the valve element between its closed and open positions. A control handle engages the transfer mechanism and is adapted to move between first and second operating positions while imparting this movement to the transfer mechanism. The control handle first operating position corresponds to the valve element closed position, while the second operating position corresponds to the valve element open position. A bias mechanism is provided for urging the control handle toward its first operating position. Finally, the control handle is sized and shaped to permit an operator of the device to maintain the handle in its second operating position with one hand while operating the suction wand and cleaning head.

[0013] In one application of the invention, the control handle projects outwardly from the connection member housing when in its first operating position, and is substantially adjacent the exterior of the housing when it is in its second operating position. Additionally, the housing may include a tubular passageway which defines the first and second housing ends, the valve element being disposed within the passageway intermediate the housing ends to substantially seal the passageway when in its closed position.

[0014] In another aspect of the invention, the valve element is in the form of a flap member which is pivotally mounted within the housing to move between the closed position to substantially seal the housing, and the open position to permit substantially unobstructed flow through the housing. In one form of this aspect, the flap member is a butterfly valve having a center pivot pin attached to opposite interior surfaces of the housing. In this instance, the valve pivots between a substantially vertical orientation within the housing to define the valve closed position, and a substantially horizontal orientation within the housing to define the valve open position.

[0015] Another application of the invention includes the transfer mechanism being in the form of a gear arrangement secured to move the valve element between its closed and open positions in response to movement of the control handle between its first and second operating positions, respectively. In one form, the transfer mechanism includes a first gear element attached to rotate with the valve element, and a second gear element attached to rotate with movement of the control handle, the first gear element being enmeshed with the second gear element to translate movement of the control handle into movement of the valve element.

[0016] In another aspect of the invention, the control handle includes a base portion and an arm portion extending therefrom. The base portion has a pair of ears which overlap the housing and are pivotally mounted thereto. This permits movement of the control handle between its first and second operating positions. In one form, the base portion has a gear element attached thereto for movement therewith and is engaged with the transfer mechanism gear arrangement to move the valve element with corresponding movement of the control element arm and base portions. Moreover, the arm portion can be shaped to conform to the exterior surface of the housing and the suction wand emanating therefrom when the control handle is in its second operating position.

[0017] In yet another application of the invention, the bias mechanism is in the form of a resilient member attached to the handle and to said transfer mechanism exterior of the housing to urge the handle away from the housing and into its first operating position to close the valve element. Alternatively, the bias mechanism may be in the form of a resilient member disposed within the housing and attached to the valve element and the transfer mechanism to urge the valve element into its closed vacuum position and the control handle into its first operating position.

[0018] In still another application of the invention, a device is disclosed for controlling the vacuum flow of a carpet cleaning wand. This device includes a tubular housing having a pair of end portions adapted for vacuum hose connection. A vacuum flow valve is disposed in the tubular housing and is movable between a vacuum shutoff position and a vacuum flow position. An actuating lever is mounted to the housing and is movable between first and second operating positions. Finally, a motion transfer mechanism is provided for operatively coupling the actuating lever and the vacuum flow valve wherein the lever first operating position corresponds to the valve vacuum shutoff position, and the lever second operating position corresponds to the valve vacuum flow position. In one alternate aspect hereof, the device further includes a bias element positioned to urge the actuating lever toward its first operating position.

[0019] A further application of the invention includes a carpet cleaning wand adapted for attachment to a hose coupled to a vacuum source. The wand includes a removable cleaning head element adapted for selective vacuum contact with a carpeted surface. A wand suction hose is provided and has one end adapted for coupling to the cleaning head element. A wand control element has a housing with one end portion secured to the wand suction hose and a second end portion attachable to a vacuum source hose. A liquid applicator tube is positioned for applying cleaning liquid to a carpet proximate the cleaning head element, the tube being attached to the control element housing and the cleaning head element. A trigger mechanism is mounted proximate the housing for one-handed operation of the applicator tube for the selective application of cleaning liquid to a carpet. A vacuum flow control valve is disposed in the wand control element housing and is adapted for movement between a vacuum activation position wherein vacuum is delivered at the cleaning head element, and a vacuum cessation position wherein vacuum is terminated at the cleaning head element. A vacuum actuating lever is also mounted to the housing and is movable between first and second operating positions. A transfer mechanism operatively couples the actuating lever to the vacuum flow control valve wherein the actuating lever first operating position corresponds to the valve vacuum cessation position, and the actuating lever second operating position corresponds to the valve vacuum activation position. Finally, a mechanism is positioned to apply a bias force against the actuating lever to urge it toward its first operating position to thereby require a force in opposition to this bias force to move the lever to its second operating position and the valve to its vacuum activation position.

