Title:
Pool skimmer safety system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a swimming pool safety system including a housing having a first opening for coupling to a pump, a second opening for coupling to a pool drain, and a third opening for receiving water form a surface of a pool. The present invention may further include a skimmer basket positionable in the housing, where the skimmer basket defines a debris-retaining region and a member having a passage therethrough. A method of use of the present invention is also provided in which the housing may be configured to reduce an entrapment force experienced at a pool drain, and to further provide a fluid flow path through the debris-retaining region of the skimmer basket to place the first opening of the housing in fluid communication with the surrounding atmosphere.



Inventors:
Pellington, George S. (Vero Beach, FL, US)
Pennington, Paul E. (Santa Rosa, CA, US)
Stevens, Shane (Land O'Lakes, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/588909
Publication Date:
05/01/2008
Filing Date:
10/27/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
4/490
International Classes:
E04H4/16
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PRINCE JR, FREDDIE GARY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHRISTOPHER & WEISBERG, P.A. (Plantation, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A swimming pool device, comprising: a container defining a rim, the container further defining a first opening below the rim; a member extending from the first opening, the member defining a second opening located above the rim, wherein the member defines a passage therethrough providing fluid communication between the first opening and the second opening, and wherein the member defines a member sidewall extending between the first and second openings, the member sidewall being substantially void of any openings.

2. The swimming pool device according to claim 1, wherein the container further defines a plurality of apertures for fluid flow therethrough.

3. A housing for use with a swimming pool, comprising: a first opening for coupling to a pump; a second opening for coupling to a pool drain; and a third opening, wherein the third opening is positioned at a vertical distance of between approximately 6 inches and approximately 20 inches from the second opening.

4. The housing according to claim 3, further comprising a fourth opening for receiving water from a surface of the swimming pool.

5. The housing according to claim 3, further comprising a lid positionable about the housing, the lid defining an opening therethrough.

6. A swimming pool safety system, comprising: a housing defining a first opening for coupling to a pump, a second opening for coupling to a pool drain, and a third opening; a container positionable in the housing, the container defining a rim and a third opening below the rim; and a member extending from the third opening, the member defining a fourth opening located above the rim, wherein the member defines a passage therethrough providing fluid communication between the third opening and the fourth openings, and wherein the member defines a member sidewall extending between the third and fourth openings, the member sidewall being substantially void of any openings.

7. The swimming pool safety system according to claim 6, wherein the third opening of the housing is positioned at a vertical distance of between approximately 6 inches and approximately 20 inches from the second opening of the housing.

8. The swimming pool safety system according to claim 6, further comprising a lid positionable about the housing, the lid defining a fifth opening therethrough.

9. The swimming pool safety system according to claim 6, wherein the container includes a plurality of apertures for the passage of fluid therethrough.

10. A method of reducing entrapment in a swimming pool, comprising the steps of: providing a housing defining a first opening in fluid communication with a pump, a second opening in fluid communication with a drain of the swimming pool, and a third opening in fluid communication with a water surface of the swimming pool; limiting an entrapment force at the drain to between approximately 15 pounds and 25 pounds, wherein the entrapment force is limited by a predetermined dimension of the housing.

11. The method according to claim 10, wherein the predetermined dimension of the housing is a vertical distance between a portion of the second opening and the water surface.

12. The method according to claim 11, wherein the vertical distance is between approximately 6 inches and approximately 20 inches.

13. A method of reducing entrapment in a swimming pool, comprising the steps of: providing a housing, the housing defining a first opening in fluid communication with a pump and a second opening in fluid communication with a drain in the swimming pool; positioning a skimmer basket in the skimmer housing, the skimmer basket defining a debris-retaining region; providing a fluid flow path from the first opening to atmosphere, wherein the flow path is separated from the debris-retaining region of the skimmer basket.

14. The method according to claim 13, wherein the skimmer basket includes a member defining a first opening at a first end, a second opening at a second end, and a passage extending from the first opening to the second opening, and wherein the fluid flow path includes the passage defined by the elongate member.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

n/a

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

n/a

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and system for limiting and/or reducing an entrapment force in pool drains in order to avoid injury.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In general, swimming pools include a pump for drawing water from a drain at the bottom of a pool through a skimmer housing and towards a filter from which the water is returned to the pool. The skimmer housing is often installed at least partially in the ground or beneath a deck surface, having a removable lid and a basket contained therein that retains leaves or other debris from the pool and prevents clogging of the pump and/or filter.

