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Adjustable float tree

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Title: Adjustable float tree.
Abstract: An adjustable float tree which provides quick, easy, and precise placement and removal of floats or float switches within a liquid medium. The apparatus comprises a tree mount with a removable and easily positioned tree tube and a positioning mechanism communicating there between. Said tree tube slidably fits with said tree mount and allows the float cords to extend from said tree tube. The tree mount securely attaches with a supply or other type of pipe or structure with the tree tube precisely placing and positioning one or more floats. ...


- St. Louis, MO, US
Inventor: Walter L. Weber
USPTO Applicaton #: #20060272203 - Class: 047040500 (USPTO) -


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Related Patent Categories: Plant Husbandry, Tree Trunk Supporting Base With Liquid Reservoir
The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20060272203, Adjustable float tree.



[0001] This application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application #60/683,232, filed May 20.sup.th, 2005, entitled Adjustable Float Tree

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The art of the present invention relates to float switch positioning devices for septic pump tanks, wells, cisterns, sumps, industrial pits, and other liquid storage facilities in general and more particularly to an adjustable and removable float tree which allows for quick, convenient, and easy installation, removal, or adjustment with the aforesaid facilities. The device and method of use represents an improvement over the prior art, especially the prior art method which often requires manual tying of float cords to a supply pipe.

[0003] Within septic pump tanks, wells, cisterns, sumps, industrial pits, and other liquid storage facilities, submersible pumps are often suspended within a liquid, typically water, and connected via piping through the side walls or top of the aforesaid. Often a supply pipe is connected substantially vertically with said pump and then diverted (often substantially perpendicularly) through said side walls or top as an exiting or effluent pipe. In the aforesaid applications, it is desirable and often required to have fluid level, control, or alarm float switches (floats) placed at optimum locations to control the fluid level, controllers, or alarms within said facilities. The aforesaid floats are staples of the septic, well, sump, and liquid storage arts. Widely used embodiments are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,142,108 & 5,087,801 both entitled Sphere-actuated Float Switch issued to Johnston, et al., in 1992 and assigned to S. J. Electro Systems, Inc. of Detroit Lakes, Minn.

[0004] Each float contains a switch, typically mechanical or wetted mercury, which when allowed to float on the surface of a liquid makes a low resistance contact between the exiting wires contained within a float cord. That is, typically each conventional float represents a sealed cylinder which has two or more exiting wires, typically in the form of a cord, which are sealed at the exiting point of the cylinder. When the float is gravitationally suspended by said wires, the central axis of said cylinder is approximately parallel with the gravitational force. When suspended by the surface of a liquid, the central axis of said float tilts approximately perpendicular with said gravitational force. When tilted, the aforesaid mechanical or wetted mercury switches make said low resistance contact.

[0005] It is desirable to place one or more of said floats within said facilities at optimum locations in order to control minimum, maximum, or medial levels of the liquid within, or controller and alarm functions. Prior art techniques require a plumbing technician to lean into the liquid storage facility and physically tie the float cord wire to the supply pipe. This technique is fraught with undesirable placement, adjustability, functionality, and removal problems. That is, the technician must tie and hold the float at the same time, thereby limiting positional accuracy. The floats are then simply held by a tie to said supply pipe which, if due to moisture or other factors, said tie loosens, the float loses its pre-positioning. Also, float replacement pursuant to said prior art method requires said technician to lean into said liquid storage facility, cut the tie, remove the old float, and attempt to place a new float at an equivalent position without repeatable indicia. This prior art task is time consuming, inconvenient, and unrepeatable with any precision.

[0006] A prior art float tree apparatus is available from the Zoeller Company of Louisville, Ky., USA, with model numbers 10-1050, 10-1051, and 10-1052. This prior art is limited in its ability to hold onto a supply pipe, requires complete removal of all floats for any single float adjustment and further requires a plumbing technician to crawl or lean into the septic, sump, well, or facility for removal. The aforesaid limits the repeatability of placement precision available from the prior art. The present art in contrast, allows removal of the floats without a plumbing technician crawling or leaning into the septic, sump, well, or facility for removal and in a preferred embodiment allows for individual float adjustment without the aforesaid contortions. Also, the present art preferred and alternative embodiments assure precise relocation of any individual float when removed and replaced.

