Title:
Weighted, plastic lift arm for enhanced-function flush handles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A plastic lift arm for toilet flushers having enhanced-function flush handles—such as a Flush Handle Night Light carrying a standard, 9-volt battery—that exerts a torque sufficient to maintain an enhanced-function flush handle in a generally horizontal position when not in use. The plastic lift arm completely encapsulates a steel or iron counterweight and thus eliminates the need to plate the metal to prevent rusting in a moist environment. In order to maximize leverage, the counter-weight is located close to the conventional series of holes for chain clips. The counterweight has a diameter as large as possible consistent with the need to preserve moldable wall thickness. The lift arm may be bent or shortened to conform to almost any existing installation without compromising its ability to maintain the enhanced-function flush handle in a horizontal, at-rest position.



Inventors:
Olshausen, Michael Cohnitz (Washington, DC, US)
Application Number:
11/418247
Publication Date:
11/08/2007
Filing Date:
05/05/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
YOUNKINS, KAREN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MICHAEL COHNITZ OLSHAUSEN (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A toilet flusher comprising a flush handle and a lift arm, said toilet flusher being adapted to transmit motion to-said lift arm about an axis of rotation when said toilet flusher is attached to the water tank of a toilet and said flush handle is actuated by a person, said lift arm being made of plastic and comprising a socket and a counterweight, said counterweight being contained within said socket, and said socket is adapted to prevent moisture from entering said socket.

2. A lift arm as in claim 1 comprising a first half and a second half, wherein said first half comprises a portion of said socket and said second half comprises the remainder of said socket.

3. A lift arm as in claim 2 wherein said portion of said socket comprises a male dovetail member and said remainder of said socket comprises a mortise, and said portion and said remainder of said socket are sealed when said male dovetail member is inserted fully into said mortise and is cemented therein.

4. A left arm as in claim 3 wherein said mortise and said male dovetail member cemented therein are bonded chemically by cement.

5. A left arm as in claim 3 wherein said mortise and said male dovetail member cemented therein are joined mechanically by cement.

6. A lift arm as in claim 1 comprising at least one perforation and said socket is adjacent to said perforation closest to said axis.

7. A lift arm as in claim 1 that is molded.

8. A toilet flusher as in claim 1 comprising a nut for attaching said toilet flusher to said water tank, and said nut is able to pass over the entire visible length of said lift arm.

9. A toilet flusher comprising a flush handle and a lift arm, said toilet flusher being adapted to transmit motion to said lift arm about an axis of rotation when said toilet flusher is attached to the water tank of a toilet and said flush handle is actuated by a person, said lift arm being made of plastic and comprising a counterweight, said flush handle comprising non-plumbing components, and said flush handle remains in a substantially horizontal position when not in use to flush said toilet.

10. A flush handle as in claim 9 in which said non-plumbing components comprise an electrical circuit.

11. A flush handle as in claim 9 in which said non-plumbing components comprise a battery.

12. A flush handle as in claim 9 in which said non-plumbing components comprise a fragrance pack.

13. A lift arm as in claim 9 that is molded.

14. A toilet flusher as in claim 9 comprising a nut for attaching said toilet flusher to said water tank, and said nut is able to pass over the entire visible length of said lift arm.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX

Not Applicable

SEQUENCE LISTING

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the lift arms found inside conventional, North American toilet tanks, in particular to the plastic lift arms attached either permanently or removably to enhanced-function flush handles. An enhanced-function flush handle, such as the Flush Handle Night Light (marketed as the Flush Light™ and first disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,231,203 to Olshausen (2001), and further developed by Olshausen in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/967,227, filed Oct. 19, 2004) delivers a benefit—e.g., illuminates a toilet bowl, or dispenses a fragrance, etc.—which it can only accomplish by containing non-plumbing components (e.g. a circuit, a battery, a fragrance pack, a voice synthesizer, etc.) that cause it to be somewhat heavier than conventional, generally hollow, plumbing-only flush handles. All flush handles (variously called “actuators,” “tank levers,” “operating handles,” etc.), including enhanced-function flush handles such as the Flush Light™, are intended to remain generally horizontal when at rest. They look better when squared to the toilet's tank, and they also function better. A horizontal orientation converts a downward impulse applied by hand into a counterclockwise rotation of both the flush handle and the lift arm rigidly attached to the flush handle more efficiently than any other initial orientation. When rotated, the lift arm lifts up on, and opens, a water valve inside the tank, and so initiates flushing of the toilet.

