Title:
VACUUM CLEANER WITH IMPROVED HYGENIC PERFORMANCE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vacuum cleaner comprises a handle assembly pivotally attached to a foot assembly, where the handle assembly removably mounts a cyclone separator module. An ultraviolet sanitation assembly is provided on the vacuum cleaner for sanitizing the working air before it is exhausted from the vacuum cleaner. One or more component parts of the vacuum cleaner, particularly the components making up the working air path of the vacuum cleaner can be made from a plastic material that includes at least one anti-microbial agent in an effective amount sufficient to impart microbe-inhibiting properties to the working air path.



Inventors:
Fester, Joseph A. (Ada, MI, US)
Griffith, Aaron P. (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Krzeminski, James A. (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Potter, Sue A. (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Heidenga, Daniel M. (Wyoming, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/683541
Publication Date:
09/13/2007
Filing Date:
03/08/2007
Assignee:
BISSELL HOMECARE, INC. (Grand Rapids, MI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/347
International Classes:
A47L9/10; A47L5/28
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MULLER, BRYAN R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
McGarry Bair PC (Rockford, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A vacuum cleaner comprising: a housing; a cleaning head assembly in the housing and having a suction nozzle and a working air path therethrough; a dirt collector in the housing for removing dirt from a dirt-containing airstream; a suction source having an inlet connected to the dirt collector and adapted to draw the dirt-containing airstream from the suction nozzle and through the dirt collector, and an outlet; a filter positioned between the dirt collector and the inlet to the suction source; and an ultraviolet light source positioned between the dirt collector and the filter, wherein the ultraviolet light source is positioned to illuminate the filter.

2. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 1, wherein the housing comprises a handle assembly pivotally coupled with the cleaning head assembly and the ultraviolet light source is positioned in the handle assembly.

3. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 2, wherein the dirt collector and the suction source are positioned in the handle assembly.

4. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 1, and further comprising a second filter positioned downstream of the outlet of the suction source.

5. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 4, wherein at least one of the first and second filters is a HEPA filter.

6. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 1, wherein the ultraviolet light source is annular and the airstream passes through the open center of the ultraviolet light source.

7. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 6, wherein the ultraviolet light source is mounted in an annular casing.

8. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 7, wherein the annular casing is transparent.

9. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 7, wherein the annular casing comprises a plurality of openings.

10. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 1, wherein the filter is treated with a photocatalyst.

11. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 1 wherein the photocatalyst is titanium dioxide (TiO2).

12. A vacuum cleaner comprising a working air path formed at least in part from a plastic material that includes at least one anti-microbial agent in an effective amount sufficient to impart microbe-inhibiting properties to the working air path.

13. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 12, wherein the at least one anti-microbial agent is incorporated in the plastic material.

14. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 13, wherein the at least one anti-microbial agent is selected from the group consisting of phenol derivatives, organotins, and mixtures thereof.

15. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 14, wherein the phenol derivative is 2,4,4′-trichloro-2′-hydroxydiphenol and the organotin is Tri-n-butyltin maleate.

16. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 12, wherein the plastic material is treated with the at least one anti-microbial agent to impart microbe-inhibiting properties to the working air path.

17. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 16 wherein the plastic material is soak-treated in an aqueous solution containing the at least one anti-microbial agent, and the at least one anti-microbial agent comprises stabilized chlorine dioxide.

18. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 12, and further comprising: a housing; a cleaning head assembly in the housing and having a suction nozzle; a dirt collector in the housing for removing dirt from a dirt-containing airstream; and a suction source having an inlet connected to the dirt collector and adapted to draw the dirt-containing airstream from the suction nozzle and through the dirt collector, and an outlet; wherein the working air path is positioned at least between the cleaning head assembly and the dirt collector.

19. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 18 wherein the working air path includes the dirt collector.

20. The vacuum cleaner according to claim 18 wherein the working air path includes a conduit between the dirt collector and the suction source.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/743,454, filed Mar. 10, 2006, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates generally to vacuum cleaners. In one aspect, the invention relates to a vacuum cleaner having improved filtration and hygienic performance. In another aspect, the invention relates to a vacuum cleaner having an ultraviolet light. In another of its aspects, the invention relates to a vacuum cleaner that has microbe-inhibiting properties.

2. Description of the Related Art

Upright vacuum cleaners having cyclone separators are well-known in the art. These vacuum cleaners may employ a frusto-conical shape separator, while others use high-speed rotational motion of the air/dirt in a cylindrical separator to separate the dirt by centrifugal force. Typically, working air enters and exits at an upper portion of the cyclone separator and the bottom portion of the cyclone separator is used to collect dirt. It is further known to employ multiple serial cyclone separators to improve the collection of fine dirt particles that may not be collected by a single separator.

Vacuum cleaners further have at least one motor/fan assembly for generating suction to draw air and dirt into the vacuum cleaner, and frequently have a second motor/fan assembly to drive an agitator, such as a brushroll, housed in the foot of the vacuum cleaner. Air to cool to the motor/fan assemblies is drawn into the vacuum cleaner and subsequently exhausted from the housing through separate ports in vacuum cleaner housing. As the air passes through the motor, carbon dust discharged from the motor brushes can become entrained in the air and thus also exhausted from the vacuum cleaner, leading to contamination of the home environment. Some effort has been made to filter the motor cooling air after it has passed through the vacuum cleaner. A filter can be placed at the inlet or exhaust port to remove carbon dust from the motor cooling air, however, this filter adds expense and bulk to the vacuum cleaner.

