Title:
Gutter cover with passive ice and snow melt
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gutter cover which more effectively and efficiently prevents the clogging of gutters and the formation of ice dams without the use of heating cables and other active components. The gutter cover comprises a first section, a second section, and a passive heating element. The first section is adapted to be installed over or under roofing material covering the roof for directing water from the roof. The second section is attached to the first section and adapted to be installed over an open end of the gutter for directing the water from the roof into the gutter while preventing debris from entering the gutter. The passive heating element is provided for absorbing heat from sunlight and thereby preventing or minimizing accumulation of snow or ice on or near the second section without the use of heating cables or other active heating components.



Inventors:
Bachman, James E. (Omaha, NE, US)
Application Number:
11/242284
Publication Date:
05/03/2007
Filing Date:
10/03/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04D13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BARTOSIK, ANTHONY N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hovey Williams LLP (Overland Park, KS, US)
Claims:
1. A gutter cover for covering a gutter attached to a roof of a building, the gutter cover comprising: a first section adapted to be installed over or under roofing material covering the roof for directing water from the roof; a second section attached to the first section and adapted to be installed at least partially over an open end of the gutter for directing the water from the roof into the gutter while preventing debris from entering the gutter; and a passive heating element for absorbing heat from sunlight and thereby preventing or minimizing accumulation of snow or ice on or near the second section.

2. The gutter cover as set forth in claim 1, wherein the passive heating element is an elongated strip of heat-absorbing tape applied to an upper surface of the second section.

3. The gutter cover as set forth in claim 1, wherein the passive heating element is a portion of the second section that has been coated with a darkened coating.

4. The gutter cover as set forth in claim 3, wherein the darkened coating is black paint.

5. The gutter cover as set forth in claim 1, wherein the passive heating element is a portion of the second section formed from a material with a high thermal conductivity.

6. The gutter cover as set forth in claim 5, wherein the material is selected from the group consisting of copper, copper composites, silver, silver composites, aluminum, aluminum composites, ceramics, and ceramic composites.

7. A gutter protection system for a gutter attached to a roof of a building, the gutter protection system comprising: a gutter cover adapted to be installed over an open end of the gutter for directing the water from the roof into the gutter while preventing debris from entering the gutter; and a passive heating element for absorbing heat from sunlight and thereby preventing or minimizing accumulation of snow or ice on or near the gutter cover.

8. The gutter protection system as set forth in claim 7, wherein the passive heating element is an elongated strip of heat-absorbing tape applied to an upper surface of the gutter cover.

9. The gutter protection system as set forth in claim 7, wherein the passive heating element is a portion of the second section that has been coated with a darkened coating.

10. The gutter protection system as set forth in claim 9, wherein the darkened coating is black paint.

11. The gutter protection system as set forth in claim 7, wherein the passive heating element is a portion of the second section formed from material with a high thermal conductivity.

12. The gutter protection system as set forth in claim 11, wherein the material is selected from the group consisting of copper, copper composites, silver, silver composites, aluminum, aluminum composites, ceramics, and ceramic composites.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to gutters, gutter covers, and ice and snow melting systems. More particularly, the invention relates to a gutter cover with a passive heating element for preventing or reducing the accumulation of snow and ice.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Gutters are often installed on houses and other buildings to collect and carry water away from roofs and other sloped surfaces. Unfortunately, gutters often become clogged with leaves, twigs, and other debris, thereby limiting their ability to collect water. Clogged gutters can also overflow, causing water damage to fascia and soffits of the buildings to which they are attached. Gutter covers, such as the ones described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,557,891; 5,660,001; and 6,098,344 have been developed to alleviate these problems.

Roofs and other sloped surfaces are also subject to the accumulation of snow and ice, especially on eaves and overhangs which are not positioned over heated areas. Accumulated snow and ice on roofs, gutters, and gutter covers can cause “ice dams” which interfere with the normal shedding and collection of water. As water backs up behind an ice dam, it can flow through small cracks in shingles or other roofing material. Over time, the freezing and subsequent thawing cycle of the water expands these cracks, eventually damaging the roof and underlying materials. Ice dams also often break away and fall to the ground, potentially causing injury to persons and damage to property below.

