Title:
Mounting structure for handheld showerhead
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A mounting structure for a handheld showerhead is provided with an integral vacuum breaker device that breaks the fluid communication between the shower pipe and the supply hose upon the occurrence of back pressure in the water supply system. The mounting structure comprises a mount body that is coupleable to a shower pipe at its inlet end and to a supply hose at its outlet end. A vacuum breaker is provided within the mount body in-line between the inlet end and the outlet end. When positive fluid pressure is applied to the vacuum breaker, water flows through the vacuum breaker to a supply hose and handheld showerhead coupled to the outlet end. When negative fluid pressure or back pressure is applied to the shower pipe, the vacuum breaker seals the channel within the mount body to break fluid communication between the inlet end and the outlet end, thus preventing the back pressure from drawing contaminated water through the supply hose and showerhead. A cradle for holding the handheld showerhead is pivotally coupled to the mount body, and the mount body is rotatable about the shower pipe. The handheld showerhead is thereby provided with a mounting structure that integrates a vacuum breaker for preventing contamination due to back pressure in the water supply system, while providing a full range of motion for mounting in a desired position.



Inventors:
Bui, Le Trong (Garden Grove, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/412164
Publication Date:
10/14/2004
Filing Date:
04/11/2003
Assignee:
INTERBATH INC.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03C1/04; E03C1/06; E03C1/10; (IPC1-7): A47K3/20
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Foley & Lardner LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A mounting structure for supporting and supplying water to a handheld showerhead, comprising: a mount body coupleable at an inlet end to a shower pipe and coupleable at an outlet end to a handheld showerhead supply hose, the mount body comprising a vacuum breaker provided in-line between the inlet end and the outlet end to break fluid communication between the inlet end and the outlet end when back pressure is applied at the inlet end; and a cradle pivotally coupled to the mount body for receiving the handheld showerhead.

2. The mounting structure claimed in claim 1, wherein the mount body comprises: a main portion; a swivel nut portion coupled to the main portion, the swivel nut portion providing the inlet end of the mount body; and a supply hose adapter coupled to the main portion, the supply hose portion providing the outlet end of the mount body.

3. The mounting structure claimed in claim 2, wherein the vacuum breaker is retained within the main portion of the mount body by the supply hose adapter.

4. The mounting structure claimed in claim 1, wherein the mount body comprises a retainer shaft that is threadable to a shower pipe.

5. The mounting structure claimed in claim 4, wherein the swivel nut is fixed with respect to the retainer shaft, and the swivel nut and retainer shaft are rotatable with respect to the mount body.

6. The mounting structure claimed in claim 4, wherein the retainer shaft is engaged to an inner channel of the mount body by one or more O-rings surrounding the retainer shaft.

7. The mounting structure claimed in claim 1, wherein the vacuum breaker comprises: a vacuum disc having at least one aperture for allowing passage of water through the vacuum disc; and a resilient diaphragm seated downstream from the vacuum disc and having at least one aperture for allowing passage of water through the vacuum disc, wherein back pressure applied behind the vacuum disc draws the diaphragm toward the vacuum disc to close the apertures of the vacuum disc.

8. The mounting structure claimed in claim 7, wherein the mount body comprises a supply hose adapter coupled to the main portion, the supply hose portion providing the outlet end of the mount body, and the supply hose adapter comprising at least on bleed hole for allowing air into the supply hose adapter, and wherein the bleed hole is sealed by the diaphragm when positive fluid pressure is applied from behind the diaphragm.

9. The mounting structure claimed in claim 1, wherein the cradle is pivotal about a pin coupled to the mount body.

10. The mounting structure claimed in claim 9, wherein the pin is threaded into a side of the mount body.

11. The mounting structure claimed in claim 9, wherein the cradle comprises a tensioner screw for adjusting pivotal friction of the cradle with respect to the pin.

12. The mounting structure claimed in claim 1, further comprising: a supply hose coupled to the outlet end of the mount body; and a handheld showerhead coupled to the supply hose and receivable by the cradle.

13. The mounting structure claimed in claim 12, wherein the showerhead is rotatable with respect to the cradle when received by the cradle.

14. The mounting structure claimed in claim 1, wherein the cradle comprises rubberized arms for receiving the handheld showerhead.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] Embodiments of the present invention pertain to plumbing fixtures, and in particular to handheld showerheads.

