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United States Patent Application 20170307223
Kind Code A1
Li; Xiaofeng October 26, 2017

ELECTRIC FIREPLACE SIMULATING REALISTIC FLAME AND SMOKE EFFECTS

Abstract

Method and devices for simulating visual and audio effects of wood burning fireplace are provided. An electric fireplace includes artificial logs on a hearth area configured to simulate burning wood logs. The electric fireplace includes a mist generator to generate mist surrounding the artificial logs. At least one light engine supplies light beams to lighten the mist surrounding the artificial logs to simulate flickering fire that burns the artificial logs. The electric fireplace further includes a speaker for playing crackling wood burning sound.


Inventors: Li; Xiaofeng; (Shenzhen, CN)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Li; Xiaofeng

Shenzhen

CN
Family ID: 1000001918610
Appl. No.: 15/150057
Filed: May 9, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: F24C 7/006 20130101; F24C 7/004 20130101
International Class: F24C 7/00 20060101 F24C007/00; F24C 7/00 20060101 F24C007/00

Foreign Application Data

DateCodeApplication Number
Apr 22, 2016CN201610259646.0

Claims



1. An electric fireplace device, comprising: artificial logs positioned on a hearth area to mimic appearance of wood logs; a mist generator positioned below the hearth area and coupled to a mist vent to generate mist and to direct the generate mist to surrounding areas of the artificial logs; at least one light source positioned below the hearth area to project light beams onto the mist in the surrounding areas of the artificial logs to simulate a flickering fire that burns the artificial logs; and a speaker to play crackling wood burning sound, a volume of the crackling wood burning sound being synchronized with a light intensity of the light engine.

2. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: a base box enclosing the mist generator, the light source and the speaker, a top panel of the base box serving as the hearth area supporting the artificial logs, the base box including at least one mist vent for the mist to travel from the mist generator to the hearth area.

3. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: a water cartridge to supply water to the mist generator, the water cartridge positioned at least in part within the base box and being detachable from the mist generator for replenishing water.

4. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: a light engine driver circuit coupled to the light source to control one or more light emitting components of the light source.

5. The electric fireplace device of claim 4, wherein the light engine driver circuit includes a microprocessor that allows generation of control signals, pulses or waveforms for driving the light source.

6. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, wherein the light source includes multiple light-emitting diode (LED) modules that project light beams of different colors onto the mist at different angles.

7. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, wherein: the light source includes multiple light emitting elements that turn on at different times, and an on-time duration of at least one of the multiple light emitting elements partially overlaps with the on-time duration of another one of the light emitting elements.

8. The electric fireplace device of claim 2, further comprising: at least one mist guiding channel positioned in vicinity of the mist vent to guide the mist travelling from the mist generator to the hearth area containing the artificial logs.

9. The electric fireplace device of claim 8, wherein the mist guiding channel adjusts a direction or a level of the mist travelling through the mist guiding channel for a realistic simulation of a wood burning fireplace.

10. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, wherein the artificial logs include material that allows the light emitted from the light source to be reflected from the artificial logs to simulate visual effects of burning woods.

11. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: artificial charcoals positioned on the hearth area, the artificial charcoals including material that allows the light emitted from the light source to be reflected from the artificial charcoals to simulate visual effects of burning charcoals.

12. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: a control dial positioned at a user-accessible location on the electric fireplace device to control a volume, intensity or density of the mist generated by the mist generator; a power switch to turn on and off the electric fireplace device; and a remove controller to control the operation of the electric fireplace device.

13. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: a control dial positioned at a user-accessible location on the electric fireplace device to control a volume of crackling wood burning sound played by the speaker.

14. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: a water level detector positioned below the hearth area to monitor a water level and to generate an alarm signal when the water level is below a predetermined level.

15. The electric fireplace device of claim 1, further comprising: an electric fan positioned below the hearth area to blow the mist to the hearth area of the electric fireplace device.

16. A method for simulating a wood burning fireplace, comprising steps of: supplying water to a mist generator of an electric fireplace; converting, by the mist generator, the water into a mist including water droplet; guiding the mist to a hearth area containing artificial logs; supplying light, by multiple light sources, to the hearth area to lighten the mist surrounding the artificial logs to simulate a flickering fire that arises from the artificial logs; and playing a crackling wood burning sound on a speaker of the electric fireplace in synchronization with light supplied by the multiple light sources to complement a visual effect of the flickering fire, wherein a volume of the crackling wood burning sound is changed in synchronization with a light intensity of the light sources.

17. A method of claim 16, further comprising: emitting at least part of the mist above the artificial logs to simulate smoke emitted from burning logs.

18. A method of claim 16, further comprising: directing the light to at least partially illuminate the artificial logs, wherein the artificial logs include material that reflects part of the light that is incident on the artificial logs.

19. A method of claim 16, further comprising: automatically turning off the electric fireplace and generating an alarm, in response to a detection that a water level of the water inside of the electric fireplace is below a predetermine level.

