Title:
CONTROLLED FLOW HEAT EXTRACTION AND RECOVERY APPARATUS, METHOD AND SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A controlled flow heat extraction and recovery apparatus using waste heat from a cooling system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water having a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a cooling system and heating efficiencies in a hot water heating system.



Inventors:
Williams, Clifford C. (Las Cruces, NM, US)
Application Number:
11/426722
Publication Date:
12/27/2007
Filing Date:
06/27/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/183
International Classes:
F25B39/04; F25B27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROGERS, LAKIYA G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCKEE, VOORHEES & SEASE, P.L.C. (DES MOINES, IA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A controlled flow heat extraction and recovery apparatus using waste heat from a refrigeration system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water having a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system having a condenser and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, the apparatus comprising: a heat extraction and recovery vessel having at least one thermostatically controlled outlet and an inlet adapted for connection to a suitable water source; and the vessel being adapted to enclose at least a portion of the condenser from the refrigeration system, the condenser being immersed in water coming through the inlet from the water source, the thermostatically controlled outlet functioning on demand when heat of a sufficient quantity is transferred from the condenser to the water in the vessel, the thermostatically controlled flow of heated water from the vessel being directed to the heated water storage tank.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein inlet to the vessel is in a lower portion of the vessel and the outlet is in an upper portion thereof.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the thermostatically controlled outlet is preset to a specific temperature, the valve opening upon the water in the vessel reaching the preset temperature.

4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the valve has a proportional opening.

5. A controlled flow heat extraction and recovery apparatus using waste heat from a refrigeration system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, the apparatus comprising: a suitable water source; a refrigeration system having a condenser using a refrigerant; a vessel having at least one thermostatically controlled outlet and a first inlet for receiving the condenser from the refrigeration system and a second inlet for receiving water from the water source; a portion of the condenser being positioned in the vessel for transferring heat from the refrigerant within the condenser into water in the tank from the water source; and the thermostatically controlled outlet controlling the flow of the heated water from the tank to the heated water storage.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 having a pressure regulator adapted for regulating the pressure of water from the water source into the vessel and through the thermostatically controlled outlet.

7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the pressure regulator is an elevated tank having a float and a float-controlled valve, the elevated tank being positioned above the vessel for reducing the pressure of water entering the vessel from the water source.

8. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein water from the water source is heated in the vessel to or near the temperature of the heated refrigerant from the refrigeration system.

9. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the heat in the refrigerant is transferred from the condenser into water in the vessel thereby cooling the refrigerant in the condenser to or near the temperature of the water from the water source.

10. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the water source is a city water mainline, a well water mainline or some other suitable water source.

11. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein water in the vessel being heated by heat transferred from the refrigerant in the condenser and being released by the thermostatically controlled outlet having to a preset temperature.

12. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the condenser coil having radially extending fins to increase the transfer of heat from the refrigerant to water in the vessel.

13. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the at least one heated water storage tank are modular tanks positioned closest a purposeful end use.

14. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the at least one heated water storage tank are large scale centrally located tanks for storing heated water.

15. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the vessel, heated water storage tanks and interconnecting water lines are wrapped with heat insulation.

16. The apparatus of claim 5 having no pumps, electrical power requirement, blowers, manual valves and/or significant moving parts.

17. The apparatus of claim 5 being scalable to extract and recover heat from cold storage warehouses, production plants and manufacturing facilities to walk-in freezers.

18. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the heated water storage tanks having a floating insulation disc for preserving heat in the heated water.

19. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the heated refrigerant from the refrigeration system is cooled by transferring heat from the refrigerant in the condenser into water in the vessel, the cooled refrigerant being circulated back to the refrigeration system thereby increasing the efficiency of the refrigeration system.

20. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein water from the water source is heated in the vessel to or near the temperature of the heated refrigerant, the heated water being used in the water heating system thereby increasing the efficiency of the water heating system.

21. A controlled flow heat extraction and recovery method using waste heat from a cooling system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a cooling system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, the method comprising: providing a suitable water source; supplying a refrigeration system having a condenser using a refrigerant; providing a vessel having at least one thermostatically controlled outlet, a first inlet for receiving the condenser from the refrigeration system and a second inlet for receiving water from the water source; positioning a portion of the condenser in the vessel for transferring heat from the refrigerant within the condenser into water in the tank from the water source; and connecting the thermostatically controlled outlet thereby controlling the flow of the heated water from the tank to the heated water storage.

22. The method of claim 21 wherein water from the water source is heated in the vessel to or near the temperature of the heated refrigerant from the refrigeration system.

23. The method of claim 21 wherein the heated refrigerant in the condenser is cooled to or near the temperature of the water from the water source.

24. The method of claim 21 wherein water in the vessel being heated by heat transferred from the refrigerant in the condenser rises and is released by the thermostatically controlled outlet having a preset temperature.

