Title:
WATER FILTER DEVICE WITH DEPLETION DISPLAY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a water filter device having a filter section for treating water, in particular by ion exchange. It is defined in that a depletion display for a water treatment agent of the filter section is provided.



Inventors:
Scholz, Roland (Haan, DE)
Application Number:
12/448477
Publication Date:
02/25/2010
Filing Date:
12/21/2007
Assignee:
AQUIS WASSER-LUFT-SYSTEME GMBH, LINDAU; Zweigniederlassung Rebstein (Rebstein, CH)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B01D35/00; C02F1/00; C02F1/68
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
CECIL, TERRY K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
William D Breneman (Alexandrai, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A water filter device having one or more filter sections for treating water, in particular by ion exchange, characterized in that a depletion display for a water treatment agent of the filter section is provided.

2. The water filter device as claimed in claim 1, characterized in that the depletion display is embodied as an optical signal element.

3. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the signal element is provided for displaying the degree of depletion of the water treatment agent.

4. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the signal element is a material which changes in terms of a state parameter.

5. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that an actuating agent is provided for activating the signal element.

6. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a substance which is provided for treating the water is provided as the actuating agent.

7. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the water filter device is embodied as a replaceable filter cartridge.

8. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the water filter device is provided for use in a non-line-bound water treatment device.

9. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the water filter device is provided for use in a line-bound water treatment device.

10. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the depletion display is embodied as a disposable depletion display.

11. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the signal element is more or less visible depending on the depletion state to be displayed.

12. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the volume and/or the structure of the actuating agent can be varied as a function of the quantity of the liquid which has flowed past the actuating agent and/or through the actuating agent.

13. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent can be changed as a function of a physical and/or a chemical property of the liquid which has flowed through.

14. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a soluble actuating agent is provided.

15. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a shrinkable actuating agent is provided.

16. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that an expanding and/or swellable actuating agent is provided.

17. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that an actuating agent which is compatible with foodstuffs is provided.

18. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent is suitable as a food supplement and/or as a food additive and/or as an additive for drinking water.

19. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that vitamin C, limestone and dolomite, flavors, basic foodstuffs, siliphosphate, phosphate combinations or polyphosphate are provided as the actuating agent.

20. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent is provided as powder, granulate, crystal or as a pellet.

21. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that various spatially geometric structures of the actuating agent are provided.

22. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent is provided as an ion exchange resin.

23. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that various actuating media are provided.

24. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent is provided for activating a closing element and/or opening element (10).

25. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a resetting element (24) is provided.

26. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent and/or the signal element is arranged at an inflow and/or at an outflow of the filter device.

27. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a continuous display of the depletion is provided.

28. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a threshold-value-dependent display of the depletion is provided.

29. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating element is embodied in such a way that it permits, at least during an initialization process of the water filter device and/or subsequent thereto, a capacity indication which is dependent on the quality of the water to be filtered and/or on the respective application.

30. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that a substance which is to be filtered out by the water filter device is provided as an actuating agent.

31. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent and/or the signal element is assigned to a filter cartridge of the filter device.

32. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the actuating agent and/or the signal element is assigned to a connecting element for a filter cartridge of the filter device.

33. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the inlet into the filter housing is of open design.

34. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the filter housing is closed and is provided with connecting elements.

35. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the filter device is embodied as a suction filter.

36. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the filter device is embodied as a gravimetric filter device.

37. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the filter device is embodied as a pressure-operated filter device.

38. The water filter device as claimed in one of the preceding claims, characterized in that the signal element is provided with an optical sensor unit and a communication element.

39. A water tank with an insertible filter cartridge, characterized in that the filter cartridge is embodied as a filter device as claimed in one of claims 1 to 37.

40. An apparatus with a water tank, characterized in that the water tank is embodied as claimed in claim 38.

41. A filter apparatus with a filter head for inserting a filter insert, characterized in that the filter insert is embodied as a water filter device as claimed in one of claims 1 to 37.

Description:

The present invention relates to a water filter device with a depletion display as claimed in claim 1.

PRIOR ART

Water filter devices for treating water, in particular drinking water, are sufficiently known. Both line-bound and non-line-bound filter systems, which are generally equipped with replaceable filter cartridges, are commercially available.

Line-bound water filter systems can be connected to a building water supply line in order, for example, to supply individual apparatuses or a group of specific apparatuses or else can be integrated into a building water distribution system connected downstream in order to supply said system. In these water filter systems, the mode of operation which is provided is generally what is referred to as a pressure mode. This means that the water filter is integrated directly into the pressure section, for example in the form of what is referred to as a filter cartridge which is connected to a filter connecting head which is inserted into the supply line.

Furthermore, line-bound designs are known in which what is referred to as a pressureless mode is provided. This includes, for example, water line sections which are connected to a pressure system via an open interface in order to pass on the water, such as are better known, for example, for avoiding back-suction effects into a communal water supply line in toilet flushing systems, washing machine connections or the like.

