Test an Electric Fence With a Multimeter

How to Test an Electric Fence With a Multimeter?

People who look after farm animals and those who live in areas where wild animals could easily get to their homes know how important it is to be protected at all times. Suppose you suspect predatory animals lurking in the shadows or want to keep your pets and farm animals nearby. Putting up an electric fence is the best thing to do in that case.

Electric fences have become quite popular over the years thanks to their ability to keep animals in their place. If the animal touches the fence, it will get a light zap that deters them from the fence but does not injure them. The same goes for people - if you touch the fence, you will feel a shock go through your body.

Once you install an electric fence, you must maintain it by testing its electric current. The best way to do that would be with a multimeter. So, in today's guide, I will tell you how to test an electric fence with a multimeter and what results should appear on the multimeter's display. Let's get right into the topic and learn more!

What is an Electric Fence?

What is an Electric Fence

The electric fence is a type of fence that has electricity going through it. It looks like any other fence, with regular fence posts and numerous steel wires going in various directions. Additionally, this fence has a ground rod and a fence energizer that serves as the source of electricity.

The thing about this type of fence is that it needs proper installation to work. For example, the grounding rods should go at least eight feet into the ground for the fence to work properly. Furthermore, the energizer must have a proper power supply to power the fence.

Common Electric Fence Problems

More often than not, people find that their fences have low voltage settings, which is not enough to keep them protected or keep animals from wandering around freely. The problem could be the installation or the poor grounding if the rods are not deep enough in the soil.

Another problem that may arise is the problem with vegetation, as all things touching the fence could cause a voltage leak. The same goes for wet soil, which will likely draw high voltage away from the fence and into the ground.

I have also seen electric fences have problems due to the energizer's ability to produce enough electricity. The problem could be the energizer's power source, usually a drained battery, or a problematic connection to the electrical grid.

Finally, a short circuit could also cause a problem, so people must reinstall the wires and posts according to accurate measurements. That will help the fence start working properly and help it serve as a great physical barrier between where the animals should stay and where they should not be going.

How to Test an Electric Fence With a Multimeter? [Step-by-Step]

How to Test an Electric Fence With a Multimeter

I mentioned the multimeter a few times thus far, but you might not know what it is if you have never used it before. Essentially, this device measures any electrical part's voltage, current, or resistance. It can be analog or digital, with the digital multimeter being a better option because it gives more precise results.

I recommend digital multimeters for electric fence testing because they are incredibly convenient and efficient. You can also try using a digital voltmeter. The testing would be the same, but you might get better results on the multimeter, which is why I recommend the multimeter over the voltmeter.

Once you have a digital multimeter, you can start testing an electric fence. Let's see how you can perform the tests and what you should get as a voltage reading at the end of the testing:

Step 1 - Test Electric Fence Voltage

First, I recommend you test the electric fence voltage to ensure there is no voltage leak. If you see that the fence is not zapping the animals hard enough to keep them away, chances are there is not enough electricity in the fence in the first place.

So, you can use an electric fence tester to do the test. Some testers light up when you touch them to fence wires that have electricity going through them. Other testers show how much electricity is going through the fence wires when they come in contact with the naked steel wires.

I recommend using an electric fence tester with precise measurements, as you want to know exactly how much electricity is in the fence. If the fence is losing electricity, it would be best to try fixing the problem before continuing the testing. As mentioned before, you can look at the grounding, energizer source, and installation to try and locate the problem.

Once you ensure the electric fence has a high enough voltage, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2 - Turn Off the Electric Fence

The next thing to do would be to turn off the electric fence so that you eliminate the possibility of it zapping you while you are testing it. You can do this by disconnecting the main power supply.

As a precaution, I also recommend wearing protective gloves during the entire testing to protect your hands from direct current zaps. Once you have the gloves on, you can move on to the next step and start with the multimeter measurements.

Step 3 - Adjust the Multimeter

As I mentioned before, various types of multimeters are on the market. I recommend the digital one as it is the easiest to use. It should come with two probes - one red and one black, that you attach at various points to do precise tests.

Most multimeters have a knob that you turn and adjust depending on what you need to measure. In this case, you need to measure voltage, so you would set the multimeter to volts. You can also set it to ohms, continuity, etc.

One of the things I want to mention is that not all multimeters can measure high voltage. Some are limited to 600V and cannot measure anything above that. Such multimeters will not help you in this case, as you need to measure an electric fence with a high voltage pulse of 8000V or even more.

So, keep that in mind when deciding on the multimeter you want to use. If you do not have the proper one, consult an electrical engineer, as they are likely to have the appropriate equipment, including an advanced or standard electrician's voltmeter or multimeter.

Step 4 - Test and Check Results

After getting the suitable multimeter and setting it to voltage measurement, you can attach the probes. The red cable should go on a fence wire. The black cable should go on a piece of metal that does not have current passing through it. It can be a separate rod unconnected to the electric fence you are about to test.

After attaching the probes, you should get a voltage reading on the multimeter. The standard electric fence voltage is between 6000 and 10000V. Anything below 2000V is unacceptable and will not be enough to control your animals. Anything above 10000V will be too much and can cause injury or even death to the animal or person that comes in contact with the electric fence wires.

Step 5 - Reset and Adjust the Fence Voltage Setting

After testing the electric fence, you should know if it works properly or needs more maintenance. If the current is too high, you should reset the power supply. You can also do the same if the current measures are below 2000V. The resetting would include the following:

  • Replacing the battery or checking the power source of the energizer.
  • Checking the ground rods.
  • Checking the installation of the fence wire.

Then, you can set the voltage to your desired amount. The required voltage of the electric fence depends on the type of animals it is used to protect or protect you from. 

You need at least 7000V of current for wildlife in your electric fence. For poultry, sheep, pigs, and horses, anything between 4000V and 7000V should suffice. As for pets such as dogs and cats, your electric fence should not be set to more than 4000V. That way, you do not risk killing the animals if they come in contact with the fencing posts or wires.

Wrap Up

Thank you for reading this thorough guide on electric fences, how to test them using a multimeter, and what results to look for when you finish testing. Always use the proper multimeter when doing the tests while following the steps above to finish the job quickly and efficiently.

If you have done electric fence testing in the past, do not hesitate to share your story with me and the other readers. All tips and tricks are welcome, so use the comment section to share them. I cannot wait to read all about your electric fence testing experience.

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