Patent application title: UTILITY CART WITH INTEGRAL EVAPORATIVE COOLER
Gary Stephen Jouas (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Lawrence Chavez (Gilbert, AZ, US)
PHOENIX MANUFACTURING INC.
IPC8 Class: AF25D1100FI
Class name: Refrigeration combined
Publication date: 2015-03-05
Patent application number: 20150059393
A utility cart comprises a first container configured as an evaporative
cooling system having a water reservoir disposed at a bottom end thereof
in fluid communication with an evaporative medium. The evaporative
cooling system further includes a fan to blow or draw outside air through
the wet evaporative medium and out to the surrounding environment as
cooled air. The utility cart further includes a second container coupled
to the first container, the second container configured as an insulated
chest cooler for holding ice and having a drain port for draining out
melt water from melting ice disposed in the chest cooler, the drain port
being configured to feed melt water into the evaporative cooling system.
In an alternate embodiment, the second container may be configured as a
tool chest having a plurality of drawers, a lid configured to lock both
the drawers and lid of the tool chest in a closed position, and an
integral power strip disposed in a wall of the tool chest having a
plurality of electrical outlets disposed therein. The toolbox further
includes an integral stereo system having a plurality of speakers,
integral radio tuner, CD playback capability and configured for auxiliary
line input for MP3 players and the like. The toolbox is further
configured to charge a phone or other device via USB or other similar
1. A utility cart comprising: a first container; an evaporative cooling
system disposed with the first container having a water reservoir in
fluid communication with the evaporative cooling system; a second
container coupled to the first container, the second container configured
as an insulated chest cooler for holding ice and having a drain port for
draining out melt water from melting ice disposed in the chest cooler,
the drain port being configured to feed melt water into the evaporative
2. A utility cart comprising: a first container; an evaporative cooling system disposed with the first container having a water reservoir in fluid communication with the evaporative cooling system; and a second container coupled to the first container, the second container configured as a tool chest including, a plurality of sliding drawers disposed in a first portion of the tool chest of the second container, a lockable upper lid disposed at an upper end of the second container, configured to lock the lid and the plurality of drawers in a closed position, an integral stereo system disposed within a wall of the second container, and an integral power strip having a plurality of electrical outlets disposed therein, the power strip being disposed in a wall of the second container.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/871,746, filed Aug. 29, 2013, which is incorporated herein by reference.
 This disclosure relates generally to a multifunction utility cart, and more particularly to a utility cart having a tool chest or tool box, or beverage cooler.
 In warmer environments, users utilizing a utility cart, tool chest, entertainment center, beverage or food cooler, or other portable cart may experience uncomfortable heat levels. It would be beneficial if the users could be cooled while using the portable cart. There is a need for a multifunction portable utility cart, that is both capable of cooling environmental air in the immediate close surrounding area of the cart while also being used as a portable beverage cooler (i.e. a rolling patio cooler cart), a tool chest or tool box, or other such uses for a portable utility cart.
 Disclosed is a utility cart having an integrated evaporative cooling system disposed therein, as well as an additional function or feature for the cart. In certain embodiments of the disclosure herein, the portable utility cart includes an insulated chest cooler for cooling food and/or beverages or other items to be cooled. The portable utility cart also includes an evaporative cooling system integrally disposed below the chest cooler that is operable for cooling the area around the cart. The cart may be used as a portable patio chest cooler and air cooling/conditioning unit.
 In another aspect of the present disclosure, the portable utility cart includes a tool chest or tool box integrally disposed above an evaporative cooling system for use in warm or hot work environments requiring accessibility to a large tool chest, such as a garage for working on cars or other vehicles, for example, that would also benefit by the presence of an air cooling unit. Such tool chest may have a plurality of sliding tool drawers, and may include an electric power supply and power strip, permitting corded electric tools or other corded appliances or electronics to be plugged therein and powered thereby. Such tool chest may also include a built-in audio system, such as a stereo having an AM/FM radio, CD and MP3 playback functionality, phone and MP3 charging capability, and one or more speakers built-in to a wall of the tool chest.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The present invention is described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a front, partial cut away view of an embodiment of a utility cart having an integrated evaporative cooler in a portion of the cart;
 FIG. 2 is an isometric view of an embodiment of a utility cart with a built in evaporative cooler; and
 FIG. 3 is a partial front-top isometric view of the utility cart with a built in evaporative cooler of FIG. 2, showing the lid of the utility cart in an open position.
