Title:
Safety suction inlet
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A novel safety suction inlet for use with conventional and safety suction circulation systems in hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools, to avoid potential hazards including body, hair or other foreign object entrapment or entanglement, is disclosed. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the safety suction inlet includes an internal gate positioned just beneath an internal suction cover. The internal gate provides a secondary point of safety in the event that the suction cover becomes lost or otherwise dislodged from the safety suction inlet. In alternative embodiments of the present invention, the safety suction inlet may be combined with conventional circulation systems to provide additional levels of safety against injury or damage, should an object become entrapped or entangled in the safety suction inlet. Any of the embodiments of the present invention may be used with a conventional or safety circulation system. Further, for those embodiments having an internal gate or other means for preventing entanglement, the external cover may be removably fixed to the suction inlet, thereby adding an additional level of protection against an object becoming entangled in the suction inlet.



Inventors:
Campbell, Graham J. (Stevenson Ranch, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/874979
Publication Date:
12/29/2005
Filing Date:
06/23/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61H33/00; E03C1/264; E04H4/00; (IPC1-7): E04H4/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, TUAN N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Daniel M. Cislo (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A circulation system for use with hydrotherapy tubs, spas and pools, comprising: a safety suction inlet further comprising a suction inlet body, an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said suction inlet body, and an internal gate fixed within said safety suction inlet body and positioned just behind said external suction cover, said internal gate providing a secondary point of safety in case said external suction cover becomes detached from said safety suction inlet; a circulation flow path connected to said safety suction inlet; and a pump connected to said circulation flow path, said pump for drawing water through said safety suction inlet and said circulation flow path.

2. The safety suction inlet of claim 1, wherein said internal gate is permanently fixed within said suction inlet body.

3. The safety suction inlet of claim 1, wherein said internal gate is removably fixed within said suction inlet body.

4. The safety suction inlet of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of raised tabs for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in said suction inlet body.

5. The safety suction inlet of claim 1, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of projections for preventing an object from becoming entangled in said suction inlet body.

6. A safety suction inlet, comprising: a suction inlet body; an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said suction inlet body; and an internal gate fixed within said suction inlet body and positioned just behind said external suction cover, said internal gate for providing a secondary point of safety in case said external suction cover becomes detached from said safety suction inlet.

7. The safety suction inlet of claim 6, wherein said internal gate is permanently fixed within said suction inlet body.

8. The safety suction inlet of claim 6, wherein said internal gate is removably fixed within said suction inlet body.

9. The safety suction inlet of claim 6, further comprising a plurality of raised tabs for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in said suction inlet body.

10. The safety suction inlet of claim 6, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of projections for preventing an object from becoming entangled in said suction inlet body.

11. A safety suction circulation system for use with hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools, comprising: a pump for drawing water through said circulation system; a suction inlet body connected to said circulation system; an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said suction inlet body; an internal gate fixed within said suction inlet body and positioned just behind said external suction cover, said internal gate for providing a secondary point of safety in case said external suction cover becomes detached from said suction inlet; means for disabling said pump if said circulation system becomes blocked.

12. The safety suction circulation system of claim 11, wherein said internal gate is permanently fixed within said suction inlet body.

13. The safety suction circulation system of claim 11, wherein said internal gate is removably fixed within said suction inlet body.

14. The safety suction circulation system of claim 11, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of raised tabs for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in said suction inlet body.

15. The safety suction circulation system of claim 11, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of projections for preventing an object from becoming entangled in said suction inlet body.

16. A safety suction inlet, comprising: a suction inlet body having a front portion and a rear portion; an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said front portion of said suction inlet body; a flow element for coupling said suction inlet body to a circulation system, said flow element attached to said rear portion of said suction inlet body; and an internal gate fixed to said flow element and positioned adjacent to said suction inlet body, said internal gate for providing a secondary point of safety incase said external suction cover becomes detached from said safety suction inlet.

17. The safety suction inlet of claim 16, wherein said internal gate is permanently fixed within said flow element.

18. The safety suction inlet of claim 16, wherein said internal gate is removably fixed within said flow element.

19. The safety suction inlet of claim 16, further comprising a plurality of raised tabs for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in said suction inlet body.

20. The safety suction inlet of claim 16, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of projections for preventing an object from becoming entangled in said suction inlet body.

