Title:
Thermostat controlled vent system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A thermostat controlled vent system for automatically controlling airflow through a HVAC vent. The thermostat controlled vent system includes a vent unit having a drive motor that operates the baffle member within the vent unit. A central control unit is preferably in communication with one or more vent units for controlling the position of the respective baffle member within. In an alternative embodiment, the vent unit may have a thermostat unit positioned within the frame structure of the vent unit for controlling the drive motor. A rechargeable battery unit is positioned within the vent unit that is charged by a power source. One or more solar cells may be electrically connected to the battery unit for charging the battery unit.



Inventors:
Schmidt, Thomas L. (Lafayette, CA, US)
Albo, Robert W. (Orinda, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/370854
Publication Date:
08/19/2004
Filing Date:
02/19/2003
Assignee:
SCHMIDT THOMAS L.
ALBO ROBERT W.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
165/217
International Classes:
F24F11/76; (IPC1-7): F24F7/00; F24F3/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TANNER, HARRY B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Michael S. Neustel (Fargo, ND, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. A thermostat controlled vent system, comprising: a plurality of vent units each having a drive motor connected to a baffle member for controlling airflow from an HVAC unit; and a central control unit in communication with said vent units for controlling said drive motor.

2. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, wherein said central control unit and said vent units each have a transceiver for transmitting/receiving data.

3. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, wherein said vent units each include a battery unit.

4. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 3, wherein said battery unit is rechargeable.

5. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, including at least one set of solar cells electrically connected to said battery unit.

6. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, including an HVAC damper unit in communication with said central control unit.

7. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, wherein said central control unit is programmable.

8. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 7, wherein said central control unit may be programmed to control individual vent units based upon vent specific criteria.

9. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, wherein said central control unit has a central interface and the ability to upload and download programming and data from an external computer.

10. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, including a sensor unit within said vent unit in communication with said drive motor for determining the position of said baffle member.

11. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, including a remote control unit in communication with a single vent unit.

12. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 11, wherein said remote control unit overrides said central control unit.

13. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 11, wherein said remote control unit has a remote interface.

14. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, including a remote control unit in communication with a group of vent units.

15. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 14, wherein said remote control unit overrides said central control unit.

16. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, wherein said vent unit includes a thermostat unit.

17. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 16, including a deflector member attached to said vent unit for deflecting the airflow from said vent unit away from said thermostat unit.

18. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 16, wherein said thermostat unit overrides said central control unit.

19. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 1, wherein said vent unit includes a mechanical thermostat.

20. The thermostat controlled vent system of claim 19, including a deflector member attached to said vent unit for deflecting the airflow from said vent unit away from said mechanical thermostat.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] Not applicable to this application.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0002] Not applicable to this application.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] 1. Field of the Invention

[0004] The present invention relates generally to heating and cooling vents and more specifically it relates to a thermostat controlled vent system for automatically controlling airflow through a HVAC vent.

[0005] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0006] Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) vents have been in use for years. A conventional HVAC vent is comprised of a frame structure, a plurality of fin members for directing the airflow and a manually operated valve member. Each conventional HVAC vent is connected to an air duct that is connected to a central furnace and/or air conditioner.

[0007] The main problem with conventional HVAC systems is that they do not adequately heat or cool specific rooms/areas of a building structure. Another problem with conventional HVAC systems is that they do not allow a user to control the temperature within an individual room/area since the control of the HVAC systems occur at a central location within the building structure.

[0008] Various products have been created for assisting in controlling the airflow through HVAC vents such as air deflectors, airflow boosters, in-line duct fans, and magnetic vent covers. In addition, zone control units that control airflow through the main ducts have been utilized to control the airflow through main air ducts thereby effectively controlling large zones within a building structure. However, none of these prior art products provide an efficient system for controlling the airflow through a plurality of individual HVAC vents.