Even those vacuum cleaners having means to collect fine dirt and to filter the motor cooling air after it passes through the motor do not protect the home environment from certain bacteria and molds that may be drawn from a carpet or other surface and rendered airborne by the exhaust form the vacuum cleaner, spreading unpleasant odors and unhealthy bacteria. The vacuum cleaner can suction up bacteria and mold, but then these undesirable items are exhausted back into the home environment because their small size prohibits collection by a cyclone separator. Ultraviolet lights and ion generators have been used in some vacuum cleaners in an attempt to neutralize or destroy odor-causing bacteria and mold. These efforts concentrate on sanitizing the working air as it enters the suction nozzle of the foot, in the cyclone separator (or other collecting means) or as it is exhausted. Bacteria and mold can accumulate in multiple areas of the vacuum cleaner.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the present invention, a vacuum cleaner comprises a housing, a cleaning head assembly in the housing and having a suction nozzle and a working air path therethrough, a dirt collector in the housing for removing dirt from a dirt-containing airstream, and a suction source having an inlet connected to the dirt collector and adapted to draw the dirt-containing airstream from the suction nozzle and through the dirt collector, and an outlet. A filter is positioned between the dirt collector and the inlet to the suction source. An ultraviolet light source is positioned between the dirt collector and the filter, wherein the ultraviolet light source is positioned to illuminate the filter assembly.

In one embodiment, the housing includes a handle assembly pivotally coupled with the cleaning head assembly and the ultraviolet light source is positioned in the handle assembly. The dirt collector and the suction source can also be positioned in the handle assembly.

In another embodiment, the vacuum cleaner can further comprise a second filter positioned downstream of the outlet of the suction source. At least one of the first and second filters can be a HEPA filter.

In yet another embodiment, the ultraviolet light source is annular and the airstream passes through the open center of the ultraviolet light source. The ultraviolet light source can be mounted in an annular casing. The annular casing can be transparent. The annular casing can further include a plurality of openings.

In still another embodiment, the filter is treated with a photocatalyst. Preferably, the photocatalyst is TiO2.

Further according to the invention, a vacuum cleaner comprises a working air path formed at least in part from a plastic material that includes at least one anti-microbial agent in an effective amount sufficient to impart microbe-inhibiting properties to the working air path.

In one embodiment, the at least one anti-microbial agent can be incorporated in the plastic material. The at least one anti-microbial agent can be selected from the group consisting of: phenol derivatives, organotins, and mixtures thereof. The phenol derivative can be 2,4,4′-trichloro-2′-hydroxydiphenol and the organotin can be Tri-n-butyltin maleate.

In another embodiment, the plastic material can be treated with the at least one anti-microbial agent to impart microbe-inhibiting properties to the working air path. The plastic material can be soak-treated in an aqueous solution containing the at least one anti-microbial agent, and the at least one anti-microbial agent comprises stabilized chlorine dioxide.

In yet another embodiment, the vacuum cleaner can further comprise a housing, a cleaning head assembly in the housing and having a suction nozzle, a dirt collector in the housing for removing dirt from a dirt-containing airstream, and a suction source having an inlet connected to the dirt collector and adapted to draw the dirt-containing airstream from the suction nozzle and through the dirt collector, and an outlet, wherein the working air path is positioned at least between the cleaning head assembly and the dirt collector. The working air path can include one or more of the dirt collector and a conduit between the dirt collector and the suction source.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a vacuum cleaner according to the present invention comprising a handle assembly pivotally mounted to a foot assembly.

FIG. 2 is a rear perspective view of a vacuum cleaner according to the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a partially exploded view of the vacuum cleaner from FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of the foot assembly from FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a partial cut-away view of the foot assembly illustrating a height-adjustment mechanism.

FIG. 6 is a side view of the vacuum cleaner, illustrating the foot assembly in a lowered position with respect to a floor surface.

FIG. 7 is a side view similar to FIG. 6, illustrating the foot assembly in a raised position with respect to a floor surface.

FIG. 8 is a cross-section view taken through line 8-8 of FIG. 3 that is partially cut-away to illustrate a detent pedal in an engaged or locked position where the handle assembly is immobile with respect to the foot assembly.

FIG. 9 is a view similar to FIG. 8, illustrating the detent pedal in an unengaged or unlocked position where the handle assembly is movable with respect to the foot assembly.

FIG. 10 is a partial cut-away view of the foot assembly illustrating the drive attachment between the brush assembly and a motor/fan assembly.

FIG. 11 is a top cross-sectional view of the vacuum cleaner through the foot assembly, illustrating a path for motor cooling air through the foot assembly.

FIG. 12 is a rear, close-up view of the vacuum cleaner.

FIG. 13 is a partial cut-away of the rear handle assembly illustrating a diverter mechanism.

FIG. 14 is a side view of the diverter assembly from FIG. 13, where the diverter assembly is in a first orientation.

FIG. 15 is a side view similar to FIG. 14, where the diverter assembly is in a second orientation.

FIG. 16 is a rear view of the handle assembly illustrating a second embodiment diverter mechanism.

FIG. 17 is a schematic illustration of the air flow path through the diverter mechanism from FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 is an exploded view of a cyclone module assembly according to the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 19-19 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 20-20 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of a separator unit from the cyclone module assembly.

FIG. 22 is a cross-sectional view through the middle portion of the vacuum cleaner illustrating a latching mechanism between the handle assembly and the cyclone module assembly.

FIG. 23 is a partially exploded perspective view of the cyclone module assembly illustrating an emptying mechanism.

FIG. 24 is a perspective view of the cyclone module assembly with the emptying mechanism actuated to empty the dirt collected in the cyclone module assembly.

FIG. 25 is a cross-sectional view through line 25-25 of FIG. 3 illustrating a motor/fan assembly and a UV sanitation assembly

FIG. 26 is an exploded view of the motor/fan assembly and the UV sanitation assembly.

FIG. 27 is a partially exploded perspective view of the vacuum cleaner illustrating a post-motor filter assembly.

FIG. 28 is a perspective view of a telescoping wand for use with the vacuum cleaner in a retracted position.

FIG. 29 is a perspective view of the telescoping wand in an extended position.

FIG. 30 is a cross-sectional view through the telescoping wand from FIG. 29.

FIG. 31 is a perspective view of a flexible crevice tool for use with the vacuum cleaner.

FIG. 32 is a top view of the flexible crevice tool from FIG. 31 illustrating the side-to-side flexing of the crevice tool.

FIG. 33 is a side view of the flexible crevice tool from FIG. 31 illustrating the up-and-down flexing of the crevice tool.