A standard Flush Light™ contains a 9-volt, snap-top battery and consequently weighs about 47 grams more than an ordinary flush handle, even an old-fashioned flush handle made of cast zinc. For a Flush Light™ to remain horizontal when at rest, the lift arm to which it is removably, or possibly permanently, attached must exert a torque slightly greater than the opposite torque exerted by the Flush Light™ with its battery installed. These opposing torques are exerted about the axis that passes centrally through the spud and nut used to attach the Flush Light™ to a toilet tank (preview FIG. 8). The torque exerted by the lift arm urges the Flush Light™ to rotate clockwise, a rotation that is limited, however, by a motion delimiter, so that the Flush Light™ remains in fact horizontal when not in use. Conventional, front-mounted (i.e., mounted on a toilet tank's front surface) flush handles also have built-in, motion delimiters, albeit quite differently structured, and for the exactly the same reason: to keep their respective flush handles horizontal when at rest. The motion delimiter of the Flush Light™ is the subject of a separate patent application, filed simultaneously with the present application.

A biased balance of torques in favor of the lift arm is achieved automatically for the Flush Light™ when its lift arm is made of metal. A plastic lift arm, by contrast, turns out to have too little mass, if it is of conventional design. And if, in addition, the plastic lift arm is made to be bendable to conform easily to existing installations, and if, furthermore, the plastic lift arm is provided with cut-off notches to facilitate shortening, once again to conform easily to existing installations, then the inadequacy of the plastic lift arm's mass becomes still more acute. If the plastic lift arm is bent, and/or if it is shortened, its torque about the axis is necessarily reduced. Nor can a counterweight be simply added on, like a hood ornament, to a plastic lift arm's free end. Many installers, by habit, cut off the “unneeded” portions of a lift arm, and so, without thinking, may simply amputate the weight.

Exactly which dense metal to use for a counterweight also is problematic, inasmuch as lead soon must be phased out of all consumer products (beginning in California in January, 2007, for electronics). Brass and copper are expensive. Stainless steel is difficult to cut. Which leaves iron and common steel, except that they rust unless they're plated. But plating adds to expense and, if thin, will have pores that admit moisture, which leads to rust.

The present invention offers a plastic lift arm able to balance a Flush Light™ as well as other, enhanced-function flush handles (such as a flush handle comprising an air freshener or a clock) using a simple, bare iron, or common steel counterweight, while at the same time integrating easily into almost any existing installation.

SURVEY OF BACKGROUND ART

Very few utility patents have been granted on plastic lift arms for toilet flushers, possibly because such a hee-haw, low-brow subject has not seemed unduly sexy. U.S. Pat. No. 6,092,245 to Jones (2000) and U.S. Pat. No. 3,518,703 to Haldopaulos et al. (1970) both show plastic lift arms, but without a provision for compensating the torque of their attached, conventional flush handles. In fact, the applicant's own U.S. Pat. No. 6,231,203 on the Flush Handle Night Light, trademarked the Flush Light™, and his pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/967,227 on an improvement thereto never mention the issue. The reason they don't is that all of the conventional, metal lift arms adapted for use with Flush Light™ prototypes had always, and very easily, compensated for the torque of the battery-loaded device. Only when trying out a plastic lift arm did the torque-related issues described above arise.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention encapsulates the requisite counter-weight entirely within the plastic of the lift arm, thereby making possible the use of an inexpensive, bare iron or common steel weight. Because the encapsulation must be total to prevent the counterweight from rusting, the present invention splits the usual lift arm into two halves such that each half terminates in an open cylindrical socket that fits closely about a cylindrical counterweight and that dovetails snugly into the socket of the other, lift arm half. The close fit about the counterweight strengthens the joining of the lift arm halves, and the snug dovetailing of the halves permits plastic cement to seal their joint chemically, thus permanently bonding the lift arm halves together and excluding moisture. If a chemically inactive plastic, such as Acetal, is used to make the lift arm halves, then the cement will have to bond the halves mechanically, for which purpose the surfaces to be bonded are first roughened.

In order to maximize its leverage, the present invention locates the counterweight behind, but as close as possible to, a conventionally located and spaced-apart series of holes that facilitates the connection, by means of a clip, of beaded and link chains to the lift arm. In the present invention, the cross sections of the lift arm, including, most importantly, the cross sections of the weight sockets, are aligned such that the left-hand threaded nut universally employed to attach front-mounted toilet-flushers to toilet tanks (a ⅝″-18 LH nut or its metric equivalent) is able to pass cleanly over the entire length of the lift arm. The inside diameter of the nut and the need to pre-serve a moldable wall thickness for the weight sockets are the only constraints on counterweight's diameter, which otherwise is chosen to be as large as possible.

