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Electric fence grounding question

 
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I currently have a 4' no climb horse fence surrounding my property with an inner fenced area of about 1/2 acre right behind the house. I have had problems with a bear and a gator climbing over the inner fence so I want to put a few strands of electric wire on the outside of the inner fence. The soil is very dry and sandy and to make sure I get good contact I was thinking of attaching the ground to both the recommended three (3) ground rods, and also to the existing fence wire. I can't find any information regarding using the existing fence as a ground and I am wondering if this is acceptable. As the bottom wire of the fence is already against the ground and even slightly underground in some places I don't think it would be a problem but as I have no experience with electric fences i am looking for advice. My fear is it could be too good of a ground and the fence could become dangerous.  Thanks.
 
pollinator
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If your soil is dry and sandy and (3) 5 foot ground rods do not work, then a long length of wire resting on more dry ground is not really going to help any more.

In your case, as much as it sucks, I would just put the ground rods as close to your water source as you can and dump a five gallon bucket of water over your ground rods to allow them to ground well. It surprisingly works well and is easy to do. (With the exception of lugging water).
 
pollinator
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I think Alan may have meant connecting the physical fence wire directly to the ground on the spark box. That way an intruder which touched the existing (now grounded) fence while also in contact with the live spark wire would definitely get a shock.

We have dog, stands about 24" high on all fours, which regularly stands up and cleans off the kitchen counters. There is a metal trim strip all along the outer edge of the counters and I have been considering making that live from the spark terminal while laying an 18" wide strip of 1" wire mesh on the floor in front of the counters and connecting that to the ground terminal. The only thing preventing me is the possibility of civilian casualties if somebody is wearing conductive footwear... Or barefoot. I guess you can tell what I think of that dog's fun&games. <g>

The possibility that such a direct connection might make the jolt too high is something I hadn't considered. Have to mull that one over.


Rufus
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
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But it should not matter. If the fence has a good ground, then when an energized wire is touched, they should be getting a pretty good zap regardless. Adding more grounding above the ground does not make a lot of sense to me. Yes SOME of the wire will be touching the ground, but in a no-climb fence, not a whole lot proportionately, and even then...on the dryest, most unlikely part to provide a good ground.

Then there is the liability issue. If an electric fence is hooked up in a non-tradional way and someone does get hurt, they have stronger grounds for a lawsuit. Generally speaking, a woven wire fence has NO possibility of being energized, so it really is inviting trouble if someone touches it and does get lifted. Sadly, the person most likely to do that is a member of the family that owns the fence.

If it was me, I would increase the likelyhood of the subterrean grounding rods working, then add more strands of hot wire to increase the likelyhood of contact if it proved inadequate. Keep in mind, at this point no one knows if the electric wires will be enough...they very well may work with just three ground rods.

If that does not work, a third option would be to add livestock guard dog.




 
pollinator
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I hope the OP comes back.
Here is another option.
The main issue there is the ground is dry, right?  
I'm trying to imagine a location where bears and alligators coexist which is not wet... Florida maybe?
Anyway, electric fences function best when the ground has moisture.  They work even better when the soil is wet.
In the southwest we have we have a lot of dry earth, grounding a structure here is also problematic. What I'm most familiar with is grounding small WiFi towers. I researched the subject and then asked electricians how many ground rods are needed on a lattice tower. Conductivity in dry ground is so poor that three rods are recommended, but the more the merrier. This recommendation is for lightening protection ground systems where the rods are as deep as possible trying to hit deep below grade moisture.  

Creating a good connection between intruder beasts and the hot wire on the fence differs between heavily furred animals such as bears and a large bare skinned reptile. One has a fantastically conductive skin, lol.
The contact points creating a circuit are the creatures' feet on the ground and whatever part of the body that contacts the hot wire.
It doesn't matter if there is a ground rod five feet away from the intruder, if there is no conductivity available to make a circuit. Like a bird on a high voltage electric wire; no ground, no circuit, no shock.
I think the OP was saying this is an acre lot. Observation would be warranted to learn if the predators come from one side more than the others.
One could make an electric fence more effective by creating a waterway or swale next to the fence. Dig shallow trench along the outside of the fence, then lay a plastic sheet in the the "moat." Lay a few twenty foot lengths of standard copper ground wires down in the moat. Drive grounding rods in near one end of the ground wire. Connect the ground wires to the ground rods with proper hardware. Cover the moat  with sand. Wet it during the intruder season if there is one.
Brian  
Ground-electric-fence.jpg
[Thumbnail for Ground-electric-fence.jpg]
 