20. A method of claim 16, further comprising: receiving a control signal from remote controller for turning the electric fireplace on or off either instantly or a time period later.

21. A method of claim 16, further comprising: adjusting a volume, level or density of the mist generated by the mist generator, in response to a control signal indicative of a requested change in a mist characteristic.

22. A device for simulating burning logs, comprising: artificial logs; a detachable cartridge configured to be removable attached and to supply a liquid to the device; an ultrasonic mist generator including a vibrating member that is coupled to the detachable cartridge to induce a movement in the liquid at an ultrasonic frequency to generate mist; a mist guide positioned in vicinity of the ultrasonic mist generator to capture at least part of the generated mist and to route the captured mist to an area close to the artificial logs; at least one light source including a light-emitting diode (LED) positioned to illuminate the mist close to the artificial logs to simulate flickering fire that burns the artificial logs; and a speaker driven by an electric signal that causes the speaker to play crackling wood burning sound.

23. The device of claim 22, further comprising: a water cartridge to supply water to the ultrasonic mist generator, the water cartridge being detachable from the ultrasonic mist generator for replenishing water.

24. The device of claim 22, wherein the at least one light source includes multiple light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that project light beams of different colors onto the generated mist at different angles.

25. The device of claim 22, wherein the at least one light source includes multiple light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that turn on at different times, and an on-time duration of at least one of the multiple light-emitting diodes (LEDs) partially overlaps with the on-time duration of another one of the light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

26. The device of claim 22, further comprising: a water level detector positioned below the hearth area to monitor a water level and to generate an alarm signal when the water level is below a predetermined level.

27. The device of claim 22, further comprising: a control dial positioned at a user-accessible location on the device to control a volume of the crackling wood burning sound played by the speaker.

28. The device of claim 22, wherein the artificial logs include material that allows the light emitted from the light source to be reflected from the artificial logs to simulate visual effects of burning woods.

29. The device of claim 22, further comprising: artificial charcoals including material that allows the light emitted from the light source to be reflected from the artificial charcoals to simulate visual effects of burning charcoals.

30. The device of claim 22, wherein the mist guide adjusts a direction or a level of the mist travelling through the mist guide for a realistic simulation of a wood burning fireplace.
Description



RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This patent document claims priority to the Chinese patent application no. CN201610259646.0 filed on Apr. 22, 2016. The entire contents of the before mentioned patent application is incorporated by reference in this patent document.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The subject matter of this patent document relates to an electric fireplace, particularly to an electric fireplace simulating realistic smoke and lighting effects.

BACKGROUND

[0003] A conventional fireplace is a structure designed to contain a fire. The fireplace is usually made of brick, stone or metal. The fireplace includes a firebox or firepit for containing the wood-burning or gas-burning fire and a chimney or flue allowing exhaust to escape. Historically a fireplace can be used for heating a dwelling, cooking, heating water, and/or decoration. A wood-burning fireplace requires periodic cleaning and maintenance. Studies show that the smoke generated by the fireplace can pose a significant health risk. Installing a fireplace can also require extensive construction and expense.

[0004] There are some electric devices with red light bulbs and artificial logs that are made to mimic a fireplace. The red light bulbs are placed under the artificial logs to simulate burning logs. However, the simulated burning logs are not realistic and not aesthetically appealing.

SUMMARY

[0005] The present inventors recognized the need to realistically simulate visual and audio effects of a wood burning fireplace. Further, the present inventors recognized the need for an electric fireplace that simulates flickering fire, burning wood logs, and the smoke emitted from the burning logs.

[0006] Various implementations of the subject matter described herein may provide one or more of the following advantages. In one or more implementations, the technique and devices or systems described herein can simulate visual and audio effects of the burning logs without real smoke from burning real wood logs. The operation of the device or system takes less energy than the actual wood-burning fireplace because the device or system only uses electric energy for emitting light, sound and water mist and does not induce actual fire or burning. The device or system is environmentally friendly since the only material being emitted is a water mist.

[0007] The device or system simulates realistically the visual effect of flickering fire burning wood logs because the mist surrounding the artificial logs are constantly moving and changing shape. Furthermore, the density of the mist is not uniform and the light reflected by different portion of the mist has different directions and different intensities. The moving and non-uniformly lightened mist creates a realistic simulation of the flickering fire.

[0008] In some implementations, an electric fireplace device described herein can include artificial logs positioned on a hearth area to mimic appearance of wood logs; a mist generator positioned below the hearth area and coupled to a mist vent to generate mist and to direct the generate mist to surrounding areas of the artificial logs; at least one light source positioned below the hearth area to project light beams onto the mist in the surrounding areas of the artificial logs to simulate a flickering fire that burns the artificial logs; and a speaker to play crackling wood burning sound, a volume of the crackling wood burning sound being synchronized with a light intensity of the light engine.

