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. elizabeth conway
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Hi we have installed an electric fence for our chickens but they are just running through it. I have to hold the fence for a couple of seconds before I get a small electric shock. Should the shock be there as soon as i touch the wire?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Elizabeth, what type of fencing do you have? Also what energizer are you using? Do you know the output joule rating? There can be a few things going on with your fence. The chickens may be jumping off the ground when going through your fence. This means they are not completing the electrical circuit. You can solve this issue by creating a posi/neg fence. Your energizer may be too small for your set up, which creates a weak pulse that is not bothering the chickens. Or you could have a fault somewhere along your fence that is keeping most of the power from the fence line and pushing it into the ground. Feel free to give our product specialists a call at 1-800-KENCOVE for additional assistance.

    • Posted January 12, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Standing and touching my wire, small pulse shock.
      When I kneel (bare knee touching ground) I get the big shock I expect.

      What will my horses get?
      Do I have a grounding problem?


      • Kencove Kencove
        Posted January 14, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Hi, Carl. If you are wearing any type of rubber-soled shoe while touching your fence, you are insulating yourself. By taking kneeling, you are grounding yourself, which allows for a completed electric circuit. We generally recommend 3 feet of ground per output joule of energizer. Ground rods need to be 10 feet apart from one another for maximum effectiveness. To determine if more ground is needed, test your ground rods. If you have a reading greater than 2,000 volts, add more ground rods until your voltage drops below 2,000 volts. Also, you can never have too many ground rods, so don’t be afraid to add more. The larger your ground bed, the more effective your electric fence will be. Give us a call at 1-800-536-2683 with any additional questions. We’re happy to help out.

  2. Chris E.
    Posted February 20, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I have a Zareba 2 mile electric box. I have an 8 ft ground. I am only running it about 200 ft with no obstructions. If I check the box without the wire hooked up it is hot. When I hook up the wire it is not hot. I am at a loss for a solution. I have tried multiple boxes and wires. Any suggestions?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Chris, we recommend adding additional ground rods to your ground bed. Keep in mind sometimes it’s better to have three 3’ rods 10’ apart allowing for more ground to be in your ground bed. Do you have any underground wire that runs under a gate by chance? Or your lead out wires may be bad if you are getting a good reading on your energizer but no voltage on your fence.

    • Posted May 23, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      i have a 5 mile fence charger but i can hold the wire without getting a shock. I ordered a new a battery and still don”t receive a shock what can be my problem. I have used this same charger for the past 3 years without a problem?

      • Kencove Kencove
        Posted July 26, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Lando, has it been dry in your neck of the woods? If so you may want to try to add additional ground rods to your ground bed or water your existing ground bed.

    • Mitchell
      Posted June 7, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Make sure your ground is deep 4′ or deeper. And make sure your hot wire is clean no grass or weeds touching the hot wire. Don’t let the hot wire touch the ground any where. Good luck.

    • Ronald reddish
      Posted June 20, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      I got the same one had to put 3 8 foot in it would nt work right.

  3. Sam Young
    Posted February 10, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    My high tensile wire fence just stopped working. LMy wireless tester shows 8000v and my pulse tester shows a pulse however I can touch the wire and there is no shock. I have 2 grounding rods 10 feet apart.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Sam, are you taking the reading on your fence or at your energizer? If you are reading that on your fence, either your tester is broken, or you need to add additional ground rods. By chance, when touching the fence, were you wearing rubber-soled shoes? If so, this is insulating you and keeping you from getting a shock. We recommend adding a few more ground rods and adding moisture to your existing ground bed. If you find out your tester is malfunctioning give us a call, and we will send you a new fence tester.

      • Mart
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        What type of shoes should I be wearing if I want to feel a shock? I know being barefooted will cause me to fell a shock. My Fido Shocker stopped working today for no apparent reason. The light on the box no longer blinks indicating that the box is putting out a charge but the plug it is connected is hot. I am only covering roughly 100′.

        • Kencove Kencove
          Posted December 17, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          Mart, you can test your fence wearing any type of shoe. Simply take a knee when testing. Any shoe with a rubber sole is going to insulate you from a shock. Some may do a better job than others. If your energizer is no longer blinking, you may want to send your energizer in for repair. Our certified technician repairs multiple brands of energizer with a 3-day turnaround or less. Simply mail your energizer to 344 Kendall Rd, Blairsville, PA 15717. Include your name and phone number in the package with the energizer, and we’ll give you a call with the cost of repairs.

  4. Karen Floyd
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    We are running two hot wires around approx 2 acres on a large solar box, the wire is all connected without anything touching to short it out, but it still is not hot when you touch the wire.. I think its the ground because if you touch the wire and touch the gate it shocks the heck out of you… any ideas on what to check?

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Karen, do you have a voltmeter? This will allow you to test the voltage around your fence. If you are able to touch your fence with it hooked up, chances are you need additional ground to your fence. Or you are insulating yourself by wearing rubber-soled shoes when touching your fence. If you need a voltmeter, check out the Kencove Digital Voltmeter (item code: VSXK). This tool will allow you to test your fence, energizer, 12-volt battery, and ground bed. It is great for identifying shorts on your line and finding the issue.

  5. Johan de Kock
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Have a 15 wire electric fence (2.8km live) 100 x 100 square with JVA Z18 energizer with 8 Joules peak output. Daytime output is 7.7 kV but night time with fog it drops to 3.6. All wires at least 100mm apart. Bought brand new energizer – same.
    What Voltage drop can be expected when there is fog in the air – near the coast.

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Johan, that is quite the difference of voltage on a fence! We have heard instances where dew builds up along the wire causing it to leak voltage. However, that large of a drop sounds abnormal. Is there a power-saving setting on your energizer causing it to drop voltage to conserve battery life? You can always give our certified technician a call and see if he can help diagnose an issue with your energizer. He can be reached by calling 1-800-KENCOVE. Hopefully we can get this mystery solved!

  6. Mike
    Posted January 25, 2018 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    hey there – new farmer here…

    just put up a BRAND new high tinsel fence line.

    4,000 feet in length X 4 strands on each post. it wraps around my yard – but doesn’t complete a full circle as I come to an end on both sides of my neighbors gate system. I do have one section with 4 metal tposts and insulators.

    the magic moment occurred this past Monday when we connected it to my solar panel (southern states 30 mile range solar panel) – and I was VERY disappointed. the solar panel has a gauge on it ranging from 1-10 with red, yellow and green (1 is red ; 2-3 is yellow and 3-10 is green)

    we want to be in green… but for some reason my fence reads at a 1 .5 in the yellow – yet my fence gives me a voltage of 4,700.

    I have 6 gates so I went around and disconnected each one , one at a time to see how if affected my solar red, yellow green meter.

    basically every post gate portion that I take off of my fence line from the end all the way up closest to the solar panel , the more power I gain back.

    but when I connect it all back together again , section by section – I go back to my 1.5 rating in 2 part (#) increments per the solar red, yellow green meter.

    I have NO grounding issues that can be seen – walked the line about 10 times now without anything touching my wooden posts or going to ground. have tested each under gate l line and they seem to be in good shape.

    I am really at a loss and this is driving me nuts at this point

    any help or advice you can give would be helpful

    • Kencove Kencove
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Mike, it sounds like you did everything we would recommend checking. We are guessing your issue is with your gates. Are you running underground wires for your gates? Or are these spring gates? Give our product specialists a call, and hopefully we can diagnose this issue and get you in the green! We can be reached at 1-800-KENCOVE.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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