US20010042564A1 - Flammable vapor control system for devices with standing pilot flame - Google Patents

Flammable vapor control system for devices with standing pilot flame Download PDF

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Publication number
US20010042564A1
US20010042564A1 US09826746 US82674601A US2001042564A1 US 20010042564 A1 US20010042564 A1 US 20010042564A1 US 09826746 US09826746 US 09826746 US 82674601 A US82674601 A US 82674601A US 2001042564 A1 US2001042564 A1 US 2001042564A1
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US
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
flammable
valve
gas
sensor
resistance
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
Application number
US09826746
Inventor
Anthony Abraham
Raymond Joubran
Kenneth Minkler
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
WATER HEATER INDUSTRY JOINT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CONSORTIUM
Original Assignee
Invensys A Robertshaw Controls Co
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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Classifications

    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23DBURNERS
    • F23D14/00Burners for combustion of a gas, e.g. of a gas stored under pressure as a liquid
    • F23D14/26Burners for combustion of a gas, e.g. of a gas stored under pressure as a liquid with provision for a retention flame
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23DBURNERS
    • F23D14/00Burners for combustion of a gas, e.g. of a gas stored under pressure as a liquid
    • F23D14/46Details, e.g. noise reduction means
    • F23D14/72Safety devices, e.g. operative in case of failure of gas supply
    • F23D14/725Protection against flame failure by using flame detection devices
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23NREGULATING OR CONTROLLING COMBUSTION
    • F23N5/00Systems for controlling combustion
    • F23N5/24Preventing development of abnormal or undesired conditions, i.e. safety arrangements
    • F23N5/245Preventing development of abnormal or undesired conditions, i.e. safety arrangements using electrical or electromechanical means
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23DBURNERS
    • F23D2208/00Control devices associated with burners
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23NREGULATING OR CONTROLLING COMBUSTION
    • F23N2031/00Fail safe
    • F23N2031/18Detecting fluid leaks
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23NREGULATING OR CONTROLLING COMBUSTION
    • F23N2035/00Valves, nozzles or pumps
    • F23N2035/12Fuel valves
    • F23N2035/14Fuel valves electromagnetically operated
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F23COMBUSTION APPARATUS; COMBUSTION PROCESSES
    • F23NREGULATING OR CONTROLLING COMBUSTION
    • F23N5/00Systems for controlling combustion
    • F23N5/02Systems for controlling combustion using devices responsive to thermal changes or to thermal expansion of a medium
    • F23N5/10Systems for controlling combustion using devices responsive to thermal changes or to thermal expansion of a medium using thermocouples
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y10TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC
    • Y10TTECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER US CLASSIFICATION
    • Y10T137/00Fluid handling
    • Y10T137/1407Combustion failure responsive fuel safety cut-off for burners

