Patent application title: SPA INSERT WITH FLAT UPPER FLANGE, INTEGRAL SPILLWAY AND FOOTWELL FEATURES
Courtney W. Turpen (Concord, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA47K302FI
Class name: Baths, closets, sinks, and spittoons tubs particular construction or configuration details
Publication date: 2009-10-15
Patent application number: 20090255051
Patent application title: SPA INSERT WITH FLAT UPPER FLANGE, INTEGRAL SPILLWAY AND FOOTWELL FEATURES
Courtney W. Turpen
DERGOSITS & NOAH LLP
Origin: SAN FRANCISCO, CA US
IPC8 Class: AA47K302FI
Patent application number: 20090255051
A spa insert is disclosed. The spa insert assembly is comprised of a shell
portion and one or more plumbing elements. The shell portion includes a
flat upper flange, an integral spillway, and a notch near the waterline
for accepting masonry in a manner that allows for total integration of
the assembly into in-ground pool or spa infrastructure. The disclosed
assemblies are suitable for use in hot or cold water installations, and
integrate seamlessly with specific pool or spa water features. In an
embodiment, the shell is made of a vacuum-formed acrylic sheet that is
formed, plumbed, and/or fiberglassed according to specific methodologies.
The spa insert may include a false bottom such that in-floor features
like sump pumps, jets and/or anti-entrapment systems may be installed.
1. A spa assembly for use in combination with a pool filled with water
comprising:a shell portion shaped to be fitted into an existing gunite
spa cavity placed adjacent to a partially or fully in-ground pool
structure, includinga tub portion;a flat upper flange with an integrated
spillway for allowing water to flow from the spa assembly to the pool,
the flat upper flange being constructed so as to support the weight of
the spa on the rim of the gunite spa cavity and disposed in a plane
substantially above the surface of the water in the pool when
filled;plumbing elements associated with the shell portion, the plumbing
elements including at least one suction component and one return
component; and,a notch in the transition area between the tub portion and
the flat upper flange, wherein the notch is sized so as to receive
masonry components comparable to those to be placed on the top surface of
the flat upper flange.
2. The spa assembly of claim 1, wherein the notch has dimensions from between four to six inches in height to one to two inches in depth.
3. The spa assembly of claim 1, wherein the shell portion includes a vacuum-formed base part and a layer of fiberglass.
4. The spa assembly of claim 3, wherein the vacuum-formed base part is constructed from a material selected from the group consisting of acrylic, plastic, Lucite, resin composite, and carbon fiber.
5. The spa assembly of claim 1, wherein the shell portion is constructed so as to be readily insertable and removable from the existing gunite spa cavity.
6. The spa assembly of claim 1, wherein the suction includes at least one main drain suction located near the bottom of the shell portion.
7. The spa assembly of claim 6, wherein the at least one main drain suction is covered with an anti-entrapment drain cover.
8. The spa assembly of claim 1, wherein operating controls are located in a single, readily accessible window region.
9. A spa assembly for use in combination with a pool filled with water comprising:a shell portion shaped to be fitted into an existing gunite spa cavity placed adjacent to a partially or fully in-ground pool structure, includinga tub portion;a flat upper lip having a top surface with an integral spillway for allowing water to flow from the spa assembly to the pool, the flat upper lip constructed so as to allow flat masonry components to be installed directly onto the top surface, and the flat upper lip being positioned in a plane substantially above the surface of the water in the pool when filled;a notch in the transition area between the tub portion and the flat upper lip, wherein the notch is sized so as to receive masonry components comparable to those to be placed on the top surface of the flat upper lip; and,plumbing elements associated with the shell portion, the plumbing elements including at least one suction component and one return component.
10. The spa assembly of claim 9, wherein the assembly is capable of being installed in a balanced manner, supported by both the flat upper lip and the bottom footwell, in the absence of sandbags.
11. The spa assembly of claim 10, wherein the assembly is capable of being attached to an upper rim of the gunite spa cavity by securing elements.
