WO2006134391A2 - Multiple outlet water mixing unit and shower unit for use in hydrotherapy - Google Patents

Multiple outlet water mixing unit and shower unit for use in hydrotherapy

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Publication number
WO2006134391A2
WO2006134391A2 PCT/GB2006/002233 GB2006002233W WO2006134391A2 WO 2006134391 A2 WO2006134391 A2 WO 2006134391A2 GB 2006002233 W GB2006002233 W GB 2006002233W WO 2006134391 A2 WO2006134391 A2 WO 2006134391A2
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
water
mixer
shower
control
outlet
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2006/002233
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2006134391A3 (en )
Inventor
Matthew Dickson
Original Assignee
Matthew Dickson
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61HPHYSICAL THERAPY APPARATUS, e.g. DEVICES FOR LOCATING OR STIMULATING REFLEX POINTS IN THE BODY; ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATION; MASSAGE; BATHING DEVICES FOR SPECIAL THERAPEUTIC OR HYGIENIC PURPOSES OR SPECIFIC PARTS OF THE BODY
    • A61H33/00Bathing devices for special therapeutic or hygienic purposes
    • A61H33/0095Arrangements for varying the temperature of the liquid
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47KSANITARY EQUIPMENT NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; TOILET ACCESSORIES
    • A47K3/00Baths; Douches; Appurtenances therefor
    • A47K3/28Showers or bathing douches
    • A47K3/40Pans or trays
    • 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
    • E03C1/04Water-basin installations specially adapted to wash-basins or baths
    • E03C1/0408Water installations especially for showers
    • 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
    • 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
    • F16K11/00Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves
    • F16K11/10Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves with two or more closure members not moving as a unit
    • F16K11/20Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves with two or more closure members not moving as a unit operated by separate actuating members
    • 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
    • F16K11/00Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves
    • F16K11/10Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves with two or more closure members not moving as a unit
    • F16K11/20Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves with two or more closure members not moving as a unit operated by separate actuating members
    • F16K11/22Multiple-way valves, e.g. mixing valves; Pipe fittings incorporating such valves with two or more closure members not moving as a unit operated by separate actuating members with an actuating member for each valve, e.g. interconnected to form multiple-way valves
    • GPHYSICS
    • G05CONTROLLING; REGULATING
    • G05DSYSTEMS FOR CONTROLLING OR REGULATING NON-ELECTRIC VARIABLES
    • G05D23/00Control of temperature
    • G05D23/01Control of temperature without auxiliary power
    • G05D23/13Control of temperature without auxiliary power by varying the mixing ratio of two fluids having different temperatures
    • G05D23/1393Control of temperature without auxiliary power by varying the mixing ratio of two fluids having different temperatures characterised by the use of electric means
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61HPHYSICAL THERAPY APPARATUS, e.g. DEVICES FOR LOCATING OR STIMULATING REFLEX POINTS IN THE BODY; ARTIFICIAL RESPIRATION; MASSAGE; BATHING DEVICES FOR SPECIAL THERAPEUTIC OR HYGIENIC PURPOSES OR SPECIFIC PARTS OF THE BODY
    • A61H9/00Pneumatic or hydraulic massage, e.g. sprays
    • A61H9/0021Hand-held devices for spraying and removing liquid while moved on the skin
    • A61H2009/0035Hand-held devices for spraying and removing liquid while moved on the skin with cabin for the whole body

Abstract

A multiple outlet water mixing unit (50) comprising a housing (45) having a hot water inlet (1) and a cold water inlet (2). The Unit also comprises a plurality of water mixer valves (65, 66) located within the housing (45) each supplied by the hot water inlet (1) and the cold water inlet (2) and supplying a respective water outlet (3, 4), each water mixer valve (65, 66) being operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions, and at least one controller (51) to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water outlet (3, 4). A shower unit (10) having at least one water dispensing means (30) and a water mixer (50) with hot and cold water inlets (1, 2) and a plurality of outlets (3, 4) is also disclosed.

Description

Multiple Outlet Water Mixing Unit and Shower Unit For Use In

Hydrotherapy

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for mixing water to provide outlets of selectively differing temperatures. The present invention also relates to a showering apparatus for use in hydrotherapy.

The principles of hydrotherapy advocate the use of water at differing temperatures to achieve therapeutic benefits. The benefits thought to arise range from improvements in the general state of wellbeing through to the treatment of heart disease.

Approaches vary, from the relaxing use of warm water, or the invigorating use of freezing cold water, through to alternation between hot and cold water or the simultaneous use of the two extremes (as in the well established 'Sitz' bath) .

In practice, the techniques of hydrotherapy are rarely used outside of spas and treatment centres. The reason for this may simply be a lack of awareness of the potential benefits of hydrotherapy. However, it is likely that the lack of readily available equipment which may be quickly and simply installed into a domestic bathroom, without the need for extensive plumbing, discourages people from availing themselves of the benefits of hydrotherapy in the home. It is also likely that there is a general perception of discomfort associated with hydrotherapeutic techniques.

This is particularly apparent when it comes to the use of cold to freezing water temperatures. A showering device suitable for use in the home is known from JP2003175068. This device comprises a shower head with an inner spray of cold water surrounded by an outer spray of warm water. The purpose of this device is to reduce the discomfort associated with hydrotherapeutic treatment . However, it is only suitable for the treatment of one particular area of the human body at a time.

