Title:
Condenser cover
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A flexible covering for preventing the accumulation of dirt and debris inside an outdoor air conditioning condenser is provided. One edge of the covering is attached to the surface of the condenser. One or more flexible tethers connect an opposite end of the covering to the condenser such that the covering lifts from the top surface of the condenser due to the flow of exhaust when the condenser operates, and descends back onto the condenser over the exhaust opening when the condenser ceases operating. The covering prevents debris from entering the condenser, and the condenser can operate efficiently without prior removal of the covering.



Inventors:
Ross, Jon (Monrovia, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/367268
Publication Date:
09/06/2007
Filing Date:
03/03/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D65/02; B65D85/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WEAVER, SUE A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP (Glendale, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A cover for the exhaust opening of an outdoor air conditioning condenser comprising: a flexible panel configured to cover the exhaust opening of the condenser, the panel having a first edge portion and a second edge portion remote from the first edge portion; means for hingedly connecting the first edge portion of the panel to a surface of the condenser; at least one flexible tether having a first end and a second end, the first end being attached to the second edge portion of the panel; and means for attaching the second end of the tether to the condenser, wherein the flow of exhaust through the exhaust opening of the condenser lifts the cover from the surface of the condenser when the condenser is operating, and wherein the cover descends onto the surface of the condenser and covers the exhaust opening of the condenser when the flow of exhaust ceases;

2. A cover according to claim 1 wherein at least one of the means for attaching the covering to the condenser and the means for attaching the second end of the tether to the condenser provides for releasable attachment.

3. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the panel comprises vinyl.

4. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the panel is substantially impermeable to water.

5. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the panel is configured to cover substantially an entire top surface of the condenser.

6. A cover according to claim 5 wherein the panel overlaps edges of the top surface of the condenser by up to approximately 1 inch.

7. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the at least one tether comprises at least a first tether and a second tether, wherein the first tether is shorter than the second tether.

8. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the at least one tether has a length of between 8 inches and 10 inches.

9. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the at least one tether is formed of an elastic material.

10. A cover according to claim 1 wherein the at least one tether is adjustable in length.

11. A cover assembly for an outdoor condenser comprising: a flexible covering configured to cover an exhaust opening of the condenser, the covering having a first edge portion and a second edge portion remote from the first edge; at least one means for attaching the first edge portion of the covering to the condenser, the covering being positioned over the exhaust opening of the condenser; at least one flexible tether having a first end and a second end, the first end being attached to the second edge portion of the covering; and at least one fastener for attaching the second end of the at least one tether to the condenser, wherein the covering is movable between a first position lying over the exhaust opening of the condenser when the condenser is not operating and a second position lifted away from the exhaust opening when the condenser is operating.

12. The cover assembly of claim 11 wherein at least one of the means for attaching comprises means for releasably attaching the first edge portion of the covering to the condenser.

13. The cover assembly of claim 11 wherein at least one fastener provides for releasable attachment of the second end of the at least one tether to the condenser.

14. A cover assembly according to claim 11 wherein the covering comprises vinyl.

15. A cover assembly according to claim 11 wherein the covering is substantially impermeable to water.

16. A cover assembly according to claim 11 wherein the covering is configured to cover substantially a top surface of the condenser.

17. A cover assembly according to claim 16 wherein the covering overlaps the edges of the top surface of the condenser by up to approximately 1 inch.

18. A cover assembly according to claim 7 wherein at least one tether comprises at least a first tether and a second tether, wherein the first tether is shorter than the second tether.

19. A cover assembly according to claim 11 wherein the at least one tether is formed of an elastic material.

20. A cover assembly according to claim 11 wherein the at least one tether is adjustable in length.

21. A method of preventing the accumulation of debris in an outdoor condenser through an exhaust opening of the condenser, the method comprising: placing a flexible cover over the exhaust opening; attaching a first edge portion of the cover to a surface of the condenser; attaching a first end of at least one tether to a second edge portion of the cover at a location remote from the first edge; and attaching a second end of the at least one tether to the condenser; wherein the lengths of the tethers are sufficient to allow the cover to lift away from the exhaust opening due to the flow exhaust when the condenser is operating and to settle over the exhaust opening when the condenser ceases operating.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a protective covering for an outdoor air conditioning condenser.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Outdoor condensers used in connection with air conditioning systems are configured with an exhaust opening in the top surface of the condenser housing. During operation, a fan within the housing creates a flow of air through a set of coils within the housing containing hot, high pressure refrigerant. The air absorbs heat from the coils, thereby cooling the refrigerant, and is thereafter exhausted from the condenser through the exhaust opening. In order for the condenser to operate efficiently, the exhaust opening at the top of the condenser should be unobstructed so that this heated air can be easily released. However, an unobstructed exhaust opening on the top of the condenser allows water, leaves, insects, dirt, debris, and the like to enter into the condenser and accumulate inside the condenser's outer housing. This collection of dirt and debris inside the condenser blocks air flow, clogs drains, and lowers the efficiency of the heat exchange process.

