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Ice rink chilling unit, ice rink with chilling unit, and a method of chilling an ice rink

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Title: Ice rink chilling unit, ice rink with chilling unit, and a method of chilling an ice rink.
Abstract: An ice rink chilling unit includes a heat extraction subassembly, a refrigeration subassembly, a stand-alone enclosure, and a single-phase AC electrical connector. The extraction subassembly includes quick-connect couplings removably connecting with rink piping to form a secondary closed loop. The refrigeration subassembly defines a primary closed loop engaging the extraction subassembly in heat exchanging relation. The enclosure encapsulates the refrigeration and extraction subassemblies. The quick-connect couplings extend outside of the enclosure. The extraction and refrigeration subassemblies are pre-wired and pre-plumbed inside of the enclosure. The electrical connector is accessible from outside the enclosure and connects the extraction and refrigeration subassemblies to the electrical source in single-phase AC relation. Coolant fluid circulates through the secondary closed loop, and refrigerant fluid circulates through the primary closed loop. The extraction subassembly extracts heat from the rink piping, and transfers heat to the primary closed loop. ...


- Toronto, ON, CA
Inventor: Brendan J. LENKO
USPTO Applicaton #: #20070125108 - Class: 062235000 (USPTO) -


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Related Patent Categories: Refrigeration, Rink
The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20070125108, Ice rink chilling unit, ice rink with chilling unit, and a method of chilling an ice rink.



FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to a refrigeration system for creating and maintaining an ice rink surface and, in particular, to a complete standalone module refrigeration system for installation and use by residential consumers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] To meet demand and allow for year-round use and use in unsuitable climates, refrigeration systems for creating and maintaining ("chilling") ice rink surfaces have been developed. The development of these refrigeration systems has involved improvements in ice rink construction, as well as improvements in heat exchange fluid flow systems. An initial form of the refrigeration system, as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 3,485,057 to Etter et al., circulates chilled liquid refrigerant through heat exchange pipes located directly in the area being refrigerated.

[0003] The prior art also includes portable systems for creating and maintaining ice surfaces. However, such prior art systems have been inherently complex such as that in U.S. Pat. No. Re 29,438 to MacCracken et al. which requires the use of multiple interconnected mats of small diameter flexible plastic tubes that must be placed close to one another, with this close arrangement required to provide quality ice surfaces and cooling results.

[0004] Alternative ice rink chillers found in the prior art include those suitable for placement immediately adjacent to the edge of an ice rink, as shown in Canadian Patent No. 1,051,209 to Williams. Although such systems locate the refrigeration unit and the chiller tank alongside one another, they are bulky and also require the services of a skilled professional for installation, necessarily involving inordinate time and cost.

[0005] As a result, all of these systems have been suitable only for large scale commercial installations, especially when adding in the additional requirements for indoor ice rink facilities such as cooling systems, thermal storage reservoirs and dehumidification systems.

[0006] These commercial grade ice rink systems of the types aforesaid utilize heavy duty compressors, fans and pumps, requiring three phase electrical power supply connections. This requirement creates a problem in that these systems are therefore not suitable for use in areas where three phase electrical power is not available, such as in private residences, where typically only single phase power supplies are available. Accordingly, end consumers desiring to install quality, commercial grade ice rink systems in their backyards have, therefore, first had to expend significant time and cost to convert their homes' single phase electrical power supply to a three phase electrical power supply. This conversion can create problems with existing electrical equipment and wiring in the home, as well as significantly increasing the time and costs associated with installing the ice rink by requiring the components of such prior art large scale commercial systems brought to their homes.

[0007] Another problem with prior art commercial grade systems is that, because the various components of the refrigeration system have been located outside of the heat-exchange/refrigeration module (possibly even with the heat exchange unit located in its own separate housing), home consumers have heretofore been required to retain, at their own cost, highly skilled professional specialists familiar with the relevant technology, such as electricians, plumbers or steamfitters, to install and connect the various components of these systems to one another, so as to ensure safe installation, operation and maintenance. Typically, end consumers have been further burdened by legal requirements of their respective jurisdictions to have safety inspections performed by the relevant government body before such prior art systems could be put into regular use.

