Heat pump

A heat pump is a device that transfers heat energy from a source of heat to what is called a heat sink. Heat pumps move thermal energy in the opposite direction of spontaneous heat transfer, by absorbing heat from a cold space and releasing it to a warmer one. A heat pump uses a small amount of external power to accomplish the work of transferring energy from the heat source to the heat sink. The most common design of a heat pump involves four main components a condenser, an expansion valve, an evaporator and a compressor. The heat transfer medium circulated through these components is called refrigerant.
Heat pumps are more efficient than resistance heaters because less high-grade energy is required than is released as heat. Most of the energy for heating comes from the external environment, only a fraction of which comes from electricity (or some other high-grade energy source required to run a compressor). In electrically-powered heat pumps, the heat transferred can be three or four times larger than the electrical power consumed, giving the system a coefficient of performance (COP) of 3 or 4, as opposed to a COP of 1 for a conventional electrical resistance heater, in which all heat is produced from input electrical energy.
Heat is typically transferred through engineered heating or cooling systems by using a flowing gas or liquid. Air is sometimes used, but quickly becomes impractical under many circumstances because it requires large ducts to transfer relatively small amounts of heat. In systems using refrigerant, this working fluid can also be used to transfer heat a considerable distance, though this can become impractical because of increased risk of expensive refrigerant leakage. When large amounts of heat are to be transferred, water is typically used, often supplemented with antifreeze, corrosion inhibitors, and other additives.
Another feature of ASHP external heat exchangers is their need to stop the fan from time to time for a period of several minutes in order to get rid of frost that accumulates in the outdoor unit in the heating mode. After that, the heat pump starts to work again. This part of the work cycle results in two sudden changes of the noise made by the fan. The acoustic effect of such disruption on neighbors is especially powerful in quiet environments where background nighttime noise may be as low as 0 to 10dBA. This is included in legislation in France. According to the French concept of noise nuisance, "noise emergence" is the difference between ambient noise including the disturbing noise, and ambient noise without the disturbing noise.
Heat exchangers are expensive, requiring drilling for some heat-pump types or large spaces to be efficient, and the heat pump industry generally competes on price rather than efficiency. Heat pumps are already at a price disadvantage when it comes to initial investment (not long-term savings) compared to conventional heating solutions like boilers, so the drive towards more efficient heat pumps and air conditioners is often led by legislative measures on minimum efficiency standards. Electricity rates will also influence the attractiveness of heat pumps.