12. The spa assembly of claim 11, wherein the securing elements are bolts.
13. The spa assembly of claim 12, wherein the securing elements are twist-lock fasteners.
14. The spa assembly of claim 11, wherein the securing elements travel directly down through the upper lip and attach to the gunite spa cavity.
15. The spa assembly of claim 9, wherein the notch has dimensions from between four and six inches in height to one to two inches in depth.
16. The spa assembly of claim 9, wherein the shell portion includes a vacuum-formed base part and fiberglass.
17. The spa assembly of claim 16 wherein the vacuum-formed base part is constructed from a material selected from the group consisting of acrylic, plastic, Lucite, resin-based composites, and carbon fiber.
18. The spa assembly of claim 9, wherein the suction includes at least one main drain suction located near the bottom of the shell portion.
19. The spa assembly of claim 18, wherein the at least one main drain suction is covered with an anti-entrapment drain cover.
20. The spa assembly of claim 9, wherein operating controls are located in a single, readily accessible window region.
21. The spa assembly of claim 9, wherein the spa assembly is pre-plumbed and all of the basic plumbing controls are located in a single, readily accessible window region.
22. A spa assembly comprising:a shell portion shaped to be fitted into an existing gunite spa cavity, includinga tub portion, including a footwell portion for placing at least one in-floor sump drain;a flat upper lip having a top surface, the flat upper lip constructed so as to allow flat masonry components to be installed directly onto the top surface, and the flat upper lip being positioned in a plane substantially above the surface of the water in the pool when filled;a notch in the transition area between the tub portion and the flat upper lip, wherein the notch is sized so as to receive masonry components comparable to those to be placed on the top surface of the flat upper lip; andplumbing elements associated with the shell portion, the plumbing elements including at least one suction component and one return component.
23. The spa assembly of claim 22, wherein the shell portion includes a vacuum-formed base part and fiberglass.
24. The spa assembly of claim 22, wherein the at least one in-floor sump drain is a drain suction located near the bottom of the shell portion.
25. The spa assembly of claim 22, wherein the at least one in-floor sump drain is covered with an anti-entrapment drain cover.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This nonprovisional utility patent application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/800,044, entitled "SPA INSERT WITH FLAT UPPER FLANGE AND INTEGRAL SPILLWAY," filed Mar. 12, 2004, and hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
The invention relates generally to recreational or therapeutic in-ground spas and pools, and more specifically to spa and/or hot-tub assemblies that insert into a pre-formed cavity to form an integrated pool/spa structure with footwell features, such as in-floor sump drain or an anti-entrapment system.
The advent of packaged pool designs in which a pool and spa (hot tub) are integrated to form a combined pool/spa system has provided designers the opportunity to design pools that are not only interesting in appearance, but functionality as well. A popular type of integrated pool/spa design is the "spillover" spa in which a spa is placed adjacent to a pool so that water from the spa spills over into the pool. This type of design often provides a desirable integration of traditionally separate pool and spa constructions, and also facilitates the addition of interesting water features, such as waterfalls or waterflows between the pool and spa.
The design and construction of integrated pool/spa systems, however, can add significant costs and complexities to a pool project. For example, the specific pool shape must be conducive to placement of an integrated or spillover spa. The spa must then be properly designed and placed in relation to the pool. With respect to specific spa design and placement, numerous factors are critical in providing the desired look and operation while allowing for installation that is not only economical, but feasible as well. Factors such as the shape of the spa and pool and the type of materials used in construction, as well as the major sub-assemblies, like plumbing and heating are typically more critical in integrated pool systems because of the need to provide a uniform look and feel between the pool and spa, and the need to provide appropriate interaction of water between the pool and spa. Whereas a pool is typically constructed on a level plot, the associated spa can be placed at various heights either level with or above the pool. This also adds a degree of complexity in the design and construction process. The cost of adding a spillover spa to a package pool product can be quite significant due to the additional excavation, plumbing, filtration, and integration requirements.
