FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to power supplies, and specifically, power supplies for pool and spa equipment.
In US 2004/0092181 A1
there is described a stable, manually portable floating platform for use in pools and spas which is equipped with recesses for receiving beverage containers and is equipped with any of a variety of electronic audio/visual entertainment devices that are powered by an on-board battery, or a remote rechargeable battery or a conventional remote low-voltage power supply via a cable.
In US 2010/0252560 A1
there is described an inflatable floating beverage container comprising a floating bladder configured for removably receiving a beverage container.
In US 2007/0247838 A1
there is described an underwater lamination device applied to a swimming pool which comprises a solar power supplier, at least one light body being located at a bottom surface of the swimming pool and having a seal housing and a light or luminan, in which the solar power supplier electrically communicates with the light or luminant.
 EP 1 657 798 A1
there is described an inductive peripheral device for a spa making use of inductance for power and/or control. A peripheral device includes a magnetic field source positioned in a region on an externally facing side of a spa shell and configured to generate a first magnetic field. The peripheral device includes a peripheral module, such as a light or other feature. The module includes an inductor configured to generate a second magnetic field based on the first magnetic field, a converter configured to convert the second magnetic field into a current, and a peripheral feature configured to be powered by the current.
In US 2004/0168 299 A1
there is described a submersible pool cleaner with integral rechargeable battery. The pool cleaner is provide with an integral sealed rechargeable battery and an inductive charging assembly, a first portion of which is mounted in the pool cleaner housing and during the charging, receives a second separate portion that is connected by a cable to a conventional power source: The pump motor drive shaft is treated with a specialized anti-friction lubricant composition to minimize frictional energy losses where the shaft contacts. the seal(s) and any shaft bearing(s), to maximize efficiency and minimize the power consumption of the pump motor assembly and permit the pool cleaner to completely traverse the surfaces to be cleaned within the fully-charged power capacity of the battery.
Further, various types of equipment are available for pools and spas. Often, such equipment is powered electrically. One example is a pool cleaner, which automatically cleans the underwater surfaces of a pool or spa. Such a device can be powered hydraulically (e.g., by a hose connected to the return line of a pool or spa filter and pump), or electrically. Also, such a device can float to the surface of pool/spa water, for cleaning same.
In the case of an electrically-powered underwater pool cleaner, electrical power is delivered to the cleaner by a low-voltage cable connected between the pool cleaner and a power supply external to the pool or spa. Because the power supply is located external to the pool or spa, it is necessary for the cable connecting the pool cleaner and the power supply to extend out of the pool and, often, across a peripheral concrete walkway surrounding most pools. This can be unsightly.
Self-contained, battery-powered, underwater pool cleaners do exist, and obviate the need for an external power supply and a cable interconnecting the pool cleaner with an external power supply. However, only a limited amount of power is available to the pool cleaner, due to the limited capacity of the cleaner's on-board battery. As a result, the pool cleaner must be periodically recharged, which often requires removing the pool cleaner from the pool before each recharging.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Embodiments of the present invention are defined by the accompanying claims. In accordance with a first embodiment, there is provided an inductive power coupling system for providing power to an underwater device operated in a pool or spa according to claim 1.Preferred embodiments of the present invention are set forth in the dependent claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The foregoing features of the invention will be apparent from the following Detailed Description of the Invention, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIGS. 1-2 are perspective and top views, respectively, of the floating power supply;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along the line 3-3 of FIG. 2, showing construction of the floating power supply in greater detail;
FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram showing circuitry of the floating power supply;
FIG. 5 is a diagram showing the floating power supply, connected to an underwater electric pool cleaner;
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of another example of the floating power supply which includes on-board surface skimming features;
FIG. 7 is a partial cross-sectional view of the floating power supply shown in FIG. 6, taken along the line 7-7;
FIG. 8 is a perspective diagram showing inductive power couplings for better understanding the present invention connected to a power supply unit;
FIGS. 9A-C are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, showing the inductive power coupling for better understanding the present invention;
FIGS. 10A-10C are perspective, top, and side views, respectively, showing the inductive couplings for better understanding the present invention;
FIGS. 11A-11C are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, of the complementary inductive couplings for better understanding the present invention;
FIGS. 12A-12C are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, of the inductive couplings of the present invention;
FIG. 13A-13B are perspective and top views, respectively, of the complementary inductive power couplings of the present invention;
FIGS. 14A-14B are side views showing mating of the inductive power couplers;
FIG. 15 is a side view showing the an underwater device being powered by the buried inductive power conduit or cable;
FIG. 16 is an electrical schematic diagram showing circuitry of the power supply unit; and
FIG. 17 is an electrical schematic diagram showing circuitry of an underwater pool cleaner which includes an inductive coupling.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to power supplies for pool and spa equipment, as discussed in detail below in connection with FIGS. 1-17.
