COMPANIES and tradesmen across Huntingdonshire will have to improve their skill levels to cope with public demand for energy-saving installations, the district council believes. HDC is set to go live in June with two homes it has bought in a £500,000 prog

COMPANIES and tradesmen across Huntingdonshire will have to improve their skill levels to cope with public demand for energy-saving installations, the district council believes.

HDC is set to go live in June with two homes it has bought in a £500,000 programme to persuade residents and businesses to reduce their energy consumption.

It is "retro-fitting" a 1960s detached house in St Ives and a 1970s semi in Eynesbury with a variety of equipment to demonstrate the cost of installations and their potential for saving energy and expense.

The Building Research Establishment has worked out how much energy is currently used for space heating, water heating and lighting, and has predicted huge reductions in CO2 emissions when the two buildings have finally been fitted out.

HDC is so confident that the demonstrations will galvanise residents into installing cost-and-carbon-reducing devices that it is planning trade events at the two homes to show installers the skills they are likely to need to satisfy public demand.

The council is also looking for commercial sponsorship of installations in the two houses that could be a showcase for local firms.

Among them are expected to be Hail Weston's HeatingSave, a company set up to market an intelligent PC-based system designed by its engineers for homes and small offices to make huge cuts in wasted energy.

HDC is currently out to tender for the installation work on the two demonstration homes. A 'significant number' of the six tenderers are local companies, Dr Paul José, the council's head of environmental management, told The Hunts Post.

But the first task is to persuade people to change their behaviour, such as turning off unused lights and dripping taps, which could cut energy bills by as much as 30 per cent in the most profligate households and also reduce metered water bills. Wall and loft insultation is also effective, even before newer technologies are harnessed.

HDC chose the homes as being typical of much of the district's housing stock, so that residents could have a menu of energy-saving and cost-saving devices to choose from for their own homes.

The two-bedroom house in St Audrey's Lane, St Ives, will have a poor single-storey extension removed and a new two-storey extension added. The windows will be replaced, new cavity foam installed, and the extension walls will have wider-than-normal cavities.

The loft insulation will be replaced and the hatch sealed. Underfloor heating will be added, along with dual-flush toilets, water-saving taps and showers. All appliances will be chosen for their parsimony with electricity and water, and the heating - provided by an air-source heat pump - will be managed by HeatingSave.

It will also have solar water heating, photovoltaic panel for power and a smart meter will be installed to monitor energy consumption.

BRE reckons space heating emissions will reduce to less than 25 per cent and water heating emissions will almost halve.

Changes to the semi in Manor Farm Road, St Neots, will be less ambitious but more affordable, and changes will include flood mitigation measures.