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Refrigerator vacuum storage system

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Refrigerator vacuum storage system


A vacuum storage system in a refrigerator includes a bin or drawer unit removably received in a housing. The vacuum storage system may be utilized in a storage configuration or in a vacuum sealing configuration to remove air from one or more food preservation containers having one-way evacuation valves. A switch on a control interface actuates a vacuum source and a front wall of the bin or drawer unit seals against the cabinet. Air is drawn from the storage space via a hose in communication with the vacuum source and air pressure within the storage space is reduced below atmospheric pressure, whereby air is simultaneously evacuated from the containers housed in the storage space. At a predetermined pressure, a control deactivates the vacuum source and an equalizing valve is opened to return the storage space to atmospheric pressure.

Browse recent Whirlpool Corporation patents - Benton Harbor, MI, US
Inventors: JOHN J. VONDERHAAR, DOUGLAS DAVID LECLEAR, PAUL B. ALLARD, KELLY M. HANSON, MICHELE E. WILCOX, ANDREW MICHAEL TENBARGE, KAREN J. QUERFURTH
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120326588 - Class: 312406 (USPTO) - 12/27/12 - Class 312 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120326588, Refrigerator vacuum storage system.

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application represents a continuation application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/026,870 entitled “Refrigerator Vacuum Storage System” filed Feb. 6, 2008, pending.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention pertains to the art of refrigerator preservation systems, and more specifically, to a vacuum storage system for domestic refrigerators.

2. Description of the Related Art

It is well known that exposure to oxygen over time promotes deterioration of food products. Therefore, packaging food in vacuum sealed containers aids in preserving food products and extending their shelf life.

Various vacuum preservations methods for foods have been developed, including numerous countertop evacuation appliances and vacuum-sealed refrigerated drawers. Counter top devices, such as Foodsaver® appliances, vacuum-seal thermoplastic bags or canisters; however, such devices must be stored in cabinets or on the counter top, taking up valuable counter or storage space. In addition, these devices must be plugged into an outlet for each use and may require multiple attempts to seal the bag or canister properly. Further, when a user wishes to remove food from a container, he/she is required to proceed with a number of cumbersome steps in order to reseal the container. Moreover, sealing wet or liquid foods within flexible bags can be difficult and messy.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,148,875 is directed to a refrigerator drawer for storing fruits and vegetables which plugs into a vacuum source in a refrigerator to evacuate air therefrom. The drawer contains a mechanism to release the pressure in order to open the drawer and retrieve the food. Notably, every time a user opens the drawer to retrieve food, the vacuum source must be re-activated in order to evacuate air from the drawer.

U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2006/0090427 is directed to a refrigerator including an integral vacuum sealer that connects to bags and containers via multiple hoses attached to a vacuum source inside the refrigerator. Multiple hoses within a refrigerator compartment are inconvenient and bulky. In addition, when a user desires to evacuate the air from multiple containers, he/she must plug a separate hose into each container before switching on a vacuum source. Furthermore, improper positioning of the hoses with the vacuum ports on the containers may result in little or no evacuation being achieved.

Based on the above, there remains a need in the art for a refrigerator vacuum sealing and storage assembly that permits the simultaneous evacuation of numerous containers without multiple connection steps, and that does not require activation of a vacuum source every time a user desires to remove food from the assembly.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a refrigerator vacuum storage system and method of use. The vacuum storage system includes a cabinet and a bin, such as a drawer unit, which is mounted in the cabinet to define a removable storage space for food products. An optional shelf having air flow apertures therein may be utilized to divide the storage space into separate storage compartments. The bin or drawer unit can be used to store food in a conventional manner, or may be utilized to remove air from containers to enhance food preservation within the containers. To this end, a vacuum source in a machine compartment of the refrigerator is placed in communication with the storage space. When desired, containers to be evacuated are placed into the storage space and the vacuum source is actuated via a control interface on the cabinet. Air pressure within the storage space is reduced, thereby evacuating air from within each of the containers. After a predetermined pressure is attained, or upon actuation of a stop switch, the vacuum source is shut off and an equalizing valve is opened which returns the storage space to atmospheric pressure, while vacuum conditions are retained in the containers.

With this system, a consumer is provided with a food storage bin or drawer that may be shifted between an extended or opened position and a retracted or closed position with ease, but which also may be utilized to simultaneously evacuate air from one or more containers, depending on a consumer\'s needs. Additional objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment when taken in conjunction with the drawings wherein like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts in the several views.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a side by side refrigerator showing the inside of a freezer compartment including a vacuum storage system of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the vacuum storage system of FIG. 1 with the bottom wall of the freezer compartment removed; and

FIG. 3 is a schematic depiction of the vacuum storage system of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

With initial reference to FIG. 1, a refrigerator is indicated at 2. Refrigerator 2 includes a cabinet 4 having a freezer compartment 6 and a fresh food compartment 8. In the embodiment shown, refrigerator 2 is constituted by a side-by-side refrigerator. However, as will become more fully evident below, the present invention is equally applicable to other types of refrigerators. As illustrated, freezer compartment 6 can be selectively accessed through a freezer door 10, while fresh food compartment 8 can be selectively accessed through a fresh food door 12. As is known in the art, freezer compartment 6 is defined in part by back wall 20, bottom wall 22 and opposing side walls 24 and 25. A set of rails 28 is provided on back wall 20 for supporting various, vertically spaced shelf units 32. Freezer door 10 also includes numerous bins 34 incorporated therein. In a manner known in the art, refrigerator 2 also includes a kick plate 36 arranged at a bottom portion thereof, in front of a machine compartment 38 for housing various components, such as a compressor and condenser, of a refrigeration system for the refrigerator in a manner known in the art.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120326588 A1
Publish Date
12/27/2012
Document #
13605221
File Date
09/06/2012
USPTO Class
312406
Other USPTO Classes
312408
International Class
/
Drawings
4



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