The present invention provides a multiple outlet water mixing unit comprising; a housing having a hot water inlet and a cold water inlet; a plurality of water mixer valves located within the housing, each supplied by the hot water inlet and the cold water inlet and supplying a respective water outlet, each water mixer valve being operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water outlet.

The multiple outlet water mixing unit of the present invention provides the benefit that it may be quickly and simply installed into a domestic bathroom by connecting a hot water supply and a cold water supply to the unit, thereby obtaining a plurality of water outlets at differing temperatures without the need for extensive plumbing.

In a preferred example the multiple outlet water mixing unit further comprises a plurality of pre-mixer valves within the housing between the hot and cold water inlets and the water mixer valves such that each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the hot and cold water inlets and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the hot and cold water inlets via the pre-mixer valves, each pre-mixer valve operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions. This is beneficial as the maximum and minimum water temperature available to the inlets of the water mixer valves my be controlled. The pre- mixer valves are preferably thermostatic valves . This is advantageous as it enables a cost efficient system to be produced which has the benefit of accurate temperature control without the need for each valve to be of the expensive thermostatic type.

In a further preferred example, the at least one controller is arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water mixer valve. In this way the maximum and minimum water temperatures available to the water mixing valves may be varied by the user as desired.

In one example the controller is an electronic controller which is preferably programmable to operate a cycle of outlet settings. This provides the benefit of allowing the mixer settings to be adjusted by electronic means such as an electronic user interface or a computer program. It is of particular benefit for the cycle of outlet settings to be pre-programmed into the electronic controller as the user may simply select the desired programme before commencing the hydrotherapeutic treatment .

In a second aspect the present invention provides a shower unit comprising; a water dispensing means, and a water mixer comprising a hot water inlet and a cold water inlet and a plurality of water mixer valves, each water mixer valve supplied by the hot water inlet and the cold water inlet and supplying a respective water outlet, wherein each water mixer valve is operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water outlet, wherein one of the outlets is arranged to supply the water dispensing means, and another of the outlets is arranged to supply an auxiliary site.

The shower unit of the second aspect of the present invention provides the benefit that it may be quickly and simply installed into a domestic bathroom by connecting a hot water supply and a cold water supply to the shower unit without the need for extensive plumbing.

In a preferred example the water mixer further comprises a plurality of pre-mixer valves between the hot and cold water inlets and the water mixer valves such that each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the hot and cold water inlets and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the hot and cold water inlets via the pre-mixer valves, each pre- mixer valve operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions. Preferably the controller is arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water mixer valve .

In one example the controller is an electronic controller which is preferably programmable to operate a cycle of outlet settings. The auxiliary site is preferably a second water dispensing means. This is beneficial as a user may experience more than one water flow at differing temperatures acting on different parts of the body simultaneously, thus enhancing the therapeutic effect.

In an alternative preferred example the auxiliary site is a water heated means. This provides the advantage that the user may experience heat applied to the body by contact with the water heated means thus adding further flexibility to the hydrotherapeutic treatment possible.

In one example the auxiliary site is a supporting means for supporting a person using the shower unit. The supporting means may be adapted to be stood, sat or laid upon. The supporting means may be a water heated means and/or a water dispensing means.

The supporting means may comprise a mat, tile, tiled surface or continuous surface defining an internal channel, wherein the internal channel is arranged to convey water received from the auxiliary site supply to at least one outlet hole. In this way water may be transmitted through the mat, tile/tiled surface, or continuous surface which is to be to be heated or cooled by the water.

In a further aspect the present invention provides a multiple outlet water mixing unit comprising; a housing having a water inlet, a splitter arranged to split the water inlet into a first and second water stream, a water heater located within the housing for heating the first water stream, a plurality of water mixer valves located within the housing, each supplied by the first and second water streams and each supplying a respective water outlet, each water mixer valve being operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water outlet. This is advantageous as only one water inlet is required thus further simplifying the installation of the unit. Preferably the multiple outlet water mixing unit further comprises a water cooling unit located within the housing for cooling the second water stream.

In a preferred example the multiple outlet water mixing unit further comprises a plurality of pre-mixer valves within the housing, wherein each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the first and second water streams and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the first and second water streams via the pre-mixer valves, each pre-mixer valve operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions. The controller is preferably arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water mixer valve .

In yet another aspect the present invention provides a shower unit comprising; a water dispensing means, a water mixer having a water inlet, a splitter arranged to split the water inlet into a first and second water stream, a water heater for heating the first water stream, a plurality of water mixer valves, each supplied by the first and second water streams and each supplying a respective water outlet, each water mixer valve being operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water outlet, wherein one of the outlets is arranged to supply the water dispensing means, and another of the outlets is arranged to supply an auxiliary site. In a preferred example the shower unit further comprises a water cooling unit for cooling the second water stream.

Preferably the shower unit further comprises a plurality of pre-mixer valves, wherein each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the first and second water streams and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the first and second water streams via the pre-mixer valves, each pre- mixer valve operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions. The controller is preferably arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water mixer valve.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic front elevational view of a shower unit according to the present invention located within an enclosure .

Figure 2a is a schematic view of an alternative shower unit to that shown in Figure 1. Figure 2b is a schematic view of a further alternative shower unit .

Figure 3 is a schematic sectional view of the water mixer of the present invention showing the distribution of the hot and cold water supplies within the mixer.

Figure 4 is a schematic view of an alternative water mixer to that shown in Figure 3

Figure 5 is a schematic front elevational view of the water mixer of the present invention showing a concentric arrangement of the control dials.