Heating cables and other de-icing products can be placed on roofs, gutter covers and/or gutters to melt snow and ice before it accumulates and forms ice dams. However, heating cables must be connected to a source of electricity, are expensive to purchase and operate, and are difficult to install. Also, they must be fastened with staples, nails or other fasteners to prevent movement and required repositioning. Use of such fasteners creates holes in the roofs and/or gutters, resulting in damage due to water infiltration and the subsequent freezing and thawing described above. The placement of heating cables on top of roof shingles and gutters also creates an impediment to the normal flow of water and can trap leaves and other debris.

Heating cables and other de-icing products can be installed underneath roof shingles to avoid some of the above-described problems, but doing so requires a great deal of labor, especially for existing roofs. Covering heating cables with shingles also reduces their ability to melt snow and ice and increases the risk of fires.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention solves the above-described problems and provides a distinct advance in the art of gutter covers and ice and snow melting systems. More particularly, the present invention provides a gutter cover which more effectively and efficiently prevents the clogging of gutters and the formation of ice dams without the use of heating cables and other active components.

The gutter cover comprises a first section, a second section, and a passive heating element. The first section is adapted to be installed over or under roofing material covering the roof for directing water from the roof. The second section is attached to the first section and adapted to be installed over an open end of the gutter for directing the water from the roof into the gutter while preventing debris from entering the gutter. The passive heating element is provided for absorbing heat from sunlight and thereby preventing or minimizing accumulation of snow or ice on or near the second section without the use of heating cables or other active heating components.

In one embodiment, the passive heating element is an elongated strip of heat-absorbing tape applied to an upper surface of the second section. The tape absorbs heat from sunlight and melts snow and ice, or prevents their formation, in the vicinity of the second section.

In another embodiment, the passive heating element is a portion of the second section that has been coated with a darkened coating. For example, an elongated strip or section of the second section may be painted with black paint to absorb heat from sunlight and thereby eliminate or reduce the accumulation of snow and ice near the second section. Remaining portions of the gutter cover can then be painted or otherwise colored to match or complement the color of the building to which the gutter is attached or the gutter itself.

In another embodiment, the passive heating element is a portion of the second section formed from a material with a high thermal conductivity. For example, the gutter cover may be formed of a suitable material such as aluminum, and the heating element may be formed from a length of copper that is integrally formed with the remaining portions of the gutter cover. Because copper has a high thermal conductivity, the copper heating element absorbs and transfers heat from sunlight to eliminate or minimize the accumulation of snow and ice on or near the gutter cover.

These and other important aspects of the present invention are described more fully in the detailed description below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

A preferred embodiment of the present invention is described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a fragmentary perspective view of a gutter cover constructed in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention and shown installed over a gutter attached to a roof of a building.

FIG. 2 is a partial vertical section view of the gutter cover of FIG. 1 and the roof and gutter to which it is attached.

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary perspective view of a gutter cover constructed in accordance with another preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a partial vertical section view of the gutter cover of FIG. 1 and the roof and gutter to which it is attached.

The drawing figures do not limit the present invention to the specific embodiments disclosed and described herein. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1-2 illustrate a gutter cover 10 constructed in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The gutter cover 10 is adapted to be installed over a gutter 12 affixed below a lower surface of a roof 14 of a building 16.

The particular gutter cover 10 shown and illustrated herein is provided for purposes of disclosing a preferred embodiment of the present invention. Many aspects of the gutter cover 10, such as its size and construction material, may be selected as a matter of design choice. For example, the gutter cover may be formed of any suitable material such as aluminum, vinyl, galvanized steel, or stainless steel and may be sectional or seamless. The gutter 12 to which the gutter cover 10 is attached may have a K-shape, U-shape, or any other profile and may be of any diameter, such as 4, 5, or 6 inches.