21. The safety suction inlet of claim 16, wherein said flow element comprises one of an elbow, pipe, or fitting.

22. A safety suction inlet, comprising: a suction inlet body having a front portion and a rear portion; an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said front portion of said suction inlet body; a flow element for coupling said suction inlet body to a circulation system, said flow element attached to said rear portion of said suction inlet body; and a plurality of projections fixed to said flow element and positioned adjacent to said suction inlet body, said plurality of projections for providing a secondary point of safety in case said external suction cover becomes removed from said safety suction inlet.

23. The safety suction inlet of claim 22, wherein said plurality of projections are permanently fixed adjacent to said flow element.

24. The safety suction inlet of claim 22, wherein said plurality of projections are removably fixed adjacent to said flow element.

25. The safety suction inlet of claim 22, wherein said flow element comprises one of an elbow, pipe, or fitting.

26. A circulation system for use with hydrotherapy tubs, spas and pools, comprising: a circulation flow path for routing water to and from said hydrotherapy tubs, sapas and pools; a pump connected to said circulation flow path, said pump for drawing water through said safety suction inlet and said circulation flow path; a suction inlet body having a front portion and a rear portion; an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said front portion of said suction inlet body; a flow element for coupling said suction inlet body to said circulation flow path, said flow element attached between said rear portion of said suction inlet body and said circulation flow path; and an internal gate fixed to said flow element and positioned within said safety suction inlet body just behind said external suction cover, said internal gate providing a secondary point of safety in case said external suction cover becomes removed from said safety suction inlet.

27. The circulation system of claim 26, wherein said internal gate is permanently fixed within said flow element.

28. The circulation system of claim 26, wherein said internal gate is removably fixed within said flow element.

29. The circulation system of claim 26, further comprising a plurality of raised tabs for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in said suction inlet body.

30. The circulation system of claim 26, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of projections for preventing an object from becoming entangled in said suction inlet body.

31. A safety suction circulation system for use with hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools, comprising: a pump for drawing water through said circulation system; a suction inlet body connected to said circulation system; an external suction cover for preventing an object from becoming entangled and blocking said suction inlet body, said external suction cover attached to said suction inlet body; a flow element for coupling said suction inlet body to said circulation system, said flow element connected between said said suction inlet body and said pump; an internal gate fixed to said flow element and positioned within said suction inlet body just behind said external suction cover, said internal gate for providing a secondary point of safety in case said external suction cover becomes removed from said suction inlet body; and means for disabling said pump if said circulation system becomes blocked.

32. The safety suction circulation system of claim 31, wherein said internal gate is permanently fixed to said flow element.

33. The safety suction circulation system of claim 31, wherein said internal gate is removably fixed within said flow element.

34. The safety suction circulation system of claim 31, wherein said internal gate further comprises a plurality of raised tabs for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in said suction inlet body.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to circulation systems for hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools, and more particularly to a novel safety suction inlet for use with a circulation system that incorporates both an internal gate and external cover to avoid potential hazards including body, hair or other foreign object entrapment or entanglement, should the external cover be removed.

2. Description of the Prior Art

It is generally known that water is recirculated under high pressure in hydrotherapy tubs, spas and pools. A pump draws water from the interior of a tub or spa through an inlet and forces the water through one or more jets or nozzles that, after mixing the water with air, inject the water under pressure back into the interior of the tub or spa. Because the system uses high pressure to recirculate the water, there is a danger that an object such as a body part or hair may become entrapped or entangled in the inlet, leading to potentially serious consequences inluding serious injury or death by drowning.

While most people are unaware of the potential danger of the circulation system, if one comes in direct contact with any of the suction inlets of the hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool, the suction force will immediately form a seal between the inlet and the individual's skin, or clothing. In addition, the individual's hair may become entangled in the suction inlet. If either of these should occur, the force needed to dislodge the body, hair, or other object can exceed 500 pounds. In addition, in the case of a portion of the body or hair, serious injuries can be inflicted almost instantaneously, up to and including death by drowning.

Once an object, such as a part of the body, becomes entrapped in the suction inlet of the circulation system, the only way to dislodge the object is to interrupt or disable the suction system. One way to do this is to interrupt the electrical power to the pump; however, even if the power is removed the suction between the intake of the pump and the obstructed suction inlet could remain for a short period of time. Thus, a way is needed to quickly remove the vacuum condition between the obstructed suction inlet and the intake of the pump, so that the object can be freed without damage or injury.

