Title:
BUILT-IN REFRIGERATOR WITH INCREASED INTERNAL VOLUME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a refrigerator to be built into surrounding cabinetry having a body having a cavity for food preservation, at least two thin side panels, a thin top panel, and at least one thin front panel. The side panels, top panel, and front panel have a finish that matches the surrounding cabinetry and are removably mounted to the body, thereby maintaining the original volume and structural stiffness of the refrigerator.



Inventors:
Luisi, Armando (VARESE, IT)
Casoli, Fiorenzo (VERGIATE, IT)
Application Number:
11/775910
Publication Date:
01/17/2008
Filing Date:
07/11/2007
Assignee:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION (BENTON HARBOR, MI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/406
International Classes:
F25D23/12; A47B96/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
LOFFREDO, JUSTIN E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION - MD 3601 (BENTON HARBOR, MI, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A refrigerator to be built into surrounding cabinetry, comprising: a body having a cavity for food preservation; at least two thin side panels; a thin top panel; and at least one thin front panel, wherein the side panels, top panel, and front panel have a finish that matches the surrounding cabinetry and are removably mounted to the body, thereby maintaining the original volume and structural stiffness of the refrigerator.

2. The refrigerator of claim 1, wherein the side panels have vertical rod-shaped mounting elements adapted to be installed between the side panels and the body, thereby allowing the side panels to have a reduced thickness.

3. The refrigerator of claim 3, wherein the mounting elements are provided on the side panels to substantially align with each vertical corner of the body.

4. The refrigerator of claim 3, wherein the side panels have one front mounting element placed in a corresponding recess of the body and one rear mounting element placed on a rear wall of the body.

5. The refrigerator of claim 4, wherein the side panels directly contact the body.

6. The refrigerator of claim 1, wherein the front panel is hingedly connected to a rod-shaped mounting element provided between the side panels and the body.

7. The refrigerator of claim 2, wherein the side panels are fixed to the body via screws.

8. The refrigerator of claim 1, wherein the body comprises side walls adapted to be supported directly by the floor.

9. The refrigerator of claim 1, further comprising a tray-shaped compartment fixed to the bottom of the body and adapted to contain a compressor, condenser, and fan.

10. A refrigerator to be built into surrounding cabinetry, comprising: a cabinet defined by a top wall, rear wall, bottom wall, and side walls, wherein the bottom wall has a cut-out defining a support edge; and a body adapted to slide into the cabinet and having a cavity for food preservation, wherein the body is supported by adjustable legs on the support edge.

11. The refrigerator of claim 10, further comprising a compartment provided below the bottom wall of the cabinet.

12. The refrigerator of claim 11, wherein the compartment is fixed to a bottom of the body.

13. The refrigerator of claim 11, wherein the compartment is adapted to contain functional components of the refrigerator.

14. The refrigerator of claim 13, wherein the functional components include a compressor, condenser, and fan.

15. The refrigerator of claim 13, further comprising a louver mounted to the front of the cabinet over the compartment to provide ventilation for the functional components.

16. The refrigerator of claim 15, further comprising a structural crossbar mounted to the cabinet.

17. The refrigerator of claim 13, wherein the location of the functional components allows for an increase in internal volume of the cavity.

18. The refrigerator of claim 10, wherein the cabinet has a finish that matches the surrounding cabinetry.

19. A built-in refrigerator comprising: a body having a cavity for food preservation; at least two side panels; a top panel; at least one front panel; and a compartment fixed to the bottom of the body and adapted to contain a compressor, condenser, and fan, wherein the side panels, top panel, and front panel have a finish that matches surrounding cabinetry and are removably mounted to the body, thereby maintaining the original volume and structural stiffness of the refrigerator.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a refrigerating appliance and more specifically to a refrigerator that is built into a cabinet of a kitchen.

