Title:
BLOWER HOUSING FOR CLIMATE CONTROLLED SYSTEMS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A blower for use in a climate controlled system includes an outer housing, a plurality of protruding members extending from the outer housing, an inlet opening in the outer housing, an impeller positioned with an internal cavity or space defined by the outer housing and a filter configured for placement against at least some of the protruding members. In some embodiments, the space created by the protruding members between the filter and outer housing facilitates the transfer of air or other fluids into the internal cavity of the blower.



Inventors:
Giffin, Steve Craig (Pasadena, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/971793
Publication Date:
07/10/2008
Filing Date:
01/09/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F04D29/70
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WIEHE, NATHANIEL EDWARD
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KNOBBE MARTENS OLSON & BEAR LLP (IRVINE, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A blower for use in a climate controlled system, the blower comprising: an impeller rotatable about an axis that generally extends in an axial direction and including at least one blade that generally extends in a radial direction; an impeller housing defining at least in part an impeller cavity in which the impeller is positioned, the impeller housing comprising a first portion that generally extends in the radial direction and includes an exterior surface that generally faces the axial direction, the impeller housing further comprising a second portion that generally extends in the axial direction and includes an exterior surface that generally extends in the radial direction, the first portion at least partially defining an opening that extends generally in the axial direction such that a volume of fluid can be drawn by the impeller into the impeller cavity through the opening; a blower housing that at least partially defines an intake passage positioned between the first portion of the impeller housing and the blower housing, the intake passage generally extending in the radial direction from the opening in the exterior surface of the impeller housing; and a filter comprising an inner surface and an outer surface, the filter configured to at least partially extend around the impeller housing in an annular configuration such that an intermediate space is generally defined, at least in part, between the filter and the second portion of the housing, the intermediate space being in fluid communication with the intake passage.

2. The blower of claim 1, wherein a plurality of ribs are positioned within the intermediate space and generally extend between the inner surface of the filter and the second portion of the impeller housing.

3. The blower of claim 2, wherein the ribs extend generally parallel to one another.

4. The blower of claim 2, wherein the ribs are integrally molded with the impeller housing.

5. The blower of claim 1, wherein the filter comprises a generally circular outer shape.

6. The blower of claim 5, wherein the filter comprises a generally rectangular cross-sectional shape.

7. The blower of claim 1, wherein the blower housing comprises a first plate that generally extends in the radial direction and forms in part the intake passage, the blower housing further comprising a second plate that generally extends in the radial direction and defines in part the impeller cavity.

8. The blower of claim 7, wherein the filter is at least partially positioned between the first plate and the second plate.

9. The blower of claim 1, wherein the impeller comprises a radial impeller.

10. The blower of claim 1, wherein the filter is configured to filter substantially 100% of the fluid entering the opening in the impeller housing.

11. The blower of claim 1, wherein the filter is substantially rigid.

12. The blower of claim 1, further comprising a support structure configured to support the filter at a desired distance from the second portion of the housing.

13. A blower for use in a climate controlled system, the blower comprising: an impeller rotatable about an axis that generally extends in an axial direction, the impeller comprising at least one blade that generally extends in a radial direction; an impeller housing defining at least in part an impeller cavity in which the impeller is positioned, the housing including a first portion that generally extends in the radial direction and comprises an exterior surface that generally faces the axial direction, the impeller further comprising a second portion that generally extends in the axial direction and comprises an exterior surface that generally extends in the radial direction, the first portion defining at least in part an opening that extends generally in the axial direction such that a volume of fluid can be drawn by the impeller into the impeller cavity through the opening; a blower housing that defines at least in part an intake passage positioned between the first portion of the impeller housing and the blower housing, the intake passage generally extending in the radial direction from the opening in the exterior surface of the impeller housing; a filter comprising an inner surface and an outer surface, the filter configured to extend at least partially around the impeller housing in an annular configuration; and means for supporting the filter a distance away from the second portion of the impeller housing such that an intermediate space is defined at least partially between the filter and the second portion of the housing, the intermediate space being in fluid communication with the intake passage.

14. The blower of claim 13, wherein the filter comprises a generally circular outer shape.

15. The blower of claim 14, wherein the filter comprises a generally rectangular cross-sectional shape.

16. The blower of claim 13, wherein the blower housing comprises a first plate that generally extends in the radial direction and forms in part the intake passage, the blower further comprising a second plate that generally extends in the radial direction and defines in part the impeller cavity.

