Title:
Automatic doors for a fireplace
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A heating generating appliance including an opening device configured to automatically open doors of the appliance. The opening device functions based on user input or can be controlled automatically via the appliance controls to open and/or close the doors of the appliance as desired.



Inventors:
Miller, David Jon (Prior Lake, MN, US)
Waddell, Robert Samuel (Brooklyn Park, MN, US)
Rogers, Brynn Douglas (Burnsville, MN, US)
Bachinski, Thomas J. (Lakeville, MN, US)
Application Number:
10/794424
Publication Date:
12/23/2004
Filing Date:
03/05/2004
Assignee:
MILLER DAVID JON
WADDELL ROBERT SAMUEL
ROGERS BRYNN DOUGLAS
BACHINSKI THOMAS J.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
49/346, 49/357, 126/192, 126/512, 126/547, 49/340
International Classes:
F23M7/00; F24B1/192; F24C15/02; (IPC1-7): F24B1/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COCKS, JOSIAH C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. An automatic door opening device suited for moving a heating appliance door, the device comprising: an actuating member coupled to the appliance door; and a motor operably coupled to the actuating member and movable in response to a control signal to move the actuating member; whereby moving the actuating member moves the appliance door.

2. The opening device of claim 1, further comprising a base member, wherein the actuating member and the motor are mounted to the base member.

3. The opening device of claim 1, wherein the actuating member is a rotatable post.

4. The opening device of claim 3, further comprising an actuating arm coupled between the actuating member and the appliance door.

5. The opening device of claim 4, wherein the actuating arm includes first and second ends, the first end being coupled to the actuating member and the second end having an engagement member extending there from, the engagement member being configured to slidably engage the appliance door.

6. A door opening device adapted and configured for opening and closing a heating appliance door, the device comprising an actuating assembly coupled to the heating appliance door and movable in response to a control signal to move the heating appliance door between an opened position and a closed position.

7. The device of claim 6, wherein the actuating assembly includes an actuating arm coupled to the fireplace door and a power actuated device coupled to the actuating arm, the power actuated device being actuated in response to the control signal.

8. The device of claim 7, wherein the power actuated device is an electric motor.

9. The device of claim 7, wherein the power actuated device is a linear actuator or a rotary actuator.

10. The device of claim 6, wherein the actuating assembly maintains sliding engagement with the fireplace door.

11. A heating appliance assembly, comprising: a combustion chamber enclosure defining a combustion chamber for the generation of heat; a door coupled to the combustion chamber enclosure and configured to control access into the combustion chamber; and a door opening device coupled between the door and the combustion chamber enclosure and configured to be actuated in response to a control signal to move the door between a closed position and an open position.

12. The assembly of claim 11, wherein the assembly includes second door opening devices coupled to respective first and second doors, the first and second doors configured for individual actuation in response to a control signal to move the respective first and second doors between closed and opened positions.

13. The assembly of claim 11, further comprising a controller having a user interface and being configured for actuation by a user to generate the control signal.

14. The assembly of claim 11, further comprising a programmable controller adapted and configured to automatically generate the control signal according to a pre-programmed software program.

15. The assembly of claim 11, wherein the door opening device includes an actuating arm coupled to the door and an actuator coupled to the actuating arm, the actuator being configured for actuation in response to the control signal to move the actuating arm thereby moving the door.

16. The assembly of claim 15, further comprising a rotatable shaft and a base, the rotatable shaft being coupled between the actuating arm and the actuator, and the base being mounted to the combustion chamber enclosure and supporting at least the actuator.

17. The assembly of claim 15, wherein the actuating arm includes an engagement structure formed on an end thereof, the engagement structure being configured to slidably engage the door.

18. The assembly of claim 11, further comprising a heat recovery system configured to remove substantially all heated air and combustion gases from the combustion chamber assembly.

19. The assembly of claim 18, wherein the heat recovery system is activated when the door is in an open position.

20. A method of opening an access panel into a combustion chamber enclosure of a heating appliance with an opening device, the method comprising the steps of: mounting the access panel to the combustion chamber enclosure; and coupling the opening device between the access panel and the combustion chamber enclosure, the opening device including an actuating device configured to move the access panel between closed and opened positions in response to a control signal.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein the opening device includes an actuating arm and an actuator, and coupling the opening device includes coupling the actuating arm to the access panel, coupling the actuator to the combustion chamber enclosure, and coupling the actuating arm and access panel to each other.

