Title:
Closing actuator for flapper valve
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention concerns an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat to close the valve. An example of such a valve may be found in the tank of a toilet. In one embodiment, the actuator comprises a tether having a first end attachable to the flapper and a second end extendable to a position outside of the tank. A guide body is positionable within the tank. Preferably, the guide body is in the form of a tube attached lengthwise along the bottom of the tank. The guide body has an opening (the tube bore, for example) for receiving the tether in sliding engagement. The guide body is positioned so as to guide the first end of the tether in a downward direction when the tether is drawn through the guide body from the second end. In response, the flapper is thereby drawn downwardly into engagement with the seat.



Inventors:
Silvestre, Steven R. (Gilbertsville, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/315444
Publication Date:
06/22/2006
Filing Date:
12/21/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP (Lawrenceville, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within a water tank to close said valve, said actuator comprising: a tether having a first end attachable to said flapper and a second end extendable to a position outside of said tank; a guide body positionable within said tank, said guide body having an opening for receiving said tether in sliding engagement, said guide body being positioned so as to guide said first end of said tether in a downward direction when said tether is drawn through said guide body from said second end, said flapper being thereby drawn downwardly into engagement with said seat.

2. An actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within a water tank to close said valve, said actuator comprising: an elongated guide tube having a first end positionable proximate to a bottom of said tank; and a tether extending through said guide tube, said tether being slidable within said guide tube and having a first end attachable to said flapper and a second end extendable to a position outside of said tank, said guide tube guiding said first end of said tether in a downward direction when said tether is drawn through said guide tube from said second end, said tether thereby drawing said flapper into engagement with said seat.

3. A kit for an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within a water tank to close said valve, said actuator kit comprising: a guide tube mountable along a sidewall of said tank, said guide tube having a first end positionable proximate to a bottom of said tank and a second end positionable proximate to a top of said tank; a clip attached to said second end of said guide tube, said clip being engageable with said sidewall for securing said guide tube thereto; and a tether extending though said guide tube, said tether having a first end attachable to said flapper and a second end extendable to a position outside of said tank.

4. In combination, a toilet having a bowl flushed by a water tank, and an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within said water tank to close said valve and stop the flow of water from said tank to said bowl, said actuator comprising: a tether having a first end attached to said flapper and a second end extending to a position outside of said tank; and a guide body positioned within said tank, said guide body having an opening for receiving said tether in sliding engagement, said guide body being positioned so as to guide said first end of said tether in a downward direction when said tether is drawn through said guide body from said second end, said flapper being thereby drawn downwardly into engagement with said seat.

5. A method of stopping the flow of water from a water tank to a bowl of a toilet, said tank having a flapper valve positioned between the tank and the bowl, said flapper valve including a flapper sealingly engageable with a seat, said method including the steps of: providing a tether having a first end attached to said flapper; providing a guide body positioned within said tank, said guide body having an opening for receiving said tether in sliding engagement, said guide body being positioned so as to guide said first end of said tether in a downward direction when said tether is drawn through said guide body from said second end; and drawing said tether from said second end through said guide body when said flapper valve is open, said flapper being thereby drawn downwardly into engagement with said seat to close said valve.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to actuating devices for closing valves, and especially to actuators for closing flapper valves of toilets to conserve water and prevent overflow from a clogged bowl.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The toilet is the largest user of water in a typical American home. On average, almost 27% of the total water that flows into a house flows out through the toilet. It is, therefore, logical to target the toilet in any attempt to conserve water. The wisdom of this strategy is evidenced by the National Energy Policy Act of 1995 (H.R. 776), which mandated the use of 1.6 gallon low consumption toilets throughout the United States. Such toilets have been effective in forwarding water conservation goals. However, even with the use of low consumption toilets, there is still an opportunity for further reduction of water use without compromising the convenience or hygienic progress afforded by modern plumbing.

