Patent application title: Modular Mounting Apparatus
IPC8 Class: AE04D1318FI
Class name: Static structures (e.g., buildings) combined with a sunlight activated device (e.g., passive solar or photoelectric)
Publication date: 2012-10-11
Patent application number: 20120255244
A mounting apparatus, primarily for solar panels and other renewable
energy panels. The mounting apparatus has a base, sides, a front, a back,
and a top. It is generally wedge-shaped. It has a depression designed to
fit photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. It has a number of mounting
mechanisms, including ballast, tethers, and fasteners, designed to
minimize the number of roof-top holes needed to anchor a system.
1. A mounting apparatus comprising: a base member; a pair of side walls
extending vertically from the base; a rear wall that extends upward from
the base at an angle less than 90 degrees; a front wall that extends from
the base member; and a top surface that extends from the front wall to
the rear wall and is intersected by the two side walls.
2. The invention as described in 1, in which the shape of the mounting apparatus is wedge-shaped, with the front wall being the narrow part and the rear wall being the tall part.
3. The invention as described in 2, in which the angle of the wedge is selected to maximize the amount of sunlight incident on a panel installed to the mounting apparatus.
4. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus has a cutout to facilitate the mounting of solar panels.
5. The invention as described in 4, in which the cutout is replaced with a blank panel, so that the surface of the mounting apparatus can be used for mounting.
6. The invention as described in 1, in which the top and/or side have cutouts for mounting hardware.
7. The invention as described in 1, in which there are a plurality of semi-circular other semi-round cutouts to route conduits for water or electricity.
8. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus contains a ballast cavity.
9. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus contains lips on their front and back walls, so that multiple mounting apparatus may be hooked together, front-to-back.
10. The invention as described in 1, in which the sides of the mounting apparatus have tabs and sleeves, so that multiple mounting apparatus may be hooked together, side-by-side.
11. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus contains tether holes.
12. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus contains drawers, capable of holding water, ballast, a heat exchanger, etc.
13. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus has at lease one pipe containing holes, and plumbing connecting the pipe to a liquid source, so that the liquid can be pumped from the interior of the mounting apparatus onto its surface.
14. The invention as described in 1, in which the mounting apparatus is modular, with at least two sections.
15. The invention as described in 14, in which the modular mounting apparatus has at least three sections.
16. The invention as described in 14, in which the modular sections fit together through the use of male and female locking sleeves.
CLAIM OF PRIORITY
 The applicants claims priority under 35 USC 119, et. seq., to a prior filed provisional utility patent application No. 61/474,263, filed Apr. 11, 2011; entitled, "Modular Mounting Apparatus;" by named inventors Rajul L. Patel, Reynold Hendrickson, and Jon Karpovich.
FIELD OF INVENTION
 This invention relates to the field of mounting apparatus. Specifically, this invention relates to the mounting hardware and methods for renewable energy panels, satellites, and other roof mounted equipment.
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
 Mounting apparatus have been developed over the years to anchor items such as signs, solar panels, satellite dishes, HVAC units and the like to buildings and the ground. Many of these apparatus are used on the roof. For many items the roof is the ideal mounting location. For instance, the roof is an ideal mounting location for a solar panel because it is not obstructed from the sun. Additionally, the roof is the ideal mounting place for billboards, because such a mounted billboard is easy to see. Last, for items that people prefer to keep out of sight, like an HVAC unit, the roof is also ideal. Rooftops, thus, increase the usable space of a building.
 Traditionally, building owners were reluctant to fasten large items to their roof, for fear that the equipment would be damaged by the elements. As land became more precious, and as the desire to mount certain items out of site, the capabilities of mounting apparatus have improved. Mounting apparatus for the roof have advanced to a point that many components may be safely anchored to the roof, while withstanding the elements of weather such as wind, rain, snow and the like. Depending on the land and the use, a land owner may decide to put solar panels, HVAC units, signs, satellite dishes and the like on the ground, adjacent to the building.
 One drawback of current technology is that, when mounted to a flat top roof, often found with commercial buildings, it requires the use of many drill holes. Adding holes to sealed rooftops provokes leakage by creating paths for water to find its way inside the building, potentially damaging the structure and the interior of the building. The more holes that are added to anchor a component to a roof, the more potential for leak paths and water entry into the building. For example, solar panels are typically designed in 4×8 sizes. Generally, a large number of solar panels are required to work in unison to generate enough electricity to power a building. Often, these solar panels are mounted to a roof top and typically require that each of the four corners of a rectangular solar panel be anchored to a rooftop. These panels are first secured to a mounting system or frame and then the frame may be anchored to the roof of the building. Each of the four corners of the mounting system must be anchored to the rooftop, thus requiring the addition of four holes to the rooftop for securement means.