Traditional integrated pool/spa systems utilize a spa that is excavated along with the attached pool as a single in-ground system. At present, gunite pools are the most popular design in much of the United States. In this type of pool construction, a construction crew excavates a hole, installs the plumbing and assembles a framework grid with 3/8-inch steel reinforcing rods (rebar), or similar structural material. The rebar rods are usually spaced at intervals, such as four to ten inches apart, and secured together with wire. When the grid is in place, the crew sprays a heavy coating of gunite, which is a mixture of cement and sand, around the rebar. The gunite is sprayed as a wet concrete material which is troweled smooth. After being allowed to dry, which can take up to a week, a smooth finish is applied to the rough surface. The most popular finish is plaster, which can be a mixture of cement and marble sand. Alternatively, special concrete paints, tiles, exposed aggregates, vinyl or fiberglass can be used to finish the pool surfaces. The advantage of a packaged gunite pool and spa is that the system is effectively one unit and made of the same material, thereby ensuring a uniform appearance and style. Also, as an integral unit, the plumbing and heating systems are often integrated at the design and manufacturing stage, thus simplifying installation. A disadvantage of this type of system, however, is that modification of the design or replacement of any the spa components or spa surface is very difficult due to tight integration with the pool.
To accommodate integration with existing pools, a number of pre-made spillover spas have been developed. These are typically pre-cast spa units that are pre-plumbed in pre-formed shells that are designed to interface with the main filtration equipment of an existing pool. Such assemblies, however, often have various drawbacks in design, construction and installation. Although they are designed to be readily installable components, they are often not designed to provide a truly integrated, flush look with the surrounding pool structure and masonry. Consequently, they lack the uniformity of appearance that can be achieved in traditional poured concrete/gunite pool and spa systems. For example, existing non-traditional spa systems (such as acrylic or fiberglass replacement spas) often possess no integration-assisting features, and protrude from the surrounding pool/patio in an unappealing manner. For pool and spa systems that require a specific aesthetic look or structure, this lack of integration presents a significant obstacle to overcoming the associated cost of such a system.
Another drawback with many present pre-formed spa assemblies, particularly with respect to replacement spas, is that they typically do not provide for adequate attachment to the existing surrounding structure or walls (e.g., gunite). Thus, present assemblies and methods frequently require installation and positioning construction or hardware that present further cost and complexity to the installation process. These systems also often require extensive rework of the existing water-flow, suction, skimmer and/or additional water feature systems, particularly with respect to the associated or necessary flow routes, filtration and valve requirements. As a further inconvenience, present pre-formed spa assemblies do not permit masonry or other stonework to be placed flush with the spa following installation. As a result, it is readily apparent that a spa has been added to adjoining pools or other water features, thereby disturbing the aesthetic appearance of the additional spa. What is therefore needed is a pre-formed spa assembly that integrates with the surrounding landscape, such that masonry or other stonework can be placed on and around the border of the installed spa.
Recent legislature has also required that spas have various anti-entrapment features in place. For example, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act requires certain anti-entrapment devices or systems. What is therefore needed is a pre-formed spa assembly that complies with these recent regulations.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
The invention is illustrated by way of example and not limitation in the figures of the accompanying drawings, in which like references indicate similar elements, and in which:
FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a spa insert, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 illustrates a partial side view of a spa insert as installed in a spa cavity, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 3 is a full side view of the insert as installed in a spa cavity for the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2;
FIG. 4A is a top view of the spa insert, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 4B is a side view of the spa insert flange, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 5 is an illustration of a spa cavity for receiving a spa insert, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 6 is an illustration of a spa insert placed in a spa cavity, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 7 is an illustration of a spa insert within a spa cavity with decorative rocks placed on the upper surface of the spa insert flange, according to an embodiment of the invention; and
FIG. 8 is a top view of a round spa insert with in-floor and sidewall jets, an in-floor suction system and an in-floor sump drain system, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 9 is a top view of a square spa insert with an in-floor sump drain anti-entrapment system, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 10 is a top view of an octagonal spa insert with in-floor and sidewall jets, an in-floor suction system and an in-floor sump drain anti-entrapment system, according to an embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 11 is a top view of a free-form spa insert with in-floor and sidewall jets, an in-floor suction system and an in-floor sump drain anti-entrapment system, according to an embodiment of the invention; and
FIG. 12 is a side view of a spa insert with cavity below the footwell housing the plumbing portions of the in-floor anti-entrapment sump drain system, according to an embodiment of the invention.
