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United States Patent Application 20180010837
Kind Code A1
Miller; Charles Benjamin ;   et al. January 11, 2018

Stand-Alone Ice Making Appliance

Abstract

A stand-alone ice making appliance is provided. The stand-alone ice making appliance may include a container, a water tank, a pump, a reservoir, an ice maker, and a primary drain line. The container may define a first storage volume to receive ice. The water tank may define a second storage volume to receive water. The pump may be in fluid communication with the second storage volume to actively flow water from the water tank. The reservoir may define a third storage volume that is in fluid communication with the pump to receive water that is actively flowed from the water tank. The ice maker may be in fluid communication with the third storage volume to receive water from the reservoir. The primary drain line may be in downstream fluid communication with the second storage volume and bypass the reservoir to selectively drain water from the second storage volume.


Inventors: Miller; Charles Benjamin; (Louisville, KY) ; DuPlessis; Samuel Vincent; (Louisville, KY) ; Tarr; Ronald Scott; (Louisville, KY) ; Mitchell; Alan Joseph; (Louisville, KY) ; Nuss; Bart Andrew; (Fisherville, KY) ; Garces; Tomas; (Louisville, KY)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Haier US Appliance Solutions, Inc.

Wilmington

DE

US
Family ID: 1000002019193
Appl. No.: 15/202651
Filed: July 6, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: F25C 5/182 20130101; F25C 1/00 20130101
International Class: F25C 1/00 20060101 F25C001/00; F25C 5/18 20060101 F25C005/18

Claims



1. A stand-alone ice making appliance, comprising: a container defining a first storage volume to receive ice; a water tank, the water tank defining a second storage volume to receive water; a pump in fluid communication with the second storage volume to actively flow water from the water tank; a reservoir defining a third storage volume, the third storage volume in fluid communication with the pump to receive water that is actively flowed from the water tank; an ice maker, the ice maker in fluid communication with the third storage volume to receive water from the reservoir; and a primary drain line extending in downstream fluid communication with the second storage volume, the primary drain line bypassing the reservoir to selectively drain water from the second storage volume.

2. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 1, wherein the water tank extends in a vertical direction between a top portion and a base wall, and wherein the pump is a positive displacement pump positioned above the base wall of the water tank.

3. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 2, wherein the reservoir extends in the vertical direction between a top portion and a base wall, and wherein a reservoir water passage is defined through the base wall of the reservoir, the reservoir water passage being in fluid communication between the pump and the third storage volume.

4. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 3, further comprising: a branched fluid joint in fluid communication with the pump, the branched fluid joint defining a first path from the pump to the reservoir water passage and a second path from the pump to the icemaker.

5. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 1, wherein the primary drain line is positioned between the water tank and the pump to selectively drain water upstream from the pump.

6. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 1, further comprising: an outlet valve attached in fluid communication with the primary drain line and in selective fluid communication with an ambient environment.

7. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 1, further comprising: a secondary drain line extending in downstream fluid communication with the pump, wherein the secondary drain line bypasses the icemaker to selectively drain water from the third storage volume.

8. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 7, wherein the secondary drain line is positioned downstream from the reservoir.

9. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 7, wherein the secondary drain line extends in fluid communication between the reservoir and the water tank.

10. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 7, further comprising: an outlet valve attached to the secondary drain line attached in fluid communication with the secondary drain line and in selective fluid communication with an ambient environment.

11. A stand-alone ice making appliance extending along a vertical direction, the stand-alone ice making appliance, comprising: a container defining a first storage volume to receive ice; a water tank disposed below the container, the water tank extending in the vertical direction from a top portion to a base wall and defining a second storage volume to receive water; a positive displacement pump in fluid communication with the second storage volume to actively flow water from the water tank; a reservoir disposed above the lower portion of the water tank, the reservoir defining a third storage volume in fluid communication with the positive displacement pump to receive water that is actively flowed from the water tank; an ice maker, the ice maker in fluid communication with the third storage volume to receive water from the reservoir; and a primary drain line extending in downstream fluid communication with the second storage volume, the primary drain line bypassing the reservoir to selectively drain water from the second storage volume.

12. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 11, wherein the positive displacement pump is positioned above the base wall of the water tank.

13. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 12, wherein the reservoir extends in the vertical direction between a top portion and a base wall, and wherein a reservoir water passage is defined through the base wall of the reservoir, the reservoir water passage being in fluid communication between the positive displacement pump and the third storage volume.

14. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 13, further comprising: a branched fluid joint in fluid communication with the positive displacement pump, wherein the branched fluid joint defines a first path to the reservoir water passage and a second path to the icemaker.

15. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 11, wherein the primary drain line is positioned between the water tank and the positive displacement pump to selectively drain water upstream from the positive displacement pump.

16. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 11, further comprising: an outlet valve attached in fluid communication with the primary drain line and in selective fluid communication with an ambient environment.

17. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 11, further comprising: a secondary drain line extending in downstream fluid communication with the positive displacement pump, wherein the secondary drain line bypasses the icemaker to selectively drain water from the third storage volume.

18. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 17, wherein the secondary drain line is positioned downstream from the reservoir.

19. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 17, wherein the secondary drain line extends in fluid communication between the reservoir and the water tank.

20. The stand-alone ice making appliance of claim 17, further comprising: an outlet valve attached to the secondary drain line attached in fluid communication with the secondary drain line and in selective fluid communication with an ambient environment.
Description



FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present subject matter relates generally to ice making appliances, and more particularly to ice making appliances that produce nugget ice.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Ice makers generally produce ice for the use of consumers, such as in drinks being consumed, for cooling foods or drinks to be consumed and/or for other various purposes. Certain refrigerator appliances include ice makers for producing ice. The ice maker can be positioned within the appliance's freezer chamber and direct ice into an ice bucket where it can be stored within the freezer chamber. Such refrigerator appliances can also include a dispensing system for assisting a user with accessing ice produced by the refrigerator appliance's ice maker. However, the incorporation of ice makers into refrigerator appliances can have drawbacks, such as limits on the amount of ice that can be produced and the reliance on the refrigeration system of the refrigerator appliance to form the ice.

[0003] Recently, stand-alone ice makers have been developed. These ice makers are separate from refrigerator appliances and provide independent ice supplies. However, many stand-alone ice makers require a connection to the plumbing of the dwelling where the ice maker resides, in order to have access to a water supply. A connection to the plumbing of a dwelling may also be required to drain the ice maker, e.g., when a user wishes to turn off the ice maker for an extended period of time. Removing excess ice or water may be exceedingly difficult. Additionally, existing systems may be difficult to clean, especially with regards to the internal ice making elements. Further, typical stand-alone ice makers are expensive, to the point of being cost-prohibitive to the typical consumer.

[0004] Accordingly, improved stand-alone ice makers are desired in the art. In particular, cost-effective stand-alone ice makers which address several of the above issues would be advantageous.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0005] Aspects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the following description, or may be obvious from the description, or may be learned through practice of the invention.

[0006] In one aspect of the present disclosure a stand-alone ice making appliance is provided. The stand-alone ice making appliance may include a container, a water tank, a pump, a reservoir, an ice maker, and a primary drain line. The container may define a first storage volume to receive ice. The water tank may define a second storage volume to receive water. The pump may be in fluid communication with the second storage volume to actively flow water from the water tank. The reservoir may define a third storage volume that is in fluid communication with the pump to receive water that is actively flowed from the water tank. The ice maker may be in fluid communication with the third storage volume to receive water from the reservoir. The primary drain line may be in downstream fluid communication with the second storage volume and bypass the reservoir to selectively drain water from the second storage volume.

[0007] In another aspect of the present disclosure, a stand-alone ice making appliance is provided. The stand-alone ice making appliance may extend along a vertical direction and include a container, a water tank, a positive displacement pump, a reservoir, an ice maker, and a primary drain line. The container may define a first storage volume to receive ice. The water tank may be disposed below the container and extend in the vertical direction from a top portion to a base wall. The water tank may also define a second storage volume to receive water. The positive displacement pump may be in fluid communication with the second storage volume to actively flow water from the water tank. The reservoir may be disposed above the lower portion of the water tank and define a third storage volume that is in fluid communication with the positive displacement pump to receive water that is actively flowed from the water tank. The ice maker may be in fluid communication with the third storage volume to receive water from the reservoir. The primary drain line may be in downstream fluid communication with the second storage volume and bypass the reservoir to selectively drain water from the second storage volume.

[0008] These and other features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with reference to the following description and appended claims. The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] A full and enabling disclosure of the present invention, including the best mode thereof, directed to one of ordinary skill in the art, is set forth in the specification, which makes reference to the appended figures.

[0010] FIG. 1 provides a perspective view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0011] FIG. 2 provides a perspective sectional view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0012] FIG. 3 provides a perspective rear view of a partially assembled stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0013] FIG. 4 provides a magnified perspective view of a portion of the exemplary stand-alone ice maker of FIG. 3.

[0014] FIG. 5 provides a rear perspective view of the exemplary stand-alone ice maker of FIG. 3 when assembled.

