Title:
SOLAR POWERED ILLUMINATION DEVICE FOR A CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A mailbox including a box having a box door, a first box door, a photocell circuit, and a cartridge. The box door is pivotally connected to a first wall of the box. The cartridge includes a light source and an electric power source. The light source illuminates an interior surface of the box. The photocell circuit includes a photocell panel. The photocell circuit charges the electric power source using energy acquired by the photocell panel. The electric power source powers the light source. The cartridge is removably mounted to a second wall of the box to electrically connect and disconnect the cartridge to the photocell circuit.



Inventors:
Guo, Wenkwei (Cold Spring Harbor, NY, US)
Chen, Chieh-yu (Fresh Meadows, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/738818
Publication Date:
10/23/2008
Filing Date:
04/23/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
40/566
International Classes:
A47G29/122
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CROWE, DAVID R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
F. CHAU & ASSOCIATES, LLC (WOODBURY, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A mailbox, comprising: a box having a box door pivotally connected to a first wall of the box and a pair of substantially parallel guide channels mounted to a second wall of the box, wherein each channel includes a continuous groove; a light source to illuminate an interior of the box; an electric power source to power the light source; a photocell circuit which includes a photocell panel, wherein the photocell circuit charges the electric power source using energy acquired by the photocell panel; and a cartridge housing the electric power source and the light source, wherein the cartridge includes a pair of linear extensions that are slidingly received by grooves to enable the cartridge to be slid into a connection with the photocell circuit.

2. 2-3. (canceled)

4. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the photocell panel is mounted to the second wall and the photocell circuit is electrically connected to the cartridge.

5. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the second wall includes a hinge for mounting the cartridge.

6. The mailbox as recited in claim 5, wherein the cartridge includes an extension that connects to the hinge.

7. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the cartridge includes a handle.

8. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the light source is activated when the photocell circuit determines a level of ambient light is below a certain minimum magnitude.

9. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the first wall is a bottom wall of the box.

10. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the second wall is a top wall of the box.

11. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the electric power source is a rechargeable battery.

12. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the light source comprises one of an incandescent light, a light emitting diode, or a fluorescent light.

13. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein the box door includes an opening that houses one of a clear or translucent panel.

14. The mailbox as recited in claim 13, wherein the panel includes a panel opening that houses a decorative shape.

15. The mailbox as recited in claim 13, wherein the decorative shape is formed of a clear or translucent material.

16. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein a wall of the box includes an opening that houses one of a clear or translucent decorative shape.

17. The mailbox as recited in claim 1, wherein a surface of the box is opaque.

18. An apparatus for lighting an interior of a container, comprising: a cartridge that includes a cylindrical bar mounted along one end of the cartridge and configured to mate with a pair of swinging hinges mounted to a wall of the container; a light source to illuminate an interior of the container; and an electric power source to power the light source, wherein the cartridge houses the electric power source and the light source.

19. The apparatus as recited in claim 18, further comprising: a switch to enable and disable the electric power source.

20. 20-21. (canceled)

22. The apparatus as recited in claim 18, wherein the electric power source is a rechargeable battery.

23. The apparatus as recited in claim 18, wherein the light source comprises one of an incandescent light, a light emitting diode, or a fluorescent light.

24. The apparatus as recited in claim 18, wherein the container is one of a mailbox, an animal dwelling, a statue, and an ornament.

25. A mailbox, comprising: a box having a box door pivotally connected to a first wall of the box and a pair of substantially parallel guide channels mounted to a second wall of the box, wherein each channel includes a continuous groove; a light source to illuminate an interior of the box; an electric power source to power the light source; a cartridge housing the electric power source and the light source, wherein the cartridge includes a pair of linear extensions that are slidingly received by the grooves to enable the cartridge to be slid into a connection with the electric power source; and one of a clear or translucent panel mounted in an opening of the box door.

26. The mailbox as recited in claim 25, further comprising: a switch for enabling and disabling the electric power source.

27. The mailbox as recited in claim 25, further comprising: a decorative panel mounted in an opening of a box wall or in the box door.

