Title:
Hydraulicly lifted toilet seat
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A hydraulically lifted toilet seat. A hydraulic linear actuator mounted within a lift unit rigidly attached to the toilet bowl unit utilizes utility water pressure to provide a force to lift the toilet seat. In a preferred embodiment a drive arm of the hydraulic linear actuator applies a tension force to a flexible tension element which is in turn attached to a sheave that is rigidly attached to an axle rigidly attached to the toilet seat. Actuation of the drive arm of the linear actuator causes the sheave, axel and the toilet seat to pivot about 100 to 110 degrees from a horizontal position to a raised position leaning against the toilet tank. In the preferred embodiment the flexible tension element is a nylon cord attached to the sheave through a pulley. In this preferred embodiment the hydraulic linear actuator is controlled by a spring loaded three-way valve or two two-way spring loaded valves permitting users to raise or lower the seat by temporally positioning valve handles up or down. In this embodiment the pressure line to the actuator is connected to a vent line to a float cutoff valve in the toilet tank so that when the toilet is flushed, pressure in the hydraulic linear actuator is relieved causing the toilet seat to lower to its horizontal position each time the toilet is flushed. Embodiments are provided that come in kit form to permit easy installation without plumbing expertise on almost any toilet in the United States.



Inventors:
Abrams, Clem (La Jolla, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/698538
Publication Date:
07/31/2008
Filing Date:
01/26/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, TUAN N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John R. Ross (Del Mar, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A hydraulically lifted toilet seat system for use on a toilet bowl unit, said system comprising: A) a toilet seat, B) a toilet seat lift mechanism unit comprising: 1) a lift mechanism unit housing, 2) a hydraulic linear actuator rigidly mounted within said housing and comprising a drive arm, 3) a pivot axle rigidly attached to said toilet seat 4) a force conversion mechanism for converting linear force produced by said linear actuator into a torque for pivoting said axle in order to raise said toilet seat, 5) a water supply line for supplying pressurized water utility water to said linear actuator, 6) a pressure relief line for depressurizing said linear actuator, 7) a valve system for pressurizing said linear actuator in order to raise said seat and depressurizing said linear actuator to lower said seat.

2. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said force conversion mechanism comprises a sheave rigidly attached to said axle and a flexible tension element attached to said sheave for producing a pivot motion in said sheave.

3. The toilet seat system as in claim 2 wherein said force conversion mechanism also comprises a pulley with said tension element wrapped around said pulley and attached to said drive arm of said linear actuator so that actuation of said drive arm produces a pivot motion of said sheave to raise said seat.

4. The toilet seat system as in claim 2 wherein said force conversion mechanism also comprises a cam adapted to be pushed by said drive arm of said linear actuator, wherein said tension element is also attached to said cam so that actuation of said drive arm produces a pivot motion of said sheave to raise said seat.

5. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 and further comprising a spring element adapted to provide a pivot force sufficient to move the seat from an angular position somewhat larger than 90 degrees, as measured from horizontal, to an angular position somewhat smaller than 90 degrees.

6. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 and also comprising a float shutoff valve for installation in a tank of said toilet and a vent line connecting to said shutoff valve to said linear actuator so that a flushing of said toilet will depressurize said linear actuator allowing said seat to lower to an approximately horizontal position.

7. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 and also comprising a utility water supply attachment unit comprising a standard tube connection coupling and a standard threaded tube connection section corresponding to standard toilet tank connections to permit easy connection of said system to utility water pressure without the need of special plumbing skills.

8. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said tension element is a nylon cord.

9. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said valve system comprises a three-way hand operated valve adapted to raise and lower said seat.

10. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said valve system comprises a two two-way hand operated valve adapted to raise and lower said seat.

11. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said valve system comprises a three-way electric powered valve adapted to raise and lower said seat.

12. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said valve system comprises two two-way electric powered valves adapted to raise and lower said seat.

13. The toilet seat system as in claim 11 and further comprising a remote control unit for operating said valve.

14. The toilet seat system as in claim 12 and further comprising a remote control unit for operating said valves.

15. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 wherein said system is packaged as an easily installed kit.

