Title:
Food cooler with reduced condensation spillage
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A food cooler provides storage of its door along the side of the cooler over a condensation tray thereby reducing the risk of condensation accumulating on the floor at the front of the cooler when the door is open for a prolonged period of time in a high humidity environment.



Inventors:
Hansen, William J. (Pewaukee, WI, US)
Bartelick, Janus W. (Germantown, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/356540
Publication Date:
08/23/2007
Filing Date:
02/17/2006
Assignee:
Alto-Shaam, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/440
International Classes:
F25D21/14; F25D11/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ALI, MOHAMMAD M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
QUARLES & BRADY LLP (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:
1. A food cooler comprising: a cabinet providing a front opening adjacent to a sidewall; a slide assembly movable horizontally along the sidewall from a position adjacent to the front opening to a position removed from the front opening; a door hingably attached to the slide assembly to hinge between an open and closed position about the front opening and, when open, to slide along the sidewall to a stowed position; and a condensation tray extending along the sidewall beneath the door to receive condensation from the door when the door is in a stowed position.

2. The food cooler of claim 1 wherein an inner face of the door, facing the front opening when the door is in the closed position includes a gutter catching condensation off of the door to direct the condensation to an edge of the door near the slide assembly.

3. The food cooler of claim 2 wherein the gutter slopes downward toward the edge of the door near the slide assembly to be self-emptying.

4. The food cooler of claim 3 wherein the door includes a gasket material extending inward toward the front opening when the door is in the closed position and wherein the gutter is above the gasket material along a lower edge of the door.

5. The food cooler of claim 4 wherein the gutter includes a discharge port extending inward beyond the extending of the gutter material so that condensation passes around the gasket material.

6. The food cooler of claim 5 wherein the discharge port includes a drip edge resisting movement of water inward toward the door after passage through the discharge port.

7. The food cooler of claim 2 wherein the condensation tray extends forward beyond the sidewall to collect water from the gutter when the door is in the open position, and throughout a range of door motion as the door is moved to the stowed position.

8. The food cooler of claim 1 wherein the condensation tray is attached to the cabinet.

9. The food cooler of claim 1 further including a rack having wheels allowing the rack to be rolled into and out of the cabinet without interference with the condensation tray.

10. The food cooler of claim 1 further including a removable sump container receiving water from the condensation tray.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

NA

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

NA

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to refrigeration equipment for use in the food industry, and in particular, to a food cooler as may be used in a commercial kitchen.

Professional kitchens may have ovens accepting a rack that may be rolled over the floor into the oven so that the oven door may close about the rack to cook items placed in the rack. At the conclusion of the cooking process, the rack and cooked items may then be rolled out of the oven and directly into a food cooler to allow the food to be rapidly and safely cooled for preservation. The oven may be, for example, a combi-oven, such as is sold by Alto-Shaam of Wisconsin, the assignee of the present invention. A combi-oven uses forced air movement and steam to create a uniform and rapid cooking environment.

Opening the food cooler exposes the large cooled inner surface of the door to the high humidity environment of a professional kitchen promoting significant condensation. If the transfer of food between the oven and the food cooler requires that the door of the cooler remain open for an extended period of time, condensation may undesirably spill over the door gasket and onto the floor. The need to mop up spills distracts workers from food preparation. When the food cooler is used at freezing temperatures, excess water on the gasket can, over time, interfere with the proper sealing and operation of the door.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a food cooler in which the door, when open, may slide next to the side of the cooler to be shielded from excessive exposure to humid air, and to allow condensation collected in a stationary condensation tray removed from foot traffic in the kitchen. A sloped gutter on the door itself may guide the condensation to the tray throughout the range of opening and sliding positions and may divert condensation from the lower door gasket preventing water or ice build-up around the door seal.

Specifically, the present invention provides a food cooler having a cabinet with a front opening adjacent to a sidewall. A slide assembly is movable along the sidewall from a position adjacent to the front opening to a position removed from the front opening, and a door may be hingeably attached to the slide assembly to hinge between an open and closed position about the front opening, and when open, to slide along the sidewall to a stowed position. A condensation tray extends along the sidewall beneath the door to receive condensation from the door when the door is in the stowed position.

