Title:
WATERFALL WATERJET WITH REMOVABLE BAFFLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A waterfall apparatus for producing an artificial waterfall having a waterfall apparatus including a chamber, an inlet for water into the waterfall apparatus, a primary outlet having an opening to allow water to flow out of the waterfall apparatus in a waterfall configuration, an attachment means for attaching the waterfall apparatus to a sidewall of a spa; and a removable baffle means located between the inlet and the outlet for more evenly distributing the water flowing out of the waterfall apparatus.



Inventors:
Li, Hong Charles (Peachtree City, GA, US)
Vogtner, Zachary T. (Atlanta, GA, US)
Wooten, Russell D. (Oxford, GA, US)
Moore, Robert D. (Tyrone, GA, US)
Drury, William J. (Peachtree City, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/458571
Publication Date:
02/14/2008
Filing Date:
07/19/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H4/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LE, HUYEN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BARNES & THORNBURG LLP (AT) (Indianapolis, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A waterfall apparatus for producing an artificial waterfall comprising: a) a waterfall apparatus including at least one chamber; b) at least one inlet for water into the waterfall apparatus; c) at least one primary outlet having an opening to allow water to flow out of the waterfall apparatus in a waterfall configuration; d) at least one attachment means for attaching the waterfall apparatus to a sidewall of a spa; and e) at least one baffle plate located between the inlet and the outlet for more evenly distributing the water flowing out of the waterfall apparatus wherein the baffle plate is at least partially removable from the waterfall apparatus.

2. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 1, wherein the baffle plate can be slid from a closed position wherein the baffle plate is located substantially inside of the waterfall apparatus to an open position wherein the baffle plate is located substantially outside of the waterfall apparatus.

3. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 2, wherein the waterfall apparatus further comprises at least one track for guiding the baffle plate and the baffle plate comprises at least one pin for cooperating with the at least one track in guiding the baffle plate.

4. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 3, further comprising a stop for preventing the baffle plate from being fully removed from the waterfall apparatus.

5. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 3, further comprising a stop for allowing the baffle plate to pivot when the baffle plate is in the open position.

6. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 1, wherein the waterfall apparatus is structured such that only the inlet and the attachment means are located on a dry side of the spa, with the remainder of the waterfall apparatus being located within the spa.

7. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 6, wherein the inlet and the attachment means are round and are installed through round holes cut in the sidewall of the spa.

8. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 7, further comprising fastening means for fixing the waterfall apparatus to the sidewall of the spa.

9. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 1, wherein the attachment means is a threaded portion of the inlet and the fastening means is a threaded nut that screws onto the threaded portion of the inlet.

10. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 1, further comprising two attachment means.

11. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 1, wherein the at least one chamber transiently collects the water and transfers the water through the at least one baffle means to a second chamber, and the second chamber channels the water to and through the primary outlet.

12. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 1, further including a means of illuminating the waterfall.

13. A waterfall apparatus for producing an artificial waterfall comprising: a) a waterfall apparatus including a first chamber and a second chamber; b) at least one inlet for water into the waterfall apparatus; c) at least one primary outlet having an opening to allow water to flow out of the waterfall apparatus in a waterfall configuration; d) at least one attachment means for attaching the waterfall apparatus to a sidewall of a spa; and e) a baffle plate located between the first chamber and the second chamber for more evenly distributing the water flowing out of the waterfall apparatus wherein the baffle plate is at least partially removable from the waterfall apparatus and can be slid from a closed position wherein the baffle plate is located substantially inside of the waterfall apparatus to an open position wherein the baffle plate is located substantially outside of the waterfall apparatus.

14. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 13, wherein the waterfall apparatus further comprises at least one track for guiding the baffle plate and the baffle plate comprises at least one pin for cooperating with the at least one track in guiding the baffle plate.

15. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 14, further comprising a stop for preventing the baffle plate from being fully removed from the waterfall apparatus.

16. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 14, further comprising a stop for allowing the baffle plate to pivot when the baffle plate is in the open position.

17. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 13, wherein the waterfall apparatus is structured such that only the inlet and the attachment means are located on a dry side of the spa, with the reminder of the waterfall apparatus being located within the spa.

18. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 17, wherein the inlet and the attachment means are round and are installed through round holes cut in the sidewall of the spa.

19. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 13, further comprising fastening means for fixing the waterfall apparatus to the sidewall of the spa.

20. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 19, wherein the attachment means is a threaded portion of the inlet and the fastening means is a threaded nut that screws onto the threaded portion of the inlet.

21. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 13, wherein the first chamber transiently collects the water and transfers the water through at least one baffle positioned through the baffle plate to a second chamber, and the second chamber channels the water to and through the primary outlet.

22. The waterfall apparatus as claimed in claim 13, further including a means of illuminating the waterfall.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention generally is in the field of devices for generating waterfalls, and more particularly is in the field of devices for generating aesthetically pleasing waterfalls in spas, swimming pools, tubs and the like. The present invention further relates to a more cost efficient design and installation system for waterfall apparatus in spas, swimming pools, tubs, and the like, that includes a removable baffle structure so that debris, sediment and deposits trapped inside or on the interior surface of the waterfall apparatus may be removed from the waterfall apparatus.

2. Prior Art

Few applications derive more benefit from the addition of waterfalls or fountains than artificial bodies of water such as spas, swimming pools, and tubs. The popularity of waterfalls and fountains in such structures is probably associated with the numerous aesthetic and practical applications that make waterfalls desirable. More specifically, the addition of a waterfall or fountain to an artificial body of water can provide a substantial decorative effect or can provide a relaxing background sound, generated from the water flow. As such, users and owners of artificial bodies of water often desire the addition of waterfalls or fountains.

Many existing waterfall apparatuses are generally custom-made for each particular artificial body of water. That is, such waterfall apparatuses must be sized and configured to fit a specific water structure. Often, the waterfall apparatus must be integrated into the circulation and filtration system with additional materials, and they involve an array of plumbing and molding techniques. In some cases, such a waterfall apparatus must have an independent filtering system and cleaning system so that the waterfall apparatus does not become plugged with debris. As such, prior art waterfall apparatuses tend to be relatively costly, difficult to install, and/or impossible to maintain.

A typical problem experienced by the conventional waterfall apparatus is that debris and sediment become trapped. Such entrapment typically occurs in one of two fashions: (1) debris including small particles of wood, plastic, metal and other particles, often from the original installation or from the water source, become trapped behind the screens, baffles or other waterfall parts; or (2) when the water flow encounters obstructions in the flow, sediment falls out of the waterflow onto the bottom of the interior of the waterfall apparatus. This debris can build up inside the waterfall apparatus and on the baffles and affect the operation of the waterfall apparatus. Further, minerals and other component of less than pure water can deposit and build up on the interior surfaces of the waterfall apparatus, including on the baffles, thus affecting the water flow through the waterfall apparatus, and ultimately the resulting waterfall shape or effect.

Accordingly, there is a need for a waterfall apparatus that allows for the addition of a waterfall to an artificial body of water, such as a spa, swimming pool, tub or the like with a minimum of manufacturing and installation costs. There is also a need for such a waterfall apparatus to be able to be integrated into a spa, swimming pool, tub or the like without excessively disrupting or interfering with the existing filtering system. There is a further need for a waterfall apparatus that has a means for removing debris, sediment and deposits that may become trapped in or accumulate on the interior surfaces of the waterfall apparatus. It is to these needs and others that the present invention is directed.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly described, the present invention is a waterfall apparatus that produces a waterfall into a spa, swimming pool, tub, reservoir, or the like, and that incorporates a removable baffle so that debris trapped inside the waterfall apparatus can be flushed out. More specifically described, the present invention provides a structure and means for maintaining the interior baffles of a waterfall apparatus by allowing the easy and quick removal of the baffle from the waterfall apparatus without removing the waterfall apparatus from the spa wall or having to access behind the spa wall. For simplicity, spas, swimming pools, tubs or the like, and all such reservoirs, and artificial bodies of water, together or separately will be referred to as spas or a spa.

A representative waterfall apparatus that can comprise the invention generally is a waterfall apparatus that can be installed on or proximal to the edge or a spa to provide for the addition of an aesthetically pleasing and decorative waterfall that flows into a spa. In the waterfall apparatus, water from a water source flows into the interior hollow or manifold of the waterfall apparatus and is discharged through a waterfall slot/primary outlet into the spa. Because the waterfall apparatus can be placed above the surface of the water in the spa on the upper edge of the spa wall, the waterfall can be a smooth flow of falling water extending from the waterfall apparatus to the surface of the water in the spa.

