Title:
DRAIN CLEARING DEVICE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The disclosed drain clearing devices have a housing that has a gas reservoir and a pressurization mechanism, such as hand pump and/or gas cartridge that compresses and/or maintains compressed gas in a gas reservoir. A nozzle and a pressure release actuator also attached to the housing. The pressure release actuator, when activated, causes compressed gas to be released from the gas reservoir through the nozzle and into a drain to clear an obstruction.



Inventors:
Donohue, Sean (Happy Valley, OR, US)
Petersen, Shawn (Happy Valley, OR, US)
Application Number:
14/029636
Publication Date:
03/19/2015
Filing Date:
09/17/2013
Assignee:
DONOHUE SEAN
PETERSEN SHAWN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03C1/308
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JACYNA, J CASIMER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Miller Nash LLP (Portland, OR, US)
Claims:
1. A drain clearing device, comprising: a housing that includes: a gas reservoir; and, a pressurization mechanism structured to compress gas into the gas reservoir, the compressed gas having a pressure; a nozzle attached to the housing and configured to create a seal with a drain; and, a pressure release actuator structured to release at least a portion of the compressed gas through the nozzle.

2. The device of claim 1, wherein the pressurization mechanism is a hand pump configured to compress gas in the gas reservoir.

3. The pump of claim 2, wherein the hand pump compresses gas into the gas reservoir on either a downward stroke, an upward stroke or both.

4. The device of claim 1, further comprising a pressure gauge structured to indicate the stored pressure of the gas in the reservoir.

5. The device of claim 1, further comprising an extension element disposed between the nozzle and the housing.

6. The extension element of claim 5, wherein the extension element includes at least one of a rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible material.

7. The extension element of claim 5, wherein the extension element is releasably connected to the housing.

8. The extension element of claim 5, wherein the nozzle is releasably connected to the extension element.

9. The device of claim 1, wherein the nozzle is releasably connected to the housing.

10. The device of claim 1, wherein the nozzle is selected from a plurality nozzles, the selected nozzle structured to interface with the drain.

11. The device of claim 1, wherein the gas is at least one of atmospheric air, CO2 and NO2.

12. The device in claim 1, wherein the pressurization mechanism is a hand pump or a compressed gas container.

13. The device of claim 1, wherein the gas reservoir is a self-contained removable pre-pressurized gas cartridge.

14. The device of claim 1, wherein the pressure is between 80 and 130 psi.

15. A method for clearing a drain, comprising: selecting a nozzle based on the drain; compressing gas into a gas reservoir, the nozzle attached to and in fluid communication with the gas reservoir; placing the nozzle in an opening of the drain to form a seal between the nozzle and the drain opening; and, releasing at least a portion of the compressed gas through the nozzle.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein releasing at least a portion of the compressed gas causes at least a portion of the gas stored in the gas reservoir to be released through the nozzle and into the drain.

17. A drain clearing device, comprising: a housing that includes: a gas reservoir; a pressure gauge; and, a hand pump structured to compress gas into the gas reservoir, a nozzle releasably connected to the housing and configured to interface with and form a seal with a drain opening; and, a pressure release actuator structured to release at least a portion of the stored gas through the nozzle.

18. The device of claim 17, further comprising an extension element disposed between the nozzle and housing.

19. The device of claim 17, wherein the gas is at least one of atmospheric air, CO2 and NO2.

20. The device of claim 17, wherein the pressure is between 80 and 130 psi.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Beverage dispensing machines are commonplace in eateries, convenience stores, gas stations and many other locations that provide or sell beverages. Beverage dispensing machines have spillage drains that frequently clog from debris and beverage syrup build-up. Conventional machines also have a drip tray that is positioned below the spouts that dispense the beverage and that catches overflow of the dispensed beverages and other debris. The beverage overflow has a high concentration of sugar and other ingredients that solidify over time. The beverage ingredients and the debris and a low flow rate of the beverage overflow through the drain.

