The UTest house is a 1300 ft2 manufactured home located at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus at the University of Texas at Austin. The house is a three bedroom/two bathroom home built with conventional materials and has two independent HVAC systems, one in the attic space and one in the belly space beneath the home (see photo and floor plan below). The UTest House is fully instrumented and is used for a variety of research projects as well as teaching and public outreach.
Air flow measuring systems for analysis of infiltration and air follow between rooms:
- Remotely controlled seven port CO2 injection systems (one port for each room/zone of the house) with mixing fans for tracer gas tests.
- Eight channel CO2 concentration monitoring system (7 in different building rooms/zones + 1 external) with data acquisition system.
- Two weather stations that measure wind velocity (one in the vicinity of the house and one further from the house).
- Ten channel differential pressure monitoring system for measuring pressure distribution on each external house facade, and for measurement of pressure difference between rooms/zones.
Measuring systems for monitoring of HVAC system performance
- Eight port temperature measuring system (one for each building room/zone + 1 external)
- System for monitoring airflows in both air handling units with sensors for temperature humidity of return and supply air. (2 flow stations and 4 Temperature and RH sensors)
- External weather station for temperature, humidity and solar insolation measurements
- Four channel electric power measuring system (two for compressors/external units and two for indoor units)
- Ten channel differential pressure monitoring system for measuring filter and coil pressure drops, and supply and return pressures.
System for occupant activity simulation
- Heat and humidity source simulators with programmable daily schedule
- Shower operation control with programmable daily schedule
Drs. Corsi, Novoselac and Siegel maintain a variety of gas-phase, particle, and air flow measurement equipment to allow for accurate and rapid measurement of ozone (5 analyzers), VOCs and aldehydes (2 PIDS, GC/MS, GC/FID), particles (size resolved 0.003 - 0.7um with SMPS, size-resolved 0.5 - 20um with APS, size resolved 0.1 - 2um with laser optical particle counter, size-resolved 0.3 - 10um with Aerotrak handheld counters (4 units), 0.02 - 1um number concentration with P-Trak (2 units), and PM1 to PM10 mass concentration with handheld nephalometer (2 units)), and high precision rapid response anemometers (17 units), among other sensors. This equipment is housed in nearby laboratories and is deployed to the test house as needed.
The UTest House is currently being used to study passive (zero energy) technologies for reducing ozone concentrations in homes. These studies include the use of passive panel technologies that require no air movement devices, but that can reduce indoor ozone concentrations by 50% or more (and thus overall exposure to ozone by 25% or more). The UTest House will continue to allow for analyses of outdoor/indoor connections through studies of the effectiveness of shelter-in-place strategies during extraordinary events (e.g., plastic and duct tape versus rapid foam sealants), and more. The facility will allow for testing of indoor sources under real-world conditions, including flux chamber measurements of the changes over time of various materials that comprise the UTest house. These results will then be compared with laboratory chamber results collected by IGERT trainees. Materials will be moved into the home, e.g., new carpet, and other sources, such as cooking, will also be studied. The UTest house will afford opportunities to release particles and gases and to determine the extent to which they are removed by indoor sinks in a setting far more complex than simple laboratory chambers. Engineered control technologies ranging from portable air purifiers and advanced HVAC filters will be studied in a realistic setting. IGERT trainees will be able to study the effects of routine activities of building occupants, e.g., vacuuming, to determine the importance of near-source exposures to indoor pollutants.
In addition to serving as a valuable research tool, the IGERT UTest house is an excellent educational tool. The UTest house is used for IGERT-related courses such as Indoor Air Quality I and II, within which students learn how to use blower-door technologies to determine building leakage rates, and tracer methods for determining air exchange rates in an actual home. The UTest house is also a showcase for public outreach, including workshops for K-12 teachers and their students, and the public.