[0020] In still another application of the invention, a vacuum cleaning assembly is provided. The assembly includes a unit for creating vacuum suction, a vacuum hose attachable to the vacuum-creating unit, a vacuum cleaning head and a suction wand operatively connecting the vacuum hose to the cleaning head. A wand control member is provided and has a housing with a first end attachable to the vacuum hose and a second end attachable to the suction wand. A valve element is disposed in the wand control member housing, the valve element being movable between a closed position to block the vacuum from the vacuum-creating unit to the cleaning head, and an open position to deliver full vacuum from the vacuum-creating unit to the cleaning head. A control handle engages the housing and is adapted to move between first and second operating positions. The handle projects outwardly from the connection member housing when in its first operating position which corresponds to the valve element closed position, and is aligned proximate the exterior surface of the housing when in its second operating position which corresponds to the valve element open position. A motion transfer mechanism is associated with the housing for moving the valve element between its closed and open positions in response to movement of the control handle between its first and second operating positions, respectively. A resilient member applies a bias force against the control handle to urge it toward its first operating position, and the control handle is sized and shaped to permit one-handed operation of the wand connection member valve by maintaining the handle in its second operating position in opposition to the bias force of the resilient member. A cleaning liquid discharge hose is also secured to the housing and is adapted to selectively apply cleaning fluid to the vacuum cleaning head. Finally, a trigger member is provided for selectively activating the cleaning liquid discharge hose and is secured to the housing for one-handed operation thereof in combination with one-handed operation of the control handle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0021] The accompanying drawings which are incorporated in and form a part of the specification illustrate exemplary and preferred embodiments of the present invention and, together with a description, serve to explain the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

[0022] FIG. 1 is a schematic illustrating a mobile vacuum cleaning system utilizing one embodiment of the control device as constructed in accordance with the present invention;

[0023] FIG. 2 is a side schematic illustrating one preferred embodiment of the device, in an open position, as constructed in accordance with the present invention;

[0024] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken substantially along line 3-3 of FIG. 2;

[0025] FIG. 4 is a side schematic of the device of FIG. 2 but illustrating the device in a closed position;

[0026] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken substantially along line 5-5 of FIG. 4;

[0027] FIG. 6 is a side view of a spring bias element utilized in one embodiment of the present invention;

[0028] FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view similar to that of FIG. 3 but illustrating an alternate bias mechanism for an embodiment of the present invention with the device in a vacuum open position;

[0029] FIG. 8 is a plan view taken substantially along line 8-8 of FIG. 7 and illustrating a motion transfer mechanism utilized with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0030] FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view similar to the view of FIG. 7 but illustrating the device in a vacuum closed position;

[0031] FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view similar to that of FIG. 7 but illustrating an alternate valve element and bias mechanism for an embodiment of the present invention with the device in a vacuum open position; and

[0032] FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view similar to the view of FIG. 10 but illustrating the device in a vacuum closed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0033] Referring first to FIG. 1, a mobile carpet cleaning system 10 is illustrated. Typical of such systems, a mobile vehicle, such as a van 12, includes a vacuum creating source 14 of any type standard in the industry. Generally, a pair of vacuum whip hoses 16, 18 connect to the vacuum source 14 and extend therefrom. The whips 16, 18 are in turn connected, respectively, to cleaning wands 20, 22, which in turn terminate in cleaning heads 24, 26. When it is desired to clean carpets, by way of example, a liquid cleaning solution is transferred from solution storage units 28, 30 to liquid nozzles 32, 34 through liquid discharge hoses 36, 38, respectively. Trigger assemblies 40, 42 enable an operator of the wands 20, 22 to selectively activate the liquid nozzles 32, 34.

[0034] Prior to the advent of the present invention, the vacuum source 14 was started, and a vacuum was then created at both nozzles 24, 26 to suction up liquid and debris from the carpet on which the nozzles 24, 26 rested. However, when a nozzle 24 was lifted up to brake contact with the carpet, the vacuum at the nozzle 24 dissipated, and this in turn caused a temporary break in the vacuum created at the other nozzle 26, since both nozzles 24, 26 emanate from the same source 14 which remained on.

[0035] To address this problem, a vacuum control device 44 constructed in accordance with the presenrt invention is inserted at the end of each wand 20, 22. The device 44 is designed to enable an operator of one of the wands 20, 22 to turn the vacuum off at the nozzle end 24 or 26 without affecting the vacuum at the other nozzles attached to the same vacuum source 14. In this manner, when the affected nozzle is removed from contact with the carpet, the vacuum will not be affected in the remaining whips and nozzles.