17. The blower of claim 16, wherein the filter is positioned at least partially between the first plate and the second plate.

18. The blower of claim 13, wherein the impeller comprises a radial impeller.

19. The blower of claim 13, wherein the filter is configured to filter substantially 100% of the fluid entering into the impeller housing through the opening.

20. A blower for use in a climate controlled system, the blower comprising: an impeller rotatable about an axis that generally extends in an axial direction, the impeller comprising at least one blade that extends in a radial direction; an impeller housing comprising an axially facing forward portion, an axially facing rearward portion and a radially facing portion, an opening positioned in the axially facing forward portion of the impeller housing; and a filter comprising an inner surface and an outer surface, the filter being configured to extend at least partially around the radially facing portion of the impeller housing in an annular configuration such that an intermediate space is defined at least partially between the filter and the radially facing portion of the impeller housing.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the priority benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/884,184, filed Jan. 9, 2007, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This application relates to climate control systems. More specifically, this application relates to an improved blower to use in climate controlled seating assemblies.

2. Description of the Related Art

Temperature modified air for environmental control of living or working space is typically provided to relatively extensive areas, such as entire buildings, selected offices, or suites of rooms within a building. In the case of vehicles, such as automobiles, the entire vehicle is typically cooled or heated as a unit. There are many situations, however, in which more selective or restrictive air temperature modification is desirable. For example, it is often desirable to provide an individualized climate control for an occupant seat so that substantially instantaneous heating or cooling can be achieved. For example, an automotive vehicle exposed to summer weather conditions, where, for example, the vehicle has been parked in an unshaded area for a long period of time, can cause the vehicle seat to become very hot and uncomfortable for the occupant for some time after entering and using the vehicle, even with normal air conditioning. Furthermore, even with normal air-conditioning, on a hot day, the seat occupant's back and other pressure points may remain sweaty and generally uncomfortable to the seated occupant. In the winter time, it is desirable to have the ability to quickly warm one or more portions of the seat to enhance an occupant's comfort level, especially where a typical vehicle heating system is unlikely to warm the vehicle's interior as quickly.

For such reasons, there exist various types of individualized climate control systems for vehicle seats. Such climate control systems typically include a blower that distributes ambient air or other fluid past air conditioning devices (e.g., TEDs). The conditioned air can then be delivered to certain desired locations of a seating assembly (e.g., chair, bed, etc.). In order to protect the various components of the climate control system, it is normally desirable to filter the air or other fluid that enters such blowers.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, one aspect of the present inventions comprises a blower or other fluid transfer device for use in a climate controlled system which includes an outer housing. In some embodiments, the outer housing includes an interior cavity which is defined by an interior surface and an exterior surface of the outer housing. The blower additionally comprises a plurality of protruding members extending from the exterior surface of the outer housing. In several embodiments, adjacently positioned protruding members define an intermediate space therebetween. Further, the blower includes one or more one inlet openings in the outer housing which are configured allow a fluid to enter the internal cavity of the blower. An impeller positioned within the internal cavity is configured to transfer a fluid from the inlet opening towards an outlet. In addition, a filter is configured for placement against at least some of the protruding members extending from the outer housing of the blower. In some embodiments, a volume of fluid is permitted to pass across a portion of the filter and enter the intermediate space defined by the protruding members before being routed to the inlet opening.

According to other embodiments, the protruding members comprise ribs, which are placed in a generally vertical configuration. In another embodiment, at least a portion of the filter comprises a generally circular outer shape. In other aspects of the invention, the filter includes a generally rectangular cross-sectional shape. In yet another embodiment, the outer housing comprises an upper plate, a lower plate and a main housing. In still other embodiments, the inlet opening comprises a space provided between the upper plate and the main housing.

In another aspect of the present invention, the blower comprises a radial impeller. In one embodiment, the filter is configured to filter substantially 100% of the fluid entering the inlet opening.