Additionally, the low consumption toilets have been the subject of some criticism because of a perceived tendency to clog more often due to the reduced volume flow of flushing water that moves the waste. In the event of a clog, it is advantageous to have the capability to immediately stop the flow of water from the tank into the bowl to prevent bowl overflow. There is, thus, a need for more control over the actuation of flapper valves in toilets both for water conservation and to prevent overflow from clogs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention concerns an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat to close the valve. An example of such a valve may be found in the tank of a toilet. In one embodiment, the actuator comprises a tether having a first end attachable to the flapper and a second end extendable to a position outside of the tank. A guide body is positionable within the tank. Preferably the guide body is in the form of a tube attached lengthwise along the bottom of the tank. The guide body has an opening (the tube bore, for example) for receiving the tether in sliding engagement. The guide body is positioned so as to guide the first end of the tether in a downward direction when the tether is drawn through the guide body from the second end. In response, the flapper is thereby drawn downwardly into engagement with the seat.

In a preferred embodiment of an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within a water tank to close the valve, the actuator comprises an elongated guide tube having a first end positionable proximate to a bottom of the tank. A tether extends through the guide tube. The tether is slidable within the guide tube and has a first end attachable to the flapper. A second end of the tether is extendable to a position outside of the tank. The guide tube guides the first end of the tether in a downward direction when the tether is drawn through the guide tube from the second end. The tether thereby draws the flapper into engagement with the seat.

The invention also includes a kit for an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within a water tank to close the valve. The actuator kit comprises a guide tube mountable along a sidewall of the tank. The guide tube has a first end positionable proximate to a bottom of the tank and a second end positionable proximate to a top of the tank. A clip is attached to the second end of the guide tube. The clip is engageable with the sidewall for securing the guide tube thereto. A tether extends though the guide tube. The tether has a first end attachable to the flapper and a second end extendable to a position outside of the tank.

The invention further includes a combination of a toilet having a bowl flushed by a water tank, and an actuator for drawing a flapper of a flapper valve into engagement with a seat within the water tank to close the valve and stop the flow of water from the tank to the bowl. The actuator comprises a tether having a first end attached to the flapper and a second end extending to a position outside of the tank. A guide body is positioned within the tank. The guide body has an opening for receiving the tether in sliding engagement. The guide body is positioned so as to guide the first end of the tether in a downward direction when the tether is drawn through the guide body from the second end. The flapper being attached to the first end of the tether is thereby drawn downwardly into engagement with the seat, closing the valve and cutting off the flow of water from the tank to the bowl.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1A and 1B show a plan view of a presently preferred embodiment of an actuator according to the invention;

FIGS. 2-4 show views of the actuator of FIG. 1 in use in a toilet tank; and

FIG. 5 shows an alternate embodiment of an actuator according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1A shows an actuator 10 according to the invention. Actuator 10 comprises a guide tube 12 that is preferably adjustable in length. This is accomplished, for example, by using multiple tube segments 14 and 16 coaxially slidable within one another to permit a telescoping action to lengthen or shorten the guide tube 12 as shown in a comparison of FIGS. 1A and 1B. The tube segments 14 and 16 may be locked in place by a compression nut 18 that can be loosened to allow the tube segments to slide relative to one another and tightened to fix their relative position. Alternately, the inner tube segment 16 may have an outer diameter that is slightly larger than the inner diameter of the outer tube segment 14 so as to provide a friction fit between the tube segments that allows the tubes to slide relatively to one another upon the application of sufficient force, but otherwise keeps the tube segments coaxially fixed relative to each other.

A mounting clip 20 is attached to an end of guide tube 12. The clip 20 provides a means for attaching the guide tube to the sidewall 22 of a toilet tank 24. Clip 20 preferably comprises a plate 26 that engages the inside surface 28 of the tank sidewall to provide stability to the guide tube. A spacer 30 is attached to plate 26 and sits on the top edge 32 of the tank sidewall beneath the tank lid (not shown). An arm 34 projects from spacer 30 and engages the outside surface (36) of the tank sidewall 22 to help retain the guide tube 12 to the tank sidewall. Arm 34 may be resiliently biased so that the clip 20 grips the tank sidewall 22 between plate 26 and the arm. This will also allow the clip to accommodate sidewalls of varying thickness. Alternately, the arm 34 may be laterally slidable with respect to the plate 26 and grip the sidewall by clamping action.

