How to Install an Electric Fence
Electric fencing is an excellent solution for landowners who want to either keep their livestock contained or prevent wild animals (or intruders) from entering their property. Humane, effective, and affordable electric fences add value and functionality to your land.
Design Your Layout
To determine what materials you’ll need, you must design the layout of your future fence. The plan should include the size of the enclosure, the number of corners it will have, and its height, as well as the number of wires you’ll run.
You’ll also want to plan when it comes to where you’re going to place your gates, as this will also affect the number of posts and braces you need. Armed with this information, you can price wiring by the foot, chargers, and other materials at various retailers to optimize the value of your fence.
Before you begin building your fence, you’ll also need to clear the area where the wires will run. Obstacles like vegetation can leech the current, resulting in an inefficient or ineffective fence.
Determine the Number of Brace Corners Necessary
The corners of your electric fence will require bracing. Typically, braces are positioned on the outside of the fence at an angle to the corner posts as reinforcements. Usually, a single brace suffices for shorter fences, while double braces will better serve taller fences (or those with 7 or more lines). If your enclosure features gates, you may also need to brace the posts on either side of the gate.
Determine the Number of Fence Posts Necessary
You can use almost any type of fence post with electric fencing, including wood, which is usually the least expensive out-of-pocket option. While metal poles are pricier at the outset, they are often easier to place and are less likely to suffer significant degradation as quickly as wooden posts.
Remember, you need support posts as well as corner posts. You’ll probably need to consult with the manufacturer of the wire type you choose to plan how far apart your posts should be. If they’re going to be over 40 feet apart, you may need to install along the wires to ensure they remain evenly spaced and stable.
When choosing the length of your fence posts, keep in mind that you’ll want at least one-third of the post to be below ground to ensure stability, especially for those posts that you do not brace. Also, it’s a good idea to choose thicker, more durable posts for the corners of your enclosure.
Choose a Charger
There are several different things to take into consideration when selecting a charger:
- Power source: electric (AC) or solar
- Joules: higher joules mean a more consistent electric current
- Strength: The purpose of your fence will largely determine the strength. Is it primarily designed to keep animals inside the enclosure, or to keep pests or predators out? If it’s the latter, you’ll need to opt for a more powerful charger.
- The size of the enclosure: Manufacturers optimize various chargers for enclosures of specific sizes.
Choose the Wire Style
Many people are surprised by the variety of wire styles available! Not all of them are even really “wire.” For example, electric fence tape is an excellent choice for visibility. There are also braid and rope-like configurations. Brightly colored coated wire can improve visibility as well. Remember, you want your livestock to be able to see the fence so that they can avoid it once they’ve learned that it shocks them. We recommend 1.5 to 2-inch poly tape in many cases, as it’s both sturdy and visible from a distance.
Install Your Charger
Where you install your charger will be dependent on the type of charger you’ve chosen. You will need to set a solar charger in an area that receives full sunlight during the day. If you’ve opted for an electric charger, you’ll need to install it near an AC outlet. Place your charger off of the ground, either on a pole or on the wall of an outbuilding. Don’t turn it on until you’ve completed the fence installation.
Install Grounding Rods
You’ll need at least one grounding rod that is at least 6 feet in length, installed near the charger, with 2-3 inches remaining above ground. While one grounding rod is the minimum, it’s wise to fit two, with the second about 10 feet from the first rod.
Install the Grounding Wire
Once you have installed the grounding rods, you can place the grounding wire. The grounding wire runs from the ground terminal of the charger to each of the grounding rods. You’ll secure it to each rod with grounding clamps.
Install the Fence Posts
Determine where you will place the corners of your electric fence. The easiest way to mark the straight lengths of your fence is to secure a string between each “corner” and mark where each post will go. A post hole digger will make the installation much more manageable.
Install Braces, Footings, and Anchors
Some posts, like those on the corners of your electric fence, will be subjected to more stress than others. You need to reinforce these posts. The reinforcement can be accomplished with one or more braces, depending on the number of lines and the height of the fence.
These angle braces are typically about 10 feet long and 4 inches thick. Set one end of the brace in the ground opposite of the corner post, and notch the other end into the corner post. It is essential to set the brace at an angle of around 45 degrees.
In addition to bracing corners, you’ll also want to brace the posts on either side of any gates you set up.
In some circumstances, you may need to reinforce a post where it is inconvenient or even impossible to install angle braces. If you encounter this, don’t be concerned. There are other alternatives you can employ to reinforce these posts, like cement footings and anchors.
Insulators serve several functions: They keep your wires spaced evenly on the post, they keep the posts insulated from the electric current, and they help keep the current flowing through the wires so that your fence is consistently effective.
There are many different types of insulators available. Which type you choose will depend, mostly, on the kind of wire you install. Most electric fence manufacturers design insulators to work individually with each type of wire option they offer. So, finding the perfect insulators is usually very simple. Most insulators explicitly designed for a type of wire will allow some space for the wire to slide to prevent wear and tear on the wire from rubbing.
Install the Wire
Beginning at the post that is farthest away from the charger, hang the wire using the insulators and connector clamps recommended by the wire manufacturer. Never merely wrap the wires around the posts of your fence; this can result in corrosion and loose, unreliable wires.
At the anchor end, you’ll need to tighten the wires. There are several different tools you can use to do so:
- Ratchet style, self-locking tensioner
- Turnbuckle cable tensioner
- Come-along cable puller
You want the wire to be taut, of course. However, take care not to put so much tension in the wire that it might break.
Activate the Charger
Once you fully install your fence, you can turn on your charger. Use a voltmeter to check that the charger is functioning. Make sure that electric current will flow through every wire along the fence. Then turn the charger back off.
While you’re doing so, write down the voltage, and keep it in a logbook specifically designated to track your fence’s performance and necessary maintenance. Drastic changes in voltage can indicate an issue with your electric fence, so check the voltage on a routine basis.
Charge the Fence
Once you’ve determined that the charger is functioning correctly, it’s time to charge the fence. You can do this by installing a 10 to 14 gauge jumper wire. This line will run from the charger to each wire. Recheck the lines with your voltmeter before reactivating the charger. Once you do, the fence will be fully functioning.
Check the Voltage
Now that you’ve charged the fence, you will want to use your voltmeter one more time to check the voltage coming from the charger and along the wires. At the farthest point from the charger, you will see the voltage drop off, but the drop off should be relatively minimal—no more than 2000 volts. If it’s any more than that, you likely have a short circuit or some interference. You should test the voltage of your fence regularly; once a day is ideal.
Now that you have installed the fence, it’s crucial to maintain it. In addition to daily voltage checks, make sure that you periodically clear the entire area of weeds, grass, and other obstacles that might interfere with the fence’s functionality.