[0009] Examples of patented devices which may be related to the present invention include U.S. Pat. No. 5,833,134 to Ho et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 2002/0,058,473 to Park; U.S. Pat. No. 6,340,329 to Park; U.S. Pat. No. 4,722,266 to Deckert; U.S. Pat. No. 6,261,174 to Kuehn; U.S. Pat. No. 4,163,144 to Reynier; U.S. Pat. No. 4,646,964 to Parker et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 4,699,045 to Hensley; U.S. Pat. No. 5,364,304 to Hampton; U.S. Pat. No. 5,489,238 to Asselbergs; U.S. Pat. No. 5,632,677 to Elkins; U.S. Pat. No. 5,149,299 to Sauer; U.S. Pat. No. 4,846,399 to Asselbergs; and U.S. Pat. No. 4,809,593 to Asselbergs.

[0010] While these devices may be suitable for the particular purpose to which they address, they are not as suitable for automatically controlling airflow through a HVAC vent. Conventional HVAC systems do not allow for efficient individual control of vent units.

[0011] In these respects, the thermostat controlled vent system according to the present invention substantially departs from the conventional concepts and designs of the prior art, and in so doing provides an apparatus primarily developed for the purpose of automatically controlling airflow through a HVAC vent.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] In view of the foregoing disadvantages inherent in the known types of HVAC vents now present in the prior art, the present invention provides a new, localized thermostat controlled vent system construction wherein the same can be utilized for automatically controlling airflow through a HVAC vent.

[0013] The general purpose of the present invention, which will be described subsequently in greater detail, is to provide a new thermostat controlled vent system that has many of the advantages of the HVAC vents mentioned heretofore and many novel features that result in a new thermostat controlled vent system which is not anticipated, rendered obvious, suggested, or even implied by any of the prior art HVAC vents, either alone or in any combination thereof.

[0014] To attain this, the present invention generally comprises a vent unit having a drive motor that operates the baffle member within the vent unit. A programmable central control unit is preferably in communication with one or more vent units and remote sensors for controlling the position of the respective baffle member within and controlling the HVAC unit(s). The central control unit will optimize heating, air conditioning, air-flow and energy use based on multiple criteria such as local temperature, user settings, season, time of day and use patterns for the space. In an alternative embodiment, the vent unit may have a thermostat unit positioned within the frame structure of the vent unit for controlling the drive motor. The unit may be powered by a replaceable battery, a rechargeable battery with power source or by an external power source connected directly via wires.

[0015] There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and that will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto.

[0016] In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of the description and should not be regarded as limiting.

[0017] A primary object of the present invention is to provide a localized thermostat controlled vent system that will overcome the shortcomings of the prior art devices.

[0018] A second object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system for automatically controlling airflow through a HVAC vent.

[0019] Another object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system that increases the energy efficiency of a building structure thereby decreasing heating and cooling costs.

[0020] An additional object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system that allows for the control of airflow through an individual HVAC vent or multiple HVAC vents.

[0021] A further object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system that controls the airflow through an HVAC vent based upon the local air temperature affected by the individual HVAC vent.

[0022] Another object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system that decreases the amount of time required to heat or cool a building structure by directing the airflow to the areas of a building structure that require additional heating/cooling.

[0023] A further object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system that improves the indoor environment for workers and residents.

[0024] Another object is to provide a thermostat controlled vent system that allows for the temperature manipulation of individual areas/zones of a building structure.

[0025] Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become obvious to the reader and it is intended that these objects and advantages are within the scope of the present invention.

[0026] To the accomplishment of the above and related objects, this invention may be embodied in the form illustrated in the accompanying drawings, attention being called to the fact, however, that the drawings are illustrative only, and that changes may be made in the specific construction illustrated and described within the scope of the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0027] Various other objects, features and attendant advantages of the present invention will become fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate the same or similar parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

[0028] FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating the main components of present invention.

[0029] FIG. 2 is a front view of an exemplary remote control unit.

[0030] FIG. 3 is a front view of an exemplary central control unit.

[0031] FIG. 4 is a block view of a vent unit in communication with the central control unit.