[0007] The present art adjustable float tree apparatus comprises a tree mount which easily, quickly and securely attaches to said supply pipe or other structure and one or more tree tubes which hold said floats via said float cord(s) and easily slip and position with said tree mount. That is, the present art apparatus repeatably positions with and is held by said tree mount. This present art apparatus provides a novel method of positioning floats which is as easy as sliding a tube within a bore. The present art further allows for convenient rotational positioning of floats relative to other floats or nearby supply pipes. No prior art apparatus or method provides this level of convenience in conjunction with the aforesaid precision and repeatability.

[0008] Accordingly, an object of the present invention is to provide an adjustable float tree apparatus and method of use which provides quick, easy, and precise placement and removal of floats or float switches within a liquid medium.

[0009] Another object of the invention is to provide an adjustable float tree apparatus and method of use which is capable of placing and positioning multiple floats.

[0010] A further object of the present invention is to provide an adjustable float tree apparatus and method of use which easily and securely attaches with any supply or other type of pipe or structure.

[0011] A still further object of the invention is to provide an adjustable float tree apparatus having a method of use which does not require a plumbing technician to crawl or extend into a septic tank, well, cistern, sump, industrial pit, and other liquid storage facility in order to adjust, replace, or remove the floats.

[0012] Another further object of the invention is to provide an adjustable float tree apparatus and method of use which provides independent adjustment or placement of the supported floats in an incremental or continuous fashion.

[0013] A yet further object of the invention is to provide an adjustable float tree apparatus and method of use which allows a single float to be replaced or repaired without affecting the positional placement of other floats supported by said tree.

[0014] A still further object of the invention is containment of the float cords within the float rod tubes whereby said float cords are prevented from self entanglement or entanglement with other float cords, floats, or other objects.

[0015] A still further object of the invention is the provision of a hook or arm for storage of excess float cord whereby the float and float cord removal is achieved without disconnection of said float cord from a junction box.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0016] To accomplish the foregoing and other objects of this invention there is provided an adjustable float tree apparatus and method of use for convenient, secure, and repeatable placement, repair, and removal of floats or float switches. The apparatus and method of use is especially suited for adjustable float placement within septic pump tanks, wells, cisterns, sumps, industrial pits, and other liquid storage facilities.

[0017] In its preferred form, the adjustable float tree is comprised of a tree mount and one or more tree tubes which insert into and are held by said mount. The tree mount is typically connected via a clamp, preferably a hose clamp, with a supply pipe which often is connected with a pump submerged within a liquid medium. The float switches are utilized to detect the position of the surface level of said liquid or operate controls and alarms. In a preferred embodiment, the tree mount is capable of securely attaching with pipes from 3/4 inch to two (2) inches in diameter and is also capable of connection with other stationary structures of approximately equivalent diameter or cross section. Alternative embodiments may utilize clamps or other structures to attach with any size pipe or structure.

[0018] The tree tubes, supported by said tree mount, each support one or more floats. In a preferred embodiment, said tree tubes provide approximately 24 inches of float height adjustment with alternative embodiments providing more or less as the application requires. Unique to the present art, once the tree mount is secured with its supporting structure, removal, placement, and positioning of the one or more tree tubes with attached floats is easily and quickly accomplished by hand without the use of specialty tools. Also unique to the present art is the shielding provided by said tree tubes. That is, said float cords preferably run through said tree tubes which provide protection to said electrical wires or float cords in often harsh environments. Furthermore, said tubes minimize the possibility of float or cord impingement, entanglement, or obstruction by self entanglement or other floats or cords.