 FIGS. 1-2
are perspective and top views, respectively, of a floating power supply 10
explained for a better understanding of the present invention. The power supply 10
includes a buoyant housing 12,
a power cord 24a
connected to the buoyant housing 12,
an optional radio frequency antenna 26
for allowing wireless communication with a device connected to the power supply 10,
and a coupling 24b
for connection with pool or spa equipment, such as an underwater pool cleaner. The buoyant housing 12
includes peripheral float sections 14a-14d,
angled walls 16a-16d,
angled photovoltaic (solar) cells 18a-18d
on the angled surfaces 16a-16d,
and a top wall 20
containing a top solar cell 22.
The housing 12
is waterproof, floats in pool or spa water, and generates electrical power from sunlight for powering pool or spa equipment connected to the coupling 24b.
The cord 24a
delivers such power from the buoyant housing 12
to the pool or spa equipment. The antenna 26
could allow for wireless communication with a handheld device and/or central pool/spa control system, as well as a home LAN, while avoiding issues related to transmitting radio frequencies underwater. Advantageously, the solar cells 18a-18d
are positioned so as to maximize exposure to sunlight when the housing 12
is floating in a pool or spa. It is noted that the shape of the housing 12
could be varied, as well as the number and positioning of the solar cells 18a-18d
 FIG. 3
is a cross-sectional view taken along the line 3-3
of FIG. 2,
showing construction of the power supply 10
in greater detail. As can be seen, the solar cells 18a, 18c,
are mounted in corresponding recesses formed in the walls 16a, 16c,
The solar cells 18b
(not shown in FIG. 3
) are also mounted in corresponding recesses formed in the walls 16b
The solar cells 18a-18d
are waterproof, so as to withstand exposure to pool/spa water, as well as rain, without sustaining damage. The solar cells 18a-18d
are connected via wires 46a, 46c
to a printed circuit board 40
attached to a bottom wall 30
of the housing 12.
Similarly, antenna 26
could be mounted to the top surface 20
to facilitate the transmission of radio frequencies to the floating power supply 10
and underwater cleaner. The antenna 26
is connected directly to the underwater device (e.g., cleaner) via cord 26a
extending through grommet 44.
In an alternative example, the antenna 26
is connected to printed circuit board 40
by cord 26b
(e.g., to allow for wireless communications with the printed circuit board 40
). The printed circuit board 40 includes circuitry, discussed below, for delivering power to pool/spa equipment and for charging an optional on-board battery 38 connected to the printed circuit board 40 via cable 42. Such a battery 38, if provided, could be housed within a battery compartment 36 formed in the housing 12 and having a removable, waterproof door 32 (and associated handle 34). The door 32 could be removable from the housing 12, or pivotally connected thereto by way of a hinge. Advantageously, the battery 38 could provide power to pool/spa equipment when the power supply 10 is not exposed to sunlight, and the battery 38
could be charged by the solar cells 18a-18d
when the power supply 10
is exposed to sunlight. This allows the power supply 10
to continue to deliver power to pool/spa equipment in periods of low or no sunlight. The printed circuit board 40
is also connected to the power cord 24a,
for connection to pool/spa equipment. The grommet 44
ensures that a watertight seal is formed between the power cord 24a,
the cord 26a,
and the housing 12.
The peripheral floats 14a, 14c
include inner chambers 28a, 28c
which are filled with air. The floats 14b, 14d
(not shown in FIG. 3
) also include similar air-filled inner chambers. It is noted that the housing 12
could be constructed from a suitable, high-impact plastic material (e.g., ABS plastic), or any other equivalent. Preferably, such material is resistant to damage from ultraviolet light present in sunlight, and is lightweight. The floats 14a-14d
could be formed integrally with the walls 16a-16d
In alternate example, the floats 14a-14d may be formed of a material that is inherently buoyant, such as plastic foams, e.g., polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene. Also, the entire housing 12
could be manufactured using any suitable manufacturing process, including, but not limited to, injection molding.
 FIG. 4
is a schematic diagram, indicated generally at 50,
showing circuitry of the power supply 10.
The solar cells 18a-18d
are connected in parallel to a voltage or current regulator integrated circuit (IC) 52,
which ensures proper delivery of electrical charge to the battery 38.
The battery 38
could include a rechargeable nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, lithium polymer, sealed lead acid, or any other suitable rechargeable battery. Power from the battery 38,
or from the solar cells 18a-18d
is provided to pool/spa equipment connected to the coupling 24b.
