FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/041,232 filed Mar. 31, 2009, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to interior lighting for refrigerator units such as merchandisers having cabinets with glass doors, and particularly to a mounting structure for LED lights that conceal the lights on the inside of a refrigerator door.
Lighting is necessary within refrigerator units and particularly free standing merchandisers of the type under consideration. Such lighting is usually provided by means of elongate fluorescent tubes and has been provided in the upper portion of the cabinet or upon the doors. This arrangement illuminates the upper shelving well but is not entirely satisfactory for illuminating the lower shelving. Lighting can also be provided at the rear or the sides of the cabinet. However, this arrangement tends to be unsightly because the lighting assembly is visible from the outside of the unit through the glass doors. In refrigerators such as glass door merchandisers, unlike typical refrigeration units, the light stays on while the door is closed and provides illumination upon the contents of the refrigerator.
Additionally, the assignee of the present invention owns U.S. Pat. No. 5,699,676 which is directed to an invention for mounting a fluorescent tube light on a refrigerator door. However, fluorescent lighting is not as efficient as LED lighting and also has difficulty in extremely cold environments, such as coolers that must keep items such as ice cream very cold. Moreover, fluorescent lights have a limited lifespan and incorporate ballasts that similarly have a limited lifespan.
A difficulty with LED lighting is providing a system whereby it can be used in a refrigerator structure. First of all, LED lights are much smaller than typical fluorescent tubes and therefore must shine with a greater intensity in order to provide the same amount of light. As a result, when a user opens the door of a refrigeration unit the user is blinded by the intense light put forth by the LED lights when LED lights are mounted as with prior art lights.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Therefore, there is a need in the art to mount LED lights within a glass door merchandiser or refrigerator in a manner that is not unsightly and does not shine directly into the eyes of the user of the merchandiser or refrigerator and thereby annoying the user.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention provides a refrigerator unit with a lighted door including a cabinet including a top, bottom and opposed sides defining a front opening. The refrigerator further includes a door including a door frame mounted to the cabinet, said door frame having an inside and outside and including a top framing member, a bottom framing member, opposed side framing members and a glass panel having an exterior and an interior. Finally, provided is a lighting assembly attached to at least one of the top framing member, a bottom framing member and opposed side framing members. The lighting assembly includes a channel for maintaining a plurality of LEDs. The channel is disposed at an angle to direct light from the LEDs either parallel to the glass panel or at an oblique angle thereto. The system may reduce the intensity of the light when the door is opened.
FIG. 1 is a front view of a refrigerator unit using the door mounted lighting system according to an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a plan view of the unit according to an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the inside of a door frame according to an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view taken on Line 4-4 of FIG. 3 according to an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the inside of a portion of a door frame according to an embodiment of the present invention; and
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view taken on Line 5-5 of FIG. 4.
While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiments illustrated.
The preferred embodiment of the invention provides door mounted lighting for LED lights or LED circuit boards within free standing refrigerator units having cabinets with glass doors. The LED lights are substantially concealed from view from the outside of the cabinet when the door is closed. The LED lights do not interfere with the contents of the cooler such as to minimize the refrigerator's capacity. The preferred embodiment includes a channel defined by the door frame for receiving a LED light assembly that preferably includes an LED light or plurality of LED lights that may be discrete elements attached to a base unit or a LED lights mounted to a circuit broad. Optionally, the channel may be defined by a unit mounted to the door frame or manufactured integrally therewith. The LED light assembly is preferably angled obliquely or parallel to the glass of the glass door merchandiser. Finally, optionally, a cover interfits with said channel in a snap-fitting relationship to provide protection and to diffuse said light.
A preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 1-3. It will be understood that the refrigeration unit shown is a merchandiser 10 which includes a lower portion providing a compressor housing 11 and an upper portion providing a cabinet 12. As shown, the cabinet 12 includes a top 14, a bottom 15 and opposed sides 16 defining an opening 18. The opening 18 in the embodiment shown includes a pair of doors 20 which are substantially identical, each door 20 being attached to one of said cabinet sides 16 in swinging relation to said door opening 18. While the preferred embodiment includes a pair of doors 20, one of ordinary skill in the art would recognize that the present invention is not limited to any specific number of doors.