Thus it is another object of at least one embodiment of the invention to provide a system that may permit opening of the cooler door for a substantial period of time without the risk of excess condensation spillage.

It is further an object of at least one embodiment of the invention to allow the food cooler door to be slid to a position where condensation may be captured by a stationary tray without the need to accumulate water on the door or to allow water to spill directly to the floor.

It is yet another object of at least one embodiment of the invention to provide a system that may permit movement of the cooler door to a position minimizing interference with food loading and unloading using carts and the like.

The inner face of the door facing the front opening when the door is in the closed position may include a gutter catching condensation off of the door to direct the condensation to an edge of the door near the slide assembly.

Thus it is an object of at least one embodiment of the invention to capture condensation during the time the door is being opened and moved to the stowed position.

The gutter may slope downward toward the edge of the door near the slide assembly to be self-emptying.

Thus it is an object of at least one embodiment of the invention to quickly move collected water off of the door where it may be spilled by motion of the door opening and closing.

The door may include a gasket material extending inward toward the front opening when the door is in the closed position, and the gutter may be above the gasket material along the lower edge of the door.

It is thus another object of at least one embodiment of the invention to limit the accumulation of water on the gasket material.

The gutter may include a discharge port extending inward beyond the extension of the gutter material so that the condensation is diverted around the gasket material. The discharge port may include a drip edge to resist movement of water toward the door after passage through the discharge port.

Thus it is an object of at least one embodiment of the invention to allow the gutter to be self-emptying without discharging water onto the gasket.

The condensation tray may extend forward beyond the sidewall to collect water from the gutter when the door is in the open position, and throughout a range of door motion as the door is moved to the stowed position. The condensation tray may be attached to the cabinet.

Thus it is an object of at least one embodiment of the invention to provide a cooler that may be freely repositioned without the need to be aligned with a separate condensation tray.

The food cooler may include a rack having wheels along the rack to be rolled into and out of the cabinet without interference with the condensation tray.

Thus it is an object of at least one embodiment of the invention to provide a system suitable for use with professional kitchens where the door of the cooler unit may be open for an extended period of time anticipating the movement of racks.

The condensation tray may include a removable sump container receiving water from the condensation tray.

It is thus another object of at least one embodiment of the invention to allow a simple means of emptying of the condensation tray where an adjacent floor drain is not available.

These particular objects and advantages may apply to only some embodiments falling within the claims, and thus do not define the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective, exploded view of a cooler according to the present invention showing the front opening as may be covered by a hinged door attached to a slide assembly sliding on tracks on the sidewall of the cooler, and showing a condensation tray positioned beneath the door when it is in the stowed position;

FIG. 2 is a side-elevational fragmentary view of one track and sliding hinge assembly of FIG. 2 showing wheels for moving the door along the side of the cabinet of FIG. 1 after it is hingeably opened;

FIG. 3 is a simplified view of FIG. 1 showing the door in the closed, opened, and stowed position with the swept volume of the door projected to a plane marked to indicate a potential area of condensation spill, and a preferred location of the condensation tray, and further showing a rack that may be placed into the food cooler when the door is opened;

FIG. 4 is an elevational view of the inner surface of the door showing a gutter for catching and directing condensation toward a hinged edge of the door into a forward extending portion of the condensation tray;

FIG. 5 is an elevational cross-section of the tray of FIGS. 1 and 3 showing a removable sump dish for catching water from the condensation tray and allowing it to be poured into a sink or drain; and

FIG. 6 is an elevational cross-section of the gutter of FIG. 4 taken through the door and showing a drip edge for preventing water from collecting on the gasketing material.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring now to FIG. 1, a food cooler 10 may include a generally rectangular cabinet 12 providing a front opening 14 through which food may be placed for cooling and storage.

The front opening may be covered or uncovered by a door 16 as the door 16 hinges about a hinge axis 18 defined by a series of hinges 20 attached between a right vertical edge of the door 16, and a vertical edge of a hinge carrier 22 extending the height of the door 16.

