Title:
Barbecue grill tank enclosure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a support apparatus for a fuel tank used in connection with a gas barbecue grill assembly. The support apparatus is connected to a portion of the frame assembly of the grill assembly. In one embodiment, the support apparatus includes a door having a first wall and a second wall adjacent and transverse to the first wall. In another embodiment, the support apparatus includes a door and a substantially vertical member rotatedly supporting the door. One wall of the door is adapted to support the fuel tank. The door is moveable between a first position wherein the fuel tank is stored for use, and a second position wherein the fuel tank is accessible. The support apparatus has a first vent and a second distal vent to vent the cavity of the housing.



Inventors:
Zelek, Leonard G. (Chicago, IL, US)
Bruno, Adrian A. (Rolling Meadows, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/883631
Publication Date:
01/05/2006
Filing Date:
06/30/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
126/686
International Classes:
F24S23/79
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
BASICHAS, ALFRED
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER & MCKENZIE LLP (formerly Chicago account) (Dallas, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A fuel tank enclosure for a barbecue grill, comprising: a door having a first wall and a second wall adjacent and transverse to the first wall, and a fuel tank bracket connected to the second wall to support the fuel tank, the door being moveable between a first position wherein the fuel tank is stored for use, and a second position wherein the fuel tank is accessible.

2. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, further comprising a shaft member having a substantial portion residing in a generally vertical axis, the door rotating about the shaft member to move from the first position to the second position.

3. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, further comprising a gusset joining a portion of the first wall and the second wall.

4. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, wherein the fuel tank bracket comprises a fuel tank scale, and wherein the fuel tank is supported by the fuel tank scale.

5. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, wherein the first and second walls are in intersecting vertical planes.

6. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, further comprising a housing having a cavity for the fuel tank, wherein the door substantially covers a front opening to the cavity of the housing when the door is in the first position.

7. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 2, further comprising a housing having a cavity for the fuel tank, wherein the door substantially covers a front opening to the cavity of the housing when the door is in the first position, and wherein the shaft member connects the door to the housing.

8. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, further comprising a first vent aperture adjacent a top of the fuel tank enclosure, and a second vent aperture adjacent a bottom of the fuel tank enclosure.

9. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 8, wherein the first vent aperture extends through a portion of the first wall of the door.

10. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 9, wherein the second vent aperture resides beneath the door.

11. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 1, further comprising a tank regulator and bulkhead assembly removably connected to the fuel tank enclosure.

12. A fuel tank enclosure for a barbecue grill, comprising: a housing assembly; and, a door rotatedly connected about a generally vertical axis to the housing assembly, the door having a bracket to support the fuel tank, wherein the door rotates about the vertical axis from a first position to a second position, wherein the fuel tank is accessible when the door is in the second position, and wherein the fuel tank is retracted in the housing when the door is in the first position.

13. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, wherein the door comprises a first wall and a second wall transverse to the first wall, the fuel tank being operably connected to the second wall of the door.

14. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 13, further comprising a gusset connecting the first wall with the second wall, the gusset residing in an intersecting plane to the first and second walls.

15. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, further comprising a shaft member connected to the door, the shaft member providing rotational support for the door to rotate about the housing assembly.

16. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 15, wherein the shaft member has a reverse bent portion.

17. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 15, wherein the shaft member has a top end and a bottom end, and wherein the shaft member engages the housing assembly adjacent both the top and bottom ends thereof.

18. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, further comprising a bushing adjacent the door, wherein the bushing has a shoulder dimensioned to provide a defined gap adjacent an edge of the door, the gap providing an area for the ingress or egress of air flow about a cavity of the fuel tank enclosure.

19. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, wherein the housing assembly has an open bottom.

20. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, further comprising a first vent aperture adjacent a top of the fuel tank enclosure, and a second vent aperture adjacent a bottom of the fuel tank enclosure.

21. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 20, wherein the first vent aperture extends through a portion of the first wall of the door, and wherein the second vent aperture resides beneath the door.

22. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, wherein the housing assembly is a component of a frame supporting the barbecue grill.

23. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, wherein the housing assembly is connected to a built-in support structure for the barbecue grill.

24. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, further comprising a retaining member in the door to removably secure the door in the first position.

25. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 12, wherein the housing assembly comprises a cabinet having a frame member.

26. A support apparatus for a fuel tank used with a barbecue grill, the support apparatus comprising: a door having a support for the fuel tank, and a substantially vertical member rotatedly supporting the door, wherein the substantially vertical member is connected to a support structure.

27. The support apparatus of claim 26, wherein the support structure is a built-in support structure for the barbecue grill.

