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Patent Analysis of

Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter

Updated Time 12 June 2019

Patent Registration Data

Publication Number

US10001526

Application Number

US14/807136

Application Date

23 July 2015

Publication Date

19 June 2018

Current Assignee

EATON INTELLIGENT POWER LIMITED

Original Assignee (Applicant)

COOPER TECHNOLOGIES COMPANY

International Classification

G01R31/02,H02H3/33,G01R31/327

Cooperative Classification

G01R31/327,H02H3/335

Inventor

SALAS, LUIS F.

Patent Images

This patent contains figures and images illustrating the invention and its embodiment.

US10001526 Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter 1 US10001526 Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter 2 US10001526 Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter 3
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Abstract

A circuit interrupter including a ground fault circuit interrupter circuit structured to detect a ground fault based on current flowing in line and neutral conductors of the circuit interrupter, a ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit structured to perform a self-test on the circuit interrupter to determine the functional status of the ground fault circuit interrupter, and a bridge circuit structured to harvest power from the line and neutral conductors and supply said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit.

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Claims

1. A circuit interrupter comprising: a ground fault circuit interrupter circuit structured to detect a ground fault based on current flowing in line and neutral conductors of the circuit interrupter; a ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit structured to perform a self-test on the circuit interrupter to determine the functional status of the ground fault circuit interrupter; and a bridge circuit structured to harvest power from the line and neutral conductors and supply said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit;wherein the bridge circuit further comprises: a ground point; a supply point electrically connected to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit, wherein the bridge circuit is structured to supply said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit via the supply point; a first diode electrically connected between the neutral conductor and the ground point; a second diode electrically connected between the neutral conductor and the supply point; a third diode electrically connected between the line conductor and the supply point; and a fourth diode electrically connected between the line conductor and the ground point; a first redundant diode electrically connected in parallel with the first diode and not electrically connected in parallel with any other diodes of the bridge circuit; and a second redundant diode electrically connected in parallel with the third diode and not electrically connected in parallel with any other diodes of the bridge circuit.

2. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the bridge circuit is electrically connected to the line and neutral conductors on a load side of the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit.

3. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the bridge circuit is structured to provide said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit via the first redundant diode when the first diode fails.

4. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the bridge circuit is structured to provide said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit via the second redundant diode when the third diode fails.

5. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the bridge circuit further comprises: a first current limiting resistor; a second current limiting resistor electrically connected in parallel with the first current limiting resistor, wherein a parallel combination of the first and second current limiting resistors is electrically connected in series with the second diode.

6. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the bridge circuit further comprises: a third current limiting resistor; a fourth current limiting resistor electrically connected in parallel with the third current limiting resistor, wherein a parallel combination of the third and fourth current limiting resistors is electrically connected between line conductor and the third diode.

7. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the bridge circuit further comprises: a fuse electrically connected in series with the fourth diode.

8. The circuit interrupter of claim 7, wherein the fuse is one of a fusible resistor and a fusible printed circuit board trace.

9. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit further comprises:a dropping resistor bank structured to receive the harvested power from the bridge circuit, the dropping resistor bank comprising: a first resistor; a second resistor electrically connected in parallel with the first resistor; and a third resistor electrically connected in series with a parallel combination of the first and second resistors.

10. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit further comprises: sensing transformers structured to sense the current flowing in the line and neutral conductors; and an integrated circuit structured to determine whether a ground fault has occurred.

11. The circuit interrupter of claim 10, wherein ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit is structured to determine the functional status of the integrated circuit.

12. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit further comprises: a solenoid; a sense coil; and a silicon controlled rectifier, wherein the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit is structured to determine the functional status of the solenoid, the sense coil, and the silicon controlled rectifier.

13. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit is structured to periodically perform the self-test on the circuit interrupter.

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Claim Tree

  • 1
    1. A circuit interrupter comprising:
    • a ground fault circuit interrupter circuit structured to detect a ground fault based on current flowing in line and neutral conductors of the circuit interrupter
    • a ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit structured to perform a self-test on the circuit interrupter to determine the functional status of the ground fault circuit interrupter
    • and a bridge circuit structured to harvest power from the line and neutral conductors and supply said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit
    • wherein the bridge circuit further comprises: a ground point
    • a supply point electrically connected to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit, wherein the bridge circuit is structured to supply said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit via the supply point
    • a first diode electrically connected between the neutral conductor and the ground point
    • a second diode electrically connected between the neutral conductor and the supply point
    • a third diode electrically connected between the line conductor and the supply point
    • and a fourth diode electrically connected between the line conductor and the ground point
    • a first redundant diode electrically connected in parallel with the first diode and not electrically connected in parallel with any other diodes of the bridge circuit
    • and a second redundant diode electrically connected in parallel with the third diode and not electrically connected in parallel with any other diodes of the bridge circuit.
    • 2. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the bridge circuit is electrically connected to the line and neutral conductors on a load side of the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit.
    • 3. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the bridge circuit is structured to provide said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit via the first redundant diode when the first diode fails.
    • 4. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the bridge circuit is structured to provide said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit via the second redundant diode when the third diode fails.
    • 5. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the bridge circuit further comprises:
    • 6. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the bridge circuit further comprises:
    • 7. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the bridge circuit further comprises:
    • 9. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit further comprises:
    • 10. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit further comprises:
    • 12. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit further comprises:
    • 13. The circuit interrupter of claim 1, wherein
      • the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit is structured to periodically perform the self-test on the circuit interrupter.
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Description

