Title:
Method and apparatus for illuminating a toilet
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An illumination device for a toilet provides increased lighting conditions when a toilet seat or a toilet lid of a toilet is raised, thereby minimizing the chances of males urinating outside the confines of a toilet bowl and females sitting directly on a toilet bowl instead of the toilet seat during reduced lighting conditions in a bathroom. The illumination device may include a power source, a light source, and an activation device. The illumination device may be mounted to an underside of the toilet seat or the toilet, or the toilet itself. The illumination device may further include a controller in communication with the power supply and the light source, such that the controller regulates the passage of power and signals to the electrical components. The embodiment with a controller may include a courtesy alarm to warn users of a toilet seat in an upright position.



Inventors:
Prueitt Busch, Sheri Lynne (US)
Application Number:
10/932161
Publication Date:
03/02/2006
Filing Date:
09/01/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/04; A47K1/00; E03C1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PHILLIPS, CHARLES E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAW OFFICES OF CHRISTOPHER L. MAKAY (San Antonio, TX, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. An illumination device for a toilet, comprising: a housing securable to a toilet, a light source disposed in the housing and in communication with a power supply; and an activator disposed on the housing and in communication with the light source and the power supply, wherein the activator detects when a portion of the toilet is in an upright position, and permits power to flow from the power supply to the light source, thereby illuminating a toilet bowl area of the toilet.

2. The illumination device for a toilet according to claim 1, wherein the activator detects a toilet seat in an upright position.

3. The illumination device for a toilet according to claim 1, wherein the activator detects a toilet bowl lid in an upright position.

4. The illumination device for a toilet according to claim 2, wherein the activator comprises a mercury switch including positions associated with a toilet seat up position and a toilet seat down position.

5. The illumination device for a toilet according to claim 2, wherein the activator comprises a proximity sensor to sense a toilet bowl surface.

6. The illumination device for a toilet according to claim 2, wherein the activator comprises an optical sensor.

7. The illumination device for a toilet according to claim 2, wherein the activator further comprises a mercury vapor switch to limit the illumination of the toilet to limited lighting situations, thereby extending life of a consumable power source.

8. The illumination device according to claim 1, further comprising: a scent distribution device containing a scenting solution disposed within the housing and in communication with the activator, wherein the scent distribution device dispenses a portion of the scenting solution to overcome odors when activated by the activator.

9. The illumination device according to claim 1, further comprising: a controller disposed within the housing, wherein the controller is in communication with the light source, the activation device, and the power supply to regulate the distribution of power therebetween.

10. The illumination device according to claim 9, wherein the controller is able to discern whether the toilet seat is up or down.

11. The illumination device according to claim 10, wherein the controller allows power to flow to the light source when the toilet seat is raised.

12. The illumination device according to claim 9, wherein the controller is a microprocessor.

13. The illumination device according to claim 11, further comprising: a courtesy alarm disposed within the housing, wherein the courtesy alarm is in communication with the controller, such that the controller allows power to flow to the courtesy alarm to project an alarm after a predetermined length of time as a reminder to users that leave the toilet seat in an upright position.

14. The illumination device according to claim 13, wherein the courtesy alarm is deactivated when the toilet seat is returned to a horizontal position.

15. The illumination device according to claim 13, wherein the courtesy alarm is audible.

16. The illumination device according to claim 13, wherein the alarm is a visual alarm.

17. The illumination device according to claim 16, wherein the controller alternately powers and deactivates the light source to provide a blinking signal as the visual alarm.

18. The illumination device according to claim 9, further comprising: a scent distribution device in communication with the controller, the activator, and the power supply, wherein when activated by the controller, the scent distribution device dispenses a portion of the scenting solution to mask odors.

19. An illumination device for a toilet, comprising: a housing securable to a toilet, a light source disposed in the housing and in communication with a power supply; and an activator disposed on the housing and in communication with the light source and the power supply, wherein, the activation device detects a user is in close proximity to the toilet, and permits power to flow from the power supply to the light source, thereby illuminating a toilet bowl area of the toilet.

20. The illumination device according to claim 19, wherein the activator illuminates the toilet only when the toilet seat or the toilet bowl lid is in an upright position.