 While the present disclosure is capable of being embodied in various forms, for simplicity and illustrative purposes, the principles of the disclosure are described by referring to several embodiments thereof. It is understood, however, that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the claimed subject matter, and is not intended to limit the appended claims to the specific embodiments illustrated. It will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the disclosure may be practiced without limitation to these specific details. In other instances, well-known methods and structures have not been described in detail so as not to unnecessarily obscure the present disclosure.
 Referring to FIGS. 1-3 in general and to FIG. 1 specifically, a utility cart 10 having a built-in evaporative cooler 12 is disclosed. In general, the utility cart 10 may be any type of stand, cart, counter, or cabinet that can benefit by the inclusion of an evaporative cooler disposed therein. The utility cart 10 is generally a closed cabinet 14 comprised of at least a plurality of side walls 16 affixed to a floor panel 18 and having an interior space 20 for the cabinet defined therein, which space 20 is divided by an internal panel 22 to define at least two separated containers. A first container 24 is configured as an evaporative cooler containing the components of an evaporative cooling system for generating air that is cooler than that of the immediate surrounding environment. A second container 26 may be configured as any number of useful utility compartments, which may be used concurrently with the evaporative cooler of the first container 24.
 In one embodiment, the first container 24 forms the outer housing of an evaporative cooling system 28. The first container 24 is formed by the plurality of side walls 30 being affixed to the floor panel 18 and extending upward therefrom, and the internal panel 22 being affixed to the sidewalls within the interior of the cart 10, at a distance spaced from and above the floor panel 18. The internal panel 22 is affixed within the interior of the utility cart 10 in a substantially horizontal manner such that the first container 24 is a lower container and the second container 26 is an upper container, each of the containers having a separate chamber defined therein. The internal wall panel 22 is both a floor for the upper container 26, and a ceiling for the lower container 24. The internal panel 22 may be horizontal, or slightly angled with respect to a horizontal plane. In alternate embodiments the internal panel may be vertical or significantly angled with respect to the horizontal and may divide the cart into two containers that are positioned in a side-by-side configuration or another shaped dual-chambered configuration as needed, without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.
 The side walls 16 and 30, floor 18, and internal panel(s) 22 may be affixed directly to each other to form the lower and upper containers 24 and 26 of the cart 10, or they may be affixed to a frame structure (as will be understood by those of skill in the art) without departing from the scope of the disclosure herein. Alternatively, the floor 18 and sidewalls 16 and 30 of the cart may be formed of a single integral body, such as from a single mechanically drawn piece of sheet metal or from an injection molding process, or in a roll molding process or other process, similar to the respective processes used to produce soda cans or plastic cups, coolers, metal cabinets, or the like, without departing from the scope of the present disclosure. In still alternate embodiments, additional manufacturing techniques for forming the cart are contemplated herein.
Lower Utility Container
 The lower container 24 forms a housing for an evaporative cooling system and houses therein at least: an evaporative medium 32; a water distributor 34 for wetting the evaporative medium; a cooling fan or blower 36 for both drawing warm external air into the housing, and either blowing or drawing that warm air through the wet evaporative medium 32 and back out to the surrounding environment as cooled air; and a fan motor 38 for driving the fan or blower 36. In addition, the evaporative cooling system may include a water reservoir 40 to supply water to the water distributor 34, and a water pump 42 for pumping the water from the water reservoir 40 through a water line 44 to the water distributor 34, and a power supply 46, such as an electric cord or batteries, for powering the water pump and fan motor. Other additional components of evaporative coolers, such as incoming water supply lines and float valves disposed in the water reservoir for selectively filling the water reservoir, may also be included without departing from the scope of the disclosure herein.
 In connection with the lower container 24 being configured as an evaporative cooling system, at least a first 48 of the plurality of sidewalls 30 defines an air inlet through which warm external air is drawn into the lower container 24, or housing of the evaporative cooler, by the cooling fan 36. The warm air is forced, either by pushing or drawing/pulling, through the evaporative medium 32 that has been wetted by the water distributor 34, where it is cooled and picks up moisture as it passes there through. The cooled and moist conditioned air is then expelled by the cooling fan or blower 36 from within the lower chamber (or evaporative cooler housing) 24 back out to the exterior surrounding environment through an air outlet 50 defined in a second sidewall 52. In this manner, the warm exterior air is drawn into the evaporative cooler where it picks up moisture, is cooled and conditioned, and is then expelled to the surrounding environment to cool the air of the surrounding environment. Each of the air inlet 48 and outlet 52 may be configured to be as simple as a large hole defined in the respective sidewall or floor panel and covered by a grate, or a bi-directional grill, or one or both of the air inlet and outlet may be a series of vents or moveable louvers, that help direct the path of airflow into and out of the evaporative cooling system. The evaporative cooler may be configured to deliver approximately 3,000 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM), or other such predetermined air flow volumes as are desired.