Line-bound water filter systems are generally understood to be a water device having a water tank and a filter cartridge which is provided for filtering the water which is placed in it. Here too there are what are referred to as pressureless-operated embodiments in which, for example, the water which is to be treated by means of the filter cartridge flows through it solely due to gravimetric influences. However, water filter systems which are operated by means of a partial vacuum which is generated, for example, by a suction pump are also known. These water filter systems are generally used, for example, in water-treating and/or water-consuming apparatuses which are not directly connected to a water supply system. Examples of such apparatuses are all possible commercially used apparatuses, and in particular also any domestic appliances of this kind.

Such systems are used, for example, in treating drinking water in private households as a central installation or decentralized installation, for feeding extraction points such as, for example, a water faucet or on-tap filter, shower filters, specifically for feeding modern kitchen appliances (water connections, tap connections and ice makers in modern refrigerators or hot drinks machines) and also in the commercial sector for supplying automatic drinks machines for preparing coffee, steam, hot or cold water for optimizing the taste of the drinks and food treated or prepared therewith and protecting the machines against water-related technical problems.

In order to treat the water which flows through the filter device, it is known not only to bring about depletion of undesired substances but also to bring about enrichment in order to improve the water quality which is achieved as a result.

However, the performance of such filter systems is progressively depleted as a function of the quantity of water which is conducted across the treatment section and the quality of the untreated water, so that the water quality which is produced changes progressively as a function of the depletion profile of the treatment section.

DE 6 99 09 7 60 T2 discloses a filter cartridge for can water filters with a shut-off element for closing the filter cartridge outlet as a function of the number of liters of water which have flowed through the filter cartridge. An actuating element, which dissolves and/or swells in contact with the water as a function of the quantity of water which is filtered through the filter cartridge, actuates the shut-off element in such a way that the filter cartridge is switched off after the depletion of the filter material, which is assumed on this basis, and therefore cannot be used any more for filtering.

PROBLEM AND ADVANTAGES OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is based on the problem of improving a water filter device of the type stated at the beginning.

This problem is solved by means of the features of claim 1. The subclaims disclose expedient and advantageous developments of the invention.

Accordingly, the present invention relates to a water filter device according to the preamble of claim 1. It is defined according to the invention in that a depletion display for a water treatment agent of the filter section is provided. A depletion display provides the advantage that the depletion state of a water treatment agent, or, if appropriate, even of a plurality of water treatment agents, which are introduced into the filter section which is provided for water treatment, can be displayed to the operator of the water filter system. The operator can then make provision, according to the respective depletion state, for how long the water filter device will still be able to supply sufficiently good water quality.

A water filter device is understood in the sense of the present invention to be at least to a certain extent a water filter cartridge which is to be operated for use with a non-line-bound water filter system and/or a water filter cartridge which is provided for operation with a line-bound water filter system. In particular, this is intended to include the water-conducting part of a water filter system. Said part can have an inflow and an outflow for the line-bound embodiment so that the water which is to be treated is conducted at least partially across a water treatment section. However, under certain circumstances, the water treatment device can also comprise what is referred to as a mixing device with a bypass section and, possibly provided, actuating elements for influencing the mixing ratio between water which is to be treated by the water treatment section and water which is not to be treated or is to be treated in some other way. This water which is not treated or is treated in some other way can then preferably be conducted past the filter section via the bypass section and can be added to the mixture using a mixing ratio which is correspondingly set or is to be correspondingly set as a function of various parameters. Further details of this are given below in the description.

In terms of the non-line-bound embodiment of a filter cartridge, it is also possible to provide an inflow and an outflow so that the water which is to be filtered is in turn also conducted at least partially across a water treatment section which is provided for treating water, and a bypass section which is intended for water which is not to be treated or is to be treated in some other way. Here too, as already stated above, embodiments with one or more bypass sections are possible. These can also implement either a fixed mixing ratio or an adjustable mixing ratio between water which is treated by the filter section and water which is not treated or is treated in some other way. Reference is also made to this in more detail below in the description. Basically, this mixing device is at least analogously appropriate both for the line-bound and for the non-line-bound embodiment for mixing untreated water with water which is not treated or is treated in some other way.

In one preferred embodiment, the water filter device can, however, comprise a sensor unit for sensing the depletion state, displayed by the depletion display, of the respective water treatment medium or water treatment agent. Such a sensor unit is preferably connected to an appliance which processes further, and/or consumes, the treated water. As a result, it is possible both to signal the depletion state of the water treatment agent to an operator and at the same time to the appliance in order, for example, to permit corresponding preparatory and/or protective measures for ensuring further, undisrupted operation.

In a further preferred embodiment, the water filter device can, however, also have, for example, a water softener and/or another element which treats water, for a dishwasher or a corresponding appliance for cleaning crockery and also, for example, clothing.

In the text which follows, for the sake of consistency the term filter cartridge will be understood to refer both to a filter cartridge for a non-line-bound filter system as well as to a filter cartridge for a line-bound filter system.

A particularly advantageous embodiment of such a depletion display can comprise an optical signal element. This permits direct signaling of the depletion state of the water treatment agent to an operator. The signal element can also particularly preferably signal the depletion state of the water treatment agent by, for example, changing the optical appearance between an entirely new state of the filter device and a depleted state.

Providing an actuating agent for activating the signal element makes it possible to make a direct reference to the depletion state of the water treatment agent which is to be monitored. The actuating agent may be, for example, an actuating medium or material. A substance which is provided for treating the water may also particularly preferably be used as an actuating agent. The appearance which signals the depletion state can be changed directly or indirectly through correspondingly suitable linking to the signal element.