A spa insert and anti-entrapment system for the hot tub portion of a packaged pool system is described. In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the invention. It will be evident, however, to one of ordinary skill in the art, that the invention may be practiced without these specific details. The description of preferred embodiments is not intended to limit the scope of the invention or the claims issuing therefrom.
The assembly (also "spa" or "spa assembly") of the invention is an insert designed to fit into the spa cavity of new or existing in-ground pool structures. The spa cavity comprises an excavation or similar construction that is typically placed adjacent to a partially or fully in-ground pool structure. The completed packaged pool system comprises the pool and adjacent spa, which is arranged so that some of the water from the spa intermingles with the pool, typically by flowing into the pool via a passageway or waterfall.
Typical present known spa assemblies are comprised of pre-formed shells that typically have pre-defined, generally hemispherical upper lips. One example of such spa assemblies is the traditional fiberglass spa assemblies that have a rounded upper lip around the tub, with perhaps an extended portion that contains all of the spa controls. The curved or rounded surface is safe and comfortable to the touch, since people often lean or even sit on this upper section of the spa. Because of these uses, traditional fiberglass spas leave exposed a large portion of the fiberglass structure. These spas can only be made to match the surrounding pool structure by utilizing a particular color of fiberglass or housing material. In any case, such solutions are typically artificial and do not truly accomplish the complete integration of the spa with the surrounding environment.
Unlike stand-alone spa or "jacuzzi" structures, embodiments of the invention are intended primarily to be installed as an "insert" that becomes an integral part of built-in pool infrastructure while maintaining the uniform appearance that a traditional in-ground spa has with the surrounding masonry. An embodiment of the invention permits layering of surrounding on top of the flange surrounding the circumference of the spa insert.
FIG. 1 illustrates a spa insert for use with or without a packaged pool assembly according to an embodiment of the invention. As shown in FIG. 1, the assembly 100 is shell that is comprised of a tub portion 120, an upper flange 126 and a spillway 124. The assembly 100 further includes plumbing elements 130 attached or otherwise associated with the shell tub portion 120. These plumbing elements are related to the suction or the return water flow within the spa assembly. Spa assemblies, such as the assembly 100 shown in FIG. 1, can also include water jets 140, and any additional, necessary components for the water jets 140.
As illustrated in FIG. 1, the top surface 122 of the upper flange 126 is preferably flat or nearly flat. This allows the spa insert to fit flush in the spa cavity of the associated pool structure. Alternatively, the spa insert may be situated independently of an associated pool structure. The flat upper flange (or "lip") 126 allows for seamless integration into the existing masonry. It provides a structure that allows for robust installation and attachment, as well as a platform for the installation of decorative elements, such as tile, brick, stone, veneers, and the like, which may be placed on top of or around the flat or nearly flat flange.
As an insert that can be installed directly into the framework or outer structure portion of an in-ground pool or spa, or may be installed into any types of outdoor landscaping, the footwell of the spa can be set directly on the floor of the surrounding in-ground structure. Alternatively, the footwell of the spa can be set such that in-floor sump pumps, suction systems and/or anti-entrapment systems can lead out from the bottom of the spa insert. For example, the spa insert may be constructed with a "false-bottom" or similar structure.