In order to reduce or eliminate the chance of occurence of such accidents, several solutions for preventing an object from becoming entrapped in the suction inlet have been proposed. One approach is to sense the blockage and quickly reduce the vacuum between the suction inlet and the system pump. For example, floats or electromagnetic switches for detecting and reacting to potential blockages have been used; however, these solutions may be mechanically and/or electrically complicated.

In order to relieve the vacuum condition between an obstructed suction inlet and the intake of a pump, U.S. Pat. No. 4,602,391 to Shepard discloses a dynamically balanced suction relief pump. A controlled amount of water under pressure is supplied from a pump to an air inlet duct to maintain a water level in a column under normal operating conditions. A check valve keeps water from spilling from the column and maintains water in the column unless a blockage occurs, in which case the water level drops and air enters the system to cavitate the pump, thereby relieving the vacuum between the obstructed suction inlet and the intake of the pump. However, the system disclosed by Shepard is relatively complex and does not include any additional safety features to prevent blockage of the suction inlet.

A different, and much more serious safety concern, is entanglement which can occur if a portion of hair is drawn into the suction inlet. If hair becomes entangled in the suction inlet the individual's head will be held under the water and, unless the entanglement is released immediately, will result in death by drowning. Relieving the vacuum condition will generally not release entangled hair, since the hair will be twisted and knotted behind the suction inlet.

Thus, in another approach to reducing the chance of a foreign object becoming entrapped or entangled in the suction inlet, an external grate or cover is used to directly cover the suction inlet. This physically prevents an object (particularly hair) from being entangled inside the suction inlet and, further, prevents an efficient seal from being formed between the object and the inlet. However, if the external grate or cover is removed there will be no protection against the object becoming entrapped or entangled in the suction inlet, which can result in serious injury or death as described above. Thus, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers has established the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8M (1987) testing standard for suction inlets to be used with swimming pools, wading pools, spas, hot tubs and whirlpool bathtub appliances.

The ASME/ANSI suction testing standard requires that the external suction cover be secured mechanically and requires a special tool for removal of the external suction cover (i.e., slotted screws are not permitted; star/Phillips screw heads are permitted). The intent is to make removal of the external suction cover difficult to minimize the likelihood that the whirlpool/spa will be operated without the cover in place.

If an individual's hair becomes entangled in an external or one piece suction cover, in order to permit them to remove themselves from the water and avoid drowning they either need to pull the hair out of their scalp, cut their hair, immediately pump all the water out of the tub or spa, or remove the external suction cover using the required tool. It is extremely unlikely that any of the above can be accomplished in time.

With a fixed internal gate combined with an external (removable) safety cover, the suction inlet could be rated and tested to the above ASME/ASNI standard with the external safety cover removed. Instead of requiring a special tool, the external safety cover could be attached so it could be removed with a light pull. Further, if the external safety cover were used in conjunction with a circulation system that cavitates or turns off the pump when the individual's hair is entangled on the external safety cover, they would be able to simply pull the external safety cover off with minimal effort and stand up once the pump either cavitated or was shut off.

Accordingly, there is a need for a safety suction inlet for use with circulation systems for hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools incorporating both a fixed internal gate and a removable external safety cover to avoid potential hazards including body, hair or other foreign object entrapment or entanglement, should the external safety cover be removed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a safety suction inlet for use with circulation systems for hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools, and more particularly to a safety suction inlet incorporating both a fixed internal gate and a removable external safety cover to avoid potential hazards including body, hair or other foreign object entrapment or entanglement, should the external cover be removed.

In a first embodiment of the present invention, the safety suction inlet includes both a fixed internal gate and a removable external safety cover. The internal gate is permanently positioned within the body of the safety suction inlet just beneath the external suction cover. The internal gate is positioned such that it provides a secondary point of safety in the event that the external suction cover becomes removed or otherwise dislodged from the safety suction inlet. The internal gate thus prevents an object from becoming entrapped or entangled in the safety suction inlet even if the external suction cover is removed.

In a second embodiment of the present invention, the safety suction inlet may be combined with a conventional circulation system in order to reduce the chance of an object becoming entrapped or entangled in the suction inlet of the system.

In a third embodiment of the present invention, the safety suction inlet may be combined with a safety circulation system having a cavitation tee connected to a vent in contact with ambient air. A column of water is maintained in the vent above the cavitation tee until such time that the safety suction inlet becomes blocked. When the safety suction inlet is blocked, the column of water above the cavitation tee and inside the atmospheric vent reduces to a level that causes air to enter the system and cavitation of the pump to occur, thereby relieving the vacuum between the cavitation tee and the safety suction inlet and releasing the object causing the blockage.