[0009] In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include a base box enclosing the mist generator, the light source and the speaker, a top panel of the base box serving as the hearth area supporting the artificial logs, the base box including at least one mist vent for the mist to travel from the mist generator to the hearth area. In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include a water cartridge to supply water to the mist generator, the water cartridge positioned at least in part within the base box and being detachable from the mist generator for replenishing water. In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include a light engine driver circuit coupled to the light source to control one or more light emitting components of the light source. In some related implementations, the light engine driver circuit includes a microprocessor that allows generation of control signals, pulses or waveforms for driving the light source.

[0010] In some related implementations, the light source includes multiple light-emitting diode (LED) modules that project light beams of different colors onto the mist at different angles. In some related implementations, the light source includes multiple light emitting elements that turn on at different times, and an on-time duration of at least one of the multiple light emitting elements partially overlaps with the on-time duration of another one of the light emitting elements.

[0011] In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include at least one mist guiding channel positioned in vicinity of the mist vent to guide the mist travelling from the mist generator to the hearth area containing the artificial logs. In some related implementations, the mist guiding channel adjusts a direction or a level of the mist travelling through the mist guiding channel for a realistic simulation of a wood burning fireplace.

[0012] In some related implementations, the artificial logs include material that allows the light emitted from the light source to be reflected from the artificial logs to simulate visual effects of burning woods. In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include artificial charcoals positioned on the hearth area, the artificial charcoals including material that allows the light emitted from the light source to be reflected from the artificial charcoals to simulate visual effects of burning charcoals.

[0013] In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include a control dial positioned at a user-accessible location on the electric fireplace device to control a volume, intensity or density of the mist generated by the mist generator; a power switch to turn on and off the electric fireplace device; and a remove controller to control the operation of the electric fireplace device. In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include a control dial positioned at a user-accessible location on the electric fireplace device to control a volume of crackling wood burning sound played by the speaker.

[0014] In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include a water level detector positioned below the hearth area to monitor a water level and to generate an alarm signal when the water level is below a predetermined level. In some related implementations, the electric fireplace device can further include an electric fan positioned below the hearth area to blow the mist to the hearth area of the electric fireplace device.

[0015] In some implementations, a method for simulating a wood burning fireplace disclosed herein can include steps of supplying water to a mist generator of an electric fireplace; converting, by the mist generator, the water into a mist including water droplet; guiding the mist to a hearth area containing artificial logs; supplying light, by multiple light sources, to the hearth area to lighten the mist surrounding the artificial logs to simulate a flickering fire that arises from the artificial logs; and playing a crackling wood burning sound on a speaker of the electric fireplace in synchronization with light supplied by the multiple light sources to complement a visual effect of the flickering fire, wherein a volume of the crackling wood burning sound is changed in synchronization with a light intensity of the light sources.

[0016] In some related implementations, the method can further include a step of emitting at least part of the mist above the artificial logs to simulate smoke emitted from burning logs. In some related implementations, the method can further include a step of directing the light to at least partially illuminate the artificial logs, wherein the artificial logs include material that reflects part of the light that is incident on the artificial logs.

[0017] In some related implementations, the method can further include a step of automatically turning off the electric fireplace and generating an alarm, in response to a detection that a water level of the water inside of the electric fireplace is below a predetermine level. In some related implementations, the method can further include a step of receiving a control signal from remote controller for turning the electric fireplace on or off either instantly or a time period later. In some related implementations, the method can further include a step of adjusting a volume, level or density of the mist generated by the mist generator, in response to a control signal indicative of a requested change in a mist characteristic.

[0018] In some implementations, a device for simulating burning logs disclosed herein can include artificial logs; a detachable cartridge configured to be removable attached and to supply a liquid to the device; an ultrasonic mist generator including a vibrating member that is coupled to the detachable cartridge to induce a movement in the liquid at an ultrasonic frequency to generate mist; a mist guide positioned in vicinity of the ultrasonic mist generator to capture at least part of the generated mist and to route the captured mist to an area close to the artificial logs; at least one light source including a light-emitting diode (LED) positioned to illuminate the mist close to the artificial logs to simulate flickering fire that burns the artificial logs; and a speaker driven by an electric signal that causes the speaker to play crackling wood burning sound.

[0019] These general and specific techniques can be implemented using a device, a method, a system, or any combination of devices, methods or systems, methods, and systems. The details of one or more implementations are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Further features, aspects, and advantages will become apparent from the description, the drawings, and the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] FIG. 1 shows an electric fireplace device.

[0021] FIG. 2 shows components of the electric fireplace device.

[0022] FIG. 3 shows multiple base modules that can form a base box of the electric fireplace device.

[0023] FIG. 3 shows an exploded view of components of a base box of the electric fireplace device.

[0024] FIG. 4 shows a bottom panel and two supporting panels of the electric fireplace device.

[0025] FIG. 5 shows two sliding rails that can be fixed onto the supporting panels.

[0026] FIG. 6 shows a control panel module of the electric fireplace device.

[0027] FIG. 7 shows the control panel module being installed on right side of the bottom panel.