28. The support apparatus of claim 26, wherein the support structure is a tank enclosure housing.

29. The support apparatus of claim 26, wherein the substantially vertical member is a shaft, wherein a first end of the shaft extends past an extent of a first end of the door, wherein a second end of the shaft extends past an extent of a second end of the door, and wherein the first and second ends of the shaft extend into the support structure.

30. A fuel tank enclosure for housing a fuel tank to be in fluid communication with a gas burner of a barbecue grill assembly comprising: a housing and a door rotatably connected to the housing, the housing having a cavity, wherein the fuel tank enclosure has a first vent and a second distal vent to vent the cavity of the housing.

31. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 30, wherein a first vent opening of the first vent is adjacent a top of the fuel tank enclosure, and wherein a second vent opening of the second vent is adjacent a bottom of the fuel tank enclosure.

32. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 30, wherein a vent opening of the first vent and a vent opening of the second vent exit adjacent a front of the fuel tank enclosure.

33. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 31, wherein the first vent opening comprises a plurality of apertures adjacent a top of the door.

34. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 31, wherein the second vent opening comprises an open bottom of the tank enclosure.

35. A fuel tank enclosure for a barbecue grill assembly, comprising: a housing having a cavity for a fuel tank; a door substantially covering an opening to the cavity of the housing when the door is in a first position, the door being moveable to a second position to provide access to the cavity of the housing, wherein the door has an aperture in a wall thereof to provide a first vent for the cavity, and wherein the cavity has a second vent adjacent a bottom of the housing.

36. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 35, wherein the housing has an open bottom.

37. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 35, wherein the door rotates in a generally vertical axis about a shaft connected to the housing.

38. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 35, wherein the door has a first wall, a second wall adjacent and transverse to the first wall, and a bracket connected to the second wall, the bracket adapted to support a fuel tank.

39. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 35, further comprising a tank regulator and a bulkhead assembly removably connected to a regulator bracket, the regulator bracket being removably connected to the housing.

40. The fuel tank enclosure of claim 35, wherein the bulkhead assembly comprises a first gas port for fluidly connecting a first gas burner to the fuel tank, and a second gas port for fluidly connecting a separate second gas burner to the fuel tank.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a support for a fuel tank, and more specifically, the present invention relates to a moveable support for a fuel tank used in connection with a barbecue grill and/or other cooking accessories.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Over the past few decades, the popularity of gas barbecue grills and outdoor cooking devices has increased tremendously. Such barbecue grills may be connected to a cart assembly and thus moveable between various locations, or the barbecue grills may be incorporated into or connected to a fixed structure, such as a built-in island. Additionally, the barbecue grill may receive its fuel for cooking from a fuel tank, often holding liquid propane, and/or from a direct line, typically carrying natural gas which is conveyed through piping. When a fuel tank is utilized a tank support is usually incorporated into the cart assembly or fixed structure.

Manufacturers of cart assemblies and other fixed structures have introduced a number of support devices for the barbecue grill fuel tank. Conventional support devices, however, suffer from a number of problems and limitations. Most conventional support devices are affixed to a portion of the frame assembly of the barbecue grill or the cooking device, typically a vertical frame member. In this manner, the support device and the fuel tank are exposed to potentially harsh outdoor elements. Also, the frame members must be specifically designed or reinforced to withstand the increased loads presented by the support device and the fuel tank. Additionally, because most frame assemblies are formed from a plurality of frame members, access to a spent fuel tank is compromised when the support device is affixed to the frame assembly.

A number of larger gas barbecue grills have a frame assembly which includes a cabinet or a storage cavity, and the fuel tank is placed therein. In this manner, the fuel tank remains unsecured and susceptible to unexpected movement. Alternatively, a conventional support device is permanently affixed to an internal frame member of the cabinet. In either case, the structure of the cabinet impairs the access to and replacement of a spent fuel tank.

Therefore, there is a definite need for a support device for a fuel tank that is movable between a first position wherein the fuel tank is protected and stored for use, and a second position, wherein the fuel tank is accessible. In addition, there is a need for a support device that provides for generally unobstructed removal and replacement of a spent fuel tank.

The present invention is provided to solve these and other problems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a fuel tank enclosure and support apparatus for a fuel tank used in connection with a gas barbecue grill assembly or other gas outdoor cooking device. The support apparatus generally comprises a housing member and a support member for the fuel tank.

According to one embodiment, the support member is a door assembly. The door assembly has a first wall and a second wall adjacent and transverse to the first wall. The second wall of the door assembly is adapted to support the fuel tank. In one embodiment the first and second walls are in intersecting vertical planes.

According to another embodiment, a gusset joins a portion of the first wall and the second wall to provide additional rigidity to the door assembly. The gusset may extend from adjacent one end of the first wall and join the second wall adjacent one end of the second wall.

