Power an Electric Fence with Solar

Easy to install and shockingly versatile, a solar electric fence will give you the power to keep your animals in the pasture, even if you’re off the grid.

  • This inquisitive Scottish Highland steer is moments away from a shocking experience as he inspects the wire of an electric fence.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Trombax.
  • Poorly spaced wires enable this ewe to extend her head under an energized fence.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/nspooner.
  • This close-up view of a section of flat tape electric fencing reveals the conductive wires woven within the tape.
    Photo courtesy Premier 1 Supplies.
  • Conductive wires woven into a flat tape makes for a fence that’s much more visible to livestock (and people) than bare wires.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/vmorfield.
  • This electrified netting not only keeps the sheep in, it also keeps would-be predators out.
    Photo courtesy Premier 1 Supplies.
  • Most self-contained solar energizers are designed to be placed on the ground in a spot that receives plenty of sun.
    Photo courtesy Premier 1 Supplies.
  • An example of a pole-mounted energizer and solar panel.
    Photo by Jeffrey R. Yago.
  • The above diagram illustrates the electrical connections for a fence energizer powered by an external battery (left), and the pathway of electrical current when an animal completes the circuit (right).
    Illustration by Matthew T. Stallbaumer and Jeffrey R. Yago.
  • A high-voltage fence tester is useful for checking the output of an electric fence.
    Photo courtesy Premier 1 Supplies.

Electric fencing can be installed with basic hand tools and no prior fencing experience. And by adding a solar-powered fence energizer, you’ll make installation even simpler by eliminating the need for any grid connection. Not only that, but using a fence energizer powered by a solar-charged battery will also offer greater flexibility in placement on your property, allowing you to put the unit where needed without any consideration for a grid connection. You won’t have to worry about wayward animals if the utility grid goes down. You can even easily add it to, and use it in conjunction with, existing wood or metal fencing. All in all, solar-powered fencing may provide an attractive solution when compared with trying to install a fence energizer that runs on 120-volt alternating current (AC), especially for remote or very large fencing systems that suffer from a lack of utility outlets near the fence line.

The Basics

Before getting too much into the advantages of solar over conventional grid electricity, let’s review some electric fencing basics. The fencing type you choose, its height, strength, materials, and wire spacing will all depend entirely on what you’re trying to keep in or out.

A properly installed electric fence won’t cause serious harm to animals (or people!) that happen to come in contact with the energized wires. While most electric fencing consists of only a few bare wires strung between some lightweight insulators, it’s an animal’s learned fear of the fence — not the strength of the wire — that keeps the animal contained. Most animals that make initial contact with an electric fence will immediately back up. However, if the energized wires are spaced too far apart, an animal may be able to extend its head through to the other side before touching an energized wire. Feeling the sting further back on its neck, the startled animal may bolt straight through instead of backing up, no doubt dragging your new fence behind it! For this reason, you must use the correct wire spacing and fence design for the animals you’re trying to contain.

Some electric fencing systems use wires that are woven into a brightly colored flat tape or rope. This type of electric fencing material makes it easier for animals to recognize what happens when they get too near and thus remember to steer clear. Larger animals, such as horses and cattle, may be more manageable when using wider electric fencing tape because it’s easier for them to see than bare wire.

One of the newest forms of electric fencing is electrified netting. Woven into this non-metallic netting are tiny electrically interconnected metal strands. This fencing material works to contain smaller animals — goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and even cats and dogs — better than wider-spaced electric fence wire.

Solar Fence Energizers

Electric fencing requires an energizer to deliver pulsed charges to the conductor, usually at or less than one high-voltage pulse per second. Comparing energizers can be confusing because few rating standards are used in their marketing. Some units list their output in volts, while others use joules (the international unit of energy measurement). Some brands advertise how many acres of fencing their unit can energize, while others publicize their power output in miles of fencing.

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