16. The toilet seat system as in claim 11 and further comprising at least one battery for providing electric power to said electric powered valve and a turbine driven electric generator for generating electric power for charging said at least one battery.

17. The toilet seat system as in claim 11 and further comprising at least one battery for providing electric power to said electric powered valves and a turbine driven electric generator for generating electric power for charging said at least one battery.

18. The toilet seat system as in claim 11 and further comprising an infrared sensing and control unit adapted to vent said hydraulic linear actuator through said three-way valve when no one is in the region of the toilet for a specified period of time.

19. The toilet seat system as in claim 12 and further comprising an infrared sensing and control unit adapted to vent said hydraulic linear actuator through one of said two-way valves when no one is in the region of the toilet for a specified period of time.

20. The toilet seat system as in claim 1 and further comprising: A) a toilet seat cover, B) a second hydraulic linear actuator rigidly mounted within said housing, C) a second pivot axle rigidly attached to said toilet seat cover, D) a second force conversion mechanism for converting linear force produced by said linear actuator into a torque for pivoting said second axle in order to raise said toilet seat cover, E) a second water supply line for supplying pressurized water utility water to said second linear actuator, F) a second pressure relief line for depressurizing said second linear actuator, G) a second valve system for pressurizing said linear actuator in order to raise said seat cover and depressurizing said linear actuator to lower said seat cover.

21. The toilet seat system as in claim 5 and further comprising a water line to said housing and a seat-operated valve located in said housing adapted to pressurize said linear actuator if the seat is lifted manually in order to hold the seat in an raised position against said pivot force of said spring element.

22. The toilet seat system as in claim 13 and further comprising as sensor and a transmitter located in said housing adapted to operate said valve to fill said linear actuator when the seat is lifted manually.

23. The toilet seat system as in claim 14 and further comprising as sensor and a transmitter located in said housing adapted to operate one of said valves to fill said linear actuator when the seat is lifted manually.

Description:

The present invention relates to devices for raising and lowering toilet seats and toilet lids and in particular for hydraulic devices for raising the seats and lids.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Flush toilets consist of a bowl and a device for flushing the contents of the bowl down a sanitary drain. Almost all flush toilets have a detachable hinged toilet seat (mostly made now days of plastic) and almost all toilets installed in residences include a hinged lid. Features of particular toilets found in many residences are shown in FIGS. 1A through 1E. These toilets comprise a toilet seat 2 and a toilet seat cover 4. Other features are the toilet bowl unit 6 and the water tank 8. The tank typically has a tank cover 10. The cover 4 and the seat 2 pivot about a pivot axis 12 in each of two hinge units 14A and 14B. The hinge units are rigidly mounted to the bowl unit in each case with a bolt, washer and nut with the bolt passing through a frame portion of bowl unit 6. The cover and seat is typically lifted by hand by men and boys so they can pee in the bowl without wetting down the seat. Girls and women typically lift the cover by hand. However since they pee sitting down, they rarely lift the seat. In fact, this can lead to a big problem especially in residences where only women live, since the girls and women grow accustom to the seat being in a down position. A man or boy visiting will typically leave the seat in the up position after peeing. Then the girl or woman comes in to use the toilet sometimes will sit down thinking the seat is down when it is not. The result can be very disturbing and can in some cases lead to injuries. To solve this problem, several techniques have been proposed to return the seat to the down position after it has been raised. For example, see U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,400,442, 5,343,571 and 5,884,342.

Most toilets in public locations comprise a hinged toilet seat but no seat cover and have the general features shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B. The seat has the general shape of a C as shown in FIG. 2B instead of the general O shape as in the residential unit. Public rest rooms in the United States are usually equipped with a dispenser holding paper toilet seat covers that the user can place over the toilet seat so that his skin does not touch the seat. Some people lift and lower the seat in public places with their shoe, since they prefer not to touch the seat with their hand. Many designs have been proposed for devices that permit users to raise and lower toilet seats without touching them. Many such designs include a foot powered mechanism with gears and levers configured to raise and lower the seat or the seat and the lid. Other devices are motor driven with remotely located push button controls. Several designs are hydraulically powered with flush water pressure providing the energy to raise and/or lower the seat and/or lid. Examples of prior art hydraulically operated toilet seats are U.S. Pat. No. 4,291,422 to Shoemaker et al and U.S. Pat. No. 5,774,904 to McWilliams.

