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. Paris Stone
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    I have a short run, 250 feet around the fenced in area to keep large dogs in. I plan to run the wire around and back, so 500 feet total. I have a plug in 110v charger that says it’s .07 joule wire charge with a .21 joule overall system. I have 3 8 foot ground rods that I got each about 3 feet into the ground and hit the granite bed. They are 6 feet apart. Tractor Supply told us to get them 6 feet in the ground each, but I can get them no further. So, from what I’ve read, 3 feet of grounding rod for every joule, and I have 9 feet total, each 3 feet in the ground. Is this sufficient for the rated system, and 500 feet of wire? Our ground here is always very damp, and in spots I’ve hit standing water 2 feet down while drilling post holes.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Sounds like you have an excellent system built! Just keep an eye on your wire and insulators as the years go on. Do you have a voltmeter? Once you get everything set up, test your fence to see what your ideal voltage will be.

  2. Deb
    Posted August 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Our electric fencer has been working fine, runs at 17.2. Today it is 0.0. If you unhook it from the fence it works fine but the minute you hook it to the fence it goes back to 0.0. Have walked the fence and can find nothing that is shorting it out. Any ideas?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Sounds like you have a dead short on your fence line. Have you tried testing your ground bed? If you are reading over 2,000 volts on your ground rods, you have a short somewhere on your fence line. If you are getting a significant reading on your ground rods, you may need to check any underground wires, splices, or your bracing.
      If there is no voltage on your ground rods, you may need to send your energizer in for repair. Our technician repairs all makes and models of energizers, regardless of where you purchased the unit. You can send your unit into our Pennsylvania warehouse at 344 Kendall Rd, Blairsville, PA 15717. Please include your name, return shipping address, and a valid phone number attached to the energizer you are sending in for repair. Turnaround time is roughly a week from when we get the energizer to getting it shipped back out to you.

  3. Paul
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    HI I’m currently having issues with my fencer not holding in goat’s nothing is grounding out and the output is fine but they keep getting out

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 23, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Hello, Paul. Goats are one of the hardest animals to keep in. They will test your fence daily and find the weakest point, and believe me, they know when the power is out. Do you know the voltage on your fence line? You may need additional grounding. It has been a fairly dry summer here, and that means there are fewer water molecules available in the ground. With less water the strength of the “zap” is much lower, and your circuit is not as strong. You can try adding additional ground rods or set up a positive/negative system. With a posi/neg system you will have a ground wire between your hot wires. Once the goat touches two wires it will complete the circuit and receive a shock.

  4. MDM
    Posted August 13, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I have a small yard that I ran 2 hot wires looped back to where I hooked up the charger, was working fine, Now I have very interment readings. Is it correct to just run you hot wires and terminate them, or should I tie in both hot wires together? I added another ground rod, reading at the hot to grd is very strong. Any suggestions?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      The correct way to install a fence to is run one hotwire out of your energizer. We would recommend splicing your original hot wire down to any additional hot wires. By running one continuous wire, you will need a larger energizer. By running one wire and terminating and splicing the wire, you can cut down on the joule rating of your energizer.
      A high reading on your ground rod indicates a dead short on your fence line somewhere. This could be a poor splice, broken insulator, poor connection, or cracked underground wire. If you run wire under a gate, this would be the first place to troubleshoot. What type of voltmeter do you have? With a Kencove Fault Finder (item code: VPA), an indication arrow will point you towards the energy draw helping you locate the fault quicker. Let us know if you have any additional questions. We are a simple phone call away.

  5. Posted August 10, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    We fenced in a small wooded area (a thicket really) for our Nubians to run in a couple of months ago. Since it was really a temporary situation we only installed one ground rod. We have four lines, all hot, and each one used about 2/3 of a 1/2 mile real of 17ga. wire. We attempted to push the fence with a solar generator we already had but ended up using an electric that has 2.2 output joules (3.1 stored, 60miles so it claimed). It was testing around 7000v originally. Well it started to dry up and we haven’t gotten a decent rain in several weeks and this past week my goats started escaping daily. When I tested the fence it was reading 2100v. I added two more 3′ ground rods and managed to boost it to 3700v and it hasn’t phased them a bit. They still get out every morning and head home every evening. Could we just need additional grounding or could there be something else wrong. This is our first attempt installing this type of fence and we are planning several miles of permanent fencing this fall so I’d like to ensure we are planning correctly.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      It sounds like you need additional ground rods. If the ground is really dry, there are not enough water molecules in the ground to complete the circuit. If you add ground rods, and you are still not reading over 4,500 volts on your line, try testing your ground bed. You can do this by putting your voltmeter probe into the ground and touching your first ground rod with the voltmeter. If you get a reading over 2,000 volts on your ground bed, you have a dead short somewhere on your line. This could be a poor connection, bad crimp, cracked insulator, or broken underground cable. If you are still having grounding issues, you may want to consider a positive/negative system. With a posi/neg system, you will set up ground wires between hotwires. This insures a complete circuit regardless of the ground conditions. Feel free to give our sales team a call with any additional questions. We can be reached at 1-800-KENCOVE.

  6. rick
    Posted August 8, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I have a mark 8 30 mile fencer and it worked just fine. reading 10 to 13 volts.
    now I can only get 1.2 to 2.o volt reading. I have checked the complete fence and everything is on insulators, nothing grounded out, but can not get any higher reading than the 2.o volts?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Hello, Rick. Have you tested your ground rods? If you test your ground rods and find a reading over 2.0kV, it’s a good indicator of a dead short on your line. Also, can you test the energizer itself? Simply unhook the fence from the energizer, test the hot and ground using your voltmeter, and you should get an accurate reading of the output of the energizer. If the output on the energizer itself is reading low (below 5.0 kV), you may need to send the energizer in for repair or replace the unit. If the energizer is working properly, you may have a poor connection somewhere on your fence. Let us know what you find out about the ground reading and the energizer itself.

