8 Causes and Fixes for a Weak Electric Fence

A weak electric fence is not only frustrating but can put your livestock in danger. Keep your livestock protected by locating and fixing the cause of weak voltage in your electric fence.

There are plenty of reasons your electric fence might be losing power, most of them completely out of your control. Although you may not be at fault for a weak electric fence, simple fixes can solve most issues.

Grab your voltmeter and get ready to learn 8 reasons why your electric fence is weak.

1. Poor Conductivity in Soil

In order for electricity to travel through the soil, there needs to be some moisture. Areas with soft, damp soil are going to be very conductive, and electric fences will be more powerful.

However, if the soil around your fence is dry or sandy, electricity will not travel as far and will deliver a weaker shock.

The Fix:

Since you can’t change the ground underneath you, you will instead have to build a fence slightly different than the normal electric fence.

Rather than relying on a grounding rod to complete the circuit, shocking an escaping animal, try using a ground wire instead. This wire is strung along the same length as the electric fence. Connect the ground wire to the power bank.

When an animal touches both the ground wire and the electric fence, they will receive a shock, no soil or grounding rods required!

2. Dry Weather

Just because your soil is moist most of the year, does not mean that it is conductive the entire year.

Especially in the summer season, the soil may become dry and less conductive.

The Fix:

If adding a ground wire– as described above– doesn’t seem like the right step for your electric fence you can always add more grounding rods.

As long as the grounding rods are spaced at least 10 feet apart you can add as many as you would like. The more grounding rods around your electric fence the stronger the shock will be no matter where your animal is along the fence.

Connect each of your grounding rods with insulated wire and then back to the power bank.

You can purchase grounding rods and insulated wires at your local farm and ranch supply or hardware store.

3. Not Enough Power

One thing often overlooked when building an electric fence is selecting the proper power supply. There are many different electric fence systems out there, each designed to carry a certain amount of charge, with a certain type of wire, over a certain distance.

Varying from the machine’s design will likely lead to a weaker output of electricity.

The Fix:

Not sure what type of power bank to use for your fencing? First, you need to determine how much volage the fence needs to carry.

This will depend on what type of livestock you are going to be keeping inside of it. Typically, the larger the animal, the higher the voltage needed. See the voltage ranges to use for each kind of animal in the table below.

Llamas4000 – 5000 VLlamas have a very thick coat that is not conducive and therefore you’ll generally need higher voltage to keep them contained.
Deer4000 – 5000 VDeer and elk can jump incredibly high so a tall electric fence is a necessity here. Also, make sure there are no large gaps they can fit through.
Sheep4000 – 5000 VJust like llamas, sheep have thick coats which means a higher voltage is necessary to contain them.
Goats3000 – 5000 VGoats are very smart and will find weaknesses in your fence so make sure your fence is complete. Also, some breeds have a thicker coat than others, which is why there is a broad range here (thicker coat = more voltage necessary).
Horses2000 – 3000 VHorses are incredibly intelligent and learn very quickly what an electric fence is. This makes them easier to contain.
Bulls2000 – 3000 VThese are large animals that often need higher voltage levels to keep contained.
Dairy Cattle2000 VFemale cows can usually be contained with a lower voltage than their male counterparts especially if given plenty of room.
Pigs2000 VPigs need lower voltage due to a lack of fur. They also dig a lot so make sure the fence is positioned close to ground level.
Pets700 – 1000 VDepending on the pet, you may need a tall fence or one low to the ground. Also you can adjust the voltage based on the size of the pet and if they have any insulating fur.
The information above is for informational purposes only and is meant to give you a general guideline, not exact numbers. Consult with a professional in your area before acting on the information above.

When choosing how you are going to power your electric fence, only choose a system and type of wire designed to deliver the proper amount of voltage.

4. Debris or Vegetation

If your electric fence is low to the ground or runs under trees or bushes, debris or vegetation may be causing it to short out or weakening its power supply.

