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FAQ on Electric Fences, Grounding, Energizers & More

We receive many electric fence questions, such as “how do they work" and “what parts do I need for my fence.” We’ve listed a few of the most frequently asked questions to help you answer your questions.

Check our our list of frequently asked questions below. If you have more questions about the usage of electric fence equipment and/or components, please feel free to contact us.

Questions:
  1. 1. How does an electric fence work?
  2. 2. How does a ground work?
  3. 3. How important is the grounding system?
  4. 4. How many grounding rods do I need to make my fence work? How do I install them?
  5. 5. How do I select the correct sized energizer?
  6. 6. What are volts, amps and joules?
  7. 7. What does low impedance mean?
  8. 8. Why does the energizer say for indoor use only but it's advertised as weatherproof?

 

General Fencing Information: 

  1. 1. Horse Fencing 101

  1. 2. Livestock Fencing



1. How does an electric fence work?
An electric fence is simply a large open circuit waiting to be closed. The electric fence energizer or charger sends a high voltage pulse of electric energy through the wire, tape or rope at short intervals, usually between one and two seconds. The circuit is closed when an animal, which is standing on the ground, touches the fence. The electric energy in the fence wire flows from the fence, through the animal's body and to the ground causing the animal to be shocked. The animal will only respect the shock if both the voltage and energy are at proper levels. Environmental, fence and ground conditions influence the level of shock received. It takes a minimum of 700 volts to effectively control short haired breeds of cattle, pigs and horses while it takes about 2,000 volts for long haired cattle, sheep and goats. Depending on the type and breed of animal, it may take multiple shocks from an electric cattle fence before they are fully trained to have respect for the electric fence controller.

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2. How does a ground work?
Upon leaving the electric fence energizer, the electric current travels along the wires and connections of the electric fence. It is seeking all possible routes back to Earth. These routes include animals, people, grass etc. When an animal comes in contact with the wire on a livestock electric fence, the energy passes through its body and returns to the ground causing an electric shock.

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3. How important is the grounding system?

Utilizing adequate earth grounding during electric fence installation is vital to having an effective electric fence system.  Most problems in electric fencing are caused by inadequate grounding.  An electric fence that is not properly grounded will not perform at its maximum potential and may not adequately contain the animals or livestock, or effectively keep predators out.

The grounding system is a vital part of the system enabling the correct return of electrical pulses (from the electric fence energizer) through the animal from the contact point on the fence to the ground. Without a sufficient ground, the electric fence will be limited in effectiveness of providing a "shock".

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4. How many grounding rods do I need to make my fence work? How do I install them?
We offer 2, 3 and 6 foot grounding rod kits in order to suit your specific requirements. Even though one grounding rod may work, it is recommended for best results to use 3 rods spaced 10-12 feet apart. The first rod should be within 25-50 feet from the energizer and driven down deep into the earth. The larger your fence, the more grounding rods you should have since more grounding rods increase the shock potential. A general recommendation is to have 3 feet of ground rod per joule of output capacity. So, a 10 joule energizer will require a minimum of 30 feet of ground rod. Connect the rods together and then connect them to the energizer ground terminal using highly conductive wire (the wire should be a minimum of 12.5 ga in diameter). Water the ground after installation and during dry spells if necessary.

Ground rods work best in moist soil.  In dry or rocky conditions, an effective alternative is to use an earth return system in which alternate wires in the fence are utilized as ground wires. Charged wires on a system need to be connected back to the output connector on the energizer, and earth ground (non-charged) wires need to be connected back to the ground terminal on the energizer, or connected to ground rods.



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5. How do I select the correct sized energizer?
The energizer must deliver sufficient shock in proportion to the requirements placed on it. The power output should be selected based on the following calculations: Location of electric fence energizer (access to A/C power), type of animals, length of the above-ground or underground electric fence, number for strands of wire, conductivity of wire, vegetation present on the fence and soil conditions for grounding.

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6. What are volts, amps and joules?
Volts or voltage is the driving force behind the flow of electricity in a wire. It is often related to the pressure water has in a pipe. The more pressure pushing water through a pipe is analogous to the voltage pushing energy through a conductor.

