Title:
Water heater sediment drain system and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A sediment drain system used in a hot water heater having a tank with a top and a bottom, includes a hot water outlet in vicinity of the top of the tank, and a sediment removal tube having a tube inlet opening in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and a tube outlet opening in vicinity of the top of the tank. A combined hot water and sediment outlet connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube outlet opening mixes and draws off sediment and hot water together for a predetermined period of time from the vicinity of the top of the tank. A method for draining sediment from a water heater includes mixing and drawing off sediment and hot water together for a predetermined period of time from the vicinity of the top of the tank through the combined hot water and sediment outlet.



Inventors:
Mc Clellan, Thomas W. (Fort Lauderdale, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/823266
Publication Date:
01/01/2009
Filing Date:
06/26/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F22B37/54
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WILSON, GREGORY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LERNER GREENBERG STEMER LLP (HOLLYWOOD, FL, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. In a hot water heater having a tank with a top and a bottom, a sediment drain system comprising: a hot water outlet in vicinity of the top of the tank; a sediment removal tube having a tube inlet opening in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and a tube outlet opening in vicinity of the top of the tank; and a combined hot water and sediment outlet connected to said hot water outlet and to said tube outlet opening for mixing and drawing off sediment and hot water together for a predetermined period of time from the vicinity of the top of the tank.

2. The sediment drain system according to claim 1, wherein the tank has a side drain, and said sediment removal tube is disposed outside the tank and connected between the side drain and said combined hot water and sediment outlet.

3. The sediment drain system according to claim 2, wherein the tank has a bib, and a T-fitting is connected to the side drain, the bib and said tube inlet opening of said sediment removal tube.

4. The sediment drain system according to claim 3, which further comprises a drain extension tube connected to said T-fitting at the side drain, said drain extension tube having an inlet opening foot in vicinity of the bottom of the tank.

5. The sediment drain system according to claim 2, which further comprises a three-way valve connected to said hot water outlet and to said tube inlet opening of said sediment removal tube, said three-way valve having said combined hot water and sediment outlet.

6. The sediment drain system according to claim 1, wherein said sediment removal tube is disposed inside the tank, a tube inlet opening foot is disposed in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and is connected to said tube inlet opening of said sediment removal tube, and a three-way outlet valve is connected to said tube outlet opening of said sediment removal tube and to said hot water outlet and has said sediment outlet.

7. The sediment drain system according to claim 1, wherein said hot water outlet passes through one opening in the top of the tank, said sediment removal tube is disposed inside the tank and passes through another opening in the top of the tank separated from said one opening, a tube inlet opening foot is disposed in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and is connected to said tube inlet opening of said sediment removal tube, and a three-way outlet valve is connected to said tube outlet opening of said sediment removal tube and to said hot water outlet and has said sediment outlet.

8. The sediment drain system according to claim 6, which further comprises a fitting in which said hot water outlet and said sediment removal tube are coaxially disposed at said tube outlet opening of said sediment removal tube.

9. The sediment drain system according to claim 6, which further comprises a fitting in which said hot water outlet and said sediment removal tube are combined at said tube outlet opening of said sediment removal tube.

10. The sediment drain system according to claim 6, wherein said tank bottom has a concave shape with a lowest point at which said tube inlet opening foot is disposed.

11. The sediment drain system according to claim 7, wherein said tank bottom has a concave shape with a lowest point at which said tube inlet opening foot is disposed.

12. The sediment drain system according to claim 8, wherein said tank bottom has a concave shape with a lowest point at which said tube inlet opening foot is disposed.

13. The sediment drain system according to claim 9, wherein said tank bottom has a concave shape with a lowest point at which said tube inlet opening foot is disposed.

14. The sediment drain system according to claim 5, wherein said three-way valve is manually operated, spring operated or remotely electrically operated for initially draining sediment through said sediment removal tube for said predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from said hot water outlet, upon use of a hot water tap connected to said combined hot water and sediment outlet by a consumer.

15. The sediment drain system according to claim 6, wherein said three-way valve is manually operated, spring operated or remotely electrically operated for initially draining sediment through said sediment removal tube for said predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from said hot water outlet, upon use of a hot water tap connected to said combined hot water and sediment outlet by a consumer.

16. The sediment drain system according to claim 7, wherein said three-way valve is manually operated, spring operated or remotely electrically operated for initially draining sediment through said sediment removal tube for said predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from said hot water outlet, upon use of a hot water tap connected to said combined hot water and sediment outlet by a consumer.

17. The sediment drain system according to claim 8, wherein said three-way valve is manually operated, spring operated or remotely electrically operated for initially draining sediment through said sediment removal tube for said predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from said hot water outlet, upon use of a hot water tap connected to said combined hot water and sediment outlet by a consumer.

18. The sediment drain system according to claim 9, wherein said three-way valve is manually operated, spring operated or remotely electrically operated for initially draining sediment through said sediment removal tube for said predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from said hot water outlet, upon use of a hot water tap connected to said combined hot water and sediment outlet by a consumer.

19. The sediment drain system according to claim 5, which further comprises an external bottom drain tube to be connected to said three-way valve.

20. The sediment drain system according to claim 6, which further comprises an external bottom drain tube to be connected to said three-way valve.

21. The sediment drain system according to claim 7, which further comprises an external bottom drain tube to be connected to said three-way valve.

22. A method for draining sediment from a water heater, the method comprising the following steps: providing a hot water heater having a tank with a top, a bottom and a hot water outlet in vicinity of the top of the tank; providing a sediment drain system including a sediment removal tube having a tube inlet opening in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and a tube outlet opening in vicinity of the top of the tank; providing a combined hot water and sediment outlet connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube outlet opening; and mixing and drawing off sediment and hot water together for a predetermined period of time from the vicinity of the top of the tank through the combined hot water and sediment outlet.

23. The method according to claim 22, which further comprises: providing a three-way valve connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube inlet opening of the sediment removal tube and having the combined hot water and sediment outlet; and operating the three-way valve for initially draining sediment through the sediment removal tube for the predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from the hot water outlet, upon use of a hot water tap connected to the combined hot water and sediment outlet by a consumer.

24. The method according to claim 22, which further comprises performing the three-way valve operating step automatically by spring operation or remote electrical operation of the three-way valve.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates to a water heater sediment drain system. The invention also relates to a method for draining sediment from a water heater.

2. Description of the Related Art

In water heaters, heat and stasis cause dissolved minerals and other suspended particulates to settle out and collect in the bottom of the tank. This sediment coats the interior of the tank, layering a slime and scale on the thermostat, heating elements and tank lining, decreasing the heater's efficiency and service life. Occasionally, globs of the slimy sediment are seen in hot drinks, cooking dishes and bath water.

The two existing methods of sediment removal are either ineffective and contaminating or inconvenient and very difficult to perform.

The first existing method is a prior art dip tub with a horizontal element having out-flowing jets for intentionally creating turbulence to circulate and mix the sediment with the outgoing heated water. That dip tube is not only ineffective at sediment removal but decreases water heater efficiency by defeating the very purpose for having the dip tube, that is the introduction of cold water at the bottom of the tank, so as not to disturb the hot water above. The intentional admixing of hot with cold prematurely reduces the temperature of the outgoing hot water, contaminates the entire tank with gooey slime and spits out sediment particles just when the user wants hot “clean” water.

The second existing method of sediment removal is to drain the bottom dwelling sediment through a side mounted drain valve of the tank. That outlet is located too high and isolated at one side to be truly effective and is markedly difficult and inconvenient to use. The user must connect a garden hose to the drain valve, direct the distant end of the garden hose through a door or window to the outside and away from the house, open the valve to drain the tank, close the outlet valve, and removed and put-away the garden hose. That procedure should be done monthly but is so inconvenient and problematic as to be seldom “if ever” done. Apartment dwellers and businesses have little chance of performing that procedure and sediment contamination continues as the number one cause of decreasing efficiency, heater element failure and heater maintenance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is accordingly an object of the invention to provide a water heater sediment drain system and method, which overcome the hereinafore-mentioned disadvantages of the heretofore-known systems and methods of this general type and in which sediment removal and even sediment prevention is effective, convenient, and simple.

