Heat pump

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A heat pump is a machine or device that moves heat from one location (the 'source') at a lower temperature to another location (the 'sink' or 'heat sink') at a higher temperature using mechanical work or a high-temperature heat source. [1] The difference between a heat pump and a normal air conditioner is that a heat pump can be used to provide heating or cooling. Even though the heat pump can heat, it still uses the same basic refrigeration cycle to do this. In other words a heat pump can change which coil is the condenser and which the evaporator. This is normally achieved by a reversing valve. In cooler climates it is common to have heat pumps that are designed only to provide heating.

Common examples are food refrigerators and freezers, air conditioners, and reversible-cycle heat pumps for providing building space heating. In heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) applications, a heat pump normally refers to a vapor-compression refrigeration device that includes a reversing valve and optimized heat exchangers so that the direction of heat flow may be reversed. Most commonly, heat pumps draw heat from the air or from the ground.

Contents

Overview

Heat pumps have the ability to move heat energy from one environment to another, and in either direction. This allows the heat pump to both bring heat into an occupied space, and take it out. In the cooling mode a heat pump works the same as an ordinary air conditioner (A/C). A heat pump uses an intermediate fluid called a refrigerant which absorbs heat as it vaporizes and releases the heat when it condenses. It uses an evaporator to absorb heat from inside an occupied space and rejects this heat to the outside through the condenser. The refrigerant flows outside of the space to be conditioned, where the condenser and compressor are located, while the evaporator is inside. The key component that makes a heat pump different from an A/C is the reversing valve. The reversing valve allows for the flow direction of the refrigerant to be changed. This allows the heat to be pumped in either direction.

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