BACKGROUND

Field

The disclosed concept relates generally to circuit interrupters, and in particular, to self-testing circuit interrupters.

Background Information

Circuit interrupters, such as for example and without limitation, circuit breakers, are typically used to protect electrical circuitry from damage due to an overcurrent condition, such as an overload condition, a short circuit, or another fault condition, such as an arc fault or a ground fault. Circuit breakers typically include separable contacts. The separable contacts may be operated either manually by way of an operator handle or automatically in response to a detected fault condition. Typically, such circuit breakers include an operating mechanism, which is designed to rapidly open the separable contacts, and a trip mechanism, such as a trip unit, which senses a number of fault conditions to trip the breaker automatically. Upon sensing a fault condition, the trip unit trips the operating mechanism to a trip state, which moves the separable contacts to their open position.

An existing ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) circuit 100 is shown in FIG. 1. The GFCI circuit 100 is structured to detect a ground fault on a protected circuit and trip open separable contacts 102 in response to the detected ground fault. An existing GFCI monitor circuit 110 is shown in FIG. 2. The GFCI monitor circuit 110 is structured to monitor the functional status of a GFCI circuit by performing a self-test on a circuit interrupter. However, the GFCI circuit of FIG. 1 and the GFCI monitor circuit of FIG. 2 have not previously been used together in a circuit interrupter.

Furthermore, UL943 includes a self-test requirement, effective on Jun. 29, 2015. The GFCI circuit of FIG. 1 does not comply with UL943 because it does not have a self-test capability.

The GFCI circuit 100 of FIG. 1 and the GFCI monitor circuit 110 of FIG. 2 both require power to operate. The GFCI circuit 100 of FIG. 1 includes a standard bridge rectifier 104. However, if any of the diodes fail in the bridge rectifier, the power to the GFCI circuit 100 would be compromised. A power supply is not shown for the GFCI monitor circuit 110 of FIG. 2, but if a standard bridge rectifier were used to provide power to the GFCI monitor circuit 110 of FIG. 2, a diode failure could compromise the power to the GFCI monitor circuit 110 of FIG. 2. If a GFCI circuit or a GFCI monitor circuit loses power, it becomes ineffective. Reliable power is therefore desirable for GFCI circuits and GFCI monitor circuits.

There is therefore a room for improvement in circuit interrupters.

SUMMARY

These needs and others are met by embodiments of the disclosed concept in which a circuit interrupter includes a GFCI circuit, a GFCI monitor circuit, and a bridge circuit structured to provide power to the GFCI circuit and the GFCI monitor circuit.

In accordance with one aspect of the disclosed concept, a circuit interrupter comprises: a ground fault circuit interrupter circuit structured to detect a ground fault based on current flowing in line and neutral conductors of the circuit interrupter; a ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit structured to perform a self-test on the circuit interrupter to determine the functional status of the ground fault circuit interrupter; and a bridge circuit structured to harvest power from the line and neutral conductors and supply said harvested power to the ground fault circuit interrupter circuit and the ground fault circuit interrupter monitor circuit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A full understanding of the disclosed concept can be gained from the following description of the preferred embodiments when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a circuit diagram of a GFCI circuit;

FIG. 2 is a circuit diagram of a GFCI monitor circuit; and

FIG. 3 is a circuit diagram of a self-test GFCI circuit in accordance with an example embodiment of the disclosed concept.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Directional phrases used herein, such as, for example, left, right, front, back, top, bottom and derivatives thereof, relate to the orientation of the elements shown in the drawings and are not limiting upon the claims unless expressly recited therein.

As employed herein, the statement that two or more parts are “coupled” together shall mean that the parts are joined together either directly or joined through one or more intermediate parts.

A circuit diagram of a self-test GFCI circuit 1 in accordance with an example embodiment of the disclosed concept is shown in FIG. 3. The self-test GFCI circuit 1 may be included in a circuit interrupter (e.g., without limitation, a GFCI). The self-test GFCI circuit 1 includes a GFCI circuit 10, a GFCI monitor circuit 20, and a bridge circuit 30.