One will appreciate that the flat flange 126 at the spa cap allows for integral fitting to the upper wall of the surrounding structure, associated pool, or landscaping. In these embodiments, this flange could sit on the gunite portion of the spa bond beam and dam wall, and can be fastened using a variety of fastening means (e.g., stainless steel or bronze bolts or fasteners), directly to the bond beam and dam wall to prevent any movement or separation from the pool/spa shell. The flat upper flange 126 is constructed so as to support the entire weight of the spa on the rim of the gunite spa cavity. The insert is also capable of being installed in a balanced manner, supported by both the flat upper lip 126 and the bottom footwell, without the use of sandbags. In an embodiment, the flat flange provides advantages over U-shaped spa lips that remain exposed to sunlight and UV rays after construction, thereby causing discoloration of the spa insert or other degradation. The flat flange 126 in the invention may be enclosed or fully covered by masonry or other stonework, avoiding such exposure and extending the life of the spa.
FIG. 5 illustrates a spa cavity into which a spa insert can be fitted, according to embodiments of the invention. As shown in FIG. 5, the spa cavity 500 is typically a cylindrically shaped cavity that is formed of concrete or similar material. Depending upon the final configuration of the packaged pool system, the cavity can be placed at an appropriate location adjacent to the pool, and can be of a shape and size appropriate to accept a spa insert, such as that illustrated in FIG. 1. In an embodiment, the spa cavity 500 is a gunite construction, in which a hole is excavated, and a rebar (steel reinforcing rod) framework 502 is assembled. With the grid in place, a heavy coating of gunite (a mixture of cement and sand) is sprayed around the rebar. Once dry, the exterior portion of the gunite cavity can be painted, coated, or otherwise finished to provide a desirable appearance. The inside surface of the gunite cavity can be left unfinished, since the use of a spa insert eliminates the need to finish the inside of the spa cavity. One or more access ports 504 formed in the gunite cavity 500 allow for the hookup of any necessary plumbing and electrical connections. These access ports can also allow an opening for the backfilling of sand around the installed spa insert. Notches 506 also represent a type of opening that can be used to backfill around the spa insert once it is placed in the cavity.
For creating a waterfall-like water feature for permitting water flow into an associated pool or other landscaping, the cavity 500 also includes a spillway recess 508 that is provided to accommodate the spillway of the insert, such as spillway 124 in insert 100. This recess provides for the flush mounting of the insert within the spa, and also helps hold the insert in place while it is fitted and fastened to the cavity. It should be noted that various different spillway and spillway recess configurations are possible, depending upon the design and implementation of the spillway. For example, the spillway could be recessed within the upper portion of the cavity as shown, or it could be designed to wrap up and over the side of the cavity, or even protrude through an opening formed in the wall of the cavity, or any other similar configuration.
As stated above, the spa cavity 500 is preferably made of gunite. In an alternative embodiment, the spa cavity can be formed using poured-concrete. This method is similar to gunite, but instead of spraying concrete material around a rebar framework, concrete is poured into a wooden form. As a further alternative embodiment, the spa cavity can be manufactured from masonry block, in which walls are constructed with concrete blocks, or similar building materials.
FIG. 2 is a partial side view of a spa insert 200 placed into a spa cavity 202. Once the insert is placed into the cavity, the cavity is backfilled with sand 204, or a similar material. The spa insert 200 includes a footwell portion 210, which is the bottom of the spa, that rests on a support 212 placed in the spa cavity. The support 212 can be a mortar base or similar structure. The walls of the tub portion of insert 200 can be formed at an angle, as shown, or vertically, depending upon the configuration desired by the user.
The insert 200 also includes flange 206, which attaches and bonds to the upper edge of spa cavity 202, through a beveled or notched interface, as shown. The size of the flange 206 can be varied, depending on the size of the mating surface of the spa cavity shell that the insert rests upon. In most applications, the flange 206 will be approximately three to five inches wide. Decorative masonry, such as tiles or stones 208, can be placed on top of the flat portion of flange 206 to integrate the spa with the surrounding pool and/or environment. As previously discussed, covering flange 206 prevents exposure of the flange to harmful UV rays, preventing discoloration and extending the life of the spa insert beyond spa inserts with exposed or U-shaped lips. A notch or circumferential recess 214 can also be formed in the insert 200 to accommodate the placement of tiles or stones along the upper inside surface of the tub to further complete the "integrated" appearance of the spa.
