Title:
Thermostat Adjustment System
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A thermostat adjustment system for efficiently conserving energy within a thermostatically controlled zone. The thermostat adjustment system generally includes a transmitter unit having a toggle button in communication with a thermostat to toggle the thermostat set point between a normal set point and an alternate set point.



Inventors:
Gugenheim, Stephen J. (Raleigh, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/560640
Publication Date:
05/24/2007
Filing Date:
11/16/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F24F7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JIANG, CHEN WEN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STEPHEN J. GUGENHEIM (RALEIGH, NC, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method of operating a thermostat adjustment system, comprising: providing a thermostat having a normal set point and an alternate set point, wherein said thermostat controls a temperature within a room of a building; providing a transmitter unit that is capable of transmitting a toggle signal that is receivable by said thermostat; programming said normal set point to a desired normal room temperature; programming said alternate set point to a desired away temperature; operating said thermostat at said normal set point; and activating said transmitter unit to transmit said toggle signal to said thermostat thereby causing said thermostat to switch to said alternate set point.

2. The method of operating a thermostat adjustment system of claim 1, including the step of activating said transmitter unit to transmit said toggle signal to said thermostat thereby causing said thermostat to switch to said normal set point.

3. The method of operating a thermostat adjustment system of claim 1, wherein said step of activating said transmitter unit is comprised of selecting a toggle button of said transmitter unit.

4. A method of operating a thermostat adjustment system, comprising: providing a plurality of thermostats each having a normal set point and an alternate set point, wherein said plurality of thermostats each control a temperature within a corresponding plurality of zones of a building; providing a transmitter unit that is capable of transmitting a toggle signal that is receivable by said plurality of thermostats; programming said normal set point to a desired normal room temperature for each of said plurality of thermostats; programming said alternate set point to a desired away temperature for each of said plurality of thermostats; operating said plurality of thermostats at said normal set point; and activating said transmitter unit to transmit said toggle signal to said plurality of thermostats thereby causing said plurality of thermostats to switch to said alternate set point.

5. The method of operating a thermostat adjustment system of claim 4, including the step of activating said transmitter unit to transmit said toggle signal to said plurality of thermostats thereby causing said plurality of thermostats to switch to said normal set point.

6. The method of operating a thermostat adjustment system of claim 4, wherein said step of activating said transmitter unit is comprised of selecting a toggle button of said transmitter unit.

7. A method of operating a thermostat adjustment system, comprising: providing a thermostat having a normal set point and an alternate set point, wherein said thermostat controls a temperature within a room of a building; providing a transmitter unit that is capable of transmitting a toggle signal that is receivable by said thermostat; programming said normal set point to a desired normal room temperature; programming said alternate set point to a desired away temperature; operating said thermostat at said normal set point; and activating said transmitter unit to transmit said toggle signal to said thermostat thereby causing said thermostat to toggle between said alternate set point and said normal set point.

8. The method of operating a thermostat adjustment system of claim 7, including the step of activating said transmitter unit to transmit said toggle signal to said thermostat thereby causing said thermostat to switch to said normal set point.

9. The method of operating a thermostat adjustment system of claim 7, wherein said step of activating said transmitter unit is comprised of selecting a toggle button of said transmitter unit.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

I hereby claim benefit under Title 35, United States Code, Section 119(e) of U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/737,765 filed Nov. 18, 2005. The 60/737,765 application is currently pending. The 60/737,765 application is hereby incorporated by reference into this application.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable to this application.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to thermostats and more specifically it relates to a thermostat adjustment system for efficiently conserving energy within a thermostatically controlled zone.

2. Description of the Related Art

Any discussion of the prior art throughout the specification should in no way be considered as an admission that such prior art is widely known or forms part of common general knowledge in the field.

Thermostats have been in use for years. Typically, thermostats are utilized to regulate a temperature within a particular zone. The thermostat generally maintains a desired temperature by controlling the heat in and out of the zone. Thermostats are generally set manually by the user to the desired temperature; however in recent years thermostats have also included remote control devices to adjust the set temperature of the thermostat.

Many people waste hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year by leaving their thermostat at the normal temperature when not needed (i.e. at work, sleeping, vacation, etc.). To overcome this waste of energy and money the user must generally set their thermostat or thermostats to an energy saving mode (i.e. temperature similar to an outside temperature) while they are away from their home or office. Because of the inconvenience associated with doing so and the potential for forgetting by consumers, consumers do not generally adjust the temperature on their thermostats for each zone of their home or office when away.