[0028] FIG. 8 shows a light engine driver assembly of the electric fireplace device.

[0029] FIG. 9 shows the light engine driver assembly being installed on a left panel.

[0030] FIG. 10 shows a left panel with the light engine driver assembly being installed on the left side of the bottom panel.

[0031] FIG. 11 shows a back panel and a speaker component of the electric fireplace device.

[0032] FIG. 12 shows the back panel being attached to the bottom panel.

[0033] FIG. 13 shows the front panel of the electric fireplace device.

[0034] FIG. 14 shows a sliding panel fastened to the front panel.

[0035] FIG. 15 shows a bottom cover and a sliding rail mounting attachment.

[0036] FIG. 16 shows other sliding rail mounting attachments installed on top of the bottom cover.

[0037] FIG. 17 shows the bottom cover installed on the sliding panel.

[0038] FIG. 18 shows an electric wiring cover of the electric fireplace device.

[0039] FIG. 19 shows a cover-to-cover female wiring socket installed in the electric wiring cover.

[0040] FIG. 20 shows an electric fan installed on top of the electric wiring cover.

[0041] FIG. 21 shows a module including the electric wiring cover, the electric fan and clips being installed on the sliding panel.

[0042] FIG. 22 shows a mist generator component of the electric fireplace device.

[0043] FIG. 23 shows PCB (printed circuit board) boards attached to the mist generator component.

[0044] FIG. 24 shows a cover-to-cover of the bottom of the mist generator component.

[0045] FIG. 25 shows a top side of the mist generator component.

[0046] FIG. 26 shows a mist guiding channel of the electric fireplace device.

[0047] FIG. 27 shows the mist guiding channel being installed on top of a water sink of the mist generator component.

[0048] FIG. 28 shows a water container installed on top of another water sink of the mist generator component.

[0049] FIG. 29 shows an assembly, including the water container, mist generator component and mist guiding channel, installed on top of the electric wiring cover.

[0050] FIG. 30 shows the assembly of FIG. 29 inserted into the assembly of FIG. 12.

[0051] FIG. 31 shows a top panel of the base box.

[0052] FIG. 32 shows a cover for covering the LED modules.

[0053] FIG. 33 shows a mist guiding cover installed on the bottom side of the top panel.

[0054] FIG. 34 shows the top panel being installed on top of the front panel and back panel, to enclose the base box of the electric fireplace device.

[0055] FIG. 35 shows steps of simulating a wood burning fireplace by an electric fireplace.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0056] In the following description, the word "exemplary" is used to mean serving as an example, instance, or illustration. Any embodiment or design described herein as "exemplary" is not necessarily to be construed as preferred or advantageous over other embodiments or designs. Rather, use of the word exemplary is intended to present concepts in a concrete manner.

[0057] FIG. 1 shows an electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. FIG. 2 shows some of the components of the electric fireplace device of FIG. 1. The electric fireplace device of FIG. 1 includes artificial logs 120 and a base box 130. The top side of the base box 130 serves as the hearth area 110 for supporting the artificial logs 120. Besides the artificial logs, the hearth area can contain other decorative elements, such as artificial charcoals 140. During operation, the electric fireplace device 100 can simulate the appearance of burning logs and mimic the sounds and smoke emitted from the burning logs. The electric fireplace device 100 can include one or more light sources 150 (e.g., LED light engines, fluorescent lamp, high-intensity discharge lamp, incandescent lamp, etc.) and a mist generator 160 (also referred to as fog generator) inside of casing of the electric fireplace device. The mist generator can receive water from a water container 165 and generate tiny water droplets that form a mist. The mist can move upwards and enter into a hearth area 110 supporting the artificial logs 120. The one or more light sources generate light beams directed towards the mist surrounding the artificial logs 120 and the hearth area 110. The lightened mist around the artificial logs and the hearth area 110 simulates an appearance of the fire that burns logs.

[0058] In some implementations, the light sources 150 can move so that the moving position of light sources cause a flickering effect on the light projected on the mist to mimic a flickering burning fire. Alternatively, the light sources 150 can have light reflectors that can change their shapes. The changing shapes of the light reflectors can also cause a flickering effect on the light projected on the mist to mimic a flickering burning fire. The light sources 150 can include light sources that emit light of different colors. For example, the light sources 150 can include both yellow and red light sources in order to mimic the yellow and red portions of log-burning flames.

[0059] The electric fireplace device can further include a speaker 170 for playing crackling burning wood sounds. In some implementations, the sound played by the speaker 170 can be synchronized with the light intensity of the light sources 150 of the electronic fireplace device 100. For example, when the light intensity of the light sources 150 increases, the speaker 170 can simultaneously increase the sound volume. Similarly, when the light intensity decreases, the sound volume can decrease in a synchronized manner as well.