In a fourth embodiment of the present invention, the circulation system further includes a focused inlet connected to the cavitation tee that allows rapid cavitation in the event that the safety suction inlet becomes blocked. The focused inlet includes a small orifice placed at the face of the safety suction inlet having a diameter that can be adjusted to alter the sensitivity of the cavitation effect.

In each of the third or fourth embodiments of the present invention, the cavitation tee may be located remotely away from the safety suction inlet, thereby providing for convenient installation and maintenance.

In a fifth embodiment of the present invention, the safety suction inlet includes a fixed internal gate, a removable external safety cover, and a plurality of raised tabs. As with the first embodiment, in the fifth embodiment the internal gate is positioned within the body of the safety suction inlet just beneath the external suction cover. Likewise, the internal gate is positioned to provide a secondary point of safety in the event that the external suction cover becomes removed or otherwise dislodged from the safety suction inlet. In this embodiment, the addition of the plurality of raised tabs prevents an object from forming a seal with the safety suction inlet body, thereby reducing the possibility of an object becoming entrapped. Similarly, the fixed internal gate prevents an object from becoming entrapped or entangled in the safety suction inlet even if the external suction cover is removed.

In a sixth embodiment of the present invention, the internal gate is fixed to a flow element that attaches to the back of a conventional suction inlet. The combination of the flow element and the conventional suction inlet perform exactly the same function as the safety suction element having the fixed internal gate. As with the other embodiments, the internal gate provides a secondary point of safety in the event that the external suction cover becomes lost or otherwise dislodged from the safety suction inlet. The internal gate thus prevents an object from becoming entrapped or entangled in the safety suction inlet even if the external suction cover is removed.

In a seventh embodiment of the present invention, a plurality of rods or other projections oriented within a flow element, such as an elbow, prevents an object from becoming entangled in the safety suction inlet. The combination of the flow element and the conventional suction inlet performs exactly the same function as the safety suction element having the fixed internal gate.

Any of the first, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh embodiments of the present invention may be used with a conventional or safety circulation system. Further, the external suction cover may be removably fixed to the suction inlet, thereby adding an additional level of protection against an object becoming entangled in the suction inlet.

Further features and advantages of the present invention will be appreciated by a review of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments taken in conjunction with the following drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention may be best understood by referring to the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and the accompanying drawings, wherein like numerals denote like elements and in which:

FIG. 1 shows a prior art suction inlet 100 for use with a hydrotherapy tub or spa circulation system.

FIG. 2 shows an embodiment of safety suction inlet 200 that includes a fixed internal safety gate 204 constructed in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of safety suction inlet 200 with internal safety gate 204 and a removable external cover 210;

FIG. 4 shows a conventional circulation system 400 that includes safety suction inlet 200 of the present invention;

FIG. 5 shows a safety suction circulation system 500 that includes safety suction inlet 200 of the present invention

FIG. 6 shows an alternative embodiment of a safety suction inlet 600 that includes an internal safety gate 604 having a plurality of raised tabs 606a-606c;

FIG. 7 shows a perspective view of safety suction inlet 600 with an external cover 610;

FIG. 8 shows a flow element 800 containing an internal safety gate 804 for use with prior art suction inlet 100; and

FIG. 9 shows a flow element 900 comprising a plurality of projections 904a-904k for use with prior art suction inlet 100.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The following exemplary discussion focuses on a novel safety suction inlet for use with circulation systems for hydrotherapy tubs, spas or pools, and more particularly to a safety suction inlet incorporating both a fixed internal gate and a removable external safety cover to avoid potential hazards including body, hair or other foreign object entrapment or entanglement, should the external cover be removed.

Referring to FIG. 1, a prior art suction inlet 100, comprising an inlet body 102, an external cover 104 and a gasket 106, is shown. Suction inlet 100 is conventionally used with any type of circulation system; however, if external cover 104 is lost or misplaced, an object could be sucked into suction inlet 100, resulting in damage or bodily injury.

Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, a safety suction inlet 200 constructed in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention, is shown. Safety suction inlet 200 comprises a suction inlet body 202, an internal safety gate 204, a threaded mounting portion 206, a plurality of external cover-mounting tabs 208a-208d, and an external safety cover 210. Internal safety gate 204 is mounted inside of suction inlet body 202 to provide an additional level of safety should external safety cover 210 (FIG. 3) be removed, thereby preventing an object from being sucked into and/or becoming entangled in safety inlet 200. Internal safety gate 204 can either be permanently fixed inside of suction inlet body 202, or mounted in a manner that requires a special tool for removal.

