US20100200789A1 - Remote Control Water Valving System for Shower or Sink - Google Patents

Remote Control Water Valving System for Shower or Sink Download PDF

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US20100200789A1
US20100200789A1 US12/764,441 US76444110A US2010200789A1 US 20100200789 A1 US20100200789 A1 US 20100200789A1 US 76444110 A US76444110 A US 76444110A US 2010200789 A1 US2010200789 A1 US 2010200789A1
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water
closed
control
electric valve
contact
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US12/764,441
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Paul E. Connors
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Connors Paul E
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Priority to US12/398,731 priority patent/US8132778B2/en
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Priority to US12/764,441 priority patent/US20100200789A1/en
Publication of US20100200789A1 publication Critical patent/US20100200789A1/en
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    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K31/00Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices
    • F16K31/02Actuating devices; Operating means; Releasing devices electric; magnetic
    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E03WATER SUPPLY; SEWERAGE
    • E03CDOMESTIC PLUMBING INSTALLATIONS FOR FRESH WATER OR WASTE WATER; SINKS
    • E03C1/00Domestic plumbing installations for fresh water or waste water; Sinks
    • E03C1/02Plumbing installations for fresh water
    • E03C1/05Arrangements of devices on wash-basins, baths, sinks, or the like for remote control of taps
    • E03C1/055Electrical control devices, e.g. with push buttons, control panels or the like
    • E03C1/057Electrical control devices, e.g. with push buttons, control panels or the like touchless, i.e. using sensors
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K19/00Arrangements of valves and flow lines specially adapted for mixing fluids
    • F16K19/006Specially adapted for faucets
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F16ENGINEERING ELEMENTS AND UNITS; GENERAL MEASURES FOR PRODUCING AND MAINTAINING EFFECTIVE FUNCTIONING OF MACHINES OR INSTALLATIONS; THERMAL INSULATION IN GENERAL
    • F16KVALVES; TAPS; COCKS; ACTUATING-FLOATS; DEVICES FOR VENTING OR AERATING
    • F16K51/00Other details not peculiar to particular types of valves or cut-off apparatus

Abstract

A remote controlled valve for cessation of water flow from an outflow component such as a showerhead or faucet during periods where water flow is not required by the user to provide for water conservation. The device features a remote control, having a large contact area for contact with the user's arm or leg or hip, to allow for activation without the use of their hands and fingers to generate a piezoelectrically generated or sonic signal. The large size also renders the remote control unit easily located by sense of touch and without the user's eyesight to encourage use by users who might otherwise be concerned about reinitiating water flow during shampooing or while using the device on a sink with their hands wet or occupied.

Description

  • This application is a Continuation in Part Application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/398,731 which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/047,085 filed Apr. 22, 2008, both of which are incorporated herein in their entirety by reference. The disclosed invention relates to water flow control. More particularly, it relates to a system and method providing for a user operated remote control which may be activated by contact with any part of the body to temporarily cease the flow of water already running in a shower or sink.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION Background of the Invention
  • Water for domestic use is becoming ever-harder to provide with an expanding population. Over many years dams providing reservoirs and increased drilling for ground water have managed to provide water to an ever growing population in the United States and the industrialized world. Consequently, while water shortages occur due to drought and other supply interruption, such shortages have not been too severe.
  • In coming years however, and currently in dry venues such as the Western United States, the supply is already insufficient to meet the growing population of people and the new homes constructed for that increased population. This shortage will only become more acute since building dams and reservoirs has virtually ceased due to environmental concerns. Further exacerbating the shortages is the ongoing drought in the Western States which appears to be cyclical and will as such return again once the current drought abates.
  • In spite of such shortages, new housing continues to be built for the expanding population. Many homes and businesses, such as hotels, are equipped with showers and sinks for use in bathing and hygiene. More showers, sinks, and such, will continue to put additional perpetual strain on the finite water supply available.
  • Further, statistics show the average person living alone will use approximately 9490 gallons of water per shower and a ton of carbon emissions in his home each year. Most of this water is used on showers and in sinks where water constantly runs during use. It is estimated that the employment of the device herein, will save 50% of the water previously used, or 4740 gallons, per person. Multiplying this savings by the millions of people in the United States indicates the potential for a staggering amount of water conservation and concurrent energy conservation with a reduction in carbon emissions and the use of energy needed to heat the water contained within hot water heaters.
  • During normal water usage by individuals there are times when the water is uselessly running down the drain. Such instances occur because by default, once valves for water flow are turned on, water will flow until the valves are closed. This is by design in that persons using a shower in the past, wanted the water to run continuously while bathing.
  • To that end for instance, during a shower people will soap up or put shampoo in their hair and concurrently step out of the stream of water, which is always on by default, to avoid the flow. Once soap has been spread or shampoo massaged through the hair, most users then step back into the water stream for a short rinse period. With many users, the time out of the stream of water in a shower, will actually be longer than their time within the stream of water.
  • The same problem of water and energy waste arises with facial washing or tooth brushing at a sink or while hand-washing dishes. Since water is initially turned on by opening the valves to the spigot or faucet, during the period of time of facial scrubbing, or actual tooth brushing, valuable water continues to run down the drain. With dishes, when rinsing, water from the tap continues to run even when the user is not rinsing. As such, a device which allows for selective cessation of flow by the user, without touching the water spigots, would save large amounts of water and in the case of hot water, would save energy too.
  • As a consequence of water running from showers and faucets continually by default, a device which allows for the user to cease this water flow, during periods in which they would normally avoid the stream of running water, would eliminate the need to step out and save a large portion of the hot and cold water that currently runs right down the drain.
  • Accordingly, there is an unmet need for a method and apparatus which may be easily employed to minimize water usage in new and old homes to conserve the finite supply so that more people may be serviced. Such a device should be easily engageable to the installed base of showers, faucets and the like. Such a device should be easily employable by users once water is running, to encourage usage. Such a device should be easily included in new construction and should be easy to retrofit into old construction, to thereby save water and reduce carbon emissions through conservation of electricity or gas or propane, in the maximum number of homes and businesses.
  • It is thus an object of the invention to provide a device and method for water conservation in homes and businesses.
  • It is a further object to provide such a device and method that provides for easy remote control for periods of cessation of water flow from a faucet or shower head.
  • Yet another object of this invention is to provide a device adapted for easy installation on the installed base of showers through the employment of an activation switch requiring no power and a control valve engageable to conventional piping, using low voltage or battery power, to encourage widespread use on installed systems with minimal modification being required.
  • Further, such a device should be easily operated by the user using their hand, elbow, hip, or foot, depending on installation to thereby encourage actual use once installed.
  • These together with other objects and advantages which will become subsequently apparent reside in the details of the water conservation device and method of employment herein, as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part thereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.
  • With respect to the above, before explaining at least one preferred embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangement of the components or steps set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The various apparatus and methods of the invention are capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways which will be obvious to those skilled in the art once they review this disclosure. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.
  • As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for designing other user employable systems for temporary cessation of flowing water in a shower or sink, and the like, and for carrying out the several purposes of the present disclosed device. It is important, therefore, that the objects and claims be regarded as including such equivalent construction and methodology insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Testing and experimentation with the disclosed system has shown it to provide a novel and easily engageable set of components for the temporary cessation of already flowing water in an outflow component such as a shower head in a shower or a faucet in a sink. During experimental use, the device has been shown to allow users to easily initiate a cessation of flowing water, with a simple touch of an area of their body to a controller, or the employment of a defined sound or undefined sound to activate and continue use, encourages use, since they need not see it or have to employ a hand or finger or make the appropriate noise. Thus, elimination of water and energy waste is encouraged during periods the user is occupied in a non-water task such as lathering, shampooing, or brushing their teeth, since the user need not employ the dexterity of a hand or finger to cease water flow. This is an important consideration when the eyes may not be opened, such as when shampooing.
  • The device features a remote control component, which is water resistant, sufficient to be waterproof in the environment, and provides a large, user-activated button on a switch component to activate a signal from the remote location to temporarily cease water flow. The remote control component is adapted preferably with a very large contact area for activation which is easily depressed by a hand, foot, elbow, hip, or other body part of the user. Thus, the user need not see it, to initiate a cessation of water flow, or reinitiate water flow.
  • In a preferred mode of the device the remote control has no need for batteries or other power. Instead it employs a piezoelectric means to generate a signal to the controller of water flow. Such devices simply need contact by the user sufficient to mechanically activate the piezo element which thereafter communicates the signal to the remotely located water flow controller receiver. This mode of the device is especially preferred since it never requires batteries and may thus avoid the hazards of corrosion in a high humidity environment like a shower. Further, installation requires no wiring or hole drilling, for wiring and the like, and the water tight walls of the shower are thus maintained in their original state, avoiding leaks.