Clogged drains need to be cleared in order for the beverage dispensing machine to function properly. Typically, unclogging the drains requires highly skilled plumbers or beverage dispensing machine technicians. The process of having a plumber or technician unclog beverage dispensing machine drains is expensive and time consuming, which significantly increases the overall operating costs for the beverage dispensing machine and decreases end-user satisfaction. Clogged drains can also be cleared by adding chemicals to the drains to break-up the obstructions and clear the drains. For example, hot water and bleach are sometimes used. The hot water and bleach can clear break up an obstruction, but frequently does not completely break up the obstruction, which leads to the obstruction reforming relatively soon after the initial attempt to clear the drain.

Still further, other chemicals are conventionally used to clear drains, and some of the chemical are deemed eco-friendly. However, such chemicals can be liquids in the beverage dispensing machines drains to clear the obstructions, but later solidify in a drain further down the drain pathway, such as in the public sewer system, and cause drain damage there. Therefore, the industry would benefit from an effective, cost-efficient, and eco-friendly drain clearing solution.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an example drain clearing device.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an example drain clearing device.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the drain clearing device of FIG. 1 taken along line 3-3.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of a drain clearing device.

FIG. 5 is a side view of an example drain clearing device interfacing with a drain.

FIGS. 6-8 are variations of nozzle designs for the drain clearing devices.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The disclosed drain clearing devices have a housing that contains a gas reservoir, a pressurization mechanism and a pressure release actuator. Gas in the gas reservoir is pressurized by the pressurization mechanism which can be driven by a hand pump or other pressurization mechanism. A nozzle is attached to the housing and creates a seal with a drain. Upon actuation, the pressure release actuator causes the pressurized air in the gas reservoir to be released through the nozzle and forced into the drain. The release of the pressurized air increases the air pressure in the drain and exerts a force on any obstruction(s) blocking the drain, which causes the obstruction(s) to be dislodged or broken into smaller pieces and pushed through the drain to clear it.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an example drain clearing device 100. The drain clearing device 100 has a housing 102 that contains a pressurization mechanism, a gas reservoir and a gas release actuator (not shown). The housing 102 can be shaped in a compact, ergonomic shape for user comfort and configured to fit in the working environment, as shown in FIG. 1, but can be any other suitable shape. A user can pressurize gas in the gas reservoir with the pressurizing mechanism, such as by raising and lowering a handle 104 in the example drain clearing device 100 shown in FIG. 1. The handle 104 is attached to the housing 102 at a hinge 107 that permits the user to raise and lower the handle 104 to pressurize the gas reservoir. A nozzle 106 is releasably attached to the housing 102 at a point opposite the handle, or any other desirable location and can be of various configurations that interface with a variety of drain designs and types. The nozzle 106 is in fluid communication with the gas reservoir so that the pressurized gas can flow from the gas reservoir to the nozzle 106.

A pressure release button 108 causes the pressurized gas to flow from the gas reservoir to the nozzle. Any other suitable pressure release actuator can be used to cause the pressurized gas to flow from the gas reservoir to the nozzle. The user can actuate the pressure release button 108, which causes some portion of the pressurized air to be released from the gas reservoir, out through the nozzle 106 and into the drain. A pressure gauge 110 located on the housing 102 displays the stored pressure within the gas reservoir, which allows the user to know when the desired gas pressure for the stored gas in the gas reservoir has been achieved to clear the drain obstruction(s). Other example drain clearing devices may not have a pressure gauge 110.

FIG. 2 is another embodiment of a drain clearing device 200 similar to the drain clearing device shown in FIG. 1, but having a different housing 202 configuration. The housing 202 is cylindrically shaped and the handle 204, pressure release mechanism 206, and pressure gauge 210 are located atop the housing 202, similar to the example drain clearing device shown in FIG. 1, although they could be located elsewhere on the housing 202 as desired. A nozzle 208 is attached to the housing 202 and is located opposite the pressure release button 206, similar to the example drain clearing device as shown in FIG. 1.