Each door 20 includes a door frame 22 and a top and bottom pivot attachment 24 by which it is attached to the cabinet 12. Each door frame 22 includes a top framing member 50, a bottom framing member 51 and side framing members 30 and 31. The cross section of the top, bottom and side framing members 50, 51, 30 and 31, which are mitered at the corners, is substantially the same. The side framing members 30 and 31 are substantially identical and are adapted to suit a lighting assembly 100, as will be described. The side framing member 31 may also be equipped with a lighting assembly 100, as desired. The top and bottom framing members 50 and 51 are substantially identical. The top and bottom framing members may include lighting assemblies 100, as desired. The doors 20 include a glass panel 44.
The lighting assembly 100 is shown in FIG. 4 and includes a box section 102 that comprises a door frame member 51 in FIG. 4 (but is representative of any frame member 30, 31, 50 or 51) comprising a pair of frame member portions 104 and 106. Attached to a frame member portion 106 is a lighting assembly 108. The lighting assembly 108 comprises a weather seal retaining portion 110 and a lighting element retaining portion 112. The weather seal retaining portion 110 retains a weather seal 114 thereto using a barbed connector 116 pushed through a bore of the weather seal retaining portion 110. The lighting element retaining portion 112 comprises a triangular portion 118 that extends rearwardly into the merchandiser 10 (upwardly in FIG. 4) from the weather seal retaining portion 110. The triangular portion 118 comprises two extensions 119 that define a channel 120 in which a light element substrate 122 is mounted. The light element substrate 122 has one or more LEDs 124 attached thereto. A diffuser or a plurality of diffusers are attached over the LEDs 124 and onto the extensions 119 to diffuse light from the LEDs 124.
The triangular portion 118 acts to shine light from the LEDs at an oblique angle to the glass panel 44 of the door such that a user looking into the merchandiser 10 does not have light from the LEDs 124 shone directly in his face. Moreover, to reduce the effect of the LED light on the user who opens the merchandiser door 20 to remove an item, the merchandiser 10 includes a switch assembly 130 to detect when a door 20 has opened. The switch can be any known switch, such as a rocker switch, capacitive switch, Hall Effect sensor, etc. When said door 20 is opened, the merchandiser 10 includes a circuit that reduces the power to the LEDs such that the LEDs are dimmed when the door is opened. The dimming of the LEDs prevents the user from having intense LED light shone in his eyes while opening the door and removing an item, while still providing high intensity light to the interior of the merchandiser 10 when the door is closed so that users can view the items therein through the glass panel 44. Preferably the light is dimmed to about 40-99% of the closed lighting level when the door is opened, more preferably about 50-90% when the door is opened, more preferably about 70-90% when the door is opened, most preferably by about 80% when the door is opened.
In a second embodiment of the present invention, shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, there is the door 20 with the side framing member 31 and bottom framing member 51 having the box section 102 comprising the two frame member portions 104 and 106. A lighting assembly 200 is mounted thereto. The lighting assembly 200 comprises a weather seal retaining portion 202 and a lighting element retaining portion 204. A weather seal may be attached to the weather seal retaining portion 202 as in the first embodiment, above. The lighting element retaining portion 204 comprises an extension 206 defining a channel 207 into which a lighting element substrate 208 may be inserted having one or more LEDs 210 mounted thereto. The LED assembly 200 directs the light from the LEDs 210 in a direction parallel to the glass panel 44 of the door 20. In this embodiment, the dimming of the LEDs when the door 10 is open may be similarly employed.
The above examples show that the invention, as defined by the claims, has far ranging application and should not be limited merely to the embodiments shown and described in detail. Instead the invention should be limited only to the explicit words of the claims, and the claims should not be arbitrarily limited to embodiments shown in the specification. The scope of protection is only limited by the scope of the accompanying claims, and the Examiner should examine the claims on that basis.