  • The remote switching component can be battery powered, sonic, or have an internal pump engaged to a flexible conduit and activate the flow controller valve with fluid or air pressure developed during button depression.
  • In the sonic mode, the device can employ an intelligent means to ascertain activation from sound such as software adapted for voice recognition by user, or for recognition of the words themselves. Thus the user may simply say a word such as “shower on” to activate the water flow and “shower off” to deactivate it. A concurrent touching of the switching component might be required to avoid voices distant from the shower from accidentally activating it for water flow.
  • As a safety switch in all modes of the device, the flow controller valve may be equipped with a timer to limit the time of water flow, or may be equipped with a noise sensor which continually “looks” for sounds of shower use, other than the noise of the water which would be filtered from the sound monitoring. If no sounds other than water flow are sensed for a defined time duration, the flow controller would cease water flow.
  • In use, a power supply communicates with a water flow controller which acts to communicate power to an electrically activated valve, such as a value employing a solenoid, during periods of activation initiated by depression of the button of the remote control. The valve will move between an open position allowing water flow and a closed position ceasing water flow.
  • The controller may require continuous contact by a body part, somewhat like a deadman's switch, or the controller may have a flip-flop type switching circuit that alternatively energizes and de-energizes the communication of power to the valve controlling water flow. The device would thus cease the flow of already running water and immediately restart the flow using a simple activation of the remote control component mounted on a wall or in the case of a sink, a cabinet.
  • In use, the user while lathering or shampooing when the user cannot easily see or while brushing their teeth or lathering their face at a sink, an easy cessation of water flow is provided by a simple contact with a contact surface of the remote control component. This contact by a body part, will cause a RF, sonic, hydraulic, pneumatic, or optical signal, to be communicated to the water flow controller which will act to energize the water valve to cease flow or in the case of an electronic signal, the water valve itself may be the control if it is already wired to move to the opposite position when signaled electronically.
  • Energizing the flow control valve, through which water flows, to a closed position, employs wires energized by the closing of an actuator such as a electro magnetic solenoid which is activated by the remote control component. The remote control component as noted in an electronic version, may be a wireless, hardwired, or a radio or light transmission device, which transmits a signal to a receiver, which causes the valve to close or open directly or using a switching means such as a solenoid. Or in the especially preferred mode, it may be piezoelectric and activated by user contact. Or it might have a pump that would generate a pneumatic signal through a conduit connected between the pump in the control and a pneumatic receiver engaged to actuate the electric control valve between the open an closed positions. To restart water, the button on the control is simply released if permanent pressure is required, or pressed again and released in the case of a flip-flop type of circuit activation.
  • Consequently, the user can easily, without the aide of eyesight, and with some body part, activate the remote control component to cause a cessation of the water flow when they are occupied in a fashion where water is not needed. A second contact with the contact area on the control would restart water flow. This would occur for instance in the case of lathering or shampooing in the shower. Water and energy are thus saved for this duration. The user need not be able to see the remote control component to activate it to turn the water off and on, thereby encouraging use.
  • Finally as noted, a safety flow circuit may be included to cease flow after a defined time or when noise sensed does not include anything but water flow.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the device showing a typical installation with a wireless control button for at-will water flow cessation in a conventional outflow component such as a showerhead.
  • FIG. 2 is a diagram of a mode of the device employing electronic switching for cessation of water flow.
  • FIG. 3 depicts a pneumatic mode of the device of FIG. 1.
  • FIG. 4 shows a typical installation of the device herein on a faucet in bathroom or kitchen sink to initiate temporary flow cessation of the water therefrom.
  • FIG. 5 depicts a control component employing a piezoelectric component to generate electricity without batteries or a power source other than user touching the control component.
  • FIG. 6 shows the device employed in a shower using the control component of FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 7 is a graphic depiction of the device installed on the wall of FIG. 6.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
  • Referring now to the drawings, FIGS. 1-7 where similar components are identified in one or more of the drawings with the same numerals, the disclosed device 10 provides a novel system for the temporary cessation of already-flowing water in an outflow component such as a shower head 18 in a shower 12 or a faucet 19 in a sink 14 (FIG. 4).
