(19)
(11)EP 2 649 697 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
14.08.2019 Bulletin 2019/33

(21)Application number: 11847650.6

(22)Date of filing:  09.12.2011
(51)Int. Cl.: 
H02J 5/00  (2016.01)
E04H 4/16  (2006.01)
H02J 7/35  (2006.01)
E04H 4/12  (2006.01)
H02J 7/02  (2016.01)
H02J 50/10  (2016.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2011/064248
(87)International publication number:
WO 2012/079027 (14.06.2012 Gazette  2012/24)

(54)

POWER SUPPLIES FOR POOL AND SPA EQUIPMENT

STROMVERSORGUNGEN FÜR SCHWIMMBAD UND SPA

ALIMENTATIONS POUR ÉQUIPEMENT DE PISCINE ET DE SPA


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME

(30)Priority: 10.12.2010 US 421912 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
16.10.2013 Bulletin 2013/42

(73)Proprietor: Hayward Industries, Inc.
Elizabeth NJ 07201 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • POTUCEK, Kevin L.
    Far Hills, NJ 07931 (US)
  • WILLIS, Dennis
    Oak Ridge, NC 27310 (US)
  • SUMONTHEE, Jeffrey
    West Palm Beach, FL 33411 (US)
  • RENAUD, Benoit J.
    Fort Atkinson Wisconsin 53538 (US)
  • PHILHOWER, Douglas H.
    Advance, NC 27006 (US)
  • FORSYTHE, Patrick J.
    Mocksville, NC 27028 (US)
  • NORMYLE, William M.
    Yadkinville, NC 27055-8647 (US)

(74)Representative: Cross, James Peter Archibald et al
Maucher Jenkins 26 Caxton Street
London SW1H 0RJ
London SW1H 0RJ (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 1 657 798
US-A- 4 838 797
US-A1- 2004 092 181
US-A1- 2004 168 299
US-A1- 2005 253 555
US-A1- 2007 067 930
US-A1- 2007 247 838
EP-A2- 1 760 564
US-A1- 2001 032 809
US-A1- 2004 168 299
US-A1- 2005 234 595
US-A1- 2006 101 567
US-A1- 2007 151 914
US-A1- 2010 252 560
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION



    [0001] The present invention relates to power supplies, and specifically, power supplies for pool and spa equipment.

    RELATED ART



    [0002] 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.

    [0003] In US 2010/0252560 A1 there is described an inflatable floating beverage container comprising a floating bladder configured for removably receiving a beverage container.

    [0004] 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.

    [0005] 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.

    [0006] 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.

    [0007] 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.

    [0008] 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.

    [0009] 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



    [0010] 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



    [0011] 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



    [0012] The present invention relates to power supplies for pool and spa equipment, as discussed in detail below in connection with FIGS. 1-17.

    [0013] 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 and 22 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 and 22.

    [0014] 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, and 22 are mounted in corresponding recesses formed in the walls 16a, 16c, and 20. The solar cells 18b and 18d (not shown in FIG. 3) are also mounted in corresponding recesses formed in the walls 16b and 16d. The solar cells 18a-18d and 22 are waterproof, so as to withstand exposure to pool/spa water, as well as rain, without sustaining damage. The solar cells 18a-18d and 22 are connected via wires 46a, 46c and 48 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 and 22 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.

    [0015] 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 and 30. 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.

    [0016] FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram, indicated generally at 50, showing circuitry of the power supply 10. The solar cells 18a-18d and 22 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 and 22, is provided to pool/spa equipment connected to the coupling 24b.

    [0017] 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.

    [0018] 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.

    [0019] 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).

    [0020] 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.

    [0021] 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.

    [0022] 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.

    [0023] 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.

    [0024] 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.

    [0025] 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 rear wall.

    [0026] 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, as shown.

    [0027] 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.

    [0028] 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.

    [0029] 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.

    [0030] 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.

    [0031] 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.

    [0032] 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.

    [0033] 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.

    [0034] 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.


