Title:
Hands free toilet device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A hands free toilet device 20 including mounting base 22; control assembly 30 for supplying a force for raising and lowering the standard seat 12; foot pressure actuator 50 for activating the control assembly 30; drive coupling 60; and lift assembly 70 for raising the standard seat 12 when the foot pressure actuator 50 is depressed and lowering the standard seat 12 when the foot pressure actuator 50 is released. A flush actuator 80 may be attached to the drive coupling 60 for automatically flushing the standard toilet 10 when the standard seat 12 is automatically lowered. A method for raising and lowering a standard seat 12 comprising the steps of stepping on the foot pressure actuator 50 to raise the standard seat 12; and releasing the foot from foot pressure actuator 50 to lower the standard seat 12 and flush the standard toilet 10.



Inventors:
Thompson, Eugene Wesley (Gainesboro, TN, US)
Application Number:
10/916709
Publication Date:
02/16/2006
Filing Date:
08/12/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/10; E03D5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BARCA, MICHAEL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JAMES ADDISON BARRY, JR. (LEBANON, TN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A hands free toilet device for raising and lowering a standard seat on a standard toilet, the hands free toilet device comprising: a mounting base for mounting the hands free toilet device between the standard seat and the standard toilet; a control assembly mounted on the mounting base for supplying a force for raising and lowering the standard seat, the control assembly comprising: an electric gearmotor attached to the mounting base, an electric gearmotor shaft attached to the electric gearmotor and extending through the mounting base, at least one shaft positioning switch mounted by the gearmotor shaft to determine the position of the gearmotor shaft, a foot switch attached to the mounting base, and a power cord with one end of the power cord electrically connected to the control assembly and the other end of the power cord capable of being connected to electrical power; a foot pressure actuator for activating the control assembly that is connected to the foot switch of the control assembly; a drive coupling mounted on the mounting base and with one end of the drive coupling connected to the electric gearmotor shaft; and a lift assembly attached to the second end of the drive coupling wherein the drive coupling transfers the lifting force from the control assembly to the lift assembly at one end of the lifting assembly and the second end of the lift assembly is positioned between the standard seat and the standard toilet for raising the standard seat when the foot pressure actuator is depressed and lowering the standard seat when the foot pressure actuator is released.

2. A hands free toilet device as set forth in claim 1, wherein the electric gearmotor comprises a 110 volt AC gearmotor; and the control assembly further comprises a capacitor attached to the mounting base and electrically connected to the electric gearmotor.

3. A hands free toilet device as set forth in claim 1, wherein the electric gearmotor comprises a 220 volt AC gearmotor; and the control assembly further comprises a capacitor attached to the mounting base and electrically connected to the electric gearmotor.

4. A hands free toilet device as set forth in claim 1, wherein the electric gearmotor comprises a DC gearmotor.

5. A hands free toilet device as set forth in claim 2, wherein the control assembly further comprises: a terminal block attached to the mounting base; and the at least one shaft positioning switch further comprises: at least one rotary switch cam attached to the electric gearmotor shaft, and at least one snap action switch electrically attached to the electric gearmotor.

6. A hands free toilet device as set forth in claim 2, wherein the standard toilet includes a flush lever, the hands free toilet device further comprising: a latching relay attached to the mounting base for controlling the gearmotor flushing action; a flush actuator attached to the drive coupling for automatically flushing the standard toilet when the standard seat is automatically lowered; and a flush actuator connector, an end of the flush actuator connector attached to the flush actuator and a second end of the flush actuator connector attached to the flush lever, with the flush actuator connector mechanically connecting the flush actuator and the flush lever.

7. A method of raising and lowering a standard seat comprising a mounting base attached between a standard seat and a standard toilet, a control assembly mounted on the mounting base, a foot pressure actuator for activating the control assembly and a lift assembly attached to the mounting base and connected to the control assembly, the method comprising the steps of: stepping on the foot pressure actuator to raise the standard seat; and releasing the foot from foot pressure actuator to lower the standard seat.

8. A method of raising and lowering a standard seat as set forth in claim 7, wherein the step of releasing the foot from the foot pressure actuator further flushes the standard toilet.

Description:

BACKGROUND

(1) Technical Field

The present invention relates to an automatic toilet device. More particularly, this invention relates to a foot operated device for raising and lowering the toilet seat and flushing the toilet during the toilet seat lowering cycle.