FIG. 34 is a top perspective view of a turbine-powered brush for use with the vacuum cleaner.

FIG. 35 is a bottom perspective view of the turbine-powered brush from FIG. 34.

FIG. 36 is an exploded view of the turbine-powered brush from FIG. 34.

FIG. 37 is a bottom perspective view of a second embodiment of a turbine-powered brush for use with the vacuum cleaner.

FIG. 38 is a view similar to FIG. 20 illustrating the path of working air through the cyclone assembly.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the drawings, and in particular to FIGS. 1-2, an upright vacuum cleaner 10 according to the present invention comprises an handle assembly 12 pivotally mounted to a cleaning head or foot assembly 14. The handle assembly 12 further comprises a primary support section 16 with a closed-loop handgrip 18 on one end to facilitate movement by a user. The handgrip 18 is preferably overmolded with a soft low durometer material for providing a comfortable grip for the user. A motor cavity 20 is formed at an opposite end of the handle assembly 12 and houses a source of suction, illustrated herein as a vertically-oriented motor/fan assembly 22 (FIG. 27). The handle assembly 12 pivots relative to the foot assembly 14 through an axis of rotation formed perpendicular to a shaft within the motor/fan assembly 22. An electric cord (not shown) extending from the motor/fan assembly 22 is stored on a pair of opposed cord wraps 24 provided on the rear of the primary support section 16. A first push button 26 operating a first switch for actuating the motor/fan assembly 22 and a second push button 28 operating a second switch for actuating an agitator in the foot assembly are provided near the handgrip 18. A light bulb 30 (FIG. 27) housed in a casing 32 is positioned in front of the motor cavity 20 for illuminating an area to be cleaned in front of the foot assembly 14.

Referring to FIG. 3, the handle assembly 12 further receives a removable cyclone module assembly 34 on a slotted platform 36 within a recess 38 provided on the primary support section 16. The cyclone module assembly 34 separates and collects dirt from a working air stream and can be emptied of collected dirt after a cleaning operation is complete.

Referring to FIG. 4, the foot assembly 14 further comprises a lower housing 40 that mates with an upper housing 42 creating a brush chamber 44 in a forward position thereon. An agitator brush assembly 46 is positioned within the brush chamber 44 for rotational movement via a bearing assembly (not shown), as is well known in the vacuum cleaner art. A suction nozzle 48 is formed in the lower housing beneath the brush chamber 44 and is in fluid communication with a surface to be cleaned. The suction nozzle 48 can be overmolded with a soft low durometer material. A transparent or semi-transparent window 50 can be provided on the brush chamber 44 to allow the user to view the agitator brush assembly 46. A foot conduit 52 provides a working air path through the foot assembly 14, from the suction nozzle 48 and through a curved conduit 54. In the preferred embodiment, the foot conduit 52 is a smooth, rigid, blow-molded tube connected to the bendable curved conduit 54, which coincides with the pivot point between the foot assembly 14 and the handle assembly 12 to allow the handle assembly 12 to pivot relative to the foot assembly 14. In an alternate embodiment, one or both of the foot conduit 52 and the curved conduit 54 is a flexible hose as is commonly known in the vacuum cleaner industry. A pair of rear wheels 56 are mounted for rotation at a rearward portion of the foot assembly 14 on respective axle pins 57. A circuit breaker 58 is provided in the foot assembly 14 to protect the electrical wiring of the vacuum cleaner 10 from damage caused by an overload or a short circuit.

Referring additionally to FIG. 5, a rotatable height adjustment knob 60 is provided on the foot assembly 14 and operates a height adjustment assembly 62 such as is commonly known to adjust the vertical height of the suction nozzle 48 relative to the surface to be cleaned. The height adjustment knob 60 comprises a cylindrical body 64 having a handle 66 on an upper surface thereof for the user to grip and a stepped portion 68 of incremental steps having a constant height difference formed on the bottom edge of the body 64. The stepped portion 68 can be formed with a protrusion 69 at either extreme of rotation to limit the movement of the height adjustment knob. The height adjustment assembly 62 comprises a carriage assembly 70 that interacts with the height adjustment knob 60. The carriage assembly 70 comprises a pair of wheels 72 mounted to a support 74 that is pivotable with respect to the foot assembly 14. The support 74 is received in a molded cavity in the bottom of the lower housing 40. An arm 76 extends upwardly at an angle from the support 74 and engages the stepped portion 68 on the height adjustment knob 60.

The height of the suction nozzle 48 can be adjusted relative to the surface to be cleaned by rotating the height adjustment knob 60 in either direction, i.e. clockwise or counterclockwise. The stepped portion 68 riding on the arm 76 moves such that the arm 76 engages an adjacent incremental step on the adjustment knob 60. In this way, the height of the suction nozzle 48 can be adjusted up or down a predetermined height, from a fully lowered position shown in FIG. 6 where the suction nozzle 48 is close to the surface being cleaned to a fully raised position shown in FIG. 7 where the suction nozzle 48 is farther from the surface being cleaned.

Referring to FIGS. 8-9, a detent pedal 78 is provided on the rearward portion of the foot assembly 14, near one of the rear wheels 56. The detent pedal 78 operates a locking mechanism between the handle assembly 12 and the foot assembly 14. The detent pedal 78 is pivotally mounted to the lower housing 40 of the foot assembly 14 through a pivot pin 80 formed at one end of a shaft 82 extending downwardly from the detent pedal 78. The shaft 82 is received in an angled recess 84 in the lower housing 40. A latch 86 is formed on a forward portion of the detent pedal 78 and is selectively received in a latch recess 88 formed on handle assembly 12. A spring 90 biases the detent pedal 78 upwardly to add additional force to the locking mechanism when the latch 86 is received by the latch recess 88. To unlock the handle assembly 12 from the foot assembly 14, the user depresses the detent pedal 78 with their foot. The downward force on the detent pedal 78 causes the pivot pin 80 to rotate counterclockwise, with respect to the orientation of FIGS. 8-9, such that the shaft 82 is pivoted rearwardly in the recess 84. This motion causes the latch 86 to pivot out of engagement with the latch recess 88, thus unlocking the handle assembly 12 from the foot assembly 14.