FIG. 3 is a full side view illustration of a spa insert placed into a spa cavity, for the embodiment shown in FIG. 2. As illustrated in FIG. 3, the spa insert 300 includes a spillway 304, which may be a trough or pathway cut or formed in the upper portion of the insert. The dimensions, position, and angle of the spillway can be manufactured in a variety of different ways, depending upon the constraints of the design and final pool/spa installation. For example, in a typical embodiment, the spillway 304 may be 18 inches wide by three inches high and formed as an indent or groove along the upper surface of the spa insert, thus forming a channel through the flange. Alternatively, the spillway can be formed as a slide that drops down from the upper surface of the spa insert and flange. Other similar alternatives can also be used to embody the spillway that is formed as a unitary (integral) part of the spa insert.
Also illustrated in FIG. 3 is the fixing of the insert 300 to cavity 306 through bolts 302. The spa insert may be first glued or bonded to the top of the spa cavity 306 then fixed by securing elements and fasteners, such as bolts 302, twist lock fasteners, screws, or similar means, to provide a robust and secure installation. The twist lock fasteners can be substituted for the bolts.
FIG. 4A is a top view of the spa insert illustrated in FIG. 1. The spa insert includes a footwell 402, which is surrounded by a bench 403. A step 408 may be provided to facilitate entry to the spa. The spa flange 404 surrounds the side of the spa insert and may include a plurality of bolt holes (e.g., 3/8'' holes or similar depending on the size of the bolt or fastener) 410 for attachment of the insert to the spa cavity. Securing elements such as bolts 302 travel directly down through the upper lip and attach to the gunite spa cavity. Bolts 302 may include concrete anchoring bolts to permanently affix the spa insert, or other similar bolts. In an embodiment, the use of bolts 302 prevents harmful effects from sub-surface conditions such as ground water, which may cause traditional spa inserts to heave or float out of level. The top surface of the flange 404 may be scored in a random or cross-hatch pattern 412 to facilitate the bonding of masonry along the edge of the spa assembly. FIG. 4B illustrates a detailed cross-sectional side view of the flange 404 showing the scored surface 412. For affixing the masonry to the top of the flange, an epoxy 414 or similar adhesive may be used. Scoring the flange helps strengthen the adhesive bond between the masonry and the spa insert. Instead of scoring the flange surface after construction, the spa flange and/or the cavity mating surface can be manufactured in a very rough surface to allow the transition from a plastic or acrylic base material to a mortar or cement base material.
As illustrated in FIG. 4A, the spa insert includes a spillway 406. As shown in FIG. 3, in an embodiment, the spillway is a notch or groove, or similar indent that is formed or cut into the top portion of the spa insert, through the flange. The spillway allows water to flow freely from the spa to the pool, maintaining the traditional method of in-ground pool/spa filtration. The use of a spillway allows for the elimination of a traditional fiberglass spa skimmer from the top portion of the spa just below the waterline. The water is filtered through the pool filter during normal filtration by way of a common return line between the pool and the spa. For normal spa use there are two spa suction lines located at the base of the spa footwell 402, as in a more traditional gunite spa configuration. In an embodiment, the spa assembly includes two suction inlets, instead of the usual one. These are illustrated as element 308 in FIG. 3. The dual suction located in the spa footwell also allows for a normal spa draining customary to an in-ground assembly. This design represents a significant improvement over existing systems for several reasons. First, the absence of skimmer plumbing means that the users have a much simpler system, a system that does not require the user to undergo multi-step cleaning operations to provide the desired result. Second, this embodiment does not require placement of plugs within these upper skimmer holes to drain the spa, avoiding the need for owners to be knowledgeable in the more complicated principles of operation of the skimming functions of the spas, and thereby avoids any problems/damage caused by errant operation of these skimmer functions.