Another aspect of the present invention comprises a method of facilitating the transfer of a fluid through a filter positioned upstream of a blower inlet. The method includes providing a plurality of protruding members along an outside portion of a blower housing and securing at least a portion of a filter against the protruding members. In some embodiments, the gap created by the protruding members between the filter and the blower housing is configured to reduce the head loss associated with the flow of fluid from outside the blower into an interior portion of the blower.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a climate controlled system includes a blower with an impeller rotatable about an axis that generally extends in an axial direction and including at least one blade that generally extends in a radial direction. The blower also includes an impeller housing comprising an axially facing forward portion, an axially facing rearward portion and a radially facing portion, an opening positioned in the axially facing forward portion of the impeller housing. A filter comprises an inner surface and an outer surface. The filter extends at least partially around the radially facing portion of the impeller housing in an annular configuration such that an intermediate space is defined at least partially between the filter and radially facing portion of the impeller housing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects and advantages of the present inventions are described with reference to drawings of certain preferred embodiments, which are intended to illustrate, but not to limit, the present invention. The drawings include eight (8) figures. It is to be understood that the attached drawings are for the purpose of illustrating concepts of the present invention and may not be to scale.

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a fan configured for use in a climate control system for a seating assembly in accordance with one embodiment;

FIG. 2 illustrates the fan of FIG. 1 comprising a filter along an exterior portion according to one embodiment;

FIG. 3 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the fan of FIG. 2 taken along line 3-3;

FIG. 4 illustrates a detailed cross-sectional view of an edge of the fan illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3;

FIG. 4A illustrates a detailed cross-sectional view of an edge of a fan according to another embodiment;

FIG. 4B illustrates a detailed cross-sectional view of an edge of a fan according to yet another embodiment;

FIG. 4C illustrates a detailed cross-sectional view of an edge of a fan according to still another embodiment; and

FIG. 5 schematically illustrates one embodiment of a vehicle seat assembly and climate control system that can comprise a fan as in FIGS. 1-4C.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of an integrated blower/TED assembly 100 according to one embodiment. The depicted integrated blower/TED assembly 100 is particularly well suited to be used in a climate controlled seating assembly (e.g., automobile chair, wheelchair, theater seats, etc.). The integrated blower/TED assembly 100 preferably includes a radial blower portion 104 and one or more outlets 140 to which TEDs (not shown) can attach. However, the various features and aspects related to the blower disclosed herein can be applied to a blower or other fluid transfer device that is not part of an integrated blower/TED assembly (e.g., a stand-alone blower unit). Further, the blower and its various features described herein may be incorporated into other types of devices, assemblies and systems, such as, for example, beds, sofas, chairs and/or the like, that require a fluid transfer device to convey a volume of air or other fluid to one or more desired locations.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, the fan 100 can include an internal cavity 124 generally defined by a main housing 114, an upper plate 110 and a lower plate 112. In the illustrated embodiment, a section of the upper plate 112 is shown removed in order to reveal a portion of the internal cavity 124. As discussed herein and illustrated in the cross-sectional views of FIGS. 3 and 4, a portion of the main housing 114 can be advantageously shaped to provide an intake opening 119 which is in hydraulic communication with the internal cavity 124. Consequently, air or other fluids can enter the internal cavity 124 through the intake opening 119.

In the illustrated embodiment, the intake opening 119 is a generally circular opening that is substantially centered about a rotational axis of a fan impeller 126 positioned within the main housing 114. See, for example, the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3. The impeller 126 can be designed and otherwise adapted to draw air or other fluid through the intake opening 119 and into the cavity 124 defined by the main housing 114. The air or other fluid can then be directed by the housing 114 in a radial direction to one or more outlets as is disclosed in greater detail herein. The main housing 114 can comprise an axial facing portion 114a and a radially facing portion 114b. In some embodiments, as illustrated in FIG. 3, the cavity 124 can be defined between the main housing 114 and the lower plate 112. The radial facing portion 114b of the main housing 114 can generally surround the impeller 126 in the radial direction, while the axial facing portion 114a and the lower plate 112 at least partially close the axial direction of the cavity 124.

In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 3, the intake opening 119 is in fluid communication with an intake passage 120 that is configured to extend along a portion of the periphery of the main housing 114. The intake passage 120 can be generally defined between the main housing 114 and the upper plate 110 and, thus, can be positioned axially with respect to the impeller 126. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the main housing 114 can be intermittently attached to the upper plate 110 using a plurality of struts 116 or other connecting members. However, the size, dimensions, circumferential extent, shape, connection details and other characteristics of the intake passage 120 can vary as desired or required by a particular application or use.

In some embodiments, the fan 100 is manufactured from one or more rigid or semi-rigid materials. For example, the fan 100 can comprise plastic, metal, other synthetic or natural materials and/or the like. The various components of the fan 100 (e.g., the upper plate 110, the lower plate 112, the housing 114, etc.) can be manufactured as separate members and subsequently attached to one another. In such arrangements, the various separate components can be joined to one another using adhesives, fasteners, clips, welds or any other connection device or method. Alternatively, the fan 100 can include fewer separate components, as two or more portions of the fan 100 may be manufactured (e.g., molded, cast, etc.) into a single piece. Further, the fan 100 can be produced using various materials of manufacture and/or methods of construction.

In some arrangements, as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the impeller 126 positioned within the internal cavity 124 is used to impart energy on a volume of air or other fluid entering the blower 100 through the intake opening 119. Consequently, such a volume of air or other fluid can be transferred to one or more outlets 140 as directed by the shape, size and other characteristics of the main housing 114. In some embodiments, the transferred air or other fluid is subsequently passed through and/or near a thermoelectric device (TED) or other temperature conditioning device. Thus, the air or other fluid can be thermally and/or otherwise conditioned (e.g., heated, cooled, etc.). In other embodiments, the volume or air is simply transferred to a location for another purpose (e.g., venting, heat transfer, etc.). As depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2, the blower can include a radial impeller 126. However, impellers having other types of designs, shapes, sizes and/or other properties can be used.

With continued reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, the intake passage 120, which may be defined by an axially directed gap between the main housing 114 and the upper plate 110, can be placed in fluid communication with an intermediate space or gap 122. Such an intermediate space or gap 122 can be positioned radially with respect to the radially facing portion 114a of the main housing 114. In the illustrated embodiment, the intermediate space or gap 112 is generally defined between the radially facing portion 114a of the main housing 114a, the upper plate 110 and the lower plate 112. As is discussed in greater detail herein, in some arrangements, a filter 130 can be selectively positioned radially around the gap 122 between the upper plate 110 and the lower plate 112.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the blower 100 can include a plurality of ribs 118 or other protruding members that extend from the radial portion 114b of the main housing 114. In the depicted embodiment, the ribs 118 are generally flat members that are molded so as to form a unitary structure with the main housing 114. The ribs 118 can be configured so that they are aligned generally parallel to one another. In some embodiments, this can advantageously facilitate the molding of the main housing 114 with the ribs 118. Alternatively, the orientation of the ribs 118 relative to each other and/or the main housing 114 can vary as desired or required by a particular application or use. For example, the ribs 118 can extend radially from the center of the fan 100.

According to some embodiments, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, the fan 100 is shaped and otherwise configured so that a gap exists between the ribs 118 and the upper plate 110. For example, in FIGS. 1-3, the ribs 118 extend from the lower plate 112 to approximately the top of the main housing 114. However, the ribs 118 can extend higher or lower than depicted in the illustrated embodiments. Such a gap can facilitate the flow of air or other fluid into the inlet passage 120 of the fan 100.

As illustrated herein, the majority of the ribs 118 can be substantially equally-spaced from one another, and generally aligned to face along a single direction (e.g., with a radial component). Alternatively, however, the size, shape, orientation, spacing, location, method of attachment of the housing and/or other characteristics of the ribs 118 can vary. For example, the ribs 118 can be separate members that are attached to the outside of the main housing 114. In such embodiments, the ribs 118 can be joined to the housing 114 using adhesives (e.g., glue), fasteners (e.g., bolts, rivets, etc.), snap connections, welds and/or the like.

With reference to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the filter 130 can be positioned around a portion of the fan perimeter. A filter 130 can remove particulates and/or other undesirable materials (e.g., dust, smoke, etc.) from the air or other fluid entering the fan 100 in order to protect the downstream components of the blower (e.g., impeller, internal surfaces, etc.) and/or any other downstream devices into which the fluid may be directed (e.g., TEDs, seat assemblies, etc.).

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the filter 130 includes a rectangular cross section and has a generally annular shape. The filter 130 can be continuously or intermittently positioned around the outside of the ribs 118 that extend from the main housing 114. Further, the blower 100 can be configured so that the filter 130 is easily removed from and positioned onto the appropriate exterior location of the blower 100 (e.g., exterior surface of the ribs 118, etc.).