Similarly, the particular size, shape and style of the roof 14 and the building 16 are not important to the present invention. The gutter cover 10 of the present invention works equally well with residential and commercial buildings of any size and style.

The gutter 12 may be attached to the roof 14 by hangers or other conventional fasteners and may include a number of downspouts for carrying water to the ground or other collection area. The gutter 12 may also be used with conventional elbows, end caps, and leader pipes.

The gutter 12 includes a rear wall 18 for attachment to the building 14 by hangers or other fasteners, a front wall 20 spaced from the rear wall 18 and a bottom wall 22 extending between lower edges of the rear wall and the front wall. The rear 18, front 20, and bottom 22 walls define a water-carrying channel for collecting water which runs off the roof 14 and for carrying the water to the ground, a sewer system, or other collection point via the downspouts.

The gutter cover 10 is designed to collect water from the roof 14 and to direct it into the gutter 12 while preventing leaves and other debris from entering the gutter 12. The gutter cover 10 may be supported over the gutter with one or more mounting brackets or may be self-supporting. One or more end caps may be provided for capping the ends of the gutter cover 10, and one or more diverter elements provided for use at converging sloped roof locations.

The gutter cover 10 may be of various shapes and sizes to fit over different sizes and styles of gutters. Examples of gutter cover sizes and shapes are described in detail in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,557,891; 5,660,001; and 6,098,344, all incorporated into the present application by reference. These patents also disclose in more detail the end caps and diverter elements mentioned above.

In general, the gutter cover 10 preferably includes a number of individual segments which can be interconnected to cover any length of gutter. In one embodiment, each segment is approximately four feet long and includes one end which can slide into an end of an adjacent segment so a plurality of segments can be interconnected to cover a long length of gutter without the use of screws, brackets, or other fasteners joining the segments together.

Each gutter cover segment 10 is preferably formed from aluminum or other suitable material which is bent into a desired shape such as the configuration shown in the drawing figures. If the gutter cover 10 is formed of aluminum, the preferred thickness of each segment is preferably between 1/32″ and 1/16″.

In the illustrated embodiments, each gutter cover segment 10 includes a first generally planar section 24; a second generally planar section 26; a third generally planar section 28; and a fourth generally planar section 30. The first section 24 is adapted to be installed over or under a row of shingles on the roof 14 without the use of nails, screws, staples or other fasteners. The first section 24 slopes downwardly from right to left when viewed from the perspective of the drawing figures so as to match the pitch of the roof 14. The angle of the first section 24 relative to the second section 26 can be changed as described in the above-referenced patents to match the slope of the roof 14 or other sloped surface to which it is attached. The rightmost end of the first section 24 includes a lip 32 formed by a generally 180° bend that resists movement of the first section once it is installed under the roof shingles.

The second section 26 is adapted to overlie at least a portion of the open end of the gutter 12 and slopes gradually from right to left when viewed from the perspective of the drawing figures so as to direct water away from the roof 14, over the left edge of the second section 26, and into the gutter 12. The second section 26 is joined to the first section 24 by a bend 34.

The bend 34 includes an upper, approximately 180° C.-shaped portion which opens to the right as viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2 and a lower, approximately 180° C.-shaped portion which opens to the left. The upper and lower portions of the bend together present a generally S-shape. The bend 34 performs several important functions. First, it permits the angle of the first section 24 to be adjusted relative to the second section 26 so as to match the pitch of the roof 14. Second, the bend 34 slows the flow of water from the roof 14 to the second section 26 by reversing the water flow through capillary action. Through capillary action, water flowing over the bend 34 follows along the surface of the bend and reverses direction rather than spilling over the bend.

The third section 28 is joined to the second section 26 by a bend 36. The bend 36 preferably has an obtuse angle so that the third section 28 slopes downwardly and inwardly relative to the leftmost edge of the second section 26. As with the bend 34, the bend 36 and the third section 28 serve to reverse and slow the flow of water over the gutter cover 10 through capillary action.