Embodiments of the present spa assembly also provide for increased user comfort. The insert assembly can be designed in several configurations other than the traditional straight walls and benches found in most in-ground spas. In most in-ground spas, there are only four to six jets, which are all typically placed at the same depth from the top of spa, with the jet "height" being adjusted by merely adjusting the height of the spa bench. Though the bench height and footwell depth are determined by the mold used to form the insert, the number of jets and their locations are virtually unlimited in the assembly shell, allowing for a much more comfortable and therapeutic spa, while maintaining the appearance and uniformity of a traditional in-ground spa. As shown in FIGS. 8-11, jets may also be placed within the floor of the spa insert, permitting jet streams to flow from beneath the user, providing foot massages or other similar comforts. One will appreciate that in-floor jets may be enabled by virtue of a cavity below the spa insert or a false floor.
Operating controls 325 for controlling various factors such as water temperature, jet flow, and the like can be located in a single, readily accessible window region on the side of the tub surface. Basic plumbing controls 330 can also be located in a single, readily accessible window region. The controls may be provided at a console that is separate and outside of the spa. For configurations in which the controls are placed within the spa and below the waterline of the tub, a waterproof console with touchbutton or similar controls can be provided.
Once the spa insert has been formed and installed with the appropriate plumbing fixtures, it is ready to be inserted into a spa cavity, such as cavity 500 illustrated in FIG. 5. After the assembly has been set in place and plumbed, the remaining space between the in-ground spa walls and the spa insert (with the associated plumbing/electrical lines) is back-filled with sand and water-jetted to achieve maximum compaction around the assembly. The fasteners in the spa lip, which fasten the assembly to the in-ground pool/spa structure, allow this water-jetting to take place without the fear of floating the assembly. The access notches 506 along the edge of the spa insert facilitate the backfilling and water jetting operations. The installation of the insert in the cavity is illustrated in the cutaway diagram of FIG. 3, and illustrated in the perspective view of FIG. 6.
As can be seen in FIG. 6, the spa cavity 602 is formed of gunite or concrete and placed adjacent to a cavity that forms an in-ground pool. The insert 604 fits into the spa cavity and is held in place by the flange 606. A spillway 608 allows for spa water to fall into the adjoining pool. The spa cavity is embedded with rocks 610 or other decorative masonry elements. The flange on the spa insert allows for the installation of similar masonry elements along the top surface or border of the spa. FIG. 7 illustrates the completed spa assembly with masonry tiles or stones 702 installed on the top portion of the spa assembly.
As shown in FIG. 7, one installation advantage of embodiments of the invention pertains to the simplicity of matching the surrounding masonry. The flat flanged portion of the spa insert allows masonry (i.e., brick, rock, coping stone, etc.) to be installed in a more preferable fashion to the pool/spa, keeping the appearance of a traditional in-ground pool/spa, and protecting the spa from UV overexposure, discoloration and other types of sun damage. In some embodiments, a notch is located below the flat fastening lip of the spa to allow installation of traditional waterline tile or masonry in a novel manner. This notch is illustrated as element 214 in FIG. 2 and element 612 of FIG. 6. The notch can be designed in a variety of different sizes depending upon the design and installation constraints. For the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the notch 214 is shaped in a size approximately between four to six inches in height to one to two inches in depth. FIG. 7 illustrates the placement of tiles or similar items 704 within such a notch in the final finished spa assembly.
In an embodiment, the spa insert 100 illustrated in FIG. 1 is manufactured using a fiberglass and gel coat. This is accomplished by using a mold to define the shape of the insert. To the mold is first applied a colored gel coat, which is then sprayed or hand laid with several coats of fiberglass. After the shell has been completed, the plumbing is installed. The installation will vary depending on the number of jets and their location within the tub portion of the spa. After completion of the spa plumbing, the spa insert is pressure tested to ensure that it is free of leaks. A spray foam insulation is then sprayed over the fiberglass and plumbing.