The GFCI circuit 10 is a circuit that is structured to detect when a ground fault occurs on a protected circuit based on current flowing through line and neutral conductors 15,16. The GFCI circuit 10 initiates a trip to cause separable contacts 14 to trip open when a ground fault is detected. The GFCI circuit 10 includes sensing transformers 18 to sense the current flowing through the line and neutral conductors 15,16 and an integrated circuit (IC) GFCI chip 12 to determine whether a ground fault has occurred. The IC GFCI chip 12 may be any suitable IC GFCI chip such as, without limitation, a Fairchild KA2807D IC or a Fairchild LM1851 IC (both marketed by Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation of San Jose Calif.).

The GFCI monitor circuit 20 is a circuit that is structured to perform a self-test on the GFCI to determine the functional status of the GFCI circuit 10 (e.g., whether it is operational or not). The GFCI monitor circuit 20 includes an IC GFCI monitor chip 22. The IC GFCI monitor chip 22 may be any suitable IC GFCI monitor chip such as, without limitation, a Fairchild FAN41501 IC (marketed by Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation of San Jose Calif.). The IC GFCI monitor chip 22 has two non-user programmable internal timers set at 1 second and 90 minutes. The IC GFCI monitor chip 22 periodically initiates a self-test to determine the functional status of the GFCI circuit 10, and in particular, the functional status of the IC GFCI chip 12 as well as a solenoid 11, a sense coil 17, and a silicon controlled rectifier (SCR) 13 included in the GFCI circuit 10.

The GFCI monitor circuit 20 includes a diode D5 disposed between an anode of the SCR 13 and the solenoid 11. The GFCI monitor circuit 20 generates a ground fault current pulse during a self-test cycle. The ground fault current pulse is generated at 170° of the positive cycle preceding the negative cycle of the line in which the self-test will be performed. The ground fault current pulse lasts less than 4 ms. When the GFCI circuit 10 is working properly, it will detect the ground fault current pulse generated by the GFCI monitor circuit 20 and output a signal to activate the SCR 13. Diode D5 will be reverse biased during the negative cycle when the simulated ground fault current pulse occurs. Thus, the solenoid 11 will be isolated and will not cause the separable contacts to trip open during the self-test, even though the SCR 13 is activated.

During the positive cycle of the line, the IC GFCI monitor chip 22 will sense voltage across the SCR 13, and if it is above a predetermined threshold, it means that the solenoid 11 is working properly and that the SCR 13 is not activated. The IC GFCI monitor chip 22 will latch the positive result. If the GFCI circuit 10 is working properly, the IC GFCI monitor chip 22 will detect that the IC GFCI chip 12, the sense coil 17, and the SCR 13 are working, latch the negative cycle result, and start the timer for the next self-test.

If the IC GFCI monitor chip 22 does not sense voltage across the SCR 13 during the positive cycle or detects that the SCR 13 does not turn on during the negative cycle, it determines that the GFCI circuit 10 is not working properly. The IC GFCI monitor chip 22 will repeat the self-test cycle four times. If the GFCI circuit 10 continues to fail, the IC GFCI monitor chip 22 will output an end-of-life signal to trigger the SCR 13 to cause separable contacts 14 to trip open.

The bridge circuit 30 is structured to supply power to the GFCI circuit 10 and the GFCI monitor circuit 20. The bridge circuit 30 supplies power to the GFCI circuit 10 and the GFCI monitor circuit 20 via a supply point VPS. The bridge circuit 30 obtains power by harvesting it from current flowing on the line and neutral conductors 15,16.

The bridge circuit 30 includes diodes D1, D2, D3, and D4. Diodes D1, D2, D3, and D4 perform a bridge rectifier function to rectify power harvested from the line and neutral conductors 15,16 and provide it to the GFCI circuit 10 and the GFCI monitor circuit 20. Diode D1 is electrically connected between the neutral conductor 16 and a ground point 32. Diode D2 is electrically connected between the neutral conductor 16 and the supply point VPS. Diode D3 is electrically connected between the line conductor 15 and the supply point VPS. Diode D4 is electrically connected between the line conductor 15 and the ground point 32.

The bridge circuit 30 further includes redundant diodes D1A and D3A. Redundant diodes D1A and D3A allow the bridge circuit 30 to continue providing power even if diodes D1 and D3 fail. That is, redundant diode D1A will continued to provide power harvested from the line and neutral conductors 15,16 to the GFCI circuit 10 and the GFCI monitor circuit 20 via the supply point VPS even when diode D1 fails open (i.e., diode D1 fail to allow current to flow through them in either direction). Redundant diode D3A will continued to provide power harvested from the line and neutral conductors 15,16 to the GFCI circuit 10 and the GFCI monitor circuit 20 via the supply point VPS even when diode D3 fails open. Redundant diode D1A is electrically connected in parallel with diode D1 and redundant diode D3A is electrically connected in parallel with diode D3.

