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Signing up for solar panels?

What precautions should I take before signing up for solar panels?

I AM considering a proposal from a company to install photovoltaic panels on my roof to produce electricity.

The contract appears reasonable but my wife has heard that there have been problems with these contracts and installations. Are you aware of problems relating to this? I do not want to be put off what may be a worthy scheme, if there is no good reason for concern.

Last tax year I received a tax credit of over €7,000 for environmentally-friendly installations and it was very simple and efficient. J.W.

We have not heard that there are problems, however it is a costly investment and, of course, you should take care before signing up. You need to check that the system is the right one for you and the contract is suitable. We would advise visiting one of the network of Espaces Info-Energie (these offices help the public with issues related to greener lifestyles) before making a decision. They can be found at

One of their advisors, Morgane Poret, gave the following suggestions:

* Make sure the system is of good quality. One guarantee is the QualiPV and/or Solar Keymark or CSTBat accreditation schemes. The latter are proof of the standards required if you wish to make a claim off income tax under the green tax credits scheme again; unfortunately the percentage of the cost available as a credit for these has been reduced in recent years - from 50% to 11%. Also look for the following French standards codes: NF-EN-CEI 31215 or NF-EN-CEI 61646.

* Look at what guarantee period is offered. Sometimes a key piece of the system called the ondulateur (the part that turns the sun’s energy into electricity) has a shorter guarantee than the rest. It is not desirable for it to be too short as it is often the part that will wear out the quickest and can cost up to €2,000 to replace.

* Do not accept the first offer you are made without getting other estimates and always check the small print. Average costs are about €5,000-€6,500 per kilowatt-peak for a photoelectric generator integrated into the building, plus about €1,000-€1,500 to connect it up. A certain output (rendement) will usually be promised in the contract and is another factor to compare between systems.

* If you are interested in selling electricity back to EDF, contact them first so as to make sure this will be available. You will need to sign a separate contract with them. You can find the usual tariffs offered here:

* Check your roof is suitable. The space where you plan to put the panels should be south-facing, or at least approximately. If not the efficiency will be considerably reduced.

This is a long-term investment. You should normally not expect to recoup your investment before about 10 years and panels usually have a life - at optimum efficiency - of about 20 years.

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