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US20080271475A1 - Refrigerator having compartment capable of converting between refrigeration and freezing temperatures - Google Patents

Refrigerator having compartment capable of converting between refrigeration and freezing temperatures Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080271475A1
US20080271475A1 US12022024 US2202408A US2008271475A1 US 20080271475 A1 US20080271475 A1 US 20080271475A1 US 12022024 US12022024 US 12022024 US 2202408 A US2202408 A US 2202408A US 2008271475 A1 US2008271475 A1 US 2008271475A1
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Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
temperature
area
refrigeration
refrigerator
air
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
US12022024
Inventor
Edward P. Wuesthoff
Dongning Wang
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HAIER AMERICA REFRIGERATORS COMPANY Ltd
Original Assignee
HAIER AMERICA REFRIGERATORS COMPANY Ltd
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    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D17/00Arrangements for circulating cooling fluids; Arrangements for circulating gas, e.g. air, within refrigerated spaces
    • F25D17/04Arrangements for circulating cooling fluids; Arrangements for circulating gas, e.g. air, within refrigerated spaces for circulating air, e.g. by convection
    • F25D17/06Arrangements for circulating cooling fluids; Arrangements for circulating gas, e.g. air, within refrigerated spaces for circulating air, e.g. by convection by forced circulation
    • F25D17/062Arrangements for circulating cooling fluids; Arrangements for circulating gas, e.g. air, within refrigerated spaces for circulating air, e.g. by convection by forced circulation in household refrigerators
    • F25D17/065Arrangements for circulating cooling fluids; Arrangements for circulating gas, e.g. air, within refrigerated spaces for circulating air, e.g. by convection by forced circulation in household refrigerators with compartments at different temperatures
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D23/00General constructional features
    • F25D23/02Doors; Covers
    • F25D23/023Air curtain closures
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D23/00General constructional features
    • F25D23/12Arrangements of compartments additional to cooling compartments; Combinations of refrigerators with other equipment, e.g. stove
    • F25D23/123Butter compartment
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D25/00Charging, supporting, and discharging the articles to be cooled
    • F25D25/02Charging, supporting, and discharging the articles to be cooled by shelves
    • F25D25/021Charging, supporting, and discharging the articles to be cooled by shelves combined with trays
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCTION, WORKING, STORING OR DISTRIBUTION OF ICE
    • F25C2400/00Auxiliary features or devices for production, working, storing or distribution of ice
    • F25C2400/10Refrigerator units
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D23/00General constructional features
    • F25D23/02Doors; Covers
    • F25D23/021Sliding doors
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D2331/00Details or arrangements of other cooling or freezing apparatus not provided for in other groups of this subclass
    • F25D2331/80Type of cooled receptacles
    • F25D2331/803Bottles
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D2400/00General features of, or devices for refrigerators, cold rooms, ice-boxes, or for cooling or freezing apparatus not covered by any other subclass
    • F25D2400/06Refrigerators with a vertical mullion
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D2400/00General features of, or devices for refrigerators, cold rooms, ice-boxes, or for cooling or freezing apparatus not covered by any other subclass
    • F25D2400/16Convertible refrigerators
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D2400/00General features of, or devices for refrigerators, cold rooms, ice-boxes, or for cooling or freezing apparatus not covered by any other subclass
    • F25D2400/36Visual displays
    • F25D2400/361Interactive visual displays
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25DREFRIGERATORS; COLD ROOMS; ICE-BOXES; COOLING OR FREEZING APPARATUS NOT COVERED BY ANY OTHER SUBCLASS
    • F25D2700/00Means for sensing or measuring; Sensors therefor
    • F25D2700/12Sensors measuring the inside temperature
    • F25D2700/123Sensors measuring the inside temperature more than one sensor measuring the inside temperature in a compartment

Abstract

ABSTRACT A refrigerator comprising a refrigerator housing defining first, second, and third compartments separated by insulated walls, a refrigeration system supplying cold air to the first, second, and third compartments, first, second, and third sensors operative to detect temperature in a respective one of the first, second, and third compartments and control circuitry in electrical communication with the sensors, the control circuitry controlling flow of the cold air into each of the first, second, and third compartments so as to facilitate maintaining a respective desired temperature therein, where the desired temperature of each of the first, second, and third compartments is variable and may be set by a user independently with respect to each other.

Description

    CLAIM OF PRIORITY
  • [0001]
    The present application claims the benefit of the U.S. provisional application filed on Jan. 29, 2007 by Wuesthoff et al. for REFRIGERATOR HAVING COMPARTMENT CAPABLE OF CONVERTING BETWEEN REFRIGERATION AND FREEZING TEMPERATURES (Ser. No. 60/887,107), the entire disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to refrigerators. More particularly, the present invention relates to a refrigerator having a compartment capable of converting from a refrigeration area to a freezer area and back.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    Most refrigerators for household use include at least one area for refrigerating items and at least one area for freezing items. Refrigeration areas typically operate within the range of temperatures from 34 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit, while freezer areas generally operate within the range of temperatures from 0 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on certain factors, such as overall refrigerator configuration and size, the refrigeration and freezer areas can be partitioned and arranged in a number of manners. For example, in one configuration, the refrigeration area may occupy a left portion of the refrigerator, while the freezer area may occupy a right portion, or vice versa. In an alternate configuration, the refrigeration area may occupy an upper portion of the refrigerator, while the freezer area may occupy a lower portion, or vice versa.
  • [0004]
    Additionally, doors or drawer fronts may be used to enclose and define the refrigeration and freezer areas. In one instance, one or more doors may enclose the refrigeration area, while one or more drawers may define the freezer area. The reverse may also be true.
  • [0005]
    Regardless of how the refrigeration and freezer areas are configured or what structures are used to enclose each area, the refrigeration area and the freezer area are established at the time the refrigerator is designed and fixed when it is manufactured. At that point, the purchaser of a household refrigerator is unable to change which area will be the refrigeration area and which area will be the freezer area. Likewise, the purchaser is unable to increase the size of either the refrigeration area or the freezer area depending on the purchaser's current needs. The purchaser is also unable to use a portion or all of the refrigeration area as a freezer area, or vice versa.
  • [0006]
    Typically, household refrigerators include a refrigeration system that includes a compressor, a condenser, an expansion device, and an evaporator connected together by coils and tubes. Refrigerant flows throughout the refrigeration system via the coils and tubes. The refrigerant enters the compressor, where it is pressurized, the result of which is an increase in the temperature of the refrigerant. The refrigerant is transferred to the condenser, where it is condensed and cooled by flowing through a number of coils across which air passes. Energy in the form of heat is transferred from the refrigerant to the air and removed from the system. The refrigerant then enters the expansion device where it undergoes an abrupt reduction in pressure, the result of which is a decrease in the temperature of the refrigerant. The refrigerant then passes through coils typically adjacent to the areas to be cooled. Fans and/or other devices circulate the areas' air over the coils where heat energy is transferred from the circulated air to the refrigerant, which results in a decrease in temperature of the air in the enclosed area and an increase in temperature of the refrigerant. The refrigerant then passes to the compressor and begins the cycle again.