In order to provide sufficient circulation of pool water such that the filter and other components of the pool operate as desired, the pool pump providing the circulation often has a fairly large flow rate. As water is drawn through the drain by the pump, a suction force is created at the surface of the drain, and as such, the drain at the bottom of a swimming pool can pose a significant safety hazard to those occupying of the pool, in particular to a young child or a person of limited physical strength. In the event someone in the pool inadvertently covers the drain with a part of his/her body, the suction force will tend to retain the user against the drain unless the user has sufficient strength to push away from the drain. In fact, in most cases, the suction force is so substantial, i.e., in the range of 500 pounds of force or more, that even an adult of above-average strength will be unable to overcome the suction force being experienced. As a result, there is a strong likelihood that a person will panic, increasing the chance that drowning may result. Even under circumstances where an individual is capable of pushing away from the drain, the possibility of incurring serious injury remains nonetheless.

To overcome the potential for injury or drowning due to the suction force and thus the chance of being drawn against and retained by a swimming pool drain, numerous devices have been developed over the years to reduce and/or eliminate the suction force created during a blockage or entrapment. Some of these devices introduce air to the inlet side of the pump in response to the sensed high suction condition, which results in loss of pump prime. Other devices may interrupt the power source to the pump, thereby causing the pump to cease operation. There are also devices which provide for a conduit to open to the atmosphere upon sensing a predetermined level of suction, which allows air to enter the system and thereby break the vacuum or suction force at the drain.

While certain devices have been proposed, there are numerous problems present with existing devices. For example, many of the devices are very expensive and have multiple moving parts, which increases the likelihood that the device may malfunction or fail to operate as intended. In addition, some of the devices provide false signals triggered by filled drain sumps and/or skimmer baskets, or due to pressure variations created when the pump is first turned on. Moreover, installation of some devices may require excavation or other drastic measures for installation, which greatly increases cost and provides a deterrent to use and integration. Finally, upon installing a particular device, the pump might be damaged or otherwise negatively impacted upon actuation of the device, resulting in the attendant problems of expense and loss of use of the swimming pool.

In view of the above-described problems and limitations, it would be desirable to provide a safety system for reducing and/or eliminating suction forces experienced during entrapment against a pool drain that is simple in operation, cost effective, and easily integrated with existing pools.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention advantageously provides a method and system for reducing and/or eliminating suction forces experienced during entrapment against a pool drain that is simple in operation, cost effective, and easily integrated with existing pools. In particular, the pool safety system of the present invention may include a housing, where the housing defines a housing base, a housing sidewall extending upward from the housing base, a first opening in one of the housing base and housing sidewall for coupling to a pump, a second opening in one of the housing base and housing sidewall for coupling to a pool drain, and a third opening in one of the housing base and housing sidewall for receiving water from the surface of a swimming pool.

Moreover, the housing may be configured to limit an experienced entrapment force by constructing the housing with a predetermined dimension resulting in a predetermined water volume and/or surface area. For example, by selecting and constructing the housing with predetermined dimensions, the entrapment force experienced upon blocking the swimming pool drain and thus water flow through the second opening of the housing, the entrapping force may be limited to a range of approximately 10-25 pounds of force.

The system of the present invention may further include a container, such as a skimmer basket, where the container defines a basket bottom wall having an opening therethrough, a basket sidewall extending from the basket bottom wall, and a rim along an upper edge of the container. The container may further include a container opening and a member extending from the container opening to a point above the rim of the container. The elongate member may define a member opening and a passage therethrough for placing the container opening and the member opening in fluid communication. The container may include a debris-retaining region within the base and sidewalls for containing leaves or other items in pool, while the member may be positioned within the debris-retaining region such that the first opening is in fluid communication with the opening in the basket bottom wall. During operation, the pool system may provide a fluid flow path from the first opening of the housing to the surrounding atmosphere such that the fluid flow path is separated from the debris-retaining region of the skimmer basket. As such, the system ensures that air is able to enter the second opening of the housing in the event of an entrapment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete understanding of the present invention, and the attendant advantages and features thereof, will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a housing in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows an embodiment of a container in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a container positioned in a housing in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a safety system and method of use thereof for reducing and/or eliminating suction forces experienced during entrapment against a pool drain that is simple in operation, cost effective, and easily integrated with existing pools. Now referring to FIG. 1, the system may include a housing 10 for use with a swimming pool (not shown) having a pump (not shown). Of note, as used herein, the term “swimming pool” is intended to include traditional in-ground swimming pools, above-ground swimming pools, spas, or any other large, water filled container having a circulation system with fluid flow therethrough. The housing 10 may contain one or more openings in fluid communication with the swimming pool, pump, and the like. For example, the housing 10 may be a skimmer housing 10 commonly found with existing pools installed just below the surface adjacent to a side of the swimming pool. The housing 10 may define a largely hollow interior cavity having a top portion 12, a lower wall 14, and one or more sidewalls 16 extending therebetween.