[0060] Because the mist constantly moves and changes shape, the lightened mist around the artificial logs 120 realistically simulates the effect of the flickering burning fire. In some implementations, the electric fireplace device 100 can include a fan 167 for driving the mist toward the area of the artificial logs 120. In some other implementations, the electric fireplace device 100 can continuously generate mist so that mist is pushed toward the area of the artificial logs 120 by mist pressure difference. The crackling burning wood sounds played by the speaker 170 further complements the flickering burning fire appearance to provide a more realistic implementation that mimics a conventional wood burning fireplace.

[0061] The electric fireplace device can include a water level detector 166 for detecting the water level of the water container 165. When the water container runs out of water, the electric fireplace device 100 can shut off the mist generator 160 automatically and release an alarming sound (e.g., via the speaker 170). The electric fireplace device 100 can include a mist volume controlling component 162 (e.g., a dial or a button) to adjust output of the mist generator 160, in order to control the volume of the mist around the artificial logs 120 and hearth area 110.

[0062] In some implementations, the electric fireplace device 100 can include a mist sensor 164 for detecting the density of the mist. For example, the mist sensor 164 can be a vapor detector for detecting the level or density of the mist. The electric fireplace device can use the mist density information to automatically control the volume of the mist generated. For example, when the mist density level reaches a threshold value, the mist generator 160 of the electric fireplace device 100 can automatically reduce or stop generating the mist. When the mist density level drops below the threshold value, the electric fireplace device 100 can automatically resume or increase generating the mist.

[0063] The electric fireplace device 100 can include a power switch 180 to turn on and off the device 100. The electric fireplace device can further include a remote receiver 185 and a remote controller 187. A user can use the remote controller 187 to turn on and off the electric fireplace device 100. The user can further use the remote controller 187 to schedule the operation of the device 100. For example, the user can instruct the device via the remote controller 187 to turn off the device 4, 6, 8, or 10 hours later. Similarly, the user can instruct the device via a remote controller 187 to turn on the device 4, 6, 8, or 10 hours later.

[0064] In some implementations, the electric fireplace device 100 can operate at the mean AC voltage between 110V and 220V. The electricity needed for operation of the electric fireplace device 100 can be supplied using batteries or supplied from an electric outlet. The operating temperature can be from 0 Celsius degree to 40 Celsius degrees. A fully filled water container can supply enough water for the electric fireplace device to continuously operate for at least 24 hours.

[0065] In some implementations, the electronic components of the electric fireplace device 100 (e.g., light sources 150, mist generator 160, speaker 170, etc.) can be controlled by a control board 190. The control board 190 can provide the required electric voltages and currents to the various electronic components and control the operation of the electronic components. In some alternative implementations, the electronic components of the electric fireplace device 100 can have separate control boards for each electronic component. Those control boards can be electrically coupled to each other for relaying status and control signals and providing operating voltages and currents.

[0066] In some implementations, the water container 165 (also referred to as water cartridge) is placed inside the electric fireplace device. The water container 165 can be released (e.g., detached) from the electric fireplace device for replenishing water. The releasing of the water container can be guided by sliding rails.

[0067] According to the disclosed embodiments, one or more evaporative or ultrasonic techniques, or combinations thereof, can be used to generate the mist. In some implementations, the mist generator 160 uses a piezoelectric transducer to induce a mechanical oscillation within the water contained in the water container to generate mist particles. In one exemplary implementation, the piezoelectric transducer is coupled to a metal diaphragm, causing the metal diaphragm to vibrate at an ultrasonic frequency in the water and to create tiny water droplets. The tiny water droplets exit the generator silently in a mist form. In some implementations, the electric fireplace device 100 can include an electric fan for blowing air that causes the mist to move in the vicinity of the artificial logs. In some other implementations, the electric fireplace device includes a heating component to heat the water, in order to cause or accelerate vaporization of the water into tiny water droplets that form the mist. In some other implementations, the mist generator 160 can use a wick, or wick filter, made of a porous material to absorb water and evaporate the water from the wick into mist. Alternatively, the mist generator 160 can include a heater component to heat the water and release steam and moisture into the air.

[0068] Impurities (such as minerals from hard water) and pathogens can accumulate in the mist generator. In some implementations, the mist generator can be detached from the electric fireplace device for cleaning purpose. Alternatively, the mist generator can include a disposable demineralization cartridge for minimizing the accumulation of the minerals.

[0069] The base box 130 of the electric fireplace device 100 can be broken down into multiple base modules. FIG. 3 shows multiple base modules that form a base box of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. As illustrated in FIG. 3, the base box can include a front sliding rail module 202, a control panel module 204, a light engine driver module 206, a top hearth module 208, a bottom module 210, and a mist generator module 212.

[0070] In some implementations, the base box includes a bottom panel and supporting panels on sides of the base box to support one or more sliding rails. A right panel and a left panel are attached to the bottom panel. A Mist volume control dial and one or more switches can be installed on one of the panels to allow the user to set the desired level or density of the mist. A light engine driver assembly, including, for example, a top case, a cover, a light engine driver and a bottom, is fastened on the left panel. A speaker component is installed on, for example, the back panel. The back panel is attached to the bottom panel, as the back cover of the base box.