[0015] FIG. 6 provides a schematic view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0016] FIG. 7 provides a schematic view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0017] FIG. 8 provides a schematic view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0018] FIG. 9 provides a schematic view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0019] FIG. 10 provides a schematic view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0020] FIG. 11 provides a schematic view of a stand-alone ice maker according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0021] FIG. 12 provides a magnified perspective view of a rear external portion of a stand-alone ice maker, including an attachment bracket, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0022] FIG. 13 provides a magnified perspective view of a rear internal portion of the exemplary stand-alone ice maker of FIG. 12.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0023] Reference now will be made in detail to embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, not limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used with another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers such modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

[0024] In some aspects of the present disclosure, an ice maker appliance is provided. For instance, a stand-alone ice maker appliance may be provided with multiple storage volumes configured to receive ice and/or water. Each of the storage volumes may be connected in fluid series. Although the storage volumes are connected in series, one or more drain lines may be connected to one or more of the storage volumes at a predetermined position. The drain lines may be configured to selectively drain all or some of the appliance without requiring disassembly of the ice maker.

[0025] Referring now to FIG. 1, one embodiment of a stand-alone ice making appliance 10 in accordance with the present disclosure is illustrated. As shown, appliance 10 includes an outer casing 12 which generally at least partially houses various other components of the appliance therein 10. A container 14 is also illustrated. Container 14 defines a first storage volume 16 for the receipt and storage of ice 18 therein. A user of the appliance 10 may access ice 18 within the container 14 for consumption or other uses. Container 14 may include one or more sidewalls 20 and a base wall 22 (see FIG. 2), which may together define the first storage volume 16. In exemplary embodiments, at least one sidewall 20 may be formed from a clear, see-through (i.e., transparent or translucent) material, such as a clear glass or plastic, such that a user can see into the first storage volume 16 and thus view ice 18 therein. Further, in exemplary embodiments, container 14 may be removable, such as from the outer casing 12, by a user. This facilitates easy access by the user to ice within the container 14 and further, for example, may provide access to a water tank 24 (see FIG. 2) of the appliance 10.

[0026] Appliances 10 in accordance with the present disclosure are advantageously stand-alone appliances, and thus are not connected to refrigerators or other appliances. Additionally, in exemplary embodiments, such appliances are not connected to plumbing or another water source that is external to the appliance 10, such as a refrigerator water source. Rather, in exemplary embodiments, water is initially supplied to the appliance 10 manually by a user, such as by pouring water into water tank 24 and/or a reservoir.

[0027] Notably, appliances 10 as discussed herein include various features which allow the appliances 10 to be affordable and desirable to typical consumers. For example, the stand-alone feature reduces the cost associated with the appliance 10 and allows the consumer to position the appliance 10 at any suitable desired location, with the only requirement in some embodiments being access to an electrical source. Furthermore, portability and suitable draining features may advantageously allow for easier cleaning and storage of the appliance 10. The removable container 14 allows easy access to ice and allows the container 14 to be moved to a different position from the remainder of the appliance 10 for ice usage purposes. Additionally, in exemplary embodiments as discussed herein, appliance 10 is configured to make nugget ice (as discussed herein) which is becoming increasingly popular with consumers.

[0028] Referring to FIGS. 2 through 5, various other components of appliances 10 in accordance with the present disclosure are illustrated. For example, as mentioned, appliance 10 includes a water tank 24. The water tank 24 extends in the vertical direction V to define a second storage volume 26 for the receipt and holding of water. Water tank 24 may include one or more sidewalls 28 extending between a top portion 29 and a base wall 30 which may together define the second storage volume 26. In exemplary embodiments, the water tank 24 may be disposed below the container 14 along a vertical direction V defined for the appliance 10, as shown.

[0029] As discussed, in exemplary embodiments, water is provided to the water tank 24 for use in forming ice. Accordingly, appliance 10 may further include a pump 32. Generally, pump 32 is disposed in fluid communication with the second storage volume 26. In some embodiments, water is flowable from the second storage volume 26 through one or more opening 31 defined in the water tank 24, such as in a sidewall 28 thereof. Additionally or alternative, opening 31 may be defined in another portion of water tank 24, such as base wall 30. When activated, pump 32 may actively flow water from the second storage volume 26 therethrough and from the pump 32.

[0030] In optional embodiments, pump 32 is embodied as a positive displacement pump, such as a diaphragm or rotary vane positive displacement pump. Pump 32 may be positioned above the base wall 30, e.g., in the vertical direction V. One or more pump conduits, e.g., upstream pump conduits 33 and downstream pump conduits 35, may define a fluid path to and through pump 32. From pump 32, downstream pump conduit(s) 35 may continue the fluid path to one or more branched fluid joints 37.

[0031] During ice making operation, water actively flowed from the pump 32 may be selectively flowed to a reservoir 34. Reservoir 34 includes one or more sidewalls 38 that extend between a top portion 39 and a base wall 40 to define a third storage volume 36. In some embodiments, third storage volume 36 is in fluid communication with pump 32, e.g., through downstream pump conduit 35 and one or more branched fluid joints 37. At least one branched fluid joint 37 may be in fluid communication with both the downstream pump conduit 35 and a reservoir conduit 41. A water passage 42 may extend through reservoir 34, e.g., through base wall 40 of reservoir 34, and connect to reservoir conduit 41. In other words, water passage 42 is configured in fluid communication between pump 32 and third storage volume 36. Thus, when pump is activated, third storage volume 36 may receive water that is actively flowed from the water tank 24 through the pump 32.