[0003] 2. Related Technology

[0004] A conventional showerhead is typically threaded to the end of a shower pipe. This design is limited in that the showerhead is usually limited to a narrow range of motion around a ball joint connection. A more versatile design provides a handheld showerhead that is connected to the shower pipe by a flexible hose. The hose enables the showerhead to be handled by the user so that the water stream produced by the showerhead can be directed as the user desires.

[0005] Handheld showerheads are typically provided with a mounting structure in which the showerhead can be placed so that its water stream is directed in a generally downward direction similar to that of a fixed showerhead. An example of a handheld showerhead with an associated mounting structure is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,979,096. In that structure, a supply hose is threaded to a shower pipe and supplies water to a handheld showerhead. Affixed near the end of the shower pipe is a mounting structure comprised of an L-bracket through one leg of which the shower pipe passes. Passing through an aperture in the other leg of the L-bracket is a screw that is threaded into a cradle for receiving the handheld showerhead. The cradle is generally funnel shaped and has a lengthwise opening along one side such that the stem of the handheld showerhead may be inserted within and supported by the cradle. The handheld showerhead can be rotated within the cradle to adjust the radial direction of its stream, and the cradle can be rotated with respect to the L-bracket to adjust the angle of the stream relative to vertical. Thus the user is enabled to hold the handheld showerhead or mount the handheld showerhead in a desired stationary position.

[0006] One problem with handheld showerheads is that their supply hoses are typically long enough to enable them to be left in the bottom of the bathtub or shower stall. Thus the handheld showerhead may be submerged in contaminated water that is left after a shower or bath. If back pressure occurs in the water supply system that feeds the showerhead, for example as the result of the flushing of a toilet or some other event in the water supply system, the back pressure can be sufficient to draw contaminated water back through the showerhead and the supply hose and into the water supply system. The contaminated water will then be supplied back through the showerhead upon the next use of the shower. Further, if the back pressure is sufficient to draw contaminated water into a common portion of the water supply system, it will contaminate the potable water in the system and contaminated water will the be supplied to other fixtures where potable water is expected, such as bathroom and kitchen sinks, dishwashers and washing machines. While contaminated water can generally be flushed out of the system, members of the household may not be aware that such contamination has occurred until they have already been exposed to the contaminated water.

[0007] It would therefore be desirable to provide a handheld showerhead assembly that avoids the contamination problems that can be caused by back pressure in the water supply system.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] In accordance with embodiments of the invention, a mounting structure for a handheld showerhead is provided with an integral vacuum breaker device that breaks the fluid communication between the shower pipe and the supply hose upon the occurrence of back pressure in the water supply system. The mounting structure comprises a mount body that is coupleable to a shower pipe at an inlet end and to a supply hose at an outlet end. A vacuum breaker is provided within the mount body in-line between the inlet end and the outlet end. When positive fluid pressure is applied to the vacuum breaker, water flows through the vacuum breaker to a supply hose and a handheld showerhead coupled to the outlet end. When negative fluid pressure or back pressure is applied to the shower pipe, the vacuum breaker seals the channel within the mount body to break fluid communication between the inlet end and the outlet end, thus preventing the back pressure from being applied to the supply hose and showerhead. A cradle for holding the handheld showerhead is pivotally coupled to the mount body. The handheld showerhead is thereby provided with a mounting structure that integrates a vacuum breaker for preventing contamination due to back pressure in the water supply system.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] FIG. 1 shows a plan view of a mounting structure for a handheld showerhead in accordance with a preferred embodiment;

[0010] FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of the mounting structure in accordance with the preferred embodiment;

[0011] FIG. 3 shows an exploded view of the mounting structure in accordance with the preferred embodiment; and

[0012] FIG. 4 shows a sectional view of the mounting structure in accordance with the preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0013] The general configuration of a preferred embodiment in accordance with the invention is first discussed with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2. FIG. 1 shows a plan view of a mounting structure in accordance with a preferred embodiment while FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of the same structure. The mounting structure of the preferred embodiment is comprised of a mount body 10 that is coupleable to a shower pipe at its inlet end 12 and to a supply hose for a handheld showerhead at its outlet end 14. A cradle 16 is pivotally coupled to the mount body 10 by a pin 18. The cradle comprises curved rubberized arms 20 for receiving and supporting a handheld showerhead. The amount of friction that opposes pivoting of the cradle 16 about the pin 18 is adjustable by means of a tensioner 20. The mount body 10 may be rotated about a shower pipe to which it is mounted, as described in further detail below. As a result, the mount body 10 may be rotated so that the cradle 16 extends from mount body 10 in an approximately horizontal direction. The cradle 16 may be pivoted about the pin 18 to adjust the angle of the showerhead stream relative to vertical, and the showerhead may be rotated within the cradle 16 to adjust its radial direction.