 Often, current mounting apparatus are manufactured of steel, aluminum, or like metal, that are heavy, large and bulky to transport and install. They may also add additional unnecessary weight to any roof. These mounting systems may also be quite costly to manufacture, transport and install.
 Therefore, a need exists for a modular mounting apparatus that may be anchored to buildings or the ground that is lightweight and inexpensive to manufacture while at the same time reducing the number of mounting holes that may be added to a rooftop of a building or ground and may be used to mount signs, satellite dishes, solar panels and the like.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A modular mounting apparatus for solar panels is disclosed. The mounting apparatus has a number of embodiments designed to reduce or eliminate the need for roof-top anchors. The mounting apparatus has a cavity that can be loaded with a heavy substance, to prevent the mounting apparatus from moving. The mounting apparatus also includes a system to mate several mounts together, creating a larger, more inert mass. The mounting apparatus comes with a tethering system to reduce the number of roof-top anchors.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the present invention, a modular mounting apparatus.
 FIG. 2 is a side view of the present invention.
 FIG. 3 is a front view of the present invention and
 FIG. 4 is a rear view of the present invention.
 FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of the present invention, with a solar panel mount to it.
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the present invention with a solar panel mounted to it.
 FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the present invention with a blank panel mounted to it.
 FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the present invention.
 FIG. 9 is a perspective view of multiple modular mounting apparatus with attached solar panels.
 FIG. 10 is perspective view of two modular mounting apparatus with attached solar panels.
 FIG. 11 is a side view of multiple modular mounting apparatus.
 FIG. 12 is a side view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention, in which the modular pieces of the unit are highlighted.
 FIG. 13A is a side view of the modular mounting apparatus, showing a number of modular units.
 FIG. 13B shows the modular mounting apparatus segments stored in the large unit.
 FIG. 14 is a side view of another embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 15 is a top view of a drawer, used in the embodiment from FIG. 14.
 FIG. 16 is a side view of a drawer, used in the embodiment from FIG. 14.
 FIG. 17 is a side view of another embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 18 is a side view of another embodiment of the modular mounting apparatus.
 FIG. 19 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 20 is a side view of another embodiment of the present invention.
 FIG. 21 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 The detailed description is intended to illustrate the present invention, without, in any way, limiting its scope. The drawings are not scale models, and the drawings do not show all the potential embodiments of the present invention. The drawings represent the preferred embodiment, and important alternative embodiments of the present invention, known to the inventors.
 A mounting apparatus 10 is illustrated in FIGS. 1-4. The mounting apparatus 10 is in the general shape of a wedge and is comprised of a base surface 12, a pair of side walls 14 and 16, a rear wall 18, a front wall 20 and a top surface 22. Side walls 14 and 16 extend upward and generally perpendicular from the base surface 12. Side wall 14 and 16 are also generally parallel to one another. Rear wall 18 extends upward from base surface 12 and at an angle that is generally less than 90 degrees. Rear wall 18 also intersects side wall 14 and 16. Front wall 20 extends upward from base surface as well and intersects side walls 14 and 16. Top surface 22 extends between rear wall 18 and front wall 20 and intersects side walls 14 and 16. Collectively, base surface 12, side walls 14, 16, rear wall 18, front wall 20 and top surface 22 form the wedge-shaped mounting apparatus 10.
 Top surface 22 includes a depression 24. Depression 24 may be sized to accept, secure, or facilitate the mounting of any type of component desired. As seen in FIGS. 5 and 6, in this particular embodiment of the present invention, the depression 24 is sized to accept and secure a solar panel 26 to the mounting apparatus 10. The depression 24 may be designed such that the upper surface of the solar panel 26 may be either flush to top surface 22, proud of top surface 22 or slightly below the top surface 22.
 Top surface 22 further includes a first set of cutouts 30 that are generally positioned at an edge of top surface 22 at side walls 14 and 16. Cutouts 30 may extend from depression 24 through top surface 22 and into side walls 14 and 16. Cutouts 30 may be generally rectangular in shape and are generally sized to accept any type of anchor system to adequately secure panel 26 to mounting apparatus 10. Looking at FIG. 1, this embodiment of the present invention has six cutouts 30. Looking at FIGS. 5 and 6, in this particular embodiment, the anchor system is comprised of a bracket 32 and fastener 34 such as a screw or bolt to secure the bracket 32 to mounting apparatus 10. Although six cutouts 30 are illustrated in the drawings, any number of cutouts 30 may be used to mount and anchor the panel 26 to the mounting apparatus 10.
