Title:
Faucet assembly with integral water supply shut-off valve
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A faucet apparatus for mounting on sinks, washbasins and the like, is disclosed comprising automatic water supply shut-off valves that allow quick and easy installation or removal of a faucet head assembly on a faucet base mounted within a sink or similar fixture without the need to manually turn the supply lines off and on. The faucet head is removable from the base, which stays attached to the fixture. The shut-off valves are each comprised of a normally-closed valve assembly, and the faucet head has corresponding actuators that engage and open each valve assembly, enabling water flow to the faucet head as it is installed onto the base. The faucet apparatus further comprises an attachment means for mounting the base within a fixture. An alternate embodiment has a base comprising an additional passage for allowing installation of low-voltage conductors and electrical connections to enable features such as automatic faucet actuation.



Inventors:
Huber, Donald G. (Gig Harbor, WA, US)
Brown, Scott (Fountain Hills, AZ, US)
Application Number:
11/360156
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
02/23/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03C1/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LE, HUYEN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
David L. Garrrison (Seattle, WA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A faucet apparatus for mounting on sinks, washbasins and similar fixtures, the faucet apparatus comprising: a base portion for insertion into a through hole in a sanitary fixture, said base comprising a top, a bottom, at least one base passage extending through the base portion from the top to the bottom, at least one water intake duct communicating with the passage at the bottom of the base portion and having a releasable connector affixed at a distal end for engaging a water supply line, and at least one automatic shut-off valve comprising a normally-closed valve assembly disposed within each passage at the top of the base portion; a faucet head assembly having a dispensing portion with at least one dispensing passage, at least one coupler that communicates with each dispensing passage, a sealing means circumferentially disposed about each coupler, and a valve actuator corresponding to and aligned with each valve assembly, and disposed proximate to one end of the coupler that engages and opens each valve assembly, thereby enabling water flow as the faucet head is installed onto the base; and an attachment means for fixing said faucet head to said base portion.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said attachment means comprises a threaded fastener insertable into a threaded aperture in said faucet head assembly to engage and secure said faucet head assembly to said base.

3. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the sealing means circumferentially disposed about each coupler is a plurality of deformable rings, such as O-rings, affixed about the coupler.

4. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said base has a substantially cylindrical shape for being coupled coaxially with said through hole, said passages being oriented generally parallel to the axis of said base portion.

5. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said faucet apparatus has two fluid passageways there through hot and cold water.

6. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the base portion provides means for fixing the dispensing portion at a plurality of selected angles relative to the base portion.

7. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the base further comprises at least one additional passage through the base for allowing installation of low-voltage conductors and electrical connections, whereby auxiliary features such as automatic faucet actuation are enabled.

8. A method of releasably assembling a faucet on a base comprising the steps of: providing a base with pressurized water supply, said base having a normally closed valve in an accessible terminal conduit; engaging said accessible terminal conduit with a faucet assembly, said faucet assembly having an accessible faucet conduit sized to axially engage and seal with said accessible terminal conduit in said base, said accessible faucet conduit having a valve actuator to open said normally closed valve when said accessible faucet conduit engages and seals with said accessible terminal conduit; fastening said faucet assembly to said base to prevent axial displacement of said faucet assembly.

9. The method of claim 8 wherein said faucet conduit fits axially within said accessible terminal conduit and is sealed therein by O rings forming a fluid fight seal between said terminal conduit and said faucet conduit when said faucet conduit is inserted into said terminal conduit.

10. The method of claim 8 wherein a pair of accessible terminal conduits are provided in said base and a pair of faucet conduits are provided in said faucet assembly, each positioned for engaging and sealing with corresponding base unit terminal conduits.

11. A faucet apparatus for dispensing hot and cold water, said faucet apparatus adapted for mounting on sinks, washbasins and similar fixtures, the faucet apparatus comprising: a base portion for insertion into a through hole in a sanitary fixture, said base comprising a top, a bottom, hot and cold water base passages extending through the base portion in a side by side configuration and extending from the top to the bottom of said base, pressurized water supply communicating with said passages at the bottom of the base portion, and a shut-off valve comprising a normally-closed valve assembly disposed within each passage at the top of the base portion; a faucet head assembly having a dispensing portion with at least one dispensing passage, hot and cold water couplers that communicate with said dispensing passage, a sealing means circumferentially disposed about each coupler, and a valve actuator corresponding to and aligned with each valve assembly, and disposed proximate to one end of the coupler that engages and opens each valve assembly when said couplers are engaged axially with and sealed to said base passages, thereby enabling water flow as the faucet head is installed onto the base; and an attachment means for fixing said base portion to the sanitary fixture.

12. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the sealing means circumferentially disposed about each coupler is a plurality of deformable rings, such as O-rings, affixed about the coupler.

13. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein said base has a substantially cylindrical shape for being coupled coaxially with said through hole, said passages being oriented generally parallel to the axis of said base portion.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/656,180, entitled FAUCET ASSEMBLY WITH INTEGRAL WATER SUPPLY SHUT-OFF VALVE,” filed Feb. 23, 2005.

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to faucets for sanitary fixtures such as sinks, washbasins, bidets, or the like, and more particularly to a faucet assembly having a separable faucet head and a sanitary fixture-engaging base having automatic water supply shut-off valves that allow quick and easy installation of the faucet head onto the sanitary fixture-engaging base without the need to manually turn the supply lines off and on.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As is known, faucets are generally applied to their respective sanitary fixtures by providing a through hole in a portion of the sanitary fixture where the faucet is to be applied, the base portion of said faucet being inserted into said through hole. In some kinds of faucets, the faucet is fixed to the sanitary fixture by means of a plate that is placed on the lower side of the sanitary fixture and which is meant for engaging the edge of the through hole. The plate is then tightened against the lower face of the sanitary fixture by means of two or more screws which engage with the base portion of the faucet, after it is inserted in the through hole. In other kinds of faucets, the base portion of the faucet protrudes below the through hole and has a screw threading so that it can be engaged by a ring nut. The ring nut engages the lower face of the sanitary fixture, in the proximity of the edge of the through hole, thus fixing the faucet to the sanitary fixture. The mounting operation of conventional faucets to sanitary fixtures is troublesome in that an installer must necessarily work under the sanitary fixture where space is cramped and difficult to reach parts necessary to the installation. Particularly in the case of sinks having two compartments, in which the through hole for the application of the faucet is placed at the partition between the two compartments, the mounting operation of the faucet is particularly difficult in that the installer must operate from the front of the sink whereas the faucet mounting hole is near the rear side between the two compartments which makes the access thereto particularly difficult. In addition, the sanitary fixtures are usually placed resting against a wall, and the hole where the faucet is to be fixed, is proximate to this wall that hinders mounting operations of the faucet. The mounting operations of faucets are also made complicated by the presence of a draining trap or column particularly when the faucet is installed onto a washbasin, as well as by the presence of the wall against which the sanitary fixture rests.

Further complicating installation of these faucets is the need to shut off the water supply lines feeding the faucet before installation or removal can be performed. The supply lines must then be connected, or disconnected and reconnected for faucet replacement or repair, with the same accessibility difficulties as described above. In some installations, particularly for wall-mounted faucets, supply line shut-off valves may be on another side of a wall. Once a faucet is installed, the supply line valves must then be opened again to resume operational water flow. In any event, the mounting operation of faucets to sanitary fixtures is an awkward task in that the installer is compelled to work under the sanitary fixture itself. The time required to properly install a faucet therefore contributes significantly to the cost of a project.

In the prior art filed with this application we find several faucet devices as patents relevant to the present application, i.e., Mueller, Schmitt, Farrell et al., McGhee, Botnick, Shieh, Mikol, Tischler et al., Sauter et al., Deutsches Patentamt 8805671 and 8815235, and European 0293655 as well as several articles of reference.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,328,059 to Testori and Brown discloses a faucet apparatus for mounting on sanitary surfaces comprising a block portion that is inserted into a hole within a sanitary surface that is connected below to water intake ducts, and above to a faucet head. Before the faucet head can be removed or reconnected, however, the water supply lines must first be manually shut off to prevent free-flow of water.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

An object of the present invention is therefore to overcome the above mentioned drawbacks by providing a faucet assembly that is connected to sanitary fixtures such as sinks, washbasins, bidets, or the like, and allows an installer or service personnel to remove or replace a faucet head without the installer's having to manually shut off the water supply lines feeding the faucet assembly.

A particular object of the invention is to provide an automatic shut-off valve system that enables a faucet head to be easily mounted or removed from a faucet base, which is mounted on a sanitary fixture, without requiring that the installer climb or work from under the sanitary fixture.

Another object of the invention is to provide a device that enables the mounting of both conventional faucets and lever-type mono-control mixing valves and to enable their quick replacement.

A further object of the invention is to provide a device that can be manufactured at extremely low costs and thus will be very price-competitive in the marketplace.

A further object of the invention is to provide a device that enables coupling of faucet assemblies to a wide range of sanitary fixtures, including wash basins, bidets, and bathtubs.