In particular, the housing 10 may further include a first opening 18 in fluid communication with the pump, as well as a second opening 20 in fluid communication with a drain located along a surface of the swimming pool. Of note, although a single opening 20 in fluid communication with a drain is shown for illustrative purposes, in some applications the housing 10 may contain multiple openings in fluid communication with multiple drains on submerged surfaces of a swimming pool and/or spa. The first and second openings may be located along either the lower and/or sidewalls of the housing 10. In addition, the housing 10 may include a third opening 22 along a sidewall of the housing 10 that is in fluid communication with the pool in proximity to the water surface of the pool, such that, under typical conditions, the surface of the water of the pool is at a height between an upper and lower surface of the third opening 22. An adjustable floating weir 24 may be positioned in the third opening 22 to regulate the passage of fluids and debris therethrough. In addition, the housing 10 may also provide a fourth opening 26 along a sidewall 16 to provide a vent or overflow path for drainage in the event the water level rises beyond a desired or intended height. As such, a lower edge of the fourth opening 26 may be adjacent to the water surface level of the pool. The housing 10 may also include a lid 28 positionable about the top portion 12 of the housing 10, where the lid may further include an opening 30 therethrough.

The housing 10 may be configured to limit an entrapping force experienced at the drain in the pool. In the event the drain becomes obstructed, the resulting entrapping force is directly correlated to the dimensions and resulting water volume of the housing 10. In particular, the entrapping force experienced at the drain coincides with the force experienced at the second opening 20 of the housing 10. The force experienced at the second opening 20 of the housing 10 is impacted by the water volume in the housing 10 and the corresponding hydrostatic differential head of the water volume. The housing 10 may thus be configured and dimensioned such that in the event of an entrapment, the maximum force experienced at the pool drain is limited to enable a person or child to be able to free themselves without additional aid. While the entrapping force could never be completely eliminated as it would prevent a swimming pool pump system from operating, the potential entrapping force could be reduced to a safer level, i.e., in the range of about 10-25 pounds. This reduced range of force may allow even small children to overcome the entrapment force experienced and to swim to safety. By configuring the housing 10 to provide a predetermined hydrostatic differential, a correlating reduction of the entrapment force experienced at the drain may be achieved.

As an example of a particular configuration, the second opening 20 of the housing 10 may be located at a vertical distance from the typical water surface level of the pool. As previously discussed, the water level of the pool may be at least partially dictated by a lower edge of the fourth opening 26, and as such, a vertical distance “V” between the lower edge of the fourth opening 26 and an upper edge of the second opening 20 may define a height of a column of water within the housing 10. It is known that a one foot column of water correlates to 0.433 psi. Thus, the vertical distance “V” is equal to a pressure of “V” multiplied by 0.433 psi. By taking the resulting value and multiplying it by the open surface area of the drain, the resulting entrapment force may be calculated. For example, should the vertical distance “V” equal 11 inches, the resulting pressure would be (11 inches/12 inches-per-foot)×0.433 psi=0.397 psi. Now, in the case where the drain has an open area of approximately 40 square inches, the force is equal to 0.397 psi×40 square inches=15.87 pounds of force. Of course, while specific measurements have been provided, the dimensions of the housing 10 for a particular application may vary in order to achieve a predetermined, limited entrapment force experienced at the drain, and the distance “V” may vary between approximately 6 inches and approximately 20 inches.

As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the system of the present invention may further include a container 32 positionable within at least a portion of the housing 10. The container 32 may include a skimmer basket or the like, where the container 32 may define a container bottom wall 34 with an opening therethrough, and one or more container sidewalls 36 extending upward around a periphery of the bottom wall, where the one or more sidewalls define a rim or top edge of the container when oriented in a position for use. The container bottom wall 34 and the container sidewalls 36 define a debris-retaining region 38 for collecting items floating in the pool as they are drawn into the container 32 by the circulation of the pool water. One or more apertures 40 may be situated about the container bottom wall 34 and/or the one or more container sidewalls 36 for allowing the passage of water therethrough while retaining larger objects and debris contained within the debris-retaining region 38 for subsequent cleaning or removal. The container may include a myriad of shapes and dimensions which can be varied for a particular use and/or application.