(2) Background

It is generally understood that in at least one respect, whether a person is male or female usually determines in what position, either up or down, that person would prefer a toilet seat to be in for use of the toilet. Generally, a male prefers the toilet seat to be in a raised position, while the female prefers the toilet seat to be in a lowered position for conformity with their respective anatomies. Typically, due to a male's behavioral patterns, however, it is widely accepted that in at least a substantial number of cases the male will not return the toilet seat to its lowered position after his use, thus rendering the toilet unsuitable for use by a subsequent female user.

A toilet seat remaining in an upright position could lead to a number of problems. On many occasions a certain amount of animosity between the females and males in a dual gender household may arise if the females have to continually return the toilet seat to its lowered position for their use. Further complications could arise if a female, in a partially somnolent state, attempted to use the toilet in the dark when the seat was in a raised position. Moreover, a raised toilet seat leads to a certain level of unsightliness, thus, possibly causing further tension if certain members of the household attempt to maintain the bathroom area in an orderly manner. Other problems could arise for a toilet user if the toilet seat was not in the most desirable configuration for a specific user. Some of these problems include difficulty in the manual operation of lowering or raising the toilet seat by persons suffering a variety of illnesses or handicaps, or by small children.

In addition to a toilet seat remaining in a prolonged raised position, there is also a certain loss of hygiene which occurs when a user is required to physically make contact with the toilet seat to either raise or lower the seat. As is well understood, the toilet seat and toilet seat area require a high level of disinfecting maintenance in order to provide a relatively free area from bacteria and germs. Since continued disinfection of this area is generally not feasible, a toilet seat will typically not be maintained in its most sanitary condition. Consequently, any user who must physically contact the toilet seat to either raise or lower it will be subject to these germs, and thus, may put his or her health at differing levels of unnecessary risk.

Another concern is that the content of the toilet bowl may give off bad odor. After using the toilet, the male user normally has to close the toilet seat by hand, manually reach for the flush handle, and move the flush handle to flush the toilet. Some users may forget to do this. Other users may not want to touch the flush handle due to hygiene concerns.

In the past toilet seat lifting and lowering has been attempted in numerous ways. Even today many people lift the toilet seat and toilet lid by hand. However, as discussed previously there are problems associated with hand lifting and lowering of the toilet seat. Mechanical means of lifting and lowering the toilet seat were attempted in U.S. Pat. No. 5,829,067 titled Toilet Seat Lift Assembly that is a hand-activated device; U.S. Pat. No. 6,158,059 titled Foot Actuated Toilet Seat where a leaf spring aids in the operation; U.S. Pat. No. 6,233,751 titled Toilet Flushing and Seat Lifting System; U.S. Pat. No. 6,539,557 titled Toilet Seat Positioning Assembly; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,651,262 titled Foot Operated Commode System. Yet these attempts all still require a user to remember to activate the system to lower the toilet seat. Other means for automatic lowering of the toilet seat are activated based on time or a timer system as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,995,120 titled Toilet Seat Closing Device; U.S. Pat. No. 5,279,000 titled Automatic Toilet Seat Lowering Hinge Assembly; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,794,277 titled Automatic Toilet Seat Closing Device where the hinge assembly between the toilet seat and the toilet drive operate the lowering of the toilet seat. These attempts normally require a new toilet seat and extensive hardware for the hinge assembly. A combination of U.S. Pat. No. 5,307,524 titled Automatic Toilet Seat Device and U.S. Pat. No. 5,603,127 titled Auto Flush for Tank Toilet show an attempt to provide automatic lowering by using sensors to automatically flush the toilet when the user leaves the sensor area and after flushing the toilet seat lowering is activated. Still, this is a costly and complex system.

In the past flushing has been attempted by the traditional manual flush handle. A trip cord or a cord from the handle around behind the toilet to a ring on the wall was attempted in U.S. Pat. No. 6,233,751 titled Toilet Flushing and Seat Lifting System. A foot pedal with a mechanical link to the toilet flush handle was attempted in U.S. Pat. No. 6,651,262 titled Foot Operated Commode System. A switch to lower the toilet seat and toilet lid that would additionally engage a pulling rod to pull the toilet flush handle and flush the toilet was attempted in U.S. Pat. No. 4,055,864 titled Automatic Lid-Lifting and Flushing Device for Water Closet. A chain secured to a manual lifting device where the user pushed downward on the lifting device to actuate the flushing means was attempted in U.S. Pat. No. 5,829,067 titled Toilet Seat Lift Assembly. However, these systems required the user to remember to flush the toilet and to manually engage a pedal, switch, or cord. An infrared transmitter with sensor was attempted in U.S. Pat. No. 5,603,127 to provide automatic flushing when the user left the sensing area. Still, this was an expensive, complex device.