When a filter medium becomes clogged it would be possible, for example, for a suitable, preferably mechanical, sensing and/or actuating and/or connecting element to change the signal element itself in the display in accordance with the depletion state, for example to slide it and therefore either make it more or less visible in a display window which is, for example, provided for this purpose. It is, however, also perfectly conceivable for there to be a change in the intensity of a displayed color, for example from bright to dark, or vice versa, and/or for there to be a change in color from one color to another or to a number of other colors (for example like the changing of a traffic light, green for good, yellow for partially consumed and red for consumed and depleted) and so on. In particular, it is, for example, possible for the signal element to be a material which changes in terms of a state parameter.

A further advantage of an actuating means in the form of a substance which is provided for treating the water is that in this case a direct reference is provided to the water treatment agent which is to be monitored. This reference is therefore also dependent on the respectively prevailing quality of the water which is to be treated, and it is also dependent on the operating period and additionally also on the frequency with which the filter cartridge for filtering the untreated water is acted on. This depletion display therefore precisely reflects the actual state of the respective water filter cartridge. Estimates as to how long a filter cartridge can last given a specific water quality, in order to use this is as a basis for parameterizing an actuating agent which is in contact with the water and therefore dissolves in the course of time, are therefore unnecessary due to the proposal according to the invention.

As a further advantage, the actuating agent can also additionally have means which are suitable for generating a pressure and/or for triggering a movement so that, when the depletion state of a water treatment agent changes, the change in the appearance of the optical signal element can in this way at least be influenced in an assisting fashion and/or even entirely brought about. Conceivable examples of this are spring elements for activating an axially and/or radially slidable element or correspondingly other analogous mechanical and/or hydraulic devices.

However, in the text which follows chemical and/or physically acting actuating agents which bring about the appearance of the signal element with corresponding reference to the depletion state of the water treatment agent which is to be respectively displayed in order, for example, to bring about a change in color as already stated above, are also conceivable.

In particular it is further preferred if the water filter cartridge is embodied as a replaceable filter cartridge. This results in a simple disposable article which already has both the water treatment medium and the depletion display according to the invention for a water treatment agent, or else a plurality of water treatment agents, integrated into it. The user accordingly only needs to connect the filter cartridge to its filter-side connecting element by a correspondingly complementary water-filter-device-end filter cartridge connection in order subsequently to operate it until the depletion display signals that replacement is necessary.

The filter cartridge can also be provided for use both in a line-bound water treatment device and a non-line-bound water treatment device. In a first preferred embodiment, it is embodied here as what is referred to as a filter cartridge which is to be used “in the pressureless mode”. In an embodiment which is modified with respect to the latter, it is, again advantageously, configured for what is referred to as a “pressurized mode”. In one particularly preferred embodiment, the filter cartridge is even suitable for both modes of operation.

In terms of the depletion display, one embodiment as a disposable depletion display has, on the one hand, advantages in that incorrect displays owing to incorrect mounting by a person who has not been appropriately trained are eliminated and, on the other hand, the disposable depletion display also has advantageous effects in terms of making tampering impossible or at least more difficult.

Further details on the actuating agent which actuates and/or sets the depletion display in accordance with the depletion state of the water treatment agent to be monitored are also given below. In particular, there is provision here that the actuating agent can change its volume and/or its structure in a direct relationship with the water treatment agent which is to be monitored.

By changing the volume or the structure of the actuating medium which acts on the depletion display it is possible for the stream of liquid which is to be controlled to be matched quite selectively to specific requirements by an actuating element which is of such a design.

If a specific depletion state of the water treatment agent is exceeded, it possible that, for example, the stream of liquid which is to be controlled is also advantageously shut off. However, the depletion display can be correspondingly controlled as a function of a physical and/or chemical property of the respective liquid, if appropriate also in combination with the abovementioned influence which is exerted by the actuating element as a function of the through-flow.

In this context, the use of a liquid-soluble actuating medium is considered to be particularly advantageous.

Identical influencing possibilities apply, for example, to direct control by a shrinkable actuating medium. As a result; the appearance of the signal means could be reversed in order to display the depletion state. On the other hand, signaling which becomes increasingly visible through direct control would also be possible with an expending or swellable actuating medium.

The use of an actuating medium which is compatible with foodstuffs is recommended as particularly advantageous since this also permits a depletion display to be influenced in an excellent way. This depletion display can be provided, for example, in a drinking water supply line, in a drinking water treatment system and/or supply system, in an apparatus which needs and/or consumes drinking water and the like.

The same also applies to actuating media which are suitable, for example, as health-promoting food supplements and/or as a drinking water additive such as, for example, for vitamin C, siliphosphate, phosphate combinations, polyphosphate or the like.

In further preferred embodiments, it is also possible to provide, for example, powder, granulates, crystal or pellets as the actuating medium, the quite specific transmitting properties of which can be used to influence the depletion display. In particular, in this context the actuating medium may have, for example, different spatially geometric structures which influence the property of the respective depletion display. It is therefore possible, for example, for the originally complete change to be influenced as a function of the application, starting with a slight change with, optionally, a slowly or, if appropriate, also quickly increasing effect for controlling the depletion display.