The container 32 may further include a member 42 extending upward from an opening 44 in the container. The member may define a member opening 46 positionable above the rim of the container for providing fluid communication between the container opening 44 and the member opening 46. Accordingly, the member may include a hollow passage extending therethrough to achieve the desired fluid communication. The member 42 may be positioned about one of the bottom wall 34 or sidewall 36 of the container. Further, the member 42 may include a member sidewall extending between the first and second openings, where the member sidewall is substantially void of any openings such that a fluid and/or gas is largely prevented from entering the hollow passage except through the container opening 44 and the member opening 46. It is contemplated that the container 32 may be constructed as an integral component through molding or similar manufacturing methods, or, alternatively, assembled by coupling one or more pieces together. The housing 10 may include a shelf or other coupling feature to aid in the positioning and/or retention of the container within the housing 10.

Referring to FIG. 3, in an exemplary use of the swimming pool safety system of the present invention, the housing 10 is coupled to a swimming pool such that the first opening 18 of the housing 10 is in fluid communication with a pump, the second opening 20 is placed in fluid communication with a drain on a submerged surface of the swimming pool, and the third opening 22 is placed in fluid communication with the water surface of the swimming pool. During operation, fluid circulation provided by the pump causes water to flow inward from both the second and third openings, thereby providing fluid flow through the drain in the swimming pool. The container 32 may further be positioned within the housing 10 to catch debris or other objects drawn into the housing 10, such that the debris is contained within the debris-retaining region 38 of the container and thereby preventing obstruction or clogging of the openings of the housing 10 and subsequent interference with fluid circulation in the swimming pool. Further, the member 42 of the container 32 may be situated such that the member opening 46 is positioned above the water surface 48 and in fluid communication with the surrounding atmosphere. Where the housing 10 is covered by the lid 28, the fluid communication between the member opening 46 of the elongate member 42 of the container 32 and the atmosphere may be maintained by positioning the opening 30 of the lid 28 adjacent to the opening in the member 42.

In the event the drain of the swimming pool becomes obstructed by a person in the swimming pool, the resulting blockage and entrapment of the person prevents fluid from being drawn into the housing 10 through the second opening 20. Despite the blockage, the pump continues to draw water through the first opening 18, resulting in a suction force experienced at the second opening 20, and thus causing an entrapment force at the swimming pool drain. However, as previously discussed, the actual entrapment force experienced at the drain can be reduced and/or limited by predetermined dimensions of the housing 10, including the vertical height “V” separating the second opening 20 from the water surface 48. As such, by selecting and constructing the housing 10 to contain predetermined dimensions, the entrapment force experienced upon blocking the swimming pool drain and thus water flow through the second opening 20 of the housing 10, the entrapping force may be limited to a range of approximately 10-25 pounds of force. Accordingly, due to the reduced entrapping force, an individual should be able to pull themselves free of the swimming pool drain and swim to safety.

Nevertheless, the potential remains that an individual may not be able to free themselves from the drain, even with the reduced entrapment force provided by the housing 10. As previously discussed, despite the blockage of fluid intake through the second opening 20 of the housing 10, the pump will continue to draw fluid through the first opening 18. By continuing to draw fluid through the first opening 18, the water volume in the housing 10 may begin to decrease, causing the water level within the housing 10 to be lowered towards the first opening 18. Once the water level within the housing 10 is drawn below a top edge of the second opening 20, the entrapping force caused by the suction of the pump will be eliminated, as air will enter the second opening 20 to effectively break the sealed vacuum and the resulting force. However, with conventional skimmer baskets, the debris-retaining region of the basket may be filled with leaves or other pool debris. Although the basket itself may contain multiple openings to allow fluid flow therethrough, the leaves and/or additional debris may effectively block the openings. As a result, a filled conventional basket could seal an upper portion of the housing 10, which would prevent the pump from pulling the water level down and/or substantially eliminate the chance that air may enter the housing 10 and further into the second opening 20 to break the entrapment force at the drain. Thus, a filled conventional skimmer basket could present a substantially impermeable layer that obstructs any fluid from passing through, which would cause substantially the full force of the pump to pull directly on the second opening 20, and thus the drain.

By positioning the container 32 of the present invention within the housing 10, the member 42 of the container 32 may provide a fluid flow path from the first opening 18, through the container opening 44 and out of member opening 46 to the surrounding atmosphere, where the fluid flow path is thus separated from the debris-retaining region 38 of the container 32. As such, regardless of the contents of the container 32, fluid communication between the first opening 18 (and thus the pump), the water volume within the housing 10, and ultimately the surrounding atmosphere, is ensured. Consequently, upon a blockage of the drain of the pool and thus the second opening 20 of the housing 10, the water level of the housing 10 may be reduced to allow air to enter the second opening 20 and to break the vacuum seal, thereby allowing an entrapped individual to swim to safety.

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that the present invention is not limited to what has been particularly shown and described herein above. In addition, unless mention was made above to the contrary, it should be noted that all of the accompanying drawings are not to scale. A variety of modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention, which is limited only by the following claims.