Amps or amperage is the measurement of electrical current through a wire. It is the current or amps that determine the strength of the shock felt from a permanent or temporary electric fence. The higher the amps of current, the higher the strength of the shock. Continuing the water pipe analogy, amps is roughly like the flowrate of water coming out of the end of the pipe.

A joule (pronounced jewel) is a unit of work or energy. It is the energy expended in one second by a current of one amp at a potential of one volt. One joule is equal to one watt of power in one second.

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7. What does low impedance mean?
Energizers that are low impedance energizers have the ability to regulate their output and maintain a constant voltage supply to the fence even as the grounding and fence conditions deteriorate as well as increased vegetation contact. This means as more vegetation draws amperage from the electric fence (short circuiting or grounding the fence), a low impedance energizer will produce more energy or joules to overcome this loss due to vegetation while maintaining adequate levels for animal control.

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8. Why does the energizer say for indoor use only but it's advertised as weatherproof?
The short answer is Lawyers. In an effort to protect everyone from everything, it is prudent for the chargers to say for indoor use only,but in reality, they are made to be weather tight and work outdoors just fine. It is hard to put a solar charger indoors and expect it to get much sunlight. Most often, if there is an indoors, then there is power and there is no need for a solar charger to begin with.  We always say, the more the charger is protected from the weather, the longer it will last, just like anything that spends its life outdoors.  The labels and the color of the box will fade in the sun over time but the internal components are protected.

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1. Horse Fencing 101
Selecting livestock fencing is no small feat. Every animal requires an individualized type of fencing; the same fence that you might select for cattle may not be appropriate for your pigs. For example, horse fencing requires consideration of various factors in order to ensure the safety and security of your horses.

When choosing horse fencing, visibility is absolutely crucial. Horses are far-sighted and need to be able to see the boundaries of a fence. Horses have a natural instinct to flee when they perceive danger which makes visibility imperative due to their size and the level of speed they can reach when running. Horse owners attempting to save money or to cut corners can in turn negatively impact their horses and can even injure them.

Barbed wire, while it’s a cheaper fencing option, tends to be completely inappropriate for horses because they can easily injure themselves on it. You also want to select a fence without sharp edges that a horse could possibly injure themselves on by leaning, scratching or falling into it. The right fence should be strong, well-built, and capable of lasting many years.

It’s also very important to select a horse fence that is the appropriate height. These fences should be high enough that your horses will be discouraged from attempting to jump over it. Most horse fences should be about 60 inches above ground level. If you have a very large horse, you may need it to be over 60 inches.

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2. Livestock Fencing
Before you select the fencing for your farm, you should be aware that the required fencing will be different depending on the type of livestock that you have. Livestock fencing helps to control your livestock, keep them safe and secure, and also helps to keep predators away. There are a few different factors to consider when selecting livestock fencing such as what animals you need fencing for, the number of animals that you need to contain, their average size and height, as well as how aggressive the animals are. Different animals require different types of fencing containment. Safety of the animals is of particular importance.

1) Horse fencing: Horse fencing should be highly visible as horses are known for bolting when they feel they are in danger. Wood post and board fences can be great as far as visibility is concerned, but wire-strand electrified polytape fencing is typically more lightweight, cost efficient, and doesn’t require significant effort to install.

2) Cattle fencing: Cattle fencing should be at least 54 inches tall. High-tensile wire fencing is a great option for cattle. In most cases, it’s best to make your high- tensile wire fence an electric fence.

3) Hog fencing: Electrified high-tensile wire is a great option for hog fencing. Panel fencing is another popular way to contain pigs.

4) Sheep and goat fencing: Goats in particular are known for being very curious and resourceful creatures. Goats are also wonderful at making their way out of containment. Selecting the right fencing for your sheep and goats can make all the difference. The right fence can determine whether you will be constantly chasing them down the street or not. Electrified wire fencing can discourage animals from finding their way out of the fence, and is a great option for goats.

Energizers are another important factor and which energizer is the right one depends on the animals being contained, as well as the size of the fenced area. Choosing the right size energizer for your needs is paramount. Farm Supply Store carries a variety of Field Guardian, Patriot, Speedrite and Gallagher fence chargers to help you get exactly the right product for your needs
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