There is a need for a device that: 1) will raise or lower a toilet seat without requiring a user to physically touch the seat, and further, will automatically lower the toilet seat and flush the toilet without any intervention from the toilet user after use; 2) is an inexpensive device; 3) is easy to install on most household or commercial toilets; 4) will not interfere with normal toilet operations; 5) is easy to use, for example, the user simply steps on pedal during time needed for seat to remain up, then user releases foot pressure which activates lowering seat and flushing; and 6) uses a 110/220 VAC motor.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a device that: 1) will raise or lower a toilet seat without requiring a user to physically touch the seat, and further, will automatically lower the toilet seat and flush the toilet without any intervention from the toilet user after use; 2) is an inexpensive device; 3) is easy to install on most household or commercial toilets; 4) will not interfere with normal toilet operations; 5) is easy to use, for example, the user simply steps on pedal during time needed for seat to remain up, then user releases foot pressure which activates lowering seat and flushing; and 6) uses a 110/220 VAC motor.

The present invention is a hands free toilet device and a method to facilitate the raising and lowering a standard seat on a standard toilet. The hands free toilet device includes a mounting base for mounting the hands free toilet device between the standard seat and the standard toilet; and a control assembly mounted on the mounting base for supplying a force for raising and lowering the standard seat. The control assembly comprises an electric gearmotor attached to the mounting base, an electric gearmotor shaft attached to the electric gearmotor and extending through the mounting base, at least one shaft positioning switch mounted by the gearmotor shaft to determine the position of the gearmotor shaft, a foot switch attached to the mounting base, and a power cord with one end of the power cord electrically connected to the control assembly and the other end of the power cord capable of being connected to electrical power. The hands free toilet device further includes a foot pressure actuator for activating the control assembly that is connected to the foot switch of the control assembly; a drive coupling mounted on the mounting base and with one end of the drive coupling connected to the electric gearmotor shaft; and a lift assembly attached to the second end of the drive coupling wherein the drive coupling transfers the lifting force from the control assembly to the lift assembly at one end of the lifting assembly and the second end of the lift assembly is positioned between the standard seat and the standard toilet for raising the standard seat when the foot pressure actuator is depressed and lowering the standard seat when the foot pressure actuator is released.

In another embodiment of the present invention the control assembly electric gearmotor may comprise a 110 volt AC gearmotor; and the control assembly may further comprise a capacitor attached to the mounting base and electrically connected to the electric gearmotor.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention the control assembly electric gearmotor may comprise a 220 volt AC gearmotor; and the control assembly may further comprise a capacitor attached to the mounting base and electrically connected to the electric gearmotor.

In still another embodiment of the present invention the control assembly gearmotor may comprise a DC gearmotor.

In another embodiment of the present invention the control assembly the control assembly further comprises a terminal block attached to the mounting base; and the at least one shaft positioning switch further comprises at least one rotary switch cam attached to the electric gearmotor shaft, and at least one snap action switch attached to the electric gearmotor.

In still another embodiment of the present invention the standard toilet may include a flush lever and the hands free toilet device may further comprise a latching relay attached to the mounting base for controlling the gearmotor flushing action, a flush actuator attached to the drive coupling for automatically flushing the standard toilet when the standard seat is automatically lowered; and a flush actuator connector, an end of the flush actuator connector attached to the flush actuator and a second end of the flush actuator connector attached to the flush lever, with the flush actuator connector mechanically connecting the flush actuator and the flush lever.

The present invention also comprises the provision for a method of raising and lowering a standard seat comprising a mounting base attached between a standard seat and a standard toilet, a control assembly mounted on the mounting base, a foot pressure actuator for activating the control assembly and a lift assembly attached to the mounting base and connected to the control assembly, the method comprising the steps of stepping on the foot pressure actuator to raise the standard seat; and releasing the foot from foot pressure actuator to lower the standard seat.