[0008] Thus, various methods and systems exist for creating and maintaining frozen ice skating rink surfaces. It is evident, however, that many such systems are directed to heavy-duty, large scale commercial installations, such that they relate, generally, to improvements for cooling systems for indoor ice rink facilities, thermal storage reservoirs for ice rinks, and improved cooling and dehumidification systems for indoor ice rink facilities. Very few systems are directed to smaller scale, ice-making facilities suitable for installation and use by residential consumers in backyards rinks. Thus, there remains a need for a residential ice skating rink system that an average "handyman" consumer could install and maintain in his backyard without the need for professional installers.

[0009] There is a need for a self-contained refrigeration system for ice rinks that can be used by smaller scale, ice-making facilities, and that is suitable for installation and use by non-industrial consumers. There is a particular need for a system adapted for use in residential environments where only single phase electrical connections are available and that dispenses with the need to have a professional electrician, plumber or steamfitter install the system.

[0010] The present invention addresses these and other problems and shortcomings associated with the prior art by providing an ice rink refrigeration unit or "chiller": (a) that is relatively simple to install, even for non-professionals; (b) that is quickly and easily connectable; (c) that encapsulates the expansion tank, coolant pump, heat exchanger, compressor, expansion valve, heat exchanging coils and cooling fans, in addition to any other components, all pre-wired and pre-plumbed within a single self-contained standalone module; (d) that is more compact and less unsightly in a residential environment than prior art equipment; (e) that is designed for use with standard single phase electrical connections and power supply, dispensing with the need to have an electrician to convert electrical capabilities in a residential home from a single phase to a three phase electrical power source; and (f) that dispenses with the need to have a plumber or steamfitter to complete, on-site, the interconnection of the system components to one another and to an ice rink

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] In accordance with the present invention there is disclosed an ice rink chilling unit for use with heat-conductive rink piping, a coolant fluid, and a single-phase AC electrical source. According to the invention, the ice rink chilling unit includes a heat extraction subassembly, a refrigeration subassembly, a stand-alone enclosure, and a single-phase AC electrical connector. According to the invention, the heat extraction subassembly includes quick-connect couplings to operatively and removably connect with the rink piping so as to form a secondary closed loop. The refrigeration subassembly includes a refrigerant fluid and a primary closed loop that operatively engages the extraction subassembly in heat exchanging relation. According to the invention, the stand-alone enclosure substantially encapsulates the refrigeration subassembly and the extraction subassembly. According to the invention, the quick-connect couplings extend outside of the enclosure. According to the invention, each of the extraction subassembly and the refrigeration subassembly is substantially pre-wired and pre-plumbed inside of the enclosure. According to the invention, the single-phase AC electrical connector is accessible from outside of the enclosure and adapted to operatively connect, in single-phase AC electrical relation, each of the extraction subassembly and the refrigeration subassembly to the electrical source. The coolant fluid is circulated through the secondary closed loop and the refrigerant fluid is operatively circulated through the primary closed loop. The coolant fluid within the extraction subassembly operatively transfers heat to the refrigerant fluid within the primary closed loop, so as to enable operative extraction of heat from substantially adjacent to the rink piping.

[0012] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the enclosure may preferably, but need not necessarily, include one or more selectively openable panels. Preferably, but not necessarily, the panels permit ready access to the refrigeration subassembly and the extraction subassembly, pre-wired and pre-plumbed as aforesaid, within the enclosure.

[0013] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the quick-connect couplings may preferably, but need not necessarily, include a supply quick-connect coupling and a return quick-connect coupling.

