What systems are available to heat poured basement slabs?
There are primarily two types of radiant floor heating that can be installed into concrete: electric and hydronic.
Electric Radiant Floor Heating
Electric radiant floor heating is mainly used for small areas and in retro fit construction applications. Electric radiant is installed via electric cables and mats and typically controlled in the zone it is installed. It works well in conjunction with a forced air system that is found in many Canadian homes. Electrically heated floors are usually used for comfort purposes and are common in wood floor structures under tile floors and a good floor warmer. The downside to electric radiant floors is they typically cost more to operate than hydronic systems.
Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating
Hydronic radiant floor heating systems use a water heater or boiler and a pump system that move water through a network of tubes through the flooring system. Hydronic water heating helps the building maintain an even heat and virtually eliminates the hot and cold cycling and drafts a forced air system can create. Large heated concrete slabs become large comfortable masses of heat evenly distributing warmth to the occupants above or below. Hydronic water heat is cheaper to operate than its electrical radiant floor equivalent.