[0032] As shown, reservoir 34 and third storage volume 36 thereof may receive and contain water to be provided to an ice maker 50 for the production of ice. Accordingly, third storage volume 36 may be in fluid communication with ice maker 50, e.g., through an icemaker conduit 51. In some embodiments, branched fluid joint 37 defines a first flow path (indicated at arrow P1) from pump 32 to reservoir 34, e.g., through reservoir water passage 42, and a second flow path (indicated at arrow P2) from pump 32 to ice maker 50. Ice maker 50 generally receives water, such as from reservoir 34 and/or pump 32. In some embodiments, icemaker conduit 51 extends in fluid communication between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. For instance, icemaker conduit 51 may be connected to branched fluid joints 37 to receive water directed to the second flow path P2, e.g., from pump conduit 35 or reservoir conduit 41. After water is received by ice maker 50, ice maker 50 generally freezes the water to form ice 18. In exemplary embodiments, ice maker 50 is a nugget ice maker, and in particular is an auger-style ice maker, although other suitable styles of ice makers and/or appliances are within the scope and spirit of the present disclosure.

[0033] As shown, ice maker 50 may include a casing 52 into which water from third storage volume 36 is flowed. Casing 52 is thus in fluid communication with third storage volume 36. For example, casing 52 may include one or more sidewalls 54 which may define an interior volume 56, and an opening may be defined in a sidewall 54. Water may be flowed from third storage volume 36 through the opening (such as via icemaker conduit 51) into the interior volume 56.

[0034] As illustrated, an auger 60 may be disposed at least partially within the casing 52. During operation, the auger 60 may rotate. Water within the casing 52 may at least partially freeze due to heat exchange, such as with a refrigeration system as discussed herein. The at least partially frozen water may be lifted by the auger 60 from casing 52. Further, in exemplary embodiments, the at least partially frozen water may be directed by auger 60 to and through an extruder 62. The extruder 62 may extrude the at least partially frozen water to form ice, such as nuggets of ice 18.

[0035] Formed ice 18 may be provided by the ice maker 50 to container 14, and may be received in the first storage volume 16 thereof. For example, ice 18 formed by auger 60 and/or extruder 62 may be provided to the container 14. In exemplary embodiments, appliance 10 may include a chute 70 for directing ice 18 produced by the ice maker 50 towards the first storage volume 16. For example, as shown, chute 70 is generally positioned above container 14 along the vertical direction V. Thus, ice can slide off of chute 70 and drop into storage volume 16 of container 14. Chute 70 may, as shown, extend between ice maker 50 and container 14, and may include a body 72 which defines a passage 74 therethrough. Ice 18 may be directed from the ice maker 50 (such as from the auger 60 and/or extruder 62) through the passage 74 to the container 14. In some embodiments, for example, a sweep 64, which may for example be connected to and rotate with the auger 60, may contact the ice 18 emerging through the extruder 62 from the auger 60 and direct the ice 18 through the passage 74 to the container 14.

[0036] As discussed, water within the casing 52 may at least partially freeze due to heat exchange, such as with a refrigeration system. In exemplary embodiments, ice maker 50 may include a sealed refrigeration system 80. The sealed refrigeration system 80 may be in thermal communication with the casing 52 to remove heat from the casing 52 and interior volume 56 thereof, thus facilitating freezing of water therein to form ice. Sealed refrigeration system 80 may, for example, include a compressor 82, a condenser 84, a throttling device 86, and an evaporator 88. Evaporator 88 may, for example, be in thermal communication with the casing 52 in order to remove heat from the interior volume 56 and water therein during operation of sealed system 80. For example, evaporator 88 may at least partially surround the casing 52. In particular, evaporator 88 may be a conduit coiled around and in contact with casing 52, such as the sidewall(s) 54 thereof.

[0037] During operation of sealed system 80, refrigerant exits evaporator 88 as a fluid in the form of a superheated vapor and/or vapor mixture. Upon exiting evaporator 88, the refrigerant enters compressor 82 wherein the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant are increased such that the refrigerant becomes a superheated vapor. The superheated vapor from compressor 82 enters condenser 84 wherein energy is transferred therefrom and condenses into a saturated liquid and/or liquid vapor mixture. This fluid exits condenser 84 and travels through throttling device 86 that is configured for regulating a flow rate of refrigerant therethrough. Upon exiting throttling device 86, the pressure and temperature of the refrigerant drop at which time the refrigerant enters evaporator 88 and the cycle repeats itself. In certain exemplary embodiments, throttling device 86 may be a capillary tube. Notably, in some embodiments, sealed system 80 may additionally include fans (not shown) for facilitating heat transfer to/from the condenser 84.