22. The method of claim 20, wherein the opening device includes a motor and actuating the opening device with a control signal includes applying a voltage to the motor.

23. The method of claim 20, further comprising the step of generating the control signal with a controller.

24. The method of claim 23, wherein the controller is configured to be operable by a user or automatically operable in response to a pre-programmed software program.

25. The method of claim 20, wherein the heating appliance includes at least two access panels and at least one open device coupled to each access panel.

26. The method of claim 20, further comprising providing the control signal from a controller and activating the controller from a user interface.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein the user interface communicates with the controller using a communication medium selected from the group consisting of a wired connection, ultrasound, infrared, radio frequency, cellular, and satellite communication.

28. The method of claim 20, further comprising activating a heat recovery system when the access panel is in the open position.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/453,020 filed on Mar. 6, 2003 and entitled AUTOMATIC DOORS FOR A FIREPLACE, which provisional application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to heat generating appliances, and more particularly relates to automatically movable doors that provide access into the heat generating appliance.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Gas, electric, and wood burning heat generating appliances such as fireplaces and stoves are an efficient method for providing warmth and creating the appeal of a fire within a room. Fireplaces have become especially commonplace in today's building trades for both residential and commercial applications. Many new home construction designs include at least one, and often several fireplaces. Further, a significant number of remodeling projects are focused on adding or replacing a fireplace.

[0004] Most heat generating appliances such as fireplaces and stove include a combustion chamber enclosure that define a combustion chamber, an outer enclosure surrounding the combustion chamber, a surround placed in front of the fireplace, and an access opening into the combustion chamber. The access opening may be a removable glass panel or a door structure that includes glass or other semi-transparent material, is coupled to the front of the combustion chamber enclosure, and is movable to provide access into the combustion chamber. In some applications, the fireplace may include two doors that each cover a portion of the front of the combustion chamber enclosure and can be opened manually by a user/operator.

SUMMARY

[0005] The present invention relates to fireplaces. More particularly, the invention relates to automatic doors for a fireplace. One aspect of the invention relates to an automatic door opening device suited for moving a heating appliance door. The device includes an actuating member coupled to the appliance door and a motor operably coupled to the actuating member and movable in response to a control signal to move the actuating member. Moving the actuating member moves the appliance door.

[0006] Another aspect of the invention relates to a heating appliance assembly that includes a combustion chamber enclosure defining a combustion chamber for the generation of heat, a door coupled to the combustion chamber enclosure and configured to control access into the combustion chamber, and a door opening device coupled between the door and the combustion chamber enclosure. The door is configured to be actuated in response to a control signal to move the door between a closed position and an open position.

[0007] A further aspect of the invention relates to a method of opening an access panel into a combustion chamber enclosure of a heating appliance with an opening device. The method may include mounting the access panel to the combustion chamber enclosure, coupling the opening device between the access panel and the combustion chamber enclosure, and actuating the opening device with a control signal thereby automatically moving the access panel between a closed position and an open position.

[0008] The above summary of the present invention is not intended to describe each disclosed embodiment or every implementation of the present invention. Figures in the detailed description that follow more particularly exemplify embodiments of the invention. While certain embodiments will be illustrated and described, the invention is not limited to use in such embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] The invention may be more completely understood in consideration of the following detailed description of various embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0010] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an example fireplace made in accordance with the present invention;

[0011] FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the fireplace shown in FIG. 1;

[0012] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an example surround and opening assembly of the fireplace of FIG. 1;

[0013] FIG. 4 is an exploded view of the surround and opening assembly shown in FIG. 3;

[0014] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an assembly of the surround, opening assembly, and doors shown in FIG. 1; and

[0015] FIG. 6 is a close up view of the assembly shown in FIG. 5.