25. The method of claim 21 wherein the heated refrigerant from the refrigeration system is cooled and circulated back to the refrigeration system thereby increasing the efficiency of the refrigeration system.

26. The method of claim 21 wherein water from the water source is heated in the vessel to or near the temperature of the heated refrigerant within the condenser, the heated water being used in the water heating system thereby increasing the efficiency of the water heating system.

27. The method of claim 21 having no pumps, electrical power requirement, blowers, manual valves and/or significant moving parts.

28. A controlled flow heat extraction and recovery system using waste heat from a refrigeration system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, the system comprising: a water source; a refrigeration system having a condenser using a refrigerant; a vessel having at least one thermostatically controlled outlet, a first inlet for receiving the condenser from the refrigeration system and a second inlet for receiving water from the water source; a portion of the condenser being positioned in the vessel for transferring heat from the refrigerant within the condenser into water in the tank from the water source; and the thermostatically controlled outlet controlling the flow of the heated water from the tank to the heated water storage.

29. The system of claim 28 operating passively when the heated refrigerant does not exceed a preset temperature of the thermostatically controlled outlet.

30. The system of claim 28 to increase the cooling and heating efficiencies at cold storage and food processing plants.

31. A heat extraction recovery apparatus for use in combination with a condenser coil of a refrigeration unit comprising: a water tank having a vessel and at least a portion of the condenser coil contained in the vessel; a cooler water supply inlet at a lower elevation of the vessel adapted to supply pressurized water to the lower portion of the vessel; a thermostatically controlled valve at an outlet of a higher elevation of the vessel, the thermostatically controlled valve having an opening threshold correlated to a certain water temperature above the cooler water supply inlet temperature; so that when the threshold of the thermostatically control valve is reached, water is urged out of the vessel and replaced by water from the cooler water supply inlet until the valve closes.

32. The apparatus of claim 31 wherein the thermostatically controlled valve is proportionally openable for controlled flow of heated water from the vessel to promote efficiency in the refrigeration system.

33. The apparatus of claim 31 further comprising a heated water storage tank in fluid communication with the output of the thermostatically controlled valve to store heated water from the vessel.

34. A controlled flow heat extraction and recovery system using waste heat from a refrigeration system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, the apparatus comprising: a suitable water source; a refrigeration system having a condenser using a refrigerant; a vessel having an inlet for receiving water from the water source and at least one thermostatically controlled outlet having a preset temperature for opening; a portion of the condenser being enclosed within the vessel; and the water in the vessel being heated by heat transferred from the heated refrigerant in the condenser; the thermostatically controlled outlet opening when the water in the vessel reaches the preset temperature thereby controlling the flow of heated water from the vessel to the heated water storage tank, the heated water being simultaneously replenished with water from the water source, the thermostatically controlled outlet closing when the water in the vessel is below the preset temperature.

35. The apparatus of claim 34 wherein the thermostatically controlled outlet is proportionally openable for controlled flow of heated water from the vessel thereby promoting efficiencies in the refrigeration system and the water heating system.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an apparatus, method and system for heat extraction and recovery, and more particularly for extracting heat from the condenser of mechanical refrigerators thereby increasing the efficiency of the refrigeration process and simultaneously recovering the extracted heat for beneficial uses.

2. Problems in the Art

Refrigeration is one of the great innovations of the modern age. The need and uses of refrigeration are numerous and varied, both in what is refrigerated and the scope or size of the refrigeration requirement.

It is widely agreed in the scientific and engineering communities that, with present and projected increases in cost of useable water, electrical energy and combustible fuels, improved methods of water and energy management are critical. Business enterprises engaged in the processing, preparation, storage and distribution of food stuffs such as meat or vegetable products by necessity use significant quantities of refrigeration as well as heated water for cleaning, processing and employee hygiene.

In these situations the energy costs for refrigeration tasks and for heating water both exist and are an unavoidable cost of operating such a business. On a practical level, these costs affect the profitability of the enterprise. Thus, there is a need for a practical way to assist in the efficient generation of heated water and refrigeration. There is also a need for a practical way of recovering some of the opportunity costs of wasted heat from these refrigeration systems.

As is well known in the art, refrigeration efficiencies and the energy costs associated therewith, are functions of the efficiency of extracting heat from the mechanical refrigerator. As mentioned, air cooling of a condenser is not as efficient as it can be, because the heat extracted from the refrigerator is wasted. Conversely, water having a higher specific heat and dielectric constant than air, can be used to cool the refrigerant in a condenser. However, if water is used to cool, not only is the heat wasted, but both heat and the water are wasted. It is well known that the inability to cool the condenser can, in turn, make the refrigerator less efficient and more costly to operate. Similarly, liquid cooling or air/liquid cooling systems for refrigerators have efficiency problems or deficiencies.