[0014] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the extraction subassembly may preferably, but need not necessarily, additionally include a pump, coolant "T"-fitting, and/or coolant heat exchanging piping. The pump may preferably, but need not necessarily, be positioned downstream of the return quick-connect coupling--preferably, but not necessarily, to circulate the coolant fluid through the secondary closed loop. The coolant "T"-fitting may preferably, but need not necessarily, be substantially interposed between the pump and the return quick-connect coupling. As such, excess quantities of the coolant fluid may preferably, but need not necessarily, be operatively diverted through the coolant "T"-fitting to an expansion tank. The coolant heat exchanging piping may preferably, but need not necessarily, be positioned downstream of the pump and may preferably, but need not necessarily, operatively engage the primary closed loop in the aforesaid heat exchanging relation. Preferably, but not necessarily, the supply quick-connect coupling may be positioned downstream of the heat exchanging piping. The pump may preferably, but need not necessarily, be connected, in single-phase electrical relation, to the electrical connector.

[0015] According to a further aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the expansion tank may preferably, but need not necessarily, be positioned within the enclosure at a height that is substantially above the coolant "T"-fitting.

[0016] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the refrigerant system may preferably, but need not necessarily, also include a cooling condenser fan.

[0017] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the primary closed loop may preferably, but need not necessarily, include a first section of refrigerant heat exchanging piping, a compressor, a suction line, a second section of refrigerant heat exchanging piping, and/or a refrigerant expansion valve. The first section of refrigerant heat exchanging piping may preferably, but need not necessarily, operatively engage the extraction subassembly in the aforesaid heat exchanging relation. The compressor may preferably, but need not necessarily, be positioned downstream of the first section. The suction line may preferably, but need not necessarily, be substantially interposed between the first section and the compressor. The second section of refrigerant heat exchanging piping may preferably, but need not necessarily, be positioned downstream of the compressor and may preferably, but need not necessarily, be substantially adjacent to the fan. As such, operative rotation of the fan may preferably, but need not necessarily, draw air across and extract heat from the refrigerant within the second section. The refrigerant expansion valve may preferably, but need not necessarily, reduce pressure on the refrigerant downstream of the second section. Each of the compressor and the fan may preferably, but need not necessarily, be connected, in single-phase electrical relation, to the electrical connector.

[0018] In accordance with the present invention there is additionally disclosed an ice rink chilling apparatus for use with a single-phase AC electrical source. According to the invention, the ice rink chilling apparatus includes a heat extraction assembly, a refrigeration subassembly, a stand-alone enclosure, and a single-phase AC electrical connector. The heat extraction assembly includes a coolant fluid, an encapsulated extraction subassembly, heat-conductive rink piping, and quick-connect couplings. According to the invention, the quick-connect couplings are connected to the extraction subassembly and removably connected to the rink piping so as to form a secondary closed loop. The refrigeration subassembly includes a refrigerant fluid and a primary closed loop that operatively engages the extraction subassembly in heat exchanging relation. According to the invention, the stand-alone enclosure substantially encapsulates the refrigeration subassembly and the extraction subassembly. According to the invention, the quick-connect couplings extend outside of the enclosure. According to the invention, each of the refrigeration subassembly and the extraction subassembly is substantially pre-wired and pre-plumbed inside of the enclosure. According to the invention, the single-phase AC electrical connector is accessible from outside of the enclosure and adapted to operatively connect, in single-phase AC electrical relation, each of the refrigeration subassembly and the extraction subassembly to the electrical source. The coolant fluid is circulated through the secondary closed loop, and the refrigerant fluid is circulated through the primary closed loop. The coolant fluid within the extraction subassembly operatively transfers heat to the refrigerant fluid within the primary closed loop, so as to enable operative extraction of heat from substantially adjacent to the rink piping.

[0019] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the rink piping may preferably, but need not necessarily, include a plurality of elongate and closely spaced pipe sections. The pipe sections may preferably, but need not necessarily, be joined together at respective ends thereof by "U"-shaped bends. The joined together pipe sections may preferably, but need not necessarily, form a single substantially continuous length of piping. Each of the pipe sections may preferably, but need not necessarily, rest on chair supporting members. The plurality may preferably, but need not necessarily, be together selectively rollable from an operative configuration to a rolled and readily movable configuration.

[0020] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, each of the pipe sections may preferably, but need not necessarily, be pre-formed from a plastic material that is heat-conductive and/or UV stabilized.