 The water reservoir 40, from which water is pumped to the water distributor 34, may be formed substantially by the floor panel 18 having a water tight seal with the plurality of sidewalls 30, such that the floor panel 18 and affixed sidewalls 30 are themselves the water reservoir disposed at the bottom of lower container 24 of the utility cart 10. In this manner, the water simply collects at the bottom of the utility cart 10. Alternatively, a separate internal container, such as a plastic bucket, deep walled tray, or other such bin, may be positioned to rest on the floor panel inside the lower container 24, or otherwise be disposed within the interior of the lower container.
 The water reservoir 40 may be filled manually by hand, by opening an access panel disposed in a sidewall 30 of the lower container (or sidewall of the housing of the evaporative cooling unit) and filling the water reservoir 40 through the access panel each time the water in the reservoir gets low. Alternatively, the water reservoir 40 may be filled automatically by connecting a water hose from an external water source to a hose fitting disposed in the side or bottom of the lower container, wherein a float valve in communication with the hose fitting will open and permit the inflow of water from the water hose into the reservoir when the water in the reservoir drops below a predetermined level. Any known evaporative cooler system may be provided in the cart 10.
Upper Utility Container
 In one embodiment, the second container 26, or upper container, of the utility cart 10 is configured as an insulated chest cooler used for holding ice or keeping items such as bottled beverages or food cold on ice without the need for mechanical refrigeration. In such embodiment, the plurality of outer walls 16 extend upward from the internal panel 22 that separates the upper container 26 from the lower container 24. The outer walls 16 and the internal panel 22 that forms the floor of the insulated cooler may be insulated, for example with insulation 56. Such insulated walls and panel can be constructed so as to be double-walled vacuum insulated walls, or they may be double-walls filled with an insulating material, such as rigid foam, spray foam, fiberglass insulation, air, or any other insulating material or gas that is capable of being used as an insulating thermal barrier between an exterior environment and an interior space of the upper container 26 of the insulated chest cooler. In alternate embodiments, each of the outer walls 16 and internal panel 22 may be a single sheet of a rigid material and have an insulating layer affixed thereto. In still alternate embodiments, the upper container 26 that acts as a beverage cooler may also be an un-insulated container in which the walls and floor are single walled, such as a single wall of stainless steel, aluminum, plastic, or other such rigid material as would be suitable for holding ice cubes, water, beverages or food, or other such items meant to be kept cold by being placed in a container of ice and/or water.
 The chest cooler may be provided with a bottle cap opener 58 and a catch receptacle 60 to catch the bottle caps. The chest cooler may be provided with a drain 62 by which water from melted ice in the cooler drains into the water reservoir 40 in the evaporative cooler. The drain 62 may first pass the water over the evaporative media 32.
 While the upper container 26 may be configured to be an integrated chest cooler as disclosed above and as shown in FIG. 1, in alternate embodiments it may also be configured so as to permit the removal of the chest cooler 26 from the evaporative cooler 24 of the lower container so that the chest cooler 26 may be used as a separate stand-alone insulated chest cooler.
 In certain embodiments, the upper container 26 further includes a lid 64 configured to cover an open upper end of the upper container 26. The lid 64 may be a single-piece lid, split panel lid, or other multi-piece lid. The lid 64 may be affixed by one or more hinges 66 to a single side of the upper container, and configured to be selectably moveable between an opened or closed position with respect to the open upper end of the upper container. The lid 66 may be configured to sealingly close against, or within, the open upper end of the upper container, thereby preventing warm outer air from infiltrating the cooled interior insulated space of the chest cooler. In alternate embodiments, the lid may be a gull-wing type lid whereby the lid comprises a pair of lids or lid halves that are hingedly affixed to either each other, or a central lid support affixed to the walls of the upper container that spans across the open upper end of the upper container. In an embodiment wherein the lid halves are affixed to a central support, each of the two lid halves are oriented in generally opposite directions relative to the central support such that they are rotated in opposite directions about their hinge as they are respectively moved from a closed position to an open position.
 In an embodiment wherein the lid 64 is a gull-wing lid with lid halves hingedly connected to each other, the lid is not otherwise affixed to the upper container. Rather, in the closed position, a perimeter of the gull-wing lid rests under its own weight in a complementary perimeter lip of the upper container that is disposed at the top of the sidewalls of the upper container. In such an embodiment, the perimeter of the lid and the lip of the upper container may maintain a low-force friction fit that is easily overcome by pulling force of a user. In such embodiment, one of the lid panels of the gull-wing lid may be hingedly rotated back onto the other panel of the gull-wing lid when access to the interior chamber of the upper container is needed.