  • [0007]
    During normal usage, the refrigeration system described above continues to cycle through the refrigeration process in order to maintain the temperature within the various areas of the refrigerator at a desired level. When the actual temperature rises above the desired level in a certain area, the refrigeration system of some refrigerators continues to operate as normal in an attempt to lower the temperature of that area. Other refrigerators include a variable speed compressor in the refrigeration system, which allows the system to change the rate at which refrigerant passes through the refrigeration cycle. The faster the flow rate of the refrigerant, the greater the amount of refrigerant that flows through the system's coils during a specific period of time. This allows a greater amount of heat energy to be transferred from the air in the area to be cooled to the refrigerant, thereby decreasing the temperature of the air at a greater pace. When the desired temperature is established in the refrigerator's areas, the compressor returns to a normal speed. Under some conditions, it is desirable for the compressor to operate at a rate slower than normal.
  • [0008]
    Refrigerators typically use baffles to control the flow of cold air from the refrigeration system to the refrigerator's areas. Generally, each of the refrigerator's areas includes at least one port allowing cold air to pass into the area and at least one vent allowing circulated air to pass out of the area. Baffles connected to each port open and close the particular port to respectively allow or prevent cold air from entering the corresponding area. Controlling the flow of cold air in this manner allows the refrigeration system to maintain the temperature of each area at a relatively stable level.
  • [0009]
    Household refrigerators normally include controls and sensors to adjust and regulate the temperature of the refrigeration and freezer areas. Depending on the type of controls, the refrigerator's user can select a specific temperature, a temperature range, or a number indicative of a relative temperature, such as choosing the number “2” from a range of 1 to 5. Each selection, including the numeric range, correlates to a specific temperature or temperature range for that area of the refrigerator. As described above, when the temperature of one or more areas rises to a temperature that is greater than an established difference between the current temperature and the selected temperature for an that area, the refrigeration system continues to cycle in an attempt to cool that area. In other refrigerators, the refrigeration system increases the speed of the compressor to more rapidly chill the desired area.
  • [0010]
    The baffles described above control which areas receive the cold air by opening the ports corresponding to the areas for which the temperature should be lowered and by closing the ports corresponding to areas currently maintaining a suitable temperature. The baffles keep the open ports open until the temperature of the corresponding area has reached an acceptable level. If one area has reached a suitable temperature level but the temperature in other areas remains higher than acceptable, baffles close the corresponding ports that are associated with the areas that have reached a suitable temperature level. The refrigeration system's compressor continues to operate until all areas have reached a suitable temperature. In a refrigerator that includes a variable speed compressor, the refrigeration system is capable of operating at different rates depending on the difference between the desired temperature and the actual temperature in the various areas. In older refrigerators, when all areas have reached a suitable temperature, and, therefore, no additional sections need to be cooled, the refrigeration system deactivates. In other refrigerators employing variable speed compressors, the refrigeration system may decrease the speed of the compressor to a point where the refrigeration system is capable of maintaining the desired temperature in each of the refrigerator areas. The refrigeration system of yet other refrigerators may only be able to operate continuously at one speed in an attempt to maintain the desired temperature.
  • [0011]
    The refrigeration system described above is intended to maintain the refrigerator's interior at a temperature below the temperature of ambient air in the room where the refrigerator has been placed. Maintaining a set temperature is somewhat straightforward when the refrigeration and freezer areas are sealed and remain unopened. Depending on the refrigerator's construction, some heat energy may be exchanged between the air within the refrigerator's interior and the ambient air through the refrigerator's external housing. Due to modem refrigerator constructions, a large amount of heat energy will generally not be exchanged in this manner.
  • [0012]
    Conversely, an exchange of heat energy automatically takes place when the refrigerator is opened due to the difference in temperature between the ambient air and the air in the refrigerator's interior. Because heat energy travels from higher temperatures to lower temperatures, any air of a temperature lower than the ambient air will begin to increase in temperature. In this scenario, the temperature of the air inside the refrigerator begins to rapidly increase. Similarly, because the cold air within the refrigerator has a lower temperature, it is denser than that of the ambient air causing refrigerated air to leave the refrigerator while ambient air enters it. Given a sufficient amount of time, the temperature of the air within the refrigerator will increase to that of the ambient air. This also causes an increase in temperature of the items stored in the refrigerator.
  • [0013]
    The refrigeration system must operate continuously, or, in the case of a system including a variable speed compressor, must operate at a speed higher than normal in order to counteract the increase in temperature described above. If any part of the refrigerator's interior remains exposed, the air within the refrigerator will continue to absorb heat energy and its temperature will rise to the temperature of the ambient air. Continuous operation of the refrigeration system puts a strain on the system's components and reduces the components' useful life. Additionally, this continuous operation consumes an inefficient amount of energy. Thus, an unobstructed exchange of heat energy from the ambient air to the refrigerated air, as well as the introduction of ambient air into the interior of the refrigerator, causes the refrigeration system to operate inefficiently.
  • [0014]
    A user places items in the refrigeration and freezer areas of a refrigerator in order to keep the item's temperature below a particular level, generally to preserve the item. Refrigerators employ a range of structures to facilitate the placement and removal of various items by the user. For example, bottles of soda and wine create an inefficient use of space due to the necessary arrangement of shelves above the bottle to accommodate their height when placed vertically on a lower shelf. When placed horizontally on a shelf, bottles are able to roll and move around on the refrigerator's shelf. In order to efficiently store these bottles, some refrigerators include a support consisting of at least one semi-circular bracket that holds the bottle horizontally above a shelf. Such supports, however, create an inefficient use of space when not in use due to the space occupied and made unavailable by the support.
  • [0015]
    Likewise, bins attached to the interior of a refrigerator door facilitate access to items frequently used and removed from a refrigerator. The configuration and manner of attachment of these bins to the refrigerator door may vary. In some instances, such bins can be attached to different locations along the width and height of the door's interior. These bins generally occupy the entire space that exists horizontally between the inside of the closed refrigerator door and the adjacent refrigerator shelves making the size of the bin bulky and difficult to carry when removed from the door. The user must either remove each item from the bin that the user intends to use at the moment or must remove the entire bin, which may be awkward to carry and/or contain unwanted items. Additionally, refrigerators lack adequate support to efficiently store irregularly-shaped items, such as a pizza box.
  • [0016]
    Refrigerators include other structures to better preserve certain items, including dairy bins to preserve dairy products, such as butter. Generally, dairy bins are attached to the interior of a refrigerator door near the top portion of the door and include a partially cylindrical cover that rotates about its axis to provide access to the contents contained in the dairy bin. Due to the bin's location and arrangement, it can be difficult to remove the bin's contents.
