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Title:
A LIQUID DISTRIBUTION UNIT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/001341
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A liquid distribution unit, for use in a liquid distribution system designed for saving liquid and thermal energy. It comprises and inlet manifold (FL) with a number of branch connections (CI, C2) for connection, in use, with associated feeding conduits (FCl, FC2) and liquid tap units. The inlet manifold device has an inlet end (IE) for joint connection, in use, with a liquid source (LS). Each branch connection has an associated control valve (CV1, CV2) for selective communication, in use, between the liquid source and an associated one of the feeding conduits. Each branch connection is also provided with an additional branch connection located downstream in relation to the associated control valve, as seen when the liquid is refilled into the feeding conduit, and having an associated, separate liquid evacuation valve (EVl, EV2) and an outlet end (OE1, OE2). The outlet ends of the additional branch connections are jointly connectable to an evacuation liquid pump (EP).

Inventors:
ABBING, Erik (Residensgatan 6B, Luleå, 972 36, SE)
Application Number:
EP2016/064857
Publication Date:
January 05, 2017
Filing Date:
June 27, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
3EFLOW AB (Aurorum Science Park 1C, Luleå, 977 75, SE)
International Classes:
E03B7/04; F24D17/00
Domestic Patent References:
2010-09-16
2012-06-14
2012-11-01
2011-05-05
2012-11-01
Foreign References:
DE4406150A11995-09-07
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NORÉNS PATENTBYRÅ AB (P.O. Box, 100 55 Stockholm, 100 55, SE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS :

1. A liquid distribution unit, for use in a liquid distribution system designed for saving liquid and thermal energy, the liquid distribution unit (LDU) comprising:

- an inlet manifold device (FL) with a number of branch connections (C1,C2) for connection, in use, with associated feeding conduits {FC1, FC2) and liquid tap units (LT1, LT2) in said liquid distribution system,

- said inlet manifold device having an inlet end (IE) for joint connection, in use, with a liquid source (LS) in said liquid distribution system,

- each of said branch connections (CI, C2) having an associated control valve (CVl, CV2) for enabling selective communication, in use, between said liquid source (LS) and one or more of said feeding conduits (FC1, FC2),

c h a r a c t e r i z e d in that said liquid distribution unit is composed of one or more modules, each module comprising - said inlet manifold device (FL), with said inlet end (IE) and a number of branch connections (CI, C2),

- a number of pipe connections extending from each of said branch connections of said inlet manifold device via an associated control valve (CV1,CV2) to an associated connection, in use, to one of said feeding conduits (FC1,FC2), - there being an additional branch connection (AC1,AC2) located in each of said pipe connections downstream of said control valve, as seen from said inlet manifold device, between said control valve and the associated connection to one of said feeding conduits,

- said additional branch connection (AC1, AC2) being permanently connected to a branch pipe connection having an associated, separate evacuation valve (EV1, EV2) and a branch outlet (OE1, OE2),

- the branch outlets (OE1, OE2) of said branch pipe connections being jointly connected to an outlet manifold device (EL), -said outlet manifold device (EL) having a single outlet end for connection, in use, with a single evacuation liquid pump (EP), and

- said single evacuation liquid pump (EP) having the capacity to reduce the pressure down to a lowermost pressure level of 20-80% of the ambient air pressure and being connected, in use, to said liquid source (LS) for recirculating liquid from said feeding conduits

(FC1,FC2).

2. The liquid distribution unit defined in claim 1, wherein said control valves (CV1, CV2) and said associated, separate evacuating valves (EV1,EV2) are operable, in use, in such a way that at least one of said feeding conduits (FC1, FC2) is connected via an associated control valve (CV1,CV2) to said liquid source (LS), while at least one other feeding conduit (FC1, FC2) is simultaneously connected, via an associated, separate evacuating valve (EV1, EV2) to said single evacuation liquid pump (EP),

3. The liquid distribution unit defined in claim 2, wherein said control valves (CV1,CV2) and said associated, separate evacuation valves (EV1,EV2) are also operable, in use, in such a way that at least one of said feeding conduit (FC1,FC2) is disconnected from said liquid source (LS) as well as from said single evacuation liquid pump (EP),

4. The liquid distribution unit defined in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the inlet manifold device (FL) and the outlet manifold device (EL) are elongated and mutually parallel so as to form said module together with said control valves (CV1, CV2) and said separate evacuation valves (EV1, EV2).