According to another embodiment, the door assembly is moveable between a first position and a second position. In the first position, the door assembly and the fuel tank are positioned generally within the housing member of the enclosure. In the second position, a portion of the door assembly is positioned generally beyond a portion of the housing and the frame assembly. Further, in the second position the fuel tank is positioned generally beyond the housing and the frame assembly. Thus, when the door is in the first position the fuel tank is stored for use, and when the door is in the second position the fuel tank is accessible, meaning that a user can detach and/or remove an empty fuel tank from the door assembly.

According to another embodiment, a tank scale is provided. The fuel tank is supported by the fuel tank scale.

According to another embodiment, the tank enclosure has a first vent aperture and a second vent aperture. The first vent aperture is adjacent a top of the fuel tank enclosure, and the second vent aperture is adjacent a bottom of the fuel tank enclosure.

According to another embodiment, the housing member of the fuel tank enclosure assembly has a first wall, a second wall opposing the first wall, a top wall, a bottom wall opposing the top wall, and a rear wall. Further, the housing member has an opening leading to a cavity between the walls of the housing for the fuel tank. Typically, when the door is in the first position the door substantially covers the opening to the cavity of the housing.

According to another embodiment, the housing member has no bottom wall.

According to another embodiment, a shaft member is provided. The door assembly rotates about the shaft member to move from the first position to the second position. In a preferred embodiment, the shaft member resides in a generally vertical axis.

According to another embodiment, the shaft member has an angled portion to provide support for the door. Further, in one embodiment the shaft member has a top end and a bottom end. In this embodiment the shaft member may engage the housing or frame assembly adjacent both the top and bottom ends of the door. In one embodiment, a first end of the shaft extends past an extent of a first end of the door, and a second end of the shaft extends past an extent of a second end of the door. The first and second ends of the shaft extend into the housing assembly of the barbecue grill.

According to another embodiment, a retaining member is provided. The retaining member removably secures the door in the second position. The retaining member is adapted to provide securement to the door such that the position of the door remains generally fixed. In one embodiment, the retaining member is a magnet that removably secures the door to a wall of the housing.

The fuel tank support apparatus of various embodiments provides a number of significant advantages over conventional fuel tank support devices. One such advantage is the ability to rotate the door from a stored position (first position) to an access position (second position) such that a spent fuel tank can be removed and replaced. Another advantage is the ability to rotate the door from the access position to the stored position once the replacement fuel tank is connected to the door. Yet another advantage provided by the door is positioning the fuel tank within the housing in the stored position to preclude exposure to outdoor elements.

Other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following specification taken in conjunction with the following drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

To understand the present invention, it will now be described by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a barbecue grill assembly incorporating one embodiment of the tank enclosure assembly;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of another barbecue grill assembly incorporating one embodiment of the tank enclosure assembly;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of one embodiment of the tank enclosure assembly;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the tank enclosure assembly;

FIG. 5 is a front elevation view of the tank enclosure assembly of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the fuel tank support of FIG. 4, showing the door of the tank enclosure assembly in the first position;

FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the tank enclosure assembly of FIG. 4, showing the door of the tank enclosure assembly in the second position;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a barbecue grill assembly incorporating another embodiment of the tank enclosure assembly;

FIG. 9 is an exploded perspective view of another embodiment of the tank enclosure assembly;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the tank enclosure assembly of FIG. 9; and,

FIG. 11 is a front elevation view of the tank enclosure assembly of FIG. 10.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION:

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated.

Referring now in detail to the FIGS., and specifically to FIGS. 3 and 4, there is shown one embodiment of a tank enclosure assembly 10. The tank enclosure assembly 10 generally comprises a support apparatus 12, generally being a door 12, a housing assembly 16 and a hinge or pivot member 18. The housing assembly 16 may include a fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14. The tank enclosure assembly 10 may be utilized in conjunction with a barbecue grill assembly 20 having a frame assembly 22, such as in the example shown in FIG. 1, or it may be utilized in conjunction with barbecue grill assembly 24 having a built-in support structure 26, such as in the example shown in FIG. 2. Additionally, the tank enclosure assembly 10 may be a part of the frame assembly 22 or the built-in support structure 26.

For reference purposes, the barbecue grill assembly 20 shown in FIG. 1 generally includes a frame assembly 22 and a cooking chamber 28. The frame assembly 22 is adapted to provide support to the cooking chamber 28. The frame assembly 22 includes a combination of vertical frame members 30, transverse frame members 32, and horizontal frame members 34. Conversely, the barbecue grill assembly 24 shown in FIG. 2 has a built-in support structure 26 for providing support to the cooking chamber 36.