[0038] It should additionally be noted that, in exemplary embodiments, controller may be in operative communication with the sealed system 80, such as with the compressor 82 thereof, and may activate the sealed system 80 as desired or required for ice making purposes.

[0039] In exemplary embodiments, controller (not pictured) may be in operative communication with the pump 32. Such operative communication may be via a wired or wireless connection, and may facilitate the transmittal and/or receipt of signals by the controller and pump 32. Controller may be configured to activate the pump 32 to actively flow water. For example, controller may activate the pump 32 to actively flow water therethrough when, for example, reservoir 34 requires water. A suitable sensor(s), for example, may be provided in the third storage volume 36. The sensor(s) may be in operative communication with the controller may be transmit signals to the controller which indicate whether or not additional water is desired in the reservoir 34. When controller receives a signal that water is desired, controller may send a signal to pump 32 to activate pump 32.

[0040] As discussed, in exemplary embodiments, ice 18 may be nugget ice. Nugget ice is ice that that is maintained or stored (i.e., in first storage volume 16 of container 14) at a temperature greater than the melting point of water or greater than about thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Accordingly, the ambient temperature of the environment surrounding the container 14 may be at a temperature greater than the melting point of water or greater than about thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. In some embodiments, such temperature may be greater than forty degrees Fahrenheit, greater than fifty degrees Fahrenheit, or greater than sixty degrees Fahrenheit.

[0041] Ice 18 held within the first storage volume 16 may gradually melt. The melting speed is increased for nugget ice due to the increased maintenance/storage temperature. Accordingly, drain features, such as a drain aperture, may advantageously be provided in the container for draining such melt water. Additionally, and advantageously, the melt water may in exemplary embodiments be reused by appliance 10 to form ice.

[0042] In exemplary embodiments, a primary drain line 102 is provided in fluid communication with second storage volume 26. Primary drain line 102 may be connected to at least one opening 31, and thus, downstream from second storage volume 26. Moreover, primary drain line 102 may extend through appliance 10 and outer casing 12, bypassing reservoir 34 to selectively drain water to an ambient environment. Optionally, an outlet valve 104 is attached to primary drain line 102 to selectively restrict or permit flowing water from second storage volume 26 to the ambient environment. For instance, a flexible tubing segment 112 may include outlet valve 104. Flexible tubing segment 112 may be formed as a hollow conduit of a suitable resilient material, e.g., rubber (natural or synthetic), plastic, etc.

[0043] In some such embodiments, the flexible tubing segment 112 may be selectively moved between a closed position and an opened position. As illustrated in FIG. 3, in the closed position, flexible tubing segment 112 is bent, substantially closing its diameter and limiting the flow of fluid therethrough. An outlet tip 114 is optionally blocked by a plug 116. By contrast, in the opened position, illustrated in FIG. 5, flexible tubing segment 112 is substantially extended or unbent and outlet tip 114 is unplugged, permitting the flow of water therethrough. In the closed position, flexible tubing segment 112 may be manually bent by a user. Valve 104 may be embodied by the bent portion of flexible tubing segment 112. In the closed position, flexible tubing segment 112 may be positioned upright, such that a portion of flexible tubing segment 112 is directed in the vertical direction V and outlet tip 114 is blocked by plug 116. One or more hooks may be provided to hold flexible tubing segment 112 upright in the closed position. In order to bring flexible tubing segment 112 into the open position, a user may manually remove outlet tip 114 from plug 116 and unfurl flexible tubing segment 112.

[0044] In additional or alternative embodiments, a secondary drain line 106 is provided in fluid communication with pump 32. Secondary drain line 106 may be connected with at least one branched conduit (e.g., 35, 41, 51) downstream from pump 32. In exemplary embodiments, secondary drain line 106 is connected to a branched fluid joint 37 that is in fluid communication with one or more downstream pump conduits 35. In some such embodiments, branched fluid joint 37 defines a flow path (indicated at arrow P3) from branched fluid joint 37 to downstream pump conduit 35, and a drain flow path (indicated at arrow P4) from branched fluid joint 37 to secondary drain line 106.

[0045] Secondary drain line 106 may extend through appliance 10 and outer casing 12 to selectively drain water to an ambient environment. Optionally, an outlet valve 108 is attached to secondary drain line 106 to selectively restrict or permit flowing water from pump 32 and/or reservoir 34 to the ambient environment. For instance, a flexible tubing segment 122 may include outlet valve 108. Flexible tubing segment 122 may be formed as a hollow conduit of a suitable resilient material, e.g., rubber (natural or synthetic), plastic, etc.