Different thermostat devices have been utilized in the past to overcome this obstacle of routinely setting the thermostat to energy saving mode. One of these devices is a programmable thermostat. The programmable thermostat generally allows the consumer to preset their thermostat to a certain temperature at a given time or given day, wherein the given day or given time is generally meant to be part of a routine. A main disadvantage of the programmable thermostats are that consumers generally have changing schedules and are generally somewhat unpredictable in the times that they will be at home. For this reason programmable thermostats may be more of an inconvenience than a benefit.

Remote controlled thermostats generally allow the consumer to adjust their thermostat up or down by one degree at a time. These remote controlled thermostats generally only control one thermostat, wherein many consumers have multiple different thermostats throughout their home or office. Because of the general lack of efficiency and practicality in the prior art there is the need for a new and improved thermostat adjustment system for efficiently conserving energy within a thermostatically controlled zone.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The general purpose of the present invention is to provide a thermostat adjustment system that has many of the advantages of the thermostats mentioned heretofore. The invention generally relates to thermostats which includes a transmitter unit having a toggle button in communication with a thermostat to toggle the thermostat set point between a normal set point and an alternate set point.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, some of the features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and that will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto.

In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction or to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of the description and should not be regarded as limiting.

An object is to provide a thermostat adjustment system for efficiently conserving energy within a thermostatically controlled zone.

Another object is to provide a thermostat adjustment system that attaches to a keychain.

An additional object is to provide a thermostat adjustment system that is wall mountable.

A further object is to provide a thermostat adjustment system that controls multiple thermostats simultaneously.

Another object is to provide a thermostat adjustment system that may independently control multiple thermostats.

Another object is to provide a thermostat adjustment system that is easy to use.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become obvious to the reader and it is intended that these objects and advantages are within the scope of the present invention. To the accomplishment of the above and related objects, this invention may be embodied in the form illustrated in the accompanying drawings, attention being called to the fact, however, that the drawings are illustrative only, and that changes may be made in the specific construction illustrated and described within the scope of the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various other objects, features and attendant advantages of the present invention will become fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate the same or similar parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is an in use view of the present invention, wherein the transmitter unit is controlling multiple thermostats within different zones of a building.

FIG. 2 is a flow chart of the functionality of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a flow chart of the functionality of the thermostat.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing the connectivity between the transmitter unit and the thermostat.

FIG. 5 is an upper perspective view of the thermostat illustrating the main components.

FIG. 6 is a front view of the thermostat illustrating the main components.

FIG. 7 is an upper perspective view of the front of the transmitter unit illustrating the main components.

FIG. 8 is an upper perspective view of the back of the transmitter unit illustrating the main components.

FIG. 9 is a front view of the thermostat illustrating the main components.

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of the thermostat illustrating the main components.

FIG. 11 is an upper perspective view of the transmitter unit illustrating the main components and attached to a keychain.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A. Overview

Turning now descriptively to the drawings, in which similar reference characters denote similar elements throughout the several views, FIGS. 1 through 11 illustrate a thermostat adjustment system 10, which comprises a transmitter unit having a toggle button in communication with a thermostat to toggle the thermostat set point between a normal set point and an alternate set point.

B. Transmitter Unit

The transmitter unit 20 allows a user to easily toggle between a normal temperature set point and a pre-programmed alternative set point upon the thermostat 30. It can be utilized on multiple thermostats 30 within a building 14. The transmitter unit 20 preferably propagates an electromagnetic wave to a receiver 39 positioned within the thermostat 30 as illustrated in FIG. 1. The electromagnetic wave from the transmitter is further preferably comprised of a radio wave. The transmitter unit 20 is preferably able to send a signal to the thermostat 30 from adequate distances, wherein the user may be outside of their home or office and still be able to control all of the thermostats 30 within the home of office. The transmitter unit 20 is able to control multiple thermostats 30 simultaneously, wherein the multiple thermostats 30 may be positioned within different zones 12 of a building 14 as illustrated in FIG. 1. It is appreciated that the present invention may also utilize a two-way data link between the thermostat 30 and the transmitter unit 20. The two-way data link would require additional circuitry, controls and possibly display units.