It is also conceivable to use catalytic or biocatalytic/enzymatic reactions for influencing a depletion display. For example, actuating media on the basis of starch, pectin or other polymers could be suitable for reacting under the influence of enzymes and/or substances contained in water, for example minerals or hydrogen ions, which are input through drinking water or through a filter, and for changing their consistency, dissolving, shrinking, expanding, gelatinizing them and the like.

As a further embodiment it is also conceivable to use propellants as the actuating medium, for example to use sodiumbicarbonate which reacts through contact with water in interaction with substances contained in water, in particular hydrogen ions which are input or released through drinking water or a filter, and expands through formation of a gas. This reaction could, inter alia, use the quantity of input hydrogen ions which are released in a proportional fashion by a decarbonizing resin owing to the hardness of the drinking water, for example. Furthermore, this reaction could also be used to initialize a depletion display after contact with water.

However, in the text which follows it is also perfectly conceivable to use an ion exchange resin as the actuating medium. This is because ion exchange resins can also enlarge or reduce their volume in accordance with how they are respectively acted on, and they are therefore suitable for influencing an actuating element which is equipped therewith.

In one specific embodiment, it is also possible, for example, to combine different actuating media in order, for example, to implement a quite specific profile curve of an actuating element which is equipped therewith.

In a first simple embodiment, it would be possible, for example, for an actual body which is formed from the actuating medium to form the actuating element. An actuating medium which dissolves, shrinks or becomes permeable in its structure through the action of the liquid could therefore function as an actuator. Likewise, an actuating medium which swells or whose structure is degraded in terms of permeability could function as can actuator.

In one embodiment which is modified with respect to the above, the actuating medium could, however, also be provided for activating an additional element which preferably implements the opposite switching function. Simultaneous control of two or more display elements, in particular with an alternating function, would therefore be possible.

The abovementioned embodiments can therefore serve as completely autonomous elements. A first possible application example would be to control a depletion display in a water supply system and/or treatment system, in particular in a filter which is embodied, for example, as a replaceable element. The effective force of the actuating medium, which preferably corresponds to the depletion state of the filter agent, controls the depletion display. In one user-friendly embodiment, at least the depleted actuating medium, and if appropriate also the additional element together with a filter which is embodied as a replaceable filter, can be removed and replaced by a new one.

Through a suitable combination, the actuating element can be used to control valves, in particular mixing valves in a demineralizing filter, and at the same time can also serve as a display for the depletion state of the filter or of the actuating medium. In particular, it is also possible to control an optical depletion display, for example by adjusting a corresponding signal means such as, for example, a slide, rotary element, flap or similar signaling elements.

A further application example of a display element and/or protection element would be to use such an actuating element in the inflow region of a consumer. For example, the depletion of a water filter device which is connected upstream and is based, for example, on vitamin C or activated carbon could be displayed at a shower fitting or at a water faucet by displaying the end point.

An actuating element corresponding to the embodiments presented above can particularly advantageously be used to influence the flow of liquid in the interior of the filter device in an autonomous fashion, quite selectively as a function of predefinable parameters. In particular, it is possible here to conduct the stream of liquid through individual sections and/or areas of the filter or individual filter elements, or to prevent said stream from being conducted, as a function of the through-flow quantity of the liquid which is to be filtered and/or its physical and/or chemical property. The respective parameters can indirectly or, if appropriate, also directly reflect the depletion state of individual filter elements, or of a plurality of filter elements.

In one particularly preferred embodiment, it is also possible to provide an actuating element which is embodied in such a way that, at least during an initialization process of the water filter device and/or subsequent to such an initialization process, it displays a performance indication which is dependent on the quality of the water to be filtered and/or on the demand by the respective consumer, said display being, for example, in the form of a bar display and/or volume indication in liters, in particular even with a residual capacity indication which is adapted over the entire operating time of the filter.

In the previously described areas of use, the capacity indications for corresponding filter elements are usually determined at the start of operation as a function of the mineral content or hardness of the input water which is known or is determined by means of a rapid test, and by means of the filtrate water quality required by the application, and the replacement time of the filter elements is derived by monitoring the water volume which is conducted through the filter stage. Compared to this traditional capacity control for specific applications, for example for preparing coffee or generating steam, the described embodiment has the advantage that it is adapted automatically precisely to the respectively locally prevailing current quality conditions of the water which is to be treated, at the start of the operation which is provided for it, in a further embodiment also as a function of the substances contained in the water which vary in their composition during operation, with the result that excessively short as well as excessively long use of the filter can be avoided. This has an advantageous effect both on the operating time of the appliances which are possibly operated with it as well as on the result of the manufacturing and/or processing operation to which the treated water is supplied, and it permits optimum utilization of the available filter capacity. An example here is the taste of a drink which is treated as a result of this, for example coffee, tea or similar hot drinks. However, a water filter which is used to an optimum degree can also have a completely positive effect on cold drinks which are to be treated, in terms of the taste and/or dissolution property of a drink additive. A further application example would be optimization of the effectiveness of a washing agent which can be present, for example, at a specific water hardness and/or a specific concentration of a further substance contained in the water.

Adjusting the depletion display during operation of the water filter device can advantageously ensure a level of water quality which is, in particular, adapted over the significant operating time period of the water filter device. This can be particularly advantageously achieved through interaction with the above-described exemplary embodiment of the initial setting of the water mixing ratio as a function of the locally prevailing water quality.