Referring back to the tank enclosure assembly 10, in one embodiment shown in FIGS. 3 and 7, the door 12 of the tank enclosure assembly 10 has a first wall 38, a second wall 40 and a gusset 42. The second wall 40 is adapted to support the fuel tank 63. With reference to the two walls of the door 12, the first wall 38 is generally adjacent and transverse to the second wall 40. Further, in this embodiment, the first and second walls 38, 40 are positioned in substantially intersecting vertical planes. A gusset 42 connects the first wall 38 and the second wall 40 by joining a portion of the first wall 38 and the second wall 40. The gusset 42 provides additional structural strength and rigidity to the door 12 of the tank enclosure assembly 10.

With respect to this example of the door 12 of the tank enclosure assembly 10, the first wall 38 has a first end 44, a second end 46, a third end 48 and a fourth end 50. Similarly, the second wall 40 has a first end 52, a second end 54, a third end 56 and a fourth end 58. The first end 44 of the first wall 38 is adjacent to the first end 52 of the second wall 40, the fourth end 50 of the first wall 38 is adjacent to the gusset 42, and the fourth end 58 of the second wall 40 is adjacent to the gusset 42.

Additionally, portions of the first and second walls 38, 40 of the door 12 have flanges 60 to assist in increasing the structural rigidity of the door 12. Specifically, the second and third ends 46, 48 of the first wall 38, and the second and third ends 54, 56 of the second wall 40 have such flanges 60. Additionally, the gusset 42 may also have a flange 61 to increase the rigidity and overall strength of the door 12.

The door 12 of the tank enclosure assembly 10 is moveable between a first position, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 6, and a second position, as shown in FIG. 7. In the first position, the fuel tank 63 is positioned generally within the housing assembly 16 of the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10, and the door 12 is positioned generally adjacent the housing assembly 16. In the second position, a portion of the door 12 is positioned generally beyond a portion of the housing assembly 16. Further, in the second position the fuel tank 63 is positioned generally beyond a cavity 85 of the housing assembly 16. Accordingly, when the door 12 is in the first position the fuel tank 63 is stored for use, and when the door 12 is in the second position the fuel tank 63 is accessible, meaning that a user can detach and/or remove an empty fuel tank 63 from the door 12.

To move from the first position to the second position, the door 12 rotates or pivots about a hinge assembly 18. In one embodiment, the hinge/pivot assembly 18 is a shaft 62. Thus, in this embodiment the door 12 rotates about the shaft member 62 to move from the first position to the second position. In a preferred embodiment, a portion of the shaft member 62 resides in a generally vertical axis to provide rotational support for the door 12 to rotate about the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14. Thus, in a preferred embodiment the door 12 is rotatable about a generally vertical axis.

As best shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the shaft member 62 has a first end 66, a first angled portion 64a adjacent the first end 66, a second end 68, and a second angled portion 64b adjacent the second end 68. Generally, the portion of the shaft member 62 between the first end 66 and the first angled portion 64a is in a parallel vertical axis as the portion of the shaft member 62 between the second end 68 and the second angled portion 64b. The angled portions 64 assist in providing rigidity to the shaft member 62, as well as providing locational positioning and support for the door 12. The shaft 62 is generally connected to a support structure, which may include a frame assembly 22, a built-in support structure 26, a fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14, a housing assembly 16, or any other acceptable structure. In one embodiment, the shaft member 62 is supported by the housing assembly 16 adjacent both its first and second ends 66, 68 thereof.

To accept and retain the shaft 62, the door 12 has a first aperture 70 in one of the upper portions of the door 12, and a second aperture 72 in one of the lower portions of the door 12 as shown in FIG. 3. The first end 66 of the shaft 62 extends through the first aperture 70, and the second end 68 of the shaft 62 extends through the second aperture 72. Additionally, the first end 66 of the shaft 62 also extends through a first bushing 74 adjacent the upper portion of the door 12. Similarly, the second end 68 of the shaft 62 also extends through a second bushing 76 adjacent the lower portion of the door 12. A further description of the structure and use of the bushings 74, 76 is described below.

As explained above, the door 12 is rotatedly connected to either the housing assembly 16 or the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 (which may be a component of the housing assembly 16). Further, the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 may be part of the frame assembly 22, part of the built-in support structure 26, or it may be a separate component. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 is a component that is tack welded to the housing assembly 16, and thus forms a part of the housing assembly 16. The frame assembly 14 generally provides structural rigidity to a portion of the housing assembly 16. In this embodiment the frame assembly 14 comprises opposing first and second frame members 78a, 78b and opposing third and fourth frame members 80a, 80b. The frame assembly 14 also has connecting members 82 to connect the frame assembly 14 to the housing assembly 16. Additionally, one of the connecting members 82 preferably has a connection portion 84 to support a gas line 102 extending from the grill.

