This is a non-provisional application of provisional patent application No. 61/493,404 filed on Jun. 3, 2011, and priority is claimed thereto.
FIELD OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
The present invention relates to an air flow system, integrated into the structural foundation of a building, which employs the natural insulation of the earth's top soil to warm or cool air to an approximate temperature of 55 degrees, in order to assist the HVAC system of the building. A system of ducts is implemented and are designed to adapt to the seasonal changes in temperature, enabling both supplemental geothermal cooling in the summer, and geothermal warming in the winter. The present invention relies on the insulation properties of the subterranean basement of a conventional building, and takes advantage of the relatively consistent temperature maintained within a cavity underground. The present invention can heat or cool a dwelling by capturing the temperature differential of an attic, solar source or geothermal cavity as compared to the temperature of the dwelling.
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OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
In energy conscious times, with the cost of energy steadily rising, the desire to save money and energy has never been greater. From gas-saving hybrid vehicles to increasingly efficient insulation systems, individuals and corporations the world over are taking drastic strides to reduce their energy consumption. Unfortunately, the energy savings of making homes tight has resulted in indoor air quality concerns. There are current code concerns for indoor air quality.
Much of the focus of addressing the problem of energy consumption lately has been concentrated on investigating and enhancing alternative, renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. While great strides have been made in solar technology in recent years, the cost is still prohibitive for the average consumer. Wind power has grown in popularity as well; however, utilizing the system requires a great deal of space in order to produce sufficient energy. At the same time, wind turbines and their accompanying batteries and capacitors are conventionally only effective as a supplement to conventional power from the electric grid, given that the turbines will not capture energy from the wind if there is no circulation of air or wind outside. Similarly, geothermal energy plants have been constructed which effectively harvest energy insulated within the earth's crust or top soil. Conventionally, geothermal energy is generally only employed for energy generation to supplement fossil fuel power. However, given that geothermal energy is stored nearly uniformly underground, and is generally constant, the integration of geothermal energy as a supplemental power source for cost-conscious individuals could significantly reduce energy costs on a smaller, more independent scale, rather than simply at a geothermal energy plant.
If there were a way to utilize the geothermal properties of the earth in order to reduce energy costs on a smaller, individual scale, the strain on the conventional energy grid could be substantially reduced. Thus, there exists a need for a supplemental system, based on the geothermal properties of the earth, which could be implemented into a building in order to reduce the heating and cooling costs traditionally associated with the use of solely conventional power.
While geothermal devices are known, extensive land is traditionally required, as well as expensive drilling down into the earth's crust. Thus there is a need for a device that can employ conventional geothermal concepts while integrating into the existing house structure, without elaborate drilling or damage to the foundations of a house or building.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,319,115 for “Air Cycle Houses and House Ventilation System” by Shingaki, issued on Nov. 20, 2001, shows an “air cycle house” house with “an underfloor ventilation layer, a wall insulating layer and a ceiling insulating layer laid externally of the floor, the interior wall and the ceiling, respectively.” An air intake which can be opened and shut is formed “through the exterior wall, the wall insulating layer and the interior wall to provide communication with the indoor space and the underfloor ventilation layer.” Shingaki's invention “allows outdoor air to flow through the wall ventilation layer which locates externally of the wall insulating layer surrounding the indoor space. Since the air can pass through the wall ventilation layer upwardly into the underroof space, the inside of the wall is also protected from mold, ticks, dew condensation, etc.” Shingaki, like the present invention, uses a subfloor and dual walls for ventilation purposes. However, unlike the present invention, Shingaki does not employ heat exchangers, and is not configured to provide year-round functionality. Additionally, the insulating layers proposed by Shingaki do not travel the area of the flooring and walls in the same manner as the present invention, nor does Shengaki employ heat exchangers to ensure the safety of the air as free from contaminants.