A substance which is to be filtered out by the water filter device can particularly advantageously be provided as the actuating medium because this is directly dependent on the quality of the water which is to be treated. This permits particularly precise depletion control as a function of the depletion of the respective water treatment agent. When there is a strong treatment effect or filter effect, a strong interaction with the respective actuating medium also occurs, and as the effect of the water treatment agent or filter agent diminishes said interaction also preferably declines with the same depletion characteristic curve.

A particularly elegant depletion display, which can be adapted particularly precisely to the respectively prevailing water quality, can be achieved by providing at least one further actuating element, but in particular even a plurality of actuating elements, for sensing a corresponding stream of water and/or partial stream of water in the filter section, in a partial filter section and/or in a bypass section and/or a partial bypass section. On the one hand, it is possible, in order to implement the functionalities already described above, to provide respective independent actuating elements in order, for example, to be able to configure the individual actuating elements precisely for the functionalities which are intended for them and/or to provide them with specific actuating media. On the other hand, by providing a plurality of actuating elements for influencing the depletion display in the same way it is possible to bring about very fine adjustment. In particular, this permits the non-linear depletion behavior of the water treatment agent or filter agent at the start or at the end of the operating time of the respective agent to be taken into account in the sensing of depletion by correspondingly increasing or reducing the mixing ratio.

Possible circuit combinations for this are both serial and parallel switching combinations as well as combinations of serial and parallel circuit arrangements.

A parallel arrangement of actuating elements could serve, for example, an enlarged bypass cross section at the start of an operating phase of the water treatment material or filter material in order to compensate for the comparatively high filter effect in this operating phase. After a comparatively linear profile curve section has been brought about, a bypass section could be closed. The cross section of said bypass section is particularly advantageously adapted in accordance with the depletion behavior of the treatment medium.

In the same way, a parallel arrangement of actuating elements could be provided adapted to the depleting operating time of the water treatment agent in such a way that one or more bypass sections close after a certain depletion state of the treatment medium and therefore adapt the effective bypass cross section correspondingly to the depletion state of the entire filter section or, if appropriate, also only to a specific portion of one or more such filter sections.

A series circuit of such actuating elements could, for example, be advantageous for the combination of a basic setting of the effective mixing cross section or of the mixing ratio which set as a result of this and of one further actuating element, or else of a plurality of further actuating elements, which adapt the cross section of the respectively active bypass section during the operating time of the water treatment material or filter material.

Combinations of such series circuits and parallel circuits of actuating elements for depletion-dependent influencing of one mixing ratio, or if appropriate also of a plurality of mixing ratios, implemented in the water filter device, in order to generate the best possible result of the water treatment which is brought about in this way, in particular over its entire provided operating period and for displaying the individual depletion values or total depletion values which result therefrom, are particularly advantageous because they can be adapted specifically to particular applications.

In particular when filter systems which are configured differently are used, precise adaptation of the actuating media to the drinking water, to the capacity and to the application of the respective filter is necessary.

Since the stream of liquid which is to be controlled by the actuating element described above also flows through the filter device and/or its flow behavior with respect to the filter device is influenced by the actuating element, the control mechanisms specified above also act on the filter device and/or filter component elements controlled by it. For this reason, the corresponding effect on the filter device is partially also described in more depth below.

This can be done as a function of the through-flow rate and/or as a function of a physical and/or chemical property of the liquid which flows through and/or as a function of the charge state of an ion exchanger in accordance with the above statements.

The use of physical and/or chemical properties of the liquid which flows through the depletion display is also conceivable for both influencing possibilities which are presented above.

The depletion display can, for example, be adjusted in such a way that, after the activation of the filter device, which can comprise either a filter cartridge which is non-line-bound or one which is inserted into a vessel or a tank, or a line-bound filter candle, the depletion of the filter is sensed. In the course of the operating period of the filter or of the filter device, this depletion-dependent profile can be changed in favor of the liquid which runs through the filter material. By reducing the proportion of unfiltered liquid in the total stream of liquid, it is possible to allow for a filter effect, which usually decreases in the course of the operating period of a filter, for the liquid which has flowed through. As the mixing ratio decreases in favor of the quantity of liquid running through the actual filter material, it is therefore possible to set, for example, a quality level of the filtrate which is sufficient over a wide range of use owing to the increasing quantity of liquid which is no longer conducted through portions which are free of filter media or through partially depleted sections of filter media.

Given the volume-reducing form of an actuating medium which has variable volume it would be possible, for example, to use in turn an actuating medium which dissolves as a result of the liquid flowing through, for example in the form of a powder, in the form of tablets, pellets, spheres or the like.

Depending on the form and/or a dissolving property of such an actuating medium, it is possible, viewed over the operating time, to control the depletion display from a largely uniform adjustment, for example for the use of a powder, ranging as far as an, if appropriate, discontinuous adjustment property, such as could be the case, for example, with an actuating medium which is capable of maintaining its basic structure essentially until it is completely dissolved. This may be, for example, an agent which dissolves in a relatively uniformly continuous fashion in its interior but loses its basic structure only at the end of its dissolving process, for example a chitin complex.