As shown in FIG. 3, the housing assembly 16 generally comprises a housing structure which is made of a plurality of walls defining a cavity 85. In one example, the housing assembly 16 has a back wall 86, a top wall 88, a bottom wall 90, and opposing side walls 92. The back wall 86, top wall 88 and bottom wall 90 can be made of a single piece of bent sheet material, such as aluminum or steel, including stainless steel. The opposing side walls 92 are connected, typically via welding, to the top, bottom and back walls 86, 88, 90. Once the housing assembly is 16 constructed, each of the respective connecting members 82 of the frame assembly 14 can be secured to the respective portion of the housing assembly 16. This may be accomplished with hardware, such as with bolts and nuts, via welding, or via any other acceptable process.

In this embodiment of the housing assembly 16, the back wall 86 of the housing assembly 16 has an aperture 94 for housing a vent 96, and an aperture 98 for housing a grommet 100. As best shown in FIG. 6, a gas piping or tubing 102 extends through the aperture 98 and grommet 100 and connects to a gas fitting 104.

As shown in FIGS. 3-7, the fuel tank 63 is supported by the door 12 via a fuel tank scale 106 connected to a support channel 108. The support channel 108 is connected to the second wall 40 of the door 12 via a plurality of fasteners, and the tank scale 106 is connected to the support channel 108 on the second wall 40 with a plurality of fasteners. The second wall 40 has an opening 110 which allows a user access to secure fasteners, such as wing nuts, to threaded posts extending from the tank scale 106 and through the support channel 108. In this manner the tank scale 106 is secured to the support channel 108, and the fuel tank 63 is supported by a bracket of the tank scale 106. The second wall 40 has additional openings 112 which allow a user access to secure tank glides 114 to the support channel 108. The tank glides 114 assist in positioning the tank 63 a distance for the support channel 108, as well as providing a surface in which the tank 63 can glide against as the tank 63 moves upward due to the decreasing weight of a depleting fuel tank 63.

Fuel is supplied from the fuel tank 63 via a fuel line 116 that extends from the tank valve 118 to the gas connection port 104. This fuel line 116 is generally a flexible fuel line 116 which is long enough to allow the fuel tank 63 to be moveable, i.e., when the door 12 is moved from the first position (FIG. 4) to the second position (FIG. 7), even when the fuel tank 63 is in fluid connection to the grill.

Ultimately, the fuel tank 63 is contained within the cavity 85 of the housing assembly 16 when the door 12 is positioned in the first position as described above. Similarly, when the door 12 is in the first position, as shown in FIG. 4, an opening to the cavity 85 of the housing assembly 16 is substantially covered or closed by the door 12.

When the door 12 is in the first position, however, the opening to the cavity 85 of the housing 16 is not completely closed in a preferred embodiment. Instead, a gap 120 is defined adjacent at least one edge of the door 12. In one embodiment, a gap 120 is provided adjacent the bottom edge of the door 12, generally at the location adjacent the fourth end 50 of the first wall 38.

The gap 120 provides an area for the ingress or egress of air flow about the cavity 85 of the housing 16. Air can also flow into and out of the cavity 85 through the vent 96 in the housing 16. As such, air flow patterns into and out of the cavity 85 are provided via the vent 96 and the air gap 120. In one embodiment the gap 120 is provided by a portion of at least one of the bushings 74, 76 adjacent the door 12.

As explained above, in this embodiment the first end 66 of the shaft 62 extends through the first bushing 74 adjacent the top of the door 12, and the second end 68 of the shaft 62 extends through the second bushing 76 adjacent the bottom of the door 12. The bushings 74, 76 generally have a stem portion 122 and a shoulder portion 124. The stem portion 122 of the first bushing 74 may be inserted into either the first aperture 70 of the door 12 or an aperture 126 in one of the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 or the housing assembly 16. Similarly, the stem portion 122 of the second bushing 76 may be inserted into either the second aperture 72 of the door 12 or an aperture 128 in one of the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 or the housing assembly 16. As explained above, it is understood that the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 and the housing assembly 16 may be comprised of a single assembly or a multi-functional assembly.

Subsequently, the shoulder portion 124 of the first bushing 74 is positioned adjacent the top portion of the door 12, and the shoulder portion 124 of the second bushing 76 is positioned adjacent the bottom portion of the door 12. In one example, the bottom portion of the door 12 generally rests on the shoulder portion 124 of the second bushing 76. Thus, by engineering a height of the shoulder portion 124 of the bushings 74, 76 to a defined dimension, and specifically by engineering the height of the shoulder portion 124 of the second bushing 76 to a determined dimension, the gap adjacent the door 12 can be defined. More specifically, in this example the shoulder portion 124 of the second bushing 76 determines the height of the gap 120 adjacent the lower portion of the door 12.