Figures 6a to 6c are schematic views of the control dials of Figure 5 showing the dials at various settings.

Figure 7 is a schematic front elevation view of an alternative embodiment of the mixer of the present invention.

Figure 8a is a schematic front elevation view of a further alternative embodiment of the mixer of the present invention comprising an electronic display and control system.

Figure 8b is a schematic front elevation view of the electronic display and control system of Figure 8a depicting a programmable cycle.

Figure 9 is a schematic front elevation view of a further alternative embodiment of the mixer of the present invention. Figure 10 is a schematic front elevation view of a further embodiment of the mixer of the present invention adapted for use with a conventional bath.

Figure 11 is a schematic from elevational view of an alternative water mixer according to the present invention comprising pre-mixer valves.

Figure 12 is a schematic exploded isometric view of a shower tray forming a part of the hydrotherapy apparatus of the present invention.

Figure 13 is a schematic exploded isometric view of a portable base forming an alternative part of the hydrotherapy apparatus of the present invention.

Figure 14a is a schematic isometric view of the insert tile of Figure 13 further comprising a vapour/mist generator.

Figure 14b is a schematic isometric view of the insert tile of Figure 12 further comprising a vapour/mist generator.

Figure 15 is a schematic isometric view of an alternative insert for the shower tray of Figure 12 or for the portable base of Figure 13.

Figure 16 is a schematic view of a tiled floor suitable for use with the hydrotherapy apparatus of the present invention.

Figure 17 is a schematic isometric view of alternative embodiments of the supporting base of Figure 1. Figure 1 shows a shower unit 10 located within a shower enclosure 5. The shower unit 10 may be supplied separately to the shower enclosure 5 or it may be supplied together with the shower enclosure 5 as an integral unit .

The shower unit 10 comprises a shower system 25, a supporting base 20 and a water mixer 50. The shower system 25 comprises an overhead shower 30 and a shower panel 40, the shower panel 40 having a plurality of water jets 42. The water mixer 50 has a hot water supply 1 and a cold water supply 2. The water mixer 50 further comprises two outlets. The first mixer outlet 3 is connected to the supporting base 20 and the second mixer outlet 4 is connected to the shower system 25.

Hot water supply 1 and cold water supply 2 enter the water mixer 50 and are mixed together such that water from the first mixer outlet 3 is at a first temperature T(I), and water from the second mixer outlet 4 is at a second, lower, temperature T (2) (as described later) . Water from the first mixer outlet 3 flows to the supporting base 20 where heat is conducted to the supporting base 20 (as described later) . At the same time, water from the second mixer outlet 4 is directed to the shower system 25 where it exits the system from the overhead shower 30 and the shower panel 40 via water jets 42.

In operation, a user (not shown) stands on the supporting base 20 under the overhead shower 30 and next to the shower panel 40. The users feet are warmed by the supporting base 20 which is at or near the first temperature T(I) , whilst the users body is doused by water at the second, lower, temperature T (2).

Preferably, T(I) is 5°C above, and T(2) is 5°C below, a nominal human body temperature of 350C. Thus T(I) is preferably approximately 400C and T (2) is preferably approximately 300C. With T(I) and T(2) adjusted to be at these temperatures the user is able to experience the therapeutic effects of being doused in water at a lower temperature than his own body temperature whilst benefiting from a comforting/warming sensation through the soles of his feet from the supporting base 20. The supporting base 20 may optionally further comprise an indicator (not shown) to indicate when the supporting base 20 has reached a pre- determined temperature. The indicator may be an LED.

It will be understood that the above described configuration relates to a preferred embodiment only and that the configuration of the shower unit 10 may vary from that described above.

For example, the water mixer 50 may comprise more than two water outlets. In one example (not shown) the water mixer 50 has three outlets, each supplying water at a different temperature T(I), T(2) and T(3). As above, the first mixer outlet at temperature T(I) is connected to the supporting base 20. However, in this embodiment the second mixer outlet at T (2) is connected to the overhead shower 30 and the third mixer outlet at T (3) is connected to the shower panel 40. The user is thereby able to experience a greater range of water temperatures at different locations on his body. In a further example the shower system 25 comprises only the overhead shower 30 or only the shower panel 40. Additionally or alternatively, the shower system 25 may comprise a sprinkler system.

In yet another example, the shower system 25 may comprise more than one shower. For example a fixed overhead shower 30 and a hand held shower. Each shower may be supplied by a different outlet from the water mixer 50 at differing temperatures. Additionally or alternatively, one or more of the showers (or shower panel) may be substituted, for example, for one or more high pressure hoses, adjustable body jets, taps or other water dispensing means as desired.

Additionally or alternatively, a second or alternative supporting base may be provided which is adapted to be sat or laid upon by the user, thereby warming the user's buttocks or back in addition to (or as an alternative to) the soles of his feet. The second supporting base may share the first mixer outlet 3 with the supporting base 20, or it may have an independent water supply from the water mixer 50 at a different temperature.

A further aspect in which the above described embodiments may vary is the temperature settings of the water outlets from the water mixer 50. Depending on the user's choice, the temperatures may be adjusted to be the same, or may be adjusted so that the temperature of the water supply to the supporting base 20 is lower than the temperature of the water supply to the shower system 25. Additionally, the temperature difference between the water outlets 3, 4 from the water mixer 50 does not have to be centred on 350C as described above . The user may select a midpoint and set a temperature difference independently, or simply select arbitrary temperatures for each outlet as preferred.

As will be discussed further below, the mixer 50 may also comprise flow control means to vary the flow rate of the first and second mixer outlets 3 , 4.