[0046] In some such embodiments, the flexible tubing segment 122 may be selectively moved between a closed position and an opened position. As illustrated in FIG. 3, in the closed position, flexible tubing segment 122 is bent, substantially closing its diameter and limiting the flow of fluid therethrough. An outlet tip 124 is optionally blocked by a plug 126. By contrast, in the opened position, illustrated in FIG. 5, flexible tubing segment 122 is substantially extended or unbent and outlet tip 124 is unplugged, permitting the flow of water therethrough. In the closed position, flexible tubing segment 122 may be manually bent by a user. Valve 108 may be embodied by the bent portion of flexible tubing segment 122. In the closed position, flexible tubing segment 122 may be positioned upright, such that a portion of flexible tubing segment 122 is crimped and outlet tip 124 is blocked by plug 126. One or more hooks may be provided to hold flexible tubing segment 112 upright in the closed position. In order to bring flexible tubing segment 122 into the open position, a user may manually remove outlet tip 124 from plug 126 and unfurl flexible tubing segment 122.

[0047] In certain exemplary embodiments, such as those shown in FIGS. 3 and 5, the one or more plug(s) 116, 126 are formed as an attached bracket 118. The attached bracket 118 of one or more plug(s) 116, 126 may be connected to outer casing 12 to selectively receive outlet tip 114, 124. In embodiments wherein multiple flexible tubing segments 112, 122 are provided. Attached bracket 118 includes multiple corresponding plugs 116, 126. When outlet valves 104, 108 are disposed in the opened position, each plug 116, 126 may simultaneously receive a discrete outlet tip 114, 124.

[0048] Optionally, attached bracket 118 may be selectively connected to outer casing 12, allowing attached bracket 118 to be removably positioned on outer casing 12. One or more removable attachment members (e.g., hooks, clips, snaps, etc.) may connect attached bracket and outer casing 12. Accordingly, attachment bracket 118 may be attached or removed from outer casing without removing the plug(s) 116, 126 from the tip(s) 114, 124. For instance, in the embodiment of FIGS. 12 and 13, one or more bracket holes 119 are defined through outer casing 12. Attachment bracket 118 includes one or more matched bracket hooks 121, each bracket hook 121 being matched to complement a bracket hole 119. Bracket hooks 121 may be selectively disposed through bracket holes 119 to connect attachment bracket 118 to outer casing 12. Bracket hooks 121 may also be selectively removed from holes 119 (e.g., from a vertical motion followed by a transverse motion) when removal of attachment bracket 118 is desired, such as when flexible tubing segments 112, 122 are being positioned away from outer casing 12 in preparation for draining operations.

[0049] Turning to FIGS. 6 through 11, a variety of exemplary embodiments are provided to illustrate the flow of water through appliance 10. Generally, an intermediate line 130 may be disposed through base wall 22, e.g., as a drain aperture, in fluid communication between first storage volume 16 and second storage volume 26. Intermediate line 130 may allow water to flow from the first storage volume 16 and container 14. Furthermore, water flowing from the first storage volume 16 and container 14 may, due to gravity and the vertical alignment of the container 14 of water tank 24, flow into the second storage volume 26. In some such embodiments, appliance 10 may provide a flow loop of water that may be selectively drained via one or more drain line 102, 106.

[0050] As shown in FIG. 6, some exemplary embodiments include a primary drain line 102 and a secondary drain line 106. Primary drain line 102 is in fluid communication with second storage volume 26 (via opening 31--see FIG. 2), and extends downstream from second storage volume 26. In the illustrated embodiment, primary drain line 102 is positioned between base wall 30 of water tank 24 and pump 32 in the direction of fluid flow, e.g., the direction of fluid flow during ice making operations. When water is flowed through primary drain line 102 during operation, it may be directed upstream from pump 32. Optionally, primary line 102 may be position below pump 32, e.g., in the vertical direction V (see FIG. 2). An outlet valve 104 is attached in fluid communication with primary drain line 102, e.g., downstream from primary drain line 102 and upstream from the ambient environment. As described above, outlet valve 104 may be moved between a closed position and an opened position to selectively communicate with the ambient environment. When outlet valve 104 is opened, water may be drained, e.g., via gravity, from second storage volume 26 and/or first storage volume 16. Additionally or alternatively, water within upstream pump conduit 33, which is disposed above primary drain line 102 along the vertical direction V (see FIG. 3), may be directed in reverse from pump 32 to primary drain line 102.

[0051] As shown, a reservoir conduit 41 is disposed in fluid communication with reservoir 34. Secondary drain line 106 extends in downstream fluid communication with pump 32 (via a branched connection with downstream pump conduit 35), upstream from reservoir 34. Secondary drain line 106 bypasses ice maker 50 in fluid communication between pump 32 and third storage volume 36. An outlet valve 108 is attached, e.g., in fluid communication with, secondary drain line 106. As described above, outlet valve 108 may be moved between a closed position and an opened position to selectively communicate with the ambient environment. When outlet valve 108 is opened, water upstream from pump 32 may be actively drained through secondary drain line 106 by activating pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and a portion of downstream pump conduit 35, then through secondary drain line 106 and valve 108 to the ambient environment.

