Title:
Automatic flush apparatus with handle override for pressure flush tank assemblies
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automatic flush assembly for pressure flush tank assemblies is provided. The assembly includes an actuator for activating a push cap, a sensor, a power supply, and a handle override. The actuator is designed to be placed onto a pressurized reservoir located with a tank of a traditional tank-style toilet. The actuator contains a motor, a reduction gear train, and an actuating element, as well as control logic. The actuator is electrically connected to the power supply and the handle override. Also disclosed is a method of installing an automatic flush assembly. The method includes attaching a reservoir to a water inlet and tank outlet; attaching an actuator to said reservoir; affixing a sensor in the functional proximity of the actuator; electrically connecting a handle override to said actuator; and electrically connecting a power source to said actuator.



Inventors:
Muderlak, Kenneth J. (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Hseih, Rocky (Hsin-Chu, TW)
Application Number:
11/018934
Publication Date:
06/22/2006
Filing Date:
12/20/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D1/14; E03D3/12; E03D5/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BGL (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. An automatic flushing apparatus for a pressurized flush tank assembly comprising: a motor; an actuating element for depressing a push cap on said pressurized flush tank assembly; a reduction gear train operatively connecting said motor to said actuating element; control logic electrically connected to said motor; a sensor in communication with said control logic; a power supply electrically connected to control logic; and a handle override electrically connected to said control logic.

2. The automatic flushing apparatus of claim 1 further comprises a mounting connecting said actuator to said pressurized flush tank assembly.

3. The automatic flushing apparatus of claim 1 wherein said sensor is in wireless communication with said actuator.

4. The automatic flushing apparatus of claim 3 wherein said sensor attaches to a wall in the proximity of the actuator.

5. The automatic flushing apparatus of claim 1 wherein said actuating apparatus is an arm capable of rotating.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to an automatic flush actuator, and more specifically, to an automatic flush actuator with a handle override for pressurized reservoir in a tank assembly.

BACKGROUND

Traditional tank-style toilets use a large amount of water per flush. A desire to be both environmental and economical has created an interest in using less water per flush. Therefore, various methods have been developed to efficiently flush a toilet using less water.

One such method is to increase the velocity of the water entering the toilet bowl. When the velocity is increased, less water is required to ensure that the contents of the toilet bowl have been flushed. As described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,233,698, which is incorporated by reference, one system that increases the velocity of flush water utilizes a pressurized reservoir within the tank. The reservoir contains compressed air and flush water. Within the reservoir, the compressed air is located above the flush water. A push cap is located at the top of the reservoir. When displaced, the push cap opens a valve at the bottom of reservoir into the bowl. When a flush mechanism is actuated, the pressurized reservoir opens into the toilet bowl and the compressed air forces the flush water out of the pressurized reservoir at a high velocity. The flush water then enters the toilet bowl and flushes away any waste. The pressurized reservoir then closes. The reservoir refills with flush water and compressed air. Once the pressurized reservoir is refilled, the toilet is ready to be flushed again.

With a pressurized reservoir, a unique valve is required to release the flush water within the reservoir. More specifically, a mechanism is required that not only overcomes the weight of the water, but also the pressure of the reservoir. In a manual actuator, a flush handle is connected to an arm. The arm is operatively connected to the push cap. Therefore, when a user turns the handle, the push cap is displaced, and the flushing mechanism is actuated.

While the manual actuator is functional, it requires the user of the toilet to touch the manual actuator and thereby contact any germs that are present on the actuator handle. The fear of contacting germs often prevents the user from flushing the toilet, thereby creating an unsanitary and unappealing situation. Therefore, an automatic actuator for a pressurized tank is desired.

Automatic actuators for tank-style toilets have been developed, yet none are designed to interact with a toilet with a pressurized tank. An automatic actuator for a tank style toilet provides a mechanism to merely lift up a flap. This actuator is not capable of depressing the push cap of a pressurized reservoir. Therefore, it is the objective of the present invention to provide a system to automatically actuate the valve of a pressurized reservoir in a tank-style toilet.