The fourth section 30 is joined to the third section 28 by a bend 38. The bend 38 preferably has an acute angle that, when summed with the angle of the bend 36, equals approximately 180°, so that the fourth section 30 is generally parallel with the second section 26. That is, the fourth section 30 has a slight downward slope from right to left. For example, the bend 36 may have an angle of approximately 120° and the bend 38 may have an angle of approximately 60°.

As best illustrated in FIG. 1, a series of spaced-apart holes or cutouts are formed in the fourth section 30 to direct water from the gutter cover 10 into the underlying gutter 12. Each gutter cover segment 10 also includes a leftmost lip or hem section 40 joined to the left edge of the fourth section 30. The lip 40 is connected to the front upper edge of the gutter 12 by the mounting brackets mentioned above or other fasteners.

The gutter cover 10 may also be configured in other shapes and sizes. For example, the gutter cover may be generally J-shaped in cross section and present a generally flat portion which collects water from the roof 14 and a curved portion which directs the water, through capillary action, into the gutter 12. The flat portion may be bent or otherwise formed to include a number of raised ridges to slow the speed of the water as it approaches the curved portion. The flat portion terminates in a first end configured to be positioned over or under a row of shingles on the roof. The curved portion terminates in an opposite, second end configured to be positioned over or adjacent the front wall of the gutter. Gutter covers of this configuration are sold under the trade name Gutter Helmet™.

In accordance with one important aspect of the present invention, the gutter cover 10, regardless of its shape, includes a passive heating element 42. The passive heating element 42 is provided for absorbing heat from sunlight, efficiently transferring the heat, and thereby preventing or minimizing accumulation of snow or ice on or near the second section 26.

In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the passive heating element 42 is a portion of the second section 26 that has been coated with a darkened coating. For example, an elongated strip of the second section 26 may be painted with black paint to absorb heat from sunlight and thereby eliminate or reduce the accumulation of snow and ice near the second section. The elongated strip may extend the full width “A” of the second section as illustrated or may be narrower. The passive heating element may also consist of a series of spaced strips, dots, or other portions of the second section 26 that have been painted. Other portions of the gutter cover, such as the third section 28 and hem section 40, may be painted or otherwise colored to match or complement the color of the gutter, the building 16, or some portion thereof. Because the second section 26 of the gutter cover is normally not visible to persons from the ground, the black paint or other coating doesn't detract from the appearance of the building 16, gutter 12 or gutter cover 10.

Another embodiment of the invention is shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, wherein components the same as or similar to the ones shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 are identified by the same reference numerals followed by the letter “a.” In this embodiment, the passive heating element 42a is one or more elongated strips 44a of heat-absorbing tape applied to an upper surface of the second section 26a. The heat-absorbing tape 44a absorbs heat from sunlight and melts snow and ice, or prevents the formation of snow and ice, in the vicinity of the second section of the gutter cover. An example of heat-absorbing tape that may be used is the 8663 Polyurethane Protective Tape manufactured by 3M™.

In another embodiment, the passive heating element is a portion of the second section formed from a material with a high thermal conductivity such as copper. For example, the gutter cover may be formed of a suitable material such as aluminum and a portion of the gutter cover, such as the portion shown darkened in FIGS. 1 and 2, may be formed from a length of copper that is integrally formed with the aluminum portions of the gutter cover. The copper section has a high thermal conductivity and therefore more rapidly absorbs and transfers heat from sunlight to eliminate or minimize the accumulation of snow and ice on the gutter cover.

Although the invention has been described with reference to the preferred embodiment illustrated in the attached drawing figures, it is noted that equivalents may be employed and substitutions made herein without departing from the scope of the invention as recited in the claims.

Having thus described the preferred embodiment of the invention, what is claimed as new and desired to be protected by Letters Patent includes the following:





 
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