The filter 130 can be secured or otherwise maintained relative to the blower 100 using one or more straps, bands, hooks, clips, snap connections, adhesives, other fasteners and/or the like. Alternatively, the filter 130 can include one or more elastic portions that allow it to be stretched around the ribs 118 and/or other portions of the blower 100. In yet other arrangements, the filter 130 can be retained in its desired location using adhesives, tape, friction or any other method or device (e.g., placement in a specially-designed fitting). In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, the filter 130 is sized and shaped to snugly fit between the upper plate 110 and the lower plate 112 of the blower 100. In other embodiments, however, the filter 130 can have a different overall shape, cross-sectional shape, size and/or other properties than illustrated herein.

As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, a space or gap 122 can exist between adjacent ribs 118 and the filter 130 and the radial portion 114b of the main housing 114. The size, shape and general design of such a space 122 can vary depending on the dimensions of the housing 114 and the ribs 118, the spacing and shape of the ribs 118, other characteristics of the blower 100 and/or one or more other considerations. Thus, air or other fluid passing through the filter 130 can enter the spaces 122 defined by adjacent ribs 118. In some embodiments, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the space 122 is configured to extend along the entire height H of the filter 130. This can increase the filter surface area through which air or other fluid entering the blower may pass. Consequently, the rate of fluid flow through the filter 130 can be advantageously increased and/or the energy required to draw fluid through the filter 130 can be decreased.

In the illustrated embodiment, the ribs 118 or similar members can be used to distance the filter 130 from the radial portion 114b of the housing 114 such that the space 122 is formed. This arrangement can be particularly advantageous when the filter 130 is a lightweight and/or flexible material. Accordingly, the ribs 118 can be used to support the filter 130 away from the radial portion 114b of the housing 114. As discussed, a gap can be advantageously provided between the upper plate 110 and the top end of the ribs 118 to facilitate fluid flow from the space 122 into the inlet passage 120.

In modified embodiments, the filter 130 can be formed of a stiffer material that is capable of being positioned between the upper and lower plates 110, 112, and yet have sufficiently rigidity to preserve the space 122. In yet another embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 4A, one or more ribs 118a can extend between the upper and/or lower plates 110, 112 to support the filter 130. In other embodiments, as illustrated in FIG. 4B, the ribs 118b can be configured to extend only partially from the upper and/or lower plates 110, 112. In yet another embodiment, as shown in FIG. 4C, the filter 130 includes one or more annular ribs 118c that provide structural support to the filter 130 such that the space 122 can be preserved during operation of the fan 100. It will be appreciated that in other embodiments, the number, size, shape, location, spacing and other characteristics of the ribs 118c can be different than shown. For example, the ribs 118c can be positioned on the outside or within the filter 130.

With continued reference to the detailed cross-section of FIG. 4, air or other fluid is shown passing through the filter 130 and into the space 122 or gap. As illustrated by the flow arrows, filtered air or other fluid can then flow in a generally axial direction (with respect to the fan axis) and be drawn into the inlet passage 120. In the illustrated embodiment, the inlet passage 120 is generally formed by the gap between the upper plate 110 and the main housing 114. Through the inlet passage 120, the air or other fluid can flow in a generally radial direction (with respect to the fan axis) and then be drawn in an axial direction through the opening 119 and into the cavity 124. In order to reduce fluid head losses (e.g., decrease the pressure drop) and improve fluid flow into the inlet passage 120, the main housing 114 can include a rounded shape proximal to the transition between the inlet passage 120 and intermediate space 122. As the blower 100 continues to operate, filtered fluid can be drawn into the internal cavity 124 where the impeller 126 can act to transfer it to one or more locations (e.g., outlets 140, TEDs, etc.).

FIG. 5 is a schematic illustration of an embodiment of a climate control system 36 that is configured to utilize the blower described above. In the illustrated embodiment, the climate control system 36 includes a back thermal module 92A and seat thermal module 92B. As is discussed in greater detail herein, both thermal modules 92A, 92B can be configured to provide conditioned (e.g., heated, cooled, etc.) and/or unconditioned (e.g., ambient) air or other fluid (and/or to remove air or other fluid in some embodiments) to the distribution systems 76A, 76B formed within or near the seat assembly 30. In this manner, the thermal modules 92A, 92B can provide a fluid flow to selectively warm or cool a front surface 48 of the backrest 34 and/or the top surface 50 of the seat portion 32. Specifically, the climate control apparatus 36 can advantageously provide conditioned air or other fluid that is either heated or cooled relative to the temperature of the front surface 48 of the back rest 32 and/or the top surface 50 of the seat 32. In other embodiments, unconditioned (i.e. ambient) air is provided to the surfaces of the seat.