With the foregoing and other objects in view there is provided, in accordance with the invention, in a hot water heater having a tank with a top and a bottom, a sediment drain system comprising a hot water outlet in vicinity of the top of the tank, and a sediment removal tube having a tube inlet opening in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and a tube outlet opening in vicinity of the top of the tank. A combined hot water and sediment outlet is connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube outlet opening for mixing and drawing off sediment and hot water together for a predetermined period of time from the vicinity of the top of the tank.

Thus, according to the invention, sediment is never permitted to accumulate at the bottom of the tank, because it is drained off for the first few seconds of use by a consumer opening a hot water tap anywhere in a home or business. By the time the water runs hot and the consumer begins to use it, the sediment is no longer being drained.

In accordance with another feature of the invention, the tank has a side drain, and the sediment removal tube is disposed outside the tank and connected between the side drain and the combined hot water and sediment outlet. The tank has a bib, and a T-fitting is connected to the side drain, the bib and the tube inlet opening of the sediment removal tube. A drain extension tube, which is connected to the T-fitting at the side drain, has an inlet opening foot in vicinity of the bottom of the tank. This first embodiment of the invention permits an existing hot water heater to be retrofitted with the sediment removal tube disposed outside the tank, which is particularly cost-effective.

In accordance with a further feature of the invention, a three-way valve is connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube inlet opening of the sediment removal tube. The three-way valve has the combined hot water and sediment outlet. The three-way valve may be manually operated, spring operated or remotely electrically operated for initially draining sediment through the sediment removal tube for the predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from the hot water outlet, upon use by a consumer of a hot water tap connected to the combined hot water and sediment outlet. This makes it particularly easy to switch-over from sediment and hot water removal to hot water removal alone by merely switching the position of the valve.

In accordance with an added feature of the invention, the sediment removal tube is disposed inside the tank, a tube inlet opening foot is disposed in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and is connected to the tube inlet opening of the sediment removal tube, and a three-way outlet valve is connected to the tube outlet opening of the sediment removal tube and to the hot water outlet and has the sediment outlet. According to this second embodiment of the invention, the tank is produced with the sediment removal tube in the tank and the valve can once again easily switch from combined sediment and hot water removal to hot water removal alone.

In accordance with an additional feature of the invention, the hot water outlet passes through one opening in the top of the tank, the sediment removal tube is disposed inside the tank and passes through another opening in the top of the tank separated from the one opening, a tube inlet opening foot is disposed in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and is connected to the tube inlet opening of the sediment removal tube, and a three-way outlet valve is connected to the tube outlet opening of the sediment removal tube and to the hot water outlet and has the sediment outlet. In this third embodiment of the invention, the sediment removal tube is once again disposed inside the tank, but the hot water outlet is separate from the sediment removal tube.

In accordance with yet another feature of the invention, the hot water outlet is disposed coaxially with or is combined with the sediment removal tube in a fitting at the tube outlet opening of the sediment removal tube. This fourth embodiment uses one fitting leading to the valve for sediment and hot water supply.

In accordance with yet another feature of the invention, the tank bottom has a concave shape with a lowest point at which the tube inlet opening foot is disposed. This embodiment uses a tank which is itself constructed differently than conventional tanks, with a bottom that aids in collecting sediment for removal according to the invention.

In accordance with yet another feature of the invention, there is provided an external bottom drain tube to be connected to the three-way valve. This feature provides an alternative sediment removal device downstream of the valve.

With the objects of the invention in view, there is also provided a method for draining sediment from a water heater. The method comprises providing a hot water heater having a tank with a top, a bottom and a hot water outlet in vicinity of the top of the tank, providing a sediment drain system including a sediment removal tube having a tube inlet opening in vicinity of the bottom of the tank and a tube outlet opening in vicinity of the top of the tank, and providing a combined hot water and sediment outlet connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube outlet opening. Sediment and hot water are mixed and drawn off together for a predetermined period of time from the vicinity of the top of the tank through the combined hot water and sediment outlet. This method is easily performed, ensures sediment removal, ensures water which is free of sediment when being used and increases the service life of the water heater.

