Electric fences have long been relied upon to protect land, livestock, and property. From farmyards and distant fields, to domestic gardens and vegetable patches, sometimes the only way to ensure that your animals, land and produce remain safe is to enclose them in an electrified fence. However, electric fences can often require many hundreds of metres of expensive wiring, in addition to a generator which constantly requires expensive fuel to operate.
Solar-powered electric fences are relatively inexpensive to buy, and easy to install. The solar panel which charges the electric fence needs only sunlight to generate electricity; a resource which is infinite and free. Here at Semprius, we break down the installation of solar-powered electric fences step-by-step.
Installing a solar electric fence can dramatically reduce your farm or home’s running costs, eliminating the need to purchase gas to fuel a generator, whilst remaining just as efficient and dependable as a fossil-fuel-powered electric fence. When looking to install a solar electric fence, there are several important considerations to make, and steps to take. Follow our comprehensive installation guide below to install your very own solar-powered electric fence.
Step 1: Choose Your Fence
This is undoubtedly the most important step in the whole process. Solar electric fences come in various lengths and strengths, and with varying intended functions. Choosing the right solar-powered electric fence for you depends entirely on how you plan to use it. If you’re looking to seal off a vegetable patch from pesky rabbits and rodents, then you will need a much shorter length of fencing, and a much lower voltage solar charger, than you would if you were protecting a large field of livestock, say, from bears, wolves, coyotes, and the like.
Solar-powered electric fences are each designed to work effectively (and humanely) against a range of animals, and across a range of distances, but it is paramount that you make sure the animals and distances you wish to cover are within the range of your chosen solar electric fence’s capabilities. Why not take a moment to read our ‘Best Solar Fence Chargers’ article, to give you an idea of where and how to look for your perfect fence.
Step 2: Lay the Boundary with Posts
Having purchased a solar-powered electric fence best-suited to your needs, it’s time to lay the boundary around which the fence shall run. If you’re keeping foxes out of a chicken coop, the the boundary is going to be the chicken run; similarly, if you’re keeping horses in a field, the boundary is the perimeter of the field. Pretty self-explanatory, but worth making sure you are aware of the boundary you need to cover, and have enough materials to do so.
The first step in laying the boundary is to plant wooden corner, or end posts at the corners, or extremes of your boundary, around which the electric wiring will curve, to line back up with the T-posts in between each corner.
Dig the holes for your end posts/corner posts with a post hole digger, digging down about 2-3 feet. Having positioned your pole in the hole, you can fill up your excavations with cement in order to secure the pole firmly. Before leaving the cement to set, be sure to use a level and tape measure to ensure that your corner posts are all level, and at the same height. Your cement should take 24-48 hours to fully set, before you can move onto the next stage of the solar-powered electric fence installation.
Next, it’s time to lay the metal or plastic T-posts. T-posts should be spaced at about 15-20 foot intervals, with shorter distances between them on steep, hilly sections, and longer distances between them (if you like) on flat, open spaces. You can use a length of string attached to one pole and pulled taught to mark the location of the next.
To install T-posts, use a T-post driver, and beat the posts into the ground, down about 2 feet (on 5.5 ft T-posts), ensuring that the posts’ brackets face away from the land you are surrounding with electric fence. It is on these brackets that you will hang your electric wiring in step 3.
Step 3: Hang the Wire
Now, it’s time to hang the actual wiring, which will be electrified by the charger you connect in the next step. To do so, unspool your wiring as you go around your corner and T-posts, hanging the wiring on the brackets of the T-posts at an equal height, the entire way around your perimeter. You may be installing a single wire, or many at different heights, depending upon your requirements, and the height(s) of the animals you seek to control or keep out.
When you come to your corner and end posts, you can affix the wire to the posts with U-pins, or simply wrap the wire around the post and use the tension of its connection to the next T-post to keep it in place. You can start and end your wiring wherever you like on the perimeter.
You can use tensioners and insulators to fix the wire firmly in place, and can install plastic safety handles at intervals should you need, which would allow you to safely disconnect the electric fence in order for you or your machinery to pass through it. Once you have covered the entire perimeter with your wires, you can move onto the next step.
Step 4: Install the Solar-Powered Charging Unit
Now that the perimeter has been marked with poles, and the wire(s) attached to those poles, making a tight boundary all the way around your chosen area, it’s time to set-up the unit which will electrify the fence: the solar electric fence charger.
Whilst some solar fence chargers differ in installation methods, typically they are designed to be mounted on T-posts. Thus, to start, we’re going to have to plant a T-post beside the fence at one point along the line. The most important decision to make here, though, is exactly where to mount the charger. The solar panel built-into your charger requires as much exposure to sunlight as possible in order to keep your electric fence powered to the correct voltage at all times. In order to ensure that it receives the necessary sunlight, you should choose a mounting position for it with good, solid southern exposure, and no obstacles around which might cast shadows on the panel during the day.
Once you’ve decided on the spot, plant a T-post into the ground just like you did when setting up the poles along the boundary. Make sure the T-post is close to the electric fence. Next, mount the solar charging unit on top of the T-post, and swivel it to face south (provided you’re in the northern hemisphere, thus maximising its potential for sunlight exposure).
Remember: Keep the charger turned OFF at all times during installation, especially during the grounding process.
Step 5: Ground the Charger
Next, it’s time to ground the charger. To do this, you’ll need to sink earthing poles into the ground nearby to the T-post you’ve just planted. The type, number, and depth of the poles you’ll require will depend on the strength of your specific solar electric fence charger, so check the manual which came with it to determine how best to ground your charger. We’ll connect up the correct clamps to the grounding rod(s) in a moment.