In another embodiment of the present invention the method for raising and lowering a standard seat wherein the step of releasing the foot from the foot pressure actuator further flushes the standard toilet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The objects, features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed descriptions of various aspects of the invention in conjunction with reference to the following drawings, where:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the present invention depicting a hands free toilet device installed on a standard toilet;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view depicting one embodiment of a control assembly of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the present invention depicting a control assembly, mounting bracket, and lift lever assembly;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective view of the present invention depicting automatic flush components;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is a foot operated device for raising and lowering the toilet seat and flushing the toilet during the toilet seat lowering cycle and a method for using the hands free toilet device for raising and lowering a standard toilet seat including automatic flushing of the standard toilet during the lowering cycle. The following description, taken in conjunction with the referenced drawings, is presented to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention and to incorporate it in the context of particular applications. Various modifications, as well as a variety of uses in different applications, will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein, may be applied to a wide range of aspects. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the aspects presented, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and novel features disclosed herein. Furthermore, it should be noted that, unless explicitly stated otherwise, the figures included herein are illustrated diagrammatically and without any specific scale, as they are provided as qualitative illustrations of the concept of the present invention.

(1) Introduction

The present invention is depicted in FIG. 1 installed on a standard toilet 10. The present invention includes a hands free toilet device 20 and a method for using the hands free toilet device 20 for raising and lowering a toilet seat and flushing a toilet during the toilet seat lowering cycle. The hands free toilet device 20 is a standard design that fits most conventional toilet designs. It is simple to install and simple to operate. To operate you step on a foot pressure actuator 50 and walk away when you are finished. You no longer have to remember to lower the seat or flush the toilet.

(2) Discussion

The hands free toilet device 20 includes a mounting base 22 for mounting the hands free toilet device 20 between a standard seat 12 and the standard toilet 10. A control assembly 30 is mounted on the mounting base 22 for supplying a force for raising and lowering the standard seat 12. FIG. 2 depicts the control assembly 30 includes an electric gearmotor 32 attached to the mounting base 22. The electric gearmotor 32 may be a 110 volt AC electric gearmotor 32, or other electric gearmotor 32 compatible for use in countries using a different electrical system. The electric gearmotor 32 may also be a DC low voltage electric gearmotor 32 for use with battery power or with a transformer. The control assembly 30 also includes an electric gearmotor shaft 34 attached to the electric gearmotor 32 with the gearmotor shaft 34 extending through the mounting base 22 and at least one shaft positioning switch 36 mounted by the gearmotor shaft 34 to determine the position of the gearmotor shaft 34. The at least one shaft positioning switch 36 may further be comprised of at least one rotary switch cam attached to the electric gearmotor shaft 34 and at least one snap action switch attached to the electric gearmotor 32. The control assembly 30 further includes a foot switch 38 attached to the mounting base 22 and a power cord 40 with one end of the power cord 40 electrically connected to the control assembly 30 and the other end of the power cord 40 capable of being connected to an electrical power source. FIG. 3 depicts that in addition to the mounting base 22 and the control assembly 30 the hands free toilet device 20 further includes a foot pressure actuator 50, a drive coupling 60, and a lift assembly 70. Referring to FIG. 2 the foot pressure actuator 50 is for activating the control assembly 30 foot switch 38 and the foot pressure actuator 50 is connected to the foot switch 38 of the control assembly 30 either pneumatically or electrically. FIG. 3 depicts how the drive coupling 60 is mounted on the mounting base 22 with one end of the drive coupling 60 connected to the electric gearmotor shaft 34. The lift assembly 70 is attached to the second end of the drive coupling 60 wherein the drive coupling 60 transfers the lifting force from the control assembly 30 to the lift assembly 70 at one end of the lift assembly 70 and the second end of the lift assembly 70 is positioned between the standard seat 12 and the standard toilet 10 for raising the standard seat 12 when the foot pressure actuator 50 is depressed and lowering the standard seat 12 when the foot pressure actuator 50 is released. Referring to FIG. 2 in one embodiment the control assembly 30 may include a terminal block 42 attached the mounting base 22 for convenient electrical connections and a capacitor 44 electrically connected to the electric gearmotor 32 for use with the AC electric gearmotor 32.