[0036] Referring now to FIGS. 1-6 and 8, the control device 44 is preferably in the form of a detachable member having a tubular housing 46. While a preferred embodiment of the invention will be described in detail herein, it should be understood that the present invention is not to be limited to this specific description but rather interpreted in accordance with the appended claims. The tubular housing 46 may be constructed from any appropriate material such as plastic or metal and is preferably hollow. The housing 46 defines a first end 48 and a second end 50 opposite therefrom. The first end 48 is sized and shaped to be removably attached to the vacuum hose or whip 18, while the second end 50 is sized and shaped for removable attachment to a wand tube or hose 52. In this manner, the control device 44 may be a separate unit attachable to the wand 22 or, in an alternate embodiment, it may be an integral part thereof.

[0037] A valve mechanism 54 is disposed within the housing 46 and is designed to move between an open position wherein vacuum flow, liquid and debris are free to move through the housing 56 between the nozzle 26 and the vacuum source 14, and a closed position wherein the vacuum created by the source 14 is shut off from the nozzle 26. When the vacuum is so shut off, removing the nozzle 26 from contact with the carpet does nothing with respect to the vacuum in the whip hose 18 and the remaining components of the system 10. Therefore, it does not affect the vacuum created within the nozzle 24 as in the prior art. In preferred form, a control handle 56 is pivotally mounted to the housing 46 and is adapted to move between first and second operating positions 58, 60, which in turn correspond to the closed and open positions of the valve mechanism 54 as described in greater detail below.

[0038] In one preferred form, the valve mechanism 54 is in the form of a butterfly valve 62 which is pivotally mounted to the interior surface 64 of the housing 46 by a central pivot pin 66. The open position is illustrated in FIG. 3 wherein the valve 62 is oriented substantially horizontally within the housing 46 so as to provide a substantially open space 68 wherein vacuum flow, liquid and debris are free to move. The closed position of the valve 62 is illustrated in FIG. 4 wherein the valve 62 is oriented substantially vertically within housing 46. This vertical orientation shuts off the housing 46 and prevents vacuum flow from the nozzle 26 through the housing 46 along with liquid and debris.

[0039] The control handle 56 preferably includes a base portion 70 which in turn includes a pair of ears 72, 74 that are pivotally mounted to the housing 46 by a pivot pin 76. An elongated lever arm 78 extends outwardly from the base portion 70 and provides the handle which an operator moves to control operation of the device 44. In preferred form, the lever arm 78 has an arcuate cross-sectional shape so that it nests neatly against the outer surface of the tubular housing 44 and the wand tube 52 when in its open position 60 as illustrated in FIG. 2. In addition, the base portion 70 and the lever arm 78 are preferably sized and shaped so that the lever arm 78 projects outwardly away from the housing 46 when in its open position 58 as illustrated in FIG. 4. It should be understood, however, that the control handle 56 may be of any desired shaped and orientation, including for example a tubular member adapted for longitudinal movement along the outer surface of the tubular housing 46.

[0040] A motion transfer mechanism 80 is provided to interconnect the control handle 56 with the valve mechanism 54 so that movement of the control handle 56 between its first and second operating positions 58, 60, respectively, moves the valve mechanism 54 between its closed and open positions, respectively. In one preferred form of the invention, a first gear 82 is attached outside the housing 46 for rotational movement with a pivot pin 66 of the valve mechanism 54. A second gear 82 is attached for rotational movement with the base portion 70 and pivot pin 76 and is enmeshed with the first gear 82 so that movement of the control handle 56 and the gear 84 will in turn move the gear 82 and the valve 54.

[0041] In preferred form, a bias mechanism 86 is attached between the pivot pin 76 and the base portion 70 so as to normally urge the control handle 56 into its first operating position 58 and thereby maintain the valve mechanism 54 in a closed position as illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5. In one form of the invention, the bias mechanism 86 is a lever spring 88 which is attached to the pivot pin 76 and presses against the inner surface of the control handle 56. When an operator of the control device 44 presses the handle lever 78 downwardly so as to contact the surface of the housing 46 and the wand hose 52, the bias force of the spring 88 is overcome so as to open the butterfly valve 62. In this manner, an operator of the device 44 can hold the wand 22 with one hand while maintaining the device 44 in its open position to create a vacuum at the nozzle 26 and allow liquid and dewbris to freely pass through. Moreover, the same operator hand can activate the trigger 42 as desired to discharge cleaning liquid from the liquid nozzle 34 while simultaneously holding the control arm lever 78 in its second operating position. When it is desired to lift the cleaning nozzle 26 from its carpet contact, the operator simply lets go of the lever 78. When this occurs, the bias mechanism 86 automatically moves the control handle 56 to its first operating position thereby closing the butterfly valve 62 and shutting off vacuum from the cleaning nozzle 26 without affecting the vacuum being directed to a second cleaning nozzle 24 (FIG. 1).