28. An illumination device for a container, comprising: a lower housing including a light source, a rechargeable battery to power the light source, and a pair of openings in a top portion of the lower housing; and an upper housing including a photocell circuit to charge the rechargeable battery and a pair of extensions extending from a bottom portion of the upper housing and configured to mate with the openings, wherein the lower housing removably interlocks with the upper housing via alignment of the openings and corresponding extensions and a rotation of one of the housings.

29. The illumination device of claim 28, wherein the container includes one of a mailbox an animal dwelling, a statue, or an ornament.

30. The illumination device of claim 28, wherein a portion of one or more walls of the container is translucent.

31. The illumination device of claim 28, wherein the portion includes a decoration that is illuminated by the light source.

32. The illumination device of claim 28, wherein the upper housing is circular.

33. The illumination device of claim 28, wherein the lower housing is circular.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present disclosure relates to an illumination device for a container, and more particularly, a solar powered illumination, device for a container, such as a mailbox, with a removable cartridge housing a light source and corresponding electric power source.

2. Discussion of the Related Art

A mailbox with an internal lighting device has been previously developed to permit users to view the contents of the mailbox during the hours of darkness. The mailbox is powered by a pair of 1.5 AA dry cell batteries. Light is supplied to the inside of the mailbox by an incandescent lamp mounted in a socket attached to the roof of the mailbox. Electricity is fed to the lamp by a pushbutton on/off switch mounted on a latch which secures the mailbox cover in the closed position. When a user grasps the latch to open the mailbox, the pushbutton on/off switch toggles to turn on the lamp and illuminate the interior of the mailbox. However, the dry cell batteries eventually wear out and have to be replaced.

Another mailbox with an internal lighting device uses an internal incandescent light that is powered by a rechargeable battery. The rechargeable battery is charged by a photocell panel. Since the life of the rechargeable battery is considerably longer than a dry cell battery, a user replaces the battery less frequently. However, even a rechargeable battery has a limited life and eventually needs to be replaced. In addition, the incandescent light will burn out periodically and need to be replaced.

Thus, there exists a need for a solar powered illumination device, such as a mailbox that has a longer life and also facilitates the replacement of both the light source and the corresponding electric power source when necessary.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a mailbox including a box having a box door, a photocell circuit, and a cartridge. The box door is pivotally connected to a first wall of the box. The cartridge includes a light source and an electric power source. The light source illuminates an interior of the box. The photocell circuit includes a photocell panel (i.e., solar panel). The photocell circuit charges the electric power source using energy acquired by the photocell panel. The electric power source powers the light source. The cartridge is removably mounted to a second wall of the box to electrically connect and disconnect the cartridge to and from the photocell circuit. The light source may be activated when the photocell circuit determines a level of ambient light has fallen below a certain minimum level or magnitude.

According to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for lighting an interior of a container. The apparatus includes a cartridge, a light source, and an electric power source. The cartridge is removably mounted to a wall of the container. The light source illuminates an interior of the container. The electric power source powers the light source. The apparatus may further include a switch to enable and disable the electric power source. The apparatus may further include a mounting structure which adheres to the wall and includes substantially parallel guide channels for receiving the cartridge. The apparatus may alternately include a hinge which adheres to the wall and removably connects to the cartridge.

According to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a mailbox including a box having a box door pivotally connected to a first wall of the box, a light source to illuminate an interior surface of the box, an electric power source to power the light source, a cartridge, and one of a clear or translucent panel mounted in an opening of the box door. The cartridge houses the electric power source and the light source. The cartridge is removably mounted to a second wall of the box.

According to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, an illumination device for a container is provided. The illumination device includes a lower housing and an upper housing. The lower housing includes a light source to illuminate an interior of the container and a rechargeable battery to power the light source. The upper housing includes a photocell circuit to charge the rechargeable battery. The lower housing removably interlocks with the lower housing through an opening in a wall of the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention can be understood in more detail from the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1a illustrates an exploded view of a mailbox, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 1b illustrates an alternate embodiment of the mailbox of FIG. 1a

FIG. 1c illustrates another view of the mailbox of FIG. 1a

FIG. 2a illustrates a cross sectional side view of the mailbox illustrated in FIG. 1a;

FIG. 2b illustrates a magnified view of part of FIG. 2a;

FIG. 2c illustrates a cross sectional side view of the mailbox illustrated in FIG. 1b;

FIG. 2d illustrates a magnified view of part of FIG. 2c;

FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded view of a mailbox, according to another exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4a illustrates a cross sectional side view of the mailbox of FIG. 3;

FIG. 4b illustrates a front view of a portion of the mailbox of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5a and FIG. 5b illustrate mailboxes according exemplary embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 6a and 6b illustrate a wall mounted mailbox according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 7a-7d illustrate an illumination device, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 8a and 8b illustrate a container that houses the illumination device of FIGS. 7a-7d, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention will be described below in more detail with reference to the accompanying drawings. This invention may, however, be embodied in different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art.