Although many remotely lifted toilet seats have been proposed and many patents exist covering various designs for remotely lifted toilet seats, none, to the best of Applicants knowledge, have become widely utilized.

What is needed is a better remotely lifted toilet seat.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a hydraulically lifted toilet seat. A hydraulic linear actuator mounted within a lift unit rigidly attached to the toilet bowl unit utilizes utility water pressure to provide a force to lift the toilet seat. In a preferred embodiment a drive arm of the hydraulic linear actuator applies a tension force to a flexible tension element which is in turn attached to a sheave that is rigidly attached to an axle rigidly attached to the toilet seat. Actuation of the drive arm of the linear actuator causes the sheave, axel and the toilet seat to pivot about 100 to 110 degrees from a horizontal position to a raised position leaning against the toilet tank. In the preferred embodiment the flexible tension element is a nylon cord attached to the sheave through a pulley. In this preferred embodiment the hydraulic linear actuator is controlled by a spring loaded three-way valve or two two-way spring loaded valves permitting users to raise or lower the seat by temporally positioning valve handles up or down. In this embodiment the pressure line to the actuator is connected to a vent line to a float cutoff valve in the toilet tank so that when the toilet is flushed, pressure in the hydraulic linear actuator is relieved causing the toilet seat to lower to its horizontal position each time the toilet is flushed. Embodiments are provided that come in kit form to permit easy installation without plumbing expertise on almost any toilet in the United States. Embodiments of the present invention are also provided that utilize electric controlled valves to control the hydraulic linear actuator to raise and lower the seat.

BRIEF DESCRITION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1 through 1E show features of a prior art residential toilet.

FIGS. 2A and 2B show features of a prior art public toilet.

FIGS. 3 and 3A show features of a toilet seat lift mechanism according to the present invention with the toilet seat in the down position.

FIGS. 4 and 4A show features of a toilet seat lift mechanism according to the present invention with the toilet seat in the up position.

FIGS. 5A, 5B and 5C show a three way valve for controlling the above lift mechanism.

FIGS. 6A through 6F show various positions of the toilet seat, the lift mechanism and the lift mechanism control valve.

FIGS. 7A and 7B show an aquarium shutoff float valve used as an actuator drain when the toilet is flushed.

FIGS. 8A, 8B, and 8C show a seat position control technique using two two-way valves.

FIGS. 9A and 9B show technique for toilet seat position control with electric operated valves.

FIG. 10 shows a seat control actuator with a push type actuator.

FIGS. 11A, 11B and 11C show features for mounting embodiments of the present invention on virtually any toilet.

FIG. 12 show embodiment of the present invention using mechanical operated valves.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

First Preferred Embodiment

A first preferred embodiment of the present invention can be described by reference to FIG. 3 to FIG. 7B. This embodiment preferably is sold as a kit that can be easily installed without any special equipment as replacements for regular toilet seats or regular toilet seats and seat covers. Preferred embodiments of the kit will fit nearly all toilets. Power to raise and lower the seat is provided by utility water pressure with the user providing control by operating a control valve with no need for the user to touch the seat.