[0032] FIG. 5 is a block view of a vent unit operating without a central control unit.

[0033] FIG. 6 is a top view of a vent unit with a thermostat unit.

[0034] FIG. 7 is a top view of a vent unit with a mechanical thermostat.

[0035] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the vent unit with a mechanical thermostat and an air deflector to deflect the air away from the thermostat.

[0036] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an HVAC damper unit within a main duct.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0037] Turning now descriptively to the drawings, in which similar reference characters denote similar elements throughout the several views, FIGS. 1 through 9 illustrate a thermostat controlled vent system 10, which comprises a vent unit 40 having a drive motor 44 that operates the baffle member 41 within the vent unit 40. A programmable central control unit 20 is preferably in communication with one or more vent units 40 for controlling the position of the respective baffle member 41 within. In an alternative embodiment, the vent unit 40 may have a thermostat unit 47 positioned within the frame structure 42 of the vent unit 40 for controlling the drive motor 44. A rechargeable battery unit 48 is positioned within the vent unit 40 that is charged by a power source 14. One or more solar cells may be electrically connected to the battery unit 48 for charging the battery unit 48.

[0038] FIGS. 4 through 8 illustrate the vent unit 40. The vent unit 40 is comprised of a frame structure 42 defining at least one opening that allows the air from the HVAC unit 12 to pass through into a room of the building structure. The frame structure 42 is connectable in a fluid manner to a main duct 16 or other duct structure fluidly connected to the HVAC unit 12. Various frame structures 42 may be utilized other than illustrated within FIGS. 4 through 8. A plurality of fin members 45 may also be attached to the frame structure 42 of the vent unit 40 as illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7 of the drawings.

[0039] The vent unit 40 further includes at least one baffle member 41 pivotally supported within the frame structure 42 by a main shaft 43 or other pivoting structure. The baffle member 41 is comprised of a structure capable of terminating, reducing, opening and controlling the airflow through the vent unit 40.

[0040] A drive motor 44 is preferably mechanically connected to the main shaft 43 for controlling and manipulating the position of the baffle member 41 within the vent unit 40 depending upon the heating/cooling needs of the room. The drive motor 44 may be comprised of any well-known motor structure such as a servomotor or micro-motor. A control switch is preferably attached to the frame structure 42 and in communication with the drive motor 44 for terminating electrical power to the drive motor 44 when the baffle member 41 has been fully closed or fully opened.

[0041] Electrical power is provided to the drive motor 44 via a power source 14 and/or a battery unit 48. The battery unit 48 is preferably recharged by the power source 14 wherein the battery unit 48 is utilized to provide electrical power during periods of power loss within the power source 14.

[0042] In addition, a set of first solar cells 60 may be attached to the exterior of the vent unit 40 for charging the battery unit 48. The first solar cells 60 are preferably positioned upon the outer perimeter of the frame structure 42 as shown in FIG. 7 of the drawings. A set of second solar cells 62 may also be utilized as further shown in FIG. 7 of the drawings.

[0043] A central control unit 20, remote control unit 30, a thermostat unit 47 or a mechanical thermostat 49 controls the drive motor 44. In one alternative embodiment, the thermostat unit 47 or the remote control unit 30 may override the central control unit 20 when desired. The drive motor 44 is in communication with the central control unit 20 or the remote control unit 30 via conventional electrical connection or via a radio signal using transceiver units 46.

[0044] The central control unit 20 preferably controls one or more vent units 40 and the HVAC system from a central location. The central control unit 20 may provide a single desired temperature for all of the vent units 40 or programmable to direct the temperature required for each individual vent unit 40. The central control unit will also control general airflow throughout a building for air filtration and/or health reasons. The central control unit 20 is preferably programmable for allowing various operations to occur such as but not limited to changing specific room temperatures at a specific time or day, moving airflow, modifying air temperature based on room occupancy and/or room utilization patterns. The central control unit 20 is preferably in communication with the HVAC unit 12 for controlling the overall operation of the HVAC unit 12 as shown in FIG. 1 of the drawings. The central control unit 20 may be in communication with a computer for programming, downloading/uploading of data and