Alan Legath
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Mr. Rufus is correct, the existing wire fence would become the additional ground, and it is FL. I am about 2/10 mile from a good size lake and about 1/10 from 2 large ponds and about 1 mile from a large state forest. The property is fenced on the perimeter and the fence i want to charge is an inner fence so a person would have to cross one fence before getting to the charged fence. When the larger of the two dogs chased out the gator he climbed over the inner fence and then went under the outer fence through a swale dug by a gopher tortoise. He was just a little guy about 4', a larger one would have just killed the dog. I also planned on plenty of signs and flags to mark the hot wires. Any water you dump on the ground is gone almost immediately and I and my  neighbors on both sides have wells about 300' deep to hit water.
 
Alan Legath
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I also found out from a game warden I know that the bears they have been trapping in the Orlando area are being released in the nearby state forest.
 
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Regarding the problem of aligators, bears and undermining tortoises is to....MOVE! I would be terrified all the time. Just a big soft Limey!
 
pollinator
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I've connected my fence as ground in the circuit for years and it works just fine!
 
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Brian Rodgers is correct  in his answer.  I commercial fenced for a number of years, and this WAS the only solution that worked ALL the time.  Generally using the entire fence as a ground does not work as well for many reasons.  Mostly because it does not complete the circuit like we would like to think.

As was explained in Brian Rodgers post, it all about completing the circuit and actually as simple as that.  As care is put into this ground wire between hot wires as the hot wires themselves.   For those of you where you get DRY snow, or have near desert conditions the same rule applies...as the animals are simply not making a complete connection back to your fencer. Which brings up fencers.

Fencers- Most today are rated by Joules.   In very simple terms, a very low rated one might sting you like a buggy whip...and you can guess what bears and gators might think about buggy whips.   Large Joule fencers hit like baseball bats, between the shoulder blades.  You want to make the MOST effect to the animal the first time.  You never want them to think "that was not so bad"  rather have them REMEMBER  "wow, I am not going there again"  simple as that.

And lastly for the nay-Sayers on the fence wire ADDED GROUND wire.   If you look at every single overhead power wire, they also run a ground wire...   Why, because a ground only at the building site (i.e. buildings, footings, buried items, fence) would not be enough.  How do we know this... birds can sit on the HOT wires all day long... or the ground wires  but NEVER both. As POOF would be the result.

You won't get poof, but you do want SLAM-BAM- OH MAN  results.

Lastly, and I heard it all the time,  " I just want to get their attn. but I don't want to hurt them"   To which I guess I could say, I have been jolted many times and NOT been hurt. But I can tell you when and how these jolts took place and some of them are over 20 years ago.  I REMEMBER and you want the Critters to REMEMBER

Best of success.
 
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The key thing here is completing the circuit.  It doesn’t really matter how.  Even though I’m in soggy Indiana, our place was a former sand mine, and was exceptionally degraded.  Our “soil” consists of coarse sand and gravel, with .2% organic matter when we moved in (varies now based on what we’ve done, but we’re approaching a 1% average over our 35 acres).  We have no water erosion problems because water drains through the ground faster than it could ever run across it.  So, not so dissimilar to Florida.  No gators, though.  We’re also fencing in ducks and geese (portable fence that is moved frequently).  Their bills are non-conductive, and webbed feet make poor ground contact.  A coyote will run screaming, while a duck will lean on the fence for a nap, unless it’s very strong.

So, how do you make your fence work in dry sand?  You have to make the ground side of the circuit conductive.  On small fences (say 50x50’ square) where the critter won’t be too far from the ground rod, simply watering the ground rod works .  Ducks and geese are called water fowl (foul) for a reason, so when I dump their dirty water to replace it, I do so on the ground rod.  Fence works fine except in the worst droughts.  But that’s a daily dumping.

If the fence is going to be in place for a while, or August is approaching, I use a ground wire/hot wire alternating system.  For every hot wire in my fence, I run a ground wire 2” above it.  Now, when a critter tries the fence, he makes contact with both the hot and ground wire.  Even if the soil is completely non-conductive, the circuit is completed by the wire.

You must be sure the wires are tight and cannot contact each other or the fence, as it will just short out that way and not do anything to anyone.  Also, electric fences are a psychological barrier.  Critters learn that if they touch it, they’ll get zapped.  Important for it to ALWAYS zap effectively.  Test frequently.  I keep mine at at least 45,000 volts, because below 40k the ducks and geese don’t notice.  