The bridge circuit 30 further includes current limiting resistors R1.D2, R1.D2A, R1.D3, and R1.D3A. Current limiting resistors R1.D2 and R1.D2A are electrically connected in parallel with each other and the parallel combination of current limiting resistors R1.D2 and R1.D2A is electrically connected in series with diode D2. Current limiting resistors R1.D3 and R1.D3A are electrically connected in parallel with each other and the parallel combination of current limiting resistors R1.D3 and R1.D3A is electrically connected between the line conductor 15 and diode D3. Current limiting resistors R1.D2, R1.D2A, R1.D3, and R1.D3A serve as current limiting resistors and allow the self-test GFCI circuit 1 to function even if a diode in the bridge circuit 30 becomes shorted.

The bridge circuit 30 further includes a fuse R1.D4 (e.g., without limitation, a fusible resistor or a fusible printed circuit board trace) electrically connected in series with diode D4. The fuse R1.D4 is structured to open in the event that either of diodes D1 and D4 become shorted.

The bridge circuit 30 is connected on the load side of sensing transformers 18 of the GFCI circuit 10. Connecting the bridge circuit 30 at the load side of the sensing transformers 18, rather than the line side, makes it easier for the IC GFCI monitor chip 22 to generate the simulated ground fault current signal.

A dropping resistor bank in the GFCI circuit 10 includes resistors R1.1, R1.2, and R1.3 Resistors R1.1 and R1.2 are electrically connected in parallel with each other. The parallel combination of resistors R1.1 and R1.2 is electrically connected in series with resistor R1.3. The dropping resistor bank is electrically connected to the supply point VPS. During the positive cycle (i.e., when the line hot voltage is positive with respect to the line neutral voltage), current flows through resistors R1.D3 and R1.D3A to the dropping resistor bank. During the negative cycle (i.e., when the line neutral voltage is positive with respect to the line hot voltage), current flows through resistors R1.D2 and R1.D2A to the dropping resistor bank. In some example embodiments of the disclosed concept, the dropping resistor bank has a total resistance value of 15Ω. The dropping resistor bank is configured to spread heat over a large area of a printed circuit board it is mounted on to pass the 240 VAC test in UL943. The dropping resistor bank also limits current in the event that diodes D2 and D3 ever fail shorted.

The self-test GFCI circuit 1 complies with the self-test requirements of UL943 and thus would allow GFCIs including such a circuit to comply with the self-test requirements of UL943.

While specific embodiments of the disclosed concept have been described in detail, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications and alternatives to those details could be developed in light of the overall teachings of the disclosure. Accordingly, the particular arrangements disclosed are meant to be illustrative only and not limiting as to the scope of the disclosed concept which is to be given the full breadth of the claims appended and any and all equivalents thereof.

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Patent Valuation

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29.4/100 Score

Market Attractiveness

It shows from an IP point of view how many competitors are active and innovations are made in the different technical fields of the company. On a company level, the market attractiveness is often also an indicator of how diversified a company is. Here we look into the commercial relevance of the market.

33.0/100 Score

Market Coverage

It shows the sizes of the market that is covered with the IP and in how many countries the IP guarantees protection. It reflects a market size that is potentially addressable with the invented technology/formulation with a legal protection which also includes a freedom to operate. Here we look into the size of the impacted market.

70.55/100 Score

Technology Quality

It shows the degree of innovation that can be derived from a company’s IP. Here we look into ease of detection, ability to design around and significance of the patented feature to the product/service.

54.0/100 Score

Assignee Score

It takes the R&D behavior of the company itself into account that results in IP. During the invention phase, larger companies are considered to assign a higher R&D budget on a certain technology field, these companies have a better influence on their market, on what is marketable and what might lead to a standard.

16.0/100 Score

Legal Score

It shows the legal strength of IP in terms of its degree of protecting effect. Here we look into claim scope, claim breadth, claim quality, stability and priority.

Citation

Patents Cited in This Cited by
Title Current Assignee Application Date Publication Date
Fail safe fault interrupter X-L SYNERGY, L.L.C. 27 May 1999 17 July 2001
Ground line fault interrupter adapter unit IRWIN; LAWRENCE F. 27 August 1987 28 March 1989
Self testing ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) with end of life (EOL) indicator, secondary power supply for EOL and self test circuitry, and device for opening line hot when EOL occurs HUBBELL INCORPORATED 31 May 2006 06 December 2007
Intelligent ground fault circuit interrupter LEVITON MANUFACTURING CO., INC. 14 January 1998 29 August 2000
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) monitor FAIRCHILD SEMICONDUCTOR CORPORATION 17 June 2014 02 October 2014
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US10001526 Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter 1 US10001526 Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter 2 US10001526 Self-testing ground fault circuit interrupter 3