The fuel tank enclosure assembly 10 may also include a handle 130 to assist a user in opening the door 12. The handle 130 is generally connected to the outside of the first wall 38 of the door 12. Additionally, the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10 may include a retaining member 132 (FIG. 3) to removably secure the door in the first position. In one embodiment, the retaining member 132 is a magnet 132 secured to the second wall 40 of the door 12.

An alternate embodiment of the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′ is disclosed in FIGS. 8-11. In describing the embodiment of FIGS. 8-11, like components of this embodiment to the prior embodiment will be identified with like reference numerals and including a “′” identifier. This embodiment includes an alternate form of venting of the housing 16′. In general, such alternate venting is accomplished via an alternate housing assembly 16′ and support assembly 12′. As in the prior embodiment, the support assembly is typically a door.

As shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′ comprises a door 12′, a housing assembly 16′ and a hinge or pivot member 18′. The housing assembly 16′ may also include a fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14′. In a preferred embodiment, the fuel tank frame assembly 14′ is a component of the housing assembly 16′. The tank enclosure assembly 10′ may be utilized in conjunction with a barbecue grill assembly 20 having a frame assembly 22, such as in the example shown in FIG. 1, or it may be utilized in conjunction with barbecue grill assembly 24 having a built-in support structure 26, such as in the example shown in FIGS. 2 and 8. Additionally, the tank enclosure assembly 10′ may be a part of the frame assembly 22 or the built-in support structure 26.

In this embodiment, the door 12′ of the tank enclosure assembly 10′ has a first wall 38′, a second wall 40′ and a gusset 42′. The second wall 40′ is adapted to support the fuel tank 63. With reference to the two walls of the door 12′, the first wall 38′ is generally adjacent and transverse to the second wall 40′. Further, in this embodiment, the first and second walls 38′, 40′ are positioned in substantially intersecting vertical planes. The gusset 42′ connects the first wall 38′ and the second wall 40′ by joining a portion of the first wall 38′ and the second wall 40′. The gusset 42′ provides additional structural strength and rigidity to the door 12′ of the tank enclosure assembly 10′.

With respect to this example of the door 12′ of the tank enclosure assembly 10′, the first wall 38′ has a first end 44′, a second end 46′, a third end 48′ and a fourth end 50′. Similarly, the second wall 40′ has a first end 52′, a second end 54′, a third end 56′ and a fourth end 58′. The first end 44′ of the first wall 38′ is adjacent to the first end 52′ of the second wall 40′, the fourth end 50′ of the first wall 38′ is adjacent to the gusset 42′, and the fourth end 58′ of the second wall 40′ is adjacent to the gusset 42′.

Additionally, portions of the first and second walls 38′, 40′ of the door 12′ have flanges 60′ to assist in increasing the structural rigidity of the door 12′. Specifically, the second and third ends 46′, 48′ of the first wall 38′, and the second and third ends 54′, 56′ of the second wall 40′ have such flanges 60′. Additionally, the gusset 42′ may also have a flange 61′ to increase the rigidity and overall strength of the door 12′. An access slot 138′ is provided in the gusset 42′ to allow the shaft 62 to be inserted into position without having to bend the shaft 62′.

The tank enclosure assembly 10′ of this embodiment has a first vent 134′ in the door 12′. The first vent 134′ has a first vent opening or aperture 136′. In a preferred embodiment, the first vent 134′ is generally adjacent a top of the fuel tank enclosure 10′, and preferably adjacent a top or second end 46′ of the door 12′. As shown in FIGS. 9-11, in a preferred embodiment, the first vent aperture 136′ comprises a plurality of apertures 136′. Such apertures 136′ in the illustrated embodiment comprise a plurality of slots 136′. In a preferred embodiment, the first vent 134′ comprises twenty-seven vertical slots 136′. Each of the slots has a total area of approximately 0.742 in2.

Like the door of the prior embodiment, the door 12′ of this tank enclosure assembly 10′ is moveable between a first position, as shown in FIG. 10, and a second position, as shown in FIG. 11. In the first position, the fuel tank 63 is positioned generally within the housing assembly 16′ of the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′, and the door 12′ is positioned generally within the cavity 85′ of the housing assembly 16′. In the second position, a portion of the door 12′ is positioned generally beyond a portion of the housing assembly 16′ and substantially outside the cavity 85′ of the housing assembly 16′. Further, in the second position the fuel tank 63 is positioned generally beyond the housing 16′ and the frame assembly 14′. Accordingly, when the door 12′ is in the first position the fuel tank 63 is stored for use, and when the door 12′ is in the second position the fuel tank 63 is accessible, meaning that a user can detach and/or remove an empty fuel tank 63 from the door 12′.