  • [0017]
    Items required to be kept frozen, such as ice cream, are stored in the freezer areas of a refrigerator. The desired temperature in which to store some items, such as ice cream, however, can be lower than other items stored in the freezer. In these situations, the user commonly sets the temperature of the freezer at a particular level to maintain an ideal temperature for the majority of items in order to prevent freezer burn or other damaging effects to these items. This creates a tendency to cause other items that require lower temperatures, such as ice cream, to be softer than desired. As an illustration, ice cream may become softer than otherwise intended if stored at a higher temperature level desirable for storing other freezer items. Freezers lack an area directed to storing certain items whose ideal storage temperature is generally lower than the majority of other items stored in the freezer.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0018]
    The present invention recognizes and addresses the foregoing considerations, and others, of prior art construction and methods.
  • [0019]
    In this regard, one aspect of the invention provides a refrigerator comprising a refrigerator housing defining first, second, and third compartments separated by insulated walls, a refrigeration system supplying cold air to the first, second, and third compartments, first, second, and third sensors operative to detect temperature in a respective one of the first, second, and third compartments, and control circuitry in electrical communication with the sensors, the control circuitry controlling flow of the cold air into each of the first, second, and third compartments so as to facilitate maintaining a respective desired temperature therein, where the desired temperature of each of the first, second, and third compartments is variable and may be set by a user independently with respect to each other.
  • [0020]
    According to another aspect, the present invention also provides a refrigeration apparatus comprising a refrigerator housing defining first, second, and third compartments in which food items are stored, a refrigeration system, a first aperture defined by the housing to provide fluid communication between the refrigeration system and the first compartment, a first mechanism being configured to vary the first aperture, a second aperture defined by the housing to provide fluid communication between the refrigeration system and the second compartment, a second mechanism being configured to vary the second aperture, control circuitry operatively connected to the first mechanism and the second mechanism, where the control circuitry directs the first mechanism to vary the first aperture and directs the second mechanism to vary the second aperture in order to facilitate maintaining the first compartment at a first desired temperature and the second compartment at a second desired temperature.
  • [0021]
    A further aspect of the present invention provides a refrigeration apparatus comprising a generally rectangular area defined by two side walls, a back wall, a top wall, a base, and a door and a device attached to an inside surface of the top wall for producing an air curtain, where the device expels air downward toward the base when the door is opened.
  • [0022]
    In another aspect, there is provided a rack suspended from an underside of a shelf for supporting at least one container, the rack comprising a back support attached to the underside of the shelf having a vertical support and a horizontal flange, the vertical support and the horizontal flange having at least one first curve, wherein the vertical support and the horizontal flange are constructed to receive a bottom of the container at the first curve and a front support attached to the underside at at least one connection point and having at least one second curve, the second curve opposite the first curve and constructed to receive a portion of the container, where the front support is adapted to pivot at the connection point such that the front support may be attached horizontally to the underside of the shelf and stored.
  • [0023]
    One aspect of the invention provides A bin attached to a refrigerator door for storing a plurality of items, the bin comprising a back portion attached to the refrigerator door and configured to store a first set of the items, the back portion comprising a support structure and a front portion configured to store a second set of the items, the front portion adapted to be maintained in position on the support structure but removable therefrom, where the front portion may be separated from the back portion by vertically lifting the hollow portion away from the support structure.
  • [0024]
    According to another aspect, the present invention also provides a dairy bin for a refrigerator comprising a first side support, a cover comprising a first cover end and a first plurality of gear teeth attached to the first cover end, wherein the first cover end is pivotally attached to the first side support such that the cover is able to rotate in a generally cylindrical manner, and a tray comprising a first tray end, the first tray end being slideable such that the tray is able to slide forward and backward in a generally horizontal manner, where the first tray end defines a first plurality of slots in which respective of said gear teeth are received.
  • [0025]
    A further aspect of the present invention provides a refrigeration apparatus comprising an ice maker and an ice bin located underneath the ice maker, where a portion of a top surface of the ice bin defines a ledge for supporting a container.
  • [0026]
    The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate one or more embodiments of the invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0027]
    A full and enabling disclosure of the present invention, including the best mode thereof directed to one of ordinary skill in the art, is set forth in the specification, which makes reference to the appended drawings, in which:
  • [0028]
    FIG. 1 is an isometric front view of a refrigerator in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 2 is a partial isometric view of the refrigerator of FIG. 1, with a door and drawer open to reveal internal structures;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 3 is an enlarged isometric view of the refrigerator of FIG. 1 showing the access drawer of a convertible compartment open;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 4 is a partial isometric view of the top of the refrigerator of FIG. 1;
  • [0032]
    FIG. 5 a is a diagrammatic view illustrating operation of a refrigerator in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0033]
    FIGS. 5 b, 6 a, 6 b, and 6 c are isometric views of different areas of a refrigerator in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0034]
    FIG. 7 is an enlarged isometric view of a refrigerator panel in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0035]
    FIG. 8 is an isometric view of a refrigerator compartment in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0036]
    FIGS. 9 a and 9 b are enlarged isometric views of a bottle rack of a refrigerator in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention in extended and retracted positions, respectively;
  • [0037]
    FIG. 10 is an enlarged isometric view of a refrigerator bin in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
  • [0038]
    FIG. 11 is an enlarged isometric view of a refrigerator bin in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and
  • [0039]
    FIG. 12 is an enlarged isometric view of a portion of a refrigerator's freezer area in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0040]
    Repeat use of reference characters in the present specification and drawings is intended to represent same or analogous features or elements of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0041]
    Reference will now be made in detail to presently preferred embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, not limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that modifications and variations can be made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit thereof. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment may be used on another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers such modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents. Additional aspects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows and, in part, will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention.
  • [0042]
    FIGS. 1 through 5 b illustrate a refrigerator 10 constructed in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. Refrigerator 10 includes a housing 12 having a top wall 14, left wall 16, right wall 18, back wall 20, and bottom 22. Housing 12 defines an upper portion 24 and a lower portion 26 separated by a horizontal wall 28. A vertical wall 30 divides upper portion 24 into a freezer area, i.e., compartment, 32 on the left and a refrigeration area 34 on the right. Freezer door 36 and refrigerator door 38 are attached to housing 12 and enclose freezer area 32 and refrigeration area 34, respectively. The front side 40 of top wall 14 includes a panel 42. Freezer temperature controls (not shown) and refrigerator temperature controls (collectively denoted as temperature controls 44) located on panel 42 are revealed when freezer door 36 and refrigerator door 38 are opened. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, temperature controls 44 are in electronic communication with control circuitry. Freezer area 32, refrigeration area 34, and lower portion 26 each include a temperature sensor, examples of which are temperature sensors 48 located in freezer area 32 (FIG. 5 b) and temperature sensor 50 (FIG. 2) located in refrigeration area 34, respectively. It should be understood that additional sensors may be used depending on the size and configuration of refrigerator 10. These temperature sensors are also connected to the control circuitry, at least some of which in this case is housed under a cover 52 located on the exterior of top wall 14. A drawer 54 is attached to housing 12 and occupies the space corresponding to lower portion 26. As will be described in more detail below with reference to FIG. 7, freezer door 36 includes an ice and water dispenser 56 having a control panel 58.