    Claims

    1. An inductive power coupling system for providing power to an underwater device operated in a pool or spa, comprising:

    a first inductive power coupling (195) at least partially embedded in a wall or floor of a pool or spa and located in a docking area (197) for the underwater device, the first inductive power coupling (195) including a first inductor circuit in electrical communication with a power supply unit (196) external to the pool or spa; and

    a second inductive power coupling (194) being attached to and in electrical communication with the underwater device and including a second inductor circuit, said second inductive power coupling (194) inductively receiving power from said first inductive power coupling (195) when said underwater device is positioned over said docking area (197);

    characterized in that

    the underwater device includes control logic for determining when the battery power of an on-board battery is low and for navigating the underwater device to the docking area (197) so as to receive power from the first inductive power coupling (195) to charge the on-board battery.


     
    2. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the first inductive power coupling (195) includes a housing defining a cavity for receiving the second inductive power coupling (194).
     
    3. The inductive power coupling system of claim 2, wherein the second inductive power coupling (194) is configured to be inserted into the housing of the first inductive power coupling (195).
     
    4. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the first inductive power coupling (195) and the second inductive power coupling (194) are flat plates, each including means for releasably securing the first inductive power coupling (195) and the second inductive power coupling (195) to each other.
     
    5. The inductive power coupling system of claim 4, wherein the means for releasably securing the first inductive power coupling (195) and the second inductive power coupling (195) to each other are magnetic.
     
    6. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the underwater device is a pool cleaning device (200).
     
    7. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the first inductive power coupling (195) and the second inductive power coupling (195) operate as a transformer for changing one voltage level to a different voltage level.
     
    8. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the docking area (197) is a recess provided in a wall of a pool or a spa.
     
    9. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the first inductive power coupling (195) is an inductive element that is embedded in a wall of the pool or spa and that the second inductive power coupling (194) is an inductive circuit.
     
    10. The inductive power coupling system of claim 9, wherein the inductive element is integral with a bottom wall of a pool.
     
    11. The inductive power coupling system of claim 1, wherein the first inductive power coupling (195) is positioned in an existing plumbing fixture of a pool or spa.
     
    12. The inductive power coupling system of claim 11, wherein the first inductive power coupling (195) is positioned within a suction port of the pool or the spa.
     
    13. The inductive power coupling system of claim 12, wherein the second inductive power coupling (194) is sized and shaped to be inserted into the suction port.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem zum Versorgen einer in einem Schwimmbecken oder Wasserbecken betriebenen Unterwasservorrichtung mit Energie, das Folgendes aufweist:

    eine erste induktive Energiekupplung (195), die wenigstens teilweise in eine Wand oder einen Boden eines Schwimmbeckens oder Wasserbeckens eingebettet ist und sich in einem Andockbereich (197) für die Unterwasservorrichtung befindet, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) eine erste Induktorschaltung hat, die elektrisch mit einer Stromversorgungseinheit (196) außerhalb des Schwimmbeckens oder Wasserbeckens verbunden ist; und

    eine zweite induktive Energiekupplung (194), die an bzw. mit der Unterwasservorrichtung angebracht und elektrisch verbunden ist und eine zweite Induktorschaltung hat, wobei die genannte zweite induktive Energiekupplung (194) Energie induktiv von der genannten ersten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) erhält, wenn die genannte Unterwasservorrichtung über dem genannten Andockbereich (197) positioniert ist;

    dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass

    die Unterwasservorrichtung Steuerlogik enthält zum Bestimmen, wenn der Batteriestrom einer Bordbatterie niedrig ist, und zum Steuern der Unterwasservorrichtung zum Andockbereich (197), um von der ersten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) Energie zum Laden der Bordbatterie zu erhalten.


     
    2. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) ein Gehäuse hat, das einen Hohlraum zur Aufnahme der zweiten induktiven Energiekupplung (194) definiert.
     
    3. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 2, wobei die zweite induktive Energiekupplung (194) gestaltet ist, um in das Gehäuse der ersten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) eingeführt zu werden.
     
    4. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) und die zweite induktive Energiekupplung (194) flache Platten sind, die jeweils ein Mittel zum lösbaren Befestigen der ersten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) und der zweiten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) aneinander enthalten.
     
    5. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 4, wobei die Mittel zum lösbaren Befestigen der ersten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) und der zweiten induktiven Energiekupplung (195) aneinander magnetisch sind.
     