Lastly, it’s time to connect the positive and negative clips/clamps of the charger. Take the positive lead(s) and connect this to your electric fence wire(s), then take the negative lead(s) and connect this to the grounding rod(s), remembering to keep the device switched OFF throughout this process.
If you are using a battery to store and transmit the solar-generated electricity, connect the leads to the battery first, and then to the electric fence.
Step 6: Complete the Initial Charge
Your new solar-charged electric fence is going to require an initial charging period of at least 24 hours before it’s ready to use, though you could leave it for 48 hours if you have the time. (Keep the device OFF, or in charging mode throughout, and if unsure about any part of the charging process, please refer to the device’s specific manual.)
Step 7 (Final Step): Conduct Tests
Once your solar charger has had time to charge, examine the charge status of your battery or device, in order to ensure that your set-up is running as planned. Next, turn the device ON (carefully, taking all appropriate safety precautions).
Now, it’s time to test the voltage you’re receiving from your solar electric fence charging unit. To do so, use an electric fence tester/voltage tester on the electric fence. It’s worth testing the voltage of your solar electric fence at regular intervals, and adjusting it accordingly (note that disruption along the fence from weeds and debris may cause fluctuations in voltage).
Once happy with output voltage and battery capacity/charge status, you can leave the solar charger ON and call the job a good one! You have successfully installed your own solar-powered electric fence, which should now work continuously, requiring little to no maintenance, except regular testing of the line, weed maintenance, and the occasional cleaning of the solar panel (for which the equipment should be turned OFF).
Benefits of a Solar-Powered Electric Fence
We’ve discussed in great detail the installation of a solar-powered electric fence, but what if you remain unconvinced that one will actually meet your needs? Let’s take a quick look at the main advantages to solar-powered electric fences, which we feel confident will allay your fears, and instil you with confidence as to solar power’s capabilities.
Humane livestock protection and pest prevention
Obvious, right? An electric fence is built to keep your livestock, pets, and animals from escaping their assigned fields and living areas, and keep pests out; so, obviously a solar electric fence would too? Well, yes! It is a common misconception, however, that a solar-powered electric fence would not be as good at the job as a generator-powered, or mains-powered electric fence would be. We’re here to correct that misconception!
Not only is solar power up to the task (provided it is installed correctly and provided enough sunlight), it is more humane than the power sources used in traditional electric fencing. Solar electric fences are designed to deliver a consistent, reliable voltage specifically designed to humanely ward-off intruding animals, and safely contain your livestock. On the other hand, ‘traditional’ electric fences can often kill animals by delivering far too high a voltage.
Solar power products have never been as affordable and accessible as they are today. There are simply hundreds of solar electric fence chargers and kits on the market, each tailored to a different user, and all readily available. For a list of our favorite market picks, see this article here.
Free, green, renewable energy for life!
What could possibly be more attractive than free electricity? Solar panel products generate electricity simply through their exposure to sunlight, which is not only incredibly beneficial to our planet (reducing our dependency on destructive fossil fuels), but also saves you an absolute fortune in utility bills and money previously spent on fuel.
We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ll mention it again: solar panel products require seriously little maintenance. Just keep the panel clean, and check the voltage it’s putting out from time to time, and your solar electric fence can run for years and years. Some of these solar panel electric fence chargers can actually work for two whole weeks on a single full-charge, without any additional sunlight, so even low light or poor weather conditions aren’t necessarily enough to stop a solar electric fence.
Many of today’s top electric fence solar chargers come with built-in ‘impedance technology’, which, in short, is designed to recognise the impedance of weed growth and debris touching the electric wire along your fence, and to ignore this (rather than electrifying the line and continually wasting electricity). Moreover, weeds and brush won’t affect the charger’s ability to send a shock along the wire when an animal actually does come in contact with the fence.
Solar power has never been more affordable, accessible and, frankly, necessary. Our world is in the midst of a climate crisis, and the more we can do to help it out, the better our future and our children’s future will be. Solar electric fence chargers are a reliable, safe, and powerful off-grid alternative to mains-powered or generator-fuelled electric fencing, and deliver humane protection to livestock, whilst preventing pests and predators from entering your land. Installation of solar electric fences is easy and can be completed alone, by even an unskilled individual. Just remember to follow appropriate safety precautions, and follow our instructions in this guide carefully. If you come up against any problems, consult your solar charger’s manual, or a professional electrician.
Yes, you can install a solar electric fence on your own, without needing any help from a professional or even another person. To learn how to do so safely, efficiently, and confidently, simply follow the step-by-step guide we’ve laid out for you above.
Yes, solar power is strong enough to reliably charger an electric fence. In fact, solar power is more efficient at generating electricity than a traditional gas generator, and can produce all the power you need to keep your animals in, or certain animals out. Just be sure to buy a charger appropriate to your needs, and you won’t be disappointed.
Different solar electric fence chargers will require different amounts or lengths of grounding rod, depending on their voltages (some may not even require grounding rods, but may only require you to ground them to an existing nearby post). Read the manual which came with your solar fence charger carefully to determine how to properly ground it.
The answer to this all depends on your setup. If you are connecting your solar charger directly to your electric fence, then it will only be able to electrify the fence when it is exposed to sunlight (i.e. during daylight hours). We would, therefore, recommend that you first connect the solar charger to a high-capacity battery, and then to your fence. This way, surplus energy generated by the electric fence solar charger can be stored in the battery for usage during low light hours and overnight, keeping your solar-powered electric fence up and running no matter the weather, or the time of day.
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