 In still further embodiments, the lid 64 may be a dual panel lid whereby the separate panels are hingedly affixed to respective opposite side walls of the upper container, similar to that of French doors. In yet additional alternate embodiments, the upper container may have any other alternate lid configuration that permits a lid or lids to selectably close over or onto the open upper end of the upper container, such as for example, a lid that rotates to a closed or open position about a rotational axis directed through a center area of opposing sidewalls.
 Another example of an alternate lid embodiment includes a lid 64 configured as a sliding door, or a pair of sliding doors. The door, or doors, would slide in a side-to-side manner to either close or open the lid and thereby prevent or provide access to interior of the upper container. An embodiment having a single sliding door may have a fixed lid panel covering a portion of the open upper end of the upper container, with the sliding door covering the remaining portion of the open upper end of the upper container. The single sliding door would then be configured to either slide over, under, or into the fixed panel when opened to provide access to the interior space of the upper container. In an embodiment having a pair of sliding doors may be configured such that each door covers a half, or slightly more than a half, of the open upper end of the upper container. Still additional alternate lid embodiments are contemplated without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.
 The lid or lids 64, as the case may be, may include a knob, handle, finger ledge or other such known mechanical device affixed thereto, or integrated therein, to facilitate the opening and/or closing of the lid of the upper container. The upper container, which may be configured as an insulated chest cooler, may also contain a bottle cap opener 58 affixed to an outer surface of a sidewall of the upper container, and may also include a bottle cap collection bin 60 also affixed to the outer surface of a sidewall of the upper container, positioned directly below the bottle cap opener. In an alternate embodiment, a bottle cap opener may be integrally disposed, or formed, within a bottom side of the lid, such that when the lid is in a closed position the bottle opener is located inside of the interior space of the upper container.
 Furthermore, the bottle cap opener 58 of the present disclosure may optionally include a magnetic catcher disposed with the bottle opener that magnetically holds onto the bottle cap after the bottle has been opened. Such a magnetic catcher prevents the bottle cap from falling onto the ground outside of the utility cart, or falling into the inner container in embodiments in which the bottle cap opener is disposed on the underside of the lid.
 The internal panel 22 of the utility cart, which acts as the floor of the upper container 26 and the ceiling of the lower container, may include a drain hole 62 defined therein, which drain hole 62 may be configured to provide passage from the upper container (insulated cooler) to the lower container (evaporative cooling system). The drain hole 62 is a water drain port for permitting the resulting water from melted ice held in the insulated cooler of the upper container to drain out therefrom. The drain hole may have a drain hose attached thereto at the underside thereof located in the internal chamber of the lower evaporative cooler container. The drain hose permits the melt water from melted ice in the upper container to pass into the upper end of the drain hose and flow along the length of the drain hose where it exits at the lower end of the drain hose into the reservoir of the evaporative cooler. In alternate embodiments, the drain hose may be connected at its lower end to the water distributor, such that the ice-cold melt water flows from the insulated cooler of the upper container directly into the water distributor where it is immediately dispensed into the evaporative medium of the evaporative cooling system.
 The utility cart 10 may also include a plurality of wheels or casters 68 affixed to the bottom side of the frame or the bottom of the floor panel 18 so as to permit easy movement of the utility cart. The casters or wheels 68 may be swivel wheels or casters, locking wheels or casters, or any other type of caster, wheel, or the like that provides for ease of moving the utility cart.
 In still alternate embodiments, as opposed to an insulated chest cooler, the utility cart may be configured as a tool chest or tool box 80 as shown in FIG. 2 having an integrated evaporative cooling system 82 disposed therein. In such an embodiment, the upper container 84 may be configured as a tool chest having a plurality of sliding drawers 86 and/or a hinged top 88, for storing hand tools and small electric tools, such as cordless or corded drills, circular saws, and the like. The toolbox 84 may also contain a hinged lid coupled to a sidewall of the toolbox and/or a lock mechanism in communication with any of the lid and/or sliding drawers for locking any of the lid and/or drawers in a closed position. Such a toolbox would be useful for working in a garage, small shop, or the like, where both tools are needed and cooled environmental air is desired.