Therefore, a method and apparatus for the beneficial extraction of heat from, for example, a refrigeration machine, coupled with the recovery of at least a substantial portion of that heat for beneficial use, is highly desirable.

Another purpose of the present invention is to provide an apparatus, method and system which is inexpensive to manufacture, install, maintain, and operate without specifically trained employees that is both feasible and practical.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Therefore it is a primary object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to improve over the state of the art.

It is a further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for utilizing waste heat from refrigeration systems. One example, which generates significant amounts of waste heat, is cold storage and food processing plants.

It is a further object, feature, or advantage to the present invention to provide a method, apparatus, and system which can improve the refrigeration efficiencies.

Another object, feature, or advantage to the present invention is an apparatus, method, or system that allows an efficient, economical, and practical method of extracting and recovering heat from a refrigeration system.

Another object, feature, or advantage to the present invention is to allow extraction and recovery of heat from refrigeration and provide the opportunity for beneficial use of the recovered heat.

Another object, feature, or advantage to the present is to allow for the recovery of heat from refrigeration and produce at least partially heated water for further use.

It is a still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system that functions on demand by having no pumps, fans, blowers, electronics equipment and/or manual valves. By on demand it is meant that the system automatically responds when heat is delivered from the refrigeration machine to a vessel in quantities that make heat extraction desirable or necessary.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system having a virtually inaudible operation, limited moving parts and being scalable to meet a variety of needs or demands, as well as BTU capacity.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for improving the efficiency of a water heater by introducing partially heated water having a temperature at or near the temperature of the heated refrigerant gas from the refrigeration machine into the water heater.

A further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for improving the efficiency of a refrigeration system by cooling the refrigerant gas from the refrigeration system to the temperature of the water from a suitable source.

It is a further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for returning refrigerant gas to a refrigeration system at a lower temperature than would result from cooling the refrigerant gas by transferring heat from the refrigerant gas within the condenser to the atmosphere.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for capturing normally wasted heat given off to the atmosphere from a refrigeration system for the purpose of heating water to a temperature suitable for a multiplicity of end uses such as washing, showering, cleaning and other industrial/commercial uses.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system using water from a suitable source.

A still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for heating the water from a suitable water source from the average temperature of the water to the condenser temperature associated with a refrigeration system.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for cooling refrigerant gas from a refrigeration system to the average water temperature from a suitable water source.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system wherein a thermostatic valve controls the flow of water from the vessel when the temperature of the water in the vessel reaches the preset temperature of the thermostatic valve.

A further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system needing little maintenance, supervision and/or calibration. Additionally, no outside power source, electrical connections and/or external power input is needed.

Another object, feature or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for decreasing the utility requirement of a water heater by introducing partially heated water into the heater at or near the temperature of the heated refrigerant gas.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system that could be advantageously used in food processing and storage refrigeration warehouses and/or other facilities requiring refrigeration.

A still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system providing an alternative means capable of cooling heated refrigerant gas from a refrigeration system to a temperature below the atmospheric temperature.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system wherein the piping and water tanks are heat insulated for preserving heat captured in the water and/or refrigerant gas.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system wherein the water storage tanks for the heated water are modular tanks and/or centrally located tanks for best serving a point of end-use.

A still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system that is passive when the heated refrigerant gas does not exceed the preset temperature of the thermostatic valve.

An optional object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system wherein the condenser coil has a plurality of fins extending radially outward from the coil to increase heat transfer efficiencies.

Another purpose of the present invention is to provide an apparatus, method and system which is inexpensive to manufacture, install, maintain, and operate without specifically trained employees is both feasible and practical.

Further objects, features, advantages or aspects of the present invention include an apparatus, method, or system which:

a. is economical;

b. is efficient;

c. is durable and robust;

d. is scaleable for different sizes and applications;

e. is relatively non-complex;

f. is semi or fully automatic (functions on demand);

g. is flexible in application; and

h. is adjustably controllable.

According to one aspect of the present invention a controlled flow heat extraction and recovery apparatus using waste heat from a refrigeration system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, is disclosed. The apparatus includes a heat extraction and recovery vessel having at least one thermostatically controlled outlet and an inlet adapted for connection to a suitable water source. The vessel is adapted to enclose at least a portion of the condenser from the refrigeration system. The condenser is immersed in water in the vessel entering through the inlet. The thermostatically controlled outlet functions on demand when heat of a sufficient quantity is transferred from the condenser to the water in the vessel. The thermostatically controlled flow of the heated water from the vessel can be directed to the at least one suitable heated water storage tank.

According to another feature of the present invention having, a pressure regulator adapted for regulating the pressure of water from the water source into the vessel and through the thermostatically controlled valve into the water storage tank.

According to another feature of the present invention, the pressure regulator is an elevated tank having a float-controlled valve positioned above the vessel for reducing the pressure of water entering the vessel from the water source.