U.S. Pub. No. 2008/0230206 for “Energy Recovery and Humidity Control” by Lestage et al., published on Sep. 25, 2008, shows a system that utilizes an enclosure “which contains an enthalpy exchange core and a heat exchange sub-core and a plurality of ducts”. The enclosure is installed in a basement, crawlspace or cellar, with ducts that receive air from the outside and supply air to the dwelling. However, unlike the present invention, Lestage et al. does not employ heat exchangers, and is not configured constantly circulate fresh air into the home, eliminating issues of contamination.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,843,786 for “Enclosure Conditioned Housing System” by Walkinshaw et al., issued on Jul. 4, 1989, shows “a continuous building basement wall and floor cavity,” the cavity being placed around the outer walls and floor of a basement. Ventilated air is moved through the cavity in order to thermally condition the basement enclosure structure. However, unlike the present invention, Walkinshaw et al is configured to condition the air of the basement of a structure only, whereas the present invention employs air that is circulated along the envelope of a subterranean basement of a building in order to alter the temperature of fresh air pumped into the building from outdoors.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,843,718 for “Method of Guiding External Air etc.” by Schmitz, issued on Jan. 18, 2005, shows a method for guiding external air in a building shell and in a building. The method uses an “inner gap” and “outer gap,” with external air brought into the outer gap and reaching the inner gap through a permeable layer. Schmitz varies from the present invention in that it does not employ heat exchangers in order to ensure the safety of air destined for the living space of the building.
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OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
The present invention is a supplemental heating and cooling system which employs the geothermal properties of the earth to reduce the strain on a building's conventional HVAC system. The system is integrated into the foundation of a home or building, and utilizes the cavity of the building's basement and/or slab and/or attic to enact a heat exchange system in conjunction with a system of ducts designed to facilitate air circulation while providing ample time for the geothermal properties of the earth to heat or cool circulated air.
The system of the present invention is designed to function differently according to the changes in seasonal temperature. The present invention preferably requires the installation of a sealed, double walled, double floored basement enclosure, which creates a geothermal air cavity between the concrete foundation of the house, and the artificial walls and flooring. The geothermal air cavity extends across the entirety of the basement foundation in order to take advantage of the greatest area exposed to the relatively stable ground temperature. The intent of the present invention is circulate air within this basement geothermal air cavity, which is similar to the cavity within a insulated drinking thermos, and employ the relatively static ground temperature to slowly heat air from outside the house in the winter, which may exist at temperatures well below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, up to the approximate, relative ground temperature, often cited to exist between 45 and 65 degrees, depending on location. Similarly, air is cooled in this same fashion during the summer months. Air is pumped through a series of ducts and down into the geothermal air cavity created below and aside the basement walls and ceiling, altering the temperature of the air. It is commonly understood that, in the summer months, the subterranean basement maintains a cooler temperature than the rest of the house due to the properties of energy. Similarly, in the winter months, the basement maintains a warmer temperature than the outside air, given that the air is insulated sufficiently, and is kept slightly warmer due to the geothermal properties of the earth. Additionally, the present invention employs a system of fail-safes to ensure that potentially contaminated air that was circulated within the basement cavity does not enter the home or building, but rather, the energy is transferred via a system of heat exchangers.
Advantages to the system of the present invention include the ease of installation, the implementation of a vacuum within the walls and under the foam layer employed by the present invention, as well as 24-hour fresh air ventilation. Additionally, more usable living space is made available via the elimination of common basement contaminants such as mold, mildew, radon, and organic matter. The present invention establishes a similar or same temperature and humidity level from the basement, all the way up to the top floor of a building, meaning that all floors of the building may be used by inhabitants comfortably, even in extreme weather.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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FIG. 1 displays a view of the basement integration of the closed loop process of air flow of the present invention as viewed from above.
FIG. 2 exhibits a cutaway view of the walls and flooring of the present invention which constitute the basis for the geothermal air cavity of the present invention.
FIG. 3 displays a diagram depicting the path of air through the system of the present invention as directed by the ‘summer open loop’ process.
FIG. 4 shows a view of the walls and flooring of the geothermal air cavity of the present invention as viewed from above.
FIG. 5 is an image showing the path of air during the winter open loop process of the present invention.