The Fix

Frequently walk the perimeter of your electric fence checking for any loose debris or vegetation touching the electric fence.

Tall grass that touches a low strung fence will need to be trimmed frequently or the electric fencing raised.

Although it may seem silly, a single blade of grass or piece of a branch could be weakening your electric fence and simple maintenance such as walking the perimeter frequently can keep the fence in proper working condition.

5. Incorrect Wire Size/Type

There are many different types of fencing wires to choose from. With so many options, selecting the proper one can become quite difficult.

New to the world of fencing materials? Just a little confused between the different types and their proper uses? Watch this quick video to learn everything you need to know about electric fencing wires and their uses!

As you learned in the video above, electric fencing–especially metal wires– come in different sizes. These sizes are referred to as gauges.

The Fix:

If you want your electric fence to pack a bit more punch, then a larger gauge should be used. The larger the guage, the stronger the voltage. If you are using too small a gauge, the shock your fence delivers could be much smaller than desired.

Additionally, if your electric fence follows a long perimeter, poly fencing may not be the best choice. Although it is light and easy to install, it is not as strong a conductor over long distances.

To get more power over a further distance, use a steel wire with a higher gauge.

6. Weak Insulators

Plastic insulators come in a menagerie of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and ratings.

Although this simple piece of plastic seems like an unimportant part of the fence, they too need to be checked for maintenance issues and replaced if need be.

The Fix:

When purchasing insulators for your fence, do not assume that all insulators are created equal. Verify that the insulators you chose are UV-rated.

These pieces of plastic will spend all their time in the sun and exposed to the elements; therefore, they need to be built strong enough to endure them. UV-rated insulators will last longer in direct sunlight, therefore, protecting your fence from breaking down or grounding out on the fence post.

7. Inconsistent Wiring

As mentioned above, selecting the proper wiring for your electric fence is a difficult, but important task.

Along with choosing the right type and size of the wire, you can only use one type of wire for the fence. If you have half a mile of steel and half a mile of copper wire to make a one-mile-long electric fence, you can not mix the two wire types.

Different types of metal are more conductive than others. When an electric charge is sent through two different types of metal, something called “electrolysis” takes place.

Electrolysis occurs at the point of connection between two different metals and leads to corrosion. A corroded connection will weaken the strength of the current carried throughout the entire fence.

The Fix:

To keep your electric fence from becoming weaker, keep your wiring consistent. It’s as simple as that.

8. Not Enough Sunlight

A solar-powered electric fence is the most economic method for building an electric fence. Running a fence off of generators, batteries, or from the same system as your house will result in an expensive power bill.

However, when you use solar panels to power your electric fence all your energy comes free to you! Your wallet and the environment will thank you for choosing a solar-powered electric fence system.

Although solar panels are economically and environmentally friendly power sources, they do come with some of their own caveats.

If your electric fence isn’t putting off enough power, you may need to check that your solar panels are getting enough sunshine.

The Fix:

It goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyways, you shouldn’t place your solar panels under trees, near bushes, or anywhere that is primarily shaded during the day. Place your system where it can receive light from sun up until sun down.

If your fence is already out in the open and is still not putting off enough power, there may be an issue with the angle the panel is placed at.

Different angles at different times of the year will catch more sunlight. The angle you should set your panels to is also dependent on where you are located on earth.

Find the perfect angles for your time of year from the Solar Electricity Handbook here! Just pick in the location closest to you and get the perfect degree of tilt.

Want to learn more about solar panels and getting the proper angle with the perfect amount of tilt? Learn everything you need to know about optimizing your use of solar panels from Unbound Solar here!

One last solar panel tip is to check on your panels daily, especially in the winter. Dust, debris, and snow will accumulate on your solar panels blocking them from absorbing sunlight.

Clean off your solar panels as often as needed to maintain a strong charge for your electric fence.

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

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