[0045] As shown in FIG. 3 of the drawings, the central control unit 20 has a central interface 22 which monitors and displays the relevant information relating to the operation of the present invention including information about the individual vent units 40 and the operation thereof. The central interface 22 preferably is a digital display that allows for the entry of data and the selection of functions directly within the central interface 22. Based on user settings, historical data gathered by the central control unit and the status of current information being monitored by the control unit, the unit runs specific logical programs, including but not limited to optimization algorithms that minimize cost and maximize user comfort within a building. It can be appreciated that various other data entry systems may be utilized to enter data into the central control unit 20 other than illustrated in FIG. 3 of the drawings.

[0046] As shown in FIG. 2 of the drawings, the remote control unit 30 has a remote interface 32 which displays the relevant information relating to the operation of the specific vent unit 40 it is in communication with. The remote control unit 30 may control more than one vent unit 40 such as by controlling a group of vent units 40. The remote interface 32 preferably is a digital display that allows for the entry of data and the selection of functions directly within the remote interface 32. It can be appreciated that various other data entry systems may be utilized to enter data into the remote control unit 30 other than illustrated in FIG. 2 of the drawings. It is desirable to have override functionality within the remote control unit 30 if the vent unit 40 is also in communication with a central control unit 20.

[0047] FIGS. 6 and 7 illustrate alternative embodiments of the present invention by using a thermostat unit 47 (similar to the remote control unit 30) or a mechanical thermostat 49. This alternative embodiment simplifies the present invention. As shown in FIG. 8 of the drawings, it is desirable to utilize a deflector member near the fin members 45 to prevent the airflow from directly engaging the thermostat when the thermostat unit 47 or the mechanical thermostat 49 are utilized.

[0048] As shown in FIG. 9 of the drawings, an HVAC damper unit 50 may also be in communication with the central control unit 20 to allow for the control of airflow into various zones of a building structure. The HVAC damper unit 50 may be utilized in conjunction with the vent units 40 as desired.

[0049] Various other electronic devices may be in communication with the vent unit 40 or the central control unit 20 or the remote control unit 30 to provide automated operation of the present invention. For example, motion sensors may be in communication to indicate when a person is within the room so that the vent unit 40 may respond accordingly. Another example is the usage of light sensors in communication to indicate daylight hours or to indicate that an individual has turned the lights on within the room. Various other devices may be utilized to communicate various types of data to the present invention which may be utilized to react accordingly.

[0050] In use, the user programs the central control unit 20, the remote control unit 30, the thermostat unit 47 or the mechanical thermostat 49 as desired. The vent unit 40 thereafter controls the airflow through the vent unit 40 based upon the room temperature and the programmed settings. If the temperature within the room is too cold and the HVAC is produceing heated air, the drive motor 44 is operated to open the baffle member 41. If the temperature within the room is too hot and the HVAC is producing heated air, the drive motor 44 is operated to close the baffle member 41. If the temperature within a room is too hot and the HVAC is producing cooled air, the drive motor 44 is operated to open the baffle member 41. If the temperature within the room is too cold and the HVAC is producing cooled air, the drive motor 44 is operated to close the baffle member 41. The operation of the drive motor 44 and the baffle member 41 is determined by the range of temperature requirements preset by the user. The central control unit 20 is a smart system that learns over time and directs the activities of the vents and the HVAC to provide heating and cooling to the rooms that demand it.

[0051] As to a further discussion of the manner of usage and operation of the present invention, the same should be apparent from the above description. Accordingly, no further discussion relating to the manner of usage and operation will be provided.

[0052] With respect to the above description then, it is to be realized that the optimum dimensional relationships for the parts of the invention, to include variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operation, assembly and use, are deemed to be within the expertise of those skilled in the art, and all equivalent structural variations and relationships to those illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the present invention.

[0053] Therefore, the foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention.