Title:
Individual HVAC climate control seats
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automotive vehicle includes a seat assembly with one or more seat outlets for exhausting conditioned air to an occupant seat therein. A HVAC assembly operates in a warm-up mode and a cool-down for generating heated and cooled air to achieve a predetermined air temperature. An air selection module controls airflow from the HVAC assembly to air ducts for delivering air from the air selection module to the seat assembly. At least one seat valve moveable between open and closed positions controls air flow from the air selection module to one or more seat ducts. A purge valve moveable between open and closed positions vents air from the air selection module. The vehicle further includes a control system for closing the purge valve and opening at least one seat valve in response to the air temperature of the air from the HVAC assembly being at least the predetermined air temperature.



Inventors:
Kadle, Prasad Shripad (Williamsville, NY, US)
Wolfe IV, Edward (Amherst, NY, US)
Craig, Timothy D. (Williamsville, NY, US)
Pawlak III, John Lawrence (Orchard Park, NY, US)
Application Number:
12/075688
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
03/13/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
454/120, 297/180.12
International Classes:
A47C7/74; B61D27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FORD, JOHN K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Aptiv Technologies Limited (Troy, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An automotive vehicle comprising; a body defining a cabin, a seat assembly disposed in said occupant cabin for holding an occupant and including at least one seat outlet for delivering air upon the occupant, a temperature selector operable by the occupant for selecting a predetermined air temperature, a HVAC assembly operable to achieve said predetermined air temperature in at least one of a warm-up mode in response to a warm-up signal for generating heated air and a cool-down mode in response to a cool-down signal for generating cooled air, an air temperature sensor disposed downstream from said HVAC assembly for sensing an air temperature of the air from said HVAC assembly, an air selection module for controlling airflow from said HVAC assembly, an HVAC duct for delivering air from said HVAC assembly to said air selection module, at least one seat duct for delivering air from the air selection module to the seat assembly, at least one seat valve moveable between an open position for allowing air through said at least one seat duct to said seat assembly and a closed position for blocking airflow through said at least one seat duct to said seat assembly, a purge valve moveable between an open position for venting air from said air selection module and a closed position to block airflow therethrough, a control system being in signal communication with said air temperature sensor and said temperature selector and said air selection module for opening said purge valve while closing said at least one seat valve in response to said air temperature being less than said predetermined air temperature and for closing said purge valve while opening said at least one seat valve to deliver air from said air selection module to said at least one seat duct in response to said air temperature being at least said predetermined air temperature.

2. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 1 wherein said control system includes a HVAC controller being in signal communication with said air temperature sensor for receiving said air temperature and said air selection module for outputting a plurality of control signals to control said air selection module and being in signal communication with said HVAC assembly for outputting said warm-up mode signal in response to the occupant selecting said warm-up mode and said cool-down mode signal in response to the occupant selecting said cool-down mode.

3. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 2 wherein said seat assembly includes a seat bottom and a seat back with each of said seat bottom and said seat back including said plurality of seat outlets for delivering air to the occupant.

4. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 3 wherein said seat bottom includes a seat bottom inlet for receiving air and for delivering air within said seat bottom to said plurality of seat outlets of said seat bottom and wherein said seat back includes a seat back inlet for receiving air and for delivering air within said seat back to said plurality of seat outlets of said seat back.

5. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 4 further comprising a seat bottom duct extending from said air selection module to said seat bottom inlet for delivering air from said air selection module to said seat bottom inlet and a seat back duct extending from said air selection module to said seat back inlet for delivering air from said air selection module to said seat back inlet.

6. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 5 wherein said air selection module includes said seat valve disposed between said air selection module and each of said seat bottom duct and said seat back duct for opening and closing in response to at least of said plurality of control signals generated by said HVAC controller to regulate the delivery of air to each of said seat bottom and said seat back ducts.

7. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 5 wherein said air selection module includes a seat bottom valve disposed between said seat bottom duct and said air selection module for opening and closing in response to at least one of said plurality of control signals generated by said HVAC controller to regulate the delivery of air to said seat bottom duct.

8. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 7 wherein said air selection module includes a seat back valve disposed between said seat back duct and said air selection module for opening and closing in response to at least one of said plurality of control signals generated by said HVAC controller to regulate the delivery of air to said seat back duct.

9. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 8 wherein said plurality of control signals output by said HVAC controller include a purge open signal for opening said purge valve and a seat bottom close signal for closing said seat bottom valve and a seat back close signal for closing seat back valve wherein said HVAC controller outputs said purge open signal and said seat bottom close signal and said seat back close signal in response to said air temperature being less than said predetermined air temperature.

10. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 9 wherein said plurality of control signals output by said HVAC controller include a purge close signal for closing said purge valve and a seat bottom open signal for opening said seat bottom valve and a seat back open signal for opening said seat back valve wherein said HVAC controller outputs said purge close signal and said seat bottom open signal and said seat back open signal in response to at least one of said air temperature being at least said predetermined air temperature.

11. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 2 further comprising a heat element assembly disposed in said seat assembly for heating said seat assembly to warm the occupant.

12. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 11 wherein said heat element assembly includes a power supply for generating current and a plurality of heating elements connected to said power supply and being disposed within each of said seat bottom and said seat back for dissipating heat in response to the current generated by said power supply.

13. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 12 further comprising at least one seat temperature sensor disposed within said seat assembly for sensing a seat temperature (TSEAT) of the said seat assembly and for outputting a seat temperature signal in response to sensing the seat temperature (TSEAT).

14. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 13 wherein said at least one seat temperature includes a first seat temperature sensor disposed in said seat bottom and second seat temperature sensor disposed in said seat back.

15. The automotive vehicle as set forth in claim 13 wherein said HVAC controller is in signal communication with said at least one seat temperature sensor and said power supply of said heat element assembly for outputting an energizing signal to switch on said power supply in response to the occupant selecting said warm-up mode for delivering the current to said plurality of heating elements and for outputting a de-energizing signal to switch off said power supply in response to at least one of the occupant selecting said cool-down mode and the seat temperature (TSEAT) of said seat assembly is at least a predetermined seat temperature and said air temperature being at least said predetermined air temperature.

16. An automotive vehicle comprising; a body defining a occupant cabin, a seat assembly disposed in said occupant cabin and including a seat bottom and a seat back for holding an occupant, each of said seat bottom and said seat back including a plurality of seat outlets for delivering air to the occupant seated in said seat assembly, said seat bottom having a seat bottom inlet for receiving air and for delivering air within said seat bottom to said to said plurality of seat outlets of said seat bottom, said seat back having a seat back inlet for receiving air and for delivering air within said seat back to said plurality of seat outlets of said seat back, a temperature selector operable by the occupant for selecting a predetermined air temperature, a HVAC assembly supported by said body operable to achieve said predetermined air temperature in at least one of a warm-up mode in response to a warm-up signal for generating heated air and a cool-down mode in response to a cool-down signal for generating cooled air, an air temperature sensor disposed downstream from said HVAC assembly for sensing an air temperature of the air from said HVAC assembly, an air selection module supported by said body and disposed beneath said seat assembly for controlling airflow from said HVAC assembly, an HVAC duct extending from said HVAC assembly to said air selection module for delivering air from said HVAC assembly to said air selection module, a seat bottom duct extending from said air selection module to said seat bottom inlet for delivering the air from said air selection module to said seat bottom inlet, a seat back duct extending from said air selection module to said seat back inlet for delivering the air from said air selection module to said seat back inlet, a heat element assembly disposed in said seat assembly for heating said seat assembly in response to an energizing signal to warm the occupant, said heat element assembly including a power supply for generating current and a plurality of heating elements connected to said power supply and disposed within each of said seat bottom and said seat back for dissipating heat in response to the current generated by said power supply, said heat element assembly including a seat temperature sensor disposed within said seat assembly for sensing a seat temperature of the said seat assembly and for outputting a seat temperature signal in response to sensing said seat temperature, said air selection module including at least one seat valve moveable between an open position for allowing air through said at least one seat duct and a closed position for blocking airflow through said at least one seat duct, said at least one seat valve including a seat bottom valve disposed between said seat bottom duct and said air selection module for opening in response to a seat bottom open signal and for closing in response to a seat bottom close signal, said at least one seat valve including a seat back valve disposed between said seat back duct and said air selection module for opening in response to a seat back open signal and for closing in response to a seat back close signal, said air selection module including a purge duct extending along said body and beneath said seat assembly for exhausting air from said air selection module and for diverting air away from said at least one seat duct, said air selection module including a purge valve moveable between an open position for venting air from said air selection module and a closed position for blocking airflow therethrough, said purge valve disposed between said purge duct and said air selection module for opening in response to a purge open signal and for closing in response to said purge close signal to control the delivery of air to said purge duct, a control system being in signal communication with said air temperature sensor and said temperature selector for opening said purge valve while closing said at least one seat valve in response to said air temperature being less than said predetermined air temperature and for closing said purge valve to block airflow through said purge vent while opening said at least one seat valve and to deliver air from said air selection module to said at least one seat duct in response to said air temperature being at least said predetermined air temperature, said control system including a HVAC controller being in signal communication with said HVAC assembly for outputting said warm-up signal in response to the occupant selecting said warm-up mode and for outputting said cool-down signal in response to the occupant selecting said cool-down mode, said HVAC controller being in signal communication with said temperature selector for receiving said predetermined air temperature, said HVAC controller being in signal communication with said air selection module for outputting a purge open signal and a seat bottom close signal and a seat back close signal in response to said air temperature being less than said predetermined air temperature and for outputting a purge close signal and a seat bottom open signal and a seat back open signal in response to said air temperature being at least said predetermined air temperature, said HVAC controller being in signal communication with said seat temperature sensor and said power supply of said heat element assembly for outputting a energizing signal to switch on said power supply in response to the occupant selecting said warm-up mode and for outputting a de-energizing signal to switch off said power supply in response to at least one of said air temperature being at least said predetermined air temperature and said seat temperature being at least a predetermined seat temperature and the occupant selecting said cool-down mode.