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OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
The present invention is a system for augmenting the conventional HVAC system of a building via the use of the known geothermal properties of the earth. The goal of the present invention is to provide a means of eradicating contaminants within a basement, such as mold, mildew, allergens, and radon gas, and thereby enhancing the quality of living for the inhabitants of the building, maintaining additional, usable living space within the building, free from said associated contaminants frequently found to exist in conventional basements. Similarly, by augmenting the conventional HVAC system of a building, money is ultimately saved by the end user. The present invention seeks to regulate the temperature of an entire building by employing the relatively constant temperature found within the concrete foundation, concrete basement, crawl space, slab, and/or attic of the building. The present invention solves the problem of basement contamination and dampness effectively by applying a ventilation system to the internal structure of the basement, keeping the basement dry. Through this process, the temperature of the walls, original concrete basement flooring, crawl space, slab, attic and/or any other stale air room is conveyed to fresh air which is to be circulated throughout the building.
The system of the present invention may be outlined, as seen in FIG. 1, as follows: First, fresh air enters the basement of the house via a fresh air intake duct (10). The fresh air intake duct (10) is conventional, and is preferably proportionally sized to the size of the system at large. The fresh air intake duct (10) is preferably filtered in order to improve air quality, and ensure contaminants do not enter the system. ‘The fresh air then enters a first geo air to air heat exchanger (20) preferably housed within the basement. The first geo air to air heat exchanger (20) is a conventional ERV, and offers a reduction of up to 30% humidity. The first geo air to air heat exchanger (20) is preferably equipped with a conventional air filter to filter the air for a second time. The first geo air to air heat exchanger (20) makes the fresh air from outside within a few degrees of the stale air held within the basement without introducing contaminants. Heat is exchanged between stale return air that has completed the cycle of the system. The fresh air then exits the first geo air to air heat exchanger (20) and travels through a first duct (30). The first duct (30) is preferably a conventional duct or PVC pipe structure.
The fresh air then arrives at a dwelling air to air heat exchanger (50), where it is further conditioned by stale air being returned from the kitchen and bathrooms of the building’ and or any other stale air room (40). Humidity of the air is preferably stabilized or removed at the dwelling air to air heat exchanger (50), but it is envisioned that the present invention could be configured to remove humidity at either the dwelling air to air heat exchanger (50 and/or the first geo air to air heat exchanger (20). In alternate embodiments of the present invention, the humidity setting of the system may be changed manually in order to conform to the necessity of the current season.
Next, the fresh air is then conditioned to the approximate temperature of the interior of the building via the dwelling air to air heat exchanger (50). The temperature of the stale air is conveyed to the fresh air without risk of contact or contamination. The fresh air then enters a second duct (60). The second duct (60) is preferably identical in size to the first duct (30). The fresh air is transferred to an air handler (100), where the flow of the fresh air is handled. The air handler (100) is conventionally designed. Within the air handler (100), air from the building\'s HVAC system joins the fresh air (if necessary) according to the thermostat setting on the HVAC system. The air from the HVAC system is controlled via a conventional damper (90). The damper (90) controls the flow of air from the HVAC system according to the settings provided by the thermostat of the system via conventional means. The fresh air, now at the desired temperature, then passes to a series of supply ducts (110), which route the fresh air to all of the rooms of the building.
The series of supply ducts (110) are designed to supply fresh air to each room of the building, and room temperature stale air is continuously extracted from the kitchen, bathroom, and any other stale air area of the building. It is envisioned that the existing HVAC ducts may be employed to route the fresh air to the rooms.
After circulating within the building, the fresh air becomes stale air. Given that the air is now stale, it is advantageous to remove the potentially contaminated and stale air from the building. The dirtiest rooms of a building are known to be the bathrooms and kitchen. Therefore, the stale air is carried, via a vacuum, into a series of return air ducts (40) from the kitchen and bathrooms of the building. The stale air return ducts (40) are preferably the same size in diameter as the supply ducts (100), and are conventional pipes or ventilation ducts commonly found in a building. However, these ducts may need to be installed into the building or simply rerouted to be employed by the system of the present invention. The stale air is routed to the basement, where it is pumped into a geothermal air cavity established against the concrete walls and concrete floor of the basement. The geo-cavity (120) may be seen along the walls and along the floor in FIG. 1 & FIG. 2.