[0019] In a preferred embodiment, each tree tube has one or more three to five inch grooves or retaining slots near the bottom portion for securing and adjusting the float cord(s). That is, typically the float cord threads through the hollow center of the tree tube and extends from said tube onto the surface of or into the liquid to be measured. During setup said cord is extended and pulled through said retaining slots and positioned into a retaining portion of said slot or cord aperture whereby it is secured. This allows a desired length of cord to extend from said tree tube and securely maintain said length without slippage and further provides accurate positioning of said cord or tether length to control float positioning accuracy.

[0020] Alternative embodiments may utilize retaining slots of varying lengths. Alternative embodiments of said tree tube typically contain longer retaining slots of narrower width and a plurality of cord apertures. In an alternative embodiment, a singe tree tube supports multiple floats and utilizes tree clamps, again typically hose clamps, to substantially close said slots when the cord length and float position are achieved and positioned within a cord aperture. That is, when the user places the float cord into a cord aperture of choice, he or she places a tree clamp around the tree tube to secure the cord into the aperture of choice.

[0021] In all embodiments, the tree tubes typically contain a tree arm near or at the top of each tree. This allows each tree tube to be adjusted with ease, both vertically and rotationally, and further provides a hanger for retention of a roll of excess float cord. In a preferred embodiment a tube cap having a crown with one or more positioning indents is mounted at the top of each tree in order to secure and position the exiting float cords. Also proximate the top of each alternative embodiment tree tube is an enlarged portion having an uppermost shoulder which seats with the tree mount circumference.

[0022] The preferred embodiment of the tree mount contains a positioning mechanism which retains each tree tube via one or more positioning slots within said tree tube. That is, the tree mount has one or more flexible retainers which allow each tree tube to slidably "snap" or position into place. Alternative embodiment tree mounts utilize a fixed positioning mechanism. That is, the aforesaid enlarged portion shoulder gravitationally seats onto a smaller diameter portion of the tree mount circumference surrounding the mount bore. All embodiments of the tree mount have a mount slot in a front side which allows threading of the float cords during placement of said tree tubes without removal of the floats or other cord connections.

[0023] Although preferably manufactured from a polyvinylchloride (PVC) material, the apparatus may be manufactured from a variety of materials, including but not limited to woods, metals, composites, metals and alloys thereof, or ceramics without departing from the scope and spirit herein intended. Said manufacturing includes but is not limited to fabrication from stock tubular or round stock materials and associated fittings, molding, machining, casting, forging, pressing, laminating, carving, or utilization of stereo-lithographic or electro-dynamic milling techniques.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0024] Numerous other objects, features and advantages of the invention should now become apparent upon a reading of the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0025] FIG. 1 is a right plan view of a preferred embodiment of the adjustable float tree shown in an assembled form.

[0026] FIG. 2 is a right plan view of a preferred embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0027] FIG. 3 is a front plan view of a preferred embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0028] FIG. 4 is a rear plan view of a preferred embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0029] FIG. 5 is a left plan view of a preferred embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0030] FIG. 6 is a front plan view of a preferred embodiment of the adjustable float tree shown in an assembled form.

[0031] FIG. 7 is an enlarged view of the preferred embodiment of the positioning mechanism assembled with tree tubes and defined in FIG. 6 as enlargement 7-7.

[0032] FIG. 8 is a right plan view of an alternative embodiment of the adjustable float tree shown in an assembled form.

[0033] FIG. 9 is a right plan view of an alternative embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0034] FIG. 10 is a front plan view of a an alternative embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0035] FIG. 11 is a rear plan view of an alternative embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0036] FIG. 12 is a left plan view of an alternative embodiment of a tree tube of the adjustable float tree.

[0037] FIG. 13 is a front plan view of an alternative embodiment of the adjustable float tree shown in an assembled form.

[0038] FIG. 14 is a cross sectional view of a septic tank showing a typical installation of a preferred embodiment.

