Friday, September 24, 2010

(Lack of) Update

Somebody asked when I'm going to bring Dixie home. The answer is "as soon as I get the damn fence hot." All I have done for the last week has been work and fighting with the fence. My husband has helped and handled all the other little disasters. I'm not out of ideas, but I'm getting pretty discouraged.

Today after work I'll dash to Green's feed and get two more grounding rods and more polywire and more insulators. I'll try adding ground rods, then if that doesn't work (and why should it, nothing else has, grumble grumble) I'll add three more strands as ground strands. At that point nothing, except maybe a hen, can climb through without touching at least two strands and getting jolted. I think.

Tech details: I'm getting about 4k volts near the ground rod but nothing 50' away.

Please pretend the following sections are neatly bullet point-ed.

Obstacles overcome: 1) only one outlet in the barrage works. 2) the fence is a LINE, not a circuit - the trench I dug to go under the gate was totally unnecessary. 3) there is no substitute for electric fence wire and you might as well just wait til it comes in 4) if you mail order some parts, open the damn box, preferably before the return period ends, and make sure you didn't order fiberglass rod insulators instead of t-post insulators. This is a good reason to shop locally, btw.

Questions: 1) I want to wire in a switch so I can switch off the bottom wire when it snows. Do I put the bottom wire line on the top of the switch and the hot line on the same-side bottom of the switch? 2) I have been pigtailing the wires together, screwing on a wire nut, and wrapping the whole thing in electrical tape. Is that right?

I am pretty grumpy but not appalled or ready to give up. I spent so many years doing construction and remodeling, and I can tell you that this really does happen to everyone, no matter how experienced they are. I just think I'm due some easy success for a change!

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  1. wow this is complicated. i have no idea about your bottom wire issue - we only have two strands so snow will not touch, but any goat or pony can walk under without touching: (

    grounding in nevada must be a pain. i have always lived in what aarene calls swamplands (but i'm sure the people in new orleans would have something to say to aarene *lol*). so my fence company said 3 grouding rods, each a meter long, each 2 meters apart. that was overkill so i did 2, 2 meters apart. it's wet here all year.

    i'm confused about my fence charger because it came with so little information. (this is why i was a tech writer in my old life - to improve the sad state of help manuals.) i am still confused about how insensitive it is to brush touching it.

    you mentioned that it's a line, not a circuit. aren't most electric fences a line? ours is. are they actually designed to be closed in a loop? i have no idea.

    also, where i tