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Device for transferring heat from a substance or space at one temperature to another at a higher temperature. It consists of a compressor, a condenser, a throttle or expansion valve, an evaporator, and a working fluid (refrigerant). The compressor delivers vapourized refrigerant to the condenser in the space to be heated. There, cooler air condenses the refrigerant and becomes heated during the process. The liquid refrigerant then enters the throttle valve and expands, coming out as a liquid-vapour mixture at a lower temperature and pressure. It then enters the evaporator, where the liquid is evaporated by contact with the warmer space. The vapour then passes to the compressor and the cycle is repeated. A heat pump is a reversible system and is commonly used both to heat and to cool buildings. It operates on the same thermodynamic principles as refrigeration.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on heat pump, visit Britannica.com.