FIG. 1a illustrates an exploded view of a mailbox 100, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 1b illustrates an alternate embodiment of the mailbox of FIG. 1a. FIG. 1c illustrates another view of the mailbox 100. FIG. 2a illustrates a cross sectional side view of the mailbox 100 illustrated in FIG. 1a. FIG. 2b illustrates a magnified view of part of FIG. 2a. FIG. 2c illustrates a cross sectional side view of the mailbox 100 illustrated in FIG. 1b. FIG. 2d illustrates a magnified, view of part of FIG. 2c. Exemplary embodiments of the present invention will be now discussed in more detail with reference to FIGS. 1a-c, and 2a-d.

The mailbox 100 comprises a box having a box door 105, side walls 170, a bottom wall 110, and a top wall 120. The box door 105 may be pivotally connected to the bottom wall 110. The box door 105 may include a translucent or clear panel 165. Different degrees of translucence may foe implemented when the panel 165 is for example, tinted, beveled or frosted. The side walls 170, bottom wall 110 and top wall 120 may foe opaque.

The mailbox 100 further includes a removable cartridge 115 that may be mounted to the top wall 120 of the mailbox 110. The removable cartridge 115 includes a light source 130 and an electric power source 135. The cartridge 115 is mounted into the mailbox 100 so that the light source 130 faces into the mailbox to illuminate the interior of the mailbox 100 when the light source 130 is activated.

The light source 130 may be for example, an incandescent bulb, a light emitting diode (LED), or a fluorescent bulb. The light source 130 may further include one or more reflectors to improve the distribution of light about the interior of the mailbox 100.

The electric power source 135 provides power for illuminating the light source 130. The electric power source 135 is preferably a rechargeable battery.

The removable cartridge 115 connects to a photocell circuit 125. The removable cartridge 115 may include a cartridge connector 145 that physically connects the cartridge 115 to a mailbox connector 150 housed in a receptacle 210 of the mailbox 100 to electrically connect the cartridge 115 to the photocell circuit 125. The photocell circuit 125 uses light energy from an external source to charge the electric power source 130 when the removable cartridge 115 is electrically connected to the photocell circuit 125.

The mailbox 100 may include guide channels 155 mounted to the top wall 120 for receiving the cartridge 115. The cartridge 115 may be slid into and out of the guide channels 155 along extensions 167 attached to the cartridge 115. The cartridge 115 may further include a handle 140 for grasping the cartridge 115. The light source 130 and the electric power source 135 may be each replaced separately from one another or the entire cartridge 115 may be replaced with a replacement cartridge.

The photocell circuit 125 may foe mounted to the top wall 120 of the mailbox 100 by various fastening methods such as, for example, adhesives, screws, and nails. Referring to FIGS. 1b, 2c, and 2d, the photocell circuit 125 may alternately be mounted to the top wall of 120 of the mailbox in, for example, a snap fit arrangement, whereby the photocell circuit 125 is selectively removable and can foe easily replaced. The removable photocell circuit 125 is electrically connected to cartridge 115 by contacts. The photocell circuit 125 includes a contact 162, which mates with a contact 164 on the top wall 120 of the mailbox 100. The contact 164 is electrically connected to the cartridge 115 via the contact portion 150 under the contact 164 and the contact portion 145 extending from the cartridge inserted into the receptacle 210 under the contact 164. As a result, the photocell circuit 125 can be snapped into place and electrically connected to the cartridge and easily removed. The photocell circuit includes one or more photocell panels. The photocell panel acquires light energy from an external source, such as, for example, the sun, to charge the electric power source 135.

The light source 130 may be activated when the photocell circuit 125 determines a level of ambient light has fallen below a certain minimum level or magnitude.

