Title:
Staircase lighting apparatus and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and method for lighting a staircase are provided, having one or more lighting devices adapted for mounting on the staircase adjacent the treads of the staircase, controlled by pressure sensitive pads placed above and below the staircase on the floors of upper and lower joined by the staircase. The pressure sensitive pads may be installed under the floor covering of the upper and/or lower levels, or alternatively, may be incorporated into throw rugs or mats that can be placed adjacent the upper and lower ends of the staircase. The lighting devices and pressure sensitive pads may be connected by wires, or wirelessly, or a by a combination of wired and wireless connections, in various embodiments of the invention.



Inventors:
Crandall, Joyce (Cherry Valley, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/052445
Publication Date:
08/11/2005
Filing Date:
02/07/2005
Assignee:
CRANDALL JOYCE
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04F11/00; E04F19/10; F21V23/04; F21V33/00; H05B37/02; (IPC1-7): E04F11/00; E04F19/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CARIASO, ALAN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
REINHART BOERNER VAN DEUREN P.C. (ROCKFORD, IL, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus for lighting a staircase having one or more vertically spaced treads connecting lower and upper levels whereby one or more persons may ascend or descend, the apparatus comprising: a lighting device adapted for mounting on the staircase adjacent at least one of the one or more treads for illuminating the at least one of the one or more treads; a first pressure sensitive pad adapted for placement on one of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device; and a second pressure sensitive pad adapted for placement on the other of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a controller operatively connected between the lighting device and the first and second pressure sensitive pads for switching the lighting device to an ON condition when a predetermined force is applied to one of the upper or lower pressure sensitive pads.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the controller maintains the lighting device in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein, after the lighting device is turned on by applying the predetermined force one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads, the controller maintains the lighting device in the ON condition until a predetermined force is applied to the other of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the controller maintains the lighting device in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the other of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein at least one of the predetermined force applied to the first pressure sensitive pad, the predetermined force applied to the second pressure sensitive pad, or the predetermined period of time is adjustable.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a power supply operatively connected to the lighting device and first and second pressure sensitive pads.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads are operatively connected wirelessly for controlling the lighting device.

9. A method for lighting a staircase having one or more vertically spaced treads connecting lower and upper levels whereby one or more persons may ascend or descend, the method comprising: mounting a lighting device on the staircase adjacent at least one of the one or more treads for illuminating the at least one of the one or more treads; placing a first pressure sensitive pad on one of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device; and placing a second pressure sensitive pad on the other of the upper or lower levels for controlling the lighting device.

10. The method of claim 9, further comprising operatively connecting a controller between the lighting device and the first and second pressure sensitive pads for switching the lighting device to an ON condition when a predetermined force is applied to one of the upper or lower pressure sensitive pads.

11. The method of claim 10, further comprising configuring the controller for maintaining the lighting device in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising configuring the controller in such a manner that, after the lighting device is turned on by applying the predetermined force one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads, the controller maintains the lighting device in the ON condition until a predetermined force is applied to the other of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

13. The method of claim 12, further comprising configuring the controller for maintaining the lighting device in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the other of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

14. The method of claim 13, further comprising configuring the controller such that at least one of the predetermined force applied to the first pressure sensitive pad, the predetermined force applied to the second pressure sensitive pad, or the predetermined period of time is adjustable.

15. The method of claim 9, further comprising controlling the lighting device wirelessly with at least one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads.

16. A lighted staircase having one or more vertically spaced treads connecting lower and upper levels whereby one or more persons may ascend or descend and a lighting apparatus, the lighting apparatus for automatically illuminating the staircase when the person is approaching or using the staircase, the lighting apparatus comprising: a lighting device mounted on the staircase adjacent at least one of the one or more treads for illuminating the at least one of the one or more treads; a first pressure sensitive pad placed on one of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device; and a second pressure sensitive pad placed on the other of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device.

17. The lighted staircase of claim 16, further comprising at least two lighting devices operatively connected for parallel electrical operation.

18. The lighted staircase of claim 17, further comprising at least two treads, with a lighting device mounted for individually illuminating each of the at least two or more treads.

19. The lighted staircase of claim 16, wherein at least one of the first and second pressure sensitive pads are operatively connected wirelessly for controlling the lighting device.

20. The lighted staircase of claim 19, wherein the lighting apparatus is at least partly battery powered.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/543,846, filed Feb. 11, 2004.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to individually lighting the steps of a staircase, and more particularly to automatically illuminating the steps when a person is approaching and using the staircase.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Attempting to traverse a poorly illuminated staircase can be dangerous. It is, therefore, both desirable and necessary to provide some form of lighting to facilitate use of any staircase which is otherwise poorly illuminated during times of the day when it might be used by a person wishing to ascend or descend the staircase, while moving between a lower and an upper level connected by the staricase. It is wasteful of energy, however, to keep a staircase fully illuminated at all times. It is desirable, therefore, to provide means for illuminating the staircase only when a person is desirous of using the staircase.