5. The liquid distribution unit defined in as defined in an one of the preceding claims, wherein said control valves (CV1, CV2) and said associated, separate evacuation valves (EV1, EV2) are electromagnetic valves being connectable to an electric control unit (CU) for said liquid distribution system.

6. The liquid distribution unit defined in claim 5, wherein each of said separate evacuation valves (EVl, EV2) are adapted to become activated, in use, via said electric control unit (CU).

7. The liquid distribution unit defined in claim 5 or 6, wherein the liquid distribution unit also comprises said electric control unit (CU) and wherein said control unit (CU) is also connected to a level sensor (LSI, LS2) in said feeding conduit adjacent to said associated connection, said level sensor (LSI, LS2) also forming a part of the liquid distribution unit.

8. The liquid distribution unit defined in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the liquid distribution unit also comprises said single evacuation pump (EP), said single evacuation pump being connected to said single outlet.

9. The liquid distribution unit defined in any one of the preceding claims, forming part of a liquid distribution system also comprising

- a number of said feeding conduits (FC1,FC2) with associated liquid taps (LT1,LT2) being connected in use with said pipe connections extending from each of said branch connections (C1,C2) of said inlet manifold device,

- a single evacuation pump (EP) being connected in use to said single outlet end of said outlet manifofd device (EL), and

- a liquid source (LS), being connected in use to said inlet manifold device, wherein said liquid source is operative to provide a driving pressure of 2 to 5 bars overpressure, at the downstream side of said control valve CV1, CV2, in relation to the ambient air pressure, whereas said associated feeding conduit, at an inlet to a non-return valve V1,V2 leading at its outlet end to said associated liquid tap (LT1,LT2), is controlled to provide a low pressure of 20% to 80% of said ambient air pressure after evacuation of the liquid in said feeding conduit by means of said single evacuation pump (EP).

10. The liquid distribution unit defined in any one of the preceding claims, wherein said feeding conduits (FC1,FC2) are 5 to 30 m long, measured from said associated control valve (CV1,CV2) to said liquid tap (LT1,LT2).

Description:
A liquid distribution unit

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a liquid distribution unit, for use in a liquid distribution system designed for saving liquid and thermal energy, the liquid distribution unit comprising

- an inlet manifold device with a number of branch connections for connection, in use, with associated feeding conduits and liquid tap units in said liquid distribution system,

- said inlet manifold device having an inlet end for joint connection, in use, with a liquid source in said liquid distribution system,

- each of said branch connections having a control valve for selective communication, in use, between said liquid source and an associated one of said feeding conduits.

Such systems are used primarily for distributing hot water in buildings, but the principles applied in the invention may very well be implemented also for other liquids, and also for distributing cold liquids.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION AND PRIOR ART

A system has been developed, and is the subject of a patent application ("A method and liquid distribution system for saving liquid and thermal energy") being filed on the same day as the present application, where a number of feeding conduits are connected to a central liquid source, these feeding conduits communicating at their far ends with associated liquid tap units, e.g. for tapping hot water. In order to enable a distinct opening and closing of these liquid tap units, there is provided a dampening valve device adjacent to each liquid tap unit.

As is known per se from Applicant's earlier international (PCT) patent application

WO2012/148351, the system operates in cycles, each comprising the following steps: evacuating the liquid from the associated feeding conduit after completion of a tapping operation at the associated liquid tap unit, by generating a backward pressure gradient in the associated feeding conduit, so that the liquid flows backwards towards the liquid source and the associated feeding conduit thereafter contains only air or gas being retained therein, and

refilling, upon activating said liquid tap unit, the associated feeding conduit with liquid by generating a forward pressure gradient in the associated feeding conduit and permitting liquid to flow from the liquid source to the associated liquid tap unit, while pushing the remaining air or gas in the feeding conduit towards the associated liquid tap unit at an operating pressure exceeding an ambient air pressure level.

In the prior art system, as disclosed in the above-mentioned PCT application, each feeding conduit is connected to the liquid source by means of a single control valve, which is located at the branch connection of an inlet manifold device and can be open or closed. When it is open, the liquid source will feed liquid into the associated feeding conduit as long as the liquid tap unit signals that the flow of hot water should be maintained. When a tap unit is being closed or deactivated, a signal is given so as to activate a centrally located pump which pumps back the liquid from the feeding conduit via the open control valve back to the liquid source. The same pump is used for circulating hot water in the liquid source and for pumping back liquid from the feeding conduits. When a feeding conduit is completely evacuated, which is sensed by a level sensor, the control valve is closed again, so that the feeding conduit is retained at a relatively low pressure, slightly below the ambient air pressure, with only gas or air therein. Moreover, in the prior art system, ambient air or gas will replace the liquid when it is evacuated from the feeding conduits. For this purpose, there is a special air valve adjacent to the liquid valve between the feeding conduit and the associated tap unit. OBJECT OF THE INVENTION