A device to override the automatic actuator is still desirable. One device that can provide an override feature is a manual handle and linkage. However, a manual handle and linkage is prone to failure and tends to interfere with the operation of the automatic actuator. Furthermore, users will remain hesitate to contact the manual handle for fear of contacting germs. The reluctance of users to touch the handle with their hands prompts users to operate the handle using the users' fists or feet, often resulting in the manual handle and linkage either breaking or otherwise being damaged by the excessive force. Additionally, by using the manual handle and linkage, the user can double-flush, or hold open the valve, thereby wasting water and creating leaking. Finally, the presence of a manual handle can possibly confuse a user into not knowing that an automatic actuator is present. Therefore, an override system that does not utilize a manual handle and linkage is desired because it reduces the possibility that the system will fail or be vandalized. An override system that does not utilize a manual handle also provides a more hygienic surface and reduces water usage and leaking.

Furthermore, pressurized tanks have been designed to fit within conventional tank-style toilets. Therefore, an automatic flush actuator must be designed to conveniently be installed into a conventional tank-style toilet.

BRIEF SUMMARY

These and other objectives and advantages are provided in an apparatus for automatically actuating a pressurized tank flush assembly.

An automatic flushing apparatus with handle override for pressurized flush tank assembly is provided. The apparatus includes an actuator for depressing a push cap located in the pressurized tank flush assembly, a sensor for detecting an occurance, a power supply and a handle override to activate the flushing mechanism. The actuator for depressing the push cap has a housing, with a motor, a reduction gear, an actuating element, and logic controls. A handle override is electrically connected to the actuator. Furthermore, a power supply provides electricity to the actuator, and a senor is in communication with the actuator, and activates the actuator when the sensor detects an event.

In another embodiment, a method of installing an automatic flushing activator with handle override is disclosed. In this embodiment, the reservoir is placed within the tank. The power supply is then connected. The handle is then replaced with the handle override, and the sensor is installed.

The present invention is defined by the following claims. The description summarizes some aspects of the presently preferred embodiments and should not be used to limit the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a cut away view of a tank-style toilet;

FIG. 2A is side view of a pressurized reservoir;

FIG. 2B is a cutaway view of a pressurized reservoir;

FIG. 3 is an cut away view of a toilet containing the automatic flushing apparatus with handle override;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of the actuator; and

FIG. 5A is a view of the sensor

FIG. 5 B is a view of an handle override.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS AND THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The presently preferred embodiment provides users with a system for automatically flushing a pressurized reservoir in a tank-style toilet and has an override mechanism to actuate the flushing apparatus. The preferred system provides hands-free flushing of a system that efficiently uses a minimal amount of water to remove waste from a toilet bowl.

In a traditional toilet 105, a bowl 110 and a tank 115 exists. Separating the tank 115 from the bowl 110 is a tank outlet 120. When the tank outlet 120 is unobstructed, the tank 115 is operatively connected to the bowl 110, and the water is forced by gravity from the tank 115 into the bowl 110 through the tank outlet 120. The tank 115 is further connected to a water supply. After the toilet 105 is flushed, the water supply provides water to refill the tank 115.

In the present embodiment, the tank 115 contains a reservoir 125. The reservoir 125 typically is made of plastic. However, the reservoir 125 can be made of other materials. The reservoir 125 contains a volume of water 170 and compressed air 175. The reservoir 125 further contains an apparatus to replenish the compressed air 175, as well as an apparatus to replenish the water 150. In the present embodiment, the apparatus to replenish the compressed air is an air inducer 180. The apparatus to replenish the water 150 is a water supply. Furthermore, the reservoir 125 contains a valve 155 which operatively connects the contents of the reservoir 110 to the tank outlet 120. A push cap 160 is located at the top of the housing 130, and is connected through a linkage 165 to the valve 155. When the push cap 160 is displaced, the linkage 165 opens the valve 155, allowing the volume of water 135 to exit the reservoir 125 and enter the toilet bowl 110. Furthermore, when the pressure in the reservoir 125 is decreased, the valve 155 returns to a closed position when the push cap 160 is no longer displaced.