A further object of the invention is to provide a device enabled for positioning the faucet water mixing assembly at a set angle relative to the sanitary fixture upon which it is mounted.

A further object of the invention is to provide a faucet assembly having low-voltage wiring and electrical connections to enable use of devices such as optical sensors for automatic faucet actuation.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A faucet apparatus for mounting on sanitary fixtures such as sinks, washbasins or the like, provides simple and quick installation of a faucet head without the need to manually shut off water supply lines. The apparatus comprises the faucet head and a fixture engaging base portion that is inserted into a through hole in the sanitary fixture and is with a portion thereof above the sanitary fixture. The faucet head is removable from the base, which stays attached to the sanitary fixture. A pair of passages or conduits extends through the base and are adapted to be connected below the sanitary fixture to water supply lines, and above the sanitary fixture for supplying the faucet head. The faucet apparatus further comprises automatic water supply shut-off valves disposed within the passages of the base and corresponding valve actuators disposed within the faucet head that allow quick and easy installation or removal of the faucet head assembly onto the sanitary fixture-engaging base without the need to manually turn the supply lines off and on. The shut-off valves are each comprised of a normally closed valve assembly that, when the faucet head is not present, remain in a closed position by the presence of water pressure from the supply lines or by spring tension. The faucet head assembly is comprised of a water dispensing unit, a pair of passages that align with the passages or conduits of the base, coupler fittings that engage with the faucet head passages at one end and with the base passages at a second end. The corresponding valve actuators are located on the second end of the coupler fittings. A plurality of o-ring seals affixed on the coupler fittings prevents undesired escape of water. When the faucet head is mounted on the base, the coupler fittings engage and seal against the base passages, and as the faucet assembly moves axially with respect to the base conduits, the actuators engage and open each valve assembly, enabling water flow to the faucet head as the faucet head is fully seated onto the base. In one embodiment of the faucet assembly, the base further comprises an additional passage for allowing installation of low-voltage conductors and electrical connections to enable features such as automatic faucet actuation. The faucet apparatus further comprises an attachment means for fixing the base portion to the sanitary fixture. The attachment means comprises a fixing member associated with the base and moved from an insertion position in which the fixing member is axially aligned with the hole in the sanitary fixture, and a locking position in which the fixing member is able to engage the lower surface of the sanitary fixture in which the hole is made.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view partly in section of a faucet assembly according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1. The faucet assembly of this invention with the elements shown about to be assembled.

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1 of a faucet assembly showing parts thereon assembled.

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of internal parts of the faucet assembly according to the present invention, showing the manner in which a faucet head assembly is engaged with the base portion.

FIG. 5 is a partial cross sectional view of a second embodiment showing a base portion of a faucet assembly, having a ball-type valve structure with the faucet conduits positioned above the base.

FIG. 6 is a partial cross sectional view of the device shown in FIG. 5 with the conduits of the faucet inserted into the base.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

For a complete understanding of the features and operation of the present invention, reference is now made to the drawings of the invention along with the accompanying figures in which corresponding numerals in the different figures refer to corresponding parts of the invention.

With reference to the above mentioned FIGS. 1-7, the apparatus comprises a base portion 2, which mounts within a through hole 3 defined in a sanitary fixture 4. Preferably, the sanitary fixture 4 is a sink, washbasin, bidet or the like. An upper portion of the base portion 2 protrudes above the sanitary fixture 4 and can be housed within a lower cavity 51 of the faucet apparatus 5, and is removably fixed thereto.

The base portion 2, preferably of a substantially cylindrical shape, is coupled coaxially in the through hole 3 so as to be aligned with a vertical axis and in a perpendicular attitude to a upper face 4a of the sanitary fixture 4.

A relatively narrow portion of the lower base of base portion 2 defines a border 8 and engages the upper face 4a of the sanitary fixture 4 at the edge of the through hole 3.

A plurality of conduits, preferably a pair of conduits 6 and 7, extend vertically through base portion 2, and can be connected below sanitary fixture 4 to water supply ducts (now shown). The water intake ducts provide hot water and cold water, to a plurality of fittings 12 and 13, supplying the faucet apparatus 5 to be mounted to the sanitary fixture 4.

The water supply ducts 10 and 11 are connected to the lower mouths of the conduits 6 and 7, preferably by means of a threaded coupling, or by welding or other known connection techniques.

Cylindrical sealing gaskets 16 and 17 fit tightly around supply fittings 12 and 13. In turn, the cylindrical sealing gaskets 16 and 17 frictionally engage the inside surfaces of the cylindrical passages 6 and 7.

