The original concept for the DC250 was to use a fused pull out similar to Ananda until John Wiles steered me to the Heinemann GJ1 Series breaker. A breaker made a lot more sense because those pull outs were often difficult to actually pull out. The UL specs have guidelines to follow for minimum bending room and I cut it down to the bare minimum. Allowing for more wiring room would have made the boxes larger and more expensive. It was a couple of years later that I actually wired up a dual SW power panel with 4/0 cable. That experience was a real eye opener for me. The DC250 was a bare bones box built for DC only. There was one DC load breaker for a DC refrigerator or power shed light. Later on requests came in for more breaker slots, so I added three more DC breaker positions. I still did not fully understand the significance of disconnects for PV controllers, but the additional breaker slots seemed to satisfy this requirement. It seemed odd to have breakers protruding out the sides, but that was the only option available at the time. In ten years there have been no problems with this arrangement that I am aware of. The DC250 also has an optional tin plated machined block of aluminum for connection of negative conductors. It also had a 500 amp shunt as an option. Since Trace was an inverter company, we made the inverter breaker standard and the charge controller with its breakers optional. This was just the opposite of Heliotrope. The Trace box originally sold for $295. It may have been basic, but it was priced right. I still believe the success of the DC250 had a lot to do with the demise of Ananda and Heliotrope. It is interesting to note that the same DC250 is still sold today by Xantrex.
Trace Power Panel
I had seen only a couple of real installations by the mid 1990’s. Remember, I’m located just North of Seattle. The sun doesn’t seem to work up here very often. There was one particularly nice installation on a mountain top in Ukiah CA that Doug Pratt was kind enough to show me. I was amazed at how well all the different boxes had been connected together using conduit and gutters. It was also obvious to me at this site that every single installation in the industry was a custom one-off design. A year or so later after having created the Trace C-40 solar charge controller, there were finally enough Trace components to build a standardized system.
Enter the 400 pound gorilla, the Trace Power Panel. There was a fair amount of risk in developing the Power Panel. The industry certainly needed something that was standard, but we worried that professional installers would feel like they were being cut out of some value added income. In reality, they made profit on the Trace wiring simply from price mark up. Recently I reassembled my old Trace dual power panel for the picture at the front of this article. NEVER AGAIN! It didn’t get any lighter and I didn’t get any younger.
The only non Trace product on the Power Panel was the AC bypass switch made by Square D. In 1997, I began building a house in Arlington near the Trace factory. I thought that it might be wise to use an inverter to provide all the power during the construction phase just to see how our customers lived. During the construction phase I learned a few things about the Power Panel that needed some attention.
- There was no way to hook up the Trace 240 volt autoformer in a clean tidy manner.
- The back plate should have been made up of two pieces so it could be sold as a separate piece and shippable via UPS. This also meant that the back plate needed to be made from a lighter gauge steel. The 12 gauge steel back plate was very heavy all by itself.