[0016] While the invention is amenable to various modifications and alternant forms, specifics thereof have been shown by way of example and the drawings and will be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the intention is not to limit the invention to the particular embodiments described. On the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0017] The present invention relates to heat generating appliances such as stoves and fireplaces. The present invention more particularly relates to automated access panel/door assemblies for a heat generating appliance. An example automated access panel/door according to principles of the present invention includes an actuator coupled between a combustion chamber enclosure of a heat generating device and an access panel that provides access into the combustion chamber defined by the combustion chamber enclosure. The actuator is actuatable in response to a control signal to move the access panel between opened and closed positions. The control signal may be generated by a controller that is programmed to operate automatically (e.g., using a program software or code) or in response to user inputs to generate the control signal. While the present invention is not so limited, an appreciation of the various aspects of the invention will be gained through a discussion of the examples provided below.

[0018] Embodiments of the present invention may be used in conjunction with any system or apparatus that generates heat or simulates the generation of heat. Example heat generating appliances include fireplaces, stoves, furnaces, heaters, and the like that generate heat using, for example, combustion of a combustible fuel, a resistive electrical element, or simulation of such heat generation. Some example fireplaces that may be used in conjunction with the air bypass system of the present invention include a direct vent, a universal vent, a B-vent, a horizontal/vertical-vent, a dual direct vent, and a multisided unit having two or three glass panels as combustion chamber side panels. While the example embodiments of the present invention provided below are described in conjunction with an example fireplace, the present invention is equally applicable to other systems or apparatuses.

[0019] As used herein, the term “coupled” means any structure or method that may be used to provide connectivity between two or more elements, which may or may not include a direct physical connection between the elements. The phrase “combustion chamber enclosure” may include any enclosure in which flames and/or heat are generated or simulated. The term “control signal” is defined as any signal using any medium that initiates control of a device function. Control signals may include, for example, electrical, RF, IR, and optical signals. The term “door” is defined as a barrier by which an entry is closed or opened, and may generally be defined as an access panel or a means of access.

[0020] Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, an example embodiment of a fireplace 100 is shown. Fireplace 100 is illustrated including an outer enclosure 102, a door assembly 104, a surround 106, a combustion chamber enclosure 108, and first and second door opening assemblies 110, 112. The door assembly 104 includes a front panel 114 and first and second doors 116, 118 that each include first and second sides 150, 152 and an adjustment rail 154 having a slot 156 (shown for first door 116 in FIGS. 5 and 6). The combustion chamber enclosure 108 defines a combustion chamber 120 wherein heat is generated.

[0021] A burner (not shown) may be positioned in the combustion chamber enclosure 108 to combust gas and thereby generate heat. An exhaust (not shown) exhausts combusted air from the combustion chamber enclosure 105 to the outside.

[0022] The fireplace 100 may generally function to ignite combustible gas provided from a combustible gas source to create a gas flame. Alternatively, a simulated electric fireplace may be constructed within the outer enclosure 102. The simulated electric fireplace can include several electrical components such as a simulated ember bed, lights, fans, blowers, and motors. In another alternative, the fireplace can be a solid fuel burning fireplace or stove.

[0023] FIGS. 1 and 2 show fireplace 100 in one configuration. Other configurations are also possible. For example, the present invention may be applicable to any prefabricated gas fireplace such as a direct vent, a universal vent, a B-vent, a horizontal/vertical-vent, a dual direct vent, or a multisided unit. The present invention may also be applicable to other combustible gas fireplace systems, as noted above, as well as any other fireplace that generates heat such as a simulated electric fireplace or solid fuel burning fireplace.

[0024] The first and second door opening assemblies 110, 112 (see FIGS. 3 and 4) each include a base 130, an actuator 132, an actuating member 134 having first and second ends 136, 138, and a actuating arm 136 having an engagement member 142 formed on an end thereof. Generally, the door opening assemblies 110, 112 open and close the doors 116, 118 as desired.

[0025] The base 130 of each opening assembly 116, 118 is coupled to the surround 106, the actuator 132 is coupled to the base 106, and the actuating member 134 is coupled to the base 250 and the actuator 132 at the first end 136 and is coupled to the actuating arm 140 at the second end 138. The actuating member 134 and the actuating arm 140 generally pivot in directions A and B (see FIG. 3) as they are driven by the actuator 132. The engagement member 142 is sized to engage and run in the channel 156 formed in adjustment rail 154 to move the doors 116, 118 between opened and closed positions as the actuating arms 140 pivot in the directions A and B.