The representative waterfall apparatus of the present invention generally comprises an inlet, a flow/outlet selector, baffles to remove turbulence and debris from the water, and a primary outlet for creating the waterfall. When the waterfall apparatus is in the assembled condition, that is when the various components are installed in the spa, the representative waterfall apparatus can appear as a generally continuous shaped structure with the waterfall slot/primary outlet in the center of the waterfall waterjet.

In one embodiment, the representative waterfall apparatus comprises a first chamber and a second chamber, separated by the baffles (alternatively called dividers) through which water flows. The baffles primarily remove turbulence from the water and secondarily can function as a screen to prevent debris from becoming lodged in other parts of the waterfall apparatus or being ejected into the spa. The configuration of the baffles is variable, and they can have one or more distribution slots for allowing the passage of water between the first (inlet) chamber and the second (outlet) chamber of the waterfall apparatus. The first chamber preferably is a manifold structure intended for evenly distributing the water entering the waterfall apparatus within the first chamber and the second chamber preferably is structured for channeling the water through the primary outlet. Preferably, the baffles divide the interior of the waterfall apparatus such that only the second chamber has direct access to the primary outlet that creates the waterfall into the spa. The baffles can be a single slot or a series of smaller slots or holes running approximately the length of the waterfall apparatus. Further, the waterfall apparatus will function even if there are no baffles, though it is likely that the waterfall will exhibit more turbulence.

In the present invention, the baffle section of the waterfall apparatus can be removed from the overall housing of the waterfall apparatus for cleaning and removal of trapped debris, sediment and deposits. In a first embodiment, the baffles, specifically a baffle plate, can be slid into and out of the housing along a track. In a second embodiment, the baffle plate also can be slid along a track; however the track has stops preventing the baffle plate from being completely removed from the housing, such that the baffle plate hangs from the bottom (or the selected position depending on the construction of the housing) or the housing. In a third embodiment, the baffle plate also can be slid along a track and the track also has stops preventing the baffle plate from being completely removed from the housing; however, the track and stops are structured such that the baffle plate can pivot or swing from the bottom (or the selected position depending on the construction of the housing) of the housing.

In the representative waterfall apparatus, the baffle plate is a generally rectangular vertically oriented plate having slots, holes or other pass-throughs therethrough such that the water can flow in a generally horizontal flow from the first chamber to the second chamber through the baffles. The waterfall apparatus housing is constructed to support the baffle plate in such an orientation, and in common waterfall apparatuses, the baffles or the baffle plate is a part of at least secured to the interior of the housing and cannot be moved or removed. In the present invention, the interior of the housing has vertical slots or tracks into which the movable baffle plate fits, such that the baffle plate can be slid down and out of the housing in the cleaning position and up and into the housing in the working position.

The flow of water through the waterfall apparatus occurs through regular fluid dynamics. The water may be recirculated as in most spa settings or the water may be provided from a separate water source such as a municipal water supply. Irrespective of the water source, the water flows through an inlet channel into the first chamber (typically elongated), past the baffles (if present), and into the second chamber, where the water passes out through the primary outlet into the spa.

The waterfall waterjet can be anchored to the wall or edge of a spa using any appropriate means as long as water is fed into, and water can flow out of, the waterfall apparatus. More particularly, the waterfall apparatus may be structured to have securing ends for securing the waterfall apparatus to the spa wall. In this preferred embodiment, the waterfall apparatus can be installed with a minimum of disturbance to the surrounding spa. It is further advantageous that the inlet and the attachment means are round so that a standard drill can be used to fix the waterfall apparatus to the spa sidewall. Due of the preferred configuration of the waterfall apparatus with only the inlet ad fastening means located on the dry side of the spa sidewall, potentially only a round inlet and preferably round fasteners require cuts to be made in the spa sidewall as opposed to typical waterfall apparatuses which require complex cuts and accompanying high costs of installation.

The waterfall apparatus can be used on almost any artificial water body. While the waterfall apparatus is described in connection with a spa, it is understood that the waterfall apparatus can be used on spas, swimming pools, tubs, and the like. For example, the waterfall apparatus can be placed on the edge of a swimming pool so to provide a waterfall. One of ordinary skill in the art can modify the waterfall apparatus without undue experimentation so that it can be placed on almost any artificial water body.

These features, and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent to those of ordinary skill in the relevant art when the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments is read in conjunction with the appended drawings in which like reference numerals represent the components throughout the several views.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a representative waterfall apparatus for the invention attached to a spa wall and producing a waterfall.