Referring to FIG. 10, the agitator brush assembly 46 is rotated by a dedicated agitator motor assembly 92 housed in a motor recess 116 formed in the lower housing 40. An endless belt 118 is coupled between a drive shaft 120 of the motor assembly 92 and the belt mounting portion 114 to transmit rotational movement of the shaft 120 to the brushroll 94. Two pairs of upper and lower retainers 115 on either side of the belt 118 prevent the belt 118 from slipping off the belt mounting portion 1 14. The retainers can be made of a felt material that also helps to prevent dust and dirt from entering the belt area, thus minimizing damage to the agitator brush assembly 46. A U-shaped spring clip 122 positioned between the motor assembly 92 and the motor recess 116 is used during assembly of the vacuum cleaner 10 to keep tension on the belt 118 before the motor assembly 92 has been tightened into the motor recess 116 with suitable fasteners, such as screws or bolts (not shown).

Referring to FIG. 11, air for cooling the agitator motor assembly 92 is drawn into the foot assembly 14 through an inlet (not shown) where the air passes through the agitator motor assembly 92 to cool the components of the assembly. The inlet can be formed in the lower housing 40, near the agitator motor assembly 92. After passing through the agitator motor assembly 92, the motor cooling air is then ported into the motor cavity 20 upstream of the suction motor/fan assembly 22 through a first post-motor cooling conduit 124, as indicated by arrows. The conduit 124 extends through a pivot 126 forming the axis of rotation between the handle assembly 12 and the foot assembly 14, and enters the motor/fan assembly 22 through a second cooling conduit 315 coupled with an opening 128 (FIG. 26) formed in a upper casing 292 that houses the motor/fan assembly 22 where the motor cooling air ported through the conduits 124, 315 joins working air drawn in from the cyclone module assembly 34. In this way, any carbon particles from the motor brushes or other dirt that become entrained in the motor cooling air will be filtered out from the air exhausted from the vacuum cleaner 10 by a post-motor filter assembly 300, as described in more detail below.

Referring to FIG. 12, a rear conduit 130 is provided on the rear portion of the handle assembly 12 and extends from the curved conduit 54 to a cyclone inlet housing 132. A flexible hose 134 is connected at one end to the cyclone inlet housing 132 by a bayonet-type fastener 136 and the other end is removably stored in a socket 138. The middle portion of the hose 134 can be placed on a hose hook 140 (FIG. 1) located on the upper front portion of the handle assembly 12 for storage and can be further engaged by an upper hose guide 142 and a lower hose guide 143 located on the rear portion of the handle assembly 12 to retain the length of the hose 134 substantially against the handle assembly 12. Referring to FIGS. 2 and 12, the lower hose guide 143 is positioned below the center of gravity of the handle assembly 12 so that when the hose is removed from the socket 138 and pulled in a generally horizontal direction, the vacuum cleaner 10 tends to roll across the surface to be cleaned instead of tipping.

Referring additionally to FIG. 13, removal of the hose 134 from the socket 138 automatically actuates a diverter mechanism assembly 144 that switches the operational mode of the vacuum cleaner 10 from on-the-floor cleaning, where working air is drawn into the vacuum cleaner 10 through the suction nozzle 48, to above-the-floor cleaning, where working air is drawn into the vacuum cleaner 10 through the hose 134. The diverter assembly 144 comprises a pair of flap valves 146, 148 that define the flow path of working air through the cyclone inlet housing 132. The first flap valve 146 is rotatably mounted to a valve plate 150 positioned within the socket 138. The second flap valve 148 is rotatably mounted to a valve plate 152 positioned between the rear conduit 130 and the cyclone inlet housing 132. A bypass conduit 154 fluidly connects the hose 134 to the cyclone inlet housing 132 downstream of the second flap valve 148. The flap valve 148 is sized to occlude the conduit 130. The flap valves 146, 148 extend from shafts 156, 158, respectively, that are rotatably mounted to the valve plates 150, 152 and form the axis of rotation for the valves. The flap valves 146, 148 are mechanically linked by a link arm 160 extending between the shafts. Specifically, the shaft 156 has an orthogonal extension arm 162 that is attached to one end of the link arm 160. The other end of the link arm 160 is attached to a similar extension arm 164 on the shaft 158. A spring (not shown) biases the first flap valve 146 in an upward direction, where upward is defined as the directed toward the top of the page with respect to FIG. 13.

When the hose 134 is inserted into the socket 138, the flap valves 146, 148 are in a first orientation shown in FIG. 16, where the end of the hose 134 engages the first flap valve 146 and both valves are rotated such that the extension arms 162, 164 are in a relatively horizontal position. In the first orientation, the rear conduit 130 is unobstructed and working air can flow from the suction nozzle 48 to the cyclone module assembly 34 through the cyclone inlet housing 132 and the vacuum cleaner can be used for on-the-floor cleaning. Upon removal of the hose 134 from the socket 138, the spring forces the first flap valve to rotate clockwise, with respect to the orientation of FIGS. 14-15, thus also rotating the shaft 156 clockwise to move the extension arm 162 to a generally vertical position. The link arm 10 causes the extension arm 164 to move in a corresponding fashion, whereby the second flap valve 148 rotates clockwise to the second orientation shown in FIG. 15. In the second orientation, the second flap valve 148 occludes the rear conduit 130 such that no suction force is created at the suction nozzle 48 and working air enters the hose 134, flows through the bypass conduit 154 and cyclone inlet housing 132, and into the cyclone module assembly 34, whereby the vacuum cleaner 10 can be used for above-the-floor cleaning. Reinsertion of the hose 134 into the socket 138 automatically switches the operational mode of the vacuum cleaner 10 back to on-the-floor cleaning.