The transmitter unit 20 includes a shell 21, wherein the shell 21 is preferably small in size so as to be easily transported by the user. The transmitter unit 20 is preferably comprised of a key fob configuration. The transmitter unit 20 may also attach to a keychain to allow convenient transportation of the transmitter unit 20 and also to remind the user to toggle the temperature setting upon the thermostat 30 when grabbing their keys 16. The transmitter unit 20 may also include an attachment member 29 to easily attach to a keychain as illustrated in FIG. 11.

The transmitter unit 20 includes at least one battery 27 to provide adequate power to the transmitter unit 20 as shown in FIG. 10. The battery 27 or batteries are preferably positioned within a compartment 26 of the transmitter unit 20. The compartment 26 is preferably easily accessible upon the transmitter unit 20.

The transmitter unit 20 includes a toggle button 22. When depressed the toggle button 22 preferably switches between the normal setting and the toggle setting upon the thermostat 30. The toggle button 22 is preferably recessed within the transmitter unit 20 to prevent the user from accidentally engaging the toggle button 22 or to prevent a premature discharge of the batteries 27 within the transmitter unit 20. A firm pressure is also preferably required to depress the toggle button 22 so as to prevent accidental engagement of the toggle button 22. It is appreciated that the transmitter unit 20 may include may include more than one button to toggle the temperature settings upon the thermostat 30, such as but not limited to an off button and an on button.

The transmitter unit 20 also preferably includes an indicator 24 as shown in FIGS. 7, 9 and 11. The indicator 24 may be comprised of various configurations, such as but not limited to an LED light, a vibrating mechanism and an audible alert. The audible alert may utilize various audible signals, such as but not limited to a buzzer. It is appreciated that the transmitter unit 20 may include more than one indicator 24 to serve several purposes, such as but not limited to alerting the user if the toggle button 22 is engaged, alerting the user of a low battery 27 within the transmitter unit 20 or alerting the user which thermostats 30 are being controlled if multiple thermostats 30 are utilized with the present invention.

The transmitter unit 20 also preferably includes a plurality of first adjustment members 28 as shown in FIG. 8. The first adjustment members 28 may be built into the transmitter unit 20 or positioned upon an outside of the transmitter unit 20. The first adjustment members 28 may also be comprised of a plurality of configurations, such as but not limited to a plurality of jumpers, a plurality of switches or a sensor. The first adjustment members 28 may also be preset at the time of manufacture of the transmitter unit 20 or the first adjustment members 28 may be set by the user at the time of installation of the transmitter unit 20 and the thermostat 30. The first adjustment members 28 allow the user to set a unique access code for the transmitter unit 20 so as to not interfere with other household objects and to prevent the transmitter unit 20 from controlling undesired thermostats 30. A similar access code is then set upon the second adjustment members 38 of thermostats 30 that the user desires to control.

C. Thermostat

The thermostat 30 is controlled by the transmitter unit 20 as illustrated in FIG. 1 and 4. It is appreciated that multiple thermostats 30 may be utilized with the present invention, wherein the transmitter unit 20 is able to toggle temperature settings of the multiple thermostats 30. The thermostat 30 is also preferably comprised of a digital thermostat 30 as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. The thermostat 30 further preferably includes normal thermostat 30 functions common in the art, such as but not limited to control of heating, control of ventilation, control of air conditioning and programmable features to set different temperature set points for different times of the day/week.

The thermostat 30 includes at least one circuit board positioned within the thermostat 30. The thermostat 30 includes a receiver 39 to receive the electromagnetic waves propagated by the transmitter unit 20. The receiver 39 is preferably comprised of a standard radio frequency receiver common in the art. The receiver 39 is preferably positioned within the thermostat 30 as illustrated in FIG. 5; however it is appreciated that the receiver 39 may be positioned upon an outside of the thermostat 30. The receiver 39 is farther electrically connected to at least one circuit board. It is appreciated that the receiver 39 may also be configured to transmit signals, thus functioning as a transceiver, if it is desired to allow two way communications between the thermostat 30 and the transmitter unit 20. Utilizing a transceiver could allow for additional functionality and security for the present invention.

The thermostat 30 preferably includes a display area, wherein the display area preferably includes a normal setting display 32, a toggle setting display 33 and a current temperature display 34 as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. It is appreciated that the normal setting display 32, the toggle setting display 33 and the current temperature display 34 may not all be displayed simultaneously, wherein the thermostat 30 may include a button to switch between displays 32, 33 and 34.