According to another feature of the present invention, water from the water source is heated in the vessel to or near the temperature of the refrigerant gas in the condenser.

According to another feature of the present invention, the heat in the refrigerant gas is transferred from the condenser into the water thereby cooling the refrigerant gas in the condenser to or near the temperature of the water from the water source.

According to another feature of the present invention, the water source is a city water mainline, a well water mainline or some other suitable water source.

According to another feature of the present invention, water in the vessel being heated by heat transferred from the refrigerant gas and released by the thermostatically controlled valve having a preset temperature.

According to another feature of the present invention, the condenser coil having radially extending fins to increase the transfer of heat from the refrigerant gas within the condenser to water in the vessel.

According to another feature of the present invention, the at least one heated water storage tank are modular tanks positioned near a point of use.

According to another feature of the present invention, the at least one heated water storage tank are large-scale centrally located tanks for storing heated water.

According to another feature of the present invention, the vessel, heated water storage tanks and interconnecting water lines are enclosed with heat insulation.

According to another feature of the present invention, having no pumps, electrical power requirement, blowers, manual valves and/or significant moving parts.

According to another feature of the present invention, being scalable to extract and recover heat from cold storage warehouses, production plants and manufacturing facilities.

According to another feature of the present invention, the heated water storage tanks having a floating insulation disc for preserving heat in the heated water.

According to another feature of the present invention, the refrigerant gas in the condenser is cooled and circulated back to the system thereby increasing the efficiency of the system.

According to another feature of the present invention, water from the water source is heated in the vessel to the temperature of the refrigerant gas in the condenser and used in the hot water heating system thereby increasing the efficiency of the system.

According to another aspect of the present invention a controlled flow heat extraction and recovery method using waste heat from a cooling system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, is disclosed. The method including providing a water source and supplying a refrigeration system having a condenser. The method also includes providing a vessel having at least one outlet and an inlet for receiving the condenser from the refrigeration system and a second inlet for receiving water from the water source. Included as well, requires using the condenser coil for transferring heat from the condenser of the refrigeration system into water in the vessel. Another step requires connecting a thermostatically controlled valve at the outlet on top of the vessel for controlling the flow of the heated water from the tank to the at least one heated water storage.

According to another aspect of the present invention a controlled flow heat extraction and recovery system using waste heat from a refrigeration system to heat water to be held in at least one heated water storage tank thereby providing heated water for a purposeful end-use, increasing cooling efficiencies in a refrigeration system and heating efficiencies in a water heating system, is disclosed. The system includes a water source and a refrigeration system having a condenser. Also included is a vessel for housing the condenser from the refrigeration system and water from the water source. The condenser coil is positioned within the vessel for transferring heat from the heated refrigerant gas within the condenser of the refrigeration system into water in the vessel. A thermostatically controlled valve controls the flow of the heated water from the vessel to the at least one heated water storage tank.

According to another feature of the present invention, functioning on demand without using pumps, fans, blowers, electronics equipment and/or manual valves.

According to another feature of the present invention, to increase the cooling and heating efficiencies at cold storage and food processing plants.

One or more of these and/or other objects, features, or advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the specification and claims that follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic illustration of a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic illustration of a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged, isolated view of a portion of the condenser coil of FIG. 1 taken along line 3-3 in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

A. Overview

The present invention includes a number of aspects all of which have broad and far-reaching application. Although specific embodiments are described herein, the present invention is not to be limited to these specific embodiments. One aspect of the invention relates to the use of a heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system for recovering heat that would have been wasted to the atmosphere from a cooling system at an industrial food processing and refrigeration plant for heating water to be used within the plant or wherever a need for heated water exists.

For a better understanding of the invention, one example of how the invention could be made and used will now be described in detail. It is to be understood that this is but one example of the invention.

The context of this exemplary embodiment will be with respect to the refrigeration unit 12 of the type that might be used with a cold storage facility. It would utilize a closed coolant system and conventional refrigeration components and techniques, including a coolant circulation system that includes a condenser coil 20 that extends outside of the housing of the refrigeration unit 12 and through which heated refrigerant gas from refrigeration unit 12 passes. It is to be understood, however, the principles described regarding the system of the exemplary embodiment can be scaled up or down by appropriate modification such as are with one skilled in the art. Additionally, exemplary embodiments could be applied to a single refrigeration unit 12 or apply individually to multiple refrigeration units, all working to refrigerate a single facility.

The present invention contemplates numerous other options in the design and use of the heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system.