Against this background, the object of the invention is to improve the structure and the function of the liquid distribution unit, so that a particular feeding conduit can be evacuated directly when there is an indication that the associated tap unit is being closed. Also, it should be possible to evacuate and refill the various feeding conduits independently of each other, so that at least one of them can be evacuated while at least one other feeding conduit is being refilled (when the associated tap unit has been activated). Furthermore, even if the evacuation of the various feeding conduits is done independently, it should be sufficient to use a single pump for such evacuation of all the feeding conduits. Such pumps, having the capacity to reduce the pressure down to a lowermost pressure level of about 20-80% of the ambient air pressure, are relatively expensive. Finally, the structure of such a unit should be compact, so that the whole unit can be fitted into a limited space as a central apparatus.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The objects stated above are achieved for a liquid distribution unit wherein each of a number of branch connections, at an inlet manifold device, is also provided with an additional branch connection, located downstream in relation to the associated control valve (as seen when the feeding conduit is refilled with liquid) and having an associated, separate evacuation valve and an outlet end, and the outlet ends of the additional branch connections are jointly connectable, in use, to a single evacuation liquid pump capable of reducing the pressure down to a pressure which is substantially below the ambient air pressure.

In principle, the evacuated liquid being pumped out from the feeding conduits via the additional branch connection and the separate evacuation valve could be stored separately in a heat insulated container. However, according to the invention the evacuation pump is connected, at its outlet end, to the liquid source, so that the liquid is recirculated back to the liquid source. In this way, the thermal energy can be saved in an optimum way.

The liquid distribution unit according to the invention has a number of advantages: - the feeding conduits can be evacuated and refilled independently of each other, thanks to the separate evacuation valves,

- only one evacuation pump is needed,

- the unit is compact and requires very little space,

- the unit is easy to install, since it is easy to understand where all the connections are to be connected to the rest of the system (feeding conduits, liquid source, evacuation pump and electrical cables).

Further features of the liquid distribution unit will appear from the detailed description below, where a preferred embodiment of the invention is disclosed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will now be explained further below, with reference to the appended drawings which illustrate a preferred embodiment of the liquid distribution unit according to the invention. Fig 1 illustrates, in a schematic diagram, a liquid distribution system which comprises a number of components, among them a liquid distribution unit according to the invention (down to the left);

Fig. 2 shows, at a larger scale, a part of the system constituting the liquid distribution unit, within a rectangle drawn with dashed lines, in the form of a module with connections to two feeding conduits; and

Fig. 3 shows, in a perspective view, an example of a liquid distribution unit with connections, valves and sensors in two modules as shown in fig. 2, and an evacuation pump which is jointly connected to the outlets of all the evacuation valves. DETAILED DESCRI PTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIM ENT OF THE INVENTION

In fig. 1, there is shown, in a schematic diagram, a liquid distribution system designed for saving liquid and thermal energy. A separate patent application, disclosing the system as a whole, is being filed at the same time as the present application. A central liquid source LS, possibly including a hot water tank and a circu lating loop of hot water, is connected to a number of hot water feeding conduits FC1, FC 2, etc. via a feed line FL, separate connections CI, C2, etc. and individual control valves CV1, CV2, etc. When a control valve CV1, etc. is opened, hot water will flow into the associated feeding conduit FC1, FC2, etc. which has been evacuated in a previous evacuation step. There will be a high pressure gradient in the particular feeding conduit FC1, etc. since the control valve CV1, etc. is open and thus conveys a driving pressure from below, corresponding to the pressure prevailing in the liquid source LS (typically about 2 to 5 bars overpressure or, in absolute terms, more than 300 % of the ambient air pressure), and an upper very low pressure, such as 0.2 to 0.8 bar under-pressure or, in absolute terms, about 20 to 80% of the ambient air pressure. Accordingly, the hot water will flow at a high velocity towards a liquid tap unit LT1, etc. Normally the feeding conduits are at least 5 to 30 m long, from the liquid source LS to the respective hot water tap unit LT1, etc. within a building.

When the hot water approaches the liquid tap unit, there is a risk for a hard striking im- pulse, a so called "water hammer", of the hot water. However, as is known per se, from the above-mentioned PCT application WO 2012/1408351, a dampening chamber Dl, etc. is arranged in the vicinity of a liquid valve VI, etc. so that an air or gas cushion will dampen the impact of the rapidly moving hot water.