21. The illumination device according to claim 19, wherein the activator comprises an optical sensor used to detect a user in proximity to the toilet bowl.

22. The illumination device according to claim 19, wherein the activator comprises an infrared sensor to detect the presence of a user in proximity to the toilet bowl.

23. The illumination device according to claim 19, further comprising: a mercury vapor switch that limits the illumination of the toilet to limited lighting situations, thereby extending the operational life of a consumable power source.

24. The illumination device according to claim 19, further comprising: a scent distribution device containing a scenting solution disposed within the housing and in communication with the activator, wherein the scent distribution device dispenses a portion of the scenting solution to overcome odors when activated by the activator.

25. The illumination device according to claim 19, further comprising: a controller disposed within the housing, wherein the controller is in communication with the light source, the activation device, and the power supply to regulate the distribution of power therebetween.

26. The illumination device according to claim 25, wherein the controller is able to discern whether the toilet seat is up or down.

27. The illumination device according to claim 26 wherein the controller allows power to flow to the light source when the toilet seat is raised.

28. The illumination device according to claim 25, wherein the controller is a microprocessor.

29. The illumination device according to claim 27, further comprising: a courtesy alarm disposed within the housing, wherein the courtesy alarm is in communication with the controller, such that the controller allows power to flow to the courtesy alarm to project an alarm after a predetermined length of time as a reminder to users that leave the toilet seat in an upright position.

30. The illumination device according to claim 29, wherein the courtesy alarm is deactivated when the toilet seat is returned to a horizontal position.

31. The illumination device according to claim 29, wherein the courtesy alarm is audible.

32. The illumination device according to claim 29, wherein the alarm is a visual alarm.

33. The illumination device according to claim 32, wherein the controller alternately powers and deactivates the light source to provide a blinking signal as the visual alarm.

34. The illumination device according to claim 25, further comprising: a scent distribution device in communication with the controller, the activator, and the power supply, wherein when activated by the controller, the scent distribution device dispenses a portion of the scenting solution to mask odors.

35. A method of illuminating a toilet, comprising: a. securing an illumination device including an activator and a light source to an underside of a toilet seat of a toilet; and b. raising the toilet seat to an upright position, thereby activating the activator in the illumination device to power the light source and illuminate the toilet.

36. The method of illuminating a toilet according to claim 35, further comprising: c. lowering the toilet seat to deactivate the light source.

37. The method according to claim 35, wherein the illumination device of step a. further comprises a scent distribution device containing a scenting solution.

38. The method according to claim 37, wherein step b. further includes the activator powering scent distribution valve to dispense a portion of the scenting solution to overcome odors.

39. A method of illuminating a toilet, comprising: a. securing an illumination device including an activator and a light source to a toilet; b. sensing the presence of a user in proximity to the toilet with the activator; and c. illuminating the toilet by allowing power to flow to the light source, thereby aiding the user.

40. The method of illuminating a toilet according to claim 39, further comprising: d. stopping the flow of power to the light source when the user is no longer in proximity to toilet.

41. The method of illuminating a toilet according to claim 39, wherein the illumination device of step a. further comprises a scent distribution device containing a scenting solution.

42. The method of illuminating a toilet according to claim 41, further comprising: d. releasing a portion of the scenting solution to overcome odors in the proximity of the toilet.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to toilets and, more particularly, but not by way of limitation, to methods and an apparatus for illuminating a toilet.

2. Description of the Related Art

The inability of males to urinate in a dark bathroom without urinating on objects including a horizontally oriented toilet seat causes problems for others sharing the use of the toilet, particularly female users. If the males do not lift the toilet seat when urinating, a target area is reduced. The smaller target area coupled with a limited lighting situation make a normal everyday task substantially more difficult, as the person urinating must urinate in a general direction of a reduced target area. Should the urine stream contact the toilet seat, splashing will occur, thereby magnifying the affected areas.

Problems are noted when female users attempt to utilize the toilet in a limited lighting situation following an inconsiderate user, as the affected areas are typically still wet. The female user often sits on a wet toilet seat, thereby creating discomfort and an unsanitary situation.