But it also helps for it to be high visibility.  Braided conductive rope or conductive tape helps a lot in that regard.  Premier One also makes a version of their electronet fencing that has both hot and ground wires in it, for exactly this problem.  It’s very effective, for a high price.  I did a 30 day backpacking expedition where we were above tree line most of the time.  We kept our food safe from bears by surrounding it with a bit of that premier one netting and a charger powered by c batteries.  Saw bear prints a couple of times up to, then away from, the fence, but never lost our food...
 
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There is much good advice here, and I would like to emphasize a few things.

Alan mentioned three 5' ground rods and Brian's illustration showed three 6' rods. I would suggest using 8' rods ... I believe that's a standard length. It's amazing what an extra 2 or 3 feet can do for conductivity.

Alan you didn't specifically say what configuration you plan to use for the wiring of the fence. The illustration shows an alternating hot/ground pattern, and I think this is very important. Doing this means that the fence doesn't require the animal to have contact with the earth to get a zap. The pattern shown uses 3 wires, but I've also used 5 alternating wires. Just make sure the wire closest to the earth is hot, then alternate from there up. This system doesn't rely on the conductivity of the earth to deliver the zap.

Finally, get a fence charger with a high power rating (joules). At 1/2 acre, the length of your fence is about 1/8 mile, so even the smallest charger would work. But for only a little extra money, the stronger charger will provide a lot of extra advantage.

-Tom
 
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I live in the High Desert.  I have 3- 6 foot rods in for the solar fence charger.  The only thing that works here is pos-neg fence from Premier1 Supply.  With the serious drought here in California, it stopped working even when soaking the rods with water every day.  They claim their charge on the fence is high enough to make bears behave (I think it is 8,000 joules).  Although we do not have bears here, it has stopped even wild packs of dogs.  But still, I have a Great Pyrenees just in case.
 
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This thread brings back memories. In 1988, the first real drought I could remember in Ontario, we installed electric wiring around 5 acres, using the sheep model. It was expensive making a 5 wire high fence, but I'd run into problems with goats (and Barbados sheep) clearing the Premier 4 foot fencing. <sigh> But when we dug the reinforced corner posts down, we found no moisture even at 4 feet in our sandy soil. Whoa! It didn't derail our plans but threw a monkey wrench into them. However, we had to train our livestock before we ever turned them loose. Our goatyard was a well-fenced (corn crib heavy duty wire 54 inches high) and we ran an electric wire all along the top, as well as wove the hot wire back and forth by the gate. Enough urine and discarded water kept the yard relatively damp. It took 2 days for even the most determined goat to learn that the fence meant business with our high-powered charger. Nevertheless, those rascals always listened to the almost inaudible click on the lines that meant the power was on. At the end of a week, we turned them loose on the pasture with the new setup. We also watered the ground rods, and tied one to our dug well.  Our neighbour's dog learned the hard way that our chickens were also protected. At one point we had seriously considered burying an old junker car to serve as the ground tie, but the well worked ok. We had lightning foil coils out from the under shelter box and battery , as well as a couple places on the line. No critters ever escaped unless the battery ran down, but even then, it could still deliver a jolt. Ask me how I know. We did not electrify the 2nd strand from the soil -it was the ground. Most of our predators had to make contact at that point with both hot bottom and ground. ZAP! Any smaller ones didn't bother us. Coyotes, marauding dogs, and wolves were our main predators, but the occasional bear was sighted nearby. I don't know if the fence still stands - we moved far away years later, and we heard they used the pasture (and fence) for cows and horses. However, it was worth its weight in gold for the peace of mind it brought us during the decade we used it.
 
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Alan Legath wrote:I currently have a 4' no climb horse fence surrounding my property with an inner fenced area of about 1/2 acre right behind the house. I have had problems with a bear and a gator climbing over the inner fence so I want to put a few strands of electric wire on the outside of the inner fence. The soil is very dry and sandy and to make sure I get good contact I was thinking of attaching the ground to both the recommended three (3) ground rods, and also to the existing fence wire. I can't find any information regarding using the existing fence as a ground and I am wondering if this is acceptable. As the bottom wire of the fence is already against the ground and even slightly underground in some places I don't think it would be a problem but as I have no experience with electric fences i am looking for advice. My fear is it could be too good of a ground and the fence could become dangerous.  Thanks.

