Using Whole-House Field Tests to Empirically Derive Moisture Buffering Model Inputs

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Building energy simulations can be used to predict a building's interior conditions, along with the energy use associated with keeping these conditions comfortable. These models simulate the loads on the building (e.g., internal gains, envelope heat transfer), determine the operation of the space conditioning equipment, and then calculate the building's temperature and humidity throughout theyear. The indoor temperature and humidity are affected not only by the loads and the space conditioning equipment, but also by the capacitance of the building materials, which buffer changes in temperature and humidity. This research developed an empirical method to extract whole-house model inputs for use with a more accurate moisture capacitance model (the effective moisture penetration depthmodel). The experimental approach was to subject the materials in the house to a square-wave relative humidity profile, measure all of the moisture transfer terms (e.g., infiltration, air conditioner condensate) and calculate the only unmeasured term: the moisture absorption into the materials. After validating the method with laboratory measurements, we performed the tests in a field house. Aleast-squares fit of an analytical solution to the measured moisture absorption curves was used to determine the three independent model parameters representing the moisture buffering potential of this house and its furnishings. Follow on tests with realistic latent and sensible loads showed good agreement with the derived parameters, especially compared to the commonly-used effectivecapacitance approach. These results show that the EMPD model, once the inputs are known, is an accurate moisture buffering model.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages51
StatePublished - 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-62456


  • Building America
  • moisture
  • moisture buffering
  • moisture capacitance
  • moisture modeling
  • NREL
  • relative humidity
  • residential
  • residential buildings


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