In accordance with another mode of the invention, a three-way valve is connected to the hot water outlet and to the tube inlet opening of the sediment removal tube and has the combined hot water and sediment outlet. The three-way valve is operated for initially draining sediment through the sediment removal tube for the predetermined period of time and then drawing off hot water from the hot water outlet, upon use by a consumer of a hot water tap connected to the combined hot water and sediment outlet. The tap or faucet which initially removes sediment and hot water together can be located anywhere within any plumbing installation.

In accordance with a concomitant mode of the invention, the three-way valve operating step is performed automatically by spring operation or remote electrical operation of the three-way valve. The consumer therefore does not need to manually switch over the valve when sufficient sediment has been removed.

Other features which are considered as characteristic for the invention are set forth in the appended claims.

Although the invention is illustrated and described herein as embodied in a water heater sediment drain system and method, it is nevertheless not intended to be limited to the details shown, since various modifications and structural changes may be made therein without departing from the spirit of the invention and within the scope and range of equivalents of the claims.

The construction and method of operation of the invention, however, together with additional objects and advantages thereof will be best understood from the following description of specific embodiments when read in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic, longitudinal-sectional view of a hot water heater including a first embodiment of a sediment drain system according to the invention with an external connection between a side drain and a three-way valve at a hot water outlet;

FIG. 1A is a side-elevational view of an internal drain extension;

FIG. 2 is a longitudinal-sectional view of a second embodiment of the sediment drain system, which is disposed in a tank with a tapered bottom and has a fitted sediment removal tube and inlet;

FIG. 3 is a longitudinal-sectional view of a third embodiment of the sediment drain system, which is disposed in a tank with a tapered bottom and has separate hot water and sediment removal tube outlets;

FIG. 4 is a longitudinal-sectional view of a fourth embodiment of the sediment drain system, which is disposed in a tank with a tapered bottom and has a combined outlet containing a short hot water outlet and a long tank-bottom sediment removal tube; and

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary, side-elevational view of an attachable external bottom drain.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the figures of the drawings in detail and first, particularly, to FIG. 1 thereof, there is seen a typical electric water heater 1 having a tank 2, a side drain 3, a hot water outlet 4 at the top of the tank, upper and lower heating elements 5, a temperature/pressure relief valve 7 and a high efficiency, non-admixing, reduced outflow energy dip tube 8 having a cold water inlet 9. The dip tube 8 is described in detail in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/811,428, filed Jun. 8, 2007, by the inventor of the instant application. The high-efficiency dip tube 8 has a vertical section with the upstream inlet 9 at the top and a horizontal section with downstream outlet orifices 6 at the bottom, as seen in water flow direction represented by an arrow. The horizontal section of the dip tube 8 may be curved.

The hot water heater 1, which need not be electric, also employs a first embodiment of a sediment drain system 10 according to the invention. The sediment drain system 10 includes an external T-fitting 11 connected to the side drain 3 and having a bib 12. An external, permanent, side-mounted connection or sediment removal tube 14 has a tube inlet opening 14′ connected to the T-fitting 11 at the side drain 3 and a tube outlet opening 14″ connected to a three-way valve 15. The three-way valve 15 is also connected to the hot water outlet 4 and has a combined hot water and sediment outlet 16 to be connected to the regular building plumbing system and fixtures or taps. The first embodiment of the sediment drain system 10 utilizes the conventional side drain 3 because of its availability and readiness for retrofit of existing water heaters. The T-fitting 11, sediment removal tube 14 and three-way valve 15 may be constructed of metal or any other suitable material.

FIG. 1A shows an internal drain extension tube 17 having an externally threaded end-taper to be screwed into a non-illustrated internal thread at an end 13 of the T-fitting 11 at the side drain 3, for improving sediment drainage. The internal drain extension tube 17 is formed to lay closer to and more centrally in the tank bottom and has a tube inlet opening foot 18 at a bottom 19 for supplementing the existing side drain 3 to improve pick up and removal of the sediment.

FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 show tanks 2′ according to the invention, having dependant tapered or frustoconical sediment-gathering bottoms 19′. It is also noted that conventional bibs 12 are present at the side drains 3 in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4.