Figures 2a and 2b show alternative embodiments of the shower unit 10. For clarity, Where like components are shown, the same reference numerals as used above are used.

The shower unit 10' shown in Figure 2a comprises a water mixer 50, an overhead shower 30 and a hand held shower 26. In this embodiment the shower unit 10' does not comprise a supporting base and is not located within an enclosure. However the shower unit 10' may be located inside an enclosure if desired.

The first mixer outlet 3 of the shower unit 10 ' supplies the handheld shower 26 and the second mixer outlet 4 supplies the overhead shower 30. As above, the water mixer 50 may have more than two outlets and each outlet may be connected to a separate water dispensing means.

The shower unit 10 ' ' shown in Figure 2b comprises a water mixer 50, an overhead shower 30 and a plurality of adjustable body jets 27. As above, the shower unit 10' ' does not comprise a supporting base and is not located within an enclosure. The water mixer 50 of the shower unit 10 ' ' has a plurality of outlets, each at a different temperature. The overhead shower 30 is supplied by one of the mixer outlets and each adjustable body jet 27 is supplied by a separate one of the remaining mixer outlets . In this way the user is able to experience a wide range of water temperatures at different locations on his body.

It will be understood that a great number of configurations for the shower unit 10 are feasible and that the above described embodiments are intended as examples only.

Figure 3 is a schematic sectional view of the water mixer 50. The water mixer 50 comprises an integral part of the shower unit 10 in the embodiments shown in Figures 1, 2a and 2b. However, the water mixer 50 may be supplied as a separate unit independently of the shower unit 10.

The water mixer 50 comprises a first water mixing valve 65 and a second water mixing valve 66. In the embodiment shown the water mixing valves 65, 66 are located within a housing 45. However the water mixing valves need not be located in a separate housing but may be built into the shower unit 10 as integral components .

The water mixer 50 further comprises a first inlet pipe 60 and a second inlet pipe 62. The first inlet pipe 60 branches at first branch 55 into secondary hot water inlet pipes 57 and 57'. Similarly, the second inlet pipe 62 branches at second branch 56 into secondary cold water inlet pipes 58 and 58 ' . Secondary hot water inlet pipe 57 is connected to the first water mixing valve 65 and secondary hot water inlet pipe 57 ' is connected to the second water mixing valve 66. Similarly, secondary cold water inlet pipe 58 is connected to the first water mixing valve 65 and secondary cold water inlet pipe 58' is connected to the second water mixing valve 66. Thus, each water mixing valve 65, 66 has its own supply of hot and cold water. The outlet from the first water mixing valve 65 corresponds to the first mixer outlet 3 and the outlet from the second water mixing valve 66 corresponds to the second mixer outlet 4.

In use, hot and cold water supplies 1, 2 enter the water mixer 50 via first and second inlet pipes 60 and 62. Hot water supply 1 is split into two flows via first branch 55 into secondary hot water inlet pipes 57 and 57 ' Similarly, cold water supply 2 is split into two flows via second branch 56 into secondary cold water inlet pipes 58 and 58 '. Secondary hot and cold water inlet pipes 57, 58 supply the first water mixing valve 65 to provide first mixer outlet 3 at temperature T(I). Similarly, secondary hot and cold water inlet pipes 57', 58' supply the second water mixing valve 66 to provide second mixer outlet 4 at temperature T(2) .

The water mixer 50 may optionally further comprise flow control means for controlling the flow rate of the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4. For example, The first and second mixer valves 65, 66 may comprise internal flow control means. Additionally or alternatively, flow control valves may be connected to the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4. In the case where the mixer 50 has a housing 45, the flow control valves may be located outside the housing or within the housing.

The water mixer 50 and/or shower unit 10 may also comprise additional devices for regulating or adjusting the flow of water into or out of the water mixing valves 65, 66. For example, the hot water supply 1 may pass through a water heater (not shown) before entering the water mixing valves 65, 66 in order to raise the maximum water temperature available to the water mixer 50. Additionally or alternatively, the cold water supply 2 may pass through a water cooler (not shown) in order to lower the minimum water temperature available. In the case where the water mixer 50 has a housing 45, the flow water heater/cooler may be located outside the housing or within the housing.

Figure 4 shows an alternative water mixer 200. For clarity, where like components to those described above are shown, the same reference numerals are used.

The water mixer 200 comprises an inlet pipe 219 which is supplied by the cold water supply 2. The inlet pipe 219 divides at splitter 220 such that the cold water supply 2 is divided into first and second water streams 6, 7. The first water stream 6 passes through a water heater 210 and the second water stream 7 passes through a water cooler 212 such that the outlets from the water heater/cooler 210, 212 have a temperature difference of ΔT. The -outlets from the water heater/cooler 210, 212 are then split to supply the water mixing valves 65, 66 in the same way as described above with respect to water mixer 50. It can readily be seen that water mixer 200 only requires one water inlet as the water is heated and cooled within the water mixer 200 before being mixed by the water mixing valves 65,66. In another embodiment (not shown), the water mixer 200 may only have a water heater or a water cooler. In this case the first water stream 6 may directly feed the water mixing valves 65, 66 whilst the second water stream passes through the water heater (or water cooler) as described above. The water mixer 200 may be supplied as a separate unit or it may be an integral part of the shower unit 10.

Although the water mixer 200 is shown as having a housing 45, it is not necessary that the components of the water mixer 200 be located within a housing.