One of skill in the art will understand that the housing of the disclosed drain clearing devices can be of any desired design and configuration. The housing design can be tailored to fit in the working environment in which the drain clearing device is to be used. The housing design can also take into consideration user comfort and stability for pumping the handle or otherwise pressurizing the gas in the gas reservoir. The housing may be a molded singular piece within which the internal components can be sealed to prevent moisture intrusion and premature wear and corrosion to the internal components. The molded single piece housing configuration has few seams and is easily cleaned, in some examples.

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view taken along line 3-3 of the drain clearing device shown in FIG. 1. A gas reservoir 114, a gas compressor 116, and a pressure release actuator 118 are contained within the housing 102 of the drain clearing device 100. The handle 104 is moved between a first position 105A and a second position 105B to drive the gas compressor 116 in a horizontal motion toward and away from the gas reservoir 114. In this example, the gas compressor 116 is aligned in a horizontal plane with respect to the gas reservoir 114. The compressor 116 compresses gas into the gas reservoir 114, on both the up and the down stroke of the handle 104 in this example. The gauge 110 indicates the pressure of the gas stored in the gas reservoir 114.

The nozzle 106 of the drain clearing device 100 is inserted into a drain opening 113 of the drain 112 and can form a seal between the nozzle 106 and the drain opening 113. The nozzle 106 is cone-shaped, in this example, and the tapered end extends through the drain opening 113 and into the drain 112, as shown in FIG. 3. The nozzle 106 can be any other suitable shape and can have a shape that is customized to complement a particular drain to best create a seal between the nozzle and the drain opening.

When the gas pressure in the reservoir 114 has reached a desired level, which can be indicated by a display such as a pressure gauge 110, the user can actuate the actuator button 108, which triggers the pressure release actuator 118 to release pressurized gas from the gas reservoir 114 through the nozzle 106 and into the drain 112. The compressed gas is forced through the drain 112 and encounters an obstruction(s) with enough force to either push it through the drain, such as by pushing the obstruction into a main drain that has a larger diameter than the drain with the obstruction, or to break the obstruction(s) into smaller pieces that can then be moved through the drain. A latch 120 is attached to the housing 102 and secures the handle 104 to the housing 102 when the user is not actively pumping the handle 104 to create pressure in the gas reservoir 114, but other example drain clearing devices may not have a latch.

The gas reservoir of the drain clearing device stores the compressed gas. The drain clearing device also may include a pressure relief valve that prevents over-pressurization of the gas reservoir. The pressure relief valve may be set to trigger release of the gas from the gas reservoir at any pressure threshold. The gas reservoir has a maximum sustainable pressure at which the pressure relief valve releases at least some of the stored gas or otherwise prevents the gas pressure from exceeding the maximum sustainable pressure. In some examples, the pressure relief valve releases some of the stored gas at a pressure that is lower than the maximum sustainable pressure. The pressure at which the pressure relief valve releases stored gas or otherwise reduces the gas pressure can be set by the manufacturer of the drain clearing device or by the user and may be changeable by the user or may be permanently set, as desired.

The pressure gauge 110 on the housing 102 indicates the pressure of the gas stored in the gas reservoir 114. The pressure gauge 110 has an indicator that displays to the user when the desired gas pressure to clear the drain is reached. The pressure to clean beverage dispensing machine drains can be between 80-130 psi, but higher or lower pressures may be used to achieve drain clearing at the discretion of the user.

