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. Victoria
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Hi I have a horse that refuses to stay in since the snow fall made my fencer ineffective. I read that I can put in a second wire and use it as a ground. Does the second line need to be put up with the plastic fence adapters? some one told me I only have to staple them on to the wooden post but I am thinking that is not right??? Thank you

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Hello, Victoria. Since there is snow on the ground, your horse is being insulated when touching the ground. Therefore, it is not completing the circuit and getting shocked. You can create a positive/negative system by adding a “ground wire” to your fence. Your horse will need to touch both the ground and hot wires at the same time to complete the circuit. You do not need to insulate your ground wires along your line posts, however, it is highly recommended to use insulated wire, like the Kencove GU50, to connect any lines you wish to be grounded. You do not want to create a short along your line by having your ground lines touch your hot lines. If you have any additional questions, please give us a call.

  2. Kittee Custer
    Posted January 13, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh, by the way, about goats: My goats respect the part of my electric fence that has 7000 volts running through it. Note that this is irrigated ground, so it’s pretty damp and the conduction is likely pretty good. But I finally had to resort to “invisible fencing” and dog collars for a section that was not charging well. You can install the invisible fencing right on the electric fence, but you have to turn off the electric fence to do so. It took several weeks for the goats to give up their escaping, AND I had to make sure to feed them a little more so they would not be tempted. I can shut OFF the invisible fence and turn ON the electric fence in five seconds if needed to train a new horse or something. So far, it’s working reasonably well.

  3. Kittee Custer
    Posted January 13, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Ken, I have about 15 acres fenced and cross-fenced for horse pasture, 7 separate fields and a paddock. There are about 15 gates total in the fence system. It began as all smooth wire but I’ve been replacing it with electric braid/rope as I have time.
    Right off the charger are three ground rods. I just tested and get only 100 volts. They are 4′ if I recall correctly and in moist ground. There are additional ground rods out around the fencelines, but I think most of those are no longer connected to anything.
    I also have switches on portions of the fence at various places for various reasons, now 15 years old.
    The power right off the charger to the nearest pasture is about 7000 volts. However, I lost strength everywhere, to the point where the last (furthest) section is completely dead. I have corrected lots of shorts, but then those fixes also seem to snap, so something isn’t right.
    I do keep the weeds down with periodic spraying. I’m careful about that.
    The fence varies from five lines (3 hot, 2 ground) to 3, to 4. It’s a mess, really, and there’s double insulated wires running under all the gates.
    The person who installed the fence had never done so before. However, when first installed, it worked quite well. I’ve spent several years trying to get it back up to speed and now I’m just pretty determined to learn to do it right.
    So you appear to be the very best source of information!! I’m inspired to start on this now, and I’d so appreciate some help along the way. I suspect I should get one of your fault-finders, and I’m quite willing to do that. Have several testers, tons of spare parts, etc.
    First, it looks like I need to tighten down my ground wire on my charger, as it looks like it escaped. I have one wire on the green post to the ground rods and one to the fence for the ground lines there. I think that’s right and maybe just needs to be more carefully connected at the post.
    So here’s what I THINK I should do.
    1. I can hear shorts out there. I use the rope braid and have different kinds of splicers, but even those are snapping! Mostly when it’s wet, but what is the very best splicing supply for my rope? I have one-screw and two-screw splicers, and the one-screw splicers I am not sure are working well.
    2. I also suspect my switches need to be replaced. They are also outdoor types but 15 years is a long time. Do you agree?
    3. I am thinking of just disconnecting ALL the lines and starting over and having only top and bottom lines hot. Almost the entire 15 acres is irrigated, so there are few places where the ground is so dry that it would fail completely. If you think it’s a good idea to just start over like that, I will. There are SO many splices at all the gates, as you can imagine, it seems like just top and bottom would really simplify.
    4. I’m also thinking of just having bungee hot gates on top of all my gates and disconnect the underground cables. I do use bungee hot gates fairly permanently and they work well and last many years. What do you think?
    As you can see, this is a big project, and I am interested in doing it myself because it’s going to be a forever job, if you know what I mean. I would so appreciate some comments and suggestions, and make them basic, please! Assume that the only thing I know about electric fences is that they must be insulated from the posts (they are, variously). Even “splicing” is a term of art, which I take to mean attaching two ends together with the right piece in the right way, and I would like to know exactly the best piece and way to do that.
    Can you help coach me into this? I expect it to take until Fall 2018 to finish, but I want to learn how to do it all from basics up.
    Thanks very much.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Kittee, can you give one of our product specialists a call? One of them can assist you further. We can be reached at 1-800-536-2683. Thank you.

  4. Arnold
    Posted December 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I have a low impedance .1 joule Zareba fence charger rated for 5 miles on 300 feet of wire. It is outputting max reading which is as far as my tester goes to 7000 volts. Is this dangerous or how can I make it output lower voltage. Thanks.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Arnold, 7,000 volts is a great reading. May we ask why you want to lower your voltage? 7,000 volts on a fence line is not dangerous by any means. Unlike the voltage you would find in a common electrical outlet, the voltage on your fence has low amperage, whereas the voltage found in an electrical outlet has high amperage.

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