  7. Jim
    Posted August 6, 2017 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Query: Electric fence working well, but wife getting zapped when opening gates. (Gates do not touch any powered lines) End posts are round galvanised and gates are attached via downey fittings. Each run has 3 wires, top and bottom powered and middle is earth. Porcelain insulators for power wires at each end of each run. All pickets have plastic insulators to hold wires. There is no logical reason I can see why current is conducting through the gate. The only wire not insulated and physically touching the end posts is the earth wire. I’m at a loss to figure out why the zap is occurring. Ideas?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Good morning, Jim. What is the output joule rating on your energizer? How many miles (or feet) of fence do you currently have under power? If your energizer is too large for your fence, you may be experiencing induction. We recommend one output joule per mile of fence. If your energizer is appropriately sized, you may want to check your bracing wire to ensure it is not too close to a hot wire and transferring energy through posts and then the gate.

  8. Liz mckay
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Who trouble shoots your fences in Saskatchewan Canada send a phone number please having trouble with this electric fencer

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Hello, Liz. We do not install fence or troubleshoot installed fence. If you would like to give our sales team a call, we may be able to connect you with local contractors. If you would like to troubleshoot your fence on your own, we would recommend the Kencove Fault Finder (VPA). The VPA provides a digital reading of the voltage on your fence line, and it also shows the direction of an electrical short if one is present.

  9. Marty
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Just installed a new high tensile electric fence. The voltage reading is over 8,000 but it doesn’t have any “pop” like my other fences do. I tried to make the fence ark but there is only a tiny spark present, why would this be?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted August 1, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Marty, could your old energizer by chance be a high-impedance model? If your new energizer is low impedance, this could be the reason behind the lack of pop. High-impedance models send a continuous or very long pulse of voltage down the line. Low-impedance energizers send quick pulses more frequently down the line. These quick pulses do not “burn” weeds along the fence line. This could be the reason you are now lacking the pop. Reading 8,000 volts on your fence is GREAT! You have built a sturdy fence with adequate grounding. I wouldn’t be too worried about the pop sound, just keep an eye on your voltage and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

  10. Sean
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I have received conflicting information on this and wanted to know from someone that knows. I run a 5 strand 3 hot and 2 ground fence in sandy FL soil. Should my ground lines also be connected to each of my ground rods. I tried to install another ground system on other side of my pasture that is only 200 ft by 100 ft and connect those ground rods to my ground fence line. This seems like it just drained more of the fence. Should the rods only be connected to the controller and then my ground lines connected from the controller or should I connect each ground rod to my ground line. I have a Parmak 12v with 4 6 ft rods grounding now and the hot lines don’t give off enough pop without touching a ground line. Also my ground lines will give off a little pop without touching a live line. Should that happen? I have 2 volt meters each read different but I can tell you if you grab both hot and ground it will take your breath away but the hot lines are only like a heavy static electricity shot on their own. It is basically sand and it is hot a dry right now but I touched both points on charger just to see and it left black marks on my hands it popped so hard. Is this just what I should expect with hot dry sandy soil it does rain a lot and seems like other people just run a hot line only on larger areas with half the ground system I use.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted July 27, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Hello Sean, it sounds like you have some stray voltage somewhere that is being transferred to your (awesome) ground bed. Your hot wires may be too close to your ground wires on your fence line. Or your horizontal bracing wire may be the culprit.

      • Sean
        Posted July 27, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your response I do believe you may be correct on that my ground wire is to close to my live wire. The ground that is hot is also only 3 to 4 inches away from the hot line. I will space my line a little farther apart but can you help with my question about my ground rods? Should my ground rods also be connected to each of my ground wires or my rods only connected to the charger? Could this extra grounds cause my ground wires to be hot? I have read on maybe 2 sites that they also run wire from each grounding rod to each ground wire on the fence but all the more commercial sites only show the rods being ran to the ground on the controller and then the controller to the ground wires on fence. Which one of these setups is correct? Can I be losing power from my ground line to the rod since my line is to close and actually a hot line? I expected with my ground system and the size of my charger for such a small area I would be able to run all hot lines even in sand and still really pop. I will try dumping ground lines and making them hot lines and taking the connecting lines from rods off making it an all hot line fence and see hot the charge is then but in case I need to reinstall the ground lines I could use some help with how my rods should be connected to the line or to the charger only. Thanks alot

        • Kencove Kencove
          Posted August 1, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

          Sean, you do not need to connect your ground rods to your fence, however, this would be helpful in dry, sandy conditions, which sounds like the soil you have. We would recommend one negative wire about 3” away from the hot wires to use as your ground. You can have more than one negative wire, just keep them spaced apart from your hot wires. Although you have your wires spaced 3”-4” already, this leads us to believe you are experiencing induction. Induction happens when you have too much energy on too small of a fence line. What is the output joule rating on your energizer? How many lines or feet of wire do you have? We recommend one joule per mile of fence. Let us know if there is anything else we can help you with. Our product specialists are available Monday-Friday 8am-5pm EST and Saturdays 8am-noon EST. Give us a call at 1-800-KENCOVE. We’d be happy to help you out!

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