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First Time Fence Installer, Losing Voltage

 
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I am new to electric fencing, and I am stuck with a problem that seems like it has an obvious answer, but the obvious solution is not helping. I have installed an American FarmWorks energizer that puts out approx. 14,000 volts through the first section of fencing (two wires, maybe 40' each from the energizer to the first gate). When I connect the TOP wire ONLY of the next section (maybe 500' from the first gate to the second gate), measuring voltage in the same place (at the end of the first section, just before the first gate), the voltage drops to 1,300, and at the end of the second section it's less than 800. The energizer is rated for 15 miles, heavy weed conditions.

I am 100% positive that the top wire is making contact with NOTHING except the plastic insulators in the second section. I have walked the perimeter a dozen times and confirmed it, and again right before typing this out. I have 3 ground stakes 48" deep and 10' apart near the energizer, and it is not near any other grounds (that I am aware of). Because of the fact that I can get a solid reading of 14k at the first gate when the second section is disconnected, I do not believe the problem to be with an insufficient ground, and because I am confident that the wire in the second section is not grounding out anywhere, I do not believe the problem to be with a ground-out. Also, the problem does not suggest poor connections, as I would expect to see a drop in voltage beyond the bad connection, and not a drop in voltage at the same place that measures well when not connected to the second section.

I am stumped and would appreciate advice from anyone with more experience. Thanks in advance.
 
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Ah, debugging electric fence!

First, assuming you've got a contact-less tester that you hold near the wire and it gives you a reading.  In this case, the grounding system is not involved at all - at this point the fence just has potential to shock, to actually shock we need a good ground system.  So we're just testing the potential here.

So  - it seems like the first section is happy - but as soon as you connect another section, the reading drops in the first section as well as the second section.  So there's SOMETHING happening in the second section OR at the interface between the two.  So things to consider are:
1) what sort of connection are you using at the gate?
2) what fencing material are you using? Wire, strand, poly?
3) is there a weak spot/break in the wire of the second section?  If so, you can probably hear the arcing as a pop.

Its frustrating - electric fence can be magical, and sometimes its problems seem magical as well!  Absent grounding problems, you're almost certainly dealing with continuity or high resistance.

Consider attaching a pic of the gate attachments...
 
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Hi Donnie, welcome to Permies!

I use electric fence and have a couple questions for you.

How many joules is the output on the energizer?

How wet or dry is the soil at the three ground rods?

What kind of soil do you have? For example, some arid and sandy Texas soils will conduct differently than a heavy Georgia clay.
 
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What Eliot Mason asked:   2) what fencing material are you using? Wire, strand, poly?

That might be where the problem is.  Very small wire or poly with broken filaments could be losing a lot.  

Also, what kind of posts are your insulators mounted on?

Good luck!
 
pollinator
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Agreed that info on your connection type and wire type and condition are important.  
But assuming those check out, I've found that most of my electric fencing woes have been solved by better grounding.  We've had to add a new "grounding port" for every new pasture we hook up to electric.  A new cluster of rods sunk into a moist area at the farthest point from the charger in that section.  The better out grounding has been, the better our charger performance becomes.  
My understanding of how chargers work is limited, but I envision them working in a circuit.  And one pen/pasture/area is one circuit.  When you tie a second pen or pasture in, it's no longer a round-about route for the electricity. I have no idea if this idea in my head is reflective of the reality of it, but it's helped me beat out some fencing kinks.

My first approach to adding a new "circuit"/pen/whatev onto the original circuit is to have a dedicated "hot", my "main hot".  Even if the first pen has 8 hot strands, and regardless of how many the second has, There is only 1 dedicated hot line feeding all other lines.  And that's the hot line that the charger hooks up to.  I use my top-most wire for this to avoid undue grounding out issues along the terrain.  So I hook my top-most wire, my main hot, to all my other circuits.  And again, I have no idea if this makes sense to an electrician, BUT my fence performance went WAY up when I switched to this method, whereas I used to tie every single hot line into one another, even right at the charger.  My charger was working sporadically when I was doing that.  