2. Description of the Related Art

It is well known in the art of refrigerating appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, that there is a consumer benefit to having built-in refrigerators that are installed to match surrounding cabinetry. In this situation, the refrigerator is installed much like a piece of furniture, as an integral part of the kitchen or other room. However, a disadvantage of built-in refrigerators and freezers is the reduced volume of the food conservation cavities, since such volume is not only decreased by the thickness of the insulation walls of the refrigerator body, but also by the thickness of the cabinet walls in which the built-in refrigerator has to be installed in order to match the cabinets. The width of a typical built-in refrigerator body is at least 50 mm narrower than a free-standing refrigerator having the same footprint on the floor. Thus, a significant amount of internal space is lost for a built-in refrigerator or freezer. As a result, it would be desirable to improve the construction of built-in refrigerators by providing them with an increased cavity volume.

One prior art example of increasing the volume of the refrigerator body is to increase its height. However, this creates a problem with the inaccessibility of food products placed on the upper shelves of the cavity.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the present invention is directed to a built-in refrigerator having an increased internal volume in comparison with typical built-in refrigerators.

One embodiment of the invention is a refrigerator to be built into surrounding cabinetry having a body having a cavity for food preservation, at least two thin side panels, a thin top panel, and at least one thin front panel. The side panels, top panel, and front panel have a finish that matches the surrounding cabinetry and are removably mounted to the body, thereby maintaining the original volume and structural stiffness of the refrigerator.

The side panels may have vertical rod-shaped mounting elements adapted to be installed between the side panels and the body, thereby allowing the side panels to have a reduced thickness. The mounting elements may be provided on the side panels to substantially align with each vertical corner of the body. The side panels may have one front mounting element placed in a corresponding recess of the body and one rear mounting element placed on a rear wall of the body. The side panels may directly contact the body.

The front panel may be hingedly connected to a rod-shaped mounting element provided between the side panels and the body. The side panels may be fixed to the body via screws. The side walls may be adapted to be supported directly by the floor.

The refrigerator may further include a tray-shaped compartment fixed to the bottom of the body and adapted to contain a compressor, condenser, and fan.

A second embodiment of the invention is a refrigerator to be built into surrounding cabinetry having a cabinet defined by a top wall, rear wall, bottom wall, and side walls, wherein the bottom wall has a cut-out defining a support edge, and a body adapted to slide into the cabinet and having a cavity for food preservation. The body is supported by adjustable legs on the support edge.

The refrigerator may include a compartment provided below the bottom wall of the cabinet. The compartment may be fixed to a bottom of the body. The compartment may be adapted to contain functional components of the refrigerator, including a compressor, condenser, and fan. The location of the functional components allows for an increase in internal volume of the cavity.

The refrigerator may further include a louver and a structural crossbar mounted to the front of the cabinet over the compartment to allow ventilation for the functional components.

The cabinet may have a finish that matches the surrounding cabinetry.

Another embodiment of the invention is a built-in refrigerator having a body having a cavity for food preservation, at least two side panels, a top panel, at least one front panel, and a compartment fixed to the bottom of the body and adapted to contain a compressor, condenser, and fan. The side panels, top panel, and front panel have a finish that matches surrounding cabinetry and are removably mounted to the body, thereby maintaining the original volume and structural stiffness of the refrigerator.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention and the embodiments thereof will be explained in the following detailed description, with reference to the drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of a refrigerator according to a first embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the refrigerator in FIG. 1, in which the door and the bottom grill have been removed;

FIG. 3 is a horizontal cross section of the refrigerator in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of a cabinet for a refrigerator according to a second embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 5 is a side cross section of a second embodiment of the refrigerator, showing components installed in the cabinet of FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With initial reference to FIGS. 1-3, a first embodiment of the present invention is shown. As illustrated, the internal volume of the refrigerator is increased by combining thin panels that aesthetically match the kitchen cabinets with the original cabinet body. Thus, the original internal volume and structural stiffness is maintained while still providing the built-in feature through the thin panels. According to this embodiment, the kitchen cabinet is only a “virtual” one. As shown in FIG. 1, two vertical thin side panels 10 have two mounting pillars—one on the front side, indicated with reference 12, and the other on the back side, indicated with reference 14. In addition to side panels 10, a top panel 16 completes the cabinet or “column”. The side panels 10 and the top panel 16 may be directly fixed on the lateral walls of the refrigerator body 11 by screws 18 that are flush with the surface of the refrigerator body. Alternatively, other fastening mechanisms, such as glue, may be used. The screws 18 may be inserted through the pillars 12 and 14, and the heads thereof are hidden in a known manner. For instance, the heads may be concealed by one or more plugs. When installed, the top panel 16 lies on top of the lateral panels 10. Doors 20 are hingedly connected to the front pillars 12. The finish of the visible sides of the panels 10, front pillars 12, and the doors 20 is the same of the rest of the cabinetry.