Each dampening chamber Dl, etc. is connected to the far end of the associated feeding conduit FC1, FC2, etc. via a passage OP1, OP2, etc., and in this passage, there is an inlet to a non-return valve or check valve VI, V2, etc. leading at its outlet end to an associated one of the liquid tap units LT1, etc. The structure of the dampening valve unit DV1, DV2, etc., formed by the dampening chamber Dl, the passage OP1, OP2, etc. and the liquid valve VI, V2, etc., is disclosed in detail in two further patent applications ("a dampening valve unit" and "a fluid stop valve unit") being filed on the same day as the present application. Thus, the non-return valve unit may comprise at least one, preferably two check-valves connected in series, being biased towards a closing position by a non-linear spring device, so that the valve will shift from a closing position to an open position when a threshold pressure level is present at the inlet INI, IN2, etc. of the valve (or upon detecting that water is present at the inlet of the valve). The non-linear spring device is coupled to the non-return valve or valves and is designed in such a way that, when the threshold pressure is reached, the valve body will move suddenly a relatively long way into its opening position (to the right in fig. 3). So, the valve will open distinctly and permit a high flow of hot water immediately after the threshold pressure level has been reached.

As described in the separate patent application "a dampening valve unit", the dampening chamber Dl, D2, etc. can be housed in a separate casing or it can be formed by a housing where the valve VI is located centrally (not shown), or in some other way. In either case, the upper end of the feeding conduit FC1, FC2, etc. adjoins the above-mentioned passage OP1, OP2, etc., which also accommodates the inlet INI, IN2, etc. of the valve VI, V2, etc.

The prevailing pressures and the volumes of the feeding conduits FC1, FC2, etc. are such that the pressure of the refilling water is still relatively low when it reaches the passage OP1, OP2, etc., below the set threshold pressure of the valve. Therefore, the water will move further upwards, beyond the passage OP1, OP2, etc. before the air or gas, being trapped in the adjoining dampening chamber Dl, D2, etc., is compressed to such a degree that the air or gas pressure, causing a corresponding pressure in the water adjacent thereto, rises to a level corresponding to the threshold level of the valve VI, V2, etc. Then, the valve suddenly opens, and the hot water will flow through the valve into the adjoining liquid tap unit LT1, LT2, etc. Since there is now only water in the passage OP1, OP2, etc., only water, and no gas or air, will flow through the valve and into the liquid tap LT1, LT2, etc. The pressure in the liquid source LS, being much higher than the ambient air pressure (even at the liquid tap unit LTl, LT2, etc.) and the threshold pressure (typically 25% to 75% of the pressure prevailing in the liquid source) of the liquid valve VI, V2, etc. will ensure that the air or gas compressed in the dampening chamber Dl, D2, etc. will stay compressed and not expand into the passage OP1, OP2, etc. during normal operation of the liquid distribution system. Such prevailing pressures and threshold pressure of the liquid valve will also make it possible to have a dampening chamber with a relatively small volume.

One way to retain the air or gas within the dampening chamber Dl, D2, etc. is to arrange, in parallel, a gas inlet valve as well as a gas outlet valve in the passage OP1, OP2, etc. be- tween the feeding conduit and the dampening chamber.

Only when a tap handle, or a corresponding device or sensor, is activated for closing the particular liquid tap unit LTl, LT2, etc. will there be a change. Then, a pressure sensor PS1, PS2, etc., being inserted between the valve VI, V2, etc. and the associated liquid tap unit LTl, LT2, will sense an increased pressure (the flow is stopped but the feeding pressure is still present) and send an electric signal to a control unit CU which will in turn close the control valve CV1, CV2, etc. adjacent to the liquid source LS. Also, the control unit CU will send a signal to a separate liquid evacuation valve EV1, EV2, etc. so as to open the latter. Thereupon, the hot water remaining in the associated feeding conduit FC1, etc, will be evacuated via the valve EV1, and the complete removal of hot water from the feeding conduit will be detected by an associated level sensor LSI, LS2 etc. which is mounted next to the additional branch connection AC1, AC2, etc. at the downstream side thereof (as seen when the liquid is refilled from the liquid source LS).

These liquid evacuation valves EV1, EV2, etc., together with the above-mentioned control valves CV1, CV2, etc. are arranged in a separate unit, denoted a "liquid distribution unit" LDU, shown more clearly in fig. 2 (a schematic diagram) and fig. 3 (a perspective view of the physical components), the latter showing two modules each comprising the components associated with two feeding conduits.