Guide tube 12 has a bore 38 providing an opening through which a tether 40 passes. Tether 40 has an attachment end 42 that extends from an end 44 of guide tube 12, the tube end 44 being distal to the mounting clip 20. Attachment end 42 is attachable to the flapper of a flapper valve (see FIG. 2), and preferably has a hook 46 to facilitate attachment of the tether 40 to the flapper. Tether 40 also has a draw end 48 that passes through tube bore 38 and further through an aperture 50 in spacer 30 to extend to a position outside of tank 24. Draw end 48 of tether 40 facilitates manual closing of the flapper as described below, and has an adjustable grip 52 to provide purchase. Grip 52 is slidably adjustable along the tether 40 for convenience of positioning the grip where it is most easily accessible to a user.

Operation of actuator 10 is best described with reference to FIGS. 2-4. As shown in FIG. 2, the guide tube 12 is positioned along a sidewall 22 within toilet tank 24. The length of the guide tube is adjusted so that its end 44 is positioned proximate to the bottom 54 of the tank. Preferably, tube end 44 is curved and points toward the flapper 56. Flapper 56 engages a seat 58 and together flapper and seat provide a valve that controls the flow of water from the tank 24 to the toilet bowl (not shown) as is well understood. Attachment end 42 of tether 40 is attached to the flapper 56 via hook 46. A chain 60 is also attached to the flapper, the chain being attached to a handle 62 for opening the flapper to flush the toilet.

FIG. 3 shows the toilet being flushed. Handle 62 is depressed, lifting the flapper 56 from seat 58 and allowing water to flow from tank 24 to the toilet bowl. At this point in the flushing process, the user has the option to immediately close the flapper valve and stop the flow of water using actuator 10. This may be desired, for example, if all of the waste is flushed from the bowl by only a portion of the water flowing from the tank, and the user wishes to conserve the water remaining in the tank. Stopping the water flow in mid flush may also be necessary if the bowl is clogged and the water is rising in the bowl and threatens to overflow and flood the bathroom floor with waste contaminated water.

FIG. 4 shows the procedure for halting the water flow in mid flush. The draw end 48 of tether 40 is grasped and pulled downwardly. This causes the attachment end 42 to be drawn into guide tube 12. Because the end 44 of the guide tube is near the bottom 54 of tank 24 and thus below the level of flapper 56, the flapper is pulled downwardly into engagement with its seat 58, immediately stopping the water flow from the tank. The curved end 44 of the guide tube facilitates motion of the tether 40 into and out of the guide tube and reduces the chance for the tether to wear and bind. Clip 20, in conjunction with the toilet top (not shown) holds the actuator 10 firmly in place during actuation.

The guide tube and clip are preferably formed from plastic material such as polypropylene and polystyrene to provide a robust design that is not adversely affected by constant submergence in water. Hook 46 may be plastic or stainless steel to obviate corrosion problems and the tether is preferably formed from a polymer monofilament, for example, polyester.

An alternate embodiment of the actuator 70 is shown in FIG. 5. This actuator embodiment comprises a guide tube 72 positionable within the tank 24. Guide tube 72 has a bore or opening 74 through which a tether 76 passes. Tether 76 has an attachment end 78 attachable to the flapper 56, preferably by means of a hook 80. The tether also has a draw end 82 that extends to a position outside of the tank. The draw end may exit the tank sidewall 22 through a groove or opening, not shown. A grip 84 may be attached to the draw end to facilitate manual grasping of the tether. The guide tube 72 is attached within tank 24 so that the tether 76 exerts a downward force on the flapper 56 when the tether is pulled by its draw end 82. Thus, guide tube 72 may be positioned on the tank bottom 54 as shown in solid line or on a sidewall 22 as shown in phantom line, as long as its position directs the tether 76 to pull the flapper 56 into engagement with its seat 58.

Guide tube 72 may be formed from plastic material and adhered or otherwise fastened to the inside of tank 24, or it may be integrally formed as part of the tank inside surface as shown in phantom at 72a.

Actuators for flapper valves according to the invention provide an effective device for both conserving water and for preventing toilet overflow that can be readily retrofitted to existing toilets or incorporated into the design of new toilets.