 As with the utility cart configured as an insulated chest cooler previously disclosed, the lower container 82 is configured as an evaporative cooling system. The same or similar features to those disclosed above for the evaporative cooler or any known evaporative cooler system may be provide therein. However, in alternate embodiments, the utility cart may be divided such that the evaporative cooler may be positioned in a side-by-side configuration with respect to the tool chest (or with respect to the chest cooler in embodiments wherein the chest cooler is the upper container), or have any other fractional or positional configuration between the first and second containers without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.
 The upper container 84 that forms the toolbox includes one or more drawers 86 for storing tools and other items. The drawers 86 may include a plurality of drawer glides disposed between the sides of the drawers and the interior of the toolbox to facilitate easy sliding or gliding of the drawers between an open and closed position with respect to an outer cabinet of the toolbox. The toolbox may further include a fold-up, retractable, or removable shelf to use as a work surface with the toolbox.
 Furthermore, in embodiments containing a power source 90 necessary to power the evaporative cooling system 82, the toolbox may further include an integral power strip 92 disposed in a sidewall 94 thereof. The power strip 82 may be disposed on either the exterior or interior surface of a sidewall, or the power strip may be disposed in a slot defined through a sidewall of the upper container that forms the cabinet of the toolbox. In embodiments wherein the power strip 92 is affixed to the surface of a sidewall of the toolbox, the power strip 92 may be configured such that the electrical outlets disposed therein are accessible from either the outside of the toolbox or the inside of the toolbox, depending on the placement of the power strip. In embodiments in which the power strip 92 is positioned in a through slot in the sidewall of the toolbox cabinet, the power strip may be selectively rotated to face inward or outward with respect to the toolbox to provide access to the electrical outlets from either the interior or exterior of the toolbox. Switches 96 for the power strip 94 and/or for the evaporative cooler 82 may be provided on the cart, such as at the power strip 92.
 As shown in FIG. 3, the toolbox 100 may include an integrated audio system 102, such as a stereo system, disposed therein, and one or more integrated speakers 104 disposed in a sidewall or lid thereof, both powered either by the power source that powers the evaporative cooling system, or a second, alternate power source. The stereo system 102 may include a radio component 106 having AM/FM radio and/or satellite radio functionality and a CD player, as well as various integrated connections or docking ports 108, such as for USB, firewire, MP3 players, Bluetooth, or other wired or wireless connection, to permit MP3 playback from any of a dedicated MP3 player, computer, smartphone, or other electronic device. The toolbox 100 may further include charging capability for a phone, MP3 player, computer, or other such electronic device by USB or other corded or wireless connection, either directly from the power strip 110 or from an alternate connection directly to the stereo system.
 The tool box or tool chest 100 has drawers 112 for storing tools such as wrenches, screwdrivers, or other tools that may be used while the user is listening to music or other entertainment from the audio system. The lower portion of the tool chest, indicated in abbreviated fashion in this view, contains the evaporative cooler 114 to cool the area around the tool chest and audio system.
 In either of the toolbox or chest cooler embodiments disclosed herein, or any other alternate embodiment, the utility cart may also be operated by remote control. For an embodiment of the utility cart configured as a toolbox, a remote control may be used to control all functional aspects of the stereo, such as turning the stereo on/off, selecting the audio source input, adjusting the stereo volume, changing the audio equalizer settings, and any other such functionality associated with a stereo. For any and all embodiments herein disclosed or contemplated, the remote control may control any/all operational aspects of the evaporative cooling system. Such controllable aspects may include, but are not limited to: selectively turning the entire evaporative cooler system "on"/"off;" independently turning either the fan/blower or the water circulation pump "on"/"off;" adjusting the fan/blower speed in the system, thereby changing the air flow volume and/or air output temperature of the system; and any other operation aspect of the evaporative cooler system disclosed herein. In operation, the entire evaporative cooling system may be turned on by the remote control. Alternatively, the water pump may be powered on first to pre-soak the evaporative medium prior to running the full system. Furthermore, the fan/blower may be turned on without the water pump running, so as to use the system as a typical fan to achieve airflow, as opposed to generating an evaporatively cooled airflow.
 In still further alternate embodiments, the upper container may be divided so as to be both an insulated beverage cooler as previously described herein, as well as a tool box as previously disclosed herein, with an evaporative cooling system still being disposed in the lower container, without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.
 In still alternate embodiments, the utility cart may be configured as a garden cart, with the second container (or upper container), being configured to carry, hold, or display a plurality of gardening tools and or consumables. In one embodiment, the upper container may have a plurality of drawers, pull out trays, tool hooks and holders, and/or deep containers for holding tools, plants, and consumable supplies.
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