B. Heat Source from Refrigeration System

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic of an exemplary embodiment according to the invention of a heat extraction and recovery apparatus and system. A cooling or refrigeration system 12 is shown. The refrigeration system 12 may consist of large industrial type refrigeration systems or small-scale refrigeration systems such as are commercially available. Cooling system 12 produces heated refrigerant gas passed through a condenser coil 20 (e.g., copper tubing). In this example, heated refrigerant gas (e.g., 120°) is circulated through condenser coil 20 in the direction of arrows 44. The condenser coil 20 is wrapped in heat insulation 48 to preserve heat captured in the refrigerant gas, except for the portion of the coil within the vessel 16.

C. Heat Extraction Subsystem

A vessel 16 is also provided performing the function of a heat exchanger. Within the vessel 16 is the condenser coil 20, or condenser. Heated refrigerant gas 14 from the refrigeration system 12 travels along the flow pathway 44 from refrigeration system 12 into the vessel 16 at the vessel inlet 18. Inside the vessel 16 the heated refrigerant gas 14 from the refrigeration system 12 travels through the condenser coil 20. The vessel 16 is filled with water from a pressurized water source 30 that flows along the water flow path 44 into a pressure reducer 32 and through the water inlet 28 into the vessel 16. Water from the water source 30 enters the vessel 16 at or near the average water temperature associated with well water, city water, or some other suitable water source (e.g., usually 55°-60° F.). The heat contained in the heated refrigerant gas 14 from the refrigeration system 12 is transferred from the condenser coil 20 to the water 42 in the vessel 16. The heated refrigerant gas 14 from the refrigeration system is subsequently cooled in the condenser coil 20 by transferring heat from the heated refrigerant gas 14 into the water 42 in the vessel 16. The refrigerant gas 14 is then returned to the cooling system 12 through the outlet 22 in the vessel 16.

Positioned on the top of the vessel 16 is a thermostatically controlled valve 26, such as are commercially available. The thermostatically controlled valve 26 has a preset temperature, or the temperature the water in the vessel 16 must reach before the valve 26 opens. Thus, the heated water 42 within the vessel 16 travels out of the vessel 16 through the thermostatically controlled valve 26 positioned at the outlet 40 when the heated water 42 reaches the preset temperature of the thermostatically controlled valve 26. The heated water 42 travels out of the vessel 16 and along the flow path 44 toward the heated water storage tank 36 when the thermostatically controlled valve 26 opens. Heated water 42 moved without the vessel 16 through the thermostatically controlled valve 26 is simultaneously replaced by water from the pressurized water source 30.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged, isolated view of the condenser coil taken at line 3-3 in FIG. 1. FIG. 3 shows radially extending fins 24 on the condenser coil 20. The coils 20 facilitate the transfer of heat from the heated refrigerant gas 14 from cooling system 12 into the water 42 contained within the vessel 16. Thus, the heated refrigerant gas 14 from the cooling system 12 enters the vessel 16 at a temperature associated with the heated refrigerant gas from the cooling system 12. The heat from the heated refrigerant gas 14 is transferred into the water 42 within the vessel 16 thereby allowing the heated refrigerant gas 14 to return to the cooling system 12 at or near the temperature of the water from the water source 30. Similarly, water from the water source 30 is heated to the temperature of the heated refrigerant gas 14 from the cooling system 12 and stored in the heated water storage tank 36. The pressure reducer 32 controls the pressure of the heated water 14 in the vessel 16. The thermostatically controlled valve 26 controls the flow of heated water 42 from within the vessel 16 and along the flow path 44 toward the heated water storage tank 36. In addition, the thermostatically controlled valve 26 controls the flow of water from the water source 30 into the vessel 16.

