Copper may be the third most conductive metal, but is it the best option for your electric fence and animals?
You can use copper wire for an electric fence, but only certain parts of the fence. While copper is one of the best conductors of electricity, it also corrodes the fastest and may not be the best option for your fence. There are options for wiring that may better suit your fence such as aluminum.
How Does An Electric Fence Work?
In 1938, the first electric fence was developed in New Zealand by Bill Gallagher. Electric fences are used to keep a variety of animals within a certain parameter. Most commonly they are used by ranchers to keep livestock safe by keeping livestock in and wild animals out.
An electric fence is a fence made up of bare wires, an energizer, and grounding rods. The component called an energizer converts electricity and sends a high voltage pulse through the bare wire. When a person or animal touches the wire, the pulse flows through the animal into the ground. Once in the ground, the grounding rods pick up the pulse and carry it back to the energizer. This process creates an electric circuit that shocks the animal. Eventually, animals will associate the fence with pain and learn to not go near the fence.
Main Components Of An Electric Fence
Below I listed the main components that you will need to build an electric fence:
The battery is where the energizer will get electricity to make the pulse. It is preferable if you get at least a 12-volt battery for an electric fence.
This component is what will convert the electricity into a high voltage pulse and send out the electric pulses along your fence. It’s important to get a powerful enough energizer for the length of your fence.
- Grounding Rods
These are rods that pick up the pulse from the ground and carry it back to the energizer. They must be placed into moist soil. Also, having at least three of them is required and the more you have, the more powerful your fence will be. Not having enough rods will cause your fence to be too weak to contain animals. They should start at the beginning of the fence and should be ten feet apart and six feet deep.
- Polywire or Galvanized wire
Wires are used to carry the electric pulse across the fence. These wires are also used to carry the pulse from the energizer to the fence and from the grounding rods to the energizer.
These are needed to prevent electricity leaks which will diminish the power of the electrical fence. Options include tape, rope, or netting. You can also buy ceramic/plastic insulators or covered wire.
These are posts to hold up your fence and should not be made of metal. Wood is most commonly used with electrical fence wiring.
- Cut out switch
A cutout switch is optional, but it is useful if your energizer is a long way from your fence and you want to be able to turn your fence off at a longer distance away from the energizer.
Copper In An Electric Fence
Copper is commonly used as grounding rods and in the wire on electric fences. This is because copper has the 3rd highest conductivity of all metals. However, most experts today don’t recommend using copper in an electric fence because of how fast it corrodes.
Other Metal Options
There are three other metal options for an electric fence which include:
On its own, steel is incredibly strong. The process of galvanizing the steel is a means of making the steel more rust-resistant. The steel is coated in zinc, which offers the steel a protective cover. This type is the most recommend for electric fences. Galvanized steel can be used in the wire of the fence and for the grounding rods.
Aluminum is known for being lightweight and flexible. It is also a great conductor, however, it is not a very strong metal. Aluminum can be used for the wire of the fence and the grounding rods.
It is possible to find braided wires that contain a mix of metals and most include copper. This option works decently and features the pros and cons of all the metals included in the braid. This option can only be used for the wire of the fence.
If Your Electric Fence Isn’t Working
Maybe you have noticed that your electric fence isn’t giving off as powerful of a shock as it should be. There are a few things you can check that could be causing the problem.
You may not have enough ground rods. Remember that you need at least 3 ground rods and it could be beneficial to get more. The grounding rods are critical to creating an electrical circuit which is what causes the shock. The shorter the circuit the stronger the shock. Having more grounding rods will mean that the pulse will travel from the animal to the energizer faster.
There is a chance that the ground rods have been installed in a bad location. The ground rods must be set in moist ground. If the soil is too dry it won’t carry the electrical circuit as fast which is what creates the shock.
You may need to make sure nothing is touching the fence. Something, like a shrub, could be touching the wire and allowing electricity to leak.
So you have plenty of rods, the soil is fine and you’ve checked to make sure nothing is touching your fence and none of these seem to be the issue with loss of power. It could be that a grounding rod is loose or corroded. Check that all the rods are connected to the energizer and then you might have to dig up your rods to make sure they are not corroded.
Remember that copper corrodes the fastest so it may be worth it to use a different metal for your fence.