[0042] Referring now to FIGS. 7-9, an alternate bias mechanism 86′ is illustrated for use with a modified butterfly valve 62′. In this particular embodiment, the transfer mechanism 80 is as previously described. However, the valve 62′ includes two halves 90, 92 which are mounted to pivot together about a pivot pin 66. In this embodiment, the bias mechanism 86′ is disposed within the housing 46 as opposed to outside the housing 46 as in the previous embodiment. In this instance, a spring 94 is wound about the pivot pin 66 and includes arms 96 and 98 which press against opposite sides of the valve halves 90, 92, respectively, and normally urge the halves 90, 92 to orient themselves in a vertical closed position as illustrated in FIG. 9. When the handle lever 78 is moved to its second operating position, the transfer mechanism 80 rotates the pin 66 and moves the halves 90, 92 to a substantially horizontal orientation as illustrated in FIG. 7. However, when an operator releases the lever 78, the spring 94 urges the halves 90, 92 back to their vertical orientation as previously described. Thus, this particular embodiment functions in a manner very similar to the previously described embodiment.

[0043] Referring to FIGS. 10, 11, an alternate valve mechanism 54′ is illustrated. In this particular embodiment, the valve mechanism 54′ is in the form of an annular flap 100 which is sized to block the interior of the housing 46 when in a vertical orientation and a closed position as illustrated in FIG. 11. The flap 100 is preferably mounted to a pivot member 102 along its circumferential edge 104. In this manner, the flap 100 pivots rearwardly within the tubular housing 46 so as to be oriented substantially horizontally when it in its open position as illustrated in FIG. 10. A brace 106 moves the flap 100 into its closed position when the pivot element 102 is rotated appropriately. In this particular embodiment, the transfer mechanism 80′ includes a first gear 82′ mounted for moving the pivot element 102 and the flap 100 between the aforementioned open and closed positions. A second gear element 84′ is attached to the inner surface of the base portion 70 of the control handle 56 and is enmeshed with the first gear 80′ so that movement of the second gear 82′ will rotate the first gear 80′ and subsequently translate such movement to appropriate movement of the valve flap 100. The bias mechanism 86″ includes a pair of a spring elements 108 preferably attached between the outer surface of the housing 46 and the inner surface of the base portion 70 of the control handle 56. The spring elements 108 are preferably located in this position so as to urge the control handle 56 into its first operating position.

[0044] The control device 44 of the present invention may be in the form of a separate entity that is detachable from the wand 20, 22 as well as the vacuum whip hoses 16, 18. Alternatively, the device 44 may be formed as an integral portion of the wands 20, 22. In either event, the present invention enables an operator of a vacuum cleaning wand device to selectively initiate or terminate vacuum at the cleaning head ends thereof as desired. Moreover, the invention enables one-handed operation of the device 10 including the application of steam or other cleaning liquid from the liquid discharge nozzles 32, 34 in conjunction with operation of the vacuum delivered through the whips 16, 18 and the wands 20, 22.

[0045] As can be seen from the above, the present invention provides a vacuum control device for a cleaning hose which enables quick and efficient control of the vacuum delivered to the nozzle or other tool attached to the end of the hose. The device addresses in particular the situation wherein an operator of one of several mobile vacuum wands lifts the nozzle head off a carpet being cleaned in order to applying liquid or move the nozzle head to a different location. In this situation the vacuum suction in that line previously became temporarily intertrupted until the nozzle head was placed back into contact with the carpet, thereby temporarily affecting the vacuum in any other wands attached to the same vacuum source. The present invention solves this problem by providing an in-line vacuum control system wherein one vacuum line can be lifted off the carpet without affecting the vacuum in the remaining lines attached to the same vacuum creating source. The present invention enables an operator to selectively shut off the vacuum to a wand nozzle head to prevent loss of vacuum throughout the entire system. This is also accomplished with one-handed operation of the vacuum control device as well as the cleaning liquid delivery system. Finally, a failsafe system is provided with the present invention wherein the control device is set up so that it always shuts off the vacuum to the cleaning head unless the device is specifically activated by positive action of the device operator.

[0046] The foregoing description and the illustrative embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail in varying modifications and alternate embodiments. It should be understood, however, that the foregoing description of the present invention is exemplary only, and that the scope of the present invention is to be limited to the claims as interpreted in view of the prior art. Moreover, the invention illustratively disclosed herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element which is not specifically disclosed herein.