In the illustrated embodiment, each of the thermal modules 92A, 92B optionally include a thermoelectric device 94A, 94B for temperature conditioning (i.e. selectively healing or cooling) the air or other fluid flowing through the device 94A, 94B. A preferred thermoelectric device 94A, 94B is a Peltier thermoelectric module, which is well known in the art. As shown, the thermal modules 92A, 92B can also include a main heat exchanger 96A, 96B for transferring or removing thermal energy from the air or other fluid flowing through or near the modules 92A, 92B (e.g., towards the distribution systems 76A, 76B). Such air or other fluid can be transferred to the distribution systems 76A, 76B through conduits 98A, 98B (see e.g., U.S. application Ser. No. 10/973,947, filed Oct. 25, 2004, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference herein). The modules 92A, 92B can also include a waste heat exchanger 100A, 100B that extends from the thermoelectric device 94A, 94B generally opposite the main heat exchanger 96A, 96B. A pumping device 102A, 102B or other fluid transfer device can be associated with each thermal module 92A, 92B for directing fluid over the main and/or waste heat exchangers 96A, 96B, 100A, 100B. The pumping devices 102A, 102B can comprise an electrical fan or blower as described with reference to the embodiments illustrated and/or described herein (e.g., FIGS. 1-4).

With continued reference to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5, a single pumping device 102A, 102B can be used for both the main and waste heat exchangers 96A, 96B, 100A, 100B. However, it is anticipated that separate pumping devices may be associated with the waste and heat exchanges 96A, 96B, 100A, 100B. In some embodiments, a single blower (not shown) or other fluid transfer device can be used to deliver air or other fluid past and/or near all the heat exchangers 96A, 96B, 100A, 100B.

The thermal modules 92A, 92B described herein with reference to FIG. 5 represent only one exemplary embodiment of a device that may be used to condition the air or other fluid supplied to the distribution systems 76A, 76B of a seat assembly or the like. In other embodiments, the thermal module comprises a pump or other fluid transfer device without a thermoelectric device for thermally conditioning the air. In such embodiments, the pumping device may be used to remove or supply air or other fluid to the distribution system 76A, 76B. In yet another embodiment, the thermal modules 92A, 92B share one or more components (e.g., pumping devices, thermoelectric devices, etc.) with a vehicle's general climate control system.

In operation, fluid in the form of air can be delivered from the thermal modules 92A, 92B, through the conduits 98A, 98B to the distribution systems 76A, 76B. The air or other fluid can flow through the passages in the seat assembly 30, into the openings, along an optional distribution layer and through one or more other layers (e.g., covering) of a seat assembly. In this manner, conditioned and/or unconditioned air can be selectively provided to the front surface 48 of the backrest 34 and/or the top surface 50 of the seat 32. In a modified embodiment, air or other fluid from within the passenger compartment of the automobile can be drawn through a covering or other layer into the passages (e.g., distribution system) of a seat assembly 30.

To assist in the description of the disclosed embodiments, words such as upward, upper, downward, lower, vertical, horizontal, upstream, and downstream have been used above to describe the accompanying figures. It will be appreciated, however, that the illustrated embodiments can be located and oriented in a variety of desired positions. For example, depending upon the orientation of the fan, an “upper” part or portion can be a “lower” part or portion.

Although this invention has been disclosed in the context of certain preferred embodiments and examples, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the present invention extends beyond the specifically disclosed embodiments to other alternative embodiments and/or uses of the invention and obvious modifications and equivalents thereof. In addition, while a number of variations of the invention have been shown and described in detail, other modifications, which are within the scope of this invention, will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art based upon this disclosure. It is also contemplated that various combinations or subcombinations of the specific features and aspects of the embodiments may be made and still fall within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, it should be understood that various features and aspects of the disclosed embodiments can be combine with or substituted for one another in order to form varying modes of the disclosed invention. Thus, it is intended that the scope of the present invention herein disclosed should not be limited by the particular disclosed embodiments described above, but should be determined only by a fair reading of the claims that follow.