  • During activation of the device 10 a user, need not employ any special dexterity or even their eyesight since the device 10 employs a control component 16 adapted with a contact area of sufficient size to provide a means for tactile location with impaired eyesight. Currently, a size from two square inches in size, to thirty six square inches in size, have proven to work well to allow the user to “find” the contact surface on the control component 16 with impaired eyesight, such as when shampooing. A six inch by six inch tile would work especially well on shower installations having this size tile as it would blend into the wall if positioned correctly and provide the large area necessary to provide a contact surface locatable without eyesight. This means for tactile locating of the control component 16 thus encourages use for the control of water flow in a shower during periods where the user might be visually impaired, thereby eliminating wasted water and energy from running in periods when the user is occupied in a non-water task such as shampooing, lathering or in the case of a sink 14, brushing their teeth. The device 10 employed with a sink 14 would encourage use since the user need not see the control component 16 or touch it with already occupied hands which might be washing their face or brushing their teeth. The size and location of the control component 16 make it easy to locate with the side of the leg or arm or even an elbow.
  • The device 10 using an electronic signal from the remote control component 16 which is substantially water proof and provides for a large, user activated, contact area, provides a surface which may be found with the tactile sense, without the aid of eyesight. As noted a size between 1 inches in height and width and 6 inches in height and width (1 sq. in. to 36 sq. in.) have worked well in experimentation. Currently a face 17 of substantially 3 inches by 2 inches has been shown to work very well, but those skilled in the art will realize that other sizes might be employed as long as the contact surface of the control component 16 is easily located by a sense of touch and without the aid of eyesight.
  • A touch of the contact surface on the control component 16 will cause it, in all modes, to transmit a signal from the control component 16 to cease water flow to the shower head 18 or faucet 19 as shown in FIG. 4. The control component 16 is adapted preferably with this large contact area of which is sensitive to a touch, such as a capacitance type switch, or uses an actuated button for the contact surface which is easily depressed by a hand, foot, elbow, hip, or other body part of the user to allow locating without eyesight.
  • A number of modes of signal transmission from the control component 16 to actuate the water flow valve 20 between the open and closed position may be employed. The control component 16 can be battery or otherwise low voltage powered to produce an electrical, sonic, or light, or pneumatic signal which is communicated to a means to switchably energize the flow valve 20 to move to the opposite position from one of closed and open. This battery powered mode is one preferred mode of the device due to the water environment, and, it allows the control component 16 to simply be adhered to the tile or wall of the shower.
  • If the signal is electrical, contact with the contact surface of the control component 16 by a body part, will initiate the communication of a signal through wires 22, or by light transmission from a light emitter 23, or sonic transmission from a sonic signal generator, or by activation of an electric pump located on the control component 16. Or it will initiate an RF signal from a transmitter 37, and no wires 22 or other direct contact with the controller 28 to cease and restart water flow will be required. The RF or light transmission mode of signaling lends itself to easy installation of a wireless, battery powered control component 16 and are therefor preferred for ease of installation and safety.
  • An especially preferred mode of the device 10 features a transmitter 37 which requires no batteries or onboard power supply to generate a signal to communicate with the controller 28 to control water flow. This will eliminate corrosion of electrical parts and especially batteries which can tend to corrode over time in a high humidity environment. The RF or sonic signal in this mode is generated by the user action of touching the face 17 of the control unit 16 which employs the large surface area noted for such user contact.
  • In use employing piezoelectric means for wireless signal generation as in FIG. 7, a face 17 is part of, or mechanically engaged to, a translating member 21, which in operative engagement to the piezo element 23 is mechanically activated to generate an electrical current or RF signal. The element may also be adapted to generate a specific sound wave which is transmitted during the touching to activate. Other means to activate the piezo element 23 may also be employed which cause it to generate a current or wireless signal such as RF or light, or acoustic signals, and such are anticipated withing the scope of this application.
  • Touching the face 17 of the control unit 16 will cause movement of the translating member 21 and generation of the piezoelectric electronic signal which is concurrently communicated to the controller 28. Alternatively the specific sound and sound wave generated by the mechanical activation or a similar mechanical sound generation device may be employed to activate water flow.
  • This mode of the device thus employs a control unit 16 which needs no batteries or connected electrical power supply since the physical action of the user, touching the surface are of the control unit 16 with a body part, cause a mechanical action to generale the signal using the piezoelectric signal generation means housed internally with the control unit 16. This is an especially preferred mode of the device 10 since it allows for simply a “peel and stick” installation of the control unit 16 on a wall of the shower and requires no drilling or wires, or batteries which might corrode. This will encourage installation on the installed base of showers as owners generally shy away from devices which require holes in the water tight walls of a shower or have any corrosive elements within them, such as batteries which tend to corrode at their poles in a high humidity environment.