Other regulating devices (not shown) which may be located upstream or downstream of the water mixing valves 65, 66 include water pumps, pressure regulating valves, flow control valves or thermostatic valves. In each case, where the mixer 50 has a housing 45, the regulating device (s) may be located outside the housing or within the housing.

The pipes, connections, water mixing valves, flow control valves, heaters/coolers and other regulating devices of the above embodiments are standard components which are well known in the art. Therefore, no detailed description of their configuration or operation is given here.

The first and second water mixing valves 65, 66 may be non- thermostatic mixing valves with no integral temperature control (such as those found in standard domestic taps) . However, it is preferable that the water mixing valves comprise a thermostatic temperature control means so that the temperature of each outlet can be selected by the user. Thermostatic temperature control means allow temperatures to be maintained at or near the desired settings under changing water inlet conditions. Conventional mechanical/electronic thermostatic temperature control devices include: wax-filled cartridge, liquid/vapour filled bellows, bi-metallic strip, thermocouple, thermistor.

Figure 5 shows a schematic front elevational view of the water mixer 50. In this case the first and second water mixing valves 65, 66 comprise thermostatic temperature control devices such that the temperature of the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4 can be selected by the user. As shown in Figure 3, the water mixer 50 comprises an inner control dial 51 and an outer control dial 52. The inner 51 and outer 52 control dials being in a concentric arrangement .

The inner control dial 51 is connected to the first water mixing valve 65 and the outer control dial 52 is connected to the second water mixing valve 66. The inner control dial 51 comprises a first temperature indicator 53 and the outer control dial 52 comprises a second temperature indicator 54. Both temperature indicators 53, 54 are visible to the user. Thus the temperature of the mixer outlets 3, 4 can be set by the user and the difference between the water temperatures can be readily assessed and adjusted if required.

Although not shown, it will be understood that the control dials 51, 52 may also be connected to flow control means within the water mixer 50. In this case the control dials 51, 52 may also comprise flow rate indicators. Additionally or alternatively, the water mixer 50 may comprise separate flow control dials independently connected to flow control means within the water mixer 50.

Figures 6a to 6c show schematic front elevational views of the water mixer 50. In Figure 6a the temperatures of the mixer outlets 3, 4 are selected to be the same, in Figure 6b the temperatures of the mixer outlets 3, 4 are selected to be offset about a midpoint and in Figure 6c the temperatures of the mixer outlets 3, 4 are arbitrarily selected by the user. In Figure 6c the temperature of the first mixer outlet 3 is selected to be lower than the temperature of the second mixer outlet 4.

Figure 7 shows an alternative arrangement of a multiple outlet water mixer 70. For clarity, where equivalent components are shown the same reference numerals as above are used. Mixer 70 comprises a lower control dial 71 and an upper control dial 72. In this case the control dials 71, 72 are not arranged in a concentric manner but are separate from one another. Water mixer 70 is shown without a housing 45. However, in another embodiment (not shown) the mixer 70 may comprise a housing. In all other respects the mixer 70 is the same as the water mixer 50 described above.

It will be understood that the vertical arrangement of the control dials 71, 72 shown in Figure 7 is not a limiting feature of the water mixer 70 and that the control dials 71,

72 may be arranged to be side by side or in any other position relative to one another. Preferably the control dials 71, 72 are arranged such that the temperature difference between the two outlets 3, 4 can be easily assessed by the user.

Figure 8a shows a further alternative embodiment of a multiple outlet water mixer 84. Water mixer 84 comprises an electronic display and control device 85. The electronic display and control device 85 comprises an LCD or LED display screen 86, first and second on/off buttons 78, 78', temperature control buttons 87, 87' and flow control buttons 88, 88'. The electronic display and control device 85 may also optionally comprise additional devices such a flow/ temperature sensors, motors and switches.

Although shown as an integral unit with the mixer 84 in

Figure 8a, the electronic display and control device 85 may be located at a remote location to the mixer 84.

The temperature control buttons 87, 87' control the temperature of the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4 respectively. In this case the water mixing valves 65, 66 are thermostatically controlled by electronic means. Flow control buttons 88, 88' control the flow rate of the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4. First and second on/off buttons 78, 78' control the first and second mixer valves 65, 66 respectively. Therefore, one or both of the mixer outlets 3, 4 may be independently turned on or off. The LCD/LED display screen 86 displays the temperature of the first mixer outlet 3 (T(I)) and the second mixer outlet 4 (T(2)). The water mixer 84 is shown in Figure 8a without a housing 45. However, in another embodiment (not shown) the mixer 84 may comprise a housing. In this case the electronic display and control device 85 may be located within the housing with the LCD/LED display screen and control buttons located on the outside of the housing. Alternatively, the electronic display and control device 85 may be located at a remote location to the water mixer 84. In a further alternative embodiment the electronic -display and control device 85 may be located adjacent to the housing.

The electronic display and control device "85 may be programmed by the user to execute a cycle of water temperatures An example of a programmable electronic display and control device 85 is shown in Figure 8b. In this regard the electronic display and control device 85 may also comprise internal memory, processor chips or other computing devices.

The electronic display and control device 85 shown in Figure 8b comprises amplitude control buttons 77, 77' which control the maximum temperature displacement of the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4 about a selectable mean temperature, and also, period control buttons 89, 89' and phase control buttons 79, 79'. The LCD/LED display screen 86 shows the temperature of the first and second mixer outlets 3, 4 over time in the form of traces 76, 76' respectively. The period control button 89 and phase control button 79 control the period and phase of the first trace 76 and the period control button 89' and phase control button 79' control the period and phase of the second trace- 76' . The electronic display and control device 85 may be programmed by the user as desired. The electronic display and control device 85 may also comprise pre-programmed cycles which may be selected by the user via set-program buttons (not shown) .