[0014] Details of the construction of the preferred embodiment are now discussed with reference to the exploded view of FIG. 3 and the sectional view of FIG. 4. Components are discussed generally in order beginning at the inlet end of the mounting structure.

[0015] As seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, the mounting structure includes a retainer shaft 24 that is coupleable to a shower pipe. The retainer shaft is typically provided with threads for mating with corresponding threads of the shower pipe. Shower pipes are typically one-half inch in diameter and provided with a male pipe thread. The retainer shaft 24 is preferably tightly threaded to the shower pipe so as to remain stationary with respect to the shower pipe. A washer 28 is preferably provided between the retainer shaft 24 and the swivel nut 30 to provide a seal against fluid leakage.

[0016] Coupled to the retainer shaft 24 is a swivel nut 30. The swivel nut 30 includes an interior channel that fits over the retainer shaft 24. The swivel nut 30 is retained on the retainer shaft 24 by means of O-rings 26 that encircle the retainer shaft 24. The O-rings 26 preferably provide sufficient friction against the inside of the swivel nut 30 to allow the retainer shaft 24 to be tightly threaded to a shower pipe by rotating the swivel nut 30.

[0017] The retainer shaft 24 is also coupled to the surface of an inner channel of a main portion 32 of the mount body. The main portion 32 of the mount body is rotatable with respect to the retainer shaft 24. The O-rings 26 preferably provide enough friction to prevent rotation of the main portion 32 by the weight of a showerhead when held in the cradle 16, while also allowing manual rotation of the main portion 32 with respect to the retainer shaft 24 so that the cradle 16 can be oriented to extend approximately horizontally from the main portion 32 one the mount body 10 has been threaded to a shower pipe.

[0018] The main portion 32 has an interior channel within which is seated a vacuum breaker assembly. The vacuum breaker assembly is comprised of a vacuum disc 34 and a diaphragm 36 that are oriented within the interior channel of the main portion 32. The vacuum disc 34 includes one or more apertures that allow water to pass therethrough toward the diaphragm 36. The diaphragm 36 is formed of a resilient material such as rubber and has apertures near its center that enable the passage of fluid through the diaphragm 36. When positive fluid pressure is applied from behind the vacuum disc 34, fluid passes through the apertures of the vacuum disc 34, forcing the diaphragm 36 away from the vacuum disc 34 and enabling fluid to flow through the diaphragm 36, and causing the diaphragm 36 to seal bleed holes 37 in a supply hose adapter 40 coupled to the main portion 32. Conversely, when negative fluid pressure or back pressure is applied from behind the vacuum disc 34, the diaphragm 36 is drawn toward the vacuum disc 34, sealing the apertures in the vacuum disc 34 and unsealing the bleed holes 37 in the supply hose adapter 40. This prevents the back pressure from drawing fluid through the channel and thus through a supply hose coupled to the outlet end of the mount body 10, and allows the supply hose to drain as air enters through the bleed holes 37. The bleed holes are also generally not sealed when there is no water pressure, allowing the supply hose and shower head to drain when the water supply is turned off.

[0019] The vacuum disc 34 and diaphragm 36 are seated against a flange within the main portion 32 of the mount body 10 and are retained within the main portion 32 of the mount body 10 by the supply hose adapter 40 that is coupled to the main portion 32 of the mount body 10 such as with mating threads. The supply hose adapter 40 includes an outlet end to which the supply hose of a handheld showerhead may be coupled such as with mating threads.

[0020] Threaded into an aperture in a side of the main portion 32 of the mount body is the pin 18. The pin 18 is tightly threaded to the mount body 10 so as to be stationary with respect to the mount body 10. An exposed portion of the pin 18 is covered with a cosmetic sleeve 44. Mounted to the pin 18 is the cradle 16. O-rings 42 retain the cradle 16 on the pin 18. The cradle 16 is comprised of a housing portion 46 and a rubberized arm portion 48 that is molded to the housing portion 46. Inserted through an aperture in the face of the arm portion 48 and into a threaded aperture in the cradle housing 46 is a plug 50 and a tensioner screw 52. When assembled, the plug 50 is seated within a radial channel in the pin 18, and tightening of the tensioner screw 52 increases friction between the plug 50 and the pin 18, thus controlling the amount of frictional force that resists pivoting of the cradle 16 about the pin 18 when the cradle 16 supports a showerhead.