Hello, my first post here so I hope that it works fine ... I have only a short ground rod for my fencer and I always dump the old water on it to keep moisture ... That said nobody has mentioned that there may be T posts which will ground the fence anyway without doing anything extra and there may be ground on any one of those at any given time so grounding to the fence won't make any difference. I know that this works as I have lost birds that either land on the hot wire or the fence and when their tail touched the other ... ZAP ... I find them hanging there. I have goat fencing with the T posts and the standoff electric insulator with a single wire around the top ... Oh yes, the goats don't climb the fence either ...
 
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You could mix in some bentoniet where you put your earthing stakes in the ground...
 
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The problem with electrical ground in dry soil is that when things are pretty dry the ground can just bes a lousy conductor and a decent insulator.

Proceed as follows:  
1. Dig a hole in the ground (e.g. with a post hole digger) making it as deep as practical. (larger diameter may help as well but typical wooden post or end post would be about right.
2. Mix the removed soil with a generous dose of Copper Sulfate (Cu-Su-O4 ....source: farm store, as it is used in some insecticide mixes as well as a soil amendment in some cases)
3. Pack Earth mixed with Copper Sulfate back in hole.
4 wet the packed hole
5 drive ground rod(s) into filled hole(s)

a Copper Sulfate is a highly ionic mineral (bluish green especially when damp)
b Coper sulfate is highly hydrophilic and will draw water out of the air even under fairly dry condition
c Coper Sulfate being hydrophilic (water loving), it will tend to hold water in dry conditions and not let it totally evaporate.  In the presence of dampness it may migrate beyond the packed hole making it more effective.
d When Copper Sulfate has even a modicum of water it will become electroconductive
e Copper Sulfate is chemically compatible with copper or copper plated rods thereby preserving them somewhat.
f Such a coppersulfate treatment should also keep the water in the adjacent soil unless the soil is very wet (in which case you did not likely need the copper sulfate to begin with, but if there are very wet spells alternating with very dry spells retreating the ground rods might become necessary but not likely for years if you used enough the first time.
g The ground rod with the packed hole should now have an effective contact surface with the ground equal to the circumcerference times the length of the hole in the ground.
h If the hole is deep the bottom should be down into the soil where at least some water can be found by the hydrophillic nature of the copper sulfate, especially after you have added water
i Also multiple holes can be used to increase effectiveness
j adding some copper sulfate to the soil surface arouind the fence may also help (more a practical option for smaller enclosures rather than large acerages of pasture

The foregoing has been adapted from electrical code requirements for ground rods of houses and other buiildings in locations where electrical ground is sometimes lost due to dry soil conditions.
 
Scott Weinberg
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While Don G's notes on making a great moisture drawing area for your ground rods...can certainly do what it is intended for... I think that it may miss the point of super dry areas where the actual bears/ predators and so on, walk.  That is to say, if your standing on super dry ground, NO matter how good the ground system is...your circuit making ability from HOT wire to you to your feet and back to the fencer will be FAR less.  or even better, if you were on a rubber mat you could grab the hot wire, no matter how good of ground system you have.

This WAS the reason for the ground wire fairly close to the hot wire...  Not that the ground rods aren't very important as well. They are!   But it was first addressed that super dry ground has a problem.  AS does super dry snow...

best of success.
 
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I merely wanted to add, that I use a bi-polar fence from horseguardfence.com.  It has no grounding rods, and shocks anyone/anything that's willing to touch it.  I also have very dry ground, and I found a fence that didn't require grounding....and it works. ;-)
 
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If you go to premier1 or Kencove they have have great info on how to properly ground a fence and how many ground rods to use. But if it is really dry your ground rods will need some help. A positive negative system works well with separate wires alternating with positive negative. Still if you don't have a good ground, it won't work well. I have had this problem when we lived in Arkansas during drought conditions and here in Ohio. Wet rainy Ohio. We live on a hill the county actually used some of this property to harvest gravel back in WWII. The ground drains really quickly had the fence wont have a good ground at certain times of the year if it doesn't rain for 4 to 5 days. There is a simple solution, we were lucky that we put our main ground rods close to a hydrant so we can run the water on them for a while and keep them moist.  I also put ground rods in at several places in low areas where we have hot wires  where the water table is about three feet deep.  The other thing you can do if you don't have your ground rods close to the hydrant or water source is to put a five gallon bucket with a small hole in it that is filled with water over the ground rods. The bucket will slowly leak out the water and keep the ground rods moist. I used that trick when I was moving the kencove positive negative electronet  for the goats. Ground rods weren't working well because we had a dry spell, but they worked just fine with the slow leaking five gallon bucket or 5 gallon leaking jerry can over that portable ground rod. Everyone has a bucket that leaks right. I have a bunch of them I use them to keep ground rods moist or i use them to put the water bottles for the rabbits in so the water leaks out after I fill them and i don't have to lug 5 gallons of water around. Buckets with holes in them are very useful. I keep them around for all sorts of stuff. Sometimes i even drill holes in buckets.
 