A second embodiment of a diverter mechanism assembly 166 is shown in FIGS. 16-17. The diverter assembly 166 comprises a pair of flap valves 168, 170 that regulate the flow path of working air through a cyclone inlet housing 172. The first flap valve 168 is positioned in a socket 174 for receiving the hose 134. The second flap valve 170 is positioned between an air conduit 176 leading from the suction nozzle 48 to the motor/fan assembly 22 through the cyclone module assembly 34 and a bypass air conduit 178 that fluidly connects the hose 134 to the air conduit 176 downstream of the second flap valve 170. The flaps valves 168, 170 are sized such that they can occlude their respective conduits, and extend from shafts 180, 182, respectively that form the axis of rotation for the flap valves. The flap valves 168, 170 are mechanically linked by a pair of intermeshing gears 184, 186 on the shafts 180, 182. A spring (not shown) biases the first flap valve 168 in an upward direction, where upward is defined as the directed toward the top of the page with respect to FIG. 16.

When the hose 134 is received in the socket 174, the flap valves 168, 170 are in a first orientation where they are both in a relatively vertical position (shown in phantom lines in FIG. 17) such that the second flap valve 170 seals off the bypass conduit 178 and working air flows in a path from the suction nozzle 48 through the air conduit 176 and into the cyclone module assembly 34 whereby the vacuum cleaner can be used for on-the-floor cleaning. Upon removal of the hose 134 from the socket 174, the spring forces the first flap valve 168 to rotate counterclockwise, with respect to the orientation of FIG. 17, thus rotating the gear 184 counterclockwise such that the gear 186 rotates clockwise and the second flap valve 170 is rotated clockwise to occlude the air conduit 176 and open the bypass conduit 178 and the vacuum cleaner 10 can be used for above-the-floor cleaning. As the hose 134 is reinserted into the socket 174, the first flap valve 168 is pushed downward by the end of the hose 134 such that the first flap valve pivots clockwise to the first orientation, and thus causing, through the gear transmission, the second flap valve 170 to pivot upward to unobstruct the air conduit and close the bypass conduit 178.

Referring to FIGS. 18-19, the cyclone module assembly 34 comprises a unitary cyclone separator and dirt cup assembly having two stages of separation. The first stage, comprising a primary cyclone separator 200, is housed in a lower casing 202 which also forms the dirt cup. The second stage, comprising a plurality of secondary cyclone separators 204, is housed in an upper casing 206 above the primary cyclone separator 200 and dirt cup and is partitioned off from the primary cyclone separator 200 by a separating plate 207. A latch 208 secures the lower casing 202 to the upper casing 206 so that the casings can be separated to provide access to the primary and secondary cyclones separators for repair and maintenance. A gasket 210 is provided at the parting line between the casings and surrounds the separating plate 207 to ensure an air tight seal when the casings are assembled. The casings 202, 206 are preferably transparent or semi-transparent to allow the user to view the contents of the cyclone module assembly 34. An inlet opening 212 is formed in the lower casing 202 and is in fluid communication with the cyclone inlet housing 132, 172 when the cyclone module assembly 34 is removably received on the vacuum cleaner 10, thus providing an inlet for the working air from the suction nozzle 48 or flexible hose 134 into the cyclone module assembly 34. The inlet opening 212 is positioned tangentially with respect to the wall of the lower casing 202.

The primary cyclone separator 202 comprises a primary cyclone chamber 214 defined between the lower casing 202 and a baffle assembly 216 arranged around a fines collector conduit 218. The baffle assembly 216 comprises a cylindrical portion 220 having perforations 222 that allow air to flow from the primary cyclone chamber 214 to the secondary cyclone separators 204 and multiple fingers 224 extending downward from the bottom of the cylindrical portion 220. The dirt separated by the primary cyclone separator 200 is collected in the bottom portion of the cyclone module assembly 34 in a first collection region 226 defined between the lower casing 202 and the fines collector conduit 218. The fingers 224 disrupt the circular movement of air in the first collection region 226 in order to facilitate the settling of dirt and to reduce re-entrainment of the dirt in swirling air patterns.

Referring to FIG. 20, an air passage 228 from the baffle assembly 216 to the entrance into the secondary cyclone separators 204 extends between apertures 230 formed in the fines collector conduit 218 and is defined laterally between the outer surface of an air exhaust conduit 246 and the inner surface of an annular wall 231 surrounding the air exhaust conduit 246. The separators 204 are frusto-conical in shape, having an upper cylindrical portion 234 and a lower conical portion 236, and define multiple secondary cyclone chambers 238 for separating fines dirt particles from the working air. Each secondary cyclone separator 204 has a tangential air inlet 232 formed in the upper cylindrical portion 234 and a dirt outlet 240 formed in the lower conical portion 236. The upper cylindrical portion 234 has an open upper end 235 for communication with an air outlet tube 242 extending centrally into the upper cylindrical portion 242 to an outlet passage 244 in communication with an air exit conduit 246.

Referring to FIG. 21, the secondary cyclone separators 204 can be formed as a single unit 233, where the unit 233 comprises a circular disc 237 from which the secondary cyclone separators 204 extend in a circular configuration that is concentric with the outer peripheral edge 239 of the disc 237. The secondary cyclone separators 204 are arranged with their respective central axes parallel to one another and to the central axis of the primary cyclone separator 202. In one embodiment the number of secondary cyclone separators 204 is eight, although the unit 233 can have any number. The unit 233 has an annular lip 241 bounded exteriorly by the circular configuration of secondary cyclone separators 204. The lip 241 rests on the upper edge of the annular wall 231 and helps guide working air into the air inlets 232, which are formed at regular intervals in an annular inlet wall 243 extending vertically above the lip 241.

A pair of arms 245 attached to opposite sides of a vortex-stabilizer surface 247 extends below each of the dirt outlets 240. The vortex-stabilizer surface 247 is positioned in such a way that the bottom end of the cyclone vortex or the “vortex tail” formed by the airflow through the secondary cyclone chamber 238 contacts the vortex-stabilizer surface 247. The vortex stabilizer surface 247 provides a dedicated location for the vortex tail to attach. As a result, the vortex stabilizer surface 247 minimizes a walking or wandering effect that might otherwise occur. Confining the vortex tail improves separation efficiency of the secondary cyclone separators 204 and further prevents re-entrainment of dirt already separated from the working air.

