10 Most Common Electric Fence Problems Part 1

For me it goes back to the old saying, “You don’t really know a subject until you have to teach it”. I have been repairing and building electric fences with my Dad for our beef herd and sheep flock as long as I can remember.  However, it did not take much time as Quality Assurance Manager at Kencove Farm Fence for me to understand exactly how the simplest issues with an electric fence project can be prevented.    Electric fencing is the most efficient fence in terms of cost and installation.  Technology is constantly changing to make each project easier and easier.  The same problems need to be avoided whether we are charging high-tensile, soft smooth wire, or twine fence.  The next few blog posts are meant to reassure folks that electric fencing failures can be prevented.  Continue to follow the blog as we discuss the top ten most likely problems with electric fence projects.

#1 Poor Grounding:  An electric fence must complete a circuit in order to shock.  We should be generous when it comes to the grounding system for our fence project.  Installing at least 3 galvanized ground rods 5’ deep, 10’ apart creates and adequate ground bed for most small energizers. It is very common for people to install 3’ of ground rod for every joule of output energy.  So if you are using a 3 joule energizer you should install at least 9’ of ground rods. Typically this would mean using 3- 3’ rods spaced 10’ apart to create a large ground bed.  Large ground beds in moist soils are the most effective.  Ground rods should be connected using good ground rod clamps.  Be sure not to mix metals when connecting your rods.  For example attaching steel to copper causes a reaction called electrolysis, which will corrode connections, reducing the shocking potential. Be safe; use stainless steel wire, galvanized ground rods, and brass ground rod clamps.   If at any point you can measure a significant voltage at your ground rods, your ground bed is not large enough.  Keep in mind you can never have too good of a grounding system and soil conditions do have an impact.



#2 Undersized electric fence charger (Energizer):  An undersized fence charger creates an ineffective fence.  If you don’t size your electric fence charger correctly animals will only see the fence as a physical barrier not as a pain or psychological barrier. Basically the fence does not stand a chance without an adequate charger.  So, how do you size an energizer?  Start by identifying what type of animals you are fencing, how much fence and what types will be energizing, and will there be heavy vegetation on the fence line? Most animals can be easily contained with 3,500-5,000 volts.  Choose a low-impedance (narrow pulse) energizer according to output joules.  The higher the joule rating, the greater shocking potential over a longer fence line and weed loads.  Use caution when buying an electric fence charger based solely on the information on the box.  Energizer companies use mileage ratings as a marketing tactic.  Many energizer manufactures establish mileage ratings for their products, such as an energizer that will charge 50 miles of fence.  This energizer might charge 50 miles of golf course fence. Always, always base your purchasing decision off of output joules and a reputable product specialist. For more information on choosing an energizer check out our recent blog post about Volts vs. Joules.

Kencove Energizers


Does your electric fence problem make the top 10 list? Check back as I describe the problems I have found to be most common!


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  1. Mitch
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    I’ve just set up a patriot 20km electric fence only running 400m atm , I’ve got 2 40cm gal rods in the ground, but it doesn’t seem to be putting volts through the fence. Would I need longer earth rods?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted September 28, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      What is the model number on your energizer Mitch?

  2. James
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Hi Lacy, the green light on my system flashes every 1½ seconds as normal but the ‘click’ and pulse now only occurs every 3rd or 4th flash. Could this be a grounding issue? I find it odd that the green light flashes as expected.

    Initially everything was fine with a 4 joule output and 3 foot ground – this is what manufacturer recommended. But a few months later the situation is as described.

    Any suggestions would be welcome!


    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted September 26, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Hello James, what type of energizer do you have? That is an unique situation to have the light flashing and the ticking at odd intervals. Have you checked the voltage on your fence and energizer? You may want to increase your ground field regardless, we recommend two 6’ground rods or 3′ per Joule.

  3. Dennis
    Posted September 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I have a 6 wire fence with alternating hot and ground wires to keep deer out of my garden. I have 2 6 foot ground rods 10 feet apart driven all the way down. The fence is about 1800 feet around 5 acres. When I measure the voltage of the hot wire touching the hot and the probe in the dirt I get 8200 volts. When I measure the ground wires using the same method I get 1800 volts. The fence is clean as a whistle and no wires are touching anything but insulators.Is there supposed to be voltage on the ground? For those of you that are wondering Yes it does keep the deer out, all you can see are skid marks when they touch it and apply their brakes hard!

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted September 26, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Hello Dennis, glad to hear you are able to keep the deer out of your garden! Since you have so much voltage on your short amount of fence you are experiencing induction. Which means voltage from your hot wires is jumping to your neutral wires. This does not cause any problems but you can ground your neutral wires to eliminate the excess voltage.

  4. Carl
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I am building an electric fence. My question is with a 2 wire system one being ground the other hot. Do you have to ground system to the ground, or can you just run the second wire as a ground? I live an area that is very sandy. Will the system work as long as nothing is grounded to the ground or does it require a grounding field?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Hello Carl you can create a positive/negative system in which the negative strands are connected to the ground terminal of the energizer. However, with this system the animal must touch both the positive wire and the negative wire at the same exact time to complete the circuit and receive a shock. In your situation due to the sandy conditions I would create an Earth Ground Return System.

  5. John
    Posted September 9, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I have a solar energizer powering a 5 wire fence around my chicken coop.
    My electric fence tester registers between 4000 and 6000V. BUT, I don’t get any tingle or shock when I grab a wire. The ground wire checks out o.k.
    Where am I going wrong?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Hello John, is your ground extremely dry? If soil conditions are extremely dry there is a lack of connectivity between you and the ground thus not completing the circuit. You may need to create an Earth Ground Return System. Let us know if we can help!

      • John
        Posted September 12, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        Tnx. for prompt reply.
        I presently have all 5 wires as “hot” and the ground from the energizer going direct to two 3 ft. deep ground rods. Soil is rocky; can’t drive the rods deeper. I water the rod area once a week.
        The energizer return system shows 5 grnd. rods and two wires also going to ground and only three to the hot feed. Is this what you recommend?
        My meter read around 5000V when measuring hot wire to ground rod or T-post.

        • Kencove Kencove
          Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          John, can you feel a shock after ‘watering’ your ground bed? Yes the posi/neg system will help in extremely dry conditions. Providing that the negative and positive wires are close enough together that the animal has to touch both a negative and positive wire at the same time. Please call us at 1-800-KENCOVE for additional support. Have a good day

          • John
            Posted September 14, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

            Don’t want to wear out my welcome…
            If I touch a wire there’s no shock;
            if I touch a wire and T-post or grnd at the same time I do get a jolt.
            Is the Earth Ground System the answer?
            Thanks much for your advice.

          • Kencove Kencove
            Posted September 16, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

            No worries John you’ll never wear out your welcome! Since it has been so dry this year your best bet would be to try and set up an Earth Ground System. In future years if you would like to switch back to your ground bed it is very simple to change back. If you have any questions about setting up an Earth Ground System feel free to give us a call at 1-800-KENCOVE. Hope this helps you John, best of luck!

  6. Micah
    Posted September 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I installed 1 jule energizer with 2 stands of fence in a constant loop. I put in one 6 foot ground rod in. If I touch the fence it doesn’t shock me, but if I touch the fence and the hog panel at the same time it does shock. Do I not have enough ground?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Hello Micah, you are correct, one reason you may be getting a shock when you touch the fence and hog panel is due to a lack of grounding. Your ground may be very dry resulting in the poor circuit. Try adding additional ground rods to complete the circuit. Let us know if this helps! Have a great evening.

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