[0021] During assembly, the mount body 10 is coupled to a shower pipe by means of the retainer shaft 24 at its inlet end. The retainer shaft 24 is threaded onto the shower pipe by rotating the swivel nut 30. A water-tight seal is provided by clamping of the washer 28 between the end of the shower pipe and the end of the retainer shaft 24. The mount body 20 may then be rotated relative to the shower pipe so that the cradle 16 extends essentially horizontally from the mount body 10.

[0022] In operation, water is conducted from a shower pipe to an inlet end of the mount body 10 and through the mount body 10 past the vacuum breaker assembly to an outlet end of the mount body 10 where a supply hose for a handheld showerhead is coupled to the hose adapter 40. When back pressure is applied to fluid in the shower pipe, the vacuum breaker assembly breaks the fluid communication between the shower pipe and the supply hose, and thus the entry of contaminated water through the handheld showerhead into the water supply system is prevented. In this manner the user is provided with a vacuum breaker system that is integrated with a mounting structure and that requires the mounting of no additional components apart from those that support the handheld showerhead.

[0023] Further, a cradle 16 is pivotally coupled to the mount body 10 by means of a pin 18. The cradle 16 provides support for a handheld showerhead that is rotatable within the cradle 16, and the cradle 16 may be pivoted about the pin 18 to adjust its angle relative to vertical. Further, the mount body 10 may be rotated with respect to the shower pipe to orient the cradle 16 horizontally relative to the mount body 10. In this manner the user is enabled to mount the mounting structure to the shower pipe and achieve proper alignment of the cradle 16 in a simple manner.

[0024] While the mounting structure illustrated herein represents a presently preferred embodiment of the invention, a variety of alternative embodiments may be implemented within the scope of the invention. For example, while the mount body of the preferred embodiment is comprised of multiple structural components that are threaded together, in alternative embodiments the mount structure may be comprised of a single main mount body component, or different numbers of components coupled in various manners. Further, while the mount body of the preferred embodiment is coupled to a shower pipe using a retaining sleeve, a variety of other well known structures may be employed for coupling the mount body to the shower pipe in a manner that allows the mount body to be pivoted about the shower pipe without loosening the threading of the mounting structure to the shower pipe. For example, the mounting structure may be provided with a ball joint that is threadable to a shower pipe.

[0025] In addition, while the cradle of the preferred embodiment pivots on a pin that is threaded to the mount body so as to be stationary with respect to the mount body, in alternative embodiments a cradle may be pivotally coupled to the mount body using a variety of well known pivotal structures. Moreover, while the cradle of the preferred embodiment is shown as being comprised of two relatively narrow arms, in alternative embodiments a variety of other well-known cradle structures may be employed, such as the funnel-shaped cradle structure of the prior art patent discussed above.

[0026] Also, while the vacuum breaker of the preferred embodiment is disposed within the main portion of the mount body, in alternative embodiments the vacuum breaker may be located outside of a main portion of the mount body and may extend from an end of the main portion of the mount body.

[0027] The components of the mount body and cradle may be fabricated from a variety of materials. In accordance with the preferred embodiment, the rigid components of the mount body and the cradle are injection molded using a plastic material. In other embodiments, these components may be formed of a corrosion-resistant metal such as chromium alloy-plated brass.

[0028] A variety of embodiments may therefore be implemented in accordance with the invention. In general terms, embodiments in accordance with the invention are implemented as a mounting structure characterized by a mount body that is coupleable to shower pipe at its inlet end and a supply hose for a handheld showerhead at its outlet end. The mount body includes a vacuum breaker that is provided in-line between the inlet end and the outlet end of the mount body and breaks fluid communication between the inlet end and the outlet end when back pressure is applied to the inlet end. The mounting structure further comprises a cradle for receiving a handheld showerhead that is pivotally coupled to mount body.

[0029] It will be apparent to those having ordinary skill in the art that the structures described herein are not necessarily exclusive of other structures, but rather that further structures and structural features may be incorporated into the above structures in accordance with the particular implementation to be achieved. Therefore, while the embodiments illustrated in the figures and described herein are presently preferred, it should be understood that these embodiments are offered by way of example only. The invention is not limited to a particular embodiment, but extends to various modifications, combinations, and permutations that are encompassed by the claims and their equivalents.