In one prior approach to providing on demand lighting for a staircase, an overhead light is provided and controlled by manually operable switches placed near the bottom and the top of the staircase. While such a solution is simple, particularly if installed at the same time the building containing the staircase is being constructed, there are drawbacks. In the dark, it may be difficult to locate the switch, and, while groping around in the dark for the switch, a person may fall on the staircase. Even if the switch is safely located in the dark, a person coming out of a dark area, or who has been sleeping, for example, may be somewhat blinded by the brightness of the overhead light. Also, a person carrying a child or some sort of load in their arms may have difficulty in reaching for the switch. Furthermore, it may be difficult to install such a lighting system after construction of the building in which the staircase is located, given that building codes generally require that wiring be run inside of the walls of the building. It is desirable, therefore, that a staircase lighting arrangement be capable of turning on and off automatically, when illumination is needed, and provide illumination that will facilitate passage without blinding a person approaching the staircase from a darkened area.

In another prior approach, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,425,601, to Donahue, a light means is mounted on each of the risers of the stairs of a staircase, and pressure sensitive switch means are provided on each tread of the staircase so that foot pressure on any of the treads will cause the light means to illuminate the stairs. This approach has a serious drawback, however, in that a person must locate the staircase in the dark and step up or down onto one of the treads, while still in the dark, before the staircase is illuminated. It is desirable that the staircase illumination apparatus be capable of sensing the presence of a person approaching the staircase and turning on the illumination before the person reaches the staircase.

It is desirable, therefore, to provide an improved apparatus, and method for lighting a staircase in a manner which addresses one or more of the problems described above.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides an improved apparatus and method for lighting a staircase through the use of one or more lighting devices adapted for mounting on the staircase adjacent the treads of the staircase, controlled by pressure sensitive pads which are placed above and below the staircase on the floors of upper and lower levels joined by the staircase. The pressure sensitive pads may be installed under the floor covering of the upper and/or lower levels, or alternatively, may be incorporated into throw rugs or mats that can be placed adjacent the upper and lower ends of the staircase. The lighting devices and pressure sensitive pads may be connected by wires, or wirelessly, or a by a combination of wired and wireless connections, in various embodiments of the invention.

In one form of the invention, an apparatus is provided for lighting a staircase having one or more vertically spaced treads connecting lower and upper levels whereby one or more persons may ascend or descend. The apparatus includes at least one lighting device, and first and second pressure sensitive pads. The lighting device is adapted for mounting on the staircase adjacent at least one of the one or more treads for illuminating the at least one of the one or more treads. The first pressure sensitive pad is adapted for placement on one of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device, and the second pressure sensitive pad is adapted for placement on the other of the upper or lower levels adjacent the staircase for controlling the lighting device.

A lighting apparatus, according to the invention, may further include a controller operatively connected between the lighting device and the first and second pressure sensitive pads for switching the lighting device to an ON condition when a predetermined force is applied to one of the upper or lower pressure sensitive pads. The controller may alternatively be configured for maintaining the lighting device in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the one of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads. The controller may also be configured such that after the lighting device is turned on by applying the predetermined force one of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads, the controller maintains the lighting device in the ON condition until a predetermined force is applied to the other of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads. The controller may be further configured to maintain the lighting device in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the other of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads. At least one of the predetermined force applied to the upper pad, the predetermined force applied to the lower pad, or the predetermined period of time may also be adjustable.

The invention may also take the form of a method for lighting a staircase, using a staircase lighting apparatus according to the invention. The invention may further take the form of a staircase using an apparatus or a method according to the invention.

Other aspects, objectives and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 a perspective view of a staircase including a first embodiment of a staircase lighting apparatus, according to the invention.

FIG. 2 is an electrical schematic corresponding to the embodiment of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a schematic representation of an alternate embodiment of a staircase lighting apparatus, according to the invention.

FIG. 4 is a schematic representation of a second alternate embodiment of a staircase lighting apparatus, according to the invention.

While the invention will be described in connection with certain preferred embodiments, there is no intent to limit it to those embodiments. On the contrary, the intent is to cover all alternatives, modifications and equivalents as included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 a perspective view of a staircase 100 including a first embodiment of a staircase lighting apparatus 102, according to the invention, for automatically illuminating the staircase 100 when the person is approaching or using the staircase 100. The staircase 100 includes a plurality of steps, formed by a plurality of vertically spaced treads 104 joined by risers 106 along a stringer 108, connecting lower and upper levels 110, 112, whereby one or more persons may ascend or descend the staircase 100.