It will be understood that the electronic display and control device 85 may be programmed in any way desired by the user. The electronic display and control device 85 may also control any regulating devices such as pumps, pressure/flow control valves, water heaters/coolers etc., such as those described above, located upstream or downstream of the water mixing valves 65, 66. In addition, the electronic display and control device 85 may control other devices such as, for example, steam generators, lighting/sound equipment or any other equipment capable of electronic control .

In addition to the configurations shown in Figure 8a and Figure 8b, the water mixer 84 may comprise two or more electronic display and control devices 85 (not shown) .

Figure 9 shows a further alternative configuration of a multiple outlet water mixer 80. Water mixer 80 comprises a primary control dial 82 and a secondary control dial 81.

The primary control dial 82 is connected to the second water mixing valve 66 and secondary control dial 81 is connected to the first water mixing valve 65. Primary and secondary control dials 82, 81 further comprise meshing cogs 83.

In use, the user adjusts the primary control dial 82 to set the temperature of the second mixer outlet 4. Movement of the primary control dial 82 causes movement of the secondary- control dial 81 via meshing cogs 83. Thus increasing the temperature of the second mixer outlet 4 causes the temperature of the first water outlet 3 to lower and vice versa.

The water mixer 80 may comprise a facia (not shown) which hides the secondary control dial 81 and the meshing cogs 83. The facia may be part of a housing 45 (not shown) . Furthermore, the primary control dial 82 may be arranged to be dislocated from the secondary control dial 81 by disengaging meshing cogs 83 thereby allowing independent control of the first and/or second mixer valves 65, 66.

All of the water mixers described above may be arranged such that one or other of the mixer outlets 3, 4 may be completely shut off independently from one another. A common reason for this might be to allow the user to operate the shower unit 10 as a conventional shower by completely shutting off the first mixer outlet 3. Alternatively, the user may wish to completely shut off the second mixer outlet 4 in order to operate the base unit in isolation or to run a bath.

Figure 10 shows an adaptation of the shower unit 10. In this case a water mixer 90 is connected to the hot and cold water supplies 1, 2 of a conventional bath 91. The second mixer outlet 4 is connected to a shower system 25 and the first mixer outlet 3 is connected to a removable hose 92. In this case the shower system 10 may be used as a conventional shower by shutting off the first mixer outlet 3, or may be used to run a bath by shutting off the second mixer outlet 4. If desired the user may remove the hose 92.

The water mixer 90 may be used with the shower unit 10 for hydrotherapeutic treatment by attaching the hose 92 between the first mixer outlet 3 and a portable supporting base 20 (as described later) . Additionally or alternatively, the hose 92 may be a high pressure hose.

For reasons of clarity, the majority of the exemplary water mixers described above comprise only two water mixing valves, and correspondingly, two water outlets. However, it will be understood that any number of water mixing valves may be utilised in the water mixer to provide a corresponding number of water outlets.

An example of a water mixer 300 with more than two water mixing valves/outlets is shown in Figure 11. Where like components to those described above are shown, like reference numerals have been used.

The water mixer 300 comprises a housing 45 with two water inlet pipes 310, 312 which are fed by hot and cold water supplies 1, 2 respectively. The water mixer 300 further comprises two pre-mixing valves 301, 302 and five water mixing valves 303 to 307 located within the housing 45. The pre-mixing valves 301, 302 are supplied directly by the hot and cold water inlets 1, 2 and the outlets of the pre-mixing valves each supply the water mixing valves 303 to 307. In this way, the water mixing valves are indirectly supplied by the hot and cold water inlets 1, 2 via the pre-mixing valves and hence the minimum and maximum water temperatures available to the water mixing valves may be controlled by the pre-mixing valves 301, 302.

The pre-mixing valves 301, 302 are preferably thermostatically controlled valves. However, they may be non-thermostatically controlled valves if desired. The pre- mixing valves may be set to mix water to a pre-selected temperature or they may be manually or electronically controllable, for example by the electronic display and control device 85. As above, the water mixer 300 may have additional upstream or downstream regulating devices located within the housing or outside the housing. In another embodiment (not shown) the water mixer 300 has no housing or is an integral part of the shower unit 10.

Figure 12 shows an exploded isometric view of a shower tray 100 for use with the shower unit 10. The shower tray 100 comprises an outer support 103 and an insert tile 105. The shower tray 100 further comprises water inlet 101 and waste water outlet 102. The outer support 103 may be made of a stone, composite, ceramic, resin or other material.

The insert tile 105 corresponds to the supporting base 20 above. The insert tile 105 comprises a coiled pipe 107 which is embedded in the material of the insert tile 105.

The insert tile 105 also comprises a tile waste water outlet

106. The insert tile 105 may be made of ceramic material or any other material suitable for containing the coiled pipe

107, conducting heat from the first mixer outlet 3 to the soles of a users feet and bearing the weight of the user. The shower tray 100 forms part of a conventional shower cubicle. The shower unit 10 is contained within the shower cubicle (not shown) . The first mixer outlet 3 is connected to the inlet 101 in the shower tray 100 which is in turn connected to the coiled pipe 107. The coiled pipe 107 conveys the water to the waste water outlet 102 via the tile waste water outlet 106. As the water travels through the coiled pipe 107 heat from the water is conducted through the material of the tile 105 to the users feet.