As it happens, there is just enough available leverage from a position close to, but just behind, the conventional series of clip holes, and the inside diameter of the common nut is just large enough, to permit an iron or steel counterweight to be encapsulated that in fact will balance a Flush Light™ carrying a typical 9-volt battery, even if the lift arm is bent at an angle of 45° or its length is shortened at one of the conventional cut-off notches.

Some important objects of the present invention are thus

  • 1) To provide a plastic lift arm for toilet flushers that will counterbalance a non-conventional, enhanced-function flush handle but that in its plumbing function is familiar and conventional.
  • 2) To provide a plastic lift arm containing a cheap iron or steel counterweight without having to plate the metal, despite the lift arm's moist working environment.
  • 3) To provide a plastic lift arm encapsulating a counterweight having the largest possible diameter that yet preserves moldable wall thickness.
  • 4) To take a pedestrian, household object, a toilet-flusher lift arm, and give to it a new function and a new look, thus to intrigue and attract customers.

These and still-further objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from a consideration of the following drawing, detailed description, and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

Referring to the drawing, wherein like reference characters indicate like parts or elements throughout the several views, and wherein arrowheads indicate physically-composite objects whose numbered resolution into constituent parts occurs only when it is germane to the discussion:

FIG. 1 is an oblique, rear, partial breakaway view of a toilet tank with the present invention attached thereto.

FIG. 2 is a partially exploded, rear, oblique view of the present invention taken from a lowered perspective, relative to FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a top, plan, partial cross sectional view of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a top, plan view of the present invention rotated 180° about a normal to the image plane with respect to

FIG. 4 and including a conventional element seen in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of the present invention taken along lines 5-5 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a cross sectional view of the present invention taken along lines 6-6 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of the present invention taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 8 is a top, plan, partial breakaway view of the present invention attached to the toilet tank of FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is a top, plan, partial breakaway view of the present invention attached to the toilet tank of FIG. 1. but bent at an angle θ.

FIG. 10 is an annotated, side, plan, transparent view of the present invention adjacent to a conventional element seen in FIG. 8 and beneath an annotated torque diagram.

FIG. 11 is a top, plan, partial breakaway view of the present invention attached to the toilet tank of FIG. 1. but bent at an angle θ and shortened in length.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows toilet tank 11 to which Flush Light™ 20 comprising battery 22, battery snap clip 23, and housing 21 is attached by threaded spud 40 and nut 45. Extending into tank 11 from the end of spud 40 is plastic lift arm 400 having clip-half 420 with open weight socket 421 and pivot half 410 with open weight socket 411. As drawn, Flush Light™ 20 may or may not be removably attached to lift arm 400; however, if it is removably, rather than permanently, attached, then an element called “tenon 300” in Ser. No. 10/967,227, op. Cit., will be present, although not visible from the perspective of FIG. 1, into which lift arm 400 will have been permanently glued.

FIG. 2 shows iron, or common steel, counterweight 50 snugly inserted into both halves 410 and 420 of lift arm 400, but with the halves 410 and 420 drawn apart sufficiently to disclose counterweight 50 to view, yet not drawn apart so far as for either half to disengage from counterweight 50. Open weight socket 411 of pivot half 410 has male dovetail member 412 which fits snugly into-a mortise (preview FIG. 3) in open weight socket 421 of clip half 420. When brought together, open weight sockets 411 and 412 form a closed weight socket wherein counterweight 50 is entirely contained. Plastic cement applied to male dovetail member 412 allows halves 410 and 420 of lift arm 400 to be permanently joined, thus sealing the closed weight socket and preventing moisture from entering it. Pivot half 410 has right angle bend 413, motion delimiter 414, and shank 415. After plastic cement has been applied to shank 415, lift arm 400 may either be permanently attached to Flush Light™ 20, or else, if Flush Light™ 20 is appropriately configured, may be permanently attached to an intermediary element resembling tenon 300 shown in Ser. No. 10/967,227, op. Cit. In addition to open weight socket 421, lift arm half 420 further comprises a T-shaped extension having horizontal portion 423, into which four conventional cut-off notches 426 have been molded, plus vertical portion 424 perforated by five holes 425 in a conventional series. Holes 425 allow clip 427, here of the safety-pin type, to be attached easily to lift arm 400. Clip 427 in turn connects arm 400 and hence Flush Light™ 20 to the remainder of the flush mechanism (not illustrated) inside take 11, typically with a short length of either link, or #3 beaded, chain. Which hole 425 will be chosen for clip 427 will depend on the idiosyncracies of the flush mechanism inside tank 11.