D. Controlled Flow

FIG. 1 diagrams a thermostatically controlled valve 26 sitting atop the vessel and in fluid communication with the water 42 inside the vessel 16, the outlet 40 of the vessel 16 and the insulated 48 piping used to transport water 42 from within the vessel 16 to the heated water storage tank 36. The thermostatically controlled valve 26 is integral to the operation of the heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system. The valve 26 is similar to other commercially available thermostatic valves in features and operation. The temperature at which the valve 26 opens allowing water 42 to pass through it is preset by the user. Thus, if it is desirable that the valve 26 opens when the water 42 in the vessel 16 reaches 120° F., the user presets the valve 26 to open at 120° F. Because the valve's 26 operation depends solely on the water 42 temperature in the vessel 16, the heat extraction and recovery process occurs on-demand, or when the temperature of the water 42 in the vessel 16 reaches the preset temperature of the thermostatically controlled valve 26. Once the valve 26 temperature has been specified by the user/operator, the process of extracting and recovering heat occurs independent of human intervention, supervision, calibration or maintenance. By way of example, heated refrigerant from the refrigeration system 12 travels through the vessel 16 by entering the coils 20 through the inlet 18 positioned at the top of the vessel 16. The heated refrigerant progresses through the coils 20 downward into the vessel 16 and exits the outlet 22 positioned near the bottom of the vessel 16 ultimately returning to the refrigeration system 12. Water 42 near the top of the vessel 16 is heated first as the heated refrigerant enters the vessel 16; the temperature of the water 42 near the bottom of the vessel 16 is approximately at or near the temperature of the water source (e.g., ˜60° F.). The heated refrigerant continues downward through the coils 20 transferring heat to the surrounding water. The water 42 near the middle and toward the bottom of the vessel 16 rises to the top of the vessel 16 as it absorbs heat from the coils 26. Similarly, the temperature of the refrigerant in the coils 20 decreases as heat is transferred from the refrigerant into the water 42 and as the refrigerant approaches the bottom of the vessel 16. It is possible that the refrigerant temperature approaches the water 42 temperature (e.g., ˜60° F.) as the refrigerant exits the bottom of the vessel 16 and is returned to the refrigeration system 12. The transfer of heat from the refrigerant to the water 42 causes the water 42 to rise in temperature, thereby migrating to the top of the vessel 16 near the thermostatically controlled valve 26. The amount of heat transfer or the rate at which the water temperature in the vessel 16 rises to or near the heated refrigerant gas temperature is a function of the heat transfer rate between the water 42 and the heated refrigerant in the condenser coils 20. Increasing the number of coils, fins (FIG. 3) and/or flowrate of water 42 passing through the vessel 16 increases the rate of heat transfer and subsequently the rate at which the water temperature in the vessel 16 rises. Thus, the thermostatically controlled valve 26 may open only slightly to allow heated water 42 to exit the vessel 16 if the heat transfer rate is minimal and the water temperature is but slowly rising. Conversely, the thermostatically controlled valve 16 may partially or fully open if the heat transfer rate is moderate or high and the water temperature 42 in the vessel 16 is rapidly rising. Nevertheless, in any case, whether the thermostatically controlled valve 26 is slightly, partially or fully open, water from the water source under minimal pressure simultaneously enters the vessel at the inlet 28 replacing/replenishing the heated water having exited the vessel 16 through the thermostatically controlled valve 26. The thermostatically controlled valve 26 being proportionally openable based on the temperature of the water, in the vessel 16. The pressure of the water 42 in the vessel 16 being sufficiently minimal so as to not open the thermostatically controlled valve 16 using water pressure, but adequate to urge the water 42 out of the vessel when the valve 26 opens because the water 42 in the vessel 16 reaches the preset temperature of the valve 26. Thus, the thermostatically controlled valve 26 delivers a controlled simultaneous flow of heated water out of and cool water into the vessel 16. In other words, the thermostatically controlled valve 26 facilitates the regenerative heating process by transferring heat from the condenser coil 20 to the water 42 within the vessel 16 that is dispensed through the valve 26 and subsequently replaced/replenished with water from the water source 30. Similarly, heat may be transferred from the condenser coil 20 to the water 42 in the vessel 16 but at such a limited rate so as to not open the valve 26 thereby allowing the system to remain passive until such time the temperature of the water 42 matches/exceeds the preset temperature of the valve 26.

As can be appreciated, the size of vessel 16 can vary according to desire and need. In one version of the exemplary embodiment, relatively low-pressure municipal water at a relatively cool temperature is input into the vessel 16 at or near bottom section of vessel 16. Thermostatically controlled valve 26 either blocks or, in a controlled manner, releases water from the top of vessel 16. Therefore, without any pumps, complex valving, motors, or other complex circuitry or combinations, constant supply relative low-pressure water is available to push water higher up in vessel 16, once heated to a sufficient level as controlled by thermostatically controlled valve 26, out the top of vessel 16. Thus, the hottest water, at the top of vessel 16 where the hottest refrigerant gas within the condenser 20 enters, is always the first to be pushed through valve 26. The vertical placement of condenser coil 20 with optional fins 24 is designed to extract as much heat as possible from condenser coil 20 and then, in a controlled flow manner, remove heated water from vessel 16. This is the “controlled flow” aspect of heat extraction.

For example, if valve 26 does not sense a temperature to open, it would remain closed. Water that is in fill tank 16 would reside there indefinitely. However, once valve 26 opens, water exceeding the opening temperature of valve 26 is thus “recovered” from the refrigeration unit 12. Simultaneously, cooler supply water, by its pressure, enters the vessel 16 and replaces the removed heated water. Thus, valve 26 can operate to let a lot of water out of tank 16 or a little bit, or none. In any event, it is essentially an automatic controlled flow system of extracting heat and recovering heat in water.