    6. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Unterwasservorrichtung eine Schwimmbeckenreinigungsvorrichtung (200) ist.
     
    7. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) und die zweite induktive Energiekupplung (195) als Transformator zum Umsetzen eines Spannungspegels auf einen anderen Spannungspegel arbeiten.
     
    8. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Andockbereich (197) eine in einer Wand eines Schwimmbeckens oder Wasserbeckens bereitgestellte Aussparung ist.
     
    9. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) ein induktives Element ist, das in einer Wand des Schwimmbeckens oder Wasserbeckens eingebettet ist, und die zweite induktive Energiekupplung (194) eine induktive Schaltung ist.
     
    10. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 9, wobei das induktive Element in eine Bodenwand eines Schwimmbeckens integriert ist.
     
    11. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) in einer bestehenden Sanitärvorrichtung eines Schwimmbeckens oder Wasserbeckens positioniert ist.
     
    12. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 11, wobei die erste induktive Energiekupplung (195) in einem Sauganschluss des Schwimmbeckens oder des Wasserbeckens positioniert ist.
     
    13. Induktives Energiekopplungssystem nach Anspruch 12, wobei die zweite induktive Energiekupplung (194) zum Einführen in den Sauganschluss bemessen und gestaltet ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Système de couplage de puissance inductif destiné à fournir une puissance à un dispositif sous-marin actionné dans une piscine ou un spa, comprenant :

    un premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) noyé au moins partiellement dans une paroi ou un sol d'une piscine ou d'un spa et situé dans une zone d'accueil (197) du dispositif sous-marin, le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) comportant un premier circuit inductif en communication électrique avec une unité d'alimentation électrique (196) externe à la piscine ou au spa ; et

    un second couplage de puissance inductif (194) attaché au dispositif sous-marin et en communication électrique avec celui-ci et comportant un second circuit inductif, ledit second couplage de puissance inductif (194) recevant de manière inductive une puissance depuis ledit premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) quand ledit dispositif sous-marin est positionné sur ladite zone d'accueil (197) ;

    caractérisé en ce que
    le dispositif sous-marin comporte une logique de commande pour déterminer quand la puissance de batterie d'une batterie embarquée est faible et pour manoeuvrer le dispositif sous-marin jusqu'à la zone d'accueil (197) afin qu'il reçoive une puissance depuis le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) pour charger la batterie embarquée.
     
    2. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) comporte un boîtier définissant une cavité pour recevoir le second couplage de puissance inductif (194).
     
    3. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 2, dans lequel le second couplage de puissance inductif (194) est configuré pour être inséré dans le boîtier du premier couplage de puissance inductif (195).
     
    4. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) et le second couplage de puissance inductif (194) sont des plaques plates, comportant chacune des moyens pour fixer de manière détachable le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) et le second couplage de puissance inductif (195) l'un à l'autre.
     
    5. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 4, dans lequel les moyens pour fixer de manière détachable le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) et le second couplage de puissance inductif (195) l'un à l'autre sont magnétiques.
     
    6. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le dispositif sous-marin est un dispositif de nettoyage de piscine (200).
     
    7. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) et le second couplage de puissance inductif (195) fonctionnent en tant que transformateur pour changer un niveau de tension en un niveau de tension différent.
     
    8. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel la zone d'accueil (197) est un renfoncement fourni dans une paroi d'une piscine ou d'un spa.
     
    9. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) est un élément inductif qui est noyé dans une paroi de la piscine ou du spa et le second couplage de puissance inductif (194) est un circuit inductif.
     
    10. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 9, dans lequel l'élément inductif fait partie intégrante d'une paroi inférieure d'une piscine.
     
    11. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) est positionné dans une installation de plomberie existante d'une piscine ou d'un spa.
     
    12. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 11, dans lequel le premier couplage de puissance inductif (195) est positionné à l'intérieur d'un orifice d'aspiration de la piscine ou du spa.
     
    13. Système de couplage de puissance inductif selon la revendication 12, dans lequel le second couplage de puissance inductif (194) est dimensionné et conformée pour être inséré dans l'orifice d'aspiration.
     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description