There are certain subjects that come up time and time again on SFN. I could easily come up with a “Top Ten” and if I did, it would definitely include (in no particular order) – the exorbitant cost of electricity, hard water problems, sourcing efficient and attractive wood-burning stoves and the problems involved in finding reliable installers for the various types of renewable energies. So you can imagine how pleased I was to come across Ecopower, a small friendly family run set-up which addresses all these issues and more.
Ecopower has been running since 2008 and as owner Lindsey Elliott explains, it focuses on “Providing and installing high quality renewable systems that will save energy and thus help you become more independent from the large providers”. Lindsey and husband Paul arrived in France in 2003 with their two boys Drew (17) and Jody (14) and took over the company in 2011 having previously run a property management business. Lindsey has a degree in Environmental Sciences and was an Environmental Health Officer until the couple moved to France. Paul has a background in electronics but is also a trained plumber, so with their keen personal interest in renewable energies, when the opportunity came to take over Ecopower, it seemed like an ideal opportunity.
When the couple moved to France in 2003 they were looking for a complete change of lifestyle. Back in the UK, they both had good jobs but always wondered if there was a little bit more to life and felt they were maybe missing something.
They'd always dreamed of working for themselves as Lindsey reveals, “We thought running our own business would be easy. It wasn't! But the kids settled in well and that was a big plus. My parents moved over at the same time – it had been a long term plan of theirs – so we had to make it work. The kids have had loads of opportunities here in France – Jody is a gymnast and has reached the national finals – so we've spent a lot of time involved in stuff around that and it's really helped us to integrate. It's been great for us – we feel more at home here than we ever did in the UK where we only ever saw each other fleetingly, and yes, running a business in France is hard and you have to be tenacious, but we've stuck it out, grown and developed the business and we're still here!”
Where Ecopower differs from other companies is the personal approach that the couple take. Lindsey explains “We know that lots of our clients are interested in self-use systems or autoconsommation in French and that they don't like the way the systems that are supposedly affiliated to EDF are sold and installed. It's too complicated and people are really disappointed when they realise that the systems they have been sold don't comply with EDF requirements so they are effectively left high and dry. We want people to own and manage their systems themselves and feel confident in doing so. We only use accredited in-house installers and our policy is that we only want to do it once so we make sure we get it right the first time! We're not tied into a loan company so we don't give you a hard sell. If you need help to finance the project we can recommend people to chat to and we can advise you on grants and funding that might be available. We can even help with the declaration prealable – we want to make your project easy, not a nightmare!”
Whilst their main focus is on solar installations, they also do water softeners, energy monitors and wood burning stoves. James and I have been thinking about installing a second wood burner and as we both have strong ideas about what we do and don't like, it's always a bonus when we find something that we can agree on. And oh boy, do we agree on these! The range stocked by Ecopower is the Chesney and we've both fallen in love with the Alpine model. The stoves are highly efficient and beautifully designed. Lindsey and Paul have the very same model in their home and it's reassuring to be buying from people who say that, “We've tested everything ourselves and we don't supply anything that we wouldn't choose or use in our home. We've picked products that we know will provide trouble free service for years to come.” Indeed, the solar thermal water heating tubes fitted by eco-power are manufactured by world leader Kingspan and come with a 20 year guarantee; Ecopower is the only company in the west of France to be accredited by Kingspan and that alone says a lot about the couple's professional approach to renewable energy installation.
Lindsey and Paul are happy to supply products to most parts of France and offer a full installation service throughout Aquitaine, the Limousin, Poitou-Charente, the Midi-Pyrenees and the Pays de la Loire. They are starting to take on work in the Dordogne and as they are expanding on an almost daily basis, even if you're not in one of the areas listed, it's well worth giving them a call.