FIG. 1 shows the majority of the coils of the condenser coil 20 being positioned near the top of the vessel 16. From FIG. 1 it can be appreciated that the refrigerant within the condenser 20 leaves the vessel 16 at the bottom having been in contact with the water in the vessel 16 for a longer period than the refrigerant just entering at the top 18 of the vessel 16. Thus, by calculation, the necessary number of coils could be calculated to control the retention time of the refrigerant within the vessel 16 or the time the refrigerant spends in contact with the water. For example, if the water entering from the water source is 56° F. and the water exiting the vessel 16 is 136° F., as preset into the thermostatically controlled valve 26, than there is a rise of 80° F. in temperature of the exiting water. Thus, the necessary flow water through the vessel 16 to achieve an 800 rise in temperature can be calculated. It is known that a one-ton refrigeration system has a 12,000 BTU per hour capacity, so a 12-ton has a 240,000 BTU/hour capacity, which equates to 4,000 BTU per minute. If one pound of water has the capacity to carry off 80 BTU, than 50 pounds of water per minute would be necessary to carry of the 4,000 BTU per minute produced by a 20-ton refrigeration system. The 50 pounds of water per minute equates to 6.25 gallons per minute. Keeping the water 42 in the vessel 16 for 20 minutes would require a vessel 16 capable of holding 125 gallons of water. Keeping the water 42 in the vessel 16 for 20 minutes would allow the temperature of the refrigerant to be near the temperature of the water 42 at the bottom of the vessel 16 or near the temperature of the water 42 from the water source 30 before being circulated back to the refrigeration system 12. Similarly, if the temperature difference between the incoming and outgoing water were 60° F., then the system would require 66.6 pounds of water per minute to carry off the 4,000 BTU produced by the 20-ton refrigeration unit. Using the pounds of water requirement, the necessary number of coils, including the required retention time of the water within the vessel 16 can be determined.

The level of pressure of water in most municipal water supplies is well-know. Pressure reducer 32 can further reduce the pressure according to desire and need based on the size and configuration of the system. One of ordinary skill in the art can select the pressure and the necessary pressure reduction. The type and specifications of the valve 26 can furthermore be selected by one of ordinary skill in the art to meet the requirements of the particular system.

In the exemplary embodiment, it is to be understood that the temperature of the heated water released from tank 16 may not be extremely hot. However, it is fairly hot compared to the source water. Depending upon the efficiency of heat extraction and heat exchange, in this example, if the coolant and condenser 20 is 120° F., the heated water out of tank 16 may be close to that temperature. A subtlety of the system is that even though it might not produce very hot water, any heating of source water by the extraction and recovery of heat from the refrigeration system would save energy otherwise needed to heat the water to a hot temperature.

It should further be understood that it is usually desirable that heat insulation be applied to the system. This would include any exposed parts of condenser coil 20, vessel 16, flow paths 44, etc.

Again, it is emphasized, that heat is extracted and sent to a recovery output without moving parts, motors, pumps, electrical equipment and the like. The system would be relatively quiet because of the absence of these types of things.

FIG. 1 shows an alternative supply water methodology to simply hooking into municipal water or the like. An elevated water tank 34 having a valve 50 and attached float control 52, of a capacity as needed or desired, would simply provide water directly to the bottom of vessel 16 at a relatively low pressure. This could eliminate connection to someone else's water supply and the need for pressure reducer 32. Still alternatively, it is possible that a municipal water supply could be connected to elevated water tank 34 to re-supply it from time to time.

E. Hot Water Recovery Subsystem

As shown in FIG. 2, heated water released from vessel 16 can be recovered and stored in heated water storage tank 36. As can be appreciated, heated water storage tank 36 can be of a size as needed or desired. As indicated on the left side of tank 36 in FIG. 2, an outlet with a valve could be opened to remove the heated water for use. As can be appreciated, the heated water itself could be used (e.g., for hygiene purposes, washing, and the like). Alternatively, it could be further heated within a water heater as is commercially available. It is again emphasized that the heat extraction and recovery in the heated water uses the available heat as an output of the refrigeration system 12 and thus does not require any energy resources to heat it to that level. Even if it needs to be heated further, with the intended energy costs, a savings would be realized by avoiding energy costs to get it to the temperature in heated water storage tank 36.

Still further, by any number of means such as are well-known in the art, the heat from the heated water in heated water storage tank 36 could be extracted and used for other purposes. For example, heat could be radiated for heating outbuildings or even homes or machinery and the like.

The heated water storage tank 36 has a floating insulator disk that sits atop the water line in the tank 36 to preserve heat within the heated water 38. Additionally, the entire tank 36 would be insulated thermally.

F. Method of Operation

The method of operation has been substantially described above. Relatively cooler water from a suitable water source fills vessel 16. If thermostatically controlled valve 26 senses water in tank 16 has reached certain predetermined temperature by transferring heat from condenser coil 20 into the water 42, the thermostatically controlled valve 26 opens in a controlled flow manner. The heated water in the vessel 16 is pushed out by the water that automatically comes in from the bottom of tank 16 from the pressurized water source until valve 26 closes when the water 42 within the vessel 16 drops below its preset temperature. This process would repeat automatically. Heated water would be sent to hot water storage tank 36 or whatever use is needed or desired. The system basically therefore automatically reloads water into vessel 16 and can operate at a continuously controlled, relatively high-level of filling heated water tank 36 if the parameters are met. On the other hand it could have relatively slow controlled flow of heated water to tank 36. So further, it could release some heated water, valve 26 could close completely, and the system would wait until the water is heated to the preset temperature of the thermostatically controlled valve 26 and remove a little more.