Abstract

A safety device for shutting off the flow of gas to a gas-fired appliance in the presence of flammable vapors. A flammable vapor sensor is inserted in the circuit supplying a solenoid actuated valve with power from a thermocouple. The sensor responds to the presence of a flammable vapor with an increase in resistance. When a critical concentration of flammable vapors is achieved, the voltage drop across the sensor causes the solenoid actuated valve to close.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention generally relates to safety devices for mitigating the danger posed by the presence of flammable vapors in proximity to a gas-burning appliance and more particularly pertains to a control system that shuts down the operation of the appliance when the presence of flammable vapors is detected.
  • [0002]
    A potential hazard inherent in the operation of a gas-burning appliance is that it may cause flammable vapors to ignite that happen to collect in and around the appliance. Ignition may either be caused by the burner or pilot flame. This is especially problematic in for example water heaters or furnaces that are located in garages in which cars are parked where the leakage or spillage of gasoline may occur. Once a combustible mixture reaches the appliance, a fire or explosion may result.
  • [0003]
    Efforts to address this potential safety hazard have been previously directed to ensuring adequate ventilation in and around the appliance, the elevation of the appliance in an effort to distance it from flammable vapors that are denser than air, and more recently, the isolation or sealing of the burner from its surroundings. Attempts have also previously been made to adapt specialized sensors for the purpose of sounding an alarm in an event the presence of certain flammable vapors is detected.
  • [0004]
    A flammable vapor control system is needed that is able to mitigate the danger of a gas-burning appliance that employs a standing pilot flame so as to automatically and positively prevent such appliance from igniting flammable vapors. Such system must be capable of reliably removing all potential ignition sources once a certain concentration of flammable vapors has been detected.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0005]
    The present invention overcomes shortcomings of previously known approaches for mitigating the dangers associated with a gas-burning appliance. By employing a sensor that is capable of detecting the presence of flammable gases and associating it directly with the function of the gas valve that controls the flow of gas to the appliance, a fully automatic and reliable safety system is provided. Once the presence of a threshold concentration of flammable gas is detected, the system causes the valve to shut off the flow of all gas to thereby immediately extinguish the burner flame, should it be lit, as well as the standing pilot flame. Removal of such ignition sources will preclude the appliance from igniting the flammable vapors. When the absence of hot water is detected, a person undertaking to check on the operation of the water heater would presumably notice the presence of flammable vapors in the vicinity of the water heater and remedy the situation.
  • [0006]
    The safety system of the present invention is easily adapted to the type of gas control valves that are currently being produced with only minimal modification. Such valves employ an electromagnet to hold the gas valve in its open position by the voltage that is generated by a thermopile or thermocouple as it is subjected to the heat of the pilot flame. Such configuration is favored as it automatically causes the supply of gas to be curtailed in the event the pilot flame becomes extinguished as the removal of the heat source will cause the temperature of the thermopile and hence its output voltage to decrease to a level below that which is required to hold the valve in its open position. The present invention calls for a variable resistance flammable vapor sensor to be inserted in the circuit between the thermopile and the electromagnet. Its resistance increases as a function of the flammable vapor concentration and as a result, it controls the voltage that is supplied to the electromagnet. Once the resistance reaches a preselected level in response to a preselected concentration of flammable vapor, the voltage supplied to the electromagnet falls below the threshold level required to maintain the gas valve in its open position and the valve closes to shut off the flow of gas to the appliance. Accommodation of such device in existing valve configurations requires the modification of the resistance of electromagnet. The resistance of the coil must be modified by an amount commensurate with the resistance of the sensor at sub-critical flammable vapor concentrations such that the power supplied to the electromagnet remains sufficient to allow the electromagnet to maintain the valve in its open position.
  • [0007]
    These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment which, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, illustrates by way of example the principles of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0008]
    [0008]FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a water heater employing the safety system of the present invention; and
  • [0009]
    [0009]FIG. 2 is a semi-schematic circuit diagram of the safety device of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0010]
    The drawings depict a preferred embodiment of the present invention wherein a standing pilot flame is employed in the gas-burning appliance. When a concentration of flammable vapors that exceeds a preselected level is detected, the gas controller valve is caused to shut off the supply of gas to the appliance. The appliance's burner and its standing pilot flame are thereby removed as potential ignition sources for the flammable vapors.