  • If pneumatic, the signal would be generated with an electrical pump or pump powered by a depression of the contact surface of the control component 16. The pump in the control component 16, would be engaged to a flexible conduit 24 and hydraulicly activate the controller with air pressure developed during contact with the control surface or depression thereof. Since the device 10 operates in a water environment, if electrical power is employed, it is preferred to be from batteries 25 or optionally, a low voltage power supply 27 or other low voltage sources. However, the power supply 27 would not be necessary if the batteries 25 are self contained in both the control component 16 and the controller 28.
  • In use, electrical power from batteries 25 or a power supply 27 communicates with a controller 28, which may be part of the electronic valve itself or part of the control unit as shown in FIGS. 1, 2, and 4, or may be part of or separate from the power supply 27 which acts to communicate power to wires 22 during periods of activation initiated by a body contact with the remote control component 16. Those skilled in the art will realize there are many ways to actuate the valve between the open and closed positions upon receipt of a signal from the control unit 16 and such is anticipated within the scope of this application.
  • Another manner of providing a user interface to control water flow in a shower and the like is the employment of a voice activated switching means. Using a microphone 43 or similar means to receive a user-generated sound, a signal would be subsequently communicated to the controller 28 to cease or initiate water flow. Because of the potential for such a sound activated component to turn water on and off at unintended times where a sound is communicated to the voice activated type control unit 16, the device herein would employ a microprocessor 41 and memory in the sound activating control unit 16 so as to only communicate with the controller 28 at times the user intends to cease or initiate water flow. Thus, a sound recognition routine would be included in the software running on the control unit 16 which would listen for specific sounds to initiate signals to the controller 28. The sound can be words, such as “on” or “off” or another recognizable sound such as a clap of the hands, a whistle, or other user chosen sound or word. Using sound activation, the control unit 16 will listen for sounds which the software recognizes as commands and then cause the signal to be communicated to the controller 28.
  • This sound activated mode of the device 10 may also employ software adapted to listen to a plurality of sounds and thereby issue a plurality of different flow control signals to the controller 28. In this manner the device may control the volume of water outflowing, and the temperature. The user by saying “hotter” or “colder” or “more” for instance, can control the temperature of the water disbursed and the volume. Sound and voice recognition software, and microprocessors adapted to run it, while not employed for showers and faucet control, are well known art and therefor need not be overly described.
  • In all modes of the device 10, a safety or cessation means for water flow may be included. This may be a timer which is preset to cease water flow after a certain amount of time. Or, it may be an electronic sonic sensing means, which listens for sounds other than water flow and communicates a signal to a microprocessor 41 running software adapted to cease water flow if sounds associated with showering, other than water flow, are not discerned by the software listening to the captured sound from a microphone 43.
  • If a low voltage power supply is available, the sound activated control unit 16 can listen for the command sounds all the time since power drain is not an issue. However if batteries are the power source, the software running on the microprocessor 41 would only activate when turned on, for instance by the user touching the face of the control unit 16, and then issuing a voice command concurrently.
  • Again, as a safety against sounds or commands issued, other than by a user at appropriate times, a means to control the communication of a signal by the sound activated control unit 16 can be employed such as the requirement that the user touch the control unit 16 concurrently with saying or making the sound required to generate the appropriate signal by the control unit 16 to the controller 28 to control flow and temperature. Electronic or mechanical means to ascertain user touch may be employed such as a capacitance sensor or mechanical switch. Of course the large surface area for touch by the user is especially preferred as such commands will surely be generated when the user cannot see or might be shampooing or the like.
  • Cessation of water flow by the user can require continuous contact by a body part for a defined duration of time, somewhat like a deadman's switch, or preferably the control component 16 or the valve itself, may have a flip-flop type switching circuit communicating with it that alternatively energizes and de-energizes the wires 22 communicating power to a switch or solenoid 30 with each body contact or release of contact with the control component 16. Requiring a touching for a defined time duration may be a preferred mode since accidental touching might occur and cause an unintended cessation of water flow. Or the electric valve might simply be configured to switch between the open and closed position upon receipt of the signal. Of course the control component 16 may have a contact surface which is a simple depressed switch, or some type of conventional electronic contact sensor for the contact surface such as a capacitance sensor, which discerns a contact with the body of a user and initiates the signal.