Lift Mechanism

FIGS. 3 and 3A show features of a toilet seat lift mechanism 20 according to the present invention with the toilet seat in the down position and FIGS. 4A and 4B show those features with the toilet seat in the up position. FIGS. 6A through 6E show the mechanism for lifting a toilet seat of the type used in public toilets of the type shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B, but it can also be used applied to lift seats such as seat 2 shown in FIG. 1. The lift mechanism 20 is contained in a lift mechanism housing 22 that is bolted to a toilet bowl unit with bolts through bolt holes that are common in prior art toilets as described in the background section. Mechanism 20 includes a hydraulic linear actuator 24 which in this preferred embodiment is a slightly modified off-the-shelf version of Part No. DNSU supplied by Automation Controls with offices in Hauppauge, N.Y. It includes an approximately two-inch diameter piston that produces a linear force of 204 pounds with water pressure of 65 psi and a linear travel of about two inches. Actuator 24, with its modified actuator arm 26, is positioned as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. FIGS. 3 and 3A show the mechanism with toilet seat 2 in its down position and FIGS. 4 and 4A show the mechanism with seat 2 in its up or its 110 degree raised position. Attached to the end of actuator arm 26 is flexible tension element 28 which in this case is a nylon cord. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 3A, flexible tension element 28 wraps 450 degrees around 1¼ inch pulley 30 mounted on post 32 and attaches to axle sheave 34 at location 36 which is about 110 degrees around sheave from the point where tension element 28 intersects sheave 34 with toilet seat 2 in its down position as shown in FIGS. 3 and 6A. The power source for actuating actuator 24 is utility water pressure, the same water pressure that is used to flush the toilet. Utility water under pressure (in the range of about 65 psi) enters actuator 24 through water line 38 as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. This water pressure causes modified actuator arm 26 to advance from its position shown in FIG. 3 to its position shown in FIG. 4 about 1¼ inch pulling tension element 28 about 1¼ inch. Tension element 28 acts through pulley 30 to pivot sheave 34 about 110 degrees. Sheave 34 is rigidly attached to axle 38 that is rigidly attached to seat 2 through seat lift arms 40 so the 110 degree pivot of sheave 34 causes seat 2 to pivot upward about 110 to rest against water tank 8 as shown in FIG. 6B. The utilization of a flexible nylon tension unit 28 allows the lid to be raised manually without activating the actuator 24.

Control of Lift Mechanism

In this preferred embodiment lift mechanism 20 is controlled by three-way spring positioned valve 42 as shown in FIGS. 5A, 5B and 5C and 6A through 6E. The neutral position of this valve is shown in FIG. 5B. Hand force is required to position the valve in positions 5A and 5C. In the 5B position the valve is closed and no water passes through. In position 5A the valve connects actuator 24 to utility water pressure line 44 as shown in FIG. 6A to provide approximately 65 psi water pressure to actuator 24. In position 5C valve 42 connects actuator to drain line 46 to drain actuator 24 into water tank 8 as shown in FIG. 6D. Actuator 24 is also drained through drain line 47 by flushing the toilet. Aquarium float shutoff valve 60 as shown in FIGS. 7A and 7B is closed when tank 8 is full and open when the water level is low.

Utility Water Supply Attachment Unit

In this preferred embodiment water supply attachment unit 48 is provided as a part of a standard kit to provide a pressurized water supply to actuator 24. This water supply attachment unit includes a standard tube connection coupling 50 and a threaded tube connection section 52 which is equivalent to the standard 7/16 inch tubing on standard toilet tank connections. The attachment unit also includes a pipe section 54 a ¼ inch O.D. tube connection 56 for connecting water pressure line 44 to provide water under pressure to actuator 24. This attachment unit permits an easy connection to utility water pressure without the need of special plumbing skills.

Raising and Lowering the Seat

Operation of this first preferred embodiment is explained by reference to FIGS. 6A through 6E. FIG. 6A shows features of the embodiment with the seat in the down position. Valve 42 is in its neutral closed position. No pressure is applied to actuator 24 and seat 2 is in its down position. Tank 8 is full.

Raising the Seat

In FIG. 6B valve 42 is moved by a user to its raised position as shown at 64 so that actuator 24 is connected by valve 42 to 65 psi utility water pressure through water supply attachment unit 48. Water flows according to arrows 66 as shown in FIG. 6B. Actuator arm 26 of actuator 24 is driven about 1¼ inch as shown by comparing FIG. 6B to FIG. 6A which causes seat 2 to rise to the position shown at 68 in FIG. 6B. FIG. 6C shows the condition of the elements of the present invention after the raising of seat 2. No water is flowing and seat 2 remains in its up position, held there by trapped pressure in actuator 24.