Referring to external safety cover 210, FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of safety suction inlet 200 and, in particular, how external safety cover 210 may be removably mounted to the front of suction inlet body 202. External safety cover 210 may be removed for cleaning and may be easily and economically replaced in the event of cracking, breaking, or other damage. Further, the fixed mounting of internal safety gate 204 within suction inlet body 202 allows safety suction inlet 200 to be tested and certified without external safety cover 210. Thus, external safety cover 210 may be removably mounted to safety suction inlet 200, thereby providing for easy removal should hair become entangled in external safety cover 210. In addition, external safety cover 210 may incorporate a variety of decorative design features that would not be possible if screws or other hardware were required to fasten external safety cover 210 to safety suction inlet 200.

Although safety suction inlet 200 is shown with threaded mounting portion 206, other mounting mechanisms including press fit, adhesive, or o-ring are possible and are intended to fall within the scope of the present invention. The use of such mounting methods will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

Continuing with FIG. 4, a conventional circulation system 400 that comprises safety suction inlet 200 having internal safety gate 204 and external cover 210, a pump 402, a circulation path 404, and a return path 406, is shown. Safety suction inlet 200 and suction cover 210 are located in the interior of a hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool (partial wall 410 shown) and serve to channel water into safety suction circulation system 400. Safety suction inlet 200 is connected to an intake of pump 402 through circulation path 404. As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, circulation path 404 may be comprised of multiple components, such as pipes, elbows, threaded fittings, and other conventional components (not individually shown).

Return path 406 is connected to an output of pump 402 and serves to return water to the interior of the hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool. As with circulation path 404, return path 406 may be comprised of multiple components, such as pipes, elbows, threaded fittings, and other conventional components (again, not individually shown).

Conventional circulation system 400 operates as follows. During normal operation, water is drawn from the hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool through safety suction inlet 200 and circulation path 404 by pump 402 and back to the hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool through return path 406. In FIG. 4, the direction of the flow through circulation path 404 during normal operation is depicted by the arrows labeled “A.” If safety suction inlet 200 becomes blocked, the flow through circulation path 404 is immediately stopped; however, external safety cover 210 prevents the object from being sucked into suction inlet body 202 and causing serious injury or damage. Further, if external safety cover 210 is removed, internal safety gate 204 provides an additional level of protection against the object being sucked into suction inlet body 202 and causing serious injury or damage.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a safety suction circulation system 500 constructed in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention, is disclosed. Safety suction circulation system 500 comprises safety suction inlet 200 having internal safety gate 204 and external safety cover 210, a pump 502, a primary circulation path 504, and a return path 514. Safety suction circulation system 500 further comprises a secondary circulation path 506 consisting of a cavitation tee 508, an air vent 510, and a focused inlet 512. Note that the cross-sectional area of primary circulation path 504 is much larger than the cross-sectional area of secondary circulation path 506.

Safety suction inlet 200 and suction cover 210 are located in the interior of a hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool (partial wall 516 shown) and serve to channel water into safety suction circulation system 500. Safety suction inlet 200 is connected to an intake of pump 502 through primary circulation path 504 and, in parallel, through secondary circulation path 506. As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, both primary circulation path 504 and secondary circulation path 506 may be comprised of multiple components, such as pipes, elbows, threaded fittings, and other conventional components (not individually shown).

Return path 514 is connected to an output of pump 502 and serves to return water to the interior of the hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool. As with primary circulation path 504 and secondary circulation path 506, return path 514 may be comprised of multiple components, such as pipes, elbows, threaded fittings, and other conventional components (again, not individually shown). Air vent 510 connects secondary circulation path 506 to ambient air through cavitation tee 508 and is oriented vertically to maintain a column of water above its end under normal operating conditions.

Safety suction circulation system 500 operates as follows. During normal operation, water is drawn from hydrotherapy tub, spa or pool through safety suction inlet 200 and primary circulation path 504 by pump 502 and back to the hydrotherapy tub or spa through return path 514. In FIG. 5, the flow through primary circulation path 504 during normal operation is depicted by the arrows labeled “A.” Also during normal operation, a small amount of water flows through secondary circulation path 506; however, due to the large difference in cross-sectional areas between primary circulation path 504 and secondary circulation path 506, the flow through the latter is much smaller. The precise flow rate through secondary circulation path 506 may be further controlled by focused inlet 512 and is adjusted so that the water level in air vent 510 is just balanced by the ambient air pressure without overflowing.