Referring again to FIG. 20, the air outlet passage 244 is formed by a flared portion 248 extending radially outward from an upper portion of the air exit conduit 246 and a cover portion 250. The air outlets 242 can be integrally formed with the flared portion 248 or can be formed separately. Dirt separated by the secondary cyclone separators 204 fall through the dirt outlets 240 that are in communication with dirt chutes 252 formed between the apertures 230 in the fines collector conduit 218. A second collection region 254 is formed in the bottom of the cyclone module assembly 34, between the fines collector conduit 218 and the air exit conduit 246. The air exit conduit 246 extends from the air outlets 242 of the secondary cyclone separators 204 to an air exit 256 formed in a bottom wall 258 of the cyclone module assembly 34 that is in direct communication with the slotted platform 36. A first gasket 251 is positioned between the upper surface of the flared portion 248 and the lower surface of the cover portion 250, a second gasket 253 is positioned between the lower surface of the flared portion 248 and the upper surface of the secondary cyclone separator unit 233, and a third gasket 255 is positioned between the dirt outlets 240 and the dirt chutes 252 to provide an air-tight working air path through the cyclone module assembly 34.

The vacuum cleaner 10 further comprises an ion generator 259, shown schematically in FIGS. 19-20. The ion generator 259 is preferably located in the cyclone module assembly 34 and emits a stream of ions into the working airstream. The force of the accelerated air in the cyclone module assembly 34 drives ions into substantially every surface and crevice of the working air path therethrough. The ions react with odor-causing molecules to render them inert and thus improve the odor of the air before it is exhausted from the vacuum cleaner 10 into the home environment. In an alternate embodiment not illustrated, the ion generator 259 is located outside the working air path, which can be provided with a bleed inlet for introducing ions into the working air path. This configuration advantageously allows for controlling the speed of ion emissions into the working airstream. Exemplary positions for the bleed inlet include, but are not limited to, the inlet 212 of the primary cyclone separator 200, the inlet of the secondary cyclone separators 204, the motor casing 292, 294, 296, the entrance into the pre-motor filter assembly, and the housing 332 of the post-motor filter assembly 300. Furthermore, multiple ion generators 259 can be provided, such that ions can be emitted at multiple points within the vacuum cleaner 10.

The ion generator 259 can be powered through the vacuum cleaner 10 such that it is in continuous operation when the vacuum cleaner 10 is energized. Alternately, the ion generator 259 can be separately powered, such as by a battery, so that it can remain in operation for a period of time after the vacuum cleaner 10 is de-energized. The time of operation can be controlled by a timing circuit, mechanical timer, or thermal switch located near the motor/fan assembly 22.

Referring to FIG. 22, a carry handle 260 is located on the upper casing 206 of the cyclone module assembly 34 that is useful for lifting the entire vacuum cleaner 10 or for lifting the cyclone module assembly 34 when it is separated from the vacuum cleaner 10. The carry handle 260 can be overmolded with a low durometer material to provide a comfortable grip to the user. The carry handle 260 further has an actuator comprising a push button 262 that operates a latching mechanism that releasably secures the cyclone module assembly 34 within the recess 38. The latching mechanism comprises a movable upper latch 264 received in an upper slot 266 and an immobile lower latch 268 received in a lower slot 270. The upper latch 266 has a catch 272 that engages a complementary formation 273 on the upper slot 266 to secure the cyclone module assembly 34 within the recess 38. The lower latch 268 is received in the lower slot 270 to relieve stress on the upper latch 264 caused by the weight of the cyclone module assembly 34. The upper latch 264 extends laterally from the push button 262 such that when the push button 262 is depressed, the upper latch 264 moves downward and out of engagement with the upper slot 266. While the push button 262 is still depressed, the user can remove the cyclone module assembly 34 from the vacuum cleaner 10 by tilting the cyclone module assembly 34 away from the recess 38, such that both latches 264, 268 are moved from their respective slots 266, 270, and then lifting the cyclone module assembly 34 off the platform 36.

Referring to FIG. 23, the bottom wall 258 of the cyclone module assembly 34 is connected to the lower casing 202 by a hinge 274 (FIG. 19) and is further movable through actuation of an emptying mechanism to permit emptying of the collect dirt. A recess 276 is provided on the rear side of the lower casing 202 for receiving components of the emptying mechanism, specifically for receiving a pivoting lever 278. The pivoting lever 278 comprises an elongated flat body 280 with a push button 282 at one end, a catch 284 at the opposite end and two pivot pins 286 extending laterally from the midsection of the body 280. The catch 284 engages a slot 288 on the bottom wall 258 to secure the bottom wall 258 in a closed position. The pins 286 are rotatably received in holes 290 formed in the recess 276 and define the axis about which the lever 278 pivots.

Referring to FIG. 24, when the push button 282 is depressed, as indicated by the arrow, the body 280 pivots about the axis defined by the pivot pins 286, such that the catch 284 is drawn away from the slot 288, and the bottom wall 258 is released to an open position (shown) where the dirt collected in the cyclone module assembly 34 is free to fall into a waste receptacle or equivalent.