[0071] In some implementations, a front panel and a sliding panel are attached together as a supporting structure for a removable assembly. The removable assembly is designed such that a user can remove the removable assembly from the base box for replenishing water or for cleaning. The removable assembly includes a mist generator component for converting the water into tiny water drops in a mist form, and a water container and a mist guiding channel. The removable assembly can easily slide out from the electric fireplace device from the front panel. A user can remove the assembly by sliding it out, and clean the assembly if there is any buildup of hard water deposits or minerals. Then the user can replenish water and slide the assembly back into the electric fireplace device.

[0072] In some exemplary embodiments, a top panel serves as the top cover of the base box. The top side of the top panel serves as the hearth area for supporting the artificial logs. The top panel has a mist vent for guiding the mist into the hearth area. In this exemplary embodiment, the mist vent is configured as a narrow rectangular slit that is formed on the top panel and positioned closer to one end of the top panel. The mist vent allows the mist generated by mist generator module 212 (see FIG. 3) to be directed to the hearth area. The LED modules, in some exemplary embodiments, are attached to the bottom side of the top panel for supplying light beams for illuminating and interacting with the mist in the hearth area to simulate the wood-burning flickering light. The components of the base box are discussed in details in the following paragraphs discussing FIGS. 3-31.

[0073] FIG. 4 shows a bottom panel and two supporting panels of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. The supporting panels 12A and 12B are placed on the bottom panel 14 and are fixed by screws. FIG. 5 shows two sliding rails that are fixed onto the supporting panels. The sliding rails 18A and 18B can be attached to the supporting panels 12A and 12B by screws.

[0074] FIG. 6 shows a control panel module in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. The control panel module 20 includes right panel 22. Two circuit boards 24 and 26 are placed on the right panel 22 via screws. The circuit boards 24 and 26 include circuit that controls the overall operation of the electronic fireplace device, including the mist generator and the LED modules. A mist volume control dial 28 and two switches 30 and 32 are installed on the right panel 22. The switches 30 and 32 can be, e.g., on/off switch for the mist generator and the LED light sources. FIG. 7 shows that the control panel module 20 of FIG. 6 that is installed on the right side of the bottom panel 14.

[0075] FIG. 8 shows a light engine driver assembly 34. The light engine driver assembly 34 includes a top case 36, a cover 38, a light engine driver 40 and a bottom case 42. The light engine driver assembly 34 is fastened by screws. The light engine driver 40, also referred to as electronic control gear or ECG, provides the light sources (e.g., the LED modules) with appropriate voltage and current. In some implementations, the light engine driver 40 can include high-speed transistor switches to adjust the voltage level applied to the light source component by pulse-width modulation. For example, a light-emitting diode can operate at a voltage level of 2.8.about.3.5V, with a current of 1.about.100 milliamps. The light engine driver 40 can also include a microprocessor or additional electronic circuits that allow the generation of control signals, pulses and appropriate waveforms for driving the light sources. The light engine driver 40 can provide additional functionalities such as dimming, power-factor correction, or radio interference suppression.

[0076] FIG. 9 shows that the light engine driver assembly 34 of FIG. 8 that is installed on a left panel 44 using screws. FIG. 10 shows that the left panel 44 of including the light engine driver assembly 34 of FIG. 9 that is installed on the left side of the bottom panel 14.

[0077] FIG. 11 shows a back panel and a speaker component of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. The speaker component 46 is attached to the inner side of the back panel 48. FIG. 12 shows the back panel 48 attached to the bottom panel 14. The middle space between the right panel 22 and the left panel 44 can accommodate the water container and the mist generator.

[0078] FIG. 13 shows the front panel 50 of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. FIG. 14 shows a sliding panel 52 fastened to the front panel 50 of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. The dimensions of the sliding panel 52 (e.g., height and width) are designed to fit into the sliding rails 18A and 18B such that the front panel 50 and the sliding panel 52 can be removed from the rest of the base box for replenishing water or for cleaning.

[0079] FIG. 15 shows a bottom cover and a sliding rail mounting attachment of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. The sliding rail mounting attachment 54 is installed inside of the bottom cover 56. FIG. 16 shows lighting sockets 58 installed on top of the bottom cover 56. The lighting sockets 58 provide electrical connection to light sources and support the light sources inside of the electric fireplace device. FIG. 17 shows that the bottom cover 56 is installed on the sliding panel 52.

