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. Dave @ Fencing Derby
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I’ve had so many problems with electric fencing, thanks for posting this!

  2. marcella Krusick
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    We have -22 below zero. Fencer stops working. Can tha have anything to do with it? Tried several good fencers, poured water down where the 3 ground posts are, made sure nothing touching metal or wood anywhere? Help?

    • Try this
      Posted December 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink


      Same problem. Here’s how I just fixed it after pounding $120 of metal into the frozen ground.

      No ground rods.

      I have 3 wires. Middle got attached to the ground output on the charger. Other two are hot.

      Horse just tested it. Never been so satisfied to see an animal get shocked!

      They will need to touch two at a time, but if they like to push on the fence like they all do, it won’t be a problem.

    • kencove
      Posted January 7, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Low fence line voltage during freezing weather is typically caused by poor grounding conditions. Especially in areas that experienced an extremely dry summer. Dry frozen soils limit grounding ability.
      The best solution for a multi-strand fence is to run a wire from the ground out to the field. Connect the negative strand to the ground wire, which is attached to the ground bed through the output terminal on the energizer. Driving additional ground rods along the fence and connecting them to the negative wire will also increase the ground field, as well as create a posi-neg. fence system. Be sure that the ground bed has at least 3 feet of ground rod for each output joule.
      For those that need a quick fix, use the largest drill bit you can find to drill a couple holes into the frozen soil. Dump warm water down the drilled holes and drive the ground rods as deep as possible. This is not a solution to your problem, but sometimes a very small ground can be a large help until temperatures increase.

  3. Allen Smith
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I just installed an electric fence to keep my dog from escaping. I have a 2 mile charger on less than 1/4 mile of fence. I have 3 eight foot galvanized ground rods placed 10 feet apart. After spending an entire weekend installing this fence, I was very disappointed to see him escape under the fence almost immediately. Do you have any suggestions? Can I jumper my ground to my chain link fence? This would extend my ground to the entire area I am trying to fence.

    • Kencove
      Posted March 25, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      You may have a two mile energizer, but you really need to be concerned with output joules.
      Mileage measurements do not take into account environmental factors. Be sure that your energizer is properly size to the amount of fence you have constructed. Typical recommendation is 1 joule per mile. So for a .25 mile of fence you would want at least .25 joule of output, you can always oversize the energizer.
      If the energizer is not working correctly you may need to do some trouble shooting:
      -Check voltage on the energizer
      *Turn off energizer (Unplug)
      *Disconnected hot lead going to the fence
      *Turn on energizer
      *Check voltage
      -In the case of low voltage
      *Turn off energizer (Unplug)
      *Check power source
      *Check external fuses (replace blown fuses)
      *If no problems found, service energizer
      In the case that the energizer is working properly, you will need to trouble shoot the fence line.
      *Check to be sure ground bed is adequate (3 feet of ground rod per joule)
      *Check all connections and underground
      *Be sure the fence wire does not have any direct shorts, “touching chain link” in your case

      To answer your other question; you can jumper to the chain link fence. However in your application, and with as large of ground bed as you built it is not necessary. Jumping to the chain link will create a larger ground field, but also a positive/negative fence system. In a positive/negative system the animal completes the circuit through the “chain link”. This system is usually used in very dry climates, or for maximum control.

  4. david
    Posted April 6, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Two questions:
    First, I installed a hot wire fence at a friends house to control her dogs, using a Zareba 5 mile charger, .1 joule. It tests 6100 volts at the source. I sunk one 6 foot ground rod 6 feet from the charger, and more than 50 feet from the utility ground rod. I used 20,000 volt insulated stainless wire for the ground and the lead. I used a clamp designed for the galvanized ground rod. I get a weak pulse in my fingers on the fence wire but nothing registers on the Voltmeter, even on the lead wire when not attached to the fence wire. What do you think? Could the soil just be too dry here in central GA?

    Second how do rig the positive/negative system you mentioned–”Jumping to the chain link will create a larger ground field, but also a positive/negative fence system.”

    • david
      Posted April 6, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      My earlier post was from yesterday’s experience. Early this AM it started raining. Last rain was about a week ago. I went out to run a temporary line from the ground rod to the chain link fence. Before I started I tested the voltage on the charger at the source. It was 7000 volts, 1000 volts higher than yesterday before the rain started. So I went and checked the end of the lead that was disconnected from the fence. It too showed 7000 volts. It showed nothing yesterday. I reconnected the fence (about 500 feet) and it all now shows 5600 volts. It showed nothing yesterday.

      So water made the difference. Is it that all the soil is now wet or that water ran down alongside the new ground rod I sunk 2 days ago? I watered the soil where I sunk the rod before I installed it but perhaps the new rod did not make sufficient contact with the soil until it got wet again.

      I have some trouble on my horse farm too when either the conditions are very dry or very wet. In wet weather the posts absorb water and sometimes cause little shorts against the flat plastic insulators. In dry weather occasionally the electricity cannot find its way back to the ground. Thought you might be interested in this experience.

      Should a person water in a new ground rod to ensure good soil contact?

      • Kencove
        Posted April 8, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Grounding is sometimes the most neglected component of an electric fence system, but also the most important! A general recommendation would be to create a ground bed that consists of multiple ground rods 3-6′ deep and spaced 10′ apart. It can also be remembered as a minimum of 3′ of ground rod per joule of energizer. You can never have to much grounding (a.k.a earthing).

        When conditions are very dry it is not a bad idea at all to water the ground bed. You may need to pull the ground rods, water the holes and return the rods. Drilling new holes near the ground rods and water is also an option.

        Creating a positive/negative system is also a viable option to create a greater shock. With a positive/negative fence, the animal completes the circuit by touching a positive wire and a negative wire at the same time.
        On a normal electric fence the animal touches the positive wire standing on the ground, which is connected to the energizer through the ground bed. The current flows from the point of contact, down to the feet and back through the ground to the ground rod connect to the energizer to complete the circuit. In a positive/negative system, all the neutral wires are connected into the ground bed. So the negative(ground terminal) on the energizer will lead-out to the neutral wires on the fence as well as to the ground bed. Therefore, when the animal touches a positive and a neutral (now negative) wire at the sometime the circuit is complete without the use of the dry ground!

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