FIG. 2A is a front view of the invention with the removable baffle in the closed or working position.

FIG. 2B is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2A with the removable baffle in the closed or working position.

FIG. 3A is a front view of the invention with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position.

FIG. 3B is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position.

FIG. 4 is bottom view of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a sectional side view of the invention with the removable baffle in the closed or working position.

FIG. 6 is a sectional side view of the invention with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position.

FIG. 7 is a sectional side view of the invention with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position illustrating the swinging or pivoting aspect of one embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Illustrative embodiments of a waterfall apparatus 16 according to the present invention are shown in FIGS. 1 through 7. FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a representative waterfall apparatus for the invention attached to a spa wall and producing a waterfall. FIG. 2A is a front view of the invention with the removable baffle in the closed or working position. FIG. 2B is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2A with the removable baffle in the closed or working position. FIG. 3A is a front view of the invention with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position. FIG. 3B is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position. FIG. 4 is bottom view of the invention showing the relative length of the baffle extending relative to the entire waterfall apparatus. FIG. 5 is a sectional side view of the invention with the removable baffle in the closed or working position. FIG. 6 is a sectional side view of the invention with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position. FIG. 7 is a sectional side view of the invention with the removable baffle in the open or cleaning position illustrating the swinging or pivoting aspect of one embodiment.

Referring now to FIG. 1, one illustrative embodiment of a representative waterfall apparatus that can be used with the present invention is a waterfall apparatus 16 that can provide an aesthetically pleasing and decorative waterfall 20 into a spa 10. In this embodiment, waterfall apparatus 16 can be installed on sidewall 12 of spa 10. As disclosed in more detail herein, to generate the waterfall 20, water from a water source (not shown) flows into waterfall apparatus 16 and is discharged through waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 into spa 10 where it meets the water 14 of the spa 10. The water from the source (not shown) may be a municipal water source or recirculated water 14 from the spa 10. As waterfall apparatus 16 can be placed above the surface of the water of spa 10 on, for example, the upper edge of sidewall 12 of spa 10, waterfall apparatus 16 also can function to fill spa 10 with water 14 (i.e., non-recirculating).

Referring now to FIG. 2A, an illustrative front view is shown of an embodiment of waterfall apparatus 16 in the closed or working position. Waterfall apparatus 16 preferably comprises a body cover 22 and a cap/cover 24, which may be manufactured separately from body cover 22. In this representative embodiment, body cover 22 is a generally hollow half-cylindrical structure. Waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 is located lengthwise along body cover 22 and provides an exit for water to flow from the hollow interior of waterfall apparatus 16. Cap/cover 24 can be inserted into waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 to form the shape of the waterfall. Different cap/covers 24 can be used to produce waterfalls 20 of different shapes or effects. This illustrative multi-component configuration is for ease of manufacturing and installation, and configurations having more or fewer components are within the scope and spirit of this invention.

In FIG. 2A, baffle plate 100 is in the closed or working position within the interior of waterfall apparatus 16. Lower end 104 of baffle plate 100 (see later FIGS.) extends along the bottom edge of waterfall apparatus 16. Lower end 104, and baffle plate 100, generally is coextensive with cap/cover 24 in that baffles 102 (see later FIGS.) are approximately coextensive with the width of waterfall 20 in a typical waterfall apparatus 16 construction. As disclosed in more detail later, lower end 104 acts both as a grip for removing baffle plate 100 from waterfall apparatus 16 body cover 22 and as a sealing structure to prevent water from exiting waterfall apparatus 16 proximal to lower end 104, thus maintaining a greater flow of water through cap/cover 24. Baffle plate 100 can comprise various known means for being maintained in the closed position, such as protrusions cooperating with indentations, sliding latches, friction pads and other known or future developed securing means and devices.

A tool, such as a screw driver or a specialized removal tool, can be used to remove baffle plate 100 from housing 22. Alternatively, lower end 104 of baffle plate 100 can be structured so as to allow the user to grip, pull, pry or otherwise leverage baffle plate 100 from a closed position within housing 22. Optional finger grips or indentations 112 (see FIG. 3A) assist the user in moving baffle plate 100. In the closed or working position, water can be supplied to waterfall apparatus 16, pass through baffles 102, and exit waterfall apparatus 16 as waterfall 20.