  • [0043]
    Refrigeration area 34 also includes a variety of other structures, such as shelves 60, a variety of bins 62, an air curtain device 64, a bottle rack 66, a separable bin 68, and a dairy bin 70. It should be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that a number of combinations and constructions of shelves, bins, racks, and trays may be employed without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. In general, the construction of refrigerator shelves and removable bins should be understood in the art and are, therefore, not discussed in further detail except as they relate to aspects of the present invention. The construction and function of air curtain device 64, bottle rack 66, separable bin 68, and dairy bin 70 are described in more detail below with respect to FIGS. 8, 9 a, 9 b, 10, and 11, respectively.
  • [0044]
    FIG. 5 a is a diagrammatic illustration showing the general airflow of refrigerator 10 to maintain the desired temperatures of the refrigerator's various areas. FIG. 5 b is an isometric view of freezer area 32 with a rear covering 72 (FIG. 6 a) removed to depict several components of the refrigeration system of refrigerator 10. The control circuitry is operatively connected to the refrigeration system. As described above, general aspects of refrigeration systems, their various components, and manner of operation should be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art and are, therefore, not described in further detail. Thus, reference will be made to only certain components of the refrigeration system of refrigerator 10 for simplicity. FIGS. 6 a, 6 b, and 6 c are isometric views of the various areas of refrigerator 10 illustrating the manner of airflow of each area to maintain the desired temperature of that area.
  • [0045]
    Referring now to FIGS. 5 a, 5 b, and 6 a, freezer area 32 includes several components of the refrigeration system of refrigerator 10, such as a fan 74 and refrigeration coils 76. A rear covering 72 (FIG. 6 a) separates a space in the rear of freezer area 32 between back wall 20 of housing 12 and the covering from a space in the forward part of the area between the covering and freezer door 36. For simplicity, this space between housing 12 and covering 72 is referred to as cooling area 78, while the space between covering 72 and freezer door 36 is referred to as frozen food area 80. Fan 74 and coils 76 are attached to back wall 20 of housing 12 at the rear of freezer area 32. Thus, fan 74 and coils 76 are enclosed by covering 72 and contained in cooling area 78.
  • [0046]
    Refrigeration area 34 is in fluid communication with cooling area 78 of the refrigeration system via an aperture. In the presently-described embodiment, the aperture is shown as an air port 82 defined at a location near the top of vertical wall 30 to provide an air passage between cooling area 78 and refrigeration area 34. A damper 84 (FIG. 5 a) connected in registry with port 82 is capable of opening and closing the port. A return vent 86 is located near the bottom of vertical wall 30 to provide a return air passage between refrigeration area 34 and cooling area 78.
  • [0047]
    A ventilation channel 88 located at the rear of freezer area 32 extends vertically down the back corner formed by walls 16 and 20 through horizontal wall 28 into lower portion 26. Lower portion 26 is in fluid communication with cooling area 78 of the refrigeration system via an aperture defined between ventilation channel 88 and the lower portion. In the presently-described embodiment, the aperture is shown as a port 92 defined in the horizontal wall 28. An opening 90 at the top of ventilation channel 88 and port 92 provide an air passage between cooling area 78 and lower portion 26. A damper 94 connected in registry with port 92 is capable of opening and closing the port. A return vent 96 is defined in horizontal wall 28 near the left, front section of lower portion 26 and provides an air passage between the lower portion and cooling area 78.
  • [0048]
    Frozen food area 80 is in fluid communication with cooling area 78 of the refrigeration system via one or more apertures. In the presently-described embodiment, such apertures are shown in FIG. 6 a as air ports 98 and 100 incorporated in rear covering 72, which provide an air passage between cooling area 78 and frozen food area 80. In another embodiment, rear covering 72 additionally includes dampers connected in registry with ports 98 and 100, which are capable of opening and closing the ports. Dampers such as these, as well as dampers 84 and 94, should be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art and are, therefore, not discussed in further detail. Rear covering 72 includes a return vent 102 located at the base of frozen food area 80 that provides an air passage between the frozen food area and cooling area 78 for recirculation.
  • [0049]
    Referring to FIG. 7, dispenser 56 includes recess 104 and a paddle 106 concavely shaped to receive a typical drinking glass. An opening 108 is located at the top of recess 104 to be aligned with a drinking glass when the glass is placed against the paddle. In this embodiment, control panel 58 includes the following buttons: light button 110, control lock button 112, water select button 114, ice cube select button 116, ice crush select button 118, extra ice button 120, temperature adjust up button 122, temperature adjust down button 124, and hold buttons 126 and 128. Control panel 58 additionally includes a display 130, all of which are in electric communication with the control circuitry. The structure and operation of water and ice dispensers should be understood to one of ordinary skill in the art and, therefore, is not discussed in further detail.
  • [0050]
    Referring to FIG. 2, in operation, the user sets the desired temperature for frozen food area 80 and refrigeration area 34 using temperature controls 44. Temperature sensors in each part of the refrigerator, such as temperature sensor 48 in freezer area 32 and temperature sensor 50 in refrigeration area 34, measure the temperature of the corresponding area and transmit the information to the control circuitry. When the control circuitry determines the temperature in one or more areas has risen to an unacceptable level in comparison to the desired temperature set by the user, the circuitry operates to reduce the temperature in such area.
  • [0051]
    Referring to FIGS. 5 a and 5 b, increasing the speed of the refrigeration system causes cold refrigerant to flow more rapidly through coils 76. Fan 74 operates to draw warmer air over coils 76 causing the colder refrigerant in the coils to absorb heat energy from the warmer air, thereby cooling the air. Also referring to FIG. 6 b, if the control circuitry determines the temperature of refrigeration area 34 has risen to an unacceptable level, the circuitry instructs damper 84 to open port 82. As a result, cold air will flow into refrigeration area 32 (as denoted by arrows 132 and 134). Air introduced into refrigeration area 34 via port 82 causes air within the area to exit via vent 86 (as denoted by arrows 134 and 136). The air exiting refrigeration area 34 enters cooling area 78 to begin the process again (as denoted by arrows 138). Temperature sensor 50 continues to measure and transmit temperature information to the control circuitry. When the control circuitry determines the temperature within refrigeration area 34 has lowered to an acceptable level, the circuitry instructs damper 84 to close port 82 in order to prevent additional cold air from cooling area 78 flowing into refrigeration area 34.