 As shown in FIGS. 1 and 7, the depression 24 may also be sized to accept and secure a blank 62. Blank 62 may be added to the depression 24 in order that the top surface 22 is continuous across the mounting apparatus 10. The mounting apparatus 10 may then be used for mounting panels of various sizes that may be larger than depression 24, yet still require some mounting or anchoring means.
 Typically, solar panels, whether photovoltaic or thermal in nature, are mounted in arrays. Manufacturing and transportation considerations restrict the effective size of a single panel. While an array of panels is convenient for manufacturing and installation, the panels must be positioned in such a manner that the flow of water and electricity is efficient. Typically, this means that the panels must interface with one or more conduit for routing electricity or water.
 Looking at FIGS. 5-6, mounting apparatus 10 may be designed such that the angle of top surface 22 with respect to bottom surface 12 is optimized to maximize exposure to the sun. The angle may be determined such that any solar panel 26 that is positioned on top surface 22 will receive maximum exposure to the sun for optimal power generation or the heating of water. Furthermore, this angle between top surface 22 and bottom surface 12 may also be optimized for the shedding of any snow and the rapid runoff of any rainwater to ensure the panel has maximum exposure to the sun.
 Looking at FIG. 8, top surface 22 may include a second set of cutouts 36 that are generally positioned at the edge of top surface 22 at side walls 14 and 16. Cutouts 36 may extend from depression 24 through top surface 22 and into side walls 14 and 16. Cutouts 36 may be generally shaped as a semi-circle, forming the contour for a conduit. FIG. 6 shows the present invention, with panel 26 and conduit in place in the semi-circular cutout 36.
 In FIG. 8, the base 12, side walls 14 and 16, rear wall 18, front wall 20 and top surface 22 collectively create a cavity 38. The cavity 38 is provided to allow for a ballast to be added in cavity 38 of the mounting apparatus 10. Material such as water, sand, gravel, rock, lead, ground tires, steel and the like may be added to cavity 38 to provide added weight or ballast so that mounting apparatus 10 may maintain its position once optimally located.
 Side walls 14 and 16 include holes 40 and 42. Hole 40 is generally located near front wall 20 of mounting apparatus 10 and typically runs the width of mounting apparatus 10 from side wall 14 to side wall 16. Similarly, hole 42 is generally located near rear wall 18 and typically runs the width of mounting apparatus 10 from side wall 14 to side wall 16. A rope, cable or other tether may be passed through each of holes 40 and 42, to help secure the mounting apparatus 10, in situ. Each end of the tether may be anchored to the roof, ground or other surface in order to fix the mounting apparatus 10.
 The tether system will allow several of the mounting apparatus 10 to be positioned side by side as illustrated by FIG. 9. Once an array of mounting apparatus 10 has been positioned, the tether may be strung through holes 40 and 42 of each separate mounting apparatus 10. Rather than having to permanently secure each individual mounting apparatus 10 to the roof, the present invention allows the user to minimize roof holes by anchoring only the tether, and not the individual mounting apparatus 10. The cavity ballast and the tether system work combine to fix the mounting apparatus 10 in its optimal location.
 FIG. 10 shows another embodiment. The side wall 14 may include at least one tab 114 that extends the height of side wall 14. Side wall 16 may include at least one locking sleeve 116 that is sized to accept and secure tab 114. This tab 114 and sleeve 116 configuration will allow multiple mounting apparatus 10 to be anchored together in close proximity to one another as shown in FIG. 10.
 Looking at FIG. 11, front wall 20 and rear wall 18 may include interlocking mounting lips 118 and 120, respectively, such that two mounting apparatus 10 may be connected from front to back. Front wall 20 may include upward facing lip 118 and rear wall 18 may include downward facing lip 120 such that lip 120 may capture lip 118 to further anchor mounting apparatus 10.