The body 11 of the refrigerator may have two bottom extensions 22 that replace the “legs” of the traditional cabinet or column. The extensions 22 may rest directly on the floor. A ventilation grid may be attached to the front of the extensions 22 for ventilation of the sealed system.

Each of the front vertical corners of the refrigerator cabinet have a recess 26 to accommodate the front pillars 12. As shown in FIG. 3, the back pillars 14 lay on the back side of the back vertical corners 28 of the refrigerator body 11. Thus, each thin panel 10 may be in direct contact with the vertical surfaces of the refrigerator body 11 when the thin panels 10 are installed. Due to this configuration, the width of the refrigerator cabinet increases more than 50 mm, which results in an increase in the internal volume of the cabinet. More specifically, the increase in volume for a built-in refrigerator with a height of approximately 1750 mm is around 40 litres.

With reference to FIGS. 4 and 5, a second embodiment of the invention is shown. In this embodiment, the cabinet, as far as the thickness of the side panels is concerned, is similar to the typical cabinets used for built-in refrigerators. Typically, the refrigerator body of a built-in domestic refrigerating appliance has the same structure and configuration as that of a free standing refrigerator. In this configuration, the condensing unit may be on the back of the refrigerator body and the compressor may be provided in a space under the refrigerator cavity. Furthermore, the compressor may be supported by a mounting plate located at the same level of the bottom side of the cabinet. The built-in refrigerator body may be mounted in a base plate of the surrounding cabinetry. Since the base plate of the cabinetry is usually approximately 160 to 300 mm from the floor, there may be a decrease in the internal volume of the built-in refrigerator in comparison with a free standing refrigerator of the same height, assuming that the two cabinets have the same width and depth.

According to the second embodiment of the invention, a base plate is provided near the bottom of the cabinet 100. The base plate may have a cut-out 102 that occupies most of its surface. The cut-out 102 defines a generally U-shaped edge 106 on which the refrigerator body 11 is supported by adjustable legs or levellers 108. The refrigerator body 11 is adapted to slide into the cabinet 100 and may be fixed in the same way of a traditional built-in refrigerator. The dimension of the cut-out may be slightly greater than the dimensions of a tray-shaped bottom compartment 104, as shown in FIG. 5, provided in the bottom of the refrigerator body 11. The size of the compartment may be slightly less than the footprint of the refrigerator body. For example, for a refrigerator body footprint of 540×540 mm, the compartment 104 may be around 450×500 mm with a height of around 160 mm. The compartment contains the functional components of the refrigerator, such as a condenser 110, a compressor 112 and a cooling fan 114. A louver 115 may be mounted on the front of the cabinet 100 to allow ventilation for the condenser and compressor. Moreover a structural crossbar 116 is mounted on the cabinet 100 in order to secure the front sides of the cabinet and to provide structural stiffness.

According to this second embodiment of the invention, the cavity of the refrigerator is at least 50 mm deeper than in the usual configuration for a built-in refrigerator. For example, for a refrigerator having of height of approximately 1.8 m, the internal volume increases by about 35-40 litres. Since the compressor 112 is installed in the same cavity with the condenser 110, it is possible to eliminate the additional space required for the compressor 112 that typically protrudes inside the refrigerator body. This accounts for an internal volume increase of about 10 litres.

While the present invention has been described with reference to the above described embodiments, those of skill in the art will recognize that changes may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.