Mailbox illuminating system
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A self-contained illuminator for the interior of rural mailboxes is disclosed. When the door is opened, the interior of the mailbox will be illuminated to facilitate removal of the contents of the mailbox. A timer is provided to insure the illumination is terminated in a reasonable amount of time, whether the door is closed or not.

Fletcher, Allen R. (Sun City, CA, US)
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Primary Examiner:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
I claim:

1. A self-contained illuminating device for providing illumination comprising: an illuminating element; a switch; a power source; and a timer; wherein when the switch is closed, the illuminating element is energized by the battery for a time controlled by the timer.

2. The illuminating device of claim 1 wherein the device is configured to provide illumination to the inside of a rural type mailbox.

3. The illuminating device of claim 2 wherein the device is fixedly attached to the inside top of the rural type mailbox.

4. The illuminating device of claim 2 wherein the switch is configured to close when the door of the rural type mailbox is opened.

5. The illuminating device of claim 2 wherein the timer is configured to remove current from the illuminating element after a predetermined time period.



Rural mailboxes, particularly those in the general shape of a box with a rounded top and a door that opens downward, are in popular use all over the country. These mailboxes are typically approved by the United States Postal Service for delivery of mail in both rural and non-rural neighborhoods. They are simple for the letter carrier to use, and are well understood by their users.

However, such mailboxes are also quite deep, requiring the owner to place his or her hand a considerable distance into the interior of the mailbox in order to insure that they have retrieved all of their mail. In many instances, this is done after sunset, or when the illumination is otherwise insufficient to visually insure that the entire mail delivery has been retrieved.

Prior art reveals many attempts to alleviate this situation, by providing either a permanent or temporary illuminating device. The devices in the prior art suffer from a variety of deficiencies.

U.S. Pat. No. 8,648,012, issued Pittman, I I, discloses a complex, multiple piece mailbox interior light that is complex to install and does not include a timer to prevent battery discharge in the instance of the door being left open. U.S. Pat. No. 5,813,749 (Sheldon), U.S. Pat. No. 5,975,713 (Brothers), U.S. Pat. No. 6,033,084 (Burke), and U.S. Pat. No. 6,102,548 (Mantle et al) also do not include a timer to prevent battery discharge. U.S. Pat. No. 6,601,969 (Barton) discloses a removable light that can be easily stolen, and is mounted to the side of the mailbox and therefore provides poor illumination to the rear of the box. US Patent Application Publication U.S. 2003/0099103 (Waldman) discloses a light that fits on the outside of the mailbox and is subject to weather and animal damage. U.S. Pat. No. 6,402,338 discloses a general purpose interior illumination system that requires a complex installation procedure, including a special mounting hole. US Patent Application Publication 2001/0050851 discloses a mailbox illuminator that requires manual activation.

An illuminating device for the interior of a rural mailbox must meet certain criteria in order to perform adequately. First, it must occupy a minimal volume of the interior of the box. Second, it must provide adequate illumination so the user can visually insure that they have retrieved their entire delivery of mail. Third, it must function automatically. Fourth, it must be reasonably theft and vandal resistant. Fifth, it must make efficient use of the available power source.

The instant invention addresses all of these issues with a novel approach.


A mailbox illuminating device in the shape of a long, thin rectangular shape is mounted to the highest point in a round-top rural mailbox. A switch is provided that is activated when the door of the mailbox is opened, causing the interior of the mailbox to be illuminated, and when the door is closed, the mailbox illumination is extinguished. Further, a timer will disconnect power from the illumination devices after a preset period of time, to prevent unnecessary drainage of the battery power source.


FIG. 1 illustrates a rural mailbox with a rounded top surface and a bottom-pivoting door.

FIG. 2 illustrates a rural mailbox with the illuminator installed.

FIG. 3 illustrates a suggested configuration for the mailbox illuminator

FIG. 4 illustrates a block diagram of the mailbox illuminator.


Referring to FIG. 1, a rural mailbox 1 with a bottom-pivoting door 2 is fitted with a mailbox illuminator 3. The mailbox illuminator 3 may be mounted using any of a plurality of known mounting techniques such as pressure-sensitive adhesives, epoxies, screws, or rivets (not shown).

When the user, such as the owner or a letter carrier, opens the door 2, switch 5 is closed, allowing current to flow from the battery 6 to the illuminating elements 7 through a driver 8. Illuminating elements 7 may be light emitting diodes (LEDs), incandescent bulbs, electroluminescent panels, or other known illuminating elements. The color of the light emitted by the elements may be monochromatic or polychromatic. In particular, red LEDs are known to be highly efficient and will not cause a residual effect to the user's night vision. Driver 8 may be a transistor of sufficient rating to power the illuminating element, and may also comprise voltage and current modification circuitry (not shown) appropriate to the requirements of the illuminating element.

Switch 5 may be constructed using one of a plurality of known techniques including spring loaded momentary contacts, magnetic reed, hall effect sensor, photo-interrupter module, or the like.

Current is also provided from the battery 6 to the timer 9. Timer 9 is configured to only permit current to be provided to the illuminating elements 7 for a preselected period of time. That time should be adequate for the user to visually insure that they have retrieved the entire mail delivery. It is estimated that that time should be no longer than 30 seconds, although other times may be determined more useful by the user. At the end of the preselected period of time, current to the illuminating elements is halted. Closing door 2 and re-opening door 2 will reset the time period of timer 9.

Timer 9 may be constructed using any of a plurality of known techniques such as a monostable multivibrator, simple resistor-capacitor time constant, oscillator and counter, or the like.

When the user closes the door 2, the switch opens and current from the battery 6 is halted.

Battery 6 is mounted so as to be easily replaced by the user, and may be made theft and vandal-resistant by the use of a cover secured with tamper-proof screws 10 or other known secure fasteners.

Other embodiments may include a battery 6 that is rechargeable by known methods such as solar cells, AC mains power, or mechanical generation (not shown) from the action of opening the door 2. The illuminating elements may also be directly powered by mechanical generation from the action of opening door 2.

Other embodiments can be seen from the foregoing description by those of skill in the art. The examples made in this specification are intended to illustrate the invention, and should not be construed to be in any way limiting.