To move from the first position to the second position, the door 12′ rotates or pivots about a hinge assembly 18′. In one embodiment, the hinge/pivot assembly 18′ is a shaft 62′. Thus, in this embodiment the door 12′ rotates about the shaft member 62′ to move from the first position to the second position. In a preferred embodiment, the shaft member 62′ resides in a generally vertical axis to provide rotational support for the door 12′ to rotate about the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14′. Thus, in a preferred embodiment the door 12′ is rotatable about a generally vertical axis.

As best shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, the shaft member 62′ is provided to position the door 12′ about the vertical axis. More specifically, the shaft member 62′ has a first end 66′, a first angled portion 64a′ adjacent the first end 66′, a second end 68′, and a reverse angled portion 64b′ adjacent the second end 68′. Generally, the portion of the shaft member 62′ between the first end 66′ and the first angled portion 64a′ is in a similar vertical axis as the portion of the shaft member 62′ between the second end 68′ and the reverse angled portion 64b′. The angled portions 64a′, 64b′ assist in providing rigidity to the shaft member 62′, as well as providing locational positioning and support for the door 12′. Additionally, the reverse angled portion 64b′ in connection with access slot 138′ (described above) provides assistance in assembling the tank enclosure assembly 10′. The shaft 62′ is generally connected to a support structure, which may include a frame assembly 22, a built-in support structure 26, a fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14′, a housing assembly 16′, or any other acceptable structure. As explained below, in a preferred embodiment the shaft member 62′ is supported by portions of the housing assembly 16′ adjacent both its first and second ends 66, 68. In a preferred embodiment the shaft 62′ is made of a 0.243″ diameter steel rod that is formed in the desired shape.

To accept and retain the shaft 62′, the door 12′ has a first aperture 70′ in one of the upper portions of the door 12′, and a second aperture 72′ in one of the lower portions of the door 12′ as shown in FIG. 9. The first end 66′ of the shaft 62′ extends through the first aperture 70′, and the second end 68′ of the shaft 62′ extends through the second aperture 72′. Additionally, the first end 66′ of the shaft 62′ also extends through a first bushing 74′ adjacent the upper portion of the door 12′. Similarly, the second end 68′ of the shaft 62′ also extends through a second bushing 76′ adjacent the lower portion of the door 12′. In this embodiment, the bushings 74′ and 76′ are positioned within the apertures 70′ and 72′ in the door 12′.

As explained above, the door 12′ is rotatedly connected to either the housing assembly 16′ or the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14′ (which may be a component of the housing assembly 16′). Further, the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14′ may be part of the frame assembly 22, part of the built-in support structure 26, or it may be a separate component. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 9, the fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14 is a component that is plug or tack welded to the housing assembly 16, and thus forms a part of the housing assembly 16.

As shown in FIG. 9, the housing assembly 16′ has a fuel tank enclosure frame assembly 14′. The frame assembly 14′ comprises a first frame member 78a′, and opposing third and fourth frame members 80a′, 80b′. The frame assembly 14′ also has three connecting members 82′, adjacent the first, third and fourth frame members 78a′, 80b′, 80c′ to connect the frame assembly 14′ to the housing assembly 16′.

Also as shown in FIG. 9, the housing assembly 16′ generally comprises a housing structure which is made of a plurality of walls defining a cavity 85′. In the example shown in FIG. 9, the housing assembly 16′ of this embodiment has a back wall 86′, a top wall 88′, and opposing side walls 92′. The housing assembly 16′ has no bottom wall. The back wall 86′, and the opposing side walls 92′ are made of a single piece of bent sheet material, such as aluminum or steel, including stainless steel. The top wall 88′ is connected, typically via welding, to the back and side walls 86′, 92′. In this embodiment the top wall 88′ has an aperture 140′ through which a portion of a bulkhead or regulator bracket 142′ can be positioned to connect the bulkhead assembly 144′. The top wall 88′ also has an aperture 146′ into which the first end 66′ of the shaft 62′ extends to connect the top portion of the door 12′ to the housing assembly 16′. In this embodiment, the housing assembly 16′ also has a cross member 79′. The cross member 79′ connects the opposing side walls 92′ of the housing 16′. The cross member 79′ has an aperture 148′ into which the second end 68′ of the shaft 62′ extends to connect the bottom portion of the door 12′ to the housing assembly 16′.

In the preferred embodiment, the back wall 86′ of the housing assembly 16′ has an aperture 150′, and the sidewall 92′ of the housing assembly 16′ has an aperture 152′. These apertures 150′, 152′ are to allow piping to extend from the bulkhead assembly 144′ to the gas grill, typically for either the gas burners or an auxiliary burner, such as a side burner. Typically, as shown in FIG. 9, the apertures 150′, 152′ have either an open grommet or bushing 100′, or a closed or plugged grommet or bushing 100′. For example, if the gas tubing is to be extended out the aperture, then an open bushing would be utilized, however, if no gas tubing is to be extended out that aperture, then a plugged bushing would be utilized.

