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Application of reference-free natural background–oriented schlieren photography for visualizing leakage sites in building w...

by Philip R Boudreaux, Singanallur V Venkatakrishnan, Emishaw D Iffa, Diana E Hun
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Building and Environment
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Air leakage in buildings can cause health and comfort concerns for occupants and can contribute to mold growth on building materials, or in extreme conditions, rot of building materials. Unwanted air leakage through the building envelope also contributes to approximately 4 quadrillion Btu (1172 TWh) of energy consumption per year in the building sector in the United States. Locating and sealing leakage sites can improve the energy efficiency, comfort, air quality, and moisture durability of the building stock. Typical methods of finding leakage sites, such as infrared imaging and smoke tracing, rely on concurrent blower door operation, which can also measure the total leakage rate of the building. Smoke tracing can be disruptive to occupants, and infrared imaging and smoke tracing cannot measure the contribution of individual leaks to prioritize sealing efforts. In this work, an optical fluid flow imaging technique, reference-free natural background–oriented schlieren imaging, was adapted to visualize air exfiltration. This is the first step in developing a method to noninvasively locate and measure exfiltration or infiltration sites so that sealing efforts can be prioritized. Experimental results of this technique are presented, demonstrating the method's applicability to visualizing exfiltration through three common building claddings in an outdoor environment. Key variables impacting the performance of this technique when applied to building leakage are also discussed.