[0052] Additionally or alternatively, water within third storage volume 36 and/or ice maker 50 may be drained, e.g., via gravity. For instance, third storage volume 36 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow downstream through reservoir conduit 41 and a portion of downstream pump conduit 35. Similarly, ice maker 50 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow in reverse through icemaker conduit 51 and a portion of upstream pump conduit. From downstream pump conduit 35, water may be directed through secondary drain line 106 to the ambient environment.

[0053] Turning to FIG. 7, the illustrated embodiment may be considered substantially identical to the embodiment of FIG. 6, except as otherwise indicated. For example, secondary drain line 106 is disposed between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. Secondary drain line 106 is positioned downstream from reservoir 34, between reservoir conduit 41 and icemaker conduit 51. In some embodiments, secondary drain line 106 extends from icemaker conduit 51 to the ambient environment. In optional embodiments, secondary drain line 106 is positioned in selective fluid communication between reservoir 34 and the ambient environment. Optionally, although shown schematically, drain line 106 may be positioned below pump 32 (e.g., in a vertical direction). When outlet valve 108 is opened, pump 32 may be activated to actively drain water upstream from pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and downstream pump conduit 35, through a portion of icemaker conduit 51, and then through secondary drain line 106 and valve 108 to the ambient environment. When pump 32 is activated, water within third storage volume 36 may be additionally or alternatively drained through a portion of icemaker conduit 51 before being directed through secondary drain line 106 and valve 108.

[0054] In some embodiments, water within third storage volume 36 and/or ice maker 50 may be drained, e.g., via gravity such that water flows through reservoir conduit 41, secondary drain line 106, and valve 108. For instance, third storage volume 36 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow downstream through reservoir conduit 41. Similarly, ice maker 50 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow in reverse through at least a portion of icemaker conduit 51. From icemaker conduit 51, water may be directed through secondary drain line 106 to the ambient environment.

[0055] Turning to FIG. 8, the illustrated embodiment may be considered substantially identical to the embodiment of FIG. 6, except as otherwise indicated. For example, secondary drain line 106 is disposed between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. Secondary drain line 106 is positioned downstream from reservoir 34, between reservoir conduit 41 and icemaker conduit 51. As illustrated, secondary drain line 106 extends through a portion of water tank 24, such as in a sidewall 28 thereof. Optionally, although shown schematically, drain line 106 may be positioned below pump 32 (e.g., in a vertical direction). When outlet valve 108 is opened, water upstream from pump 32 and/or water within third storage volume 36 may be actively drained through secondary drain line 106 by activating pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and downstream pump conduit 35, through a portion of icemaker conduit 51, and then through secondary drain line 106 to second storage volume 26.

[0056] Additionally or alternatively, water within third storage volume 36 and/or ice maker 50 may be drained, e.g., via gravity. For instance, third storage volume 36 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow downstream through reservoir conduit 41. Similarly, ice maker 50 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow in reverse through at least a portion of icemaker conduit 51. From icemaker conduit 51, water may be directed through secondary drain line 106 to water tank 24. As described above, water within water tank 24 may be drained through primary drain line 102 and valve 104.

[0057] Turning to FIG. 9, the illustrated embodiment may be considered substantially identical to the embodiment of FIG. 6, except as otherwise indicated. For example, downstream pump conduit 35 directs water to top portion 39 of reservoir 34. Icemaker conduit 51 extends directly from base wall 40 of reservoir 34. Icemaker conduit 51 is positioned in fluid communication between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. Pump 32 is positioned vertically below base wall 30 of water tank 24.

[0058] As shown, secondary drain line 106 is disposed in fluid communication between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. Secondary drain line 106 branches from icemaker conduit 51 to the ambient environment. In some embodiments, secondary drain line 106 is positioned to bypass icemaker 50. Optionally, although shown schematically, drain line 106 may be positioned below pump 32 (e.g., in a vertical direction). When outlet valve 108 is opened, water within third storage volume 36 and/or upstream from pump 32 may be actively drained through secondary drain line 106 by activating pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and downstream pump conduit 35, through reservoir 34, through a portion of icemaker conduit 51, and then through secondary drain line 106 and valve 108 to the ambient environment.

[0059] Additionally or alternatively, water within third storage volume 36 and/or ice maker 50 may be drained, e.g., via gravity. For instance, third storage volume 36 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow downstream through icemaker conduit 51. Ice maker 50 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow in reverse through at least a portion of icemaker conduit 51. From icemaker conduit 51, water may be directed through secondary drain line 106 to the ambient environment.

[0060] Turning to FIG. 10, the illustrated embodiment may be considered substantially identical to the embodiment of FIG. 6, except as otherwise indicated. For example, downstream pump conduit 35 directs water to top portion 39 of reservoir 34. Icemaker conduit 51 extends directly from base wall 40 of reservoir 34. Icemaker conduit 51 is positioned in fluid communication between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. Moreover, multiple independent secondary drain lines 106A, 106B are provided.

