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!


This entry was posted in Blog, Fencing. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Warren
    Posted August 22, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I have six copper ground rods with 12 half gauge wire for the ground wire. I am having issues with getting the fence to have lot of volts on it by the time it goes all the way around the farm. Been cutting small vegetation away an fixing insulators. Check the fence the other day farthest from energizer it had 4000 volts on it check two days ago an it’s 2.5 2.3. Should I redo ground bed with galvanize rods. Thank

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted August 26, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Copper ground rods are just fine! How large is your energizer? Six rods should be plenty, unless you have larger than a six joule energizer.
      You can check the quality of your ground bed by testing the voltage on your ground rods. If there is more than 600V on your ground bed, the ground bed is insufficient. If there is less than 600V on your ground bed then the ground bed is working properly and the issues are on the fence line. Hope this information helps resolve your voltage loss.

  2. Richard Barber
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Hello folks, Kayleen Thompson referred me to you. I have a perpetual weed problem. Zareba A100L1 is running about 1.7 kV on about 3 miles of wire. OC V is 9 kV. I was told low impedance would zap weeds but it seems weeds suck power.Grounding is prolific. Adding more rods/plates now makes no difference. Insulators are good, weeds too much for my aged body. What solution do you recommend to control sheep and coyotes?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted August 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      You can always go with a bigger energizer to help power through the weed-load, but you may want to look at fencing with woven wire. Woven wire will keep out the coyotes. It is always a good idea to add a hot wire to the very bottom of woven wire to prevent digging or critters from entering under the wire.

  3. Posted July 1, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    We have a Stafix X3 that has an output of at least 9.9 KV. Our high voltage digital meter reads a maximum of 9.9 KV; therefore, the actual output could be higher. TruTest (manufacturer) says 9.5 KV is typical. We have arcing from the fence wires to the T Posts. The arcing is somewhat random, arcs in one place then another. Don’t notice arcing on low humidity sunny dry days. Normally right before sundown we get a dew and it starts arcing and arcs all through the night. If it is a low to moderately humid day, it stops at about 10 am. On very muggy humid days I can hear the arc during daylight hours anytime. I’ve tried cleaning the insulators with brush and water. Does not help. With a moderate amount of grass touching to the bottom wire and with the volt meter reading 8.7 KV, I still have arcing. I rarely have grass or weeds touching my fence wires. TruTest Techsupport recommends that I replace the insulators. This is a lot of work. The supplier says they give expert advice, so after asking for recommendations on insulators, wire, fence charger, etc, I wonder why I’m having to change the insulators? Since arcing takes energy and ultimately power, a battery runs down faster with arcing than with no arcing.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted July 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      How much fence line are you powering?? Miles or Feet?
      What type of insulator and how old are they?

  4. Jami
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Yes, jumpers or cut out switches that’s what I need.

    Thank you ~ I’ll send a diagram 🙂

  5. Jami
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I want to put up semi permanent electric fencing for my few sheep & pigs. I want to create large paddock areas where the electric-rope stops at each corner and is connected in a way as to be easy to connect to the next panel of fencing. This way I can connect 4 corners and have an electrified paddock, connect different corners and have a new paddock….and so on.

    I cannot find an example of how to do this, I only find examples of moving E-line, setting up new E-line or taking down. I want a paddock system that mostly stays put, where I just trim grass, connect corners, move charger and I’m done! Oh yea, and move the animals.

    Can you help me with how I can set this up?
    Do you know of any resources or information for a system of fencing like I’ve described?

    I’ve been using Kencove electric netting for a couple of years now, but my ground is uneven-forest with hard clay, and I’ve worn myself out with all the moving.

    Thank you for pre-troubleshooting my fencing ~

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      If you don’t want to move any of the fencing, it looks like you have two options. You can make completely separate paddocks and just move your charger or you could share center fence lines and disconnect paddocks with jumpers or cut out switches. You will still need to move the energizer when using the jumpers or switches depending on how the paddocks are designed. We could provide you with better assistance if you send a diagram of your fence thoughts to [email protected].

  6. Bob
    Posted May 25, 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Have small system , unit supplies over 1,200 volts on the bench, connect hot and ground system may work several hours, then a check will show no output, if I disconnect either the hot or ground then when taking voltage reading at the unit it works or supplies the full voltage, but my system is not working because one of the wires is not connected .

    Any idea ? Total footage is about 500 ft I have two copper grounds about 4 to 5 ft each

    Thanks much for your suggestions

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      What type of energizer are you using? Joule Rating?
      Is there a weed load on your fence line?

  7. David Scudder
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    A bizzare event: I have had hotwire fences for 25 years. Still not an expert. It has been rainy. Today it is raining. Hotwire voltage has dropped from 6kv plus down to 2-3kv.

    I know I have some issues. Sun has worn some insulators, some stainless 20 kv jumper wires have rusted, some wires under gates need replacing. I went to find where the worst problem was.

    I disconnected the fence entirely and checked the charger. It showed 10 kv as always. (It is a Zareba 10 mile charger with .5 joules.) I have about 1 mile of fence. Usually it runs at 6 kv plus.

    I disconnected the two worst gates, which also disconnected most of the rest of the fence. Voltmeter showed 4.8 kv so I know there are some of the issues in the remaining 1000 or so feet of fence still connected. Then I disconnected all but the first 30 feet of fence leading away from the charger.

    Here is where the bizarre event occurred. I put the voltmeter on that short stretch of fence. It showed 8.9kv but it also shocked me while I was only holding the voltmeter. I took the meter off the fence. Then the voltmeter continued to show 9.9kv when not touching the fence at all.

    At this point I reconnected the 1000 feet of fence and re-tested it. The volmeter went down again to 4.8 kv. But it remained there when not touching the fence. I went back to the house and it still showed 4.8 kv. I disconnected the battery and then connected it again. The meter still showed .1 kv and while I watched it went up, first to .2 kv and then to .3 kv. Doing that again just made the meter go up to 5.8 kv. Hours later it still shows 5.8 kv. Have I fried the voltmeter?

    Any ideas what happened to shock me and fry the voltmeter?

    • Lacy Weimer Kencove
      Posted April 29, 2014 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      It does seem as though your voltmeter has failed and probably needs replaced. What type of meter are you using?
      What size energizer? How many ground rods? A grounding issue maybe why you got shocked.

  8. 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?

      • Lacy Weimer 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>