In the present embodiment, the reservoir 125 is shaped to fit within the tank 115 of a tank-style toilet. Presently, the tank 115 is a rectangular cube, and the reservoir 125 is also a rectangular cube. However, the reservoir can have different shapes depending on the shape of the tank 115. The valve 155 is located at the bottom of the reservoir 125 and in the proximity of the tank outlet 120, thereby allowing the volume of the reservoir 125 to exit into the bowl 110

As shown in FIG. 3, the presently preferred embodiment has an actuator 210 for depressing the push cap, a sensor 220 for detecting an occurrence in the proximity of the apparatus, a power source 230 for the apparatus, and the handle override 240 to activate the actuator 210 for depressing the push cap 160. Preferably, the actuator 210 comprises a modular housing unit 310. The modular housing unit 310 includes a mounting 320 to connect the housing 310 to the reservoir 125. Preferably, the modular housing unit 310 is attached to the reservoir 125 via the mounting 320 by screws. However, the mounting 320 can be attached to the reservoir 110 by bolts, adhesive, or other attaching methods known in the art. Similarly, the mounting 320 is attached to modular housing unit 310 by screws, bolts, adhesives, or other methods known in the art.

The mounting 320 and modular housing unit 310 must be aligned with the push cap 160 so that the actuator 210 can properly contact the push cap 160, and depress the push cap 160 when activated. This alignment is accomplished by the screws, bolts, adhesive or other attaching method.

The contents of the actuator 210 are illustrated in FIG. 4. Preferably, a motor 410, reduction gear train 420, cam 430, and control logic 440 are present within the modular housing unit 310. Another embodiment of the reduction gear train is disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/678,865, entitled “Automatic Flushing Actuator for Tank Style Toilets,” filed Oct. 3, 2003, and hereby incorporated by reference. In other embodiments, the cam can be replaced with an arm or pin. The motor 410 is mechanically connected to the actuating element 430 by the reduction gear train 420. As the motor 410 is energized, the reduction gear train 420 rotates the actuating element 430, and the actuating element 430 rotates against the push cap 160. The push cap 160 then is displaced, thereby operating the valve 155 through the linkage 165. When the valve 155 opens, the flush water 170 within the reservoir 125 is forced into the bowl 110 by the compressed air 175. Then, the motor 410 is no longer energized. The valve 155 returns to a closed position, and the reservoir 125 is refilled with compressed air 175 and flush water 170. The reservoir 125 is then ready for the next flushing.

A sensor 220 is used to detect the presence of a user in the proximity of the toilet 105. The sensor 220 may be a motion detector, infrared sensor, or a body heat detector. In the present embodiment, the sensor 220 is located within a separate housing 540 and communicates to the actuator using a transmitter that provides a radio frequency signal. In alternate embodiments, the sensor 220 can be connected to the actuator 210 via infrared or a cord. Additionally, in alternative embodiments, the senor 220 can be incorporated into the actuator housing 130 or the tank 115. Presently, the sensor housing 540 contains batteries to supply power to the sensor electronics. In the present embodiment, the batteries are “AA” 550. However, in alternate embodiments, the sensor 220 can be powered by different battery sizes, or otherwise be powered by alternating current. Presently, the sensor housing is externally attached to the wall by adhesive. However, the sensor 220 housing can also be attached by screws, nails, or other attaching means. Conversely, the sensor housing can be located within the wall.