Referring now to FIG. 2B, an illustrative side view is shown of the waterfall apparatus 16 shown in FIG. 2A. FIG. 2A illustrative the general structural relationship among cap/cover 24 and body cover 22, and also illustrates the means for attaching waterfall apparatus 16 to sidewall 12 of spa 10. One or more inlets 36 project from the rear of waterfall apparatus 16. As disclosed in more detail later, inlets 36 serve as the water input to waterfall apparatus 16. Inlets 36 also serve as attachment means. Holes are drilled through sidewall 12 of spa 10 of approximately the size of the outside diameter of inlets 36, which comprise a threaded portion. Nuts 52 are removed from inlets 36, and inlets 36 are inserted through the holes. Nuts 52 then are threaded onto inlets, with sidewall 12 of spa 10 between nuts 52 and the back surface of waterfall apparatus 16. Nuts 52 are tightened thus removably attaching waterfall apparatus 16 to spa 10.

Referring now to FIG. 3A, an illustrative front view is shown of the embodiment of waterfall apparatus 16 shown in FIG. 2A, but now in the open or cleaning position with baffle plate 100 in the open or cleaning position primarily outside of waterfall apparatus 16. Lower end 104 of baffle plate 100 (see later FIGS.) has been pulled downward thus exposing baffle plate 100 and baffles 102 for, for example, cleaning or replacement. Lower end 104 acts both as a grip for removing baffle plate 100 from waterfall apparatus 16 body cover 22 and as a sealing structure to prevent water from exiting waterfall apparatus 16 proximal to lower end 104, thus maintaining a greater flow of water through cap/cover 24. O-ring 106 is located about the perimeter of shoulder 108 of lower end 104 and, when baffle plate 100 is in the closed or working position, seals against rim 110 of housing 22 to prevent water from exiting waterfall apparatus 16 when baffle plate 16 is in thee closed or working position.

FIG. 3A also provides an illustrative of the structure of baffle plate 100. Baffle plate 100 comprises baffles 102, lower end 104, O-ring 106, shoulder 108, upper end 114, and pins 116 (see later FIGS.). Baffle plate 100 is a generally planar rectangular structure with lower end 104 along one longer edge and upper end 114 along the opposite longer edge. Baffles 102 are a series or array of holes, slots or other passages through baffle plate 100 between, and preferably over the entire surface of baffle plate 100, lower end 104 and upper end 114. Baffles 102 are of such a size so as to allow water to flow therethrough, but to both disperse water along baffle plate 100 to produce a more even flow of water through baffle plate 100 and to catch and hold debris so as to prevent debris from flowing to and potentially clogging waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 of cap/cover 24, Baffle plate 100 also is of a size and structure to cooperate with baffle plate slot 120 such that baffle plate 100 can be relatively easily slid into and out of waterfall apparatus 16. As shown in FIG. 3A, baffles 102 can be exposed for cleaning.

Referring now to FIG. 3B, an illustrative side view is shown of the waterfall apparatus 16 shown in FIG. 3A. FIG. 3A illustrates the general structural relationship of baffle plate 100 when in the open or cleaning position. As can be seen, baffle plate 100 extends downward and out of waterfall apparatus 16 and baffles 102 are exposed for cleaning.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a bottom view of waterfall apparatus 16 showing the relative length of baffle plate 100, as represented by lower end 104, compared to the entire waterfall apparatus 16 is shown. In this illustrative embodiment, waterfall apparatus 16 has three inlets 36, all three or any combination of the three of which can be used to mount waterfall apparatus 16 onto sidewall 12 of spa. Further each inlet 36 or any of inlets 36 can be structure to allow water inflow to waterfall apparatus 16. Using all three inlets 36 to allow water inflow can provide greater uniformly in waterfall 20 shape, and can allow for larger or higher pressure waterfalls 20. If only one inlet 36 is used for water inflow, preferably the center inlet 36 is used.

Referring now to FIG. 5, the internal structure of waterfall apparatus 16 in the closed or working position is shown in more detail. Waterfall apparatus 16 is preferably divided into first chamber 30, which can correspond to the interior of inlets 36, and second chamber 32 by baffle plate 100, such that only second chamber 32 has access to waterfall slot/primary outlet 18. Each chamber 30, 32 preferably runs the horizontal length of waterfall apparatus 16. First chamber 30 is for initially receiving water from the water source via inlet 36 and evenly distributing water within waterfall apparatus 16. Second chamber 32 is for receiving water from first chamber 30 and channeling water through waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 to waterfall 20. It is thus preferred that water flowing into waterfall apparatus 16 first flows into first chamber 30 within which the water is generally evenly distributed across the upstream face of baffle plate 100, then flows through baffles 102 in baffle plate 100 into second chamber 32, and then exits through waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 to form waterfall 20.