[0021] In accordance with the present invention there is also disclosed a method of chilling an ice rink. The method includes a first step of providing heat-conductive rink piping, a coolant fluid, and a single-phase AC electrical source. According to the invention, the method also includes a second step of providing an ice rink chilling unit. According to the invention, the ice rink chilling unit includes a heat extraction subassembly, a refrigeration subassembly, a stand-alone enclosure, and a single-phase AC electrical connector. The heat extraction subassembly includes quick-connect couplings. The refrigeration subassembly includes a refrigerant fluid and a primary closed loop that operatively engages the extraction subassembly in heat exchanging relation. The stand-alone enclosure substantially encapsulates the refrigeration subassembly and the extraction subassembly. The quick-connect couplings extend outside of the enclosure. Each of the extraction subassembly and the refrigeration subassembly is substantially pre-wired and pre-plumbed inside of the enclosure. The single-phase AC electrical connector is accessible from outside of the enclosure. According to the invention, the method also includes a third step of operatively and removably connecting the quick-connect coupling to the rink piping so as to form a secondary closed loop. According to the invention, the method also includes a fourth step of operatively connecting, in single-phase AC electrical relation, each of the extraction subassembly and the refrigeration subassembly to the electrical source. The method also includes a fifth step of circulating the coolant fluid through the secondary closed loop and circulating the refrigerant fluid through the primary closed loop. As such, according to the method, the coolant fluid within the extraction subassembly operatively transfers heat to the refrigerant fluid within the primary closed loop, so as to extract heat from substantially adjacent to the rink piping.

[0022] According to an aspect of one preferred embodiment of the invention, the rink piping comprises chair supporting members and a plurality of elongate and closely spaced pipe sections. According to the invention, the method also includes an additional step, before the second step, of rolling the rink piping from a rolled and readily movable configuration to an operative configuration, whereat the pipe sections rest on the chair supporting members.

[0023] It is thus an object of this invention to obviate or mitigate at least one of the above mentioned disadvantages of the prior art.

[0024] Other advantages, features and characteristics of the present invention, as well as methods of operation and functions of the related elements of the structure, and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become more apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description and the appended claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, the latter of which is briefly described hereinbelow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0025] The novel features which are believed to be characteristic of the present invention, as to its structure, organization, use and method of operation, together with further objectives and advantages thereof, will be better understood from the following drawings in which a presently preferred embodiment of the invention will now be illustrated by way of example. It is expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for the purpose of illustration and description only, and are not intended as a definition of the limits of the invention. In the accompanying drawings:

[0026] FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a prior art ice rink chilling apparatus having disparate components located remotely of one another;

[0027] FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an ice rink chilling unit according to the present invention, shown in use with a single-phase AC electrical source and rink piping;

[0028] FIG. 3 is a rear top right perspective view of the ice rink chilling unit of FIG. 2;

[0029] FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of the ice rink chilling apparatus according to the present invention, showing rink piping thereof in a partially unrolled configuration; and

[0030] FIG. 5 is a top front perspective view of the rink piping of FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0031] Referring now to FIG. 1 of the drawings, there is shown a prior art ice rink chilling apparatus 20' having disparate components located remotely from one another. The FIG. 1 system comprises a closed coolant loop 58 ("the Secondary Circuit") which extracts heat from the ice pad of an ice rink. The FIG. 1 system also comprises a closed refrigerant loop 68 ("the Primary Circuit") which accepts heat from the Secondary Circuit and transfers the heat out to the ambient atmosphere. The FIG. 1 system also includes a heat exchange unit 76 which facilitates the transfer of heat between the Secondary and Primary Circuits.

[0032] In the FIG. 1 system, the Secondary Circuit 58 comprises: [0033] i. a coolant liquid, such as glycol; [0034] ii. a pump 46 to circulate the coolant liquid throughout Secondary Circuit 58; [0035] iii. rink piping 24 under the surface of the ice pad, through which the coolant liquid passes to draw heat from the pad; [0036] iv. a T-valve 48 that diverts excess coolant liquid to an expansion tank 50; and [0037] v. heat exchange piping 54 which physically contacts the Primary Circuit 68 in the heat exchange unit 76 (which has a counter flow in separate piping), to pass heat from the Secondary Circuit to the Primary Circuit.