Currently, outdoor condensers are manufactured and sold without a protective covering over the exhaust opening. Because of the resulting accumulation of debris, owners of outdoor condensers either have to pay for frequent servicing, repairs and/or early replacement of the condenser or have to maintain the condenser themselves by periodically opening the condenser's outer housing and clearing out the debris that has collected inside. Protective covers are available for use in the winter, but these covers must be removed prior to operating the condenser in the warmer months.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,815,530 discloses a rigid cap that is permanently attached to the top of an outdoor air conditioning unit. The cap pivots upwardly to an open position when the exhaust fan of the air conditioning unit operates, and then drops down to a closed position when the fan stops. The rigid cap additionally requires a hinge piece and a shoulder piece to securely attach the cap to the air conditioning unit. This apparatus requires many pieces and has few options for where and how it is attached to the air conditioning unit. It is not easy to remove, as it may be assembled with nuts, bolts, rivets, and secure adhesives, and it is not easily customizable. The rigid cap may be twisted out of shape by the flow of exhaust air, so that when it pivots closed the cap leaves gaps and openings around the exhaust opening where debris can once again enter. In order to prevent this deformation, extra reinforcements are necessary to increase the rigidity of the apparatus. The apparatus is complicated, expensive, and difficult to install, repair, and remove.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a low cost, easy to install, protective covering system for an outdoor air conditioning condenser. The system comprises a generally flat, flexible panel that lies on the top surface of an outdoor condenser. The panel is preferably made of a water impermeable, light-weight material such as vinyl. It is sized so that it covers the exhaust opening of the condenser and preferably covers substantially all of the top surface of the condenser. The panel preferably has at least one edge portion that is attached, preferably releasably attached, to the top surface of the condenser. The apparatus further comprises one or more flexible tethers, which may be a strap of a light-weight material such as vinyl, or may be a rope, cord, or other suitable tether construction. One end of the tether is attached to the panel, preferably along an edge portion opposite the edge portion attached to the top surface of the condenser. The other end of the tether is attached to the top or a side surface of the condenser. The attachment of the tether to the condenser is preferably a releasable attachment. The length of the tether is preferably adjustable. The length of the tether is selected to allow the panel to lift off of the top surface of the condenser when the condenser fan is operating and to allow the panel descend onto the top surface of the condenser when the condenser fan ceases operating. The flexible panel prevents the accumulation of debris into the condenser by covering the exhaust opening when the condenser is not operating. The panel lifts up and away from the exhaust opening to thereby minimize any obstruction of the flow of exhaust air from the exhaust opening when the condenser is operating. Thus the condenser can operate efficiently without requiring prior removal of the covering.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a top view of a condenser cover according to aspects of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a bottom view of the cover shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the cover shown in FIG. 1, showing the cover positioned over an exhaust opening of a condenser when the condenser is not operating;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of means for attaching the cover to the condenser according to aspects of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of means for attaching tethers of the cover to the condenser according to aspects of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the cover shown in FIG. 1, showing the cover positioned over the exhaust opening of the condenser when the condenser is initiating operation;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the cover shown in FIG. 1, showing the cover positioned over the exhaust opening of the condenser when the condenser is operating; and

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the cover in another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, showing the cover positioned over the exhaust opening of the condenser when the condenser is operating.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be evident to those with ordinary skill in the art that the invention can be practiced without these specific details and can be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential character of the invention. The embodiments described below should be considered to be illustrative and not restrictive.

With reference to FIG. 1, a cover 100 includes a covering 101, sometimes called a panel or a cover, and two tethers 102 and 103, each tether having first ends 104 and 105, secured to the covering at a tethered edge portion 106 thereof. The covering 101 is a flexible, light-weight material such as vinyl or polyester and is preferably impermeable to water. The covering 101 is preferably configured to correspond to the top surface of a condenser (see FIG. 3) but may be any suitable shape capable of covering an exhaust opening of the condenser. The tethers 102 and 103 may be cords, cables, ropes, twine, strings, straps of a flexible, light-weight material such as vinyl or polyester, or another suitable tether construction. The tethers 102 and 103 may be adjustable in length; for example the tethers 102 and 103 may have knots, snaps, clasps or the like as is well known in the art that can be used to adjust the length of the tether.