  • [0052]
    In another embodiment, the control circuitry can instruct damper 84 to partially close port 82 in order to reduce the amount of cold air from cooling area 78 flowing into refrigeration area 34 based on the temperature information received from temperature sensor 50. The damper may then be instructed to close the port once the temperature in refrigeration area 34 has reached an acceptable level.
  • [0053]
    Similar to above and referring to FIGS. 5 a, 5 b, and 6 a, in another embodiment, if the control circuitry determines the temperature of frozen food area 80 has risen to an unacceptable level, the circuitry instructs dampers within rear covering 72 to open ports 98 and 100 allowing the cold air from cooling area 78 to flow into frozen food area 80 (as denoted by arrows 140 and 142). Air introduced into frozen food area 80 via ports 98 and 100 causes air within the area to re-circulate via vent 102. The air exiting frozen food area 80 enters cooling area 78 to begin the process again. Temperature sensor 48 continues to measure and transmit temperature information to the control circuitry. When the control circuitry determines the temperature within frozen food area 80 has lowered to an acceptable level, the circuitry instructs the dampers within rear covering 72 to close ports 98 and 100 in order to prevent cold air from cooling area 78 flowing into frozen food area 80.
  • [0054]
    In another embodiment, the control circuitry can instruct dampers within rear covering 72 to partially close ports 98 and 100 in order to reduce the amount of cold air from cooling area 78 flowing into frozen food area 80 based on the temperature information received from temperature sensor 48. The dampers may then be instructed to close the ports once the temperature in the area has reached an acceptable level.
  • [0055]
    Referring again to FIG. 7, control panel 58 includes certain buttons used to set the temperature of lower portion 26. The currently selected temperature setting for lower portion 26 is shown on display 130. In order to change the selected temperature, the user simultaneously depresses hold buttons 126 and 128 for a predetermined period of time, such as 3 seconds, in order to activate temperature adjust buttons 122 and 124. The user may increase the desired temperature setting for lower portion 26 by pressing temperature adjust up button 122 and may decrease the desired temperature setting by pressing temperature adjust down button 124. In one embodiment, available temperature settings for lower portion 26 shown on display 130 may include acronyms such as “RF” for refrigeration or “SC” for super chill. In another embodiment, available temperature settings for lower portion 26 may include complete words such as “refrigerator” or “freezer.” In yet another embodiment, available temperature settings for lower portion 26 may include “fresh food,” “refrigerator,” “soft freeze,” or “hard freeze.” In yet another embodiment, available temperature settings for lower portion 26 may include an exact temperature setting, such as thirty degrees (“30°”) Fahrenheit, or a relative numeral setting within a range, such as “2” out of the range of 1 to 5. It should be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that a number of combinations and selections for available settings may be selected and programmed without departing from the scope of the present invention.
  • [0056]
    When the user has selected the desired temperature setting, the user presses lock button 112, which deactivates temperature adjust buttons 122 and 124 and sets the desired temperature setting at the control circuitry. At this point, if the temperature of lower portion 26 is greater than the selected temperature by an unacceptable amount, the control circuitry increases the speed of the refrigeration system or otherwise operates in a manner that reduces the temperature.
  • [0057]
    Now referring to FIGS. 5 a, 5 b, and 6 c, once the control circuitry has increased the refrigeration system's speed, it instructs damper 94 to open port 92 allowing cold air from cooling area 78 to flow into lower portion 26 (as denoted by arrows 144 and 146). Air introduced into lower area 26 via port 92 displaces air within the area, causing it to exit via vent 96 (as denoted by arrows 148). The air exiting lower portion 26 enters cooling area 78 to begin the process again. The temperature sensor (not shown) in lower portion 26 continues to measure and transmit temperature information to the control circuitry. When the control circuitry determines the temperature within lower portion 26 has lowered to an acceptable level, the circuitry instructs damper 94 to close port 92 in order to restrict or prevent additional cold air from cooling area 78 flowing into lower portion 26.
  • [0058]
    In another embodiment, the control circuitry can instruct damper 94 to partially close port 92 in order to reduce the amount of cold air from cooling area 78 flowing into lower portion 26 based on the temperature information received from the temperature sensor. The damper may then be instructed to close the port once the temperature in the lower portion has reached an acceptable level.
  • [0059]
    When the control circuitry determines that the temperature within refrigeration area 34, frozen food area 80, and lower portion 26, have all reached acceptable levels, the circuitry returns the speed of the refrigeration system of refrigerator 10 to normal. The temperature sensors, such as temperature sensors 48 and 50, continue to monitor and transmit the temperature level of each area to the control circuitry.
  • [0060]
    As described above, the refrigeration system of refrigerator 10 preferably includes a variable speed compressor 101 (FIG. 5A), the speed of which is controlled by the control circuitry. This circuitry sets the speed of the motor of compressor 101 depending on the difference by which the actual temperature of at least one of frozen food area 80, refrigeration area 34, or lower portion 26 is greater than its desired temperature. The increase in speed of the motor set by the control circuitry is related to the difference between the actual temperature and the desired temperature of the certain area. For example, the control circuitry will preferably cause the speed of the motor of compressor 101 to operate at a higher rate when the actual temperature of lower portion 26 is 5 degrees higher than the desired temperature than when the actual temperature is 2 degrees higher than the desired temperature. By way of another example, when the user selects a setting for lower portion 26 corresponding to a temperature or temperature range for a freezer area (i.e., from 0 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit) using control panel 58 and the previous setting for the lower portion corresponded to a temperature or temperature range for a refrigerator area (i.e., from 34 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit), the control circuitry causes variable speed compressor 101 to operate continuously at a very high rate in order to rapidly decrease the temperature of the air in lower portion 26. In this specific situation, the control circuitry instructs damper 84 to close port 82 and dampers in rear covering 72 to close ports 98 and 100 so that all the air being cooled in cooling area 78 is sent through port 90, down channel 88, through port 92, and into lower portion 26. This causes the temperature of lower portion 26 to drop rapidly.
  • [0061]
    In another embodiment, temperature controls 44 allow the user to set the temperature for frozen food area 80 and refrigeration area 34 to any desired temperature or temperature range. For example, the user may desire refrigeration area 34 to operate as a freezer and accordingly uses temperature controls 44 to set the desired temperature to below freezing. The refrigeration system operates as described above in order to decrease the temperature of the air within refrigeration area 34 to the desired level, thereby converting the refrigeration area into a freezer.