 FIG. 5
is a diagram showing the floating power supply 10,
connected to an underwater electric pool cleaner 62.
The power supply 10
provides electrical power to the underwater electric pool cleaner 62
via the power cable 24a,
so that the cleaner 62
can be operated to clean a pool 60.
Advantageously, since the power supply 10
floats within the pool 60
and can move with the pool cleaner 62
(being tethered to and "towed" by the pool cleaner 62
when it moves), there is no need to provide a power supply outside of the pool 60
for the pool cleaner or to drape a power cord outside of the pool 60.
This reduces the risk that a person could trip on such objects near the side of the pool 60,
and potentially fall into the pool 60.
It is noted that the power supply 10
could be connected to other types of equipment, such as underwater decorative lighting, a decorative fountain, or other type of equipment, so as to provide electrical power to same. Also, it is noted that the pool cleaner 62
could include an onboard rechargeable battery, in which case the power supply 10
need not include such a battery and charges the rechargeable battery of the pool cleaner 62.
The antenna 26
allows for remote, wireless command and control of the cleaner 62,
e.g., by way of a handheld wireless remote control unit, a central pool/spa controller, a local area network, the Internet, etc.
It is noted that the floating power supply 10
can be easily disconnected from a pool cleaner by way of one or more plugs provided on the power cord 24a
that connects the power supply 10
to the cleaner. This allows for easy removal and storage of the power supply 10.
 FIG. 6
is a perspective view of another example of the floating power supply, indicated generally at 63.
In this example, the power supply 63
includes on-board surface skimming features that allow the power supply to clean ("skim") water in a pool or a spa, in addition to the power functions described above in connection with FIG. 1-5.
Similar to the example discussed above in connection with FIGS. 1-5,
the power supply 63
includes a peripheral float 64
and a plurality of photovoltaic (solar) cells 67.
A water inlet 65
is provided to allow for skimming of pool/spa water, and an internal pump and motor could be provided for powering skimming operations (discussed in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 7
). An optional debris bag 66
could be provided for trapping skimmed surface debris, and could be removably coupled with the power supply 63
to permit easy removal of the bag to periodically clean same. Additionally, similar to the examples shown in FIGS. 1-5,
a power cable 68a
and associated plug 68b
could be provided for connecting the power supply 63
to pool/spa equipment (e.g., a pool vacuum).
 FIG. 7
is a partial sectional view of the power supply 63,
taken along the line 7-7
of FIG. 6.
As mentioned above, an on-board pump 69b
could be provided to create suction for skimming operations, and for diverting skimmed surface debris into the debris bag 66.
The pump 69b
could include an electric motor 69c
that powers an impeller 69d.
The pump 69b
could be connected to the water inlet 65
by a channel or flexible hose 69a,
and could also be connected to a port 69f
by a second channel or flexible hose 69e.
The port 69f
allows for removable coupling of the debris bag 66
to the power supply 63.
Optionally, an on-board debris compartment 69g
could be provided, thereby obviating the need for the bag 66.
In such circumstances, the compartment 69g
could be accessed by way of a door 69h
provided on the power supply 63,
to allow for periodic cleaning/emptying of the compartment 69g.
It is noted that the motor 69c
could be powered by the solar cells 67,
and/or by an on-board battery provided in the power supply 63.
It also noted that the pump 69b
and associated motor 69c
need not be provided to perform skimming operations. For example, the water inlet 65
could be coupled directly to the debris bag 66
(e.g., by way of a channel or flexible hose). In such circumstances, if the power supply 63
is connected to a pool/spa vacuum via the cable 68a,
it will be moved or "dragged" across the surface of the pool or spa as the vacuum moves. When this happens, debris if captured by the water inlet 65
and is channeled to the debris bag 66
by virtue of the physical movement of the power supply 63.
 FIG. 8
is a diagram showing the power supply unit 72
for better understanding the present invention, connected to inductive power couplings 80
installed in the walls of the pool 70.
Of course, the couplings 80
could also be installed in the floor of the pool 70.
The power supply unit 72
provides electrical power to the inductive power coupling couplings 80
via conduits 76a, 76b.
The power supply conduit 76a
connects to the power supply unit 72
and extends below ground 74.
Below ground, the conduit 76b
is positioned and connected to the inductive power coupling couplings 80,
and, optionally, to a buried inductive power conduit and/or cable 76c.
Inductive power coupling couplings 80
and inductive power conduit/cable 76c
function allow for inductive transmission of electrical powered from the power supply 72
to an underwater device, such as an underwater pool/spa cleaner.
