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. Linda Donerkiel
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I have a really old International “100” Electric Fencer (40 years?). It still works, but I think too well. I had a problem with the twine like fence. It kept melting and breaking. Today I installed a short section of 17g wire and when I went to test it with my fence tester the tester started smoking! What does that indicate? I have found a dead, electrified squirrel on the previous fence too.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted April 29, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      This sounds like a weed burner-high impedance energizer and they are very dangerous. No longer made like this. Do not use with poly products. This type of unit has been known to start fires, be careful.

    Posted April 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    i have a .07 joule electric fence unit and am thinking of wrapping a 6 strand stainless very small guage polywire type wire around branches in an avocado tree to keep the squirrels from getting into the tree , can i do this without killing the tree, if grounded well, and can i get shoked touching the tree. also can i split and go two different directions with the hot side

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted April 20, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      It would be really hard to put an electric fence on an Avocado tree. You would have to put insulators so that the wire did not touch the tree, which would require nailing or screwing. Nailing or screwing would harm the tree. Without insulating the wire, the fence would be grounded out and squirrels could climb right up the wire. You would get shocked if directly touch the wire when it was fully functioning and not grounded to the tree. Your best bet would be to put a fence around the tree. By fence around the tree, I mean a perimeter fence that would encompass the tree. However, I would think that if a squirrel really wanted an Avacado it would be able to jump the fence. It would need to be a fairly tall electric fence.

  3. artwilliams
    Posted April 9, 2016 at 5:51 am | Permalink


    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted April 14, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Yes, every-time an electrical pulse is transmitted to the fence the charger will “pulse” or tick.

  4. Bill
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I just installed an electric fence around my garden, and noticed that when I I use the 8 light voltage tester, I get about 1000v on the wood posts (the bottom 2 lights are 600v and 1000v and they pulse dimly).

    This is an 8 row aluminum 17AWG wire, 6 foot tall fence that’s about 210′ in circumference. Not a continuous loop. The unit is a 10 mile Zareba 0.5 joule output.

    The fence wires all light up all lights on the meter brightly…peaks at 7000v.

    I tested the post because I read (after the installation was done) that the cheap plastic corner connectors might allow voltage to bleed through the electrified wire into the wire that holds the connector to the post.

    The voltage on the post had lit 3 lights (2000v) until I disconnected the lightning arrestors…then it went down to 2lights (1000v).

    Is it normal to get some bleed-through voltage like this through the posts? Again, the voltage on the wires is very strong.

    Thanks for any assistance you may offer.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      With 7000 volts on the fence line I would not worry about the leakage into the post. However, if it gradually worsens you may need to check into the insulators. This may also be a result of induction into wet wood. On a dry day you may not get that type of reading. For now, it seems like you have a fully functioning garden fence!

      • Bill
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Thank you very much, Lacy.

        I appreciate your help. I’ll keep an eye on it.

        The whole process has been a real education…

  5. Joyce
    Posted March 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    My solar charged tensile wire fence in partially underwater since it finally rained here in Texas and my stock tank filled up. Did this short out my fence? It isn’t working. Also if this is the case how do I “jump” across my stock pond to cure this problem. thank you. This fence was installed by someone else and cannot get that person to help me fix the problem

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted March 24, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes this will short your electric fence and put a current into the water. You and your animals may get shocked if you touch the water. You will have to run the fence line around the stock pond, or increase the height of your fence over top the pond. Is this a water tank or an actual pond?

  6. Mary McGlauchlen
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I have 3 acres 2 line high tensile fence. When testing the fence it has gone between 500 and 7000 …
    Now you can touch the fence with no charge unless you touch a metal fence post at the same time? What is my problem ot enough to ground?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted March 9, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      You may have very low voltage that is not felt with out additional grounding. However, it sounds as though you have a weak ground bed. Is the ground frozen? What size energizer are you using and with how many ground rods?
      It is important to have 3′ of ground rod per joule of energizer in good grounding conditions. If conditions are poor you will need additional ground rods.

    Posted February 15, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I have a Patriot 30, and it drains an automobile battery in less than a week, I put a gallager solar panel to charge the battery, but only helps for a few days more before depleting the battery, I am charging 30 acres with 2 high tensil 12 1/2 gauge aluminum wires and have 2 ground rods spaced 10 feet apart. There is an overhead power line that runs parallel to part of the fence. The fence test 7000 volts with a fresh battery at the furtherest part. I have an old Parmark magnum 12 set up the same way on 80 acres with 2 cross fences across the road set up the same way with no battery issues, but only test 3000 to 4000 volts. How can I correct the problem with the Patriot?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      This is a 3 joule unit, much larger than the Parmark magnum. It is common for a 3 joule charger drain a battery in one week. It will take a 30-40 watt solar panel to keep a battery charged and functional all the time. If you have few sunlight hours depending on your location it may even take 50-60 Watts. Where are you located?

  8. Lauren B
    Posted January 29, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Hello, we bought a property with electrobraid horse fence installed on the pasture. The energizer had been removed, but the previous owners said we should just be able to put a new one on. My husband put a 25 mile plug in energizer on and said he was walking up to check on it and was shocked without touching any of the lines (knocked on his tush). What would cause this? We have returned the energizer, but I would like to be able to utilize the fencing with another one if possible.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted February 8, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Are there ground rods installed? If so could they be placed near an existing underground electric line? Does your fence run parallel with any high voltage over head lines?
      If you think you have ground rods placed near and existing underground line please contact the power company and an electrician as soon as possible.

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