Grounding: The Key to a Successful Fence

earthgroundreturnsystem_withfence_2011The most commonly asked questions in our blog comments revolve around grounding issues. Popular problems include inadequate “shock” when touching the fence line, yet still reading a high output voltage when testing the energizer. More often than not the issue lies in poor grounding rather than a fault on the fence line. The easiest way to test your fence for grounding issues is depicted in the video below.


  • Simply “ground out” your fence by laying metal rods against your hot wire. Make sure you unplug your energizer before you do this!
  • Turn your energizer back on and test your fence using a voltmeter. We recommend the Kencove Digital Voltmeter and 12-Volt Battery Tester (VSXK). Your voltage should read below 2kV.
    • If your voltage is not below the 2kV threshold, you will need to add additional ground rods to short-circuit your fence.
  • Use a digital voltmeter to test your last ground rod. You should read a voltage of 0.3kV or lower. If your voltage is higher than this threshold, you will need to increase your ground bed.

Once you have established that your lack of a shock on your fence line is due to poor grounding, there are a few solutions.

  1.     The simple answer to poor grounding is to increase your ground bed by adding additional ground rods. Although this solution sounds simple, it can be time consuming digging additional holes for more ground rods.
  2.     If it has been an exceptionally dry summer and your ground bed has performed perfectly in the past, you may be able to “water” your ground bed. Wetting the ground increases the effectiveness of the ground bed.
  3.     Our third and most effective solution is creating an Earth Ground Return System. Now this may sound complex and intimidating, however, creating an Earth Ground Return System is quite simple and effective.

Grounding your fence is the most important part of your electric system. Without proper grounding your fence energizer is simply a ticking box. So why does your energizer need to be grounded? If you want to get technical, “The ground is an infinite supply of electrons and so it is equivalent to the negative terminal of a battery.” –

In other words, in order for you (or the animal) to receive a shock from an electrified fence, the pulse of energy needs to travel through the animal and into the soil through their feet. Once the energy reaches the soil it grounded, completing the circuit., Once the circuit is complete, the animal receives the shock. So the more ground rods, the wetter the ground, the stronger the shock. Without moisture in the soil, your energy is unable to move through the electrons back to the ground. Dry or frozen ground acts almost identically to an insulator.

When creating an Earth Ground Return System you are no longer relying on your ground to complete the circuit, but rather the neutral wires. By using an Earth Ground Return System you are using your “neutral” wires to serve as your ground. This allows for any soil type, dry or frozen, to not impact the power of your energizer.  This connects the animal directly to the ground bed, and they no longer need to be the source to the ground.  Energy looks for the closest path to ground, which would be to travel through the wires to the rods, not through their own hooves to the ground.


An Earth Ground Return System works when an animal touches both a hot and neutral wire at the same time. The animal completes the circuit between the two wires and, as a result, gets shocked. We recommend keeping existing ground rods as a backup plan. If the soil conditions are ideal and an animal only touches the hot wire, it will still get shocked.

A few other tips to keep in mind with your ground bed:

  • Be cautious of the type of metal you are using for your ground rods as well as your connecting wire. Electrolysis will occur when copper and steel are mixed. Using a universal ground rod clamp (MGCU) will solve the mixing metals problem.
  • Check your voltage regularly to monitor your ground bed and fence line. Monitoring your voltage will ensure you find the problem before you neighbor calls about your cows in her garden. 


AnimalRecommended Voltage
Horses2,500 Volts
Cattle3,500 Volts
Cow/Calf Operations4,000 Volts
Sheep/Goats/Heavy Haired Animals4,500 Volts


  • If you want to increase the “umph” of your fence, try adding more ground rods. This will increase your ground bed, allowing for more electrons to spread the shock and complete the circuit faster with less resistance.
  • Don’t place your ground rods or bed near existing ground beds, water lines, utility poles or utility lines. You may get an unexpected shock in an unexpected place, or that neighbor calling about the cows in her garden may hear an unexplained ticking on her phone lines.

By creating an Earth Ground Return System, you are ensuring your fence is hot to the touch regardless of how dry or frozen the ground. Check out our diagram below to see how you can turn your fence into an Earth Ground Return System. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or give our product specialists a call at 1-800-KENCOVE.


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