Installing Electric Fence Wire
Wire will come packaged in various size coils or rolls depending on the type of fencing you have chosen. The height, spacing, and number of the wires necessary will vary with the animal you are containing and purpose of the fence. Wires can be run from the coil or roll using a payout spinner or, if running multiple strands, a multi-wire fencer.
To get started, walk from the far corner post to the first one, making sure your wires are in a straight line. This will be an easy job if your fence is on flat land. On rolling terrain, you may need to straighten the wire by lifting and letting it drop on its own until it falls onto the same position. Getting the first wire straight is very important. If you run into trouble with this, try driving two pegs or sighting posts into the ground where each can be seen at the same time as the corner posts. Sight over the guide posts and move them until they line up with the end posts.
The bottom wire will be run out first and tensioned slightly to act as a guide for setting line posts. Crimping sleeves and/or appropriate knots are used to secure wires to corner, end, and gate posts. As you set each line post, secure the bottom wire to each post. This will allow you to better determine the next post's position. Wire should be strung on the inside of line posts and on the outside of curves.
Electrified wire will require insulators for fastening to posts. For non-electrified wire, staple or clips will suffice. If driving staples into wood posts, do so slightly off the vertical so they straddle the wood grain. To drive a staple rotate it 25 degrees from the flat surface of the point. This spreads the legs of the staple, increasing holding power. Drive staples at upward angles for downhill grades and downward angles for uphill grades. Be sure not to drive too deeply as the wire must still be able to slide through the staples for adjusting tension.
Note: The required wire spacing will vary with type of wire used and species / class of animal(s) being contained or excluded. See the Animal Selector section for recommendations by animal.
The amount of weight needed to tension wire will depend on the type of wire chosen. High-tensile wire is typically tensioned to approximately 200-250 pounds. Be sure you do not apply too much tension to wires. Excessive tension will damage wire and may lift fence posts out of the ground in low spots.
You can use a ratchet in-line strainer or tightener to tension wires. Ratchets will also allow you to adjust wire tension for temperature changes. Use a tension indicator spring to adjust each wire to the proper tension. Next, you will tighten the rest of the wires by feel to match the tension on the wire with the spring.
For short stretches of fence line (<600 feet), the in-line strainer and tension indicator spring, known as the friction center, can be placed anywhere, but usually should be close to an end. On long, fairly straight runs, it is more ideal to place them in the middle so that tension is dispersed equally to both sides of the fence. Long runs with both straight and curving sections should have the friction center placed in the bends section rather than the straight section.
NOTE: Wear heavy gloves and eye protection when tensioning wire to protect from possible injury.
Things to Consider with Electric Fence Wire
Smaller gauge numbers on wire indicate larger diameters; conversely higher gauge numbers accompany thinner fence wire. Most electric fence wires are 14 to 17 gauges and are steel or aluminum. High-tensile is most often 12.5 gauge galvanized steel and will state that it is for high-tensile systems.
Note: Fence wire that is 12.5 gauge or larger is not considered high-tensile, unless it is stated on the packaging.
Aluminum vs. Steel
Aluminum wire carries an electric charge better then steel wire alone, but aluminum can stretch and sag over time. Sagging wire does not affect the electrical charge, but it will not look as neat as most people desire their fences to look.
Fence Chargers for Wire
Use a low impedance fence charger with poly wire and poly tape products.
Permanent Perimeter Fencing
For a permanent perimeter fence, you may want to use high-tensile or steel wire as your fence wire.
Connections are Critical
Use properly insulated wire for all connections. Proper wire connectors, clamps and splices throughout the fence will help ensure positive electrical connections. Use only high-quality insulators and gate handles, like those from Zareba® Systems. If using wood or steel fence posts, make sure the fence wires cannot touch the posts.
Poly tape is most often used for horses or in rotational grazing to help the livestock see the electrified wire. Splice poly tape with splicer buckles specially designed for easy splicing and repairing of poly tape.
Poly wire can be quite convenient. It is easy to roll up and relocate. Rolling up steel wire can be extremely difficult and the result may end up looking like a large slinky! Splice poly wire by tying a good, tight knot to maintain connections. Use a poly wire line tightener on each line and each side of the fence to maintain wire tension.
Also highly visible, electric poly rope is also used for horses and livestock. When repairing polyrope, use a splicer designed for polyrope to maintain a good electrical connection.
Important Note: Polywire, polytape and polyrope are designed for temporary, rotational grazing or in conjunction with permanent perimeter fencing. It is not intended as the sole means of animal restraint.
Fence Wire Repair and Maintenance
After building your fence, you will want to keep it properly maintained. Doing so will help ensure your fence provides you with trouble-free service and will extend the life of your fence.
The following tips should be part of your maintenance program:
- Check tension on fence wires regularly. Fences will naturally loosen over time with temperature and seasonal changes. If your fence has tighteners in place, check them at least twice a year. Other types of fencing may be tightened by resetting or placing small kinks/creases in the wire using pliers.
- Replace broken wires by splicing in a new section when necessary.
- Check anchor post assemblies for signs of weakness and replace if needed.
- If possible, keep the fence line free from weeds. Weeds touching fence wire can draw power from the fence, causing it to lose efficiency. Check for tree limbs and other debris that may be touching the fence.
- A voltage tester can help you determine that adequate voltage is on the fence line.