A further configuration possibility of the depletion display over the operating period of the filter which is used can also be achieved by combining two or even more such differently dissolving, shrinking or expanding actuating media. In this way it is possible to achieve different phases on the basis of different solution behaviors and/or shrinkage rates and/or expansion rates of the individual actuating media.

Basically, it is also preferred for the control of the depletion display if the actuating medium is an actuating medium which is compatible with foodstuffs so that as a result it is also possible to activate depletion displays which are integrated into systems for application with fluids for human consumption.

The suitability of the actuating medium as a food supplement or water additive which promotes health, for example a vitamin C powder, polyphosphate, limestone and dolomite, if appropriate iodine or the like, also provides here a possibility of, if appropriate, even selectively adjustable supply of nutrients for daily basic requirements of consuming people, animals or plants. The use of aromas, basic foodstuffs and other substances which are used to adjust taste or smell could also be employed as an actuating medium and provide the possibility of selective processing of the drinking water to form a drink.

The use of the actuating medium for influencing the depletion display as a function of the liquid which has flowed through could additionally be carried out, for example, with a specific prestress of the actuating element or of a component of the actuating element. Depending on the changing volume of the actuating medium, the dissolution state or swelling state, such prestress of the actuating element or of its component can change. It is considered particularly advantageous here if the actuating element comprises an additional resetting element.

Various embodiments are conceivable for the resetting element. On the one hand, such a resetting element can be embodied as an agent which has properties which are independent, in terms of its effect, of the liquid flowing through and/or in contrast as an agent which has properties which are at least partially dependent thereon.

An element which is independent, in terms of its resetting property, of the liquid flowing through could be, for example, a spring, an elastomer or the like. A resetting element which is dependent, in terms of its resetting property, on the liquid flowing through could be, for example, a swellable agent, for example a compressed non-woven or an, if appropriate, likewise compressed sponge, swelling resin, ion exchange resin or the like.

In a particularly preferred embodiment, the resetting element is also provided for closing valves. Valves can be closed, for example, through the interaction of two complementary closing elements. One possible embodiment would be, for example, for two, for example tubular, elements to engage coaxially one in the other so that a previously possible throughflow of liquid in the direction of a filter outlet is as a result increasingly reduced as far as complete closure during the operating period of the filter.

However, in addition to two coaxial complementary closing elements, a different embodiment, for example the surrounding or closing off of a through-opening, leading to the filter outlet, for the fluid in the form of a valve or a cover or the like is also perfectly conceivable.

In one particularly preferred embodiment, the fluid-sensitive actuating medium described above can be used counter to the resetting force of such a resetting element.

Depending on which resetting property the resetting element has, the setting of the depletion display can have a continuous or else, if appropriate, threshold-value-dependent profile. For continuous adjustment, spring elements, elastomers or the like are suitable, for example. For threshold-value-dependent, in particular discontinuously adjusting influences of the depletion display, agents or elements with resistance values which change discontinuously over the adjustment path, for example a latching element which has a plurality of latching points which are spaced apart from one another, are suitable.

In particular in conjunction with the compatibility of the actuating medium with foodstuffs, as mentioned above, it is considered particularly advantageous if the depletion display is designed for a water filter. Such a depletion display can be integrated for example, into an open inlet of a filter housing. Such an embodiment in the inlet is suitable, for example, for the use of tank solutions for storing a specific quantity of water which is to be filtered. It is possible, for example, to connect thereto suction means, for example in the form of suction pumps which generate a partial vacuum, for supplying an extraction point of filtered water. In this case, the application would be in what is referred to as a suction filter.

Such suction filters can be integrated into all possible water-processing and/or water-consuming domestic appliances or commercially used apparatuses. A non-exhaustive list here is, for example, appliances which are used domestically and/or also apparatuses which are used for commercial purposes such as automatic drinks machines, in particular automatic coffee machines, drinking water dispensers, cooking apparatuses and baking apparatuses, steaming apparatuses, in particular steam irons, steam cleaners, high-pressure cleaners, air cleaners and air conditioners or the like.

In an embodiment which is modified with respect to the above, the filter housing can, however, also be closed and be provided with connecting elements. This is what is referred to as a line-bound filter system, in particular what is referred to as a “candle solution”. The actuating element for adjusting the depletion display is preferably integrated here into the filter candle and could be replaced together with the depleted candle in a simple and uncomplicated way. A further advantage of this embodiment would be, for example, that here the consumer does not have to worry at all about setting or changing the actuating element for the depletion display during the ongoing filtration process. A further advantage would be that it is not possible for any illegitimate tampering to be performed.

A further possible embodiment of a depletion display could be, for example, a gravimetric filter device. Such a device is distinguished by the fact that the stream of liquid, in particular a stream of water, is forced through the filter owing to the liquid level which is above the filter. Exemplary embodiments are table filter appliances or what are referred to as water filter jugs with two separate water reservoirs, a first for holding the water to be filtered and a second for storing the filtered water. Such filters can also basically be equipped with an actuating element and/or a mixing device and/or a depletion display corresponding to the statements above.

Embodiments in which the actuating element is embodied as a supplementary element, for example in the form of a plug-on or slide-in element, are also possible. In such an embodiment it would be, for example, conceivable for the actuating element to function as a slow-acting element for the depletion display of a relatively large number of exchangeable filter candles until it is depleted itself. A possible advantage here would be a reduced requirement for corresponding actuating elements.