In the present embodiment, the power supply 230 is a battery pack. Presently, the battery pack is connected to the actuator by a power cord. In the present embodiment, the power cord contains plug as both ends. These plugs match ports located in the both the power supply 230 and actuator 210. The battery pack is designed to contain four “C” batteries. Conversely, the battery pack can contain multiple “D” or other sized batteries. In another embodiment, the power supply can be alternating current, which provides the actuator 210 with energy. Additionally, the battery pack 230 can be integrated into the actuator 210.

Finally, a handle override 240 is present. The handle override 240 replaces the manual linkage assembly that is present in standard tank-style toilets. The handle override 240 is a button 520 that is integrated into the logic control 440 of the actuator 210. Preferably, the button is made of rubber and contains a chrome housing. In the present embodiment, the actuator 210 is electrically connected to the logic control by a cord. The cord provides a path for an override signal, as well as serves as a power cord. Preferably, the cord is hard-wired to the button, and, at the other end, contains a plug that connects to matching port in the modular housing 210

Conversely, the handle override can be wirelessly connected to the logic control. In the wireless embodiment, the handle override must also include a handle override power source, as well as a radio frequency transmitter. Preferably, the override power source is a battery pack containing one or more batteries. Furthermore, a wireless handle override also requires a wireless transmitter, such as infrared, radiofrequency, or other wire means.

In operation, upon detection of a user by the sensor 220, circuit logic 440, inter-connected between the power source 230 and motor 410 within the modular housing 310 provides a pulse of electrical energy to the motor 410 of such duration as to rotate the gear through a predetermined arc, as to depress the push cap 160 and therefore open the valve 155 of the reservoir 125. Furthermore, in the present embodiment, the logic further provides an audible or visual indication that the power supply is near the end of a life cycle. Embodiments of a sensor and logic are described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,680,879, which is incorporated by reference

Conversely, as described above, the toilet can be activated by the user depressing the handle override. The handle override 240 bypasses the signal from the sensor 220 and provides energy directly to the motor 410. The logic control 440 recognizes the bypass signal and prevents the sensor 220 from detecting any subsequent signal for a predetermined amount of time. This ensures that the actuator 210 will not unnecessarily operate twice. The logic control 440 also ensures that the user will not repeatedly activate the actuator 210.

The pressurized reservoir 125 is designed to be placed within a conventional type toilet with a tank. Similarly, the automatic actuator 210 is also designed to be installed in a conventional type toilet with a tank. The pressurized reservoir is placed in the tank, and is typically operated with a manual flush handle. To install the automatic flushing apparatus, the flush handle is removed, leaving a hole where the handle is located in a conventional tank-style toilet. The pressurized reservoir 125 is then connected to the water inlet 150 and tank outlet 120, and the reservoir 125 is placed within the tank 115.

The automatic actuator 210 is then attached to the reservoir housing 130. In the presently preferred embodiment, the actuator 210 is directly attached to the reservoir housing 130 using screws. Conversely, the actuator 210 can be attached using bolts, adhesive, or other attaching methods. In an alternate embodiment, a mounting 320 can connect the actuator 210 to the reservoir housing 130. The power source 230 is electrically connected to the actuator 210. The power source 240 is then attached to the wall of the tank using a clip or other means. Conversely, the actuator can be connected to a 110 V alternating current.

In the preferred embodiment, the handle override wire is then placed through the handle hole. The handle override wire is electrically attached to the actuator 210. The handle override 240 is then place in the hole. As shown in FIG. 6, the handle override 240 contains threads and a matching nut 530. The nut then attaches to the threads and affixes the handle override 240 to the tank.

Finally, the sensor is attached to the wall. In the presently preferred embodiment, the sensor is affixed to the wall using an adhesive strip. Conversely, in an alternative embodiment, a hole is created in the wall. The sensor is subsequently positioned and affixed within the hole; thereby minimizing the likelihood of vandalism.

It is therefore intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting, and that it be understood that it is the following claims, including all equivalents, that are intended to define the spirit and scope of this invention.