The normal setting display 32 preferably displays the normal temperature setting that the user has set upon the thermostat 30. The toggle setting display 33 preferably displays the temperature setting that the user desires to utilize when they toggle the thermostat 30 with the transmitter unit 20, such as but not limited to when they leave their home or office and wish to conserve energy by adjusting the thermostat 30 to a lower temperature setting. For example, during colder times of the year the user may desire to allow their house to cool when they are away from home rather than heating an empty home at a normal temperature setting. Likewise, during warmer times of the year the user may desire to allow their house to heat up when they are away from home rather than cooling an empty home at a normal temperature setting.

The thermostat 30 includes at least one control button 36 as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. The control button 36 is preferably able to access different settings of the thermostat 30. For example the control button 36 may be depressed to access the toggle setting display 33. The toggle setting display 33 may be adjusted with the first adjustment button 35 and the second adjustment button 37. The normal setting display 32 may be adjusted in a similar manner to the toggle setting display 33. It is appreciated that other methods of adjustment may be utilized with changing the temperature set points upon the normal setting display 32 and the toggle setting display 33, such as but not limited to a slider adjustment member.

The thermostat 30 also preferably includes a plurality of second adjustment members 38 as shown in FIG. 5. The second adjustment members 38 may be built into the thermostat 30 or positioned upon an outside of thermostat 30 as illustrated in FIG. 5. The second adjustment members 38 are further electrically connected to at least one circuit board. The second adjustment members 38 may also be comprised of a plurality of configurations, such as but not limited to a plurality of jumpers, toggle switches or a sensor.

The second adjustment members 38 may also be preset at the time of manufacture of the thermostat 30 or the second adjustment members 38 may be set by the user at the time of installation of the thermostat 30 and the thermostat 30. The second adjustment members 38 allow the user to set a unique access code for the thermostat 30 to receive a signal from the transmitter unit 20.

Alternatively, if it is desired to have independent control of the multiple thermostats 30, the thermostats 30 could be set up with a common base code from the second adjustment members 38, wherein a few bits of different code for each thermostat 30 would be present. The transmitter unit 20 could thus be programmed to transmit one code or the other, depending on which thermostat 30 is desired to be toggled. The transmitting of different codes could be accomplished through various methods, such as but not limited to utilizing multiple buttons upon the transmitter unit 20 or different button sequences.

One example of an appropriate coding scheme would be to use the first 10 bits of a 12 bit address for the common base code. The first 10 bits would be programmed to the common base code upon all of the thermostats 30 in a given building 14 or location. The remaining 2 bits from the 12 bit address could be assigned to each of up to 4 thermostats 30. It is appreciated that different coding schemes may be utilized with the present invention rather than the above example.

D. Operation of Preferred Embodiment

In use, the user first adjusts the normal setting display 32 upon the thermostat 30 to the desired comfort setting for when the user is present within the building 14 (i.e. home, office, etc.). The user also adjusts the toggle setting display 33 upon the thermostat 30 to the desired setting for when the user is away from the building 14 or sleeping within the building 14 (i.e. energy saving setting).

When the user wishes to toggle between temperature settings (i.e. is leaving the building 14, returning to the building 14, etc.), the user depresses the toggle button 22. The toggle button 22 then transmits a signal from the transmitter unit 20 to the thermostat 30 or thermostats 30 as illustrated in FIG. 2. The receiver 39 within the thermostat 30 then receives the signal and adjusts to the next temperature set point. If the thermostat 30 is currently set on the normal temperature set point the thermostat 30 adjusts to the toggle temperature set point. Likewise, if the thermostat 30 is currently set on the toggle temperature set point the thermostat 30 adjusts to the normal temperature set point as illustrated in FIG. 3. This process is simply repeated whenever the user desires to toggle the temperature set point upon the thermostat 30.

What has been described and illustrated herein is a preferred embodiment of the invention along with some of its variations. The terms, descriptions and figures used herein are set forth by way of illustration only and are not meant as limitations. Those skilled in the art will recognize that many variations are possible within the spirit and scope of the invention, which is intended to be defined by the following claims (and their equivalents) in which all terms are meant in their broadest reasonable sense unless otherwise indicated. Any headings utilized within the description are for convenience only and have no legal or limiting effect.