The mailbox 100 may additionally include a water proof layer 205 to prevent water from leaking through openings in the top wall 120 of the mailbox 100. The water proof layer 205 may be made of a material such, for example, silicone, rubber or plastic. The water proof layer 205 may be built into the photocell circuit 125 or the top wall 120 of the mailbox 100.

FIGS. 2b and 2d illustrate views of the cartridge 115 physically connected to the mailbox connector 210. While the cartridge 115 and the photocell panel are shown as being mounted to the top wall 120 of the mailbox 100, the present invention is not limited thereto, as the cartridge 115 and photocell panel may be mounted to a side or back wall of the mailbox 100. Further, the box door 105 is not limited to being mounted to the bottom wall 100 of the mailbox. For example, the box door 105 may be mounted to the top wall 120.

The mailbox 100 may additionally include a flag 130 that can be illuminated by reflected light from the light source 130.

In an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the mailbox 100 does not include a photocell circuit 125. In this embodiment, since the cartridge 115 will not be electrically connected to the photocell circuit 125 for charging, the electric power source 135 may be a non-rechargeable battery or other similar device.

When the power source 135 includes rechargeable batteries, the cartridge 115 may additionally include a connector which enables the cartridge 115 to be plugged into an external charger for charging the rechargeable batteries.

A switch may be added to the mailbox 100 to disable the electrical connection between the photocell circuit 125 and the cartridge 115, thereby preventing the photocell circuit 125 from charging the electrical power source 135. In addition, a switch may be added to the cartridge 115 to disable the electrical connection between the electric power source 135 and the light source 130, thereby preventing the light source 130 from illuminating the interior of the mailbox 100.

FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded view of a mailbox, according to another exemplary embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 4a illustrates a cross sectional side view of the mailbox of FIG. 3. FIG. 4b illustrates a front view of a portion of the mailbox of FIG. 3. This exemplary embodiment will now be discussed in more detail with reference to FIGS. 3, 4a and 4b. It should be understood that elements of the present embodiment that have the same element numbers as the previous embodiment referenced in FIGS. 1a, 2a, and 2b are the same elements, and a description of those same elements will not be repeated.

The cartridge 115 includes a mounting bar 310. One or more swinging hinge(s) 305 are mounted to the top wall 120 of the mailbox 100. The cartridge 115 is mounted to the top wall 120 by attaching the mounting bar 310 to the hinge(s) 305. The hinge(s) 305 enable the cartridge 115 to swing away from the top wall 120 at an angle between about 0 and about 180 degrees, thereby enabling a user to either replace the light source 130, the electric power source 135, or the entire cartridge 115.

The mailbox 100 or the cartridge 115 may include a first locking/releasing mechanism for locking/releasing the cartridge 130 to/from the top wall 120. The mailbox 100 or cartridge 115 may also include a second locking/releasing mechanism for locking/releasing the cartridge 115 to/from the hinge(s) 305. A actuating means of the locking/releasing mechanisms for triggering the locking or releasing of the mechanisms may be located on or near the handle 140 of the cartridge 115. Examples of locking/releasing mechanisms may include, for example, push-button release, clothing snap lock, hook and loop fastener lock.

FIG. 5a and FIG. 5b illustrate mailboxes 100 according exemplary embodiments of the present invention. The mailboxes 100 may be structurally similar to the embodiment discussed in FIGS. 1a, 2a, and 2b, the embodiment discussed in FIGS. 1b, 2c, and 2d, or the embodiment discussed in FIGS. 3, 4a, and 4b. Referring to FIGS. 5a and 5b, the mailboxes 100 additionally include a decorative panel 505 mounted on the panel 165 or in an opening of the panel 165 of the box door 105. Like the panel 165, the decorative panel 505 may be clear or translucent. The decorative panel 505 may also be mounted in an opening of one or more of the side walls 170 of the mailbox 100. The decorative panels 505 are illuminated when the interior of the mailbox 100 is illuminated. The decorative panels 505 may be shaped to be interchangeable with one another. For example, two decorative shapes may be shaped as a circle of the same radius, but each shape could have a different decoration.