17. A method of heating and cooling an occupant located in a occupant cabin of an automotive vehicle including a seat assembly having seat outlets for delivering air existing at a predetermined air temperature to the occupant seated therein and having a heat element assembly disposed in the seat assembly for emitting heat in response to current for heating the seat assembly and including a temperature selector operable by the occupant for selecting the predetermined air temperature and including a HVAC assembly for generating air to achieve the predetermined air temperature and being operable in at least one of a warm-up mode selectable by the occupant for generating heated air in response to a warm-up signal and a cool-down mode selectable by the occupant for generating cooled air in response to a cool-down signal and including an air selection module having a purge vent for venting air from the air selection module comprising the steps of; selecting a predetermined air temperature, generating air from the HVAC assembly for achieving the predetermined air temperature, flowing the air generated in said generating step to the air selection module, sensing an air temperature of the air generated in said generating step, venting the air generated in said generating step from the air selection module while blocking airflow to the seat assembly in response to the air temperature sensed in said sensing step being less than the predetermined air temperature selected in said selecting step.

18. A method as set forth in claim 17 further comprising the step of delivering the air from the air selection module to the seat assembly to deliver air from the seat outlets in response to the air temperature sensed in said sensing step being at least the predetermined air temperature selected in said selecting step.

19. A method as set forth in claim 18 further comprising the step of inhibiting airflow to the purge vent while delivering air to the seat assembly in response to the air temperature sensed in said sensing step being at least the predetermined air temperature selected in said selecting step.

20. A method as set forth in claim 17 further comprising the steps of choosing one of the warm-up mode and the cool-down mode of the HVAC assembly and heating the seat assembly in response to the occupant choosing said warm-up mode.

21. A method as set forth in claim 20 wherein said step of heating the seat assembly includes energizing the heat element assembly for transferring heat from the heat element assembly to the seat assembly.

22. A method as set forth in claim 21 further comprising the step of de-energizing the heat element assembly in response to one of the air temperature being sensed in said sensing step being at least the predetermined air temperature selected in said selecting step and the occupant choosing the cool-down mode.

23. A method as set forth in claim 22 further comprising the steps of detecting a seat temperature of the seat assembly and de-energizing the heat element assembly in response to the seat assembly being at least a predetermined seat temperature.

24. A method of heating and cooling an occupant located in a occupant cabin of an automotive vehicle including a seat assembly having seat outlets for delivering air having a predetermined temperature to the occupant seated therein and having a heat element assembly disposed in the seat assembly for emitting heat in response to current to heat the seat assembly and including a temperature selector operable by the occupant for selecting the predetermined air temperature and including a HVAC assembly for generating air to achieve the predetermined air temperature and being operable in at least one of a warm-up mode selectable by the occupant for generating heated air in response to a warm-up signal and a cool-down mode selectable by the occupant for generating cooled air in response to a cool-down signal and including an air selection module having a purge vent for venting air from the air selection module comprising the steps of; choosing one of the warm-up mode and the cool-down mode of the HVAC assembly, selecting a predetermined air temperature, generating at least one of heated air and cooled air from the HVAC assembly for achieving the predetermined air temperature, flowing the air generated in said generating step to the air selection module, sensing an air temperature of the air generated in said generating step, venting the air generated in said generating step from the air selection module while blocking airflow to the seat assembly in response to the air temperature sensed in said sensing step being less than the predetermined air temperature selected in said selecting step, said method further comprising the step of delivering the air generated in said generating step from the air selection module to the seat assembly while inhibiting airflow to the purge vent in response to the air temperature being at least the predetermined air temperature selected in said selecting step, said method further comprising the step of electrically heating the seat assembly in response to the occupant choosing said warm-up mode, said step of electrically heating the seat assembly further defined as energizing the heat element assembly for transferring heat from the heat element assembly to the seat assembly, said method further comprising the step of de-energizing the heat element assembly in response to one of the air temperature sensed in said sensing step being at least the predetermined temperature selected in said selecting step and the occupant choosing said cool-down mode, said method further comprising the step of detecting a seat temperature of said seat assembly, said step of de-energizing the heat element assembly further defined as de-energizing the heat element assembly in response to said seat assembly being at least a predetermined seat temperature.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to thermally conditioning a seat in an automotive vehicle using an HVAC system of the vehicle.

2. Description of the Prior Art

The thermal comfort of occupants in a vehicle is traditionally provided by the central heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) assembly of the vehicle controlled by the vehicle occupant. The occupant selects a predetermined air temperature indicating a desired air temperature at which to be thermally conditioned. In response, traditional HVAC assemblies operate in either a warm-up mode and/or a cool-down mode to generate heated and/or cooled air having a temperature approximately equal to the predetermined air temperature. The warmed and/or cooled air can be exhausted into the vehicle cabin, under the seat, and/or behind the seat via one or more air ducts. As a result, the occupant is heated and/or cooled by convection through the surrounding medium in the interior of the vehicle. More recently, vehicle seating assemblies have been disclosed that provide for heating and cooling of the occupant by an independent thermoelectrically energized unit incorporated into a vehicle seat. These units typically consist of one or more thermoelectric modules, heat exchangers and fans that are operated by allowing the fan to blow air over the sides of the seat, resulting in the seat being thermally conditioned. Further, the warmed and/or cooled air can be directed through or over the seat to the occupant's body surface via seat outlets disposed in the seat assembly. At startup, the air delivered by these thermoelectrically climate controlled seats is initially cold when the HVAC assembly operates in the warm-up. Similarly, the air is initially warm when the HVAC assembly operates in the cool-down mode. As a result, a natural transient thermal response exists that effects the air exhausted from the seat outlets of the seat assembly.

The cooling and heating of a occupant in an automotive vehicle can most effectively be obtained by applying the thermal condition directly to the human being. The current automotive air conditioning systems utilize ducts, such as cabin ducts and seat ducts, which lead to vents for delivering warm and/or cool air to the vehicle cabin and seat assembly. The effectiveness in cooling and/or heating occupants in an automobile is significantly decreased due to the thermal transfer from the air generated by the HVAC assembly to the surrounding air. Therefore, only part of the temperature exchange is directed toward to the vehicle occupant.

The optimum effect is attained by applying the conditioned air as directly as possible to the vehicle occupant. This is accomplished by delivering conditioned air to the occupant seat from a known source like the HVAC assembly or a thermoelectric cooler/heater disposed within the seat, as illustrated in U.S. Pat. No. Re. 38,128 to Gallup et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,924,766 to Esaki et al., and U.S. Pat. No. 6,079,485 to Esaki et al., and PCT application WO 99/58907 to Bell.

The air from the HVAC assembly on initial startup is not thermally conditioned. In the case of heating, it takes time to warm the coolant due to the thermal inertia of the engine. In the case of cooling, it takes time the traditional A/C cycle to cool air. When initiating the warm-up mode, the occupant is typically not satisfied with the warming effect immediately generated at start-up. Similarly, when initiating the cool-down mode, the occupant is typically not satisfied with the immediate cooling effect. The adverse effect caused by the natural temperature transient that exists at start-up may be resolved by providing an auxiliary air-conditioning device in the ductwork between the HVAC module and the seat passages of the seat assembly for exchanging preconditioned air generated by the HVAC assembly to achieve a faster warming and/or cooling effect desired by the occupant, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,238,101 to Kadle et al. Although an auxiliary air-conditioning device can increase the warming and/or cooling effect desired by the occupant, the additional air-conditioning device increases vehicle cost. Further, the additional air-conditioning device increases power consumption, thereby decreasing the overall energy efficiency of the vehicle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION AND ADVANTAGES

In addition to the structure described above, this invention provides for a control system for opening a purge valve and closing one or more seat valves in response to the air temperature from the HVAC assembly being less than a predetermined temperature. Furthermore, the control system closes the purge valve and opens at least one seat valve to deliver air from the air selection module to the seat assembly in response to the air temperature being at least the predetermined air temperature. Accordingly, the occupant is exposed to air having at least the predetermined air temperature desired.

The invention provided leverages the traditionally HVAC assembly to increase the warming and/or cooling effect desired by the vehicle occupant, thereby decreasing vehicle costs while increasing energy efficiency.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other advantages of the present invention will be readily appreciated, as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an automotive vehicle including a control system for thermally heating and/or cooling a vehicle seat according to the present invention;

FIGS. 2 and 3 are partial views of the automotive vehicle including a control system for delivering air to a vehicle occupant according to the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a flowchart illustrating a method of warming an occupant of an automotive vehicle according to the present invention; and

FIG. 5 is flowchart illustrating a method of cooling an occupant of an automotive vehicle according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the Figures, wherein like numerals indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views, an automotive vehicle 20 is generally shown including a body 22 defining a occupant cabin 24. A seat assembly 26 is generally indicated and is disposed in the occupant cabin 24. The seat assembly 26 includes a seat bottom 28 and a seat back 30 for holding an occupant therein. The seat bottom 28 and the seat back 30 have a plurality of seat outlets 32 for exhausting air to the occupant seated in the seat assembly 26. The seat bottom 28 includes a seat bottom inlet 34 and the seat back 30 includes a seat back inlet 36. The seat bottom inlet 34 receives air and delivers the air into the seat bottom 28. The air within the seat bottom 28 is expelled through the seat outlets 32 such that air can be delivered to the lower half of the occupant. Similarly, the seat back inlet 36 receives air and delivers air into seat back 30 such that air is expelled through the seat outlets 32 such that air is exhausted to the upper half of the occupant.

The automotive vehicle 20 includes a temperature selector 29, an HVAC assembly 38 supported by the body 22 of the automotive vehicle 20 for generating thermally conditioned air, and an air temperature sensor 40. The temperature selector 29 is operable by the occupant for selecting a predetermined air temperature (TPRE). The predetermined air temperature (TPRE)is indicative of the air temperature (TAIR) the occupant desires to be exhausted from the seat assembly 26. In response to selecting the predetermined air temperature (TPRE), a predetermined air temperature (TPRE) signal is output by the temperature selector indicating the predetermined air temperature (TPRE).

The HVAC assembly 38 is initiated to generate air in response to either a warm-up signal or a cool-down signal. In addition to selecting the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) the temperature selector 29 can be used to select the warm-up mode and the cool-down mode. An occupant selects the warm-up mode with a desire to receive heated air from the seat assembly 26. Similarly, the occupant selects the cool-down mode with a desire to receive cooled air from the seat assembly 26. The purpose of HVAC assembly 38 while operating in either mode is to generate air that will attain the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant.

The air temperature sensor 40 is disposed downstream from the HVAC assembly 38 and within the HVAC duct 42 for sensing the temperature of the air generated by the HVAC assembly 38. Although FIGS. 2 and 3 show the air temperature sensor 40 disposed within the HVAC duct 42, it is appreciated that the temperature sensor may be disposed further downstream from the HVAC assembly 38, such within the air selection module 44. Furthermore, a temperature sensor may be disposed within each of the seat bottom duct 46, the seat back duct 48, and the purge duct 50 to detect the corresponding temperature therein. In response to sensing the air temperature (TAIR), the air temperature sensor 40 outputs an air temperature (TAIR) signal. The air temperature (TAIR) signal can be used to determine whether the air from the HVAC has attained the predetermined air temperature (TPRE).

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the automotive vehicle 20 further includes an air selection module 44 supported by the body 22 and disposed beneath the seat assembly 26 for controlling airflow from the HVAC assembly 38, as discussed further below. The automotive vehicle 20 includes ductwork for delivering air to and from the air selection module 44. Specifically, an HVAC duct 42 extends from the HVAC assembly 38 to the air selection module 44 for delivering air from the HVAC assembly 38 to the air selection module 44. A seat bottom duct 46 and a seat back duct 48 deliver air from the air selection module 44 to the seat assembly 26. The seat bottom duct 46 extends from the air selection module 44 to the seat bottom inlet 34 for delivering the air from the air selection module 44 into the seat bottom 28. The seat back duct 48 extends from the air selection module 44 to the seat back inlet 36 for delivering the air from the air selection module 44 into the seat back 30.

Seat valves 52, 54 are integrated with both the seat bottom duct 46 and the seat back duct 48 and operate in response to one or more control signals. The seat valves 52, 54 operate in an open position for allowing airflow to the seat ducts 42, 46, 48, 50 and in a closed position for blocking airflow to the seat ducts 42, 46, 48, 50. Specifically, a seat bottom valve 52 is disposed between the seat bottom duct 46 and the air selection module 44 for opening in response to a seat bottom open signal (SEATBOTTOMOPEN) and for closing in response to a seat bottom close signal (SEATBOTTOMCLOSE) to regulate the delivery of air to the seat bottom duct 46. A seat back valve 54 is disposed between the seat back duct 48 and the air selection module 44 for opening in response to a seat back open signal (SEATBACKOPEN) and for closing in response to a seat back close signal (SEATBACKCLOSE) to regulate the delivery of air to the seat back duct 48.

The air selection module 44 includes a purge duct 50 having a purge valve 56 for controlling airflow therethrough. The purge duct 50 extends along the body 22 and beneath the seat assembly 26 for exhausting air from the air selection module 44 and for diverting air away from the seat ducts. The purge valve 56 is disposed between the purge duct 50 and the air selection module 44 and moves between an open position and a closed position in response to one or more control signals. Specifically, the purge valve 56 opens in response to a purge open signal (PURGEOPEN) for venting air from the air selection module 44 and a closed position in response to the purge close signal (PURGECLOSE) for blocking airflow through the purge duct 50.

When the occupant desires air to be delivered from the seat assembly 26, the occupant selects the operating mode of the HVAC assembly 38 and the corresponding predetermined temperature. The HVAC assembly 38 is initiated and generates air in response to either the warm-up signal or the cool-down signal. The air is delivered to the air selection module 44 via the HVAC duct 42. Once delivered to the air selection module 44, airflow is either blocked from entering the seat assembly 26 and vented from the air selection module 44 or is delivered to the seat assembly 26 where it is exhausted from the seat outlets 32. When both the seat bottom valve 52 and the seat back valve 54 are closed while the purge valve 56 is opened, airflow to the seat bottom duct 46 and seat back 30 is blocked and air is vented from the air selection module 44. Accordingly, air is blocked from being delivered to the seat assembly 26 and is prevented from being exhausted to the occupant. However, when both the seat bottom valve 52 and the seat back valve 54 are open while the purge valve 56 is closed, air is delivered to the seat bottom 28 and seat back 30 via the seat bottom duct 46 and the seat back duct 48, thereby allowing air to be exhausted from the seat outlets 32 to thermally condition the occupant.

The automotive vehicle 20 further includes a heat element assembly for emitting heat to warm the seat assembly 26 and the occupant seated therein. The heat element assembly is disposed in the seat assembly 26 for heating the seat assembly 26 in response to an energizing signal (HEATON). The heat element assembly includes a power supply 58 and a plurality of heating elements 60 connected to the power supply 58 and disposed with each of the seat bottom 28 and seat back 30. The energizing signal (HEATON) switches on the power supply 58 for generating current to the heating elements 60. In response to the current, the heating elements 60 emit heat that warms the seat bottom 28 and seat back 30. A seat temperature sensor 64 is disposed within the seat assembly 26 for sensing a seat temperature (TSEAT) of the seat assembly 26 and for outputting a seat temperature (TSEAT) signal in response to sensing the seat temperature (TSEAT).

The automotive vehicle 20 is distinguished by a control system 62 for opening and closing the purge valve 56, the seat bottom valve 52, and the seat back valve 54 in response to a comparison between the temperature of the air generated by the HVAC assembly 38 and the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant. The control system 62 includes a HVAC controller 66 in signal communication with the air temperature TAIR selector 29, the HVAC assembly 38 and the air selection module 44. The HVAC controller 66 receives the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) from the air temperature (TAIR) selector and outputs either the warm-up signal or the cool-down signal that initiates the HVAC assembly 38 for generating air to achieve the predetermined air temperature (TPRE).

The HVAC controller 66 receives the air temperature (TAIR) signal from the air temperature sensor 40 indicating the air temperature (TAIR) of the air generated by the HVAC assembly 38. The HVAC controller 66 compares the air temperature (TAIR) to the predetermined air temperature (TPRE)and outputs one or more control signals to the air selection module 44 to open and/or close the purge valve 56, the seat bottom valve 52 and the seat back valve 54. As stated earlier, the position of the valves 52, 54 regulates the airflow delivered to the purge duct 50, the seat bottom duct 46 and the seat back duct 48 to ensure the air delivered from the seat outlets 32 at the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant, as discussed further below.

The HVAC controller 66 outputs a purge open signal (PURGEOPEN), a seat bottom close signal (SEATBOTTOMCLOSE) and a seat back close signal (SEATBACKCLOSE) in response to the air temperature (TAIR) generated by the HVAC assembly 38 being less than the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant. The purge open signal (PURGEOPEN) opens the purge valve 56 to vent air from the air selection module 44. The seat bottom close signal (SEATBOTTOMCLOSE) and the seat back close signal (SEATBACKCLOSE) close the seat bottom valve 52 and the seat back valve 54, respectively, to block airflow to the seat bottom duct 46 and seat back duct 48. Similarly, the control module outputs a purge close signal (PURGECLOSE), a seat bottom open signal (SEATBOTTOMOPEN) and a seat back open signal (SEATBACKOPEN) in response to the air temperature (TAIR) being at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). The purge close signal (PURGECLOSE) closes the purge valve 56 to block airflow through the purge duct 50. The seat bottom open signal (SEATBOTTOMOPEN) and the seat back open signal (SEATBACKOPEN) open the seat bottom 28 vent and the seat back 30 vent, respectively, to deliver air from the air selection module 44 to the seat bottom duct 46 and seat back duct 48. As a result, the occupant is exposed to air from the seat outlets 32 only when the air temperature (TAIR) from the HVAC assembly 38 is at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant.

The HVAC controller 66 is also in signal communication with the heated seat assembly 26 and the seat temperature sensor 64 to warm the occupant when the HVAC assembly 38 operates in the warm-up mode and while the airflow through the air selection module 44 attains at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). The HVAC controller 66 outputs an energizing signal (HEATON) to switch on the power supply 58 in response to the occupant selecting the warm-up mode. The HVAC controller 66 outputs a de-energizing signal (HEATOFF) to switch off the power supply 58 in response to the air temperature (TAIR) being at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) and/or the seat temperature (TSEAT) being at least a predetermined seat temperature (TSEAT). The HVAC controller 66 can also de-energize the heated seat assembly 26 when the occupant selects the HVAC assembly 38 to operate in the cool-down mode. Accordingly, the control system 62 leverages the traditionally HVAC assembly 38 to increase the warming and/or cooling effect desired by the vehicle occupant, thereby decreasing vehicle costs while increasing energy efficiency.