It will be understood that the pipe 107 need not be in the form of a coil but may be in any form which allows the heat from the water to be conducted to a wide area of the tile 105, for example a concertina shape. It will also be understood that a bath or hot tub may be substituted for the shower tray 100 (as illustrated in Figure 14) .

Figure 13 shows an alternative supporting base apparatus for use with the shower unit 10. In this case a portable base 110 is provided. The portable base comprises a stand alone base unit 113 and an insert tile 115. The insert tile 115 corresponds to the supporting base 20 above. The stand alone base unit 113 may be made of rubber, composite, ceramic, resin or other material. The outer support 113 further comprises water inlet 111 and waste water outlet 112.

The insert tile 115 comprises an internal channel 117. The insert tile 115 further comprises a tile inlet 118 and a tile waste water outlet 119. The insert tile 115 may be made of ceramic, aluminium or any other material suitable for conducting heat from the first mixer outlet 3 to the soles of a users feet and for bearing the weight of the user.

The portable base 110 may be placed in the bottom of a bath or shower. The portable base 110 is suited, but not limited, to use with the water mixer 90. The shower unit 10 is contained within the bath/shower cubicle (not shown) . The first mixer outlet 3 is connected to the inlet 111 via hose 92. The inlet 111 is connected to the inlet 118 of the internal channel 117. The internal channel 117 conveys the water to the tile waste water outlet 119, the water then exits the portable base via waste water outlet 112. As the water travels through the internal channel 117 heat from the water is conducted through the material of the tile 115 to the users feet.

It will be understood that the insert tile 115 of the portable base 110 can be exchanged for the insert tile 105 of the shower tray 100 described above and vice versa.

Figure 14a shows insert tile 115 with an optional vapour/mist generator 125. The vapour/mist generator 125 has a power supply 126, an inlet 127 and an outlet 128. The vapour/mist generator 125 is attached to the insert tile 115. The waste water outlet 119 is connected to the inlet 127 of the vapour/mist generator. In this way the waste water may be used to generate vapour/mist as an additional feature of the shower unit 10. Additionally, the vapour/mist generator may be used with aromatic oils.

Figure 14b shows insert tile 105 with an alternative vapour/mist generator 124 disposed in the centre of the insert tile 105. In this case the outlet 128 from the vapour/mist generator 124 is coincident with the outlet 106 of the insert tile 105.

The insert tiles 105, 115 may also be used independently of any supporting base in the form of a mat .

Figure 15 shows an alternative jet base 120 for use in place of either the insert tile 105 or the insert tile 115. The jet base 120 may also be used independently of any supporting base in the form of a mat .

The jet base 120 comprises an inlet 121 and a plurality of outlets 122. The jet base 120 further comprises internal channels (not shown) leading from the inlet. 121 to the outlets 122. The jet base 120 may be made of rubber, ceramic or any other suitable material.

The jet base 120 may be placed in the bottom of a bath or shower. The shower unit 10 is contained within the bath/shower cubicle (not shown) . The first mixer outlet 3 is connected to the inlet 121 via hose 92. The inlet 121 is connected to the internal channels which convey the water to the outlets 122 where the water exits in the form of fine sprays 123. The sprays 123 spray onto the soles of the users feet thereby heating or cooling the users feet as desired.

Figure 16 shows a tiled floor 130 for use with the shower unit 10. The tiled floor 130 comprises a plurality of tiles 135, an inlet 132 and a gutter 131. The tiles 135 correspond in many respects to the insert tile 115 described above. Each tile 135 has an internal channel (not shown) and an inlet and an outlet (not shown) . Each tile also comprises a peripheral seal (not shown) .

The tiled floor 130 is suited, but not limited, to use in a dedicated hydrotherapy room. In this case the shower system 25 may be replaced by a sprinkler system (not shown) . The inlet 132 is connected to the first water outlet 3 of the water mixer 50. The water flows through the network of channels in the tiles 135 to the gutter 131. Thus the floor 130 is warmed or cooled by the flowing water and the temperature of the floor may be adjusted by adjusting the temperature of the first mixer outlet 3.

Alternatively, the floor 130 may comprise a continuous pipe (not shown) embedded in a continuous ceramic, composite or other suitable floor surface.

Figure 17 depicts a number of alternative embodiments for the supporting base 20. The supporting base 20 may comprise any one of base units 142a, 142b, 142c or 142d/ wherein 142a is a fixed shower tray, 142b is a floor tile, 142c is a shower/bath seat and 142d is a bath/hot tub. The supporting base 20 may further comprise any one of insert members 141a, 141b, 141c, or 141d; wherein 141a substantially corresponds to insert tile 105 and 141b substantially corresponds to insert tile 115, and wherein insert member 141c comprises a central spring 145 and insert member 14Id comprises an array of regular channels 146. The inset tiles/mats may further comprise a top plate 140a, 140b, 140c or 140d; wherein top plate 140a is a woven mesh, 140b is a solid plate, 140c is a solid plate with a central hole and 14Od is a solid plate with a series of regular holes.

Any one of inset members 141a, 141b, 141c or 141d may also be used as a supporting mat without the need for a base unit .

While specific embodiments have been described above, it should be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that the above-described embodiments are exemplary in nature since certain modifications may be made thereto without departing from the teachings of the invention, and the exemplary embodiments should not be construed as limiting the scope of protection for the invention as set forth in the appended claims.