The supply fittings 12 and 13 protrude upwardly from the base portion 2 and engage, with the interposition of sealing gaskets 14 and 15, the mouth of a supply duct 50 leading into a dispensing portion cavity 51 provided in the dispensing portion of the faucet apparatus 5.

The faucet apparatus further comprises automatic water supply shut-off valves 40, 41 disposed within the passages of the base and corresponding valve actuators 42, 43 disposed within the faucet head that allow quick and easy installation or removal of the faucet head assembly onto the sanitary fixture-engaging base without the need to manually turn the supply lines off and on. The shut-off valves are each comprised of a normally closed valve assembly having a neoprene disk 44, 45 or ball stop 46, 47 that, when the faucet head is not present, remain in a closed position by the presence of water pressure from the supply lines or by spring 48, 45 that keeps the stop element engaged with the valve seat.

The faucet head assembly is comprised of a water dispensing unit, a pair of passages that align with the passages of the base, coupler fittings that engage with the faucet head passages at one end and with the base passages at a second end. The corresponding valve actuators are located on the second end of the coupler fittings. A plurality of o-ring seals affixed on the coupler fittings prevents undesired escape of water. When the faucet head is mounted onto the base, the coupler fittings first engage and seal against the base passages. After the seals have engaged, the actuators engage and push open the stop element of each valve assembly. Water flow to the faucet head is thereby enabled as the faucet head is fully seated onto the base.

The actuators 42, 43 may be cone-shaped, ball-shaped or may simply be a protrusion extending from the end of the coupler fitting, provided with apertures that allow water flow around a valve-engaging tip of the actuator. The valve seats may be those of any of a variety of in-line check valves as are commonly known in the art and are typically flat or tapered to engage and seal with a valve stop element. Neoprene stop elements are widely used as they provide long life and acceptable wear properties. It will be obvious to one of skill in the art that a wide range of valve stop and valve seat materials and methods of engagement will achieve the same function. Unless an actuator from a fully seated faucet head assembly is present, water pressure from the supply side of the valve pushes the stop against the valve seat, preventing the escape of water before or during installation of the faucet head assembly. If water pressure is present but is insufficient to maintain closure of the valve by itself, a biasing spring disposed within the valve assembly applies force to keep the stop element engaged with the valve seat.

An attachment means comprises a fixing member 22 and a threaded screw 21 for fixing the base portion 2 to the sanitary fixture 4. The threaded screw 21 is inserted into a attachment hole 27 that extends axially through the base portion 2.

A threaded fixing member (not shown) can be used to fix the faucet 5 in place upon base unit 4. Inserting and tightening the threaded member into threaded aperture 55 engages base 4 and prevents removal of faucet 5 therefrom.

In the next step, the faucet head 5 is placed on the base portion 2, thus engaging the couplers of the faucet head with the passages at the top of the base, thereby engaging the valve actuators affixed to the coupler ends with the normally-closed valve assemblies disposed withing the base passages. The faucet apparatus 5 is then secured by means of a threaded set screw inserted into threaded aperture 55 to fasten the faucet 5 to the base 4

In an alternate embodiment of the faucet assembly, the base further comprises additional passage 60, 61 through the base for allowing installation of low-voltage conductors and electrical connections to enable features such as automatic faucet actuation. Infrared or ultrasonic sensors as are commonly known in the art may be located within a faucet assembly for detection of a user's hands beneath or in proximity to the faucet head. When the presence of hands is sensed, an electronic signal passes from the sensor, through the additional passage within the base to a power supply and electronic processing unit, and to a faucet actuation unit that allows water to flow from the faucet head. Other embodiments can have temperature sensors for providing a safe or desired mix of hot and cold water delivered to the faucet head.

While the invention has been described with reference to at least one preferred embodiment, it is to be clearly understood by those skilled in the art that the invention is not limited thereto. Rather, the scope of the invention is to be interpreted only in conjunction with the appended claims.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The present invention has applicability to the field of plumbing and plumbing fixtures, particularly to faucets for sanitary fixtures such as sinks, washbasins, bidets, or the like. In compliance with the statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific as to faucets and related plumbing structures. It is to be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the specific means or features shown or described, since the means and features shown or described comprise preferred ways of putting the invention into effect.

Additionally, while this invention is described in terms of being used for faucets and other plumbing fixtures, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention can be adapted to other uses including, but not limited to, other fields in which fluids and gases are controlled, and therefore the invention should not be construed as being limited to faucets. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the legitimate and valid scope of the appended claims, appropriately interpreted in accordance with the doctrine of equivalents.