In an alternative mode of manufacture, the insert is formed by a vacuum forming method. In this method, a flat sheet of plastic is used. It is heated to a soft pliable state and placed over a vacuum mold. The vacuum created pulls the soft plastic into its final shape. After cooling, a colored gel coat is then applied and the plumbing is installed, as described above with reference to the fiberglass embodiment. Besides plastic, any comparable material, such as acrylic, resin composite, Lucite, or even carbon fiber, can be used.
The use of acrylic or fiberglass assemblies for the spa insert confers numerous benefits over current gunite spa structures. The spa assembly using an insert placed in the spa cavity can include insulation, typically foam insulated as part of the manufacturing and assembly process. The insulating material can be used as part or all of the backfilling material 204. The use of insulation provides greater energy efficiency than typical in-ground systems. For example, the insulated spa insert configuration allows the spa to heat in approximately one-quarter the time of traditional in-ground or gunite spas. Not only is this convenient and time efficient for the owner, but it is also provides a significant savings on the use of gas, propane, or other heating energy source. While a traditional in-ground spa with a cover, when heated for use will lose approximately 50% of its heat overnight due to the concrete construction and lack of insulation. An insulated assembly according to the disclosed embodiments will maintain approximately 80% of its heat in the same time period. Therefore, using the spa on consecutive days will impose a minimal cost in maintaining the desired operating temperature.
As discussed above, FIGS. 8-11 illustrate in-floor features not typically found in traditional spas. These features include the in-floor sump drains shown in FIGS. 8-11. FIG. 8 illustrates sump drains 802 in the floor of a round spa insert. In FIG. 9, the in-floor sump drains 902 of the square spa insert also include an anti-entrapment system such as that required by the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, including safety vacuum release systems (suction-limiting vent systems, gravity drainage systems, automatic pump shut-off systems, drain disablement, etc.) or other mechanisms to prevent entrapment, injury, drowning or death. FIG. 10 shows an in-floor system including sump drains 1002, anti-entrapment drain covers and suction 1004 in the footwell of an octagonal spa insert. Similarly, in FIG. 11, the footwell of the free-form spa insert includes in-floor sump drains 1102 with anti-entrapment system and suction 1104. In-floor suction systems allow a user to suck out debris and other materials from the bottom of the spa, thereby facilitating cleaning. Similarly, in-floor sump systems permit easier draining for cleaning or other purposes, whereas the anti-entrapment systems prevent accidents and drowning. One will also appreciate that FIGS. 8-11 also illustrate the flat flange illustrated in FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7.
FIG. 12 illustrates a side view of an embodiment of the invention in which anti-entrapment sump drains 1201 are set in the footwell of a spa insert such that the drain covers are nearly flush with the bottom of the spa insert. Below anti-entrapment sump drains 1201 is a cavity that houses the plumbing mechanisms and other piping. At the bottom of a cavity is a floor 1204 to protect drains a plumbing. As such, anti-entrapment sump drains 1201 may sit within a false bottom or partial flooring to allow for in-floor features, such as the anti-entrapment sump drains 1201 shown, or other features such as in-floor jets and the like. As with the previous FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, the spa insert in FIG. 12 has a flat flange 1206 that may be capped with masonry or other stoneware.
One will appreciate that in the description above and throughout, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the invention. It will be evident, however, to one of ordinary skill in the art, that the invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known structures and devices are shown in block diagram form to facilitate explanation. The description of the preferred embodiments is not intended to limit the scope of the claims appended hereto. Further, in the methods disclosed herein, various steps are disclosed illustrating some of the functions of the invention. One will appreciate that these steps are merely exemplary and are not meant to be limiting in any way. Other steps and functions may be contemplated without departing from this disclosure or the scope of the invention.
Patent applications in class Particular construction or configuration details
Patent applications in all subclasses Particular construction or configuration details