[0038] In the FIG. 1 system, the Primary Circuit 68 comprises: [0039] i. a compressor 62 that compresses a conventional refrigerant gas under extreme pressure, thereby significantly raising its temperature; [0040] ii. heat-exchanging coils 70 that allow the refrigerant to significantly dissipate heat with the assistance of fan (not shown), which fan directs an upward cooling air flow (see arrow "E"in FIG. 1) across the coils 70; [0041] iii. an expansion valve 72 that reduces pressure on the cooled refrigerant liquid, causing it to reach or nearly reach its boiling point and create a refrigerating effect; [0042] iv. a suction line 64 which pulls the refrigerant from the expansion valve 72 through the heat exchanger 76 and back to the compressor 62 in close contacting relation with the counter-flowing heat exchange piping 54 of the Secondary Circuit. This action draws heat from the Secondary Circuit, causing the refrigerant gas in the Primary Circuit to fully vaporize as it absorbs the heat from the coolant in the Secondary Circuit. The cycle of the Primary Circuit repeats itself at the compressor 62.

[0043] FIG. 1 ice rink systems utilize heavy duty compressors 62, fan (not shown) and pumps 46 that require a three-phase electrical power source connection 12. As can be seen in FIG. 1, the pump 46 and expansion tank 50 in such systems are located outside of the heat-exchange/refrigeration module 76, and in some cases, the heat exchange unit 76 may also be in its own separate housing.

[0044] To recapitulate, in FIG. 1, there is shown a schematic diagram of an extended ice rink chilling apparatus 20' which, according to the prior art, has widely disparate components located remotely of one another. In FIG. 1, the chilling apparatus 20' is additionally shown, in use, connected by wiring 14 to a heavy duty three-phase electrical source 12 according to the prior art.

[0045] The prior art ice rink chilling apparatus 20' shown in FIG. 1 includes a coolant fluid (not shown) and heat-conductive rink piping 24. The rink piping 24 includes, among other things, a supply rink header 26 and a return rink header 28. The rink piping 24--together with substantially exposed heat exchanging piping 54, a "T"-fitting 48, a pedestal expansion tank 50, and a pump 46--forms a secondary closed loop 58.

[0046] The prior art ice rink chilling apparatus 20' shown in FIG. 1 also includes a refrigerant fluid (not shown) and a primary closed loop 68. The primary closed loop 68 includes a suction line 64 and a rudimentary heat exchanging subassembly 76, whereto heat may heretofore have been transferred from the heat exchanging piping 54. The primary closed loop 68 shown in FIG. 1 also includes a compressor 62, two ambient sections 70 of refrigerant heat exchanging piping, and a refrigerant expansion valve 72.

[0047] In the prior art, generally speaking, coolant fluid from the return rink header 28 flows in a downstream direction (as indicated generally by arrow "A") towards the "T"-fitting 48. Later, coolant fluid is pumped further downstream (in a direction indicated generally by arrow "B"). Air passing over the ambient sections 70 is exhausted (in a direction indicated generally by arrow "E") to remove heat from the refrigerant fluid. Thereafter, coolant fluid returns (in a direction indicated generally by arrow "G") to the supply rink header 26.

[0048] Notably, notwithstanding the other problems with the prior art which are discussed in greater detail elsewhere herein, most of the components of the secondary closed loop 58 are substantially exposed to the ambient temperature, and all are located substantially remotely of one another. In addition, the aforesaid components of the secondary closed loop 58 have heretofore typically required the services of a pipe or steam fitter to properly assemble them together.