The unit LDU is composed of a number of modules, one being shown in fig. 2, and two modules being shown in fig. 3. The feed line FL from the liquid source LS (at the very bottom of fig. 3) constitutes an inlet manifold device for the unit LDU and comprises an inlet end IE and a number of branch connections CI, C2, etc., each one for connection, in use, with an associated feeding conduit FC1, FC2, etc. and, consequently, with the associated liquid tap units LT1, LT2, etc. (fig. 1). These branch connections CI, C2, etc. are each fitted to (connected to) an associated control valve CV1, CV2, etc. (mentioned above) for opening or closing the passage of liquid from the liquid source LS to the feeding conduit F!, F2, etc.. Adjacent to the control valve CV1, CV2, etc., the associated feeding conduit FC1, FC2, etc. is also provided with an additional branch connection AC1, AC2, etc. (mentioned above), located downstream (as seen during refilling the feeding conduit with liquid) and immediately adjacent to the associated control valve CV1, CV2, etc. This additional branch connection AC1, AC2, etc. leads to an associated, separate evacuation valve EV1, EV2, etc., each with an outlet end OE1, OE2, etc.

The outlet ends OE1, OE2, etc. of the separate evacuation valves EV1, EV2, etc. are jointly connected to an evacuation pump EP which will recirculate the hot water to the liquid source LS. Although fig. 3 shows separate connections, in series, to the inlet side of the evacuation pump EP, it is of course possible to use a manifold outlet pipe or device for this purpose, similar to the inlet manifold pipe or device constituted by the feeding line FL. In fig. 2, such an outlet manifold device is denoted EL (to the left in fig. 2). The liquid distribution unit LDU comprises the inlet manifold device FL, the branch connections C!, C2, etc., the control valves CV1, CV2, etc., the level sensors LSI, LS2, etc., the additional branch connections AC1, AC2, etc., the separate evacuation valves EV1, EV2, etc., and the outlet ends OE1, OE2, etc, which are connectable, possibly via an outlet manifold device EL, to an evacuation liquid pump EP. The unit operates as follows: Initially, upon connecting the unit LDU to a liquid source LS, a number of feeding conduits FC1, FC2, etc., an electronic control unit CU and an evacuation pump EP (fig.l), there is air or gas in most of the system. At first, one or more of the control valves CV1, etc. are opened (the evacuation valves are closed at this point of time), whereupon hot water will flow from the liquid source until they fill up the particular feeding conduits FC1, FC2, etc. When the hot water approaches the associated dampening valve unit DV1, etc. the pressure will rise sharply in the feeding conduit, so that the associated valve VI opens and will let the hot water flow into the corresponding liquid tap unit LT1, etc. During the first cycles, there may be some air that flows out through the valve VI, etc. but after a number of operating cycles, the amount of air will be adjusted so that the hot water will pass by the passage OP1, etc. before the valve VI, etc, opens, so the remaining air will then be compressed in the dampening chamber only. Thus, at this point, no air will escape through the valve VI, etc.

Hot water will flow via the feeding conduits FCl etc. and the valve VI etc. to the liquid tap unit LT1 etc. until a tap handle is closed, or some other device sends a signal to close the control valve CV1, etc.. Thereupon, the associated, separate evacuation valve EV1, EV2, etc. is opened, so that the evacuation pump EP will be coupled to the associated feeding conduit and the hot water therein will be pumped out and be recirculated into the liquid source LS. This will continue as long as there is any liquid left in the feeding conduit. Then, the associated level sensor LSI, etc. will detect that the feeding conduit has been totally evacuated, and the associated, separate evacuation valve EV1, etc. will be closed. At this time, the pressure of the remaining air in the liquid conduit FCl is very low, typically about 0.2 to 0,8 bar. All the hot water has been pumped back to the liquid source LS, and there is no hot water left in this particular feeding conduit. Accordingly, there will be no leakage of heat energy from the feeding conduit as long as it is kept empty.

The units LDU, or rather one or more modules (fig.2), are preferably assembled at a manufacturing plant and will be easy to connect on site in a building (or other facility).

Those skilled in the art can modify the above-described liquid distribution unit LDU within the scope of the appended claims. For example, the level sensors LSI, etc. may be re- placed by pressure sensors for the detection of the evacuation of each particular feeding conduit.

Also, an evacuation pump EP may be included as an integrated part of the unit. Likewise, the electronic control unit CU may be an associated part of the unit LDU.