As will be appreciated, the system works a little bit like a cooling system for internal combustion engines of automobiles. The thermostat in an internal combustion engine coolant system regulates the flow of coolant to keep the engine running at an optimal temperature. The thermostat lets out coolant that has exceeded a threshold point so that cooler coolant can come back in and maintain a desired temperature level of the engine. It is important to understand that in this present exemplary embodiment, the thermostatically controlled flow from vessel 16 has, as a significant benefit, a practical and effective way of extracting heat from condenser coil 20 on a continuous basis without the expense of energy costs. This controlled regulated flow actually can help the coolant or refrigeration system 12 operate more efficiently. Regardless of temperature or other environmental conditions, heat is extracted in a regulated manner to try to get as much heat out of the heated refrigerant gas in the condenser coil 20 as possible to return cooler refrigerant gas to the refrigeration system to help it operate efficiently.

But additionally, the combination of heat extraction subsystem and hot water storage subsystem together not only extract heat to help efficient operation of the refrigeration system 12 but recover heat to be put to beneficial use. Again, this is all without moving parts, energy-using machines, complex structure, and the like.

G. Options and Alternatives

As can be appreciated, the invention can take many different configurations. Variations obvious to those skilled in the art will be included within the invention.

For example, as mentioned, the specific components can be selected according to need and desire. The scale of the systems can be designed according to skill of those skilled in the art. Certain optimization techniques can be used. For example, the amount of insulation used with the components and number of coils and fins on the condenser can vary. Practicalities would be taken into account.

The water source 30 may consist of a city water mainline, a well mainline or some other suitable water source. The average ground water temperature is representative of the average temperature of the water coming from the water source 30 whether a city water, well water mainline or some other suitable water source. To prevent heat loss in the system, heat insulation 48 is used on the vessel 16, the flow path 44 between the vessel 16 and the heated water storage tank 36. In addition, heat insulation 48 is used on the flow path 44 of the heated refrigerant gas 14 from the cooling system 12 into the vessel 16 to preserve heat within the heated refrigerant gas 14. Heat insulation is also used on all the other lines to keep the temperature of the water near the temperature of the water from the water source 30.

The heated water storage tank 36 could be centrally located main storage tanks for distribution to other points or could be modular tanks situated near a point of use.

The cooling apparatus, method and system increases heating and cooling efficiencies. Refrigeration systems 12 often waste hot air to the atmosphere in order to cool the refrigerant within the system. The apparatus, method and system uses the waste heat from the cooling system 12 for a beneficial purpose. First, the waste heat from the refrigeration system 12 is used to heat water to the temperature of the heated refrigerant within the refrigeration system 12. The heated water 42 has the potential of reaching the temperature of the heated refrigerant gas of the refrigeration system 12. For example, the heated water 42 in the vessel 16 could reach 120° F. if this is the temperature of the heated refrigerant gas 14 of the cooling system 12. This heated water 42 has many beneficial uses. The heated water 42 could be stored at modular or centrally located points for distribution as needed. Additionally, the heated water 42 could be further heated within a water heater thereby substantially reducing the overall utility requirement to heat the water. For example, if the average water temperature is 60° F. the utility requirement necessary to heat the 60° water within the hot water heater to 180° F. is significantly higher then the utility requirement needed to heat the heated water 42 within the vessel 16 already at a temperature of 120° F. Secondly, the cooling system 12 is able to run more efficiently as the refrigerant is cooled within the vessel 16 to near the temperature of the water from the water source 30. For example, if the average water temperature is 65° F., the refrigerant in the condenser coil 20 is capable of being cooled to 65° F. or the temperature of the water from the water source 30. The controlled flow heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system 10 is preferably designed for utilizing waste heat from refrigeration systems used at large cold storage and food processing plants.

The controlled flow heat extraction and recovery apparatus, method and system offers many other numerous advantages. The apparatus, method and system has no pumps, fans, blowers, electronics requirement and/or manual valves. Its operation is nearly inaudible as the thermostatically controlled valve controls the flow of heat extraction and recovery. It also needs little maintenance, supervision and/or calibration and because of its scalability it is economically feasible to extract and recover heat from refrigeration systems of varying BTU capacity. The apparatus, method and system significantly decrease the utility requirement of pre-existing water heating systems as well as cooling systems.

These and other options, variations, are all within the spirit and scope of the invention.