 FIG. 12 shows an alternative embodiment, in which the mounting apparatus 10 may be manufactured in multiple pieces that may be easily transported and assembled, to create a full mounting apparatus. In this particular embodiment of the present invention, two separate pieces may be designed, that, when assembled, will produce mounting apparatus 10. Mounting apparatus 10 may be assembled from a front section 142 and a rear section 146 as illustrated in FIG. 12. Front section 142 may be designed to include a female locking sleeve 48 that may be sized to accept a male locking tab 50 of rear section 146. Tab 50 may be designed such that when seated in the sleeve 48, the front section 142 is secured to rear section 146 to create a mounting apparatus 10.
 As described above, a two piece mounting apparatus 10 design may work well to provide for easy transportation and installation. However, the present invention is not limited to two-piece construction of the mounting apparatus 10. For example, FIGS. 13A and 13B illustrate a three component mounting apparatus 10 that includes a front section 135, a middle section 133 and a rear section 131. In this particular embodiment of the present invention, the rear section 131 may be sized such that middle section 133 may fit within a cavity 132 of rear section 131. Additionally, the front section 135 may fit within a cavity 134 of middle section 133. The three sections 131, 133 and 135 may be assembled to one another with the sleeve and tab system described above for the two piece system. The mounting apparatus 10 may be manufactured in this manner to minimize shipping and installation weight and size.
 An alternative embodiment of the present invention provides a draw 64 for the mounting apparatus 10 as shown in FIGS. 4, 14 and 15. Rear wall 18, as well as rear sections 46 and 131, may include an aperture 82 that is sized to accommodate drawer 64. Drawer 64 may include a pair of side walls 66 and 68, a rear wall 70 that intersects side walls 66 and 68, a front wall 72 that also intersects side walls 66 and 68 and a bottom plate 74 that intersects side wall 66 and 68, rear wall 70 and front wall 74 to form a generally rectangular compartment 76 of drawer 64. Front wall 72 may be angled slightly with respect to rear wall 70 such that the contour of front wall will follow the contour of rear wall 18 of mounting apparatus 10. Front wall 72 may also include a lip 78 that surrounds the perimeter of front wall 72 such that lip 78 may engage a depressed edge 80 of aperture 82 such that front wall 72 will be flush to rear wall 18 when drawer 64 is in a closed position, meaning drawer 64 is fully pushed into cavity 38.
 Drawer 64 may be used to add ballast to mounting apparatus 10. As stated above, material such as water, sand, gravel, rock, lead, ground tires, steel and the like may be added to drawer 64 to provide added weight or ballast so that mounting apparatus 10 may maintain its position once optimally located.
 Drawer 64 may also be used to house a typical heat exchanger. Water or other types of fluids such as glycol and the like may be heated in the solar panel that is secured to mounting apparatus 10. The fluid passing through the panel and heated by the sun's solar heat may be directed into compartment 76 of drawer 64. Looking at FIG. 16, coils of pipe 84 having an inlet 86 and an outlet 88 may be placed in compartment 76 and submersed in the fluid. A second fluid, may be introduced into inlet 86, travel though the coils of pipe 84 and through outlet 88. Generally, the second fluid entering pipe 84 is at a lesser temperature than the fluid that is circulating in compartment 76. As with any heat exchanger, the fluid flowing through pipe 84 will increase in temperature until it is about equal to the temperature of the fluid filling compartment 76 through a heat transfer process from the fluid in compartment 76 to the fluid in pipe 84 that is well known in the art. A pump may be added to compartment 76, and associated electronics stored in another drawer, to maintain the flow of fluid from panel 26 through drawer 64. The fluids will continue to circulate through pipe 84 and compartment 76 and the heat exchange will continue as long as the fluid entering the compartment remains at a higher temperature than the fluid entering pipe 84. The fluid exiting pipe 84 through outlet 88 may be used for heating pool water, heating water for showers, and the like. Multiple drawers 64 may be added to mounting apparatus 10. Although the drawer 64 has been described, above, as being located in the rear wall 18, a drawer 64 may be added to side walls 16 and 14 for further storage of materials such as electrical wiring or electrical controls that may be used with other features of structure 10.
 In another embodiment of the present invention illustrated by FIG. 17, an end cap 90 may be to mounting apparatus 10. End cap 90 may be added to rear wall 18 and extend along a ridge 108 that intersects rear wall 18 and top surface 22. The end cap may include at least one pipe 92 that extends the width of end cap 90 and rear wall 18. The pipe 92 may be plumbed into the any conventional plumbing system of a building to allow fluid to flow from the building through pipe 92 of mounting apparatus 10 and back to building. End cap 90 may include a plurality of holes 94 that will allow air to enter end cap 90, circulate around pipe 92 and exit end cap 90. When used in this manner, end cap 90 may be an air-to-fluid heat exchanger.