The gas used to compress gas in the gas reservoir of the drain clearing device can be any number of gases or a combination of gases, including atmospheric air, CO2, NO2 and others. For example, the disclosed drain clearing devices can pressurize the gas reservoir using a compressed CO2 tank. A drain clearing device having a compressed CO2 tank may be pressed or attached to the drain clearing device against the nozzle on the housing, or any other desirable location, to force CO2 into the gas reservoir until the desired gas pressure to clear the drain is reached in the gas reservoir. The CO2 tank could be used with a hand pump to pressurize the gas reservoir. In this example, the user also could pump the handle to add atmospheric air to the pressure applied to the CO2 tank to further increase the stored pressure in the gas reservoir.

Another pressurized gas source that could be used in the drain clearing device is NO2 cartridges or other containers. NO2 cartridges could be inserted into the drain clearing device to either pressurize the gas reservoir or to be used itself as the compressed gas reservoir. Other gas cartridges could be used in a similar manner, such as CO2 cartridges, to be the compressed gas reservoir itself for the drain clearing device.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of a drain clearing device 400 with another embodiment of a gas reservoir 414, a gas compressor 416 and a pressure release actuator 418 within the housing 402. In this embodiment, the handle 404 drives the compressor unit 416 in a vertical manner with respect to the gas reservoir 414 rather than the horizontal manner in the embodiment shown in FIG. 3. Gauge 410 displays the stored pressure of the gas in the gas reservoir 414. The actuator button 408 activates the pressure release mechanism 418, which causes compressed gas to be released from the reservoir gas 414 through the nozzle 406.

FIG. 5 shows an example drain clearing device 500 with its nozzle 506 sealed with a drain opening 513. Here, the nozzle 506 of the drain clearing device 500 is inserted in a drain opening 513 and extends into the drain 512 to form a seal between the nozzle 506 and the drain opening 513 so that pressurized air exiting the nozzle 506 can be forced through the drain 512 without escaping, or with minimal pressurized air escaping, at the interface between the nozzle 506 and the drain opening 513. In this example, the drain opening 513 is located in the drip pan 540 of a beverage dispensing machine. The drip pan 540 collects spillage of the dispensed beverages and debris and directs the spillage and debris into the drain opening 513. In this example, the nozzle 506 is cone-shaped and tapered toward a tapered end 507. The tapered end 507 is inserted through the drain opening 513 and extends into the drain 512. The nozzle 506 provides a seal between the drain clearing device 500 and the drain 512, in some examples, so that the drain clearing device 500 can force pressurized gas from the gas reservoir into the drain 512 to clear any obstructions.

As shown in FIG. 5, the nozzle 506 is not connected directly to the housing 502 of the drain clearing device 500. Instead, an extension element 530 is disposed between the housing 502 and the nozzle 506. The extension element 530 is flexible and can be manipulated through the drip pan 540 to allow the user to insert the nozzle 506 into drains at varying angles with respect to the position of the drain clearing device 500, in this example. The extension element 530 also can be made of semi-flexible or even rigid material(s) in other examples. Example extension element materials include various rubber compounds, latex and some plastics. The flexibility of the extension elements allows the user to insert the nozzle into drains that the device nozzle directly attached to the housing would not be able to adequately reach. The user can then seal the nozzle to the drain opening at various angles and in locations where the drain clearing device itself would not normally fit. The flexible extension element 530 is releasably connected to the housing 502 of the device 500, in this example, and the nozzle 506 also can be releasably connected to the extension element 530. The nozzle 506 is inserted into the drain 512 and forms a seal with the drain, as shown in FIG. 5. The seal between the nozzle 506 and drain 512 ensures that the desired volume of the gas released from the gas reservoir through the nozzle 506 is forced into the drain.

In other embodiments, the extension element can be made of a rigid material that would allow a user to reach a drain located in-line with the device exit port. The rigid extension element can provide enough support to allow a user to apply a force on the drain clearing device and thus the nozzle inserted in the drain to ensure a tight-fitting seal between the nozzle and the drain opening. The tight-fitting seal prevents leakage of the pressurized gas released from the interface between the nozzle and the drain opening. The extension elements, rigid or flexible, can be optionally used with any of the nozzles and can be removable from the drain clearing device entirely. The extension elements can have the same or a similar releasable connection to the housing as the nozzle does to the device and vice versa. A user can attach the extension element to the device and a nozzle to the extension element and then can insert the nozzle into the drain, which applies a force to form the seal between the nozzle and the drain opening. The user may use additional tools such as a mallet or other means to wedge the nozzle in place to achieve the desired seal between the nozzle and the drain clearing device.