[0026] Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, the opening assembly 110 is shown coupled to the first door 116. Specially, the engagement member 142 of the opening assembly 110 is positioned in engagement with the channel 156 formed in the rail 154 so that the engagement member 142 travels along the channel 156 in directions X and Y as the actuating arm 140 of the opening assembly 116 moves in directions A and B. The engagement member 142 may include a rotating portion that rotates while traveling along the channel 156 as the engagement member 142 moves in the directions X and Y.

[0027] Therefore, the opening assembly 110 functions to automatically open and close the door 116 as desired by actuating the actuator 132 thereby moving the actuating member 134 and actuating arm 140. The opening assemblies 110, 112 can be actuated using a control signal initiated by a user, for example, by throwing a switch that transmits power to the actuator 132 or by using a remote control device that activates the actuator 132. Alternatively, a control module 160 in the fireplace 100 can provide a control signal to the opening assemblies automatically when a predetermined condition exists, for example, when the temperature, humidity, or oxygen content in the combustion chamber 110 reaches a predetermined level. The control module may function based on a software program that provides a program sequence of steps or command sequence based on information gathered from, for example, a plurality of sensors positioned in or around the fireplace combustion chamber or a user input device 170 (e.g., a control panel).

[0028] Each opening assembly 110, 112 can function independently to open the doors 116, 118 separately, or the assemblies 110, 112 can function together to simultaneously open the doors 116, 118. In addition, the opening assemblies 110, 112 can also open the doors 116, 118 partially, rather than fully, if desired.

[0029] Other configurations for the opening apparatus can also be used. For example, if the door of the fireplace is a single door rather than double doors, the opening apparatus may swing the door open by lifting or swinging the door upward or downward. In other embodiments, the opening assembly can be positioned at different locations on the surround or in association with other parts of the fireplace as desired to open and close the doors. In addition, the opening apparatus can be retrofitted to existing fireplaces to allow the door(s) of the fireplace to be automatically opened. In still further embodiments, more than one door opening assembly may be used for a single door. In other embodiments, the door opening assembly may be disengaged from the door either physically or functionally to permit manual opening of the door by a user.

[0030] The actuator of the open assemblies described above may be any device (e.g., a power actuated device) that is capable of moving the actuating member and actuating arm in a desired direction in response to a control signal. An example actuator is a motor such as a servo motor, stepper motor, or other type of linear or rotary actuator. In some embodiments, the actuating arm of the opening assembly may be coupled directly to the actuator without the use of a separate actuating member, while in other embodiments an actuating member such as the rotatable post shown in the Figures may be used alone or in combination with a belt, chain, or gears to transfer movement between the actuator and the door.

[0031] The control signal used to activate the opening assemblies 110, 112 may be generated by the controller 160 that is positioned within the outer enclosure 102 (see FIGS. 1 and 6) or that is positioned at a remote location removed from the assembly 100. The controller 160 may automatically generate control signals in response to sensory inputs (e.g., temperatures or door position) or a predetermined software program, or may generate control signals in response to user inputs provided through the user interface device 170, such as a display screen or button controls. The user interface device 170 may be a wall mounted or handheld device or may be integrated in the structure of the fireplace 100. Communication between the controller 160 and the user interface device 170 (represented by signal 172 in FIG. 1) may use any type of communication medium such as, for example, a hard wired connection, optics, infrared, radio frequency, ultrasound, cellular, or satellite communication mediums.

[0032] The fireplace 100 may also implement a heat recovery system and venting assembly such as the system described and shown in U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, filed on Jan. 30, 2004, and entitled EXHAUST SYSTEM FOR OPEN FRONT FIREPLACE, which patent application is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. The heat recovery system may used to used draw substantially all of the combustion gases out of the combustion chamber enclosure, particularly when at least one of the doors 116, 118 are open so that there would otherwise be a chance for the combustion gases to flow into the living space. The controller may be programmed to automatically activate the heat recovery system when the doors 116, 118 move from a closed to an open position.

[0033] The present invention should not be considered limited to the particular examples or materials described above, but rather should be understood to cover all aspects of the invention as fairly set out in the attached claims. Various modifications, equivalent processes, as well as numerous structures to which the present invention may be applicable will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art to which the present invention is directed upon review of the instant specification.