Referring to FIGS. 4 and 5, flowcharts illustrating a method of thermally conditioning an occupant located in a occupant cabin 24 of an automotive vehicle 20 are generally shown. The automotive vehicle 20 includes a seat assembly 26 having a seat bottom 28 and a seat back 30. Both the seat bottom 28 and the seat back 30 have seat outlets 32 for delivering air existing at a predetermined air temperature (TPRE) to the occupant seated therein. An electrically operated heat element assembly is disposed in the seat assembly 26 for emitting heat in response to current for heating the seat assembly 26. The automotive vehicle 20 includes a temperature selector 29 operable by the occupant for selecting the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). A HVAC assembly 38 is provided for generating air to achieve the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). The HVAC assembly 38 operates in at least one of a warm-up mode and a cool-down mode. The occupant selects the warm-up to generate heated air. Similarly, the occupant selects the cool-down mode to generate cooled air. The automotive vehicle 20 further includes an air selection module 44 having a purge valve 56 operable in an open and closed position for controlling airflow from air selection module 44. The air selection module 44 also includes a seat bottom valve 52 for controlling airflow to the seat bottom 28 and a seat back valve 52, 54 for controlling airflow to the seat back 30.

Referring to FIG. 4, a method for warming the occupant begins at step and proceeds by selecting a warm-up mode in step. The warm-up mode can be selected using the temperature selector 29, which initiates the HVAC assembly 38 to generate air. In step, a predetermined air temperature (TPRE) is selected. The vehicle occupant can use the temperature selector 29 to select the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). The method proceeds to step by energizing the heat element assembly to warm the occupant while air generated by an HVAC assembly 38 attains the selected predetermined air temperature (TPRE). For example, an energizing signal (HEATON) may switch on a power supply 58 that generates current. The heat element assembly may utilize the current to emit heat and warm the seat assembly 26. In step the seat bottom valve 52 and seat back valve 54 are closed and in step the purge valve 56 is opened. Air from the HVAC assembly 38 is delivered through the purge valve 56 in step to vent air from the air selection module 44. In step, the air temperature (TAIR) from the HVAC assembly 38 is compared to the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). When the air temperature (TAIR) is below the predetermined air temperature (TPRE), the method returns to step and continues to vent air through the purge valve 56. When the air temperature (TAIR) from the HVAC assembly 38 is at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE), the purge valve 56 is closed in step. The method proceeds to step by opening the seat bottom valve 52 and the seat back valve 54 to deliver air having at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) to the occupant. The method de-energizes the heat element assembly in step and allows air exhausted from the seat outlets 32 to thermally condition the occupant. The method ends at step. As a result, the air is exhausted from the seat outlets 32 only when the air generated by the HVAC assembly 38 has reached the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant.

Referring to FIG. 5, a method for cooling the occupant begins at step and proceeds by selecting a cool-down mode to initiate the HVAC assembly 38 to generate cool air in step. In step, a predetermined air temperature (TPRE) is selected by the occupant. In step, the heat element assembly is automatically de-energized to accelerate the cooling effect. In step, the seat bottom valve 52 and seat back valve 54 are closed and in step the purge valve 56 is opened. Air from the HVAC assembly 38 is delivered through the purge valve 56 in step to vent air form the air selection module 44. Accordingly, air having an undesired temperature is blocked from flowing over the occupant. In step, the temperature of the air from the HVAC assembly 38 is compared to the predetermined air temperature (TPRE). If the air temperature (TAIR) is below the predetermined air temperature (TPRE), the method returns to step and continues delivering air through the purge valve 56. If the air temperature (TAIR) from the HVAC assembly 38 is at least the predetermined air temperature (TPRE), the purge valve 56 is closed in step. The method proceeds to step by opening the seat bottom valve 52 and the seat back valve 54 to deliver air from the seat outlets 32. The method ends at step. Therefore, air is exhausted from the seat outlets 32 only when the air generated by the HVAC assembly 38 has reached the predetermined air temperature (TPRE) selected by the occupant.

While the invention has been described with reference to an exemplary embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.