Claims

Claims :
1. A multiple outlet water mixing unit comprising; a housing having a hot water inlet and a cold water inlets-; a plurality of water mixer valves located within the housing, each supplied by the hot water inlet and the cold water inlet and supplying a respective water outlet, each water mixer valve. being operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water outlet .
2. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of claim 1 further comprising a plurality of pre-mixer valves within the housing between the hot and cold water inlets and the water mixer valves such that each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the hot and cold water inlets and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the hot and cold water inlets via the pre-mixer valves, each pre-mixer valve operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions.
3. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of claim 2 wherein the at least one controller is arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water mixer valve .
4. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of any of claims 1 to 3 wherein the or at least one controller is an electronic controller.
5. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of claim 4 wherein the electronic controller is programmable to operate a cycle of outlet settings.
6. A shower unit comprising; a water dispensing means, and a water mixer comprising a hot water inlet and a cold water inlets- and a plurality of water mixer valves, each water mixer valve supplied by the hot water inlet and the cold water inlet and supplying a respective water outlet, wherein each water mixer valve is operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water outlet, wherein one of the outlets is arranged to supply the water dispensing means, and another of the outlets is arranged to supply an auxiliary site.
7. The shower unit of claim 6 wherein the water mixer further comprises a plurality of pre-mixer valves between the hot and cold water inlets and the water mixer valves such that each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the hot and cold water inlets and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the hot and cold water inlets via the pre-mixer valves, each pre-mixer valve operable to mix water received from the hot and cold water inlets in varying proportions.
8. The shower unit of claim 7 wherein the at least one controller is arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of hot and cold water fed to each water mixer valve.
9. The shower unit of any. of claims 6 to 8 wherein the or at least one controller is an electronic controller.
10. The shower unit of claim 9 wherein the electronic controller is programmable to operate a cycle of outlet settings .
11. The shower unit of any of claims 6 to 10 wherein the auxiliary site is a second water dispensing means.
12. The shower unit of any of claims 6 to 10 wherein the auxiliary site is a water heated means.
13. The shower unit of any of claims 6 to 12 wherein the auxiliary site is a supporting means for supporting a person using the shower unit .
14. The shower unit of claim 13 wherein the supporting means is adapted to be stood, sat or laid upon.
15. The shower unit of claim 13 or 14 wherein the supporting means comprises a mat defining an internal channel , wherein the internal channel is arranged to convey water received from the auxiliary site supply to at least one outlet hole.
16. The shower unit of claim 13 or 14 wherein the supporting means comprises a tile defining an internal channel, wherein the internal channel is arranged to convey water received from the auxiliary site supply to at least one outlet hole.
17. The shower unit of claim 16 wherein the supporting means comprises a tiled surface made up of one or more of the tiles.
18. The shower unit of claim 13 or 14 wherein the supporting means comprises a continuous surface and defining an internal channel, wherein the internal channel is arranged to convey water received from the auxiliary site supply to at least one outlet hole.
19. A multiple outlet water mixing unit comprising; a housing having a water inlet, a splitter arranged to split the water inlet into a first and second water stream, a water heater located within the housing for heating the first water stream, a plurality of water mixer valves located within the housing, each supplied by the first and second water streams and each supplying a respective water outlet, each water mixer valve being operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water outlet.
20'. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of claim 19 further comprising a water cooling unit located within the housing for cooling the second water stream.
21. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of claim 19 or 20 further comprising a plurality of pre-mixer valves within the housing, wherein each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the first and second water streams and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the first and second water streams via the pre-mixer valves, each pre- mixer valve operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions.
22. The multiple outlet water mixing unit of claim 21 wherein the at least one controller is arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water mixer valve .
23. A shower unit comprising; a water dispensing means, a water mixer having a water inlet, a splitter arranged to split the water inlet into a first and second water stream, a water heater for heating the first water stream, a plurality of water mixer valves, each supplied by the first and second water streams and each supplying a operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions, and at least one controller to control the valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water outlet, wherein one of the outlets is arranged to supply the water dispensing means, and another of the outlets is arranged to supply an auxiliary site.
24. The shower unit of claim 23 further comprising a water cooling unit for cooling the second water stream.
25. The shower unit of claim 23 or 24 further comprising a plurality of pre-mixer valves, wherein each pre-mixer valve is supplied directly by the first and second water streams and each water mixer valve is supplied indirectly by the first and second water streams via the pre-mixer valves, each pre-mixer valve operable to mix water received from the first and second water streams in varying proportions.
26. The shower unit of claim 25 wherein the at least one controller is arranged to control the pre-mixer valves and hence the relative proportions of the first and second water streams fed to each water mixer valve .
PCT/GB2006/002233 2005-06-17 2006-06-19 Multiple outlet water mixing unit and shower unit for use in hydrotherapy WO2006134391A3 (en)

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RU2368369C1 (en) 2008-06-05 2009-09-27 Василий Юльевич Жиркевич Diluting mixer for thermal wave massage device

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US1070374A (en) * 1911-07-03 1913-08-12 James B Clow & Sons Apparatus for administering hydrotherapeutic baths.
US3095579A (en) * 1961-10-30 1963-07-02 Speakman Co Column shower
US4753265A (en) * 1982-09-30 1988-06-28 Barrett John P Dispensing system
JPS59100319A (en) * 1982-11-30 1984-06-09 Mitsubishi Electric Corp Hot and cold water mixing device
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WO2006134391A3 (en) 2007-12-21 application
GB0512412D0 (en) 2005-07-27 grant
GB2432115A (en) 2007-05-16 application

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