  • [0062]
    Referring to FIG. 8, refrigeration area 34 includes an air curtain device 64, which is located at the front topmost portion of area's interior and is attached to underside of top wall 14. A water filter 150, which filters water flowing into the refrigerator and to dispenser 56 to be used for drinking, is located adjacent to air curtain device 64. The operation of such water filters should be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art and is, therefore, not discussed in further detail. When refrigerator door 38 is opened, fans within air curtain device 64 draw air in from vents at the rear of the device and expel air through slit-like vents 152 at the front of the device vertically downward toward the base of refrigeration area 34 (as denoted by arrows 154). When refrigerator door 38 is open, operation of air curtain device 64 creates a barrier of circulated air at the front of refrigeration area 34 planar with the location of refrigerator door 38 when the door is shut. The barrier creates a virtual air wall, or “curtain,” which obstructs the exchange of heat energy between the ambient air and the air within refrigeration area 34. This obstruction of heat energy exchange decreases the rate at which the temperature of the air inside refrigeration area 34 would otherwise increase when refrigerator door 38 was opened under normal conditions.
  • [0063]
    Referring to FIGS. 9 a and 9 b, refrigeration area 34 includes bottle rack 66 comprising a back support 156 and a front support 158. Back support 156 is attached to and suspends vertically downward from the underside of a shelf, such as shelf 60, and includes a vertical support piece 160 and a horizontal flange piece 162. Vertical support piece 160 and horizontal flange piece 162 include a number of curves, each constructed to receive the bottom end of an item shaped like a bottle. Front support 158 is also attached to the underside of shelf 60 at points 164 and 166 and suspends vertically downward therefrom. Front support 158 also exhibits a number of curves, each constructed to receive the mid or neck portion of an item shaped like a bottle. As shown specifically in FIG. 9 b, front support 158 is adapted to pivot at points 164 and 166 (as denoted by arrow 168 and phantom lines 170) allowing it to attach horizontally to the underside of shelf 60 where it can be stored.
  • [0064]
    In operation, a user pivots front support 158 down into its vertical position as shown in FIG. 9 a and depicted by phantom lines 170 in FIG. 9 b. An item, such as a 2-liter bottle of soda or a bottle of wine, is passed between shelf 60 and front support 158 until the item's base reaches vertical support 160. The user then places the item's base against vertical support 160 and sets the item on horizontal flange 162 within one curve of back support 156. The user then rests the mid or neck portion of the item on a corresponding curve of front support 158. When not in use, front support 158 may be pivoted upward and attached to the underside of shelf 60 (as denoted by arrow 168) providing a user with more space below the shelf.
  • [0065]
    Referring to FIG. 10, separable bin 68 is attached to the interior of refrigerator door 38 and comprises a back support 172 and a removable front 174. Back support 172 includes a container area 176 and a support tray 178, which is formed to fit within the base of removable front 174 (as denoted by phantom lines 180). Likewise, removable front 174 includes its own container area 182, which is defined by an outside surface 184 having a hollow portion formed to receive support tray 178.
  • [0066]
    In operation, the user places items in container area 176. Other items frequently removed from refrigerator 10 by the user are placed in container area 182. Instead of removing items one-by-one from container area 182, the user vertically lifts outside surface 184 thereby separating removable front 174 from support tray 178. The user then carries removable front 174 to transport the items stored in container area 182 to a desired location. When finished with the items stored in container area 182, the user vertically replaces removable front 174 back down onto support tray 178.
  • [0067]
    Referring to FIG. 11, dairy bin 70 includes support sides 186 (only one support side of the bin is shown for simplicity) attached to the interior of refrigerator door 38. A cover 188 consists of a partially cylindrical section 190 formed with perpendicular sides 192 (only one side of the cover is shown for simplicity). Side 192 is secured to support side 186 at point 194 such that point 194 is coaxial with partially cylindrical section 190 giving cover 188 the ability to rotate (as denoted by arrow 196) about it axis. Side 192 includes gear teeth (collectively denoted at 198). A tray 200 is slideably attached to the base of support sides 186 so that the tray is able to move forward and backward in the horizontal plane (as denoted by arrow 202) and includes recesses (collectively denoted at 204) formed to receive gear teeth 198.
  • [0068]
    A user of refrigerator 10 can either vertically raise cover 188 or horizontally slide tray 200 forward to access the items stored in dairy bin 70. When cover 188 is raised, side 192 rotates in a counterclockwise motion so that gear teeth 198 engage recesses 204. As gear teeth 198 rotate counterclockwise with side 192, they push recesses 204 forward, thereby causing tray 200 to slide forward horizontally. Likewise, when tray 200 is slid horizontally forward, recesses 204 engage gear teeth 198. As tray 200 slides forward, recesses 204 pull gear teeth 198 causing side 192 to rotate counterclockwise about point 194. This rotation also causes cover 188 to raise.
  • [0069]
    When tray 200 is slid in the opposite direction, recesses 204 move backward with the tray. Because gear teeth 198 are engaged with recesses 204, this movement causes gear teeth 198, and thus side 192, to rotate in the clockwise direction. This lowers cover 188 onto tray 200 to close dairy bin 70. Likewise, if the user lowers cover 188, side 192 rotates clockwise causing gear teeth 198 to also rotate clockwise. As gear teeth 198 rotate, they pull recesses 204 back toward the inside surface of refrigerator door 38. Thus, it should be understood that a dairy bin capable of being opened by either moving tray 200 or cover 188 is disclosed.
  • [0070]
    FIG. 12 illustrates a portion of frozen food area 80 (FIG. 6 a) with the addition of an ice maker 205. Ice maker 205 is attached to rear covering 72 near the covering's top. An ice bin 206 located underneath ice maker 205 and attached to rear covering 72 extends horizontally from the covering to the front of freezer food 80 and is used to store ice produced by the maker. The front of ice maker 205 and the top of ice bin 206 preferably define a ledge at 208. A removable L-shaped shelf 210 is located on the top of ice bin 206 and attached to the front of ice maker 205. The right side of ice bin 206 and vertical wall 30 define a narrow space 212 extending from the bottom of the ice bin to the underside of top wall 14. A curved support 214 is attached to ice bin at the foot of space 212.
  • [0071]
    As explained above with reference to FIGS. 5 a, 5 b, and 6 a, cold air produced by the refrigeration system of refrigerator 10 is transferred from cooling area 78 through ports 98 and 100 into frozen food area 80 as denoted by arrows 140 and 142. Ice maker 205 and ice bin 206 are located in the space between ports 98 and 100 causing the area occupied by the ice maker and bin to exhibit a temperature lower than the surrounding air in freezer area 80. Because L-shaped shelf 210 is located in this area, the temperature of the air in the space occupied by the shelf is lower than the surrounding air in frozen food area 80. Items which the user wishes to store at a temperature lower that the average temperature of frozen food area 80, such as ice cream, can be stored on L-shaped shelf 210 (as denoted by phantom lines 216).
  • [0072]
    Depending on the size and configuration of refrigerator 10, some irregularly shaped items may be unable to adequately fit horizontally in frozen food area 80, such as frozen pizza boxes. Because of its spatial characteristics, space 212 is ideal for storing such items (as shown in phantom lines). Users avoid having to remove and rearrange the contents of such items to fit within a regular storage container in order to place the contents in frozen food area 80. Instead, such items can be placed on support 214, which is designed to act as a foundation for such items. The user may set the item on curved support 214 and push item toward the rear of frozen food area 80. The item can be easily removed when desired.