[0039] FIG. 15 is a cross sectional view of a septic tank showing a typical installation of an alternative embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0040] Referring now to the drawings, there is shown in FIGS. 1-7 & 14 a preferred embodiment of an adjustable float tree 10 and in FIGS. 8-13 & 15 an alternative embodiment of an adjustable float tree 10. The apparatus 10 is particularly adapted for quick, convenient, secure, and repeatable positioning, adjustment, and removal or replacement of float switches 68, especially within septic pump tanks, wells, cisterns, sumps, industrial pits, and other liquid storage facilities. In many applications, the present art 10 is utilized in conjunction with and attached to a supply pipe 72 which is typically fed via a submerged pump 74 within a liquid, the surface level of which is to be measured and controlled by said floats 68.

[0041] The present invention 10 comprises a tree mount 12 and one or more tree tubes 42, each having associated components and features. Unlike the prior art, the present art 10 mount 12 and tube(s) 42 combination is easily installed and removed and assures that float 68 positional placement is maintained even when one or more floats 68 are adjusted, replaced, or removed

[0042] The tree mount 12 comprises a front side 28, a rear side 14, an interior 30 and an exterior circumference 22. In the preferred embodiment, the tree mount is formed from a section of pipe or tubing and said exterior circumference 22 is approximately of circular shape. Said exterior circumference 22 may take any shape in alternative embodiments including but not limited to elliptical, rectangular, triangular, or any other substantially polygonal form or piecewise assembly thereof. Said rear side 14 of said tree mount 12 has an approximately concave portion 15 and a clamp 16 which mates and securely attaches respectively with a supply pipe 72 or other structure in order to create a fixed placement.

[0043] Typically said clamp 16 comprises a conventional hose clamp connected with said tree mount 12 whereby said mount 12 may be forcibly held with and against said supply pipe 72. Alternative embodiments may utilize clamps 16 or attachments of any form provided said tree mount 12 is securely held with said supply pipe 72 or other structure. Said attachments may take the form of screws, pins, welds, adhesives, interlocking mates, or any other structure provided again said tree mount 12 is securely held. In the preferred and alternative embodiments shown in the Figures, said clamp 16 is connected with said tree mount 12 via an attachment bolt 18 through said tree mount 12, said bolt secured with an attachment nut 20. That is the clamp 16 compressively holds said tree mount 12 to said supply pipe 72 or other structure via the force placed between said attachment bolt and said supply pipe 72 or other structure.

[0044] All embodiments of the present invention 10 have a mount slot 24 which communicates with a mount bore 26 within said tree mount 12. Within the preferred embodiment, said slot(s) 24 is within the exterior circumference 22. Alternative embodiments may placed said slot(s) 24 in a plurality of locations including but not limited to said front side 28. This allows for float cord 70 threading through said tree mount 12 without disconnecting or removing said floats 68 or re-running the electrical float cord(s) 70 of said floats 68 through said tree tubes 42. Within the preferred embodiment, said mount slots 24 are typically of smaller width since the tree tube 42 is not required to pass through said slot 24 during installation and removal of said tube 42. That is, in the preferred embodiment the tree tube 42 is sized whereby it is typically fed from the top of tree mount 12 through a mount bore 26 and only the one or more float cords 70 need pass through the slot 24. Within the alternative embodiment shown in the Figures, the cross section of the tree tube 42 but not the enlarged portion 44 must pass through said slot 24 for proper seating, mounting, and assembly within said mount bore 26. That is, the enlarged portion 44 is sized to fit with or within the mount bore 26 but not fit through said slot 24.