 In this particular embodiment, mounting apparatus 10 may be used to take advantage the night air, which may typically be at a lower temperature than the air during the day and sunlight. Water or other fluids that may be passed through pipe 92 of end cap 90 will encounter air that is at a lower temperature then the fluids passing though pipe 92. As with any type of heat exchange, the fluids passing through pipe 92 that are at a higher temperature than the air will begin to lower in temperature and approach the temperature of the air as the temperature of the air increases to that of the fluid temperature. A constant supply of cool air into cap 90 and around pipe 92 will continue to lower the temperature of the fluid passing though pipe 92. As stated previously, a number of mounting apparatus 10 may be assembled in an array such that the length of pipe 92 may be increased in length to maximize exposure to the air.
 In yet another embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 18, end cap 90 may be designed to package electrical hardware 98 and plumbing such that the fluids passing though mounting apparatus 10 may be used to generate electricity. In this particular embodiment, the end cap 90 may include a second pipe 96 as well as electrical hardware to generate electricity from the temperature differential between two fluids that will pass through pipes 92 and 96. Electrical hardware may include plates 100 and 102 that contact pipes 92 and 96, respectively, and extend the width of rear wall 18. Generally, plates 100 and 102 and pipes 92 and 96 will be manufactured of a metal such as copper, steel, aluminum and the like to maximize the heat transfer between the components. As stated previously, pipe 92 may be plumbed into a supply of building fluids such as city supplied water while pipe 96 may be connected to solar panel 26 for a supply of fluids such as water that may be at higher temperature than the fluids supplied though pipe 92 during daylight hours. As pipe 92 contacts plate 100 and pipe 96 contacts plate 102, a transfer of heat will occur between pipes and plates. Plate 100 will lower in temperature and plate 102 will rise in temperature causing a temperature differential between the plates thus leading to a generation of electricity. Generation of electricity in this manner is well known in the art. Alternatively, during times of no sunlight, such as during evening hours, the fluids flowing though pipe 96 may be at a lower temperature than the fluids flowing through pipe 92 thus reversing the temperature differential and creating electricity during hours of no sun light. The electricity generated may be used to generate any of the number of pumps used to circulate the fluids throughout the building and array of mounting apparatus 10 or for other electrical accessories requiring power throughout the building such as lighting, televisions and the like.
 In another embodiment of the present invention, a plurality of holes 104 may be added to top surface 22 near ridge 108 as illustrated by FIGS. 19 and 20. Holes 104 may extend in a relatively straight line about the width of top surface 22. On the underside of top surface 22, a tube 110 having a plurality of holes 112 may extend the width of top surface and align with holes 104. The tube 110 may be aligned and configured such that the holes 112 and 104 allow the flow of fluid through tube 110, out of holes 112 and 104 and onto top surfaces 22 and solar panel 26 that has been secured to mounting apparatus 10. Alternatively, holes 104 may be omitted and tube 110 may be configured to extend the width of top surface 22. Tube 110 positioned in this manner will also allow the flow of fluid through tube 110, out of holes 112 onto top surface 22 and solar panel 26.
 In another embodiment of the present invention, mounting apparatus 10 may be used to cool water. Mounting apparatus 10 may be configured to accept the water that has been heated. When thermodynamically efficient, water may be pumped to mounting apparatus 10 and though the solar panel 26, in order to cool the water.
 In another embodiment of the present invention, the multiple drawers 64 and compartments 76 included in mounting apparatus 10 may be used to collect rainwater and run-off.
 In another embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIG. 20, the side walls 16 and 18 of mounting apparatus 10 may each include an aperture 122, to allow for the flow of air.
 The mounting apparatus 10 may be manufactured of any material including plastics, metal, wood and the like. The mounting apparatus 10 may also include a roof friendly pad (not shown) for fitting underneath mounting apparatus 10 during installation to help prevent wear and damage to the roof as mounting apparatus 10 is positioned and secured on the roof.
 Although the mounting apparatus 10 is illustrated as having a general wedge shape, it is important to note, however, that mounting apparatus 10 may be manufactured in any particular geometric shape, such as rectangular, trapezoidal, triangular and the like, while still maintaining the inventive concepts outlined above.
Patent applications in class With a sunlight activated device (e.g., passive solar or photoelectric)
Patent applications in all subclasses With a sunlight activated device (e.g., passive solar or photoelectric)