When the males do lift the toilet seat before urinating, a limited lighting situation can still cause problems, as the user still is forced to aim in a general direction. Once again, an urination stream contacting the sides of a toilet bowl, even if only for a brief period, will cause splashing both within and outside of the toilet bowl. Splashing outside of the toilet bowl falls to a bathroom floor, thereby creating a possibly slippery floor, as well as an unsanitary situation. Urine left on the bathroom floor can then lead to bad odors, stains, and the like.

Additionally, female users are often forced to sit on a toilet in a limited lighting situation. In situations where the toilet seat is not lowered, the female is at risk of sitting on the lip of the toilet bowl, or even possibly falling partially into the toilet bowl if the toilet if the user does not ensure that the toilet seat is down.

Accordingly, an apparatus and method for illuminating the toilet to provide users with increased lighting in limited lighting situations would be beneficial to substantially all users.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, an illumination device provides improved lighting conditions in a toilet bowl of a toilet when a toilet seat is raised. The illumination device may include a power source, a light source, and an activation device. The illumination device may be mounted to an underside of a toilet seat of the toilet in either a permanent installation or a removable configuration. The illumination device is activated when the toilet seat is raised, and deactivated when the toilet seat is lowered. Illuminating the toilet bowl provides both male and female users with increased lighting conditions during night visits to a bathroom to dispose of body waste.

In an alternative embodiment, the illumination device further includes a controller in communication with the power supply and the light source, such that the controller regulates the passage of power and signals to the electrical components. The embodiment with a controller may further include a courtesy alarm in the form of visual or audible signals to warn users of a toilet seat in an upright position for a predetermined amount of time.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to illuminate a toilet, thereby providing users with increased lighting conditions when a toilet seat is upright.

It is a further object of the present invention to illuminate the toilet when a toilet seat is raised.

It is still further an object of the present invention to provide a courtesy alarm to remind forgetful users that the toilet seat remains in an upright position.

Still other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become evident to those of ordinary skill in the art in light of the following. Also, it should be understood that the scope of this invention is intended to be broad, and any combination of any subset of the features, elements, or steps described herein is part of the intended scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 provides a top view of an illumination device according to the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 2 provides a side view of the illumination device according to the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 3 provides an exploded view of the illumination device according to the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 4 provides perspective view of the illumination device in use according to the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 5 provides a method flowchart illustrating the illumination device in use according to the preferred embodiment.

FIG. 6 provides a perspective view of a second embodiment of the illumination device that includes a scent distribution device.

FIG. 7 provides perspective view of a third embodiment of the illumination device that includes a controller and a courtesy alarm.

FIG. 8 provides a method flowchart illustrating the third embodiment in use.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein; however, it is to be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. It is further to be understood that the figures are not necessarily to scale, and some features may be exaggerated to show details of particular components or steps.

An illumination device aids users during sanitation operations, namely depositing excrement from the body into a suitable waste disposal apparatus known as a toilet. The illumination device may be mounted to a toilet seat, a toilet bowl, a toilet bowl lid, or any combination of the aforementioned, to conduct illumination operations. The illumination device may further be connectable to a swiveling seat or lid to provide a switching operation in conjunction with the illumination operations, such that the illumination device illuminates a toilet bowl area when a lid or toilet seat is in an upright position. The use of the illumination device aids males when urinating in a limited lighting situation. Females are aided by having a seating area lit before sitting on the toilet seat. The first embodiment includes an activation device and a light source mounted to an underside of a toilet seat. The light source of the first embodiment is powered when a toilet seat of a toilet is raised. The light may remain unpowered during good lighting situations to conserve energy.

In this first embodiment, the illumination device 100 includes a housing 110 having a base assembly 111 and a top cover assembly 120. The base assembly 111 includes a base 112, an activation device 150, a power supply 155, and a light source 140. In this first embodiment, the base 112 is oval in shape and of a size suitable for mounting on an underside of a toilet seat 205 of a toilet 200 with minimal exposure to ambient conditions. The base 112 may be constructed from any suitable material having sufficient stiffness and strength to mount other components, and may even be a printed circuit board, such that electronic components may be mounted to the printed circuit board and electrically connected as required.