 FIG. 9A-9C
are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, showing the inductive power coupling 80
for better understanding the present invention. The coupling 80
includes a housing 82
which is generally embedded in a pool or spa wall. The housing 82
defines a recess which receives a corresponding inductive power coupling from a pool or spa device, which will be described in greater detail below. The housing 82
could be made of a plastic material such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or any other sturdy waterproof material that does not interfere with electrical field transmission, and which is an electrical insulator. Of course, other materials could be utilized. Attached to the external surface of the rear wall of the housing 82
is circuitry housing 84.
The circuitry housing 84
houses an inductor circuit 88
which allows for the inductive transmission of electrical power electrical power. The housing 82
defines a cavity allowing for the insertion of a complementary inductive coupler. Attached to the rear of the housing wall 82
is the circuitry housing 84.
Enclosed within the circuitry housing 84
is a circuit board 86
which includes the inductor circuit 88.
Providing power to the inductor circuit 88
is the power conduit 76b.
 FIGS. 10A-10C
are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, of the complementary inductive coupler 90
for better understanding the present invention. The coupling 90
includes a housing 94
which is tethered to a pool or spa device such as a cleaner. The housing 94
could be made of a plastic material such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or any other sturdy, waterproof material that does not interfere with inductive power transmission. Attached to the inner surface of the front wall of the housing 94
is the circuitry housing 96.
The circuitry housing 96
houses the inductor circuit 98
and allows for the power conduit 92b
to supply the inductor circuit 98
with electrical power. Power cable 92b
runs from the pool or spa apparatus, for example pool cleaner, to the inductor circuit 98.
The cable 92b
could be encased in a waterproof sheath 92a.
 FIG. 11A-11C
are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, of the inductive coupling for better understanding the present invention, indicated at 180,
wherein a flat coupling is provided. The coupling 180
comprises a flat plate 182a
formed of a plastic material such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or any other sturdy waterproof material that does not interfere with inductive power transmission. Surrounding the periphery of the plate 182a
is a magnetic ring 182b.
Optionally, the ring 182b
may be formed of a ferromagnetic metal. When installed, the plate 182a
and magnetic ring 182b
are generally bonded to a pool wall or positioned within a pool wall. Attached to the rear surface of the plate 182a
is the circuitry housing 184a.
The circuitry housing 184a
houses the inductor circuit 188
and allows for the power conduit 76b
to supply the inductor circuit 188
with electrical power. Enclosed within the circuitry housing 184a
is a mounting board 186a
which is attached to the inner surface of the circuitry housing 184a
 FIGS. 12A-12C
are perspective, top, and cross-sectional views, respectively, of a complementary inductive coupling of the present invention, indicated generally at 190.
The complementary coupling 190
is tethered to underwater pool/spa equipment, and mates with the coupling 180
of FIGS 11A-11C.
The coupling 190a
includes a flat plate 194a
formed of a plastic material such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or any other sturdy waterproof material that does not interfere with inductive power transmission. Surrounding the periphery of the plate 194a
is a ferromagnetic metal ring 194b.
Optionally, the ring 194b
may be formed of a magnet. Attached to the rear surface of the plate 194a
is the circuitry housing 196,
which houses the inductor circuit 199
which is connected to a power cable 192
connected to underwater pool/spa equipment. The circuit 199
could be mounted to a mounting board 198,
 FIGS. 13A-13B
are side views showing operation of the couplings 80, 90
and 180, 190,
respectively. As can be seen, the couplings allow an underwater pool/spa device, such as an underwater electric pool/spa cleaner 200,
to be removably connected to a power source. Advantageously, the couplings 80, 90
and 180, 190
allow for quick connection and disconnection, and due to their insulated nature, the risk of electric shock is obviated. Moreover, since the couplings have smooth surfaces, they are easy to clean.
Referring to FIG. 13B,
it is noted that a docking area or "station" 197
could be provided in a pool or spa, to which area or station the pool/spa cleaner 200
automatically travels and docks to periodically recharge the on-board battery of the pool/spa cleaner. In such circumstances, the cable 192
need not be provided. Instead, an inductive coupling 195
is embedded in a surface of the pool or spa (e.g., in the floor of the pool as shown in FIG. 13b
), and a corresponding inductive circuit 194
is provided on-board the cleaner 200.
A power cable 196
provides electrical energy to the coupling 195.
When the cleaner 200
detects a low battery condition (e.g., by way of built-in monitoring circuitry and/or logic), the cleaner 200
automatically navigates to the docking area 197,
such that the inductive circuit 194
is positioned above the coupling 195
and electrical power is inductively transmitted from the coupling 195
to the circuit 194,
and the battery is charged by such power. It is also noted that a recess could be provided in the wall of the pool or spa, the inductive coupler 195
could be positioned within the recess, and the cleaner 200
could navigate to and park itself in the recess to perform periodic charging operations.