FIGS. 6a and 6b illustrate different views of a wall mounted mailbox according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The cartridge 115 illustrated is structurally similar to one of the prior above embodiments. The cartridge 115 may mounted in manners similar the embodiments previously discussed. Referring to FIG. 6a, the orientation of the extensions 167 and the handle 140 on the cartridge 115 have been adjusted to support the shape of the wall mounted mailbox 100. The box door 105 is pivotally attached to a top wall of the mailbox 100.

Similar to the mailboxes 100 illustrated in FIGS. 5a and 5b, the mailbox 100 may include a decorative panel 505 that is illuminated when the interior of the mailbox 100 is lit and shaped to be interchangeable with another decorative panel.

While the photocell circuit 125 is illustrated as having two small photocell panels, the present invention is not limited thereto, as this is merely an example to show that the present invention can be easily modified to accommodate various mailbox dimensions. For example, the photocell circuit 125 may have one photocell panel or several photocell panels.

It is to be understood that the cartridge 115 is not limited to being mounted within a mailbox. The cartridge 115 may be mounted within any suitable container, such as an animal dwelling or holiday ornament. Animal dwellings may include, for example, cat, bird, and dog houses. The holiday ornament may include exterior statues that are commonly illuminated at night, such as a snowman, a Santa Claus, and reindeer. Like the mailbox, the cartridge 115 can be mounted to a wall of the dwelling or ornament to illuminate the corresponding interior. Further, like the mailbox, the dwellings and ornaments can include the same clear or translucent panels with or without designs. In addition, for example, the entire ornament can be made of a clear or translucent material so that the generated light is seen by an observer. The dwelling or ornament may also include a photocell circuit 125 with one or more solar panels or photocells to power and recharge the cartridge 115. In addition, the size or number of solar panels or photocells can be adjusted based the size of the dwelling or ornament.

FIGS. 7a-7d illustrate an illumination device 700, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7a represents a top view of the illumination device 700, where only the upper housing 705 is visible. FIG. 7b illustrates a side cross section of the illumination device 700, showing both the upper housing 705 and the lower housing 730. Like the cartridge 115 illustrated in the prior figures, the lower housing 730 includes a battery and a light source. FIG. 7c illustrates a top view of the lower housing 730. The illumination device 700 can be mounted to a container by interlocking male extensions 715 of the upper housing 705 through openings in a wall 720 of the container to openings 735 in the lower housing 730. The housings 705 and 730 can be removably interlocked together, for example, locked by rotating one of the housings clockwise or unlocked by rotating one of the housings counter-clockwise. The housings 705 and 730 may be circular shaped to facilitate the rotation, but the present embodiment is not limited thereto, and may have any other suitable shape, such as an oval, rectangle, or square.

The upper housing 705 may include extensions 710, such as ribs, to aid a user in gripping the housing. The lower housing 730 may include similar extensions 740. The upper housing 705 may include a photocell circuit 725 (See FIGS. 8a and 8b) like the photocell circuit 125, which connects to the light source and battery through an opening 745 in the lower housing 730 to power the light source and charge the lower housing battery. A portion of the lower housing 730 is open or translucent to allow the light source to illuminate an interior of a container the lighting unit 700 is mounted within.

FIG. 7d illustrates another side cross section of the lighting unit. Referring to FIG. 7d, the lower housing 730 may additionally include a molded tongue 750 of a varying thickness to create a better seal between the housings 705 and 730. The tongue 750 may be made from silicon, rubber, plastic, or any other suitable material.

FIGS. 8a and 8b illustrate an animal dwelling 800 that houses a lighting unit 700 illustrated in FIGS. 7a-d, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The roof 750 of the dwelling 800 includes openings for interfacing the upper housing 705 with the lower housing 730. The lighting unit 700 is not limited to being mounted to the roof 750 of the dwelling 800, and may be mounted to any other suitable wall. While FIG. 8a, illustrates a dog house, the lighting unit 700 may be mounted within various animal dwellings, such a cat or bird house, and additionally within a mailbox, statue, ornament, or other suitable container. Portions of one or more walls of the container may be translucent and may also be formed into decorative shapes to be illuminated by the light source.

Although the illustrative embodiments have been described herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the present invention is not limited to those precise embodiments, and that various other changes and modifications may be affected therein by one of ordinary skill in the related art without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. All such changes and modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.