How to Install an Electric Fence

Three Parts:Getting StartedSetting up the FenceTesting the Line

If you need to keep livestock contained, or wild animals out of your yard, electric fencing may be a good option for you. Both humane and effective, electric fence lines can be used to enclose a pasture or garden, and are simple to install and maintain. See Step 1 for more information.

Part 1
Getting Started

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    Plan your layout. How big of an enclosure or barrier do you need to create for your purposes? Consider the number of animals you need to control and determine the spacing and number of wires you need to use to install electric fencing. If you've got a particular plot set aside for your electric enclosure, take careful measurements and decide on an appropriate height for your fence.
    • Decide on the length of each run, as well as the height and the number of wires necessary to complete the job. Price the wires per foot at your retailer to get the best deal possible.
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    Decide how many brace corners you'll need. Each corner of the electrical fence will need to be braced with a corner piece. 1 brace will suffice at ends and corners with 6 or fewer lines. 7 or more lines require a double brace when putting in fencing.
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    Get enough fence posts. You'll need a lot of posts, especially if you're going to lay a fence of substantial size. Wood posts are perfectly durable and effective, though they'll have a tendency to degrade over time, while metal posts are the easiest to set in the ground, but may end up being more expensive.[1]
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    Select a charger. To keep the electric fence juiced, you need a charger that will keep electrical current powering the fence wires. Solar charges do not need an electric outlet but they require a certain amount of sunlight, which can be an effective and energy-efficient option in your area. Electric chargers must have access to an AC outlet.
    • Don't buy chargers with foot or mile power ratings, instead select a charger that's rated by joules. A higher rating in terms of joules doesn't mean that the charge will be stronger if an animal gets jolted, it just means that the electrical current will be more consistent, making a high-joule charger the smartest purchase. If you've got a five acre fence, you'll need at least a joule at the minimum.[2]
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    Choose your wire. You can install electric fencing with electric fence tape or a variety of straight wire of various thicknesses. Tape is the easiest to see, and less dangerous than straight wire.
    • Making sure that the fencing is easy to see is one of the most important considerations. 1.5- or 2-inch poly tape, braid, rope are perfectly effective for most purposes. Coated wire is likewise easy to see and to install. Half inch tape is probably too small for a more substantial fence, especially for horses or keeping deer out.

Part 2
Setting up the Fence

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    Set up your charger. Look for a weather-resilient spot near an AC outlet to install an electric charger, or an area that receives plenty of sunlight for a solar charger.
    • To keep the charger protected, hang the charger on a post or wall of an outbuilding. Do not turn the charger on until you've installed the fence.
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    Put in grounding posts. To install electric fencing, you need at least 1 grounding post that is 6 feet (1.8 m) (182.88 cm) or longer. Place 1 grounding rod near the charger and use a post-hole digger/slammer to set the grounding post. Leave at least 2 inches (5.08 cm) of the post above the ground. When installing electric fencing, it's a good idea to set another grounding post 10 feet (304.80 cm) to 20 feet (6.1 m) (609.60 cm) from the first post.
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    Attach a grounding wire. The wire needs to extend from the ground terminal of the charger to all the grounding posts. Secure the wire to the posts with a grounding clamp.
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    Install your fence posts. Use a long string to mark a straight line for your posts and use a post-hole digger to set them securely in the ground. As a general rule of thumb, there should be as much post in the ground as there is to the top of the top fence wire. In other words, if you want a 4 foot (1.2 m) high electrical fence, your post needs to be 4 feet (1.2 m) deep in the ground, at a minimum, especially at the corners.
    • Don't use too many posts. A common mistake is to install posts too frequently, thinking this will result in a stronger and more secure fence. Unlike barbwire fences, electrical fences can get away with a spacing of about 100 feet (30.5 m), or about 50 posts per mile of electric fencing.
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    Set up braces on corners and gates. To install electric fencing properly, the posts exposed to the most stress need to be reinforced with braces, cement footings or anchors. Many cattle ranchers will use what's called a "floating diagonal” brace, which means the angle brace is a 4-in. by 10-ft. post notched a half-inch into the main corner post, with the other end set on the ground opposite the corner.[3]
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    Mount the insulators. Because you need to keep the electricity in the wires and away from the posts, insulators are important to install. It'll depend on the type of fence wire you purchase, because manufacturers will usually include and design insulators tailored to their products.
    • Most common are are insulators that allow braided or rope style fencing enough space to slide through, helping to avoid rubbing.
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    Run the wire. Use connector clamps included with your variety of fencing wire to mount the wire on the posts. Begin at the post that's the farthest away from the charger, hang as many lines of wire you need to charge the line.
    • Never just wrap the wire around the fence posts, because the cable will come loose more easily and corrosion can occur. Use the connector clamps provided by the manufacturer.

Part 3
Testing the Line

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    Turn the charger on. Use a voltmeter to test the lines to ensure the electricity flows through the entire fence. Write down the voltage and keep the number on hand to compare to daily checks of the current. Depending on the strength of your charger, it should read somewhere between 6000 and 10,000 volts, unconnected.
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    Charge the line. Connect the lines together with a 10 to 14-gauge jumper wire and attach a jumper wire from the top line of the electric fence to the charger. Recheck all the lines before you turn the charger on.
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    Recheck the voltage. After everything is attached, recheck the voltage at a point farthest away from the charger. You should notice a slight drop in voltage, but no more than 2000 volts, which might mean you've got a short-circuit or some kind of interference in the fence.
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    Schedule daily checks of the current. It's good to check regularly to prevent signal problems and to make corrections as necessary. Moisture and vegetation build-up can cause temporary leeching of the current, leading you to get lower-voltage readings. If your current is lower than usual, it might be time to do a closer inspection of your work and fix it up.


  • Hang electric fence warning signs so that people know the fence is hot.
  • Check the fence lines at least 2 times a year with a voltmeter.


  • Never use barbed wire on an electric fence.
  • Don't stand near the fence during an electrical storm.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric or solar charger
  • Wood or metal posts
  • Electric fencing wire or tape
  • Grounding post
  • Sledgehammer or post slammer
  • Grounding wire
  • Grounding clamp
  • String
  • Posthole digger
  • Corner braces
  • Electric fence insulators
  • 10 to 14-gauge jumper wire
  • Voltmeter

Article Info

Categories: Walls Fences and Decks