The cover 100 includes means for attaching the covering 101 and the tethers 102 and 103 to the condenser. If releasable attachments are desired, the means for attaching may comprise a hook and loop construction (e.g., Velcro®), buckles, snaps, clasps, buttons, tape, screws, knots, magnets, zip-ties, twist-ties, clamps, glue, wires, pins, clips, hooks, or any other suitable means for releasable attachment. Alternatively, if permanent attachment is desired, the means for attaching may comprise rivets, screws, bolts, or any other suitable means for permanent attachment. In one embodiment, at least one of the means for attaching provides for releasable attachment so that the tethers 102 and 103 and/or the covering 101 may be completely detached from the condenser or at least moved away from the exhaust opening when the condenser needs to be serviced or repaired. In a preferred embodiment, the means for attaching both the covering and the tethers provide for releasable attachment.

With reference to FIG. 2, the means for attaching the covering 101 are shown as a hook strip 107 and a loop strip 108. The hook strip 107 engages the loop strip 108 to form a removable attachment thereto. One of the hook strip 107 and 108 is secured to a bottom surface of the covering. In a preferred embodiment, the strip 107 or 108 is sewn to the bottom surface of the covering; however, it may be secured thereto by blue or any other suitable means. The other of the hook strip 107 or 108 include a release paper 109 placed over a layer of adhesive. The release paper 109 is removed and the strip 107 or 108 is secured by the adhesive to the surface of the condenser as described below.

The means for connecting the tethers 102 and 103 are also shown as a hook strip 110 and a loop strip 111. One of the hook strip 110 and the loop strip 111 is attached to second ends 112 and 113 of the tethers 102 and 103, preferably by sewing. The other of the hook strip 110 and loop strip 111 is backed with an adhesive layer and covered by a release paper 114. The release paper 114 is removed as the strip 110 or 111 is secured to the surface of the condenser as described below.

The means for attaching the tethers 102 and 103 may provide for adjustment of the length of the tethers 102 and 103; for example the means for attaching the tethers 102 and 203 may include a plurality of snaps or buttons, a strip of Velcro®, a clasp or buckle through which the tethers 102 and 103 can slide to a particular length, or any other suitable means for adjusting the length of the tethers 102 and 103. For example, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the one of the hook strip 110 and the loop strip 111 attached to the tethers 102 and 103 is elongated along a length of the tethers 102 and 103. By attaching the other of the hook strip 110 and the loop strip 111 at different positions along the one of the hook strip 110 and the loop strip 111, the length from the first ends 104 or 105 of the tethers to the other of the hook strip 110 and the loop strip 111 is adjusted.

With reference to FIG. 3, the cover 100 may be attached to a condenser 200 (shown partially in phantom). The bottom surface of the cover 100 is placed on the top surface 202 of the condenser over exhaust opening 204. The covering 101 rests flat on the surface 202 of the condenser 200, thereby covering the exhaust opening 204 and preventing debris from entering the opening. As illustrated in FIG. 3, the covering 101 may extend beyond edges of the surface 202, thus preventing accumulation of debris or particles on the surface 202 near the edges thereof. Accumulation of debris and particles near the edges of the surface 202 can lead to entry of the debris and particles into the condenser through the opening 204. In a preferred embodiment, the covering 101 extends approximately one inch from the edges of the surface 202.

The means for attaching the covering 101 to the condenser 200 is adjacent an edge portion 120 of the covering 101, creating a hinge relationship between the cover and the condenser 200 that allows the portion of the covering 101 over the exhaust opening to be lifted from the surface 202 of the condenser 200 while the edge portion 120 of the covering 101 remains attached to the condenser 200.