The activation device 150 may be any device suitable for sensing the presence of a user, a position of a toilet seat 205, a position of a lid 206, or any combination thereof, such that a signal is generated to illuminate a toilet bowl 210 area. For example, a plunger switch may engage a lower toilet portion 215 to regulate distribution of power to the light source 140, proximity sensors may be utilized to sense a close proximity to the lower toilet portion 215, optical sensors may be utilized to compare and contrast visual data, and infrared sensors may sense the presence of a user in the general area of the toilet bowl 210. One of ordinary skill in the art will further recognize that the activation device 150 may utilize mechanical switches such as mercury switches to conduct similar operations. The activation device may further include a mercury vapor switch to restrict the flow of power to the light source 140 to limited lighting conditions, thereby conserving power.

The power supply 155 may be any suitable power source, preferably batteries. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that virtually any type of power source may be utilized, including alternating current, solar power cells, and the like. The power supply 155 is located on the base 112 and powers the activation device 150 and the light source 140. In this first embodiment a battery is utilized to provide to confine the illumination device to a self contained arrangement, and to minimize the risk of electrical shock in a wet environment.

The light source 140 may be any suitable form of projecting light from the illumination device 100, including incandescent bulbs, LED's, halogen bulbs, and the like. In this first embodiment, the light source 140 is mounted to the base 112 using any suitable means including screws, glue, or snap features molded into the base 112. The light source 140 projects light when powered by the power source 155.

The top cover assembly 120 includes a cover 125 and a lens 130. The cover 125 may be an injection molded component; preferably a resin that is inert to the chemicals utilized in common household cleansers. The lens 130 may also be an injection molded component that transmits light with minimal losses, for example, a polycarbonate. The lens 130 may be permanently affixed to the cover 125 using any suitable means, for example gluing, snap features, or solvent bonding. The seal between the lens 130 and the cover 125 should be impervious to liquids.

On assembly, the activation device 150, the power source 155, and the light source 140 are mounted to the base 112. The lens 130 may then be mounted to the cover 125, such that no liquids may pass between the cover 125 and the lens 130. Once all required components are mounted to the base 112, the cover assembly 120 may be mounted to the base assembly 111, such that the light source 140 may project light through the lens 130. In the assembled configuration, all of the electronic components are located within a protected environment between the base 112 and the cover assembly 120. Once the cover assembly 120 has been assembled to the base assembly 111, the electrical components are protected from sprays, cleansers, and the like. The cover assembly 120 may be assembled to the base 112 using any suitable means, including snap features, screws, or glues for either a permanent or a removable configuration.

In use, the illumination device 100 may be mounted to any suitable surface, including the underside of a toilet seat 205 of a toilet 200, the underside of a toilet bowl lid 206, an upper toilet portion 216, or even the toilet bowl 210 area, using any suitable means, including adhesives, double sided tape, glues, or brackets. The illumination device 100 may be mounted in either a permanent or semi-permanent installation. If the illumination device 100 is mounted in a semi-permanent arrangement, the illumination device 100 may be occasionally removed for servicing, cleansing, or replacement in a disposable configuration.

FIG. 5 provides a method flowchart outlining the operation of the illumination device 100. The process commences with step 5, wherein the activation device 150 awaits a signal. In step 10, an operator triggers the activation device 150. The activation device 150 may be triggered using any suitable method to ascertain whether a toilet seat 205 has been raised, including proximity sensors sensing a lower portion of the toilet 200, infrared sensors sensing the presence of a user within a close proximity, motion sensors sensing the motion of the user, or the like. When the activation device 150 has been triggered, the process moves to step 20, wherein the activation device 150 provides power to the light source 140, thereby illuminating the area near the toilet bowl 210. Once the toilet bowl 210 is illuminated, it becomes easier for the operator to urinate within the confines of the toilet bowl 210, thereby eliminating any associated remnants due to missing the toilet bowl 210. Upon completion of the urinating phase, the operator lowers the toilet seat 205 to deactivate the activation device 150 as shown in step 30. In step 40, the activation device ceases the delivery of power to the light source 140.