In another embodiment FIG. 4 depicts the hands free toilet device 20 may include an automatic flush feature. This embodiment of the hands free toilet device 20 further includes a flush actuator 80 attached to the drive coupling 60 for automatically flushing the standard toilet 10 when the standard seat 12 is automatically lowered; a flush actuator connector 82 where an end of the flush actuator connector 82 is attached to the flush actuator 80 and a second end of the flush actuator connector 82 is attached to a flush lever 14. The flush actuator connector 82 mechanically connects the flush actuator and the flush lever 14. FIG. 2 depicts the control assembly 30 with a latching relay 84 attached to the mounting base for controlling the gearmotor flushing action.

(3) Manner of Use:

One embodiment of the present invention includes a kit installation. An example of a non limiting installation of a hands free toilet kit would comprise the following steps: The user may obtain the hands free toilet device as a kit. Referring to FIG. 3 the user removes the existing standard seat 12, installs the lift assembly 70 into the outer end of the drive coupling 60, and folds the lift assembly 70 forward. The user positions the hands free toilet device 20 mounting base 22 over the seat fastening holes on top of the toilet bowl and reinstalls the existing standard seat 12 with the lift assembly 70 positioned between the toilet bowl and the standard seat 12 with the standard seat 12 in the down position. Referring to FIG. 4 the user may remove the standard flush lever 14 mechanism and install the new hands free flush lever 14 with a connection for the flush actuator connecter 82. The user would install the flush actuator connecter 82 between the flush lever 14 and the flush actuator 80. Referring to FIG. 1 the user may then position the foot pressure actuator 50 on either side of the standard toilet 10 as preferred. If using 110 Volt AC power, the user may plug in the power cord 40 to an electrical wall outlet. The user will test the device by placing the user's foot on the foot pressure actuator 50 and holding it there until the standard seat 12 opens and stops at the open position. The user may remove his or her foot from the foot pressure actuator 50 and the standard seat 12 lowers to the closed position and then, as depicted in FIG. 4, the flush actuator 80 continues rotation thereby pulling the flush lever 14 down using the flush actuator connector 82. The standard seat 12 and the flush lever 14 may operate independently of the automatic system.

As depicted in FIG. 1 a method for the use of the hands free toilet device 20 for raising and lowering a standard seat 12 includes stepping on the foot pressure actuator 50 to raise the standard seat 12, and releasing the foot from the foot pressure actuator 50 to lower the standard seat 12. One embodiment may include a flushing of the standard toilet 10 during the releasing step by releasing the foot from the foot pressure actuator 50 further flushing the standard toilet 10.

(4) Uniqueness:

As depicted in FIG. 1, the uniqueness of the present invention is illustrated in many ways, twelve of which are as follows. First, the hands free toilet device 20 automatically lowers standard seat 12 and flushes the standard toilet 10. Second, the hands free toilet device 20 is simple to install. Third, the hands free toilet device 20 has a standard design that fits most conventional toilet designs. Fourth, the hands free toilet device 20 is simple to operate: the user steps on the foot pressure actuator 50 and then walks away when finished. Fifth, the hands free toilet device 20 is a forgetful-proof device: you do not have to remember to lower the standard seat 12 or flush the standard toilet 10. Sixth, as depicted in FIG. 2 the hands free toilet device 20 utilizes a low cost reversible electric gearmotor 32 and can be powered by 110 VAC which is readily available in almost every U.S. household. Seventh, the same reversible electric gearmotor 32 is used to actuate both the standard seat 12 and the automatic flush actuator 80 depicted in FIG. 4. Eighth, the hands free toilet device 20 may be installed with or without the automatic flush feature. Ninth, the standard seat 12 and flush lever 14 design do not interfere with normal, non-automatic, toilet operation. Tenth, there is no need to touch either the standard seat 12 or the flush lever 14. Eleventh, the lift assembly 70 is fixed to the drive coupling 60 in such a way that allows it to freely rotate upward. Thus, it allows an over-rotation of the drive coupling 60 which is required to actuate the flush actuator 80 properly and it also serves as a safety feature so that the user should not be injured by the lift assembly 70 as it returns the standard seat 12 to the closed position. The standard seat 12 is lowered in a controlled manner. Twelfth, the design of the hands free toilet device 20 is inexpensive using standard components.