As shown in FIGS. 9-11, the bulkhead assembly 144′ comprises a regulator 154′ which connects to the fuel tank 63, a fuel line 116′ which connects the regulator 154′ to a tee connector 158′, and an elbow 160′ which connects to the bulkhead bracket 142′. Typically the gas line 102′ extending to the gas burner of the barbecue grill will connect to the outlet of the elbow 160′. If an auxiliary burner is not utilized, the secondary outlet of the tee connector 158′ will be capped. Otherwise, if an auxiliary burner is utilized then a second gas line will be connected to the outlet of the tee connector 158′. The bulkhead assembly 144′ is connected to the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′ by inserting a portion of the bulkhead bracket 142′ through the aperture 140′ in the top wall 88′ of the housing assembly 16′. The bulkhead bracket 142′ is then secured with fasteners to the top wall 88′ of the housing 16′.

As shown in FIGS. 9-11, the fuel tank 63 is supported by the door 12′ via a fuel tank scale 106 and a support channel 108′. As explained above, the support channel 108′ is connected to the second wall 40′ of the door 12′, typically via tack welding, and the tank scale 106 is connected to the support channel 108′ on the second wall 40′ with a plurality of fasteners. The second wall 40′ has an opening 110′ which allows a user access to secure fasteners, such as wing nuts, to threaded posts extending from the tank scale 106 and through the support channel 108′. In this manner the tank scale 106 is secured to the support channel 108′, and the fuel tank 63 is supported by a bracket of the tank scale 106. The second wall 40′ has additional openings 112′ which allow a user access to secure tank glides 114′ to the support channel 108′.

Ultimately, the fuel tank 63 is contained within the cavity 85′ of the housing assembly 16′ when the door 12′ is positioned in the first position as described above. Similarly, when the door 12′ is in the first position, as shown in FIG. 10, the opening through the front of the housing 16′ is substantially covered or closed by the door 12′.

As explained above, the first end 66′ of the shaft 62′ extends through the first bushing 74′ adjacent the top of the door 12′, and the second end 68′ of the shaft 62′ extends through the second bushing 76′ adjacent the bottom of the door 12′. The first end 66′ of the shaft 62′ then further extends into the aperture 146′ in the top of the housing assembly 16′, and the second end 68′ of the shaft 62′ extends into the aperture 148′ in the cross member 79′ of the housing assembly 16′. This secures the door 12′ to the housing assembly 16′.

The fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′ also includes a pull handle 130′ which is inset into the door 12′ to assist a user in opening the door 12′. Additionally, the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′ typically includes a retaining member 132′ (FIG. 9) to removably secure the door 12′ in the first position. In this embodiment, the retaining member 132′ is a magnet 132′ secured in the flange 60′ of the first wall 38′ of the door 12′. The magnet 132′ connects to a bracket on the housing 16′.

Accordingly, the fuel tank enclosure 10′ of this embodiment includes a first vent 134′ and a second distal vent 135′ to vent the cavity 85′ of the fuel tank enclosure 10′. The first vent 134′ has a first vent aperture 136′, and the second vent 135′ has a second vent aperture 137′. The first vent 134′ is adjacent a top of the fuel tank enclosure 10′. In a preferred embodiment this is in the top or second end 46′ of the first wall 38′ of the door 12′. The second vent 135′ is adjacent a bottom of the fuel tank enclosure 10′. In a preferred embodiment, this is beneath the door 12′, and more particularly below the cross member 79′ of the housing assembly 16′. Since the housing assembly 16′ has an open bottom, the second vent 135′ of the tank enclosure 10′ can vent into the built-in support structure 26, as shown in FIG. 8. Additionally, there is a gap 178′ between the cross member 79′ and the bottom end 180′ of the housing assembly 16′. Thus, the second vent 135′ also vents out the front of the fuel tank enclosure assembly 10′ beneath the door 12′.

Several alternative embodiments and examples have been described and illustrated herein. A person of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate the features of the individual embodiments, and the possible combinations and variations of the components. A person of ordinary skill in the art would further appreciate that any of the embodiments could be provided in any combination with the other embodiments disclosed herein. Additionally, the terms “first,” “second,” “third,” and “fourth” as used herein are intended for illustrative purposes only and do not limit the embodiments in any way. Further, the term “plurality” as used herein indicates any number greater than one, either disjunctively or conjunctively, as necessary, up to an infinite number.

It will be understood that the invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or central characteristics thereof. The present examples and embodiments, therefore, are to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein.

While the specific embodiments have been illustrated and described, numerous modifications come to mind without significantly departing from the spirit of the invention and the scope of protection is only limited by the scope of the accompanying Claims.