With reference to FIGS. 3 and 4, the covering 101 is attached to the condenser top surface by means of a hook and loop strip. As shown, the hook strip 107 is sewn onto the covering 101 and the loop strip 108 is adhesively attached to the top surface of the condenser. This is accomplished by removing the release paper 109 from the back side of the loop strip 108 and pressing the adhesive backing of the loop strip 108 onto the surface 202 of the condenser 200. The hook strip and loop strip construction forms a removable attachment between the cover 100 and the condenser 200. The covering 101 can be removed from the condenser as an operator pulls the edge portion 120, causing the hook strip and loop strip to detach from one another as, for example, the hook strip 107 remains attached to the condenser and the loop strip 108 remains attached to the removed covering 101 of the cover 100. It is understood that one or more, preferably two or more small sections of hook and loop fastening strips can be used rather than a single long strip.

With reference to FIGS. 3 and 5, the means for attaching the tethers 102 and 103 to the condenser 200 at the tethered edge portion 106 is such that the tethers are loose when the cover 100 is resting on the condenser 200. In the embodiment shown, the tethers 102 and 103 are attached to the condenser by hook and loop fasteners in the same manner as described above. That is, hook strip 110 is attached, e.g., by sewing, to the tether 102 or 103 and the loop strip 111 is secured by its adhesive layer (after removing the release paper 114) to the condenser. The hook strip and loop strip construction forms a removable attachment between the cover 100 and the condenser 200. The tethers 102 and 103 can be removed from the condenser as the operator pulls the second ends 112 and 113, causing the hook strip and loop strip to detach from one another as, for example, the hook strip 110 remains attached to the condenser and the loop strip 111 remains attached to the removed tethers 102 and 103 of the cover 100. Further, because the hook strip 110 is longer than the loop strip 111, the length of the tether can be adjusted by adjusting the contact point between the loop and hook strips.

With reference to FIG. 6, the cover 100, positioned over the exhaust 204 opening, is shown when the condenser 201 is initiating operation. Exhaust air (represented by arrows) exiting the exhaust opening 204 begins to lift the covering 101 from the surface 202 of the condenser 200, allowing the exhaust air to escape.

With reference to FIG. 7, the cover 100, attached to the condenser 200, is shown when the condenser 200 is operating. The exhaust air (represented by arrows) exits the exhaust opening 204 and lifts the covering 101. While the condenser 200 is operating, the covering 101 does not significantly obstruct the release of the exhaust air 203. The covering is sufficiently lightweight to be lifted by exhaust air; the exhaust air 203 lifts the covering 101 from the surface 202 of the condenser 201. The stream of exhaust air keeps the covering 101 lifted, which allows exhaust to escape. The force exerted by exhaust air on the covering 101 is sufficient to lift and maintain it in a lifted position as shown in FIG. 7. By virtue of the connections between the covering 101 and the condenser 200 at the edge portion 120 (see FIG. 3) of the covering 101 and between the tethers 102 and 103 and the condenser 200 at the second ends 112 and 113 of the tethers, the cover 100 remains attached to the condenser 200 when the condenser is operating. The exhaust air escapes to the surrounding environment as represented by the arrows in FIG. 7. The condenser 200 can operate efficiently without prior removal of the covering 101.

With reference to FIG. 8, the operator can exercise control over the direction of exhaust air flow by selecting tethers 102 and 103 of different lengths. That is, one tether can be longer, as shown in FIG. 8. Additionally or alternatively, tethers 102 and 103 can be adjustable in length and the length of one of the tethers can be adjusted to be longer than the other. A relatively longer tether allows the covering 101 to be displaced farther from the surface 202 of the condenser 200 in an area 130 of the covering 101 adjacent the relatively longer tether, while an area 132 of the covering 101 adjacent the shorter tether is not so far displaced. The exhaust air rises from the condenser, maintaining the covering 101 in the lifted position. The displacement of the covering 101 results in a upwardly extending channel in the covering 101 through which the exhaust air passes before entering the surrounding environment, as illustrated by the arrows of FIG. 8.

When the condenser 200 ceases to operate, the exhaust air ceases to exit from the exhaust opening 204. The cover 100 then returns to the rest position as shown in FIG. 3. The covering 101 returns to the surface 202 of the condenser 200 about the hinge connection at the edge portion 120 of the covering 101. The tethers 102 and 103 become loose again as the covering 101 rests on the condenser 200.

The exemplary embodiments of the present invention demonstrate advantages over the prior art. The covering is light-weight, flexible, easy to install, and easy to remove. It is therefore convenient to transfer the covering to another condenser or to remove it for maintenance. The covering can be made in many sizes and shapes to fit a variety of condensers. It is thin, lying flat on the condenser when the condenser is not operating. It is adjustable, as the covering can be tethered at a desired length. It has few parts, and is simple and low-cost to manufacture, install, and maintain.