Grounding and testing an electric fence

Set up a proper ground system for your electric fence to work

Brad Nieper avatar
Written by Brad Nieper
Updated over a week ago

Always follow safety guidelines as stated in your Patriot energizer user guide.

You need 3' (temporary electric fences) or 5-6' (permanent electric fences) solid-core galvanised ground rods to ensure that the energy will be carried through the ground and back to the energizer (charger) when an animal touches the electric fence. An electric fence will not work without a ground system.

What factors affect a ground system?

  • Vegetation

  • Soil type

  • Metal type


Ensure there is no vegetation touching the live fence wires as it will draw energy into the ground, causing the fence to 'short' and voltage to drop. Check the fence regularly to make sure long grass and branches are not touching the live wires.

Soil type

Dry, sandy and non-conductive soil types can limit current flow to the ground rods. If you have soil that is not well suited to grounding, use additional ground rods, choose a better location for the grounding system, or use an alternative method of grounding such as a ground wire return.

Depending on your soil type you may have an all-live fence system or a ground wire return fence system.

All-live fence

An All-live fence system is suitable for most soil types. When an animal is standing on the soil and touches the fence, the circuit will be completed and the animal will get a short, sharp shock.

Ground wire return fence

For dry, sandy or frozen ground conditions where soil conductivity is low, a ground wire return fence system is suitable. When an animal touches a live and a ground wire at the same time, the circuit is completed and the animal will get a short, sharp shock.

Metal type

Using a mixture of metals in the ground system will lead to corrosion. This will cause problems with your grounding system. For example, never use copper wire with galvanized ground rods.

Setting up a ground system

Ground rods

For long-term fences, use 5-6' length rods spaced at least 10' apart from each other. For temporary fences use shorter ground rods (3' in length). Ensure that the ground rods are deep in the soil with at least 4" protruding from the soil.

Watch the video below to learn how to get your ground system live.

Testing the ground system

  1. Turn off the energizer.

  2. At least 330' away from the energizer, short circuit the fence by laying several steel rods (or lengths of pipe) against the fence. In dry or sandy soils, drive the rods up to 12" into the soil.

  3. Turn on the energizer

  4. Use a digital voltmeter to measure the fence voltage. It should read 2 kV or less.

  5. To check the ground system, attach the voltmeter's clip to the last ground rod and insert the ground probe into the soil at the full extent of the lead. The voltmeter reading should be no more than 0.3 kV. If the reading is higher than this, the ground system is insufficient.

You can check that your grounding system is installed correctly:

  • All wires are joined securely.

  • Connections to ground rods are secure.

  • Ground rods are at least 5-6' long and at least 10' apart.

  • There are a sufficient number of ground rods.

  • All parts of the ground system are made of the same metal.

  • Ground rods are buried deeply in the soil.

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