  • [0011]
    [0011]FIG. 1 is an illustration of a water heater employing the safety system of the present invention. A water heater 12 employs a gas controller valve 14 which serves to control the flow of gas from an inlet conduit 16 to the feedline 18 that supplies the burner (not shown) and the feedline 20 the supplies the standing pilot flame (not shown). A flammable vapor sensor 22 is situated near the base of the water heater as many flammable vapors of concern, such as gasoline, are heavier than air. Alternatively, the sensor may be positioned directly in an intake duct through which combustion air is routed to the water heater's burner.
  • [0012]
    [0012]FIG. 2 is a semi-schematic illustration of the safety system of the present invention. A valve 24, controls the flow of gas from the inlet conduit 16 to feedlines 18 and 20. The valve is normally held in its closed position by the action of spring 26. Energization of solenoid 28 overcomes the force of the spring to open the valve. The subsequent flow and distribution of the gas is regulated as is well known in the art. The flow to the burner 30 is controlled so as to maintain the water temperature contained within the water heater near a preselected set temperature. The pilot 32 is constantly supplied with gas so as to maintain a standing pilot flame 34 for the purpose of igniting the burner whenever the flow of gas is directed thereto.
  • [0013]
    The solenoid 28 is energized by the voltage supplied by a thermocouple 36 or thermopile that is positioned so as to be heated by the standing pilot flame 34. In the event the pilot flame is extinguished, the output voltage of the thermocouple quickly drops below the voltage that is necessary for the solenoid 28 to overcome the bias of the spring 24 which causes the valve 24 to close. The risk of a build-up of gas that would otherwise continue to issue from pilot and possibly the burner is thereby obviated. Reignition of the pilot flame requires the valve to first be manually opened and then held open for a period of time sufficient to allow the temperature and hence the output voltage of the thermopile to rise to a level at which the solenoid is able to overcome the force of the spring.
  • [0014]
    The flammable vapor sensor 22 is inserted in line with one of the thermocouple wires. The sensor introduces a variable resistance to the circuit as a function of the concentration of flammable vapors. Resistance increases as a function of vapor concentration to reduce the voltage supplied to the solenoid. Once the resistance increases to a level sufficient to reduce the voltage to below the threshold voltage necessary to maintain the valve in its open position, the valve automatically closes. The threshold voltage is preferably selected such that the valve closes well before a combustible mixture of the flammable vapor is present. It is especially preferred that the such valve closes at about 50% LFL (low flammable level) or 50% LEL (low explosive level).
  • [0015]
    Various different sensor devices can be employed to provide for the desired resistance variation as a function of flammable vapor concentration. A preferred device takes the form of a solid state sensor such as an ADSISTOR Vapor Sensor supplied by ADSISTOR Technology, Inc of Seattle Wash. One of such devices that has been found to be particularly well suited for the present application has a resistance of about 0.2 ohm at 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the absence of flammable vapors. Upon exposure to 50% of the LFL concentration of gasoline, the sensor's resistance will rise to exceed 2 ohms within about 3 seconds. While the initial 0.2 ohm resistance of the device allows a sufficient voltage to be applied to the solenoid 28 in order to hold the valve 24 in its open position, the increase to 2 ohms provides for a sufficiently large voltage drop to cause the valve to close by action of spring 26. An additional benefit of such device is that once saturated with the ADSISTOR flammable vapor sensor becomes saturated with the vapor to which it is sensitive, it takes on the order of a few hours for the device to degas sufficiently to again reduce its resistance to below the threshold level. This serves as a built-in time delay to deter a user from attempting to relight the pilot flame prematurely. The device is particularly sensitive to hydrocarbons that are in a liquid state at normal atmospheric pressures.
  • [0016]
    In order to adapt such sensing device to a particular thermocouple/solenoid combination, it is necessary for the resistance of the coil or coils within the solenoid to be adjusted such that the total resistance for the circuit allows for a sufficient current flow through the solenoid so as to be energized when the thermocouple is heated by the standing pilot flame. An example of a system that has been found to provide satisfactory result requires the use of a thermocouple that has an output voltage of 28 mV, a sensor device that has a resistance of 0.2 ohm in the absence of flammable vapors and a solenoid coil that has an internal resistance of 1 ohm. Such circuit generates a current of 23 milliamps which is sufficient to hold valve 24 hold open against spring 26. The resistance increase to 2 ohms upon being subjected to a 50% vapor concentration reduces the current to 12 milliamps which causes the valve to close.
  • [0017]
    In adapting an existing gas controller configuration to accommodate the use of a variable resistance flammable vapor sensor, it is necessary to increase the internal resistance of the solenoid coil. This can be accomplished by for example the use of higher gauge wire (smaller diameter) and an increase in number of coils in the electromagnet.
  • [0018]
    While a particular form of the invention has been illustrated and described, it will also be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited except by the appended claims.