[0061] A first secondary drain line 106A extends in downstream fluid communication with pump 32, upstream from reservoir 34 (via a branched connection with downstream pump conduit 35). Secondary drain line 106A bypasses ice maker 50 in fluid communication between pump 32 and third storage volume 36. An outlet valve 108A of secondary drain line 106A is attached in fluid communication thereto. As described above, outlet valve 108A may be moved between a closed position and an opened position to selectively communicate with the ambient environment. When outlet valve 108A is opened, water upstream from pump 32 may be actively drained through secondary drain line 106A by activating pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and a portion of downstream pump conduit 35, and then through secondary drain line 106A and valve 108A to the ambient environment.

[0062] Additionally or alternatively, water within upstream pump 35 conduit may be drained, e.g., via gravity. For instance, downstream pump conduit 35 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow in reverse through secondary drain line 106A and outlet valve 108A to the ambient environment.

[0063] Another secondary drain line 106B extends from icemaker conduit 51 and is disposed in fluid communication between reservoir 34 and ice maker 50. As shown, secondary drain line 106B is positioned downstream from reservoir 34 to drain water from icemaker conduit 51 to the ambient environment. An outlet valve 108B of secondary drain line 106B is attached in fluid communication thereto. As described above, outlet valve 108B may be moved between a closed position and an opened position to selectively communicate with the ambient environment. Optionally, although shown schematically, secondary drain line 106B may be positioned below pump 32 (e.g., in a vertical direction). When outlet valve 108B is opened, water upstream from pump 32 and/or water within third storage volume 36 may be actively drained through secondary drain line 106B by activating pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and downstream pump conduit 35, through reservoir 34, through a portion of icemaker conduit 51, and then through secondary drain line 106B and valve 108B to the ambient environment.

[0064] Additionally or alternatively, water within third storage volume 36 and/or ice maker 50 may be drained, e.g., via gravity. For instance, third storage volume 36 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow downstream through icemaker conduit 51. Ice maker 50 may be drained by allowing water therein to flow in reverse through at least a portion of icemaker conduit 51. From icemaker conduit 51, water may be directed through secondary drain line 106B and outlet valve 108B to the ambient environment.

[0065] Turning to FIG. 11, the illustrated embodiment may be considered substantially identical to the FIG. 6, except as otherwise indicated. For instance, only a single primary drain line 102 is provided. As shown, primary drain line 102 extends in downstream fluid communication with pump 32, upstream from reservoir 34. Primary drain line 102 bypasses ice maker 50 in fluid communication between pump 32 and third storage volume 36. A uni-directional line 132 may be branched from upstream pump conduit 33. Uni-directional line 132 extends in fluid communication with primary drain line 102 and directs water from upstream pump conduit 33 to primary drain line 102 while bypassing pump 32. Optionally, a check valve 134 may be disposed within uni-directional line 132 to permit downstream water flow from second storage volume 26, while restricting reverse water flow.

[0066] An outlet valve 104 is attached in fluid communication with primary drain line 102. As described above, outlet valve 104 may be moved between a closed position and an opened position to selectively communicate with the ambient environment. When outlet valve 104 is opened, water upstream from pump 32 may be actively drained through primary drain line 102 by activating pump 32. For example, pump 32 may be activated to actively motivate or pump water from a position upstream of pump 32, through pump 32 and a portion of downstream pump conduit 35, and then through primary drain line 102 and valve 104 to the ambient environment.

[0067] Additionally or alternatively, water within second storage volume 26 and/or first storage volume 16 may be drained, e.g., via gravity, by directing water through uni-directional line 132 and to primary drain line 102. Water within upstream pump conduit 33, which is disposed above primary drain line 102 in the vertical direction V, may be directed in reverse from pump 32 towards uni-directional line 132. Moreover, water within third storage volume 36 and/or ice maker 50 may be drained, e.g., via gravity. In some embodiments, water within third storage volume 36 may be drained via gravity by flowing water in reverse through reservoir conduit 41 toward pump conduit 35. Water within icemaker 50 may be drained via gravity by flowing water in reverse through icemaker conduit 51 toward downstream pump conduit 35. From downstream pump conduit 35, water may be drained through primary drain line 102 and outlet valve 104 to the ambient environment.

[0068] This written description uses examples to disclose the invention, including the best mode, and also to enable any person skilled in the art to practice the invention, including making and using any devices or systems and performing any incorporated methods. The patentable scope of the invention is defined by the claims, and may include other examples that occur to those skilled in the art. Such other examples are intended to be within the scope of the claims if they include structural elements that do not differ from the literal language of the claims, or if they include equivalent structural elements with insubstantial differences from the literal languages of the claims.

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