[0080] FIG. 18 shows an electric wiring cover. The electric wiring cover is designed to cover most of the electric wiring inside of the electric fireplace device so that water and mist do not corrode the electric wiring. A female wiring socket 61 is installed inside of the rail of the electric wiring cover 60 to allow electrical connectors to be plugged into the socket 61. The electric wiring cover 60 can be made of plastics, metal, polymer, or other materials. FIG. 19 shows a cover 62 to cover the female wiring socket 61 installed in the electric wiring cover 60. The cover 62 protects the female wiring socket 61 from corrosion caused by mist contact. FIG. 20 shows an electric fan 64 installed on top of the electric wiring cover 60. The electric fan 64 blows the mist through a channel to the hearth area of the electric fireplace device. Two clips 66A and 66B are installed on the electric wiring cover 60. FIG. 19 shows that the module including the electric wiring cover 60, the electric fan 64 and the clips 66A and 66B are installed on the sliding panel 52. FIG. 21 shows multiple light sources 63 installed on top of lighting sockets 58. The light sources 63 provide light to the top section of the electric fireplace device. In some implantations, the light sources 63 can be incandescent light bulbs or compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs for projecting light beams onto the mist in the hearth area of the fireplace device. The device can further include other light sources (e.g., LEDs) for projecting light beams onto the artificial logs on the hearth area.

[0081] FIG. 22 shows a mist generator component 68. A male wiring socket 70 is attached to the mist generator component 68. The male wiring socket 70 is designed to be inserted into the female wiring socket 61 on the electric wiring cover 60. FIG. 22 further shows a hole 69 serving as a wind path. The wind generated by the fan can travel through the wind path 69 and reach the hearth area. The wind causes the mist on the hearth area to move and therefore simulate the smoke of the fireplace. FIG. 23 shows PCB (printed circuit board) boards 70A and 70B attached to the mist generator component 68. The PCB boards 70A and 70B control the operation of the mist generator and water level detector. FIG. 24 shows a cover 72 to cover the bottom of the mist generator component 68.

[0082] FIG. 25 shows a top side of the mist generator component 68. The mist generator component 68 includes two water sinks 74 and 75 on the top. Water sinks 74 and 75 are connected so that water can freely flow from sink 74 to sink 75 or vice versa. A water level detector 76 is installed in the water sink 74. The water level detector 76 sends out an electric signal to the electric fireplace device when the water level of the water sink 74 is below a predetermined level. Two clips 78A and 78B are installed on the ears of the mist generator component 68. In some implementations, the electric fireplace device can include one, two, or any arbitrary number of water sinks.

[0083] FIG. 26 shows a mist guiding channel 80. FIG. 27 shows the mist guiding channel 80 installed on top of the water sink 74 of the mist generator component 68. The mist generator component 68 converts the water in the water sink 74 into water droplets in a form of mist. The mist travels through the mist guiding channel 80 and enters into the hearth area of the electric fireplace device. Therefore, the mist guiding channel 80 guides the mist into the hearth area where the fireplace smoke would be expected. In some implementations, the electric fireplace device can include more than one mist guiding channels that allow steering of the generated mist to different areas of the hearth. For example, the mist guiding channels can be configured to accommodate specific configurations of the artificial logs. In such implementations, by adjusting or steering the direction and levels of the mist through mist guiding channels (which may inject mist from bottom or from one or more sides into the hearth area) a more realistic simulation of a wood burning fireplace can be implemented.

[0084] FIG. 28 shows a water container 82 installed on top of the water sink 75 of the mist generator component 68. The water container 82 can be detached from the mist generator component 68. A user can detach the water container 82 and take the water container 82 away for replenishing water. In some implementations, the water container 82 can be washed or dishwasher safe. If there is any mineral build-up on the water container 82, the build-up can be cleaned by using dishwasher or washing by hand.

[0085] FIG. 29 shows an assembly including the water container 82, mist generator component 68 and mist guiding channel 80 installed on top of the electric wiring cover 60. When the assembly is installed, the venting port of the electric fan 64 points to the water sink 74. The electric fan 64 helps to blow the mist generated in the mist generator component 68 into the mist guiding channel 80 and further into the hearth area of the electric fireplace device.

[0086] FIG. 30 shows the assembly of FIG. 27 inserted into the assembly of FIG. 12. The sliding panel 52 is inserted into the space confined by the sliding rails 18A and 18B. When the sliding panel 52 is fully inserted guided by the sliding rails 18A and 18B, the male wiring socket 70 is inserted into the female wiring socket 61 on the electric wiring cover 60.

[0087] FIG. 31 shows a top panel 84 of the base box of the electric fireplace device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. LED (light-emitting diode) modules 86A, 86B, and 86C, which are used as light sources in this exemplary embodiment, are installed on the bottom side of the top panel 84. The LED modules include LED chips and PCB boards on which the LED chips are mounted. The PCB boards can include additional components such as resistors or components for electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection. The LED chips are semiconductor chips that receive electric current form power source and emit light.