[0045] Within all embodiments, the interior 30 of said tree mount 12 contains a positioning mechanism 32 for secure and repeated mounting of said tree tube(s) 42. That is, said positioning mechanism 32 holds said tree tube 42 with said tree mount 12. Unique to the preferred embodiment, is a flexible retainer 40 mounted with said tree mount 12 and which allows one or more positioning slots 46 within the tree tubes 42 to slidably interlock with said tree mount 12. That is, the tree tube 42 slides within said mount bore 26 and flexes said flexible retainer 40 as each positioning slot 46 moves past the flexible retainer 40. The flexible retainer 40 creates a "snapping" sound in order to audibly indicate when the user passes through another positioning slot 46. When the user achieves a desired depth placement of each tree tube 42, the flexible retainer 40 engages with a positioning slot 46 and holds the tree tube 42 in place. In the preferred embodiment, said flexible retainer 40 is held interior 30 by one or more retainer bolts 36 or retainers and interposed and positioned on the shaft of said retainer bolt 36 between a spacer sleeve 34 and a retainer nut 38. That is, said retainer bolt 36 or retainer preferably communicates from said exterior 22 into said interior 30 and said spacer 34 is between said flexible retainer 40 and said interior 30 to hold said flexible retainer 40. The preferred embodiment may utilize a plurality of methods for mounting said flexible retainer 40 without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. These include but are not limited to integral molding with said tree mount 12, attachment via pins, screws, welds, or adhesives, or utilization of staple retainer mechanisms.

[0046] The alternative embodiment as shown within the Figures utilizes a mount seat 41 on said circumference 22 of said tree mount 12 onto which a shoulder 45 at or near said top portion 54 near the enlarged portion 44 of said tree tube 42 seats. That is, the mount bore 26 within said tree mount 12 is of a smaller or reduced diameter or cross section than said shoulder 45 and seat 41 whereby said shoulder 45 may not slide there through. Even though the remaining portion of said tree tube 42 may slide through said mount bore 26 and slot 24, the enlarged portion 44 is retained within said mount bore 26 due to its larger diameter. That is, said enlarged portion 44 is of greater width or diameter than said mount slot 24 but of a lesser width or diameter than said mount bore 26. Alternative embodiments may place said mount seat 41 interior 30 or exterior 22 to said tree mount 12. Unlike the preferred embodiment, the alternative embodiment within the Figures provides a fixed tree tube 42 position and requires the user to move the float cords 70 within the retaining slots 50 for height or level adjustment. The preferred embodiment provides height or level adjustment by simply moving the tree tube 42 within said mount bore 26 and allowing the flexible retainer 40 to engage.

[0047] The tree tube 42, in all embodiments, comprises a substantially tubular structure having a top portion 54 and a bottom portion 48, one or more cord retaining slots 50, and preferably one or more cord apertures 52. In a preferred embodiment, said retaining slots 50 are positioned, incorporated, or attached substantially near or at said bottom portion 48. Said tubular structure interior is of sufficient diameter to accommodate the float cords 70. Preferably all embodiments have a tree arm 62 on said tree tube 42 proximately near or at said top portion 54 in order to facilitate vertical and rotational placement of said float(s) 68 and further provide a hangar for the length of excess cord 70. Once the float cord(s) 70 is fed through the tree tube 42 whereby the cord(s) 70 extends from the top portion 54, the cord 70 with said attached float(s) 68 may be positioned and moved within said slots 50. The preferred embodiment tree tube 42 does not utilize a tree clamp 66 surrounding said slot(s) 50 but instead, due to the limited run length of said slot 50, relies upon the elastic nature of the tubular structure and the compressibility of the float cord 70 to retain said float cord 70. The alternative embodiments shown in the Figures have substantially longer slot 50 run lengths and utilize one or more tree clamps 66 around said tree tube 42 to ensure retention of said float cord(s) 70 within the cord apertures 52. The cord apertures 52 assure precision retention of said cord 70 and attached float 68 with said tree tube 42.

[0048] At or near the top portion 54 of the tree tube 42 is a tube cap 56 having a crown 58 with one or more positioning indents 60 for cord 70 positioning and retention. That is, the indent 60 further secures the cord 70 when the cord 70 is placed there between. Since the cord(s) 70 preferably extend from the top portion 54 and are thereafter routed to the appropriate pump controllers, junction boxes, or exit points, it is desirable to also have multiple indents whereby the cords 70 may be routed in different directions to avoid entanglements.