Two tracks 130, comprising of parallel raised ridges 132, are located on the inside end surfaces of housing 22. Pins 116 slidably fit within tracks 130. Tracks 130 thus allow the guiding of baffle plate 100 downward when baffle plate 100 is being removed from waterfall apparatus 16.

Referring now to FIG. 6 the internal structure of waterfall apparatus 16 in the open or cleaning position is shown in more detail. As can be seen in FIG. 6, baffle plate 100 had been slid all the way down tracks 130 such that baffle plate 100 is located outside of housing 22. Tracks 130 also can comprise stops 134 (see also FIG. 7) at the bottom so as to prevent baffle plate 100 from becoming unattached from waterfall apparatus 16. Stops 134 can be structured such that baffle plate 100 cannot be removed at all from waterfall housing 16 without damaging baffle plate 100 or housing 22. Such a structure simply would involve stops 134 having a height at least at high as raised ridges 132. Alternatively, stops 134 can be reduced in size or eliminated altogether so as to allow baffle plate 100 to be removed entirely from waterfall apparatus 16. The ability to remove baffle plate 100 from waterfall apparatus 16 can allow the replacement of baffle plate 100 should baffle plate become loaded, and thus have clogged baffles 102, with a new baffle plate. Alternatively, different baffle plates 100 can be used so as to provide different types or shapes of waterfalls 20.

Referring to FIG. 7, the internal structure of waterfall apparatus 16 in the open or cleaning position is shown in more detail with baffle plate 100 having been swung forward a certain amount. As waterfall apparatus 16 is mounted, often flushly, against sidewall 12 of spa 10, it may be difficult to clean baffle plate 100 if baffle plate 100 could not pivot or swing forward away from sidewall 12. Therefore, one embodiment of the invention comprises this ability. Stops 134 can be seen in more detail in FIG. 7, and can be semi-circular extensions of raised ridges 132 proximal to the lower edge of housing 22, thus allowing baffle plate 100, when fully pulled downward, or nearly so, to pivot forward away from sidewall 12.

In operation and use, waterfall apparatus 16 provides an aesthetically pleasant waterfall 20 into a spa 10. As waterfall apparatus 16 preferably is located above the water surface of spa 10 on, for example, sidewall 12 of spa 10, waterfall 20 can provide a smooth flow of falling water extending from waterfall apparatus 16 to the water surface of spa 10. For aesthetic reasons waterfall 20 can be substantially smooth over its width and over its length as it flows into the water of spa 10. More particularly, waterfall 20 from waterfall apparatus 16 preferably is free of bubbles and ripples and flows as a generally continuous sheet of water. The preferred dual chambered structure of the waterfall apparatus 16 helps accomplish this.

Waterfall apparatus 16 is attached to spa sidewall 12 via inlets 36 having threaded portion 50, which fit through cooperating and similarly sized holes in spa sidewall 12 and have respective nuts/fasteners 52 that screw onto threaded portions 50 so as to hold waterfall apparatus 16 securely and tightly onto spa sidewall 12. A hose or other water supply means (not shown) also can be attached to inlet 36 for providing water to waterfall apparatus 16. Inlets 36 can be any size or shape and are shown as a larger diameter tube in the FIGS. Alternative attachment means can be a simple bolt or rod or a type of clip, depending on the type of installation or the desire of the installer.

Preferably, connections between the various components of waterfall apparatus are as watertight as possible. If the connections between the various components of waterfall apparatus 16 are not watertight, water may escape though the connections. In some cases, it may be optimal to use filters, sealants, o-rings or the equivalent to help ensure watertight connection between the parts of waterfall apparatus 16. Methods for ensuring a watertight connection between parts or plumbing parts are known by one or ordinary skill in the art. Further, the various components of waterfall apparatus 16 may be attached by any appropriate means, including gluing and sonic welding.