While this first embodiment has been shown to be mountable to an underside of a toilet seat 205, one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the first embodiment may be mounted to an underside of a toilet bowl lid 206, such that when a user lifts the swiveling lid 206 the toilet seat 205 is illuminated for users that must sit on the toilet seat 205. Further extensions of the illumination device 100 may be mountable to the toilet 200 as required to accommodate various sensing capabilities and cleanliness requirements.

In a second embodiment, an illumination device 250 is identical to the illumination device 100, but further includes a scent distribution device 252 as shown in FIG. 6. The scent distribution device 252 may be any device suitable for dispensing a concentrated scent or cologne solution utilized to overcome foul odors. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that scent distribution devices are common in the industry, illustratively, plug-ins, and room deodorizers commonly utilized in bathrooms. The scent distributing devices may distribute scents on timed intervals or may even sample the ambient conditions to determine a scent distribution is required. In this second embodiment, the scent distribution device 252 may be disposed within the housing 110 and in communication with the power supply 155 and the activation device 150, such that the scent distribution device 252 is actuated by the activation device 150 and powered by the power supply 155. While this second embodiment has been shown with the scent distribution device 252 disposed within the housing 110, it should be clear to one of ordinary skill in the art the illumination device 250 may be in communication with a remote scent distribution device, thereby minimizing size requirements of the illumination device 250.

In a third embodiment an illumination device 300 includes a courtesy alarm 160 as shown in FIG. 7. The third embodiment is similar to the illumination devices 100 and 250, however, a controller 156 and courtesy alarm 160 have been added to provide an audible reminder for forgetful users of the toilet 200. In this third embodiment, like parts have been numbered with like numerals for clarity. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the functionality of the illumination device 100 remains the same, and that the addition of an audible reminder for forgetful users is merely an extension of the first and second embodiments.

The controller 156 may be any type of logic controller currently utilized in industry, including a microprocessor, and is mounted on the base 112 to reside with the other electronic components. The controller 156 is in communication with the activation device 150, the power supply 155, the light source 140, and the courtesy alarm 160 to regulate and distribute power to the components. The controller 156 may also execute timer functions to create delays between operations.

The courtesy alarm 160 may be any type of device suitable for providing an audible sound, including speakers, buzzers, chimes, and the like. The courtesy alarm 160 may be mounted to the base 112 and is in communication with the controller 156 and the power supply 155. When powered, the courtesy alarm 160 provides an audible warning to the user.

On assembly, the courtesy alarm 160 and the controller 156 are mounted to the base 112 such that they are protected from ambient conditions. Upon the installation of the cover assembly 120, the courtesy alarm 160 and the controller 156 lie in a protected environment with the other electrical components, including the power supply 155 and the light source 140.

In operation, the illumination device 300 is in a wait state as shown in step 50 of the method flowchart of FIG. 8. An operator triggers the activation device 150 by raising the toilet seat 205 of the toilet 200, step 60. Upon activation, the activation device 150, the controller 156 provides power from the power supply 155 to the light source 140, and starts a timer function, as shown in step 70. With the toilet bowl 210 now illuminated, the operator may urinate into the lighted toilet bowl 210. After urinating, the operator moves away from the toilet 200. The process moves to step 80, wherein the controller 156 determines if the predetermined timer delay has expired. If the timer delay period has not expired, the process returns to step 80. If the timer delay has expired in step 80, the process moves to step 90, wherein the controller 156 determines if the toilet seat 205 is still upright. If the toilet seat 205 has been lowered by the user, the process returns to step 50, wherein the activation device 150 waits for an input signal. If the toilet seat 205 is still upright after the timer has expired in step 90, the. controller 156 then powers the courtesy alarm 160 to warn the operator of the toilet seat 205 remaining in the upright position, step 95. The operator may lower the toilet seat 205 to deactivate the light source 140. The process then returns to step 80, where it awaits the end of predetermined timer period to determine if the toilet seat 205 has been lowered.

Although the present invention has been described in terms of the foregoing preferred embodiment, such description has been for exemplary purposes only and, as will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, many alternatives, equivalents, and variations of varying degrees will fall within the scope of the present invention. That scope, accordingly, is not to be limited in any respect by the foregoing detailed description; rather, it is defined only by the claims that follow.





 
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