Referring to FIGS. 25-26, the motor/fan assembly 22 is housed in a three-part casing, comprising an upper, a lower front, and a lower rear motor casing 292, 294, 296, respectively, received in the motor cavity 20. The motor/fan assembly 22 is oriented vertically in the casing. The upper casing 292 includes a cavity 298 for a pre-motor filter assembly comprising a removable filter tray 300 and a pre-motor filter 302 received in the tray. A handle 304 is provided on the front of the filter tray 300 so that the user may open the filter tray 300 and replace the pre-motor filter 302 as needed. The upper casing 292 and filter tray 300 further have openings or slots 306, 308, respectively to allow working air to pass therethrough. The opening 128 for porting the motor cooling air in from the second cooling conduit 315 is positioned such that the motor cooling air enters the upper casing 292 downstream of the pre-motor filter assembly but upstream of the motor/fan assembly 22. The motor/fan assembly 22 rests on a motor isolator 310 positioned in the lower casing 294. The lower rear casing 296 includes a motor/fan assembly outlet conduit 312 leading to a post-motor filter assembly 330 (FIG. 27). A first gasket 314 is positioned between the slotted platform 36 and the upper casing 292. A second gasket 316 is positioned between the motor/fan assembly 22 and the upper casing. A third gasket 318 is positioned between the handle 304 of the filter tray 300 and the cavity 298. Mounted on top of the upper casing 292 and beneath the slotted platform 36 is an ultraviolet (UV) sanitation assembly 320 for sanitizing the pre-motor filter 302 and, in part, the working air from the cyclone module assembly before it enters the motor/fan assembly. The UV sanitation assembly 320 comprises an annular casing 322 that houses an annular UV light bulb 324 through which the working air can pass. The casing 322 is open at the bottom to reflect UV light towards the pre-motor filter 302 to sanitize, disinfect and/or neutralize pollutants, such as bacteria, molds, and dust mites, captured by the pre-motor filter 302. The casing 322 can further comprise openings or slots 328 through which a portion of UV light from the UV light bulb 324 can pass to partially illuminate a lower region of the cyclone module assembly 34 and create a “glowing” effect in the dirt collection region. The casing 322 can be transparent or semi-transparent to allow light from the UV light bulb 324 to shine through the casing 322. UV light is effective in a direct line of sight only, so for maximum effectiveness, the ribs that form the slots 306 can be eliminated thus exposing the maximum amount of pre-motor filter 302 surface to the UV light 324.

The pre-motor filter 302 can optionally be treated with a photocatalyst, such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) or compounds of TiO2, for increasing the hygienic performance of the UV sanitation assembly 320. When the photocatalyst is irradiated by UV light from the UV light bulb 324, it behaves as a catalyst and enables oxidation of pollutants on the pre-motor filter 302. For maximum results, the catalyst can be applied to the surface(s) of the pre-motor filter 302 in direct line of sight with the UV sanitation assembly 320.

Referring to FIG. 27, the post-motor filter assembly 330 comprises a filter housing 332 positioned on one side of the handle assembly 12 for receiving a removable and replaceable post-motor filter 334. An opening 336 in the bottom of the housing 332 is in communication with the motor/fan assembly outlet conduit 312. The filter housing 332 further has a removable cover 338 having openings or slots 340 forming an air exhaust. The cover 338 can be removed to replace the post-motor filter 334 as needed. The post-motor filter 334 is preferably a HEPA filter.

In addition to the porting of the motor cooling air, the two-stage cyclone separation, the UV sanitation assembly 320, the pre-motor filter 302, the post-motor filter 334, and the ion generator 259, the vacuum cleaner 10 can further promote a sanitary and hygienic home environment by using an anti-microbial material for many of its components, especially the components making up the working air path of the vacuum cleaner 10. In particular, many of the components can be made of a plastic having incorporated therein an anti-microbial compound, such as phenol derivatives, especially 2,4,4′-trichloro-2′-hydroxydiphenol (e.g., Triclosan®, Irgasan®, Microban®), that reduce and/or prevent bacterial and mold growth on surfaces. Other anti-microbial compounds such as organotins, especially Tri-n-butyltin maleate (as in Ultra Fresh DM-50), can also be used to impart antimicrobial activity to plastic molded components Soak-treating in an aqueous solution containing stabilized chlorine dioxide can also be used to impart anti-microbial properties to molded plastic parts.

The vacuum cleaner 10 can further be provided with one or more above-the-floor tools for use in conjunction with the flexible hose 134, such as, but not limited to, a telescoping wand 342 (FIGS. 28-30), a flexible crevice tool 344 (FIGS. 31-33), and/or a turbine-powered brush 346 (FIGS. 34-37). Referring to FIGS. 28-30, the telescoping wand 342 comprises first and second tube sections 348, 350 that are joined by a locking device 352. The first tube section 248 has a suction or inlet end 353 for ingestion of dirt. The second tube section 350 can be received within the first tube section 348 and has an attachment end 354 that is sized to receive a flexible hose by a friction fit. The telescoping wand 342 can be adjusted to any length, from a fully retracted length shown in FIG. 30 to a fully extended length shown in FIG. 29.

Referring additionally to FIG. 30, the locking device 352 comprises a locking collar 356 that retains a split ring 358, as is known in the vacuum cleaner wand art. The locking collar 356 has internal threads 360 that mate with complementary external threads 362 on the first tube section 348. Loosening the locking collar 356 opens the split ring 358 and allows the second tube section 350 to be moved relative to the first tube section 348. When a desired length has been reached, the locking collar 356 is tightened, whereby the split ring 358 is closed to secure the telescoping wand 342 at the desired length. Markings can be provided on the telescoping wand 342 to indicate to the user the proper end to attach to the flexible hose and/or the direction to rotate the collar 356 to loosen or tighten the locking device 352 when make a length adjustment.

Referring to FIG. 31, the flexible crevice tool 344 comprises an elongated hollow body 364 that is made of a flexible material that allows the crevice tool 344 to bend or deform as needed, such as when the user is cleaning a hard to reach area, for example underneath or behind furniture. The material has sufficient resilience to otherwise retain a relatively straight shape. The body 364 has a suction opening 366 at one end that can be angled such that user can hold the crevice tool 344 in an ergonomic manner while maintaining the suction opening 366 relatively flat against a surface being cleaned. The body 364 can further be formed with a plurality of circumferential furrows 368 along the length of the body. The furrows 368 function to increase the flexing of the crevice tool as illustrated by FIGS. 32-33, whereby the crevice tool 344 can be flexed in multiple directions as indicated by the phantom line drawings of the body 364. The body 364 has an attachment end 370 opposite the suction opening 366 that is sized to receive a flexible hose by a friction fit. A circumferential flange 372 on the attachment end 370 provides a stop for the end of the flexible hose. The attachment end 370 can be made of a stiffer material than the body 364 and can be attached to the body using any suitable means.