Claims (16)

    What is claimed is:
  1. 1. A fuel control system for controlling a burner of a gas-fired appliance, employing a standing pilot flame, comprising:
    a gas valve for controlling the flow of gas to said appliance;
    a sensor operative to detect a flammable vapor;
    an electrical circuit operative to close the gas valve in the event a preselected concentration of said flammable vapor is sensed by said sensor.
  2. 2. The fuel control system of
    claim 1
    , wherein said gas control valve is held open by an electromagnet powered by a thermocouple that is exposed to said standing pilot flame, wherein said sensor serves to variably reduce output voltage of said thermocouple.
  3. 3. The fuel control system of
    claim 2
    , wherein said sensor's resistance is a function of the concentration of said flammable vapors.
  4. 4. The fuel control system of
    claim 3
    , wherein said sensor's resistance increases as a function of the concentration of said flammable vapors.
  5. 5. The fuel control system of
    claim 1
    , wherein said appliance comprises a water heater and said sensor is positioned near the base of said water heater.
  6. 6. The fuel control system of
    claim 1
    , wherein said appliance comprises a water heater having a combustion air intake duct for routing combustion air to a burner used for heating water within said water heater and said sensor is positioned in said duct.
  7. 7. The fuel control system of
    claim 1
    , wherein said appliance has an air intake for supplying combustion air to its burner and wherein said sensor is positioned in said air intake.
  8. 8. The fuel control system of
    claim 1
    , wherein said preselected concentration comprises about half of the concentration necessary for combustion.
  9. 9. The fuel control system of
    claim 1
    , wherein said sensor is capable of detecting hydrocarbons.
  10. 10. The fuel control system of
    claim 4
    , wherein said electromagnet has a resistance selected such that its resistance in addition to said resistance of said sensor in the absence of flammable vapors allows for a flow of a sufficient current through said elecromagnet so as to hold said valve in its open position.
  11. 11. The fuel control system of
    claim 10
    , wherein said sensor has a resistance of about 0.2 ohms in the absence of flammable vapors and about 2 ohms in the presence of 50% LEL of gasoline.
  12. 12. The fuel control system of
    claim 11
    , wherein said resistance of said sensor increases from about 0.2 ohms to about 2 ohms within about 3 seconds after being exposed to 50% LEL of gasoline.
  13. 13. A method of adapting a flammable vapor sensor to a valve control circuit employing a solenoid mechanism including a coil to hold a valve in an open position, and a thermocouple to power said solenoid mechanism when said thermocouple is exposed to a standing pilot flame, comprising the steps of:
    inserting a variable resistance flammable vapor in series between said thermocouple and said solenoid mechanism;
    adjusting the resistance of said coil to provide for a sufficient current flow through the sensor and coil to enable said solenoid mechanism to hold said valve in its open position when flammable vapors below a preselected level are sensed.
  14. 14. The method of
    claim 13
    , further comprising the step of positioning said sensor so as to detect the presence of flammable vapors in combustion air being drawn into a combustion chamber of a gas-fired appliance controlled by said valve control circuit.
  15. 15. The method of
    claim 14
    , wherein said preselected level comprises about 50% LFL.
  16. 16. The method of
    claim 14
    , wherein said gas-fired appliance comprises a water heater.
US09826746 2000-04-12 2001-04-04 Flammable vapor control system for devices with standing pilot flame Abandoned US20010042564A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US19666600 true 2000-04-12 2000-04-12
US09826746 US20010042564A1 (en) 2000-04-12 2001-04-04 Flammable vapor control system for devices with standing pilot flame

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US09826746 US20010042564A1 (en) 2000-04-12 2001-04-04 Flammable vapor control system for devices with standing pilot flame

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Cited By (13)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO2004001292A1 (en) * 2002-06-21 2003-12-31 Sit La Precisa S.P.A. Control unit for controlling the delivery of a combustible gas in valve units, particularly for water heating apparatuses, and valve unit including said unit
US6732677B2 (en) 2002-10-15 2004-05-11 Emerson Electric Co. Bracket for water heater
US20050042560A1 (en) * 2001-03-08 2005-02-24 The Water Heater Industry Joint Research And Development Consortium. Fuel-fired heating appliance with temperature-based fuel shutoff system
US20050079459A1 (en) * 2003-10-09 2005-04-14 Claude Lesage Flammable vapour detector system for hot water heater
US20050092066A1 (en) * 2003-11-01 2005-05-05 Honeywell International, Inc. Differential compensated vapor sensor
US20060150926A1 (en) * 2004-06-08 2006-07-13 Donnelly Donald E Flammable vapor sensing control for a water heater
US20060210937A1 (en) * 2005-03-21 2006-09-21 Honeywell International Inc. Vapor resistant fuel burning appliance
US20060275720A1 (en) * 2005-06-02 2006-12-07 Hotton Bruce A Low power control system and associated methods for a water heater with flammable vapor sensor
US7319577B2 (en) * 2003-12-04 2008-01-15 Patrick M. Dolan Safety shut off for water heaters
WO2011007331A3 (en) * 2009-07-17 2011-04-28 Eltek S.P.A. Safety device against combustible gas leaks for household appliances
CN102985759A (en) * 2010-06-10 2013-03-20 伊恩创新有限公司 Gas Safety Equipment
CN104075325A (en) * 2014-07-03 2014-10-01 艾欧史密斯(中国)热水器有限公司 Intelligent burning flame pre-restoration system and flame detection device
US20140315138A1 (en) * 2013-03-15 2014-10-23 Total Energy Resources, Inc. Open solenoid valve with arc relighter, method to augment flame safeguard