  • [0073]
    While one or more preferred embodiments of the invention have been shown and described, it should be understood that any and all equivalent realizations of the present invention are included within the scope and spirit thereof. The embodiments depicted are presented by way of example only and are not intended as limitations upon the present invention. Thus, it should be understood by those of ordinary skill in this art that the present invention is not limited to these embodiments since modifications can be made. Therefore, it is contemplated that any and all such embodiments are included in the present invention as may fall within the scope and spirit thereof.

Claims (59)

  1. 1. A refrigerator comprising:
    a refrigerator housing defining first, second, and third compartments separated by insulated walls;
    a refrigeration system supplying cold air to the first, second, and third compartments;
    first, second, and third sensors operative to detect temperature in a respective one of the first, second, and third compartments; and
    control circuitry in electrical communication with the sensors, the control circuitry controlling flow of the cold air into each of the first, second, and third compartments so as to facilitate maintaining a respective desired temperature therein,
    wherein the desired temperature of each of the first, second, and third compartments is variable and may be set by a user independently with respect to each other.
  2. 2. The refrigerator of claim 1 further comprising at least one control panel in electrical communication with the control circuitry configured to accept input from the user representative of the desired temperature of the first, second, and third compartments.
  3. 3. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein the first compartment includes a drawer having an insulated front to close the first compartment.
  4. 4. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein the first compartment is located beneath the second and third compartments.
  5. 5. The refrigerator of claim 3 wherein the first compartment includes a drawer having an insulated front to close the first compartment.
  6. 6. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein the refrigeration system includes at least one damper.
  7. 7. A refrigeration apparatus comprising:
    a refrigerator housing defining first, second, and third compartments in which food items are stored;
    a refrigeration system;
    a first aperture defined by the housing to provide fluid communication between the refrigeration system and the first compartment;
    a first mechanism being configured to vary the first aperture;
    a second aperture defined by the housing to provide fluid communication between the refrigeration system and the second compartment;
    a second mechanism being configured to vary the second aperture;
    control circuitry operatively connected to the first mechanism and the second mechanism;
    wherein the control circuitry directs the first mechanism to vary the first aperture and directs the second mechanism to vary the second aperture in order to facilitate maintaining the first compartment at a first desired temperature and the second compartment at a second desired temperature.
  8. 8. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 7 further comprising:
    a cover separating the third compartment into a cooling area and a frozen food area, wherein a portion of the refrigeration system is located within the cooling area.
  9. 9. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 8 further comprising at least one vent defined by the cover to provide fluid communication between the cooling area and the frozen food area.
  10. 10. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 8 further comprising a ventilation channel defined by the cover to provide fluid communication between the refrigeration system and the first compartment.
  11. 11. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 7 wherein the first and second mechanisms are dampers.
  12. 12. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 11 further comprising:
    a first sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a first actual temperature of the first compartment and provide a first signal representative of the first actual temperature to the control circuitry; and
    a second sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a second actual temperature of the second compartment and provide a second signal representative of the second actual temperature to the control circuitry.
  13. 13. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 12 wherein the control circuitry directs the first damper to vary the first aperture based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature and directs the second damper to vary the second aperture based on a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature.
  14. 14. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 13 further comprising:
    a control panel operatively connected to the control circuitry,
    wherein the control panel is configured to accept a first input representative of the first desired temperature and a second input representative of the second desired temperature.
  15. 15. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 7 wherein:
    the refrigeration system comprises a variable speed compressor, and
    the control circuitry varies a rate of the variable speed compressor in order to maintain the first compartment at the first desired temperature and the second compartment at the second desired temperature.
  16. 16. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 15 wherein the first and second mechanisms are dampers.
  17. 17. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 15 wherein:
    a first sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a first actual temperature of the first compartment and provide a first signal representative of the first actual temperature to the control circuitry; and
    a second sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a second actual temperature of the second compartment and provide a second signal representative of the second actual temperature to the control circuitry.
  18. 18. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 17 wherein the control circuitry varies a rate of the variable speed compressor based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature and based on a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature.
  19. 19. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 18 wherein the first and second mechanisms are dampers.
  20. 20. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 19 wherein the control circuitry varies a rate of the variable speed compressor based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature and based on a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature.
  21. 21. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 19 wherein the control circuitry directs the first damper to vary the first aperture based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature and directs the second damper to vary the second aperture based on a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature.
  22. 22. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 21 wherein the control circuitry varies the rate of the variable speed compressor based on the first comparison and based on the second comparison.
  23. 23. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 9 further comprising:
    a third mechanism being configured to vary the at least one vent,
    wherein the control circuitry directs the third mechanism to vary the at least one vent in order to facilitate maintaining the frozen food area at a frozen food desired temperature.
  24. 24. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 23 wherein the first, second, and third mechanisms are dampers.
  25. 25. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 24 further comprising:
    a first sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a first actual temperature of the first compartment and provide a first signal representative of the first actual temperature to the control circuitry; and
    a second sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a second actual temperature of the second compartment and provide a second signal representative of the second actual temperature to the control circuitry; and
    a third sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a frozen food actual temperature of the frozen food area and provide a third signal representative of the frozen food actual temperature to the control circuitry.
  26. 26. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 25 wherein the control circuitry directs the first damper to vary the first aperture based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature, directs the second damper to vary the second aperture based on a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature, and directs the third damper to vary the at least one vent based on a third comparison of the frozen food desired temperature and the frozen food actual temperature.
  27. 27. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 23 wherein:
    the refrigeration system comprises a variable speed compressor, and
    the control circuitry varies a rate of the variable speed compressor in order to facilitate maintaining the first compartment at the first desired temperature, the second compartment at the second desired temperature, and the frozen food area at the frozen food desired temperature.
  28. 28. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 27 wherein the first, second, and third mechanisms are dampers.
  29. 29. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 27 further comprising:
    a first sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a first actual temperature of the first compartment and provide a first signal representative of the first actual temperature to the control circuitry; and
    a second sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a second actual temperature of the second compartment and provide a second signal representative of the second actual temperature to the control circuitry; and
    a third sensor in electrical communication with the control circuitry and operative to measure a frozen food actual temperature of the frozen food area and provide a third signal representative of the frozen food actual temperature to the control circuitry.
  30. 30. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 29 wherein the control circuitry varies a rate of the variable speed compressor based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature, a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature, and a third comparison of the frozen food desired temperature and the frozen food actual temperature.
  31. 31. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 30 wherein the first, second, and third mechanisms are dampers.