[0049] Now, with reference to FIGS. 2 through 5, there is shown an ice rink chilling apparatus 20 according to the present invention--which may be elsewhere herein defined in the alternately preferred form of an ice rink chilling unit 40 (with the two terms hereinafter being used, mutatis mutandis, interchangeably) according to the present invention--for use with a single-phase AC electrical source 10. The ice rink chilling apparatus 20, includes a heat extraction assembly 22, a refrigeration subassembly 60, a stand-alone enclosure 80, and a single-phase AC electrical connector 82.

[0050] In FIGS. 2 through 5, and in the following description of the ice rink chilling apparatus 20 and the ice rink chilling unit 40 according to the present invention, the same reference numerals have been used, where possible, to indicate various components and directions which are similar, and/or which may be somewhat analogous to a lesser or greater extent, to those present in the prior art apparatus 20' (which is described hereinabove with reference to FIG. 1).

[0051] Now, therefore, the heat extraction assembly 22 according to the present invention includes a coolant fluid (not shown), heat-conductive rink piping 24, an encapsulated heat extraction subassembly 42, and quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b. In perhaps the simplest preferred embodiment, however, and as best seen in FIGS. 2 and 3, the heat extraction subassembly 42 and the quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b according to the invention may be provided without, but still for use in association with, the heat-conductive rink piping 24 and the coolant fluid (not shown)--which latter two components may instead be provided as part of a larger ice rink structure (which is best seen in FIG. 4), and/or apart from the invention.

[0052] The rink piping 24 preferably includes a plurality of elongate and closely spaced pipe sections 34. The pipe sections 34 are preferably pre-formed from a plastic material that is heat-conductive and/or UV stabilized. As best seen in FIG. 2, the pipe sections 34 are preferably joined together at respective ends 36 thereof by "U"-shaped bends 37, such that the joined together pipe sections 34 form one or more substantially continuous length(s) of piping.

[0053] As best seen in FIG. 5, each of the pipe sections 34 preferably rests on chair supporting members 38. Together, the plurality of pipe sections 34 is selectively rollable from an operative configuration (best seen in FIGS. 2 and 4) to a rolled and readily movable configuration (best seen in FIGS. 4 and 5).

[0054] It should be additionally noted that the heat extraction subassembly 42 may include the quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b as a part thereof--a part which operatively and removably connects with the rink piping 24 through hose mains 30, so as to form a secondary closed loop 58. Alternately, and as mentioned hereinabove, the quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b may be provided discretely of the heat extraction subassembly 42, whilst being connected to the extraction subassembly 42 and removably connected to the rink piping 24 through the hose mains 30, so as to form the secondary closed loop 58.

[0055] In either event, the quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b preferably include a supply quick-connect coupling 44a and a return quick-connect coupling 44b. Alternately, however, it is contemplated that a single quick-connect coupling (as best seen in FIG. 4) might carry both supply and return ports. As best seen in FIG. 3, it is contemplated that the supply quick-connect coupling 44a may be preferably connected to a rink piping supply quick-connection 32a, and that the return quick-connect coupling 44b may be preferably connected to a rink piping return quick-connection 32b. It is noted that it is not essential, according to the invention, to provide both the ice rink chilling unit 40 and the hose mains 30 with quick-connect couplings. That is, according to the invention, it would be equivalent (as may be appreciated by persons having ordinary skill in the art) to provide either the rink piping supply and return quick-connections 32a, 32b or the quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b. Alternately, one of the hose mains might be provided with rink piping supply quick-connection 32a, and the ice rink chilling unit 40 might be provided the return quick-connect coupling 44b, and/or vice-versa. In fact any number of permutations will be found to fall within the scope of the claims as may be reasonably construed.

[0056] As best seen in FIG. 2, the extraction subassembly 42 preferably includes a pump 46, a coolant "T"-fitting 48, and coolant heat exchanging piping 56. Notably, and as may be generally well-known and/or appreciated by those of reasonable in the art, one or more of the aforesaid components of the extraction subassembly 42 may be provided independently of the others.

[0057] The pump 46 is preferably positioned downstream of the return quick-connect coupling 44b to circulate the coolant fluid (not shown) through the primary closed loop 58.