FIG. 3 shows counterweight 50 fully encapsulated by joined, open weight sockets 411 and 421. Male dovetail member 412 has been fully inserted and glued into female dovetail mortise 422, with the result that halves 410 and 420 of lift arm-400 are permanently sealed at visible joint 450. Sealing joint 450 deters moisture from entering weight sockets 411 and 421, and thus counterweight 50 is prevented from rusting.

FIG. 4 shows lift arm 400 just prior to slipping nut 45 over far end 429 of clip half 420. Nut 45 must be able to slip over the entire visible length of arm 400, including motion delimiter 414 in order to engage spud 40 and thus to secure the toilet flusher as a whole, included Flush Light™ 20, to toilet tank 11. Motion delimiter 414, which is the subject of a separate patent application, has a smaller cross section than either weight socket 421 or 411.

FIG. 5 shows nut 45 at cross section 5-5 of FIG. 4, and particularly shows that the T-shaped long end of half 420 of lift arm 400 passes easily through nut 45.

FIG. 6 shows nut 45 at cross section 6-6 of FIG. 4, and particularly shows that weight socket 421 encapsulating weight 50 just squeaks through nut 45. The clearance is narrow in order to maximize the diameter of counterweight 50 while preserving a wall for weight socket 421 that is sufficiently thick to permit half 420 of lift arm 400 to be easily molded. Likewise for weight socket 411.

FIG. 7 shows nut 45 at cross section 7-7 of FIG. 4, and particularly shows that the chamfered, rectangular cross section of half 410 at 7-7 passes easily through nut 45.

FIG. 8 shows Flush Light™ 20 having conventional 9-volt battery 22 concealed within housing 21, from which extend tact switch 29 and LED 28. Axis 460 passes centrally through spud 40 and nut 45 and is the axis about which Flush Light™ 20 rotates counterclockwise approximately 30° when depressed in the usual manner to flush the toilet to which Flush Light™ 20 is attached through wall 11. As measured using actual prototypes, the perpendicular distance from the center of battery 22 to axis 460 is 1.18 inches, while the perpendicular distance from axis 460 to joint 450, which is coplanar with the center of counterweight 50, is 2.70 inches. Since, apart from the battery snap connectors, which contribute very little to the battery's mass, both counter-weight 50 and battery 22 are symmetric about the midpoints of their respective, rectangular cross sections, we will treat both battery 22 and counterweight 50 as point masses concentrated at those midpoints.

FIG. 9 shows a fairly common on-site modification of lift arm 400, wherein pivot half 410 is bent at some angle e in order to conform new lift arm 400 to an older lift arm being replaced along with its attached, conventional flush handle. Clearly, the perpendicular distance d from the midpoint of the joint 450, hence from the midpoint of counterweight 50, to axis 460 is now less than 2.70 inches. When so modified, counterweight 50 will necessarily exert a reduced torque about axis 460.

FIG. 10 diagrams this reduced torque for θ=45°, the maximum value of θ typically encountered among front-mounted flushers. The lever arm for encapsulated counterweight 50 shrinks from 2.70 inches to 1.91 inches. If the diameter of counterweight 50 is ⅜″, and its length is 2.1″, and it is made of common steel, then counterweight 50 will have a mass of 29.3 grams. A typical 9-volt battery has a mass of about 46.6 grams. We see that, despite its reduced lever arm when rotated 45°, counterweight 50 will still exert a torque sufficient to balance a 47.4 gram mass, or slightly more than battery 22. Hole 425, along with counterweight 50, might furthermore be shifted ⅛″ to the right in the diagram, which would increase the lift arm's torque still further. The conventional, least distance between axis 460 and the clip hole nearest axis 460 is 4″. An increase of ⅛″ will have no significant effect on the plumbing function of lift arm 400.

FIG. 11 depicts the circumstance in which arm 400 is bent at angle θ and is also shortened, its long end cut off at cut-off notch 426. The present invention will maintain Flush Light™ 20 with installed battery 22 in the horizontal, at rest position in this circumstance as well.

Inasmuch as modifications and alterations apparent to one skilled in the art may be made to the herein described embodiments of the present invention without departing from the scope and spirit thereof, it is intended that all matter contained herein be interpreted in an illustrative, and not in a limiting, sense with respect to the invention claimed in the following claims and equivalents thereto.