Lowering the Seat

In FIG. 6D valve 42 is moved by a user to its lower position as shown at 70 so that actuator 24 is connected by valve 42 to drain line 46. Water flows out of actuator to tank 8 as shown by arrows 74 in FIG. 6D. Spring element 76 attached to axle 38 as shown in FIG. 6C is positioned to apply a lowering torque to axle 38 when the seat 2 is in a position higher than about 70 degrees. At 70 degrees spring element 76 presses against the bottom of tank 8. So once the water pressure in actuator decreases to atmospheric, spring element 76 causes seat 2 to rotate to about 70 degrees. This causes a rotation of sheave 34 which through tension element 28 drives actuator arm 26 pushing water out of actuator 24. Once seat is rotated to about 70 degrees gravity will take over causing it to lower slowly to its horizontal position driving actuator arm 26 to its withdrawn position as shown at 72 in FIG. 6D as the remaining water is forced out of the actuator.

Flushing Automatically Lowers the Seat

FIG. 6E shows what happens if seat 2 is left in its up position after use by a man or boy when the toilet is flushed. The flushing of the toilet causes the water level in tank 8 to drop. This opens aquarium float shutoff valve 60 as shown in FIG. 7A allowing the action of spring element 76 and the weight of seat 2 to force the water out of actuator 24 and forcing seat 2 to lower slowly to its horizontal position. The flow of water is shown by arrows 80 in FIG. 6E. The rising of water level in tank 8 closes valve 60 as shown in FIG. 7B.

Two Two-Way Valves Replacing the Three-Way Valve

An alternative to the three-way control valve shown in FIGS. 5A, 5B and 5C is two two-way valves. In this case two two-way valves can be used as shown in FIGS. 8A, 8B and 8C. These are spring operated valves with the neutral position as shown in FIG. 8B. To raise the seat a user should operate valve 42A as shown in FIG. 8A and to lower the seat the user should operate valve 42B as shown in FIG. 8C.

Electric Controlled Valves

Instead of the manually operated valves described above and shown in FIGS. 5A though 6E, actuator 24 can be controlled by electric actuated valves. FIG. 9A shows control using a three-way electric controlled valve 52. FIG. 9B shows similar control using two two-way electric control valves 52A and 52B. The functioning of the remainder of the system is the same as described above for the manually controlled valves. The valves 52 and 52A and 52B in FIGS. 9A and 9B are controlled by electric switches 50 as shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B. These switches can be finger operated switches or switches 50 could be remotely operated switches using a signal transmitter and receiver. The signal transmitter and receiver could be an infrared device or it could be a device operated at radio frequencies. Such devices are readily available from many suppliers.

Pushing Actuator

Actuator 24 can be configured to operate in a push mode as shown in FIG. 10 instead of the pull configuration in FIGS. 3, 3A, 4 and 4A and FIGS. 6A through 6E. In this case pulley unit 30 is replaced by a cam 30A that is pushed by actuator 24 instead of being pulled. The reader should note that this drawing shows the components of the seat raising unit to occupy only one half of lift mechanism 20. This leaves room for an equivalent mechanism and controls for controlling the positioning of seat cover 4 as shown in FIG. 1. Preferably the control mechanism for cover 4 would be substantially the same as described for seat 2 and the axel for cover 4 would be positioned at a higher level than axel 76 for seat 2.

Remotely Controlled Embodiment

Applicant currently expects to provide a preferred embodiment for use with toilets similar to the one shown in FIG. 1. The unit will be marketed as a kit and will contain hydraulic controls for both the seat 2 and cover 4. Each of the hydraulic devices will be controlled by a two-way miniature battery operated solenoid valves each of which in turn will be actuated by a battery powered, radio frequency transmitter and receiver unit. The transmitters preferably will be mounted at a convenient location on the bathroom wall and the receivers will be located adjacent to the valves. Each transmitter is actuated by button control unit. These remote transmitter/receiver units can be provided by many suppliers such as Aerotech with offices in Pittsburgh, Pa. and the miniature valves are available from suppliers such as Asco Scientific with offices in Orange, Calif. The kit is expected to include an infrared sensor unit that will be adapted to lower the seat when there is no one in the vicinity of the toilet for a specified period of time.

