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. Harold Freryholtz
    Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I have 2 fencers and a voltage / amp tester. One of my fencers will read 3500 volts close to the farmyard but out another half mile it will read 6000 volts. Also close to the farmyard it will show 15 amps of short but as I check there are no big shorts. 1 amp done that strip or 2 down another strip until close to the end it will show no amps of short. Thanks.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted May 23, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Depending on how you have your fence line connecting to the energizer the point you are measuring close to the farmyard may still be the furthermost point from the energizer. If you are losing almost 3,000 volts there is a short somewhere near the barnyard.

  2. Linda Donerkiel
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I have a really old International “100” Electric Fencer (40 years?). It still works, but I think too well. I had a problem with the twine like fence. It kept melting and breaking. Today I installed a short section of 17g wire and when I went to test it with my fence tester the tester started smoking! What does that indicate? I have found a dead, electrified squirrel on the previous fence too.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted April 29, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      This sounds like a weed burner-high impedance energizer and they are very dangerous. No longer made like this. Do not use with poly products. This type of unit has been known to start fires, be careful.

    Posted April 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    i have a .07 joule electric fence unit and am thinking of wrapping a 6 strand stainless very small guage polywire type wire around branches in an avocado tree to keep the squirrels from getting into the tree , can i do this without killing the tree, if grounded well, and can i get shoked touching the tree. also can i split and go two different directions with the hot side

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted April 20, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      It would be really hard to put an electric fence on an Avocado tree. You would have to put insulators so that the wire did not touch the tree, which would require nailing or screwing. Nailing or screwing would harm the tree. Without insulating the wire, the fence would be grounded out and squirrels could climb right up the wire. You would get shocked if directly touch the wire when it was fully functioning and not grounded to the tree. Your best bet would be to put a fence around the tree. By fence around the tree, I mean a perimeter fence that would encompass the tree. However, I would think that if a squirrel really wanted an Avacado it would be able to jump the fence. It would need to be a fairly tall electric fence.

  4. Joyce
    Posted March 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    My solar charged tensile wire fence in partially underwater since it finally rained here in Texas and my stock tank filled up. Did this short out my fence? It isn’t working. Also if this is the case how do I “jump” across my stock pond to cure this problem. thank you. This fence was installed by someone else and cannot get that person to help me fix the problem

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted March 24, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Yes this will short your electric fence and put a current into the water. You and your animals may get shocked if you touch the water. You will have to run the fence line around the stock pond, or increase the height of your fence over top the pond. Is this a water tank or an actual pond?

    • John
      Posted July 31, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Can I ground my electric fence charge to my free standing metal barn workshop in lieu of using grounding rods?

      • Kencove Kencove
        Posted August 1, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        Hello, John. We would not recommend grounding your energizer to anything other than ground rods or setting up your fence as a positive/negative system. By grounding your fence to your building, you will be unable to complete the circuit, which means nothing will get shocked. You also have the potential to make your barn hot (electrified) which could be deadly. We recommend all ground beds be at least 50’ away from other buried lines including water, electricity, and other ground beds.

  5. Mary McGlauchlen
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I have 3 acres 2 line high tensile fence. When testing the fence it has gone between 500 and 7000 …
    Now you can touch the fence with no charge unless you touch a metal fence post at the same time? What is my problem ot enough to ground?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted March 9, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      You may have very low voltage that is not felt with out additional grounding. However, it sounds as though you have a weak ground bed. Is the ground frozen? What size energizer are you using and with how many ground rods?
      It is important to have 3′ of ground rod per joule of energizer in good grounding conditions. If conditions are poor you will need additional ground rods.

    Posted February 15, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I have a Patriot 30, and it drains an automobile battery in less than a week, I put a gallager solar panel to charge the battery, but only helps for a few days more before depleting the battery, I am charging 30 acres with 2 high tensil 12 1/2 gauge aluminum wires and have 2 ground rods spaced 10 feet apart. There is an overhead power line that runs parallel to part of the fence. The fence test 7000 volts with a fresh battery at the furtherest part. I have an old Parmark magnum 12 set up the same way on 80 acres with 2 cross fences across the road set up the same way with no battery issues, but only test 3000 to 4000 volts. How can I correct the problem with the Patriot?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      This is a 3 joule unit, much larger than the Parmark magnum. It is common for a 3 joule charger drain a battery in one week. It will take a 30-40 watt solar panel to keep a battery charged and functional all the time. If you have few sunlight hours depending on your location it may even take 50-60 Watts. Where are you located?

      • AlfredW
        Posted September 22, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        I thought that the Parmak Magnum 12 OU was also a 3 joule unit…?

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

          Alfred, our certified energizer technician tested the Parmak Magnum Solar Energizer, and he found the output joule rating to be 0.5 joules. We want to market our products as honestly as possible, that is why we have it listed as 0.5 joules.

  7. Lauren B
    Posted January 29, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Hello, we bought a property with electrobraid horse fence installed on the pasture. The energizer had been removed, but the previous owners said we should just be able to put a new one on. My husband put a 25 mile plug in energizer on and said he was walking up to check on it and was shocked without touching any of the lines (knocked on his tush). What would cause this? We have returned the energizer, but I would like to be able to utilize the fencing with another one if possible.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted February 8, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Are there ground rods installed? If so could they be placed near an existing underground electric line? Does your fence run parallel with any high voltage over head lines?
      If you think you have ground rods placed near and existing underground line please contact the power company and an electrician as soon as possible.

  8. Brittney
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Just moved into new house that already had electric fence set up in pasture.I bought the electric box the grounding wire is in the tack room same with live wire everything lights up and makes the electric current noise but its not feeding to the wire at all even buy the box could it be the grounders if so how do we check them when theres hardwood floor involved?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Did you check the voltage with a fence tester. I would think that the actual ground bed (ground rods) are outside the tack room (outdoors). Can you follow the ground wire to the outside, maybe it comes in through the wall?
      If the ground bed is not outside you should think about relocating it to the outside.

  9. Reba
    Posted December 29, 2015 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I just installed 100 feet of 17 gauge wire by staple gunning to trees and deck. We wrapped the two wires around the Zareba charger, outlet works but wires not live. Why?

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      If you did not use insulators, the wire is shorting out on the trees and deck that you staples it to.

      • Nancy
        Posted January 9, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes… I had the same problem but as some as I made sure that the wires had no direct contact with trees, posts and/or other metal, the fence worked great.

  10. Posted December 20, 2015 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    My horse has ran through the fence so many times and I tried fixing it but it doesn’t get power in some places. The power will stop at a post and the electric tape doesn’t look burnt or anything wrong with it. We have a 10 mile fence charger and 25 but it still doesn’t change anything. I was wondering how you know when to replace a electric fence. Please help me.

    • Lacy Weimer Lacy Weimer
      Posted December 21, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      With Polytape the stainless steel conductors could be broken from the horse running through the fence. Look closely and see if the conductors look broken. If conductors are broken the electric current can not move down the fence line, some sections of the fence may need replaced.

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