  • Once energized by body contact with the control component 16, the wires 22 energize or the mechanical contact generates the signal to the flow valve 20 itself if configured in a manner to actuate, or to an electronic switch or an actuator such as the solenoid 30 to energize or move the flow valve 20 to close and interrupt already flowing water in the pipe 32 supplying the shower head 18 or faucet 19. The control unit 16 can then be contacted again by the user's body, to de-energize or otherwise switch the flow valve 20 to move to the open position to again permit water flow through the pipe 32.
  • While shown in the drawings with the battery 25 and switch or solenoid 20 in the control unit 28, those skilled in the art will realize that other modes of wiring and operation may be employed to cause the electrically actuate the flow valve 20 to turn the water on and off, based on a signal communicated by contact of the user's body with the control component 16. All such modes of wiring and operation are considered within the scope of this invention since a main object of the invention is placing a control component 16 of a size, and in a position, that makes it discoverable without eyesight and therefor encourages use by those with occupied hands or with impaired eyesight, while shampooing, without having to worry about finding the control component 16.
  • For ease of installation, the control unit 28 can engage using conventional threaded engagements 36 such as in FIG. 2, to allow for easy installation on the conventional threaded ends of existing plumbing fixtures. Or, as shown in FIG. 1, optionally the control unit 28 a may be installed in new construction in the wall leading to the pipe 32 supplying the plumbing fixture to be switched. Or, the flow valve 20 if adapted with circuitry to cause it to vacillate between open and closed positions upon receipt of the signal, might be employed by itself.
  • Employed in a sink installation as in FIG. 4, rather than a shower, the control component 16 configured in any of the aforementioned modes, would be mounted on a cabinet or wall near the sink 14 such that the user may contact it with a leg or hip to initiate the signal to the valve 28 to either cease or restart water flow through the pipe 32. This would encourage use by individuals who might be fearful they could not use their hands for the control when they are wet or occupied.
  • As an example of use, the user, while lathering or shampooing in a shower 12 or while brushing their teeth or lathering their face at a sink 14, would simply contact the control component 16, to cause the signal such as an electrical, RF, sonic, pneumatic, hydraulic, or optical signal, to be communicated to an actuator or controller or to the control valve itself, to energize the control valve 20 to temporarily close and cease water flow from the pipe 32. To restart water, the control component 16 would be contacted again by the user in a flip-flop type circuit, or in a circuit requiring continuous contact, the user would simply remove their body from contact with the control component 16.
  • Because of the ease of installation provided, the low voltage and lack of wiring using an RF or a light signal from the control component 16, to cause a switching of the flow valve 20, is one preferred mode. As noted, especially preferred is a control component 16 employing a piezoelectric means to generate the wireless signal to initiate and cease water flow since it has no need for wires or batteries and can be permanently sealed without need for access which can allow moister to enter. This would allow the device 10 to be installed simply by adhering the control component 16 to a wall surface such as tile shown in FIG. 7, and engaging the control unit 28 by engaging it upon the threaded portion of the pipe 32 supplying the plumbing fixture on the tile or bath side of wall.
  • If batteries 25 power both the control unit 28 and the control component 16, no wiring is necessary whatsoever, and the device 10 will install in minutes in virtually any shower 12 or sink 14 having pipes 32 adapted to engage the control unit 28 between the pipe 32 and the outflow component such as a shower head 18 or faucet 19. The battery powered mode of the device 10 would work especially well with a low power RF signal from transmitter 37, or light signal from the light emitter 23, such as an IR emitting LED, which would be received by optical or RF receiver 39, to initiate a closure or opening of the flow valve 20. The piezoelectric mode of the device of course will provide an even more enhanced activation component since it requires no batteries for its lifetime and thereby alleviates any possibility of corrosion failure.
  • As noted, the depiction of the means to energize the flow valve 20 to open and close, in the drawings, is for illustrative purposes only, as those skilled in the art will realize other switching means are possible using the signal from the remote control component 16 to open and close the flow valve 20 when the user contacts the control component 16. The large surface area of the control component 16 is preferred so that users need not see it to initiate the device to cease or restart water flow.
  • FIGS. 6-7 depicts a mode of the device 10 installed in a shower 12 either during initial construction or as a retrofit. As shown in FIG. 7, the device 10 is deployed in an especially preferred mode using a wireless transmitter 37 within the control component 16, which employs the user's energy in pressing upon the face 17 to generate the power for the wireless signal and thus requires no batteries or onboard power supply to communicate with the controller 28 to control water flow. Using this mode of the device 10, the control component 16 may be permanently sealed against water and corrosion since battery replacement or electrical power contacts are not necessary. An adhesive or other means of attachment to the surface of the shower 12 may be employed to maintain the water tight nature of the surface of the shower 12. As noted, a sealed control component 16 will eliminate corrosion of electrical parts and especially batteries which can tend to corrode over time in a high humidity environment.