The hinge carrier 22 connects to horizontal tracks 24 running along a sidewall 26 of the cabinet 12 adjacent to the opening 14 so that the hinge carrier 22 may slide along the tracks 24, and along the sidewall 26, while maintaining a vertical orientation.

Referring also to FIG. 2, in one embodiment, the sliding mechanism may be provided by means of wheels 27 attached to an inner surface of the hinge carrier 22 and extending inward therefrom to be received in upper and lower horizontal grooves 30 of the tracks 24. The wheels 27 provide contact to the tracks 24 at horizontally separated locations to ensure sliding of the hinge carrier 22 along the full extent of the sidewall 26 without camming or jamming.

Referring now to FIG. 3, when the hinge axis 18 is positioned at a front edge of the sidewall 26, the door 16 may swing between a closed position (1) covering the opening 14, and an open position (2) providing access to the opening 14 and substantially parallel to the sidewall 26. At this time, the door 16 may be pushed rearward without movement of the hinges 20 about axis 18 to slide to a stowed position (3) next to the cabinet 12 with the hinge axis 18′ translated correspondingly.

As the door 16 is moved from the closed position (1) to the open position (2), it sweeps out a volume above a sector 32 on the floor 36 within which condensation falls absent the mechanism of the present invention. This sector 32 is largely in front of the opening 14, and thus in a path of pan carts 34 of a type known in the art, that may be inserted into the cabinet 12 or removed when the door 16 is in the open position (2).

In contrast when the door is in the stowed position (3), it is over a rectangular area 38 positioned beneath the sidewall 26. This area 38 is removed from the normal traffic patterns of pan carts 34 that reduces a tracking of spilled water. Preferably, however, this area 38 holds a condensation tray 40 extending out from sidewall 26 to receive condensation from the door 16 when the door 16 is in the stowed position (3). The condensation tray 40 prevents condensation spilling onto the floor in area 38 and may be relatively shallow, for example, having an upper surrounding lip 42 of less than a quarter of an inch to fit easily beneath the door 16.

Referring again to FIG. 1, the accumulation of substantial amounts of condensation in the condensation tray 40 is possible, either by providing an offsetting tray area (providing total tray volume) with shallow lip 42, or by allowing the condensation to drain from the condensation tray 40 through a sump hole 44 into a removable sump dish 46.

Referring to FIG. 5, the sump dish 46 may be positioned beneath the sump hole 44 to be slidably held on a series of guide rails 48 attached to the bottom of the tray 40 receiving flanges 50 at the edges of the sump dish 46.

Referring now to FIGS. 3 and 4 during the time the door 16 is moving from the closed position (1) to the open position (2), and thus passing over sector 32, a gutter 52 extending inward from the inner surface of the door 16 may catch condensation 54 from the inner surface of the door 16. The gutter 52 slopes downward toward the hinge axis 18 to conduct the collected condensation 54 to a discharge port 56. Throughout movement of the door 16 over sector 32, the discharge port 56 aligns with a forward extension 58 of the condensation tray 40, the forward extension pushing slightly past the front opening 14 of the cabinet 12 into a portion of the sector 32.

Referring to FIGS. 4 and 6, an outer periphery of the inner surface of the door 16 may hold a gasket 60 used for sealing the door 16 against portions of the cabinet 12 surrounding the front opening 14. The gutter 52 is positioned above the gasket 60, sealing the lower edge of the door 16, and the discharge port 56 may extend inward from an inner surface of the door 16, beyond the inward extension of the uncompressed gasket 60 at the bottom of the door 16, to divert water from the gutter 52 past the gasket 60 without substantially moistening the gasket 60. A drip edge 59, being a downwardly extending lip, may surround the discharge port 56, preventing drops of water adhered to the undersurface of discharge port 56 from moving inward toward the door 16.

It is specifically intended that the present invention not be limited to the embodiments and illustrations contained herein, but include modified forms of those embodiments including portions of the embodiments and combinations of elements of different embodiments as come within the scope of the following claims.