What is a heat pump? What is air conditioning?
A heat pump is a device that provides heat energy from a source of heat to a destination called a "heat sink". Heat pumps are designed to move thermal energy opposite to the direction of spontaneous heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. When a heat pump is used for heating, it employs the same basic refrigeration-type cycle used by an air conditioner or a refrigerator, but in the opposite direction - releasing heat into the conditioned space rather than the surrounding environment. In this use, heat pumps generally draw heat from the cooler external air or from the ground. In heating mode, heat pumps are three to four times more efficient in their use of electric power than simple electrical resistance heaters.
A simple stylized diagram of a heat pump's vapor-compression refrigeration cycle:
1 - condenser,
2 - expansion valve,
3 - evaporator,
4 - compressor.