The staircase lighting apparatus 100 includes a plurality of lighting devices 114 mounted on the risers 106 of the staircase, with one lighting device 114 mounted adjacent each tread 104 for illuminating that particular tread 104. The lighting apparatus 100 further includes a first pressure sensitive pad 116 placed on the lower level 110, adjacent the staircase 100, and a second pressure sensitive pad 118 placed on the upper level 112, for controlling the lighting devices 114. It will be noted that, while in FIG. 1 the pressure sensitive pads 116, 118 have been illustrated as lying atop the floor covering on the first and second levels 110, 112, it is contemplated that in some embodiments of the invention one or both of the pressure sensitive pads 116, 118 may be located under the floor covering on the upper and/or lower levels 110, 112.

As shown in FIG. 2, the first embodiment of a lighting apparatus 102, according to the invention, includes a controller 120 operatively connected between the lighting devices 114 and the first and second pressure sensitive pads 116, 118 for switching the lighting devices 114 to an ON condition when a predetermined force is applied to one of the upper or lower pressure sensitive pads 116, 118. Specifically, the lighting devices 114 are connected by wires in a parallel circuit relationship to one another and a power source 122. The controller 120 is disposed in the lighting circuit to deliver electrical power to the lighting devices 114 when triggered to do so by signals received over wires 124, 126 connected between the controller 120 and the first and second pressure sensitive pads 116, 118.

It is contemplated that the power source 122 may be connected to a commercial utility grid through a standard electrical outlet, or otherwise permanently wired into the electrical wiring of a building in which the staircase 100 is installed. It is further contemplated that in various embodiments of the invention, the power source 122 may be partially or fully battery powered, or may include transformers or other electrical components required for transforming utility line voltage to a lower voltage for use in a lighting apparatus according to the invention.

The controller 120 of the first exemplary embodiment of a lighting apparatus 102, according to the invention, is configured such that, after the lighting devices 114 are turned on by applying the predetermined force one of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads 116, 118, the controller 120 maintains the lighting devices 114 in the ON condition until a predetermined force is applied to the other of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads 116, 118, so that the lighting devices 114 will not turn off while a person is on the staircase 100. The controller 120 is further configured to maintain the lighting devices 114 in the ON position for a predetermined period of time after the predetermined force is applied to the other of the upper and lower pressure sensitive pads 116, 118, so that the lighting devices 114 do not switch off and plunge the person using the staircase 100 into darkness the moment that he or she steps off of the second pressure sensitive pad 116, 118.

It is also preferred, that at least one of the predetermined force applied to the upper pad 118, the predetermined force applied to the lower pad 116, or the predetermined period of time that the lighting devices 114 remain on be adjustable, to suit the needs and desires of persons using the staircase 100. For example, in a home with a pet, such as a housecat or a dog, it may be desirable to set the actuation force to a level high enough that the pet will not trigger the lighting apparatus, in order to save on utility bills, given that pets can easily negotiate the staircase 100 in the dark. It may be desirable, in some cases, to prolong the period of time that the lighting devices 114 stay illuminated, after a person uses the staircase 100, to provide time for safely crossing a hallway or room adjoining the staircase 100 to reach switches for other lighting devices.

FIG. 3 shows an alternate embodiment of a lighting apparatus 200, according to the invention, having upper and lower pressure sensitive pads 202, 204 wirelessly linked to a plurality of independently powered lighting devices 206. In such an arrangement, the pressure sensitive pads 202, 204 and lighting devices 206 are battery powered, with the controller and wireless transmitters and receivers being incorporated into the pressure sensitive pads 202, 204 and lighting devices 206. By virtue of this arrangement, the lighting apparatus 200 can be attached to an existing staircase, without the need for wiring, thereby greatly simplifying installation and allowing use on staircases where utility power is not available.

FIG. 4 shows another alternate embodiment of a lighting apparatus 300, according to the invention, having upper and lower pressure sensitive pads 302, 304 wirelessly linked to a plurality of lighting devices 306 connected in parallel to a common power source 308. The common power source 308 may be connected to a utility grid, or partially or fully battery powered in various embodiments of the invention. In the arrangement shown in FIG. 4, the pressure sensitive pads 302, 304 are battery powered, with the controller and wireless transmitters and receivers being incorporated into the pressure sensitive pads 302, 304 and common power source 308.

As shown in FIG. 1, in some embodiments of the invention, it may be desirable to mount lighting devices 400 the stringer 108, or the wall adjacent each tread 104, rather than on the risers 106. It will be further understood that lighting devices, in a lighting apparatus according to the invention, may also be used on staircases which do not have risers. The lighting devices in any embodiment of the invention may be attached to the bottom sides of the treads, or form part of the surface or the nosing of the treads.

It will be understood, by those having skill in the art, that, the controllers in the embodiments of the invention shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 may incorporate some or all of the control functionality described above in relation to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) is to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventor for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventor expects skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventor intends for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.





 
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