  32. 32. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 31 wherein the control circuitry varies a rate of the variable speed compressor based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature, a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature, and a third comparison of the frozen food desired temperature and the frozen food actual temperature.
  33. 33. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 31 wherein the control circuitry directs the first damper to vary the first aperture based on a first comparison of the first desired temperature and the first actual temperature, directs the second damper to vary the second aperture based on a second comparison of the second desired temperature and the second actual temperature, and directs the third damper to vary the at least one vent based on a third comparison of the frozen food desired temperature and the frozen food actual temperature.
  34. 34. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 33 wherein the control circuitry varies the rate of the variable speed compressor based on the first comparison, the second comparison, and the third comparison.
  35. 35. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 34 further comprising:
    a control panel operatively connected to the control circuitry,
    wherein the control panel is configured to accept a first input representative of the first desired temperature, a second input representative of the second desired temperature, and a third input representative of the frozen food desired temperature.
  36. 36. A refrigeration apparatus comprising:
    a generally rectangular area defined by two side walls, a back wall, a top wall, a base, and a door; and
    a device attached to an inside surface of the top wall for producing an air curtain,
    wherein the device expels air downward toward the base when the door is opened.
  37. 37. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 36 further comprising a refrigeration system in fluid communication with the generally rectangular area.
  38. 38. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 36 further comprising a water filter attached to the air curtain device.
  39. 39. A rack suspended from an underside of a shelf for supporting at least one container, the rack comprising:
    a back support attached to the underside of the shelf having a vertical support and a horizontal flange, the vertical support and the horizontal flange having at least one first curve, wherein the vertical support and the horizontal flange are constructed to receive a bottom of the container at the first curve; and
    a front support attached to the underside at at least one connection point and having at least one second curve, the second curve opposite the first curve and constructed to receive a portion of the container,
    wherein the front support is adapted to pivot at the connection point such that the front support may be attached horizontally to the underside of the shelf and stored.
  40. 40. The rack of claim 39 wherein the front support is constructed from a wire.
  41. 41. The rack of claim 39 wherein the vertical support and the horizontal flange include a plurality of first curves, and the front support includes a plurality of second curves opposite the first curves, wherein each set of corresponding first and second curves is configured to receive the container.
  42. 42. A bin attached to a refrigerator door for storing a plurality of items, the bin comprising:
    a back portion attached to the refrigerator door and configured to store a first set of the items, the back portion comprising a support structure; and
    a front portion configured to store a second set of the items, the front portion adapted to be maintained in position on the support structure but removable therefrom,
    wherein the front portion may be separated from the back portion by vertically lifting the hollow portion away from the support structure.
  43. 43. A dairy bin for a refrigerator comprising:
    a first side support;
    a cover comprising a first cover end and a first plurality of gear teeth attached to the first cover end, wherein the first cover end is pivotally attached to the first side support such that the cover is able to rotate in a generally cylindrical manner; and
    a tray comprising a first tray end, the first tray end being slideable such that the tray is able to slide forward and backward in a generally horizontal manner, wherein the first tray end defines a first plurality of slots in which respective of said gear teeth are received.
  44. 44. The dairy bin of claim 43 wherein clockwise rotation of the cover relative to the first side support causes the first plurality of gear teeth to engage the first plurality of slots such that the tray horizontally slides left relative to the first side support.
  45. 45. The dairy bin of claim 43 wherein counterclockwise rotation of the cover in relation to the first side support causes the first plurality of gear teeth to retreat from the first plurality of slots such that the tray slides right relative to the first side support.
  46. 46. The dairy bin of claim 43 wherein movement of the tray in a direction to the right relative to the side support effects the first plurality of gear teeth to retreat from the first plurality of slots such that the cover rotates counterclockwise relative to the first side support.
  47. 47. The dairy bin of claim 43 wherein movement of the tray in a direction to the left relative to the side support effects the first plurality of gear teeth to engage the first plurality of slots such that the cover rotates clockwise relative to the first side support.
  48. 48. The dairy bin of claim 43 wherein the first side support is attached to an interior of a door of the refrigerator.
  49. 49. The dairy bin of claim 43 further comprising a second side support opposite the first side support, wherein the cover comprises a second cover end opposite the first cover end pivotally attached to the second side support such that the cover is able to rotate in a generally cylindrical manner, and the tray is slideable such that the tray is able to slide forward and backward in a generally horizontal manner.
  50. 50. The dairy bin of claim 49 wherein the second cover end comprises a second plurality of gear teeth, and the second tray end defines a second plurality of slots corresponding to the second plurality of gear teeth.
  51. 51. The dairy bin of claim 49 wherein the first and second supports are attached to an interior of a door of the refrigerator.
  52. 52. The dairy bin of claim 49 wherein the first and second supports are integral parts of a door of the refrigerator.
  53. 53. A refrigeration apparatus comprising:
    an ice maker; and
    an ice bin located underneath the ice maker,
    wherein a portion of a top surface of the ice bin defines a ledge for supporting a container.
  54. 54. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 53 further comprising:
    a freezer compartment containing the ice maker and ice bin;
    a refrigeration system comprising at least one port for supplying cold air to the freezer compartment, wherein the at least one port is proximate the ledge such that a temperature of the air above the ledge is lower than a temperature of the surrounding air.
  55. 55. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 53 further comprising a shelf located on the ledge.
  56. 56. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 55 wherein the shelf is removable.
  57. 57. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 56 wherein the shelf is L-shaped.
  58. 58. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 54 wherein a removable L-shaped shelf is located on the ledge.
  59. 59. The refrigeration apparatus of claim 54 wherein:
    the freezer compartment is defined by a plurality of walls;
    a first of the plurality of walls, a second of the plurality of walls, and the ice maker define a generally narrow space; and
    a curved support attached to the ice bin extends into the generally narrow space, wherein the curved support is configured to support a generally narrow container.
US12022024 2007-01-29 2008-01-29 Refrigerator having compartment capable of converting between refrigeration and freezing temperatures Abandoned US20080271475A1 (en)

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US20120198870A1 (en) * 2011-02-09 2012-08-09 Erbs Daryl G Methods and systems for improving and maintaining the cleanliness of ice machines
US20130112697A1 (en) * 2011-11-09 2013-05-09 Sonia Maureen Townsel Refrigerator parts, namely non-metal box for storing unwanted perishables that would cause odor, attract vermin, spoil and smell if not refrigerated, for composting or to give away to composters or farmers on garbage day
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Owner name: HAIER AMERICA REFRIGERATORS COMPANY, LTD, SOUTH CA

Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WUESTHOFF, EDWARD P.;REEL/FRAME:020459/0638

Effective date: 20080204

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Owner name: HAIER AMERICA REFRIGERATORS COMPANY, LTD, SOUTH CA

Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WUESTHOFF, EDWARD P.;WANG, DONGNING;REEL/FRAME:021260/0171;SIGNING DATES FROM 20080204 TO 20080518