To help the heat of the pop, like I said, we install a new ground area for each new addition to the fence.  This helps a whole bunch in bringing a powerful pop to an area very far away from the charger.  I don't quite understand the physics of it (even though it's been explained to me more than once).  But it works.  What we do is run a "main ground" wire, not unlike our "main hot".  And that main ground is connected to the charger, to the charger's grounding rods, and is contiguous throughout the entire fencing structure.  So that one line runs to ALL of the pens and attaches to ALL of the grounding rod locations across many acres.  Maybe there's a better way to do that?  But that's what we do and it works pretty well.
 
Donnie Hyatt
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Wow, amazing responses! Thank you so much! There's a lot of questions to answer, and I'll do my best to provide all of the requested information.

Soil: I am in an Atlanta, Georgia suburb, and while the soil in our pasture is not really clay per se, it's still Georgia soil, so it's heavy. We've had a TON of rain in recent weeks, so the ground is quite wet....wetter than usual to be sure.

I am using an American FarmWorks 15 Mile controller (0.7 Output Joules, 0.9 Stored Joules) and 17ga steel wire. Plastic insulators attached to wood posts as pictured below. To eliminate possible issues with the buried insulated wire, I am stretching a length of wire across the gate from insulated post "T" to insulated post "T".

The tester I am using is NOT contact-less, it has a ground stake of it's own and a dual prong probe that straddles the wire (https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/american-farmworks-digital-fence-line-tester?cm_vc=-10005)

Please forgive the crude sketch, it's not anywhere near scale and it's not pretty to look at, but I thought it might help visualize the setup.

I plan to make another perimeter walk listening for "arc" or "pop", thank you for that suggestion. In the meantime, I do hope this information will solicit more suggestions and feedback.

IMG_20200321_153637.jpg
Fence Controller
Fence Controller
IMG_20200321_153829.jpg
Post & Insulator
Post & Insulator
IMG_20200321_153759.jpg
Corner Insulator
Corner Insulator
IMG_20200321_153734.jpg
Gate Connection
Gate Connection
sketch.jpg
[Thumbnail for sketch.jpg]
 
James Freyr
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Donnie Hyatt wrote:... I am stretching a length of wire across the gate ...



What kind of wire?
 
Donnie Hyatt
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James Freyr wrote:

Donnie Hyatt wrote:... I am stretching a length of wire across the gate ...



What kind of wire?



14ga insulated steel wire (the same stuff I buried under the gates)
 
James Freyr
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Donnie Hyatt wrote:
14ga insulated steel wire (the same stuff I buried under the gates)



Ok, what kind of insulation on the wire? Or maybe I should ask if this is special electric fence lead wire?

From your description above and pictures, it appears to me you've done everything right, it looks perfect. Since it works properly with a high volt shock, until you jump the gate connecting leg 2, it (to me) narrows down the problem here. That energy is being lost to ground somewhere.
 
Donnie Hyatt
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James Freyr wrote:Ok, what kind of insulation on the wire? Or maybe I should ask if this is special electric fence lead wire?



https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/product/american-farmworks-underground-cable-50-ft?cm_vc=-10005

Is it possible to have a faulty insulator? I know that sounds ridiculous, even as I type it, but I have walked that stretch many times looking for any place it might be grounding out, and it is only touching insulators. No branches, no posts...only insulators. I am completely baffled.
 
pollinator
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Try connecting those two points with just a regular fence wire not buried. If your voltage is good, than you know the problem is in the wire that’s in the ground.

 
Donnie Hyatt
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Friends -

I am happy to report that the fence is finally functional, thanks in no small part to the encouragement, reassurance and suggestions provided by you friendly folks. As I walked the perimeter listening for arcs or pops, I found a place where the wire was hooked on a piece of barbed wire, in an area that I had checked no less than a dozen times prior. Because I was on the other side of the fence with my ear closer to the energized wire, I saw it from a different angle which was apparently obscured from the other side from where I had been looking previously.

My frustration levels were through the roof, and I was ready to throw in the towel when I posted here, and your support got me to the resolution. Thank you all so very much.
 
James Freyr
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Donnie I'm so glad you figured out that fence and now have it working properly. Chasing down electrical gremlins is just about my least favorite and most frustrating thing in the world to do.

I hope you choose to stick around here on Permies, there's a lot of cool people and things going on.
 
Eliot Mason
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Donny:

That's great - so glad we were able to help!  You did a good job of explaining the problem and helping us eliminate possible sources.

And I think you've learned the first lesson of electric fencing - it can be magical but tempermental.  Once you learn the care and feeding of it it makes a lot more sense.
 
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