If safety suction inlet 200 becomes blocked, the flow through primary circulation path 504 is immediately stopped, and air is drawn through air vent 510 into secondary circulation path 506. The air flow continues into pump 502, breaks the priming of the system and causes pump 502 to cavitate, thereby reducing the vacuum in primary circulation path 504. This allows the object that is blocking safety suction inlet 200 to be released. In FIG. 5, the flow through secondary circulation path 506 when suction inlet 200 is blocked is depicted by the arrows labeled “B.”

The description of safety suction circulation system 500 describes one conventional method for relieving the vacuum in the suction line. As will be obvious to those skilled in the art, a number of other methods exist for relieving the vacuum, including electrical disablement, column of water, check valve without a column of water, multiple suction fittings, and combinations thereof. Safety suction inlet 200 of the present invention may be used in combination with each of these methods to reduce the danger of hair entanglement that could lead to serious injury or death by drowning.

Referring now to FIGS. 6 and 7, an alternative embodiment of a safety suction inlet 600 is disclosed. Safety suction inlet 600 comprises a suction inlet body 602, an internal safety gate 604 having a plurality of raised tabs 606a-606c, a mounting portion 603 (shown threaded for illustration purposes only), a plurality of external cover mounting tabs 605a-605d, and an external safety cover 610. External safety cover 610 mounts to the front of suction inlet body 602 and is held in place by plurality of external cover mounting tabs 605a-605d. Internal safety gate 604 is fixed within suction inlet body 602 to provide an additional level of safety should external safety cover 610 be removed, thereby preventing an object from becoming entangled in safety inlet 600. In addition, the plurality of raised tabs 606a-606c prevents an object from forming a seal with the safety suction inlet body, thereby reducing the possibility of an object becoming entrapped.

Continuing with FIG. 8, a flow element 800 comprises a flow element body 802 and an internal gate 804 that is permanently fixed to one end of flow body 802. As will be apparent to those skilled in the art, flow body 800 may comprise an elbow, pipe, or any other type of fitting used in the fabrication of circulation systems for hydrotherapy tubs, spas and pools. Flow element 800 may be attached to the back of conventional suction inlet 100 (see FIG. 1 herein), and the combination of flow element 800 and conventional suction inlet 100 perform exactly the same function as safety suction element 200 having fixed internal gate 204. As with the previously described embodiment, internal gate 804 provides a secondary point of safety in the event that external cover 104 becomes lost or otherwise dislodged from suction inlet 100. Internal gate 804 thus prevents an object from becoming entrapped or entangled in suction inlet 100 even if external cover 104 is lost or removed.

In FIG. 9, a plurality of rods 904a-904k, of the same or differing heights, are oriented within a body 902 of a flow element 900, such as an elbow, to prevent an object from becoming entangled in a suction inlet. As will further be apparent to those skilled in the art, flow element 900 may comprise an elbow, pipe, or any other type of fitting used in the fabrication of circulation systems for hydrotherapy tubs, spas and pools. Flow element 900 may be attached to the back of conventional suction inlet 100 (see FIG. 1 herein), the combination of flow element 900 and suction inlet 100 perform exactly the same function as safety suction inlet 200 having fixed internal gate 204.

Any embodiments of FIGS. 2-3 and 6-9 may be used with a conventional circulation system 400 or safety circulation system 500. Further, for those embodiments having an internal gate or other means for preventing an object from becoming entangled in the suction inlet, the external suction cover may be removably fixed to the suction inlet, thereby adding an additional level of protection against an object becoming entangled in the suction inlet.

The foregoing description includes what are at present considered to be preferred embodiments of the invention. However, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications may be made to the embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the specific shape and dimensions of suction inlet 200 or internal safety gate 204, or the hole size or pattern of the latter, may be changed. Alternatively, the precise number of components and physical layout of conventional circulation system 400 or safety suction circulation system 500 may vary according to the specific application. In addition, external safety cover 210 may be removably attached to safety suction inlet 200 in a variety of ways. Accordingly, it is intended that such changes and modifications fall within the spirit and scope of the invention, and that the invention be limited only by the following claims.