The nozzle can be made of a semi-rigid material, such as a hard rubber that is typically used in test tube stoppers. The semi-rigid material of the nozzle can be pliable enough to deform and fit into the drain opening and rigid enough to exert sufficient circumferential pressure around the nozzle to hold it firmly in place within the drain opening. As discussed above, the semi-rigid nozzle helps create a seal between the nozzle and the drain opening to force the released pressurized gas into the drain, which dislodges or breaks up any obstructions, thus clearing the drain.

The nozzle can be releasably connected to the device housing. The nozzle connection to the housing may be done in multiple methods such as using any suitable mechanical connector. One example mechanical connector is a nozzle having a core that is threaded at an end protruding from the rubberized portion of the nozzle that is screwed into the housing. The threaded nozzle example is the embodiment shown in the figures. Another way to attach the nozzle to the housing is a quick coupler connector, such as those conventionally used in other air powered tools. The nozzle can be connected to the drain clearing device housing with any suitable releasable connection.

FIGS. 6-8 show example nozzles for the drain clearing devices. The example nozzles can be customized to complement the shape of a drain opening. Multiple nozzles can be attached and interchangeable with the same drain clearing device, in some examples. FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a nozzle configured to interface with a drain opening that has a protective grating or other feature over the top of the opening that prevents a typical cone shaped nozzle from being inserted into the drain opening. The nozzle 606 is placed over the drain opening and grate to create a seal. The nozzle 606 has cut outs 650 that are disposed above the cut outs in the grate 613 of the drain 612. The nozzle cut outs 650 can extend into the drain in some examples and have a fitted collar that surrounds the adjacent area around the drain opening shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 7 illustrates another nozzle design 706 that includes a semi-flexible material with a series of ridges 770 that create a seal with the interior surface of the drain. The ridges 770 allow the nozzle 706 to fit in a range of different drain diameters while maintaining the required force to create the necessary seal between the nozzle and the drain opening to force the compressed gas into the drain.

FIG. 8 is yet another variation in nozzle design. The nozzle 806 has an integrated, rigid extension element 830 although the extension element could be any suitable material and could be a separate discrete element from the nozzle. The material could be a hard, rigid plastic or metal. The extension element allows the user to access drains that are at an angle with respect to the drain clearing device. The extension element 830 can sustain additional force on the nozzle 806 applied by the user to form a tight seal between the nozzle 806 and the drain.

To use the disclosed drain clearing devices, a user would first select a nozzle based on the configuration of the drain to be cleared, which may mean selecting the appropriate diameter and shaped nozzle and/or including the addition of an extension element between the nozzle and the drain clearing device in some examples. Gas is compressed into the gas reservoir, either by pumping a handle of a hand pump compressor or other compressing mechanism or from external sources as mentioned above. The gas reservoir can be pressurized before or after selecting the nozzle. When the gas reservoir is pressurized, or a pre-pressurized cartridge is inserted as mentioned above, the nozzle is placed into the opening of the drain, which forms a seal between the nozzle and the drain opening. Some or all of the compressed gas is released through the nozzle, for example, by actuating a pressure release button, which triggers the release mechanism to discharge gas from the gas reservoir and into the drain. The compressed gas is released and travels down the drain and eventually encounters any obstructions. The compressed gas contacts the obstructions and dislodges or breaks up the obstructions.

Having described and illustrated the principles of the invention in a preferred embodiment thereof, it should be apparent that the invention can be modified in arrangement and detail without departing from such principles.