[0049] As aforesaid, within the preferred embodiment of the tree tube 42 are one or more positioning slots 46. Typically said slots 46 are machined indentations within said tree tube 42 but may also be formed via raised extensions on said tree tube 42, provided said slots may engage said flexible retainer 40 in order to hold and position said tree tube 42. Said slots 46, not only provide vertically positioning, but also limit the rotational movement of each tree tube 42 when engaged with the flexible retainer 40. When rotation movement is limited, the exiting cords 70 are less likely to entangle or engage other objects or floats 68. The alternative embodiment as shown in the Figures has an enlarged portion 44 of greater width or diameter than said mount slot 24 near the top portion of the tree tube 42 with a shoulder 45 which seats with a portion of the tree mount 12 circumference 22 near said mount bore 26. Although not as easily adjustable as the preferred embodiment, the alternative embodiment shown provides repeatable positioning and easy removability of said floats 68 and as with the preferred embodiment, does not require disconnection of the float cord 70 or floats 68 therefor.

[0050] In operation, the user, typically a plumbing technician, mounts the tree mount 12 at a desired location on a supply pipe 72 or equivalent structure via said clamp 16. The user then feeds one or more float cords 70 from the bottom portion 48 of said tree tube 42, through said tree tube 42, and out of said top portion 54. If equipped, excess float cord 70 is bundled around said tree arm 62. It is desirable to provide said excess cord 70 whereby cord 70 disconnection is avoided during tree tube 42 removal due to the displacement of said tree tube 42. The user then extends a desired length of float cord 70 and engages said float cord 70 with said retaining slot 50. The user then moves said cord 70 within said slot 50 to an aperture 52 within said slot 50, if the slot 50 is equipped with an aperture 52. In the preferred embodiment, the cord 70 is retained as aforesaid within said aperture 52. The aforesaid is repeated for every float 68 mated with a tree tube 42. The alternative embodiment shown requires placement of one or more tree clamps 66 around said tree tube 42 to secure said cord(s) 70 within said aperture(s) 52.

[0051] Once the float cords 70 are retained, the float cord(s) 70 between said float(s) 68 and said tree tube 42 is threaded through said tree mount slot(s) 24. The tree tube(s) are then placed within the desired mount bore 26 and lowered into the septic pump tank, well, cistern, sump, industrial pit, or other liquid storage facility to a desired depth. The preferred embodiment tree tube 42 snaps or clicks into position as the positioning slots 46 pass and are engaged by the flexible retainer 40. The alternative embodiment tree tube 42 engages said shoulder 45 near said enlarged portion 44 in order to position and secure said tree tube 42 within said bore 26. The user then connects the extending wire cords to a controller or junction box for proper pump, control, or alarm functions.

[0052] If the user desires to repair or replace any one or said floats 68, he or she pulls the tree tube holding said float 68 from the mount bore 26 and performs the specified maintenance. No specialty tools, cutting, or contortions are required. Upon completion, the user simply repeats the aforesaid installation method and precisely places the repaired or replaced float 68 at the prior location.

[0053] For the preferred embodiment, if the user desires to adjust the position of one or more floats 68, the user simply moves the tree tube 42 holding said float vertically or horizontally and allows it to "snap" into place. For the alternative embodiment shown, the user first removes the tree tube 42, loosens or removes one or more of the tree clamps 66, and then moves the float 68 and cord 70 to a desired location within said retaining slot 50. Again, the user then repeats the aforesaid installation method.

[0054] Those skilled in the art will appreciate that an adjustable float tree 10 apparatus and method of use has been shown and described and that said present art is capable of quick, easy, and repeatable positioning of floats within a medium. The apparatus and method of use fulfill a long felt but yet unfilled need within the arts described herein. The present art apparatus and its method of use provide a desired solution to the prior art float switch positioning, replacement, repair, and adjustability limitations.

[0055] Having described the invention in detail, those skilled in the art will appreciate that modifications may be made to the invention and its method of use without departing from the spirit herein identified. Therefore, it is not intended that the scope of the invention be limited to the specific embodiments illustrated and described. Rather, it is intended that the scope of this invention be determined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20060272203 A1
Publish Date
12/07/2006
Document #
File Date
10/24/2014
USPTO Class
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
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Drawings
0



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