 FIG. 14
is a side view showing the pool cleaner 200
of FIGS. 13A-13B,
wherein the pool cleaner 200
includes an on-board inductive circuit 202
which allows for inductive transmission of power from the buried inductive element 76c,
e.g., conduit/cable, to the cleaner 200.
As the cleaner 200
travels along the floor 70a
of the pool, the inductive element 76
transmits electrical power to the circuit 202,
to power the cleaner 200.
 FIG. 15
is an electrical schematic diagram showing the power supply 72
in greater detail. The power supply 72
could step down an input voltage 106
via transformer 104
to provide power to inductors 114
(which could be positioned within the couplings 80, 90
). Optionally, the transformer 104
could be a step-down transformer (e.g., 120 VAC to 12 VAC), and/or it could be an isolation transformer. Further, the power supply 72
could include a voltage regulator 112
for regulating voltage supplied to the inductors 114.
Still further, the power supply 72
could be powered by an internal battery 108
(e.g., rechargeable nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium ion, lithium polymer battery, etc.), and/or via a solar array 110,
either (or both) of which could be connected to the inductors 114
via voltage regulator 112.
The solar array 110
could charge the battery 108
in periods of sunlight.
 FIG. 16
is an electrical schematic diagram showing the inductive circuit 202
of the pool cleaner 200
in greater detail, for obtaining power from the buried conduit/cable 76c.
An inductor 124
wirelessly receives power from the conduit/cable 76c,
which could supply power to an optional charging circuit 122
for charging an on-board battery 120
of the cleaner 200.
The inductor 124
could also power a controller 126
and a motor 128
of the cleaner 200.
When the cleaner is not being used, it could be "parked" in proximity to the buried cable/conduit 76c,
so that the inductor 124
wirelessly receives power from the cable/conduit 76c
and charges the battery 120.
When the battery 120
is charged, the cleaner 200
could operate at any location within the pool. Also, the controller 126
could include embedded logic which automatically detects when the battery 120
is low, and automatically navigates the cleaner 200
toward the conduit/cable 76c
so that power is inductively obtained from the conduit/cable 76c
to charge the battery 120.
 FIG. 17
is a partial sectional view of for better understanding the present invention, indicated generally at 250,
wherein inductive power couplings are provided in an existing plumbing fixture, e.g., suction port 252
and pipe 254,
in a pool or spa 256.
This arrangement is particularly advantageous as a "retrofit" solution for existing pools or spas. Conventional operation of the suction port 252
and pipe 254
can be disabled, and the port 252
and pipe 254
are instead used to deliver electrical power. As shown in FIG. 17,
a first inductive coupling 258a
is mounted within the suction port 252,
and an electrical cable 262
is "pulled" through the pipe 254
and subsequently connected (e.g., at an equipment pad) to a power supply circuit (e.g., that steps power down from 120 volts A.C. to 12 volts A.C.). The coupling 258a
could be retained in place by way of a friction fit, a snap fit, gluing, etc., or in any other suitable fashion. A corresponding inductive coupling 258b
is sized and shaped to be removably received by the port 252,
and electrical power is inductively transmitted from the coupling 258a
to the coupling 258b
when the coupling 258b
is positioned within the port 252.
A cable 260
connects the coupling 258b
to pool/spa equipment (e.g., to a pool cleaner), and transfers electrical power to same. It is noted that the arrangement shown in FIG. 17
could also be applied to other types of outlets existing in a pool or spa, and operation of such outlets (including the suction port 252
and pipe 254
) may be active and need not be disabled. In other words, the inductive couplings could be positioned within such outlets but need not form a seal, so that water can still flow around the couplings, thereby permitting normal operation of such outlets.
It is noted that the inductive power couplings discussed herein could be utilized to provide power to pool/spa equipment not only for powering operation of these devices, but also to charge any on-board batteries that may be provided in such devices. Further, the inductive power couplings could be configured so as to change voltage levels. For example, an inductive coupling embedded in a wall of a pool or a spa could receive electricity at a first voltage (e.g., 120 volts A.C.), and a corresponding coupling could deliver power to a device in a pool or a spa at a different voltage level (e.g., 12 volts A.C.). This could be achieved by different numbers of wire "turns" provided in the couplings, such that the two couplings, when positioned near each other, function as an electrical transformer.
Having thus described the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the foregoing description is not intended to limit the scope thereof as defined by the claims.