In order to allow for the consumption-dependent depletion of the depletion display of the respective treatment medium of the filter system, it would be possible here, and also for the above-mentioned embodiments, to provide a step-shape control of the depletion display. When a new filter changing element is used, the depletion display can then be enabled again with correspondingly suitable means. In order to implement this it is conceivable to use, for example, portions of the actuating element which are constructed in the form of segments and which permit, for example through a corresponding change in position in the relative relationship between the actuating element and the filter candle which is to be used, the flow to pass through a region of the actuating element which has not yet been consumed.

In a further preferred embodiment, the control can also be provided by using various actuating media, in particular by a combination of individual actuating media or a plurality of such actuating media. As a result, various adjustment characteristics can be implemented, which characteristics are suitable, for example, for different application purposes and/or for the use for filtering, for example, liquids which differ in the concentration of their contents as a function of the place of use, for example the mineral content or the hardness of water which is to be filtered. With respect to the purpose of use, a differentiation could be made between apparatuses which are provided for use for preparing foodstuffs, for example drinks machines or the like, and apparatuses which are not provided for the preparation of foodstuffs, for example cleaning devices.

In the text which follows, the present invention also relates to a water tank with a filter cartridge, configured in accordance with the above statements, which is provided, in particular, in use with one of the abovementioned water-treatment and/or water-processing domestic appliances and/or commercially used apparatuses.

In addition, the present invention also comprises a corresponding apparatus which is provided, or is suitable, for supplying from such a water tank and/or through a line-bound connection in accordance with the statement above. At this point, reference should be made once more to the appliances and apparatuses mentioned above by way of example as an explicitly non-exhaustive list.

A filter apparatus with a filter head and/or a filter housing for inserting a filter insert in accordance with the embodiments presented by way of example above is also to be considered as being included herewith in the invention.

EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENT

The present invention will be explained in more detail below with reference to the appended figures, of which:

FIG. 1 shows a water filter cartridge with two depletion displays which are illustrated schematically by way of example, in different embodiments,

FIG. 2 shows in turn schematically and by way of example a first application case for the water filter cartridge according to FIG. 1 in a non-line-bound water treatment system (water tank),

FIG. 3 shows a second, in turn exemplary, application case as a line-bound illustration,

FIG. 4 shows, schematically and by way of example, a way of actuating a depletion display for a water filter,

FIGS. 5-6c show two further exemplary embodiments of depletion displays in different illustrations.

Correspondingly, FIG. 1 shows a water filter cartridge 1 having a housing 2 and a water treatment section 3 which is arranged therein, and a detail of which is illustrated schematically using dashed lines. Illustrated again in purely exemplary form herein are, with respect to a mainly vertically positioned operating state of the filter cartridge 1 as illustrated, an upflow portion 4 and an outflow portion 5 for the water treatment section 3 or filter section 3. The inflow of the water which is to be treated and which flows in accordance with the dashed arrows 4 can occur, for example, from below through inlet openings 6 in this operating position.

After the water which is to be treated has either passed through a water treatment section 3 which operates with the upflow method 4 and/or with the outflow method 5, the water can pass out of the filter cartridge again through an outlet opening 7 in accordance with the direction of the dashed arrow 5.

The filter cartridge 1 can be connected via the connection 8 in a way which is not illustrated in more detail to further components of a water treatment system 9 or 10, in accordance with FIGS. 2 and 3.

The illustrations in FIG. 2 show in turn by way of example and symbolically a non-line-bound water treatment system. Here, a water filter cartridge 1 with its filter-side tank connecting element 8 is connected to a tank-side filter connecting element 14 in a liquid-conducting fashion. When the filter cartridge is operating, the water which is to be treated by the water treatment section 3 by enrichment and/or filtering would, in accordance with the illustration in FIG. 1, penetrate the filter cartridge in the lower area, preferably near to the base, flow through it with the upflow method and flow out through a tank-side apparatus connecting element 15 in the outflow in order, for example, to supply an appliance which is connected thereto and which further processes and/or consumes the treated water. For example, the extraction of the water could occur via a suction connection, which is acted on, again by way of example, by means of a pump. However, gravimetric embodiments, in which the water to be treated runs through the filter system owing to a hydrostatic pressure, are also perfectly conceivable.

According to the invention, the water filter cartridge is provided with a depletion display 16 for displaying the depletion state of at least one water treatment agent 17 and/or filter agent 17 which forms the water treatment section 3 either alone or together with further water treatment agents 18, 19 and/or filter agents 18, 19. The depletion display which is provided according to the invention comprises, in this first embodiment which is illustrated schematically by way of example, a window 20 in which a signal element 21 can be displayed more or less visibly in accordance with the depletion state to be displayed. The signal element which is illustrated here by way of example is divided into two approximately equally large triangles of different colors. Possible signaling could take place, for example, in such a way that when there is a new filter cartridge the signal element 21 is displayed completely in the viewing window, and as the water treatment agent which is to be displayed is increasingly depleted the display disappears. However, a reversed display would also be possible so that as the depletion state increases the display becomes increasingly clearly visible. The way in which the display is presented can therefore be basically selected as desired. The first embodiment which is described here is illustrated in the cover area 32 of the filter cartridge, in particular preferably integrated in a seal-forming fashion in the filter housing in order to keep the filter system closed in this area so that, for example during operation with a water tank, it can signal the depletion state of the filter cartridge in a way which can be recognized satisfactorily from above. A further advantage of a closed system is that it makes tampering with the depletion display impossible or at least much more difficult.