Water 36 first flows into inlet 36 and then into first chamber 30. The water then flows through baffles 102 in baffle plate 100. Baffle plate 100 may be configured with any number of baffle 102 holes and/or slots to allow for a more smooth and even distribution of water within waterfall apparatus 16 in general and into second chamber 32 more specifically, and to reduce turbulence, and thus to waterfall slot/primary outlet 18. Because of the nature of water flow, second chamber 32 will readily fill with water. To help evenly distribute water within second chamber 32, a series of baffles 102 can be used on baffle plate 100 rather than a single distribution slot so as to interrupt the flow of water from first chamber 30 to second chamber 32, thus causing water to fill first chamber 30 relatively evenly, with the water then being forced through baffles 102 into second chamber 32. By allowing for the more even distribution of water from first chamber 30 to second chamber 32, waterfall apparatus 16 can distribute water through waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 more effectively. As such, it is possible to generate a more even flow to second chamber 32 and thus a more even waterfall 20 from waterfall apparatus 16.

If debris becomes trapped behind (upstream of in first chamber 30) baffle plate 100 on back surface 40, baffle plate 100 can be slid down and out of housing 22 for cleaning or replacement. In addition, it is common for deposits or minerals in the water to deposit or build up on baffle plate 100. So, similarly, if deposits deposit or build up on baffle plate 100, baffle plate can be slid down and out of housing for cleaning or replacement.

As prior art waterfall apparatuses typically are unitary devices with the individual parts having been glued, welded or otherwise adhered together, access to the interior or such prior art waterfall apparatuses often is impossible or at least very difficult. Therefore, the removable baffle plate 100 of the present invention allows for the cleaning of the waterfall apparatus 16 of the present invention that otherwise may not have been able to be cleaned. Prior art waterfall apparatuses can become clogged with debris and/or sediment and, if a unitary waterfall apparatus without such a removable baffle plate 100 becomes clogged with debris and/or sediment, such a waterfall apparatus likely would have to be removed from the spa, discarded and replaced with another waterfall apparatus. This is avoided by the present invention.

It is understood that shape of waterfall 20 can be modified by the configuration of waterfall slot/primary outlet 18. For example, if waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 is a regular uninterrupted slit, a relatively smooth waterfall 20 over its length and width can be generated. Alternatively, if divisions or interruptions are introduced into the waterfall slot/primary outlet 18, or waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 has a non-linear shape, waterfall 20 can have a sprinkler type shape or a scalloped shape, which is not a smooth shaped waterfall. One of ordinary skill in the art can modify waterfall slot/primary outlet 18 so that waterfall apparatus 16 will produce a waterfall 20 of a desired shape. Cap/cover 24 generally is provided to shape the waterfall 20 into any of a variety of shapes, such as for example a single sheet-like waterfall, a split waterfall, or a multi-stream waterfall. Cap/cover 24 generally is glued, welded, or otherwise adhered to body cover 22 to avoid inadvertent removal, such as by falling off or by being ejected by water pressure, and inadvertent noise, such as by rattling caused by water pressure. Alternatively, cap/cover 24 can be removable so as to provide a waterfall apparatus 16 with interchangeable waterfalls 20.

As aesthetic alternatives, one or more illumination devices may be inserted into waterfall apparatus to generate an illuminated waterfall 20. In addition, one or more waterfall apparatus 16 components, such as lower end 24 and/or housing 24, can be constructed of a transparent material so that light emitted from illumination devices may be more effectively transmitted to waterfall 20. The internal surfaces of waterfall apparatus 16 can be coated with a reflective material to increase the amount of light directed to waterfall 20. Further, waterproof light sources, such as, for example, sealed diodes, can be incorporated into waterfall apparatus 16 structure or extend into the interior of waterfall apparatus 16.

Waterfall apparatus 16 can be manufactured from relatively inexpensive materials. For example, waterfall apparatus 16 can be formed of plastics, metal, or other materials. Preferably, waterfall apparatus 16 can be molded or forged from a plastic material as such material will not rust from the exposure to water, particularly chlorinated water. Such plastics, metals, and other materials are known in the art. Alternatively, for more elegant or expensive installations, waterfall waterjet can be made of more elegant or expensive materials, such as gold, silver, pewter, crystal, and the like.

The foregoing detailed description of the preferred embodiments and the appended figures have been presented only for illustrative and descriptive purposes and are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the scope and spirit of the invention. The embodiments were selected and described to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical applications. One or ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many variations can be made to the invention disclosed in this specification without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.