[0058] The coolant "T"-fitting 48 is preferably substantially interposed between the pump 46 and the return quick-connect coupling 44b. The coolant "T"-fitting 48 operates to divert excess quantities of the coolant fluid (not shown) therethrough to an expansion tank 50. As best seen in FIG. 2, the expansion tank 50 is preferably mounted, within the enclosure, at a height that is substantially above the coolant "T"-fitting 48.

[0059] The coolant heat exchanging piping 56 is preferably positioned downstream of the pump 46. Preferably, the supply quick-connect coupling 44a is positioned downstream of the heat exchanging piping 56.

[0060] The refrigeration subassembly 60 includes a refrigerant fluid (not shown) and a primary closed loop 68 that operatively engages the extraction subassembly 42 in heat exchanging relation. The refrigeration subassembly 60 preferably also includes one or more cooling condenser fans 74.

[0061] As best seen in FIG. 2, the primary closed loop 68 preferably includes a first section 66 (alternately hereinafter referred to as a coolant section 66) of refrigerant heat exchanging piping, a compressor 62, a suction line 64, one or more--and preferably two, as shown in FIG. 2--second sections 70 (alternately hereinafter referred to as ambient sections 70) of refrigerant heat exchanging piping, and a refrigerant expansion valve 72. Notably, and as may be generally well-known and/or appreciated by those of reasonable in the art, one or more of the aforesaid components of the primary closed loop 68 may be provided independently of the others.

[0062] The compressor 62 is preferably positioned downstream of the coolant section 66. The suction line 64 is preferably substantially interposed between the coolant section 66 and the compressor 62. The ambient sections 70 of refrigerant heat exchanging piping are preferably positioned--in series and/or in parallel (not shown) with respect to one another--downstream of the compressor 62, each preferably substantially adjacent to one of the fans 74. The refrigerant expansion valve 72 preferably reduces pressure on the refrigerant fluid (not shown) downstream of the ambient sections 70.

[0063] A heat exchanging subassembly 76 is preferably provided within the enclosure as the locus for the aforesaid operative engagement of the primary closed loop 68 with the extraction subassembly 42. Preferably, the coolant heat exchanging piping 56 operatively engages the coolant section 66 of refrigerant heat exchanging piping, in the aforesaid heat exchanging relation, within the heat exchanging subassembly 76.

[0064] The stand-alone enclosure 80 substantially encapsulates the refrigeration subassembly 60 and the extraction subassembly 42. The quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b extend outside of the enclosure 80. Each of the refrigeration subassembly 60 and the extraction subassembly 42 is substantially pre-wired and pre-plumbed inside of the enclosure 80.

[0065] As best seen in FIG. 3, the enclosure 80 preferably includes one or more selectively openable panels 84, one or more vents 86, and one or more gauges 88. The panels 84 preferably permit ready access to the refrigeration subassembly 60 and the extraction subassembly 42, pre-wired and pre-plumbed as aforesaid, within the enclosure 80. As best seen in FIG. 3, the vents 86 are preferably positioned substantially adjacent to the fans 74 and the ambient sections 70 (as best seen in FIG. 2). The gauges 88 may preferably (i) be visible from outside of the housing 80 and (ii) operate to monitor certain pressure, flow, level and temperature characteristics of the coolant and/or refrigerant fluids, and/or other operating parameters of the ice rink chilling unit 40 (such as, by way of non-limiting examples, valve positions, power draw, and/or the occurrence of any ground fault errors).

[0066] The single-phase AC electrical connector 82 is accessible from outside of the enclosure 80 and is adapted to operatively connect, in single-phase AC electrical relation, each of the refrigeration subassembly 60 and the extraction subassembly 42 by wiring 14 to the electrical source 10. More specifically, the pump 46, the compressor 62, and the fans 74 are each connected, in the aforesaid single-phase AC electrical relation, to the electrical connector 82.

[0067] Preparatory to use, in a method of chilling an ice rink which is disclosed according to the invention, the heat-conductive rink piping 24, the coolant fluid (not shown), and the single-phase AC electrical source 10 are provided.