Mounting the Preferred Embodiments

In all toilets known to Applicants two holes are provided on each toilet to mount the toilet seat or toilet seat and the toilet lid if there is one. However, the two holes are not spaced at a standard dimension. The distance between the holes varies from 5¼ inches to 8½ inches. A mounting unit is shown in FIGS. 11, 11A and 11B which comes as a part of a kit to permit preferred embodiments of the present invention to be installed easily on almost any toilet in the United States. The mounting unit is comprised of two mounting brackets 60A and 60B. Bracket 60A is I shaped and 60B is L shaped. Both have a hollow threaded post 62 that extends through the two seat mounting holes on virtually every toilet in the United States. The two mounting brackets are firmly mounted to the toilet with nuts 64. Each of the two mounting brackets have two threaded studs 66 extending upward as shown in FIG. 11A. These threaded studs extend upward through slots 70 in the bottom 68 as shown in FIG. 11B of lift mechanism housing 22. These slots permit easy attachment of the lift mechanism to toilets with wide variation in the distance between the two mounting holes. Therefore the location of the lift mechanism 20 is not dependent on the attachment holes in the stool. Lift mechanism 20 is firmly attached to the toilet structure by four nuts (not shown) attached to the four studs shown in FIG. 11B. Housing 22 of lift mechanism 20 is fitted with a rubber base edge to seal against the stool base between the seat 2 and the tank 8. Actuator fill/vent line 72 passes through hollow threaded post 62 and slot 74 in bottom plate 68 to connect to actuator 24.

Other Design Considerations

The actuator size is controlled by three main factors. The force required to lift the lid, the internal return spring space, and the cable sheave diameter. The smaller the sheave diameter the larger the force required to lift the lid. The larger the force the greater will be the actuator diameter. The spring force of spring 76 is controlled by the ‘stack’ distance and the lb-inch force to return the actuator piston. An open vent line may be provided connecting the air portion of actuator 24 to tank 8 this line could pass through one of the hollow threaded posts 62 to allow any water that might get past the lip seal of actuator 24 to be returned to the tank 8. With the electronic valves, an infrared sensor can be provided that will sense when no one is in the stool area and operate the control valve to lower the seat.

Three-way miniature solenoid valves at a single unit price less than $8 appear to be available from at least two vendors. While a specific valve to the specifications required for the compact assembly has not been identified, both vendors claim able to adjust their existing products to satisfied needs. Piezoelectric valves were examined to see if they were able to provide the service since they require very little power to operate. They are not able to meet the needs and are very expensive. The battery size required to operate the remote controls and solenoid valves is expected to be 9 volts DC or less. Valves with ⅛ inch connections provide ample water flow for the operation required.

Preferred embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail above. However, a great many variations from these specific embodiments could be made and will be obvious to persons skilled in the art to which this invention belongs. For example, as suggested above the techniques described for lifting seat 2 could also be used to lift seat cover 4. Lift mechanism housing 22 could contain two lift mechanisms, one for the seat and one for the cover. For the battery operated electronic embodiments, water flow to the toilet could be harnessed to generate enough electric power to recharge batteries needed for operating the solenoid valves to lift the seat(s). The following features could be provided to accommodate someone who manually lifts a lid. For the manual valve concept, a manual valve could be added in the housing to be triggered when the lid is lifted in order to fill the actuator and hold the lid up against the spring return force. For the solenoid valves, a magnet on the sheave could be used to detect the manual raising of the seat so that when the seat is raised, a signal can be sent that will trip the fill valve to keep the lid up. Therefore, the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalence and not by the specific embodiments described above. The primary functions of the actuators, piston returns, top and bottom lid lifting and lowering, manual and solenoid valve operations, have been tested successfully on a proof-of-principle test bed.





 
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