  • In use, the electrically generated RF, or light, or sonic signal, is generated by the user action of touching the face 17 of the control unit 16 which employs the aforementioned large surface area for such user contact. The face 17 is operatively engaged to the piezoelectric component 23 which is activated by the user touch or contact to then generate an electrical current which may be employed to generate the wireless RF or other electrically powered or generated wireless signal to the control unit 28. Since no wires are necessary for power, no holes need be drilled in the wall 29 for such a power supply wire. As also noted, since no batteries ever need replacing, the control unit 16 may be totally sealed during manufacture to thus provide a means to prevent water intrusion into the interior. Such a seal is superior to control units 16 requiring a replaceable section for insertion of batteries.
  • The control unit 28 in this mode of the device 10 may be of either a battery powered model or use low voltage electrical power from the house or building in which it is employed. If used with a control unit 28 having batteries and a piezoelectric component 23 in the control component 16, the control unit 28 is placed in a threaded engagement on the water pipe 32 before the shower head 18. The wireless signal from the control component 16 will thereafter activate the control unit 28 to allow or prevent water flow to the shower head 18.
  • If a low voltage power supply 33 such as a 12 volt unit, is used to power the control unit 28 a receiver 35 is placed between the control unit 28 and power supply 33. The receiver listens for the wireless signal from the control component 16 and energizes the control unit 28 to either allow water passage or block it. The control unit 28 employs a flow valve 20 within its housing 31 such as a flow valve 20 operated by a solenoid 30. Of course those skilled in the art will realize that other electrically activated flow valves 20 may be employed and any such flow valve 20 which may be energized or mechanically operated using an electrical component activated by the receiver 35 to allow, or prevent water flow to the shower head 18 upon receipt of a signal from the control component 16 is anticipated within the scope of this application.
  • Alternatively, as noted, the receiver 35 and flow valve 20 and the solenoid 30 may all be positioned inside the housing 31 to allow for an easy retrofit installation not needing house power but instead using batteries 25 (FIG. 2). In this mode the flow valve 20 may be of a type such as an electrically controlled aperture, or a solenoid 30 activated flow valve 20, which is operated by a power from the batteries when the receiver 35 senses a signal from the control component 16.
  • Also in this mode of the device 10 an automatic “off” circuit or signal may also be included to cease water flow by activating the flow valve 20 to close after a determined duration of time. This can be provided by an electronic timer or software running on the microprocessor 41 and which can be set by the user using a conventional button or knob interface on the housing to set a duration for an automatic turn-off.
  • Finally, as noted above, a sound controller can also be included to sense sounds and operated by the microprocessor 41 or some other means to listen for sounds and act accordingly. In an intelligent version of the sound sensing system, words like “off” or a sound like a “clap” would be sensed by a microphone 43 and interpreted by software on the microprocessor 41 to be employed to turn the shower off if desired, or alternatively back on. Or, the sound sensing system can be operated to simply listen for sounds which should be generated with a person on the shower, and if such are not sensed, operate to turn off the water.
  • While all of the fundamental characteristics and features of the improved disclosed remote control water flow system, for temporary cessation of sink or shower water flow, with reference to particular embodiments thereof, a latitude of modification, various changes and substitutions are intended in the foregoing disclosure and it will be apparent that in some instance, some features of the invention will be employed without a corresponding use of other features without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth. It should be understood that such substitutions, modifications, and variations may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Consequently, all such modifications and variations are included within the scope of the invention as defined herein.

Claims (14)

1. A water flow control apparatus comprising:
an electric valve, said electric valve engageable between a pressurized water supply and an outflow component from a group of outflow components including a showerhead and faucet;
means to electrically power said electric valve;
said electric valve activateable between two positions, a first of said positions being an open position allowing a flow of said water to said outflow component, and a second of said positions being a closed position preventing said flow of water to said outflow component;
a control, said control having an exterior contact surface adapted for a contact with a portion of the body of a user;
said control having means to wirelessly communicate a said signal to said electric valve, upon a said contact by said user with said contact surface;
said control surface having a size sufficiently large to provide means for tactile locating of said control, without said user viewing said control; and
whereby a said contact by said user with said contact surface, will cause said electric valve if in said open position to move to said closed position, and if in said closed position to move to said open position providing said user with closed eyes a means to locate and subsequently contact said contact surface with a body part such as a leg, hip or arm, to cease said water supply when not needed to save water.