[0088] The top panel includes multiple opening at the LED locations so that the LED modules can generate light beams that travel through the openings to the top side of the top panel 84. The top side of the top panel 84 serves as the hearth area for supporting the artificial logs. The top panel 84 further includes a mist vent 88 for supplying the mist to the hearth area. In some embodiments, the same opening or openings in the top panel provide both the mist and the light that illuminates the mist to the hearth area. The illumination of the mist can be controlled by controlling the intensity, color, direction angle and/or projection solid angle of the light produced by the light sources (e.g., LEDs). In some implementations, by controlling the on-off times of the light beams, the sequence of projected light beams and/or the overlap area of the projected light beams, improved simulations of artificial flames, the associated smoke and/or burning logs are achieved.

[0089] FIG. 32 shows an exemplary cover 90 for covering the LED modules. The cover 90 isolates the LED modules from the mist so that the LED modules are not corroded by the water or mist. In some implementations, the cover 90 also serves as a heat dissipater (also referred to as heat sink) for the LED modules.

[0090] FIG. 33 shows an exemplary mist guiding cover 92 installed on the bottom side of the top panel 84. The mist guiding cover 92 further guides the mist to travel through mist vent 88. The water sink 74, the mist guiding channel 80, the mist guiding cover 92 and the mist vent 88 form a confined route for the mist to travel and enter into the hearth area on top of the top panel 84 in one exemplary embodiment.

[0091] FIG. 34 shows that the top panel 84 that is installed on top of the front panel 50 and back panel 48 to enclose the base box 94 of the electric fireplace device. The top panel 84 serves as the hearth area for supporting the artificial logs. The mist is generated inside of the base box 94 and travels through the mist vent 88 to the hearth area. The LED modules supply light beams traveling through the openings 86A, 86B, 86C to the hearth area to lighten the mist surrounding the artificial logs, to simulate the flickering fire that burns the logs. The mist on the hearth area also simulate the smoke from the burning woods, in additional to simulating the flickering fire.

[0092] In some implementations, the artificial logs can include materials that can reflect at least some of the light emitted from the light sources (e.g., LED modules, etc.), to simulate the visual effects of burning woods. The artificial logs can, for example, include translucent or reflective material. In some embodiments, the artificial logs themselves can include one or more light sources contained with the artificial logs. In such implementations, the artificial logs include material that allows at least a portion of the light from within the logs to be transmitted through the log material (e.g., in a diffused manner). Alternatively, or additionally, one or more additional light sources can be place in the volume above the top panel 84 of the electric fireplace device to provide illumination for the logs and/or the mist that is being dispensed to the hearth area. The artificial logs The hearth area can further contain artificial charcoals. Similarly, the artificial charcoals can also include translucent materials that absorb and reflect some of the light emitted from the light sources (e.g., LED modules, fluorescent lamps, high-intensity discharge lamps, incandescent lamps, etc.), to similar the visual effects of burning charcoals, surrounded by the artificial fire simulated by the mist lightened by the LED modules.

[0093] FIG. 35 shows a set of operations for simulating a wood burning fireplace by an electric fireplace in accordance with an exemplary embodiment. A water cartridge of the electric fireplace supplies (at 3305) water to a mist generator of an electric fireplace. The mist generator converts (at 3310) the water into a mist including water droplets.

[0094] An electric fan of the electric fireplace blows (at 3315) air towards the mist to mobilize the mist. A mist guiding channel of the electric fireplace guides (3320) the mist to a hearth area containing artificial logs.

[0095] The electric fireplace includes at least one light source. The light source can include, e.g., an LED module. The light source supplies (at 3325) light to the hearth area to lighten the mist surrounding the artificial logs to simulate a flickering fire that arises from the artificial logs. Translucent materials of the artificial logs further reflect (at 3330) a portion of the light generated by the light engine, to simulate a visual effect of burning logs.

[0096] A speaker of the electric fireplace plays (at 3340) a crackling wood burning sound to complement a visual effect of burning the artificial logs.

[0097] The electric fireplace can determine (at 3345) whether a control signal is received from e.g., a remote controller or an input panel for turning on or off the electric fireplace. The signal can instruct the electric fireplace to turn on or off either instantly or a time period later. In response to the control signal, the electric fireplace turns on or off (at 3350) the electric fireplace.

[0098] The electric fireplace can further determine (at 3355) whether a signal is received indicating that a volume dial of a mist generator is dialed. In response to the signal, the electric fireplace adjusts (3360) the volume, level, or density of the mist generated by the mist generator.

[0099] The electric fireplace monitors (at 3365) a water level of the water contained inside of the electric fireplace. If the electric fireplace determines (at 3370) that a water level of the water inside of the electric fireplace is below a predetermined level, the electric fireplace automatically turns off the electric fireplace and generates an alarm (at 3375). The electric fireplace can further detach (at 3380) an assembly including the mist generator and a water cartridge from the electric fireplace for replenishing water or for cleaning.

[0100] FIG. 2 shows a system (e.g., the electric fireplace device 100) capable of performing these steps described in FIG. 35. The steps described in FIG. 35 need not be performed in the order recited and two or more steps can be performed in parallel or combined.

[0101] A number of implementations have been disclosed herein. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the claims. Accordingly, other implementations are within the scope of the following claim.

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