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How to Test an Electric Fence with a Multimeter

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While you can use voltmeters and voltage testers to spot faults on an electric fence, a multimeter stands as one of the best tools for the task. It gives the accurate values needed to spot issues and make appropriate repair decisions.

Then again, using a multimeter can be challenging, especially if it is your first time using it. You will need to identify the components that need to be tested, determine if the multimeter is appropriate for the task, set it correctly, and then proceed to find issues in your electric fence.
If you do not understand how to go through the troubleshooting process, do not fret. This post has all the information needed to help you use a multimeter to spot and fix issues in that faulty electric fence.

How Does an Electric Fence Work?

Successful troubleshooting of an electric fence depends on how well you understand the function of each part. For that reason, before we proceed to troubleshoot tips, it matters to understand the components that make your fence and their specific role.

A typical electric fence comprises an energizer, insulators, ground stakes, posts, ground wire, and the conductor. The energizer converts electricity to a high-voltage pulse needed to shock animals or people.

The insulators anchor the fence wire to the post, and the conductor delivers the shock required to deter animals and people from crossing the fence. The earth stakes complete the circuit to help shock animals or people crossing the fence.

When finding issues in your electric fence, you will have to focus on the energizer, conductor, and ground stakes. This is because issues with voltage leaks, low voltage, and lack of shock are likely to happen on these parts.

Etekcity Digital Multimeter, MSR-R500 Electronic Amp

A Step by Step Guide to Troubleshooting an Electric Fence with a Multimeter

Get a Suitable Multimeter

Not all multimeters are designed to handle the 2000 to 10000 volts typical in an electric fence. The ordinary multimeters made for household use will blow up if subjected to high voltages.

Before testing that electric fence, make sure your multimeter is built to handle high voltages. You should use an industrial multimeter designed to handle high electric transients. As well, the multimeter should have higher accuracy and resolution.

Test the Conductor for Voltage

With the suitable multimeter, flip the selection knob to the voltage setting often marked as V, and choose the maximum voltage as your corresponding range. Choosing the highest corresponding range will minimize the chances of blowing up the multimeter when in use.

Move to the furthest point of the fence, far away from the fence’s transmitter. Clip the black probe onto the fence’s earth stake and the red rod onto the electric fence’s charged wire (the conductor). If the earth stake is not accessible, stick the black testing probe into the ground.

Compare the voltage displayed on your multimeter with your electric fence’s expected voltage, which should be between 2000 to 10000 volts. A lower or higher voltage indicates an issue in the fence’s charger, earth stakes, or insulator.

Test the conductor after every 20-30 Meters of the Fence

Testing for voltage at one point might not be sufficient to identify anomalies. For that reason, you will want to run the voltage test on several parts of your fence. Experts recommend that you run the repeat tests every 20-30 meters of the fence.

With the multiple tests, you will be in a position to know if the conductor has a constant voltage. The tests done on multiple sites will also help you identify the exact spot where the conductor has an issue.

To execute this test, turn the multimeter to the voltage setting, and select the maximum voltage as the corresponding range. Plug the black probe into the earth stake and the red probe into the conductor. Compare the values on your multimeter to the expected voltage to spot discrepancies.

Test the Energizer

Turn off power to the energizer, and disconnect the earth and live wires from the energizer. For most units, the earth is the green wire connected from the energizer to the ground, whereas the live wire is coded as red.

After disconnecting the wires, switch on the power to your energizer. With your multimeter set to test voltage, place the black probe on the negative terminal of the energizer, and the red probe on the positive terminal.

Compare the value on the multimeter to the expected voltage, which should range between 5000 to 8000 volts. If your multimeter reads zero voltage, there could be a power outage from the main power line, its fuse could be blown, or the energizer is entirely faulty.

If the multimeter indicates a low voltage, the energizer’s terminals could be rusty, or the energizer is set to a low voltage setting.

Test the Fence's Ground Wire and Earth Stakes

To test if the fence earthing is working efficiently, select the earthing stake far away from the energizer. Connect the neutral probe to the stake and the red probe to the ground wire with your multimeter set to the voltage setting.

If your fence is perfectly earthed, the multimeter should read zero. However, any reading below 200 volts will still be acceptable. If the multimeter reads anything above 200 volts, you will need to fix the fence since the ground wire is leaking too much voltage.

Conclusion

Testing an electrical fence with a multimeter is easy as long as you have the right tips. You need to test the energizer to see if it gets enough power from the primary power source and releases it to the fence. Then, you will need to test if the conductor and energizer are working perfectly and check if the ground wire is leaking too much voltage. Since not every multimeter can handle an electric fence’s high voltage, make sure you use an industrial-grade unit that will not blow up. We hope you got all the information needed to test your fence like an expert.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the actual voltage of an electric fence?

The voltage of an electric fence ranges from 2000 to 10000 volts. The voltage depends on the shock needed to deter animals or people from crossing the fence. For instance, high-voltage fences are intended to restrict large animals and protect high-security areas like military camps and jails.

How does an electric fence deter?

An electric fence’s transmitter converts electricity into a high voltage pulse that shocks animals or persons who contact the fence. The unpleasant shock trains animals to stay away from the fence. The shock from an electric fence is short-lived and non-lethal. It will not kill people and animals that come into contact.

What is the best multimeter for testing an electric fence?

Given an electric fence’s high operating voltage, a multimeter designed to handle such high voltages would be ideal for troubleshooting. The multimeter should have a higher safety rating and high rapture fuse to shield internal components from high voltage. Cheaper units, especially those designed for light duties, will blow up when exposed to the fence’s typical voltage ranges from 2000 to 10000.

How can you tell an electric fence is not functioning well?

Several telltale signs of an electric fence are not working well. The energizer will have a low voltage, an issue associated with a worn-out battery, and corroded terminals. Besides low voltage, the energizer can have little or no power passing through it. The issue results from a blown fuse or an outage in the mainline.

Besides a faulty energizer, you can tell that a fence is not working well if the conductor releases no or low voltage. The issue results from broken wires, poor grounding, faulty insulator, and faulty energizer.

How often should you test an electric fence?

There is no exact number of times to test an electric fence. You can do it several times a month. Nonetheless, experts claim that testing it once a month is enough to help you spot and fix issues early.

Toby Ashby

I am an automotive specialist with over 20 years of experience in and around electronics