However, in an embodiment which is modified with respect to this, a depletion display 22 such as is illustrated by way of example on the circumference of the housing 2 of the water filter cartridge 1 is also possible. This depletion display 22 is provided by way of example with a scale 23 for representing the remaining filter capacity in liters from 0 to 5000.

A preferred application area for a filter cartridge with a depletion display 22 of this kind is shown, again schematically and by way of example, by the line-bound application illustrated in FIG. 3. Here, the filter cartridge 1 which is provided with the depletion display 3 according to the invention is connected in a seal-forming and water-conducting fashion to what is referred to as a connecting head for a filter cartridge with means which are not illustrated in more detail, in such a way that water which is to be treated can flow into the filter cartridge 1 via an inflow connection 25 and be made available, after its treatment, for a corresponding application via the outflow connection 26.

The liquid-conducting connection of this filter cartridge 1 can analogously be embodied in accordance with the design already described with respect to FIG. 1. In the illustration in FIG. 3, the filter cartridge would then be connected rotated through 180 degrees, so that the upflow section 4 which is described with respect to FIG. 1 would operate as an outflow section and the outflow section 5 which is described in FIG. 1 would operate as an upflow section. Depending on the embodiment, it would be possible, as already described above, for the filter cartridge to operate as a gravimetric embodiment or as an embodiment with a suction connection or else as an embodiment using the pressure mode in which the connecting line 25 is connected, for example, to a drinking water supply system, and the outflow line 26 either leads directly to an apparatus or appliance or, if appropriate, to a building water installation for branching off the water which is filtered by the filter cartridge. The size and the filter capacity of the filter cartridge would be correspondingly adapted.

The water treatment agents 17 to 19 can, depending on the embodiment, be arranged, for example, in separate portions in the water treatment section 3. However, a partially or completely mixed arrangement of various water treatment agents and/or filter agents is also conceivable, in order to connect one behind the other or one next to the other specially formed water treatment sections in order to bring about the intended enrichment and/or filtering of the water to be treated. For example, enrichment materials which are to be output to the water could firstly be connected downstream of a filter section so that they are only added to the water which has already been filtered, if this is advantageous. However, depending on the desired filter effect and/or the application case which is dependent on the quality of the water to be treated, other combinations of treatment sections 3 and/or partial treatment sections 3 are also perfectly conceivable.

FIG. 4 shows in symbolic form an exemplary embodiment of a depletion display 16 with a signal element 21 which displays the depletion state of the water treatment agent 17, 18 and/or 19 in a window 20. Depending on the depletion state of the water treatment agent, an actuating member, actuating element or sensor 27 changes the visual appearance of the signal element which is visible in the window, in a swellable and/or shrinkable, dissolving, volume-reducing and/or volume-enlarging fashion or the like in accordance with one of the abovedescribed embodiments. This can be done, for example, by acting on an actuating agent 30 in order to slide the signal element 21 in one of the two directions of the arrow 31.

FIG. 5 shows a further exemplary embodiment in which a depletion display 28 is arranged by way of example in the form of a circular segment on a cover 32 of a filter cartridge 1. Here, the signal element 21 is made visible by rotating in a window 21 in accordance with the current depletion state. In a particularly advantageous way, a scale 23 for displaying the remaining water treatment capacity or filter capacity is also provided here.

FIGS. 6a to 6c show a further embodiment of a depletion display 29 with a signal element 21 which displays the depletion state in a window 20 through, for example, a change of color. In order to signal the change of color, the illustration in FIGS. 6a to 6c extend from white via grey to black in order to symbolize any possible changes of color in an exemplary fashion. For example the colors green for new, yellow for partially consumed and red for consumed would particularly preferably be conceivable because they are self descriptive. However, it is also perfectly possible to use a change in the brightness of a color from relatively bright via medium to relatively dark, or vice versa, to symbolize the depletion of the filter material.

LIST OF REFERENCE NUMERALS

  • 1 Water filter cartridge
  • 2 Housing
  • 3 Water treatment section
  • 4 Upflow
  • 5 Outflow
  • 6 Inlet opening
  • 7 Outlet opening
  • 8 connection
  • 9 Water treatment system
  • 10 Water treatment system
  • 11 Non-line-connected water treatment system
  • 12 Line-connected water treatment system
  • 13 Tank
  • 14 Tank-side water connecting element
  • 15 Tank-side apparatus connecting element
  • 16 Depletion display
  • 17 Water treatment agent
  • 18 Water treatment agent
  • 19 Water treatment agent
  • 20 Window
  • 21 Signal element
  • 22 Depletion display
  • 23 Scale
  • 24 Connecting head
  • 25 Inflow connection
  • 26 Outflow connection
  • 27 Actuating member/actuating element/sensor
  • 28 Depletion display
  • 29 Depletion display
  • 30 Actuating agent
  • 31 Arrow
  • 32 Cover