Referring to FIGS. 34-36, the turbine-powered brush 346 is substantially disclosed in U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/594,773, entitled “Vacuum Accessory Tool”, and filed on May 5, 2005, incorporated herein by reference in its entirety, and thus will only be described briefly. The turbine-powered brush 346 comprises a nozzle body formed by an upper housing 374 and a lower housing 376 secured together by a rotatable and removable retaining ring 378. A brush chamber 380 is formed in a forward portion of the lower housing 376 in close proximity to and in fluid communication with a suction nozzle 382 formed in the lower housing 376. A commonly known agitator assembly in the form of a brush roll 386 comprising a dowel 388 that supports a plurality of bristles 390, as is well-known in the vacuum cleaner art, is rotatably mounted within the brush chamber 380 via bearing assemblies 392, which are located on the ends of the dowel 388. An agitator pulley 394 is formed on the dowel 388 between the bearing assemblies 392. A working air conduit in the form of a connector 396 for attachment to a flexible hose is positioned on an end opposite the suction nozzle 382. An impeller chamber 398 is formed between the suction nozzle 382 and the connector 396 and receives an impeller assembly 400 having a set of arcuate blades 402. The impeller assembly 400 is mounted within the impeller chamber 398 to freely rotate upon air impinging the blades 402. A belt 404 is installed between the impeller assembly 400 and the agitator pulley 394 such that the brush roll 386 will rotate as the impeller assembly 400 rotates.

A second embodiment of the turbine-powered brush 346′ is illustrated in FIG. 37, where like elements are identified by like numerals bearing a prime (′) symbol. The turbine-powered brush 346′ further includes at least one hair removal element 406 in the lower housing 376′ adjacent the suction nozzle 382′. The hair removal element 406 can comprise a plurality of spaced, flexible nubs or bristles 408 preferably formed from a suitable polymeric material that can be chosen from natural or synthetic resins, such as nylon, rubber, or the like. The material of the bristles 408 is selected such that it creates an electrostatic charge when in contact with and moving relative to a carpet or other fabric surface. The electrostatic charge attracts pet hair and other dirt on the surface and holds the pet hair and other dirt in the vicinity of the suction nozzle 382′ for ingestion therethrough.

The telescoping wand 342, flexible crevice tool 344, and turbine-powered brush 346, 346′ can selectively be attached to the flexible hose 134. The crevice tool 344 and the turbine-powered brush 346, 346′ can also be attached to the suction end 353 of the telescoping wand 344 by a friction fit. When not in use, the above-the-floor tools can be stored on the vacuum cleaner 10. A recess 410 (FIG. 1) is provided on the primary support section 16 above the cyclone module assembly 34 for mounting the turbine-powered brush 346. The recess 410 has a retaining clip (not shown) that is sized to engage the connector 396 of the turbine-powered brush. A first tool support 414 (FIG. 2) is provided on a side of the primary support section 16 near the motor cavity 20 for mounting the telescoping wand 342. The attachment end 354 of the telescoping wand 342 is sized to friction fit the tool support 414. An upper tool clip 416 provided above the first tool support 414 encircles the first tube section 348 to help retain the telescoping wand 342 in an upstanding orientation. A second tool support 418 is provided above the hose guide 140 for mounting the flexible crevice tool (not shown).

The air path through the vacuum cleaner 10 will now be described. The vacuum cleaner 10 can be operated in two modes: on-the-floor cleaning and above-the-floor cleaning. For on-the-floor cleaning, working air is drawn through the suction nozzle 48 and enters the cyclone module assembly 34. For above-the-floor cleaning, working air is drawn into the vacuum cleaner 10 through the hose 134 and enters the cyclone module assembly 34. Once the working air enters the cyclone module assembly 34, the air path through the vacuum cleaner is the same, regardless of operational mode.

Referring to FIG. 38, working air enters the primary cyclone separator 200 through the inlet opening 212. The primary cyclone chamber 214 performs centrifugal separation, where larger dirt particles are separated from the working air by centrifugal force acting on the dirt swirling around the baffle assembly 216, as indicated by arrows A. The working air next passes radially inwardly through the perforations 222 in the baffle assembly 216, as indicated by arrows B, and then upwardly through the air passage 228, as indicated by arrows C. To enter the secondary cyclone separators 204, the working air turns outwardly past the lip 241 to pass through the tangential air inlets 232, as indicated by arrows D where the working air enters the cyclone module assembly forming a well-known cyclonic vortex air flow pattern associated with frusto-conical shaped separators, as indicated by arrows E. Dirt particles not separated from the working air by the primary cyclone separator 200 are separated by the cyclonic action created by the vortex. The vortex tail is in contact with the vortex stabilizer surface 247. At the vortex stabilizer surface 247, the now relatively clean working air abruptly turns upward, as indicated by arrows F, and exits the secondary cyclone separator 204 through the air outlet tube 242. The secondary cyclone outlet air passes through the outlet passages 244, as indicated by arrows G, to the air exit conduit 246 where the outlet air combines and flows downwardly through the air exit conduit 246, as indicated by arrows H to exit the cyclone module assembly 34 through the air exit 256.

Upon exiting the cyclone module assembly 34, the outlet air passes sequentially through the UV sanitation assembly 320, the pre-motor filter 302, and on to the motor/fan assembly 22. In the upper casing 292, the working air is be joined by brush motor cooling air from the foot assembly 14. The working air mixes with the motor cooling air and exits the motor/fan assembly 22 through the outlet conduit 312 and passes through the post-motor filter assembly 330, whereupon the filtered outlet air is finally exhausted from the vacuum cleaner 10.

While the invention has been specifically described in connection with certain specific embodiments thereof, it is to be understood that the description is by way of illustration of one embodiment of the invention and not of limitation. Reasonable variation and modification are possible within the forgoing description and drawings without departing from the spirit of the invention which is defined in the appended claims.