Cited By (26)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US6893253B2 (en) 2001-03-08 2005-05-17 The Water Heater Industry Joint Research And Development Consortium Fuel-fired heating appliance with temperature-based fuel shutoff system
US20050042560A1 (en) * 2001-03-08 2005-02-24 The Water Heater Industry Joint Research And Development Consortium. Fuel-fired heating appliance with temperature-based fuel shutoff system
US20050053879A1 (en) * 2001-03-08 2005-03-10 The Water Heater Industry Joint Research And Development Consortium Fuel-fired heating appliance with temperature-based fuel shutoff system
US6957628B2 (en) 2001-03-08 2005-10-25 The Water Heater Industry Joint Research And Development Consortium Fuel-fired heating appliance with temperature-based fuel shutoff system
US6964248B2 (en) 2001-03-08 2005-11-15 The Water Heater Industry Joint Research And Development Consortium Fuel-fired heating appliance with temperature-based fuel shutoff system
US20050233272A1 (en) * 2002-06-21 2005-10-20 Massimo Giacomelli Control unit for controlling the delivery of a combustible gas in valve units, particularly for water heating apparatuses, and valve unit including said unit
WO2004001292A1 (en) * 2002-06-21 2003-12-31 Sit La Precisa S.P.A. Control unit for controlling the delivery of a combustible gas in valve units, particularly for water heating apparatuses, and valve unit including said unit
US6732677B2 (en) 2002-10-15 2004-05-11 Emerson Electric Co. Bracket for water heater
US20050079459A1 (en) * 2003-10-09 2005-04-14 Claude Lesage Flammable vapour detector system for hot water heater
US6973819B2 (en) 2003-11-01 2005-12-13 Honeywell International Inc. Differential compensated vapor sensor
US20050092066A1 (en) * 2003-11-01 2005-05-05 Honeywell International, Inc. Differential compensated vapor sensor
US7319577B2 (en) * 2003-12-04 2008-01-15 Patrick M. Dolan Safety shut off for water heaters
US7516720B2 (en) * 2004-06-08 2009-04-14 Emerson Electric Co. Flammable vapor sensing control for a water heater
US20060150926A1 (en) * 2004-06-08 2006-07-13 Donnelly Donald E Flammable vapor sensing control for a water heater
US20060210937A1 (en) * 2005-03-21 2006-09-21 Honeywell International Inc. Vapor resistant fuel burning appliance
US7604478B2 (en) 2005-03-21 2009-10-20 Honeywell International Inc. Vapor resistant fuel burning appliance
US20060275720A1 (en) * 2005-06-02 2006-12-07 Hotton Bruce A Low power control system and associated methods for a water heater with flammable vapor sensor
WO2011007331A3 (en) * 2009-07-17 2011-04-28 Eltek S.P.A. Safety device against combustible gas leaks for household appliances
US9897315B2 (en) 2009-07-17 2018-02-20 Eltek S.P.A. Safety device against combustible gas leaks for household appliances
CN102985759A (en) * 2010-06-10 2013-03-20 伊恩创新有限公司 Gas Safety Equipment
US8695621B2 (en) * 2010-06-10 2014-04-15 En Innovation Co., Ltd. Gas safety device
CN102985759B (en) * 2010-06-10 2016-01-20 伊恩创新有限公司 Gas Safety Equipment
US20130087215A1 (en) * 2010-06-10 2013-04-11 En Innovation Co., Ltd. Gas safety device
US20140315138A1 (en) * 2013-03-15 2014-10-23 Total Energy Resources, Inc. Open solenoid valve with arc relighter, method to augment flame safeguard
US9657947B2 (en) * 2013-03-15 2017-05-23 Oil, Gas and Industrial Process Equipment, Inc. Open solenoid valve with arc relighter, method to augment flame safeguard
CN104075325A (en) * 2014-07-03 2014-10-01 艾欧史密斯(中国)热水器有限公司 Intelligent burning flame pre-restoration system and flame detection device

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AS Assignment

Owner name: INVENSYS A ROBERTSHAW CONTROLS COMPANY, VIRGINIA

Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ABRAHAM, ANTHONY W.;JOUBRAN, RAYMOND;MINKLER, KENNETH;REEL/FRAME:011957/0367

Effective date: 20010606

AS Assignment

Owner name: WATER HEATER INDUSTRY JOINT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPME

Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ROBERTSHAW CONTROLS COMPANY;REEL/FRAME:013491/0305

Effective date: 20021108