2. The water flow control apparatus of claim 1 wherein said means to wirelessly communicate a said signal to said electric valve comprises:
a piezoelectric element operatively engaged to said contact surface; and
said contact with said surface by said user activating said piezoelectric element to generate said signal communicated to said electric valve.
3. The water flow control apparatus of claim 2 additionally comprising:
said signal being an RF signal.
4. The water flow control apparatus of claim 2 additionally comprising:
said signal being a sonic signal.
5. The water flow control apparatus of claim 1 additionally comprising:
means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period.
6. The water flow control apparatus of claim 2 additionally comprising:
means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period.
7. The water flow control apparatus of claim 5 wherein said means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period comprises:
a timer communicating with said electronic valve, said timer moving said electronic valve to said closed position after a predetermined amount of time.
8. The water flow control apparatus of claim 6 wherein said means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period comprises:
a timer communicating with said electronic valve, said timer moving said electronic valve to said closed position after a predetermined amount of time.
9. The water flow control apparatus of claim 5 wherein said means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period comprises:
means to electronically sample sound and move said electronic valve to said closed position in the absence of sounds other than that generated by water flowing.
10. The water flow control apparatus of claim 6 wherein said means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period comprises:
means to electronically sample sound and move said electronic valve to said closed position in the absence of sounds other than that generated by water flowing.
11. A water flow control apparatus comprising:
an electric valve, said electric valve engageable between a pressurized water supply and an outflow component from a group of outflow components including a showerhead and faucet;
means to electrically power said electric valve;
said electric valve activateable between two positions, a first of said positions being an open position allowing a flow of said water to said outflow component, and a second of said positions being a closed position preventing said flow of water to said outflow component;
a control, said control having an exterior contact surface adapted for a contact with a portion of the body of a user;
said control having means to wirelessly communicate an RF signal to said electric valve, upon a said contact by said user with said contact surface;
said control surface having a size sufficiently large to provide means for tactile locating of said control, without said user viewing said control; and
whereby a said contact by said user with said contact surface, will cause said electric valve if in said open position to move to said closed position, and if in said closed position to move to said open position providing said user with closed eyes a means to locate and subsequently contact said contact surface with a body part such as a leg, hip or arm, to cease said water supply when not needed to save water.
12. A water flow control apparatus comprising:
an electric valve, said electric valve engageable between a pressurized water supply and an outflow component from a group of outflow components including a showerhead and faucet;
means to electrically power said electric valve;
said electric valve activateable between two positions, a first of said positions being an open position allowing a flow of said water to said outflow component, and a second of said positions being a closed position preventing said flow of water to said outflow component;
a control, said control having means to sense sound and generate an electronic signal;
a microprocessor having software configured to monitor said electronic signal and ascertain sounds;
said control communicating a said signal to said electric valve to move to said open position, upon ascertaining a first of said sounds;
said control communicating a said signal to said electric valve to move to said closed position, upon a ascertaining a second of said sounds;
whereby a said first of said sounds generated by said user will cause said electric valve to move to said open position, and a second of said sounds generated by said user will cause said electronic valve to move to said closed position, thereby providing said user with closed eyes a means to control said water flow.
13. The water flow control apparatus of claim 5 wherein said means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period comprises:
means to sense sound and generate an electronic signal;
a microprocessor having software configured to monitor said electronic signal and ascertain sounds;
said software configured to ascertain sounds generated by said flow of said water; and
said software configured to cause said electronic valve to move to said closed position after said defined time period in the absence of sounds other than said sounds generated by said flow of said water.
14. The water flow control apparatus of claim 6 wherein said means to move said electric valve to said closed position after a defined time period comprises:
means to sense sound and generate an electronic signal;
a microprocessor having software configured to monitor said electronic signal and ascertain sounds;
said software configured to ascertain sounds generated by said flow of said water; and
said software configured to cause said electronic valve to move to said closed position after said defined time period in the absence of sounds other than said sounds generated by said flow of said water.
US12/764,441 2008-04-22 2010-04-21 Remote Control Water Valving System for Shower or Sink Abandoned US20100200789A1 (en)

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US12/764,441 US20100200789A1 (en) 2008-04-22 2010-04-21 Remote Control Water Valving System for Shower or Sink

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