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There has been some speculation on this thread that using a non-ground ground connection could get someone physically hurt well beyond the jolt an electric fence normally gives.

I can confirm from first hand experience that this is NOT the case.

I have an open wall gun rack in my home with a chain across the guns holding them in the rack (very similar to the setup in the Marshalls office in old black and white "Gunsmoke" episodes) with a sign clearly posted "Rule #1 = Don't Touch Another Man's Gun Without Permission" both above and below the gun rack.  The floor in that area of the room is a metal grate to keep from tracking dirt and mud further into my house.  "Ground wire" of the hidden electric fence charger is attached to the metal floor grate and the "fence wire" is attached to the metal of the gun rack and it's cross chain which in turn contacts the metal in the guns.  And, yes, the fence charger is turned all the way up to the as a previous poster explained it "baseball bat between the shoulder blades level".

I have had MANY people (extended relatives especially) who have come come over to my place take my signs as a challenge and the first moment my back is turned after they show up I hear a dull electric "pop" followed shortly by an impressive string of profanity.

My gun rack is mounted high enough that it takes a tall 10+ year old to reach it and have their own "educational experience" about trying to grab other peoples guns.  But no permanent physical harm has come to them either despite their smaller body mass.  If your shoes are off it seems to pack a little more punch but still the worst experience has been one of the more "snowflake" offenders whining that her arm was "numb" for a while afterwards.  I had a smart come back about if her brain had been less numb she wouldn't have a numb arm as well for awhile.

And, yes, a couple times the "numb brains" have called 911 as a result of what happened to them when in my house they tried to grab my guns on my gun rack behind my back with signs clearly displayed that such was not acceptable behavior.  The cops only came out the first time and ended up congratulating me on my setup and even escorted the offender off my property and charged her with criminal mischief.  Since then the few times the offenders or their fellow party members have called 911 after getting jolted by my electric fence charged gun rack the 911 dispachers have just chewed then out over the phone and the cops haven't had to waste their time comming physically out to my place again.

Long story short, two metal contact system works just fine.  And so long as you at least put up a sign so long as you don't have idiot snowflakes for cops in your area you shouldn't have issues there either.
 
Alan Legath
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Thanks Steve that is good information (and a great idea).
 
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Even though grounding plates have the same description as grounding rods, [poor] I have had great success with them.

Earth-Electrode Comparison Chart

http://www.esgroundingsolutions.com/different-types-of-grounding-electrodes/

They can be buried easily and dug up and moved to different locations easily. They also are easy to flood with water creating a fast and reliable ground. I was told by an electrician that grounding rods are a thing of the past for residential electrical services. All he uses are galvanized steel grounding plates.

 
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Location: Guarulhos, Brazil
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I have an eletric fence but I´m in a really wet land.
Here in Brazil, the eletric fence instruction manuals recomend that you bury the grounding rods in a hole of approximately 3 ft. and fill up with charcoal and enough water to cover them. Then cover it with dirt.
It´s supposed to last up to 3 years.



Other recommendations:

- the longer the rod, the better
- you should have other grounding rods every 1300 ft. and also the more, the better
- make "bridges" between the grounding wires along the fence every 30 ft.

Hope it helps.
ground-eletric-fence.png
[Thumbnail for ground-eletric-fence.png]
 
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I have used my chain link and woven wire fences as the ground for the top electric fence wires for many years. Pretty much a necessity (either the wire fence ground or additional ground wires) in the dry SW. I would not worry about it too much, the woven/wire fence as ground will not present any danger or shocks to anyone who touches it, unless they also are touching the live wire too.

One thing which most electric fence manufactures recommend is "training" animals to the fence. For wild critters that usually means a piece of raw bacon or peanut butter on an aluminum foil square on the hot wire. Once they try eating that, they won't be back. Not sure what you'd use as bait for a gater though.
 
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