FIG. 2 shows a second embodiment of a sediment drain system 20 according to the invention, with a sediment removal tube 24 fitted inside the tank 2′ and having a tube inlet opening 24′ connected to a tube inlet opening foot 28. The sediment removal tube 24 has a tube outlet opening 24″ connected to a three-way outlet valve 25 having a combined hot water and sediment outlet 26 and a manual, spring-loaded or electric servo control 27. The hot water outlet 4 is disposed alongside the tube outlet opening 24″. Once again, the more dependant contour of the bottom 19′ of the water heater tank 2′ in the shape of a modified cone or circle facilitates a focused collection of the sediment for improved pick up and removal by the tube inlet opening foot 18.

FIG. 3 shows a third embodiment of a sediment drain system 30 according to the invention, with a separate hot water outlet 4 and sediment removal tube 34 having a tube outlet opening 34″ connected to a three-way valve 35. Therefore, the sediment drain system 30 utilizes two closely-spaced, typically-sized outlet fittings in the top of the water heater tank 2′. One of the two outlets accommodates the conventional short tube hot water outlet 4 for drawing off hot water from the upper part of the tank and the other of the two outlets accommodates the long sediment removal tube 34 which is contoured to the tank bottom and has a tube inlet opening 34′ connected to a tube inlet opening foot 38 to serve as a tank sediment drain. Both outlets are connected to the three-way valve 35 having a manual, spring-loaded or servo control or drive 37 and a combined hot water and sediment outlet 36.

FIG. 4 shows a fourth embodiment of a sediment drain system 40 according to the invention, with a high-efficiency, straight dip tube 8 on the right. A combined outlet containing the short hot water outlet 4 and a long tank-bottom sediment removal tube 44 are controlled by an integrated three-way valve 45. The sediment removal tube 44 has a tube outlet opening 44″ connected to the three-way valve 45 and a tube inlet opening 44′ connected to a tube inlet opening foot 48. The valve is shown with a servo-driven valve selector 47 and a combined hot water and sediment outlet 46. A switch 47′, which is diagrammatically illustrated as being connected to the valve selector 47, may be a manually-operated electric switch or a timer, although a timer can also be integrated within the valve selector 47. These features can also be used in the other embodiments as well. The sediment draining tube has the tube inlet opening foot 48.

It may be seen by comparing FIG. 3 with FIGS. 2 and 4, that the second embodiment of FIG. 2 and the fourth embodiment of FIG. 4 use a larger-diameter hot water outlet fitting 25′, 45′ containing both the short length hot water outlet 4 and the longer tank bottom sediment draining tube, which may be coaxial or combined with one other.

The integrated three-way valves 15, 25, 35 and 45 of FIGS. 2, 3, 4 and 5 can select either source for the outlet flow and be manual, spring-loaded or electrically controlled by a remote switch or automatically electrically controlled to select the sediment drain for the first few seconds of each hot water use cycle. When the three-way valve selects the short hot water outlet as its incoming source in a first position, the water heater functions normally. In a second temporary position, the water is re-routed or diverted from the bottom of the sediment draining tube to carry and effectively remove sediment. Admixing in the tank is prevented by the non-admixing dip tube 8, efficiency is preserved and sediment is allowed to collect gently in the tank bottom to reduce contamination and ease the next removal.

The user of the water heater may simply open any hot water tap, momentarily select the second or diverted position and finally close the hot water tap. This sediment drainage system is tool and implement free and takes less than one minute to operate. The use of a hot water tap provides an approved time and place, so that the contaminated water will not be used or consumed and controls the sediment and debris being flushed down the drain.

The three-way valve can be a manually-operated, spring-loaded, failsafe-return or electrically-driven valve, such as with a remote switch under a kitchen sink, or electrically controlled on a timed circuit to drain the sediment line for a few seconds during the initial flow of each hot water use (or predetermined number of hot water uses). This automated timed sediment removal system takes advantage of the natural pause as users wait for the water to run hot and totally eliminates the problem of sediment build up since microscopic amounts of particulate are flushed with each hot water use and sediment build up never occurs.

FIG. 5 shows an attachable, external bottom drain tube 54 to be connected to the three-way valve 15, 25, 35, 45 as an alternate way of draining sediment externally from the three-way valve, rather than through plumbing fixtures or taps.