[0068] As best seen in FIGS. 4 and 5, a rolled section 35 of the rink piping 24 is un-rolled in a substantially longitudinal direction (as indicated generally by arrow "H") from the rolled and readily movable configuration to the operative configuration. In the operative configuration, the pipe sections 34 rest on the chair supporting members 38.

[0069] Next, the ice rink chilling unit 40 (which may be in the general form described hereinabove) is provided. The quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b of the ice rink chilling unit 40 are next operatively and removably connected to the rink piping 24 so as to form the secondary closed loop 58. The extraction subassembly 42 and the refrigeration subassembly 60 are each then operatively connected, in the aforesaid single-phase AC electrical relation, by wiring 14 to the electrical source 10.

[0070] In use, the coolant fluid (not shown) is circulated through the secondary closed loop 58, and the refrigerant fluid (not shown) is circulated through the primary closed loop 68. The refrigerant fluid flows from the compressor 62 (in a direction generally indicated by arrow "C"). The fans 74 rotate to draw air across, and extract heat from, the refrigerant fluid within the ambient sections 70--before exhausting the air through the vents 86 (in a direction generally indicated by arrow "E"). The refrigerant fluid may flow (in a direction generally indicated by arrow "D") between the ambient sections 70. After passing through the refrigerant expansion valve 72, cooled refrigerant fluid may flow (in a direction generally indicated by arrow "F") back towards the coolant section 66. The coolant fluid within the extraction subassembly 42 operatively transfers heat to the refrigerant fluid within the primary closed loop 68. In the aforesaid manner, the ice rink chilling unit 40 may enable operative extraction of heat from substantially adjacent to the rink piping 24.

[0071] To put it another way, the present invention involves a modified and improved refrigeration system for an ice rink. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, as shown in FIGS. 2 through 5, and unlike prior art ice rink systems, the pump 46, heat exchange subassembly 76 and expansion tank 50 are all located inside the self-contained and stand-alone heat-exchange/refrigeration module/enclosure 80. The components within the enclosure 80 are fully pre-plumbed and pre-wired at the factory by certified technicians. Thus, consumers purchasing the ice rink chilling apparatus 20 of the present invention acquire a stand-alone rink chilling unit 40 that is adapted for ready connection with the rink piping 24, or other cooling infrastructure of the ice rink.

[0072] According to another aspect of the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the stand-alone rink chilling unit 40 is connected with the rink piping 24 by "quick-connect" pipe couplings 44a, 44b to complete the plumbing of the Secondary Circuit. Such a plumbing connection is readily accomplished without the need of a plumber or steamfitter, thereby greatly simplifying installation.

[0073] The power supply 10 for the rink chilling unit 40 is also adapted for use within environments, such as for example residential environments, where only single-phase AC electrical power supplies are available. As such, there is no need for an end consumer (for example, a residential home owner) to hire an electrician or other similarly skilled professional to convert the electrical capabilities of the installation location between single-phase and three-phase electrical connections. Moreover, an experienced home handyman could readily adapt the power supply 10 for a 220V connection (comparable to other home improvements, such as a hot tub or pool heater), although some consumers may still wish to leave this connection to a licensed electrician.

[0074] Schematics of ice rinks using the ice rink chilling apparatus 20 according to the present invention are shown in FIGS. 2 and 4. The ice rink is formed by laying section of coolant pipe 24 inside of a frame defining the ice rink. Ideally, the coolant pipe 24 is provided in a roll-out form 35 as shown in FIG. 5, which permits the ice rink to be laid out rapidly and with minimal labor. The ice rink chiller is then connected to the coolant pipes 24 via the quick-connect couplings 44a, 44b and the ice rink is flooded and frozen as is known in the art.

[0075] Other modifications and alterations will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and may be used in the design and manufacture of other embodiments according to the present invention, without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, which is limited only by the accompanying claims.

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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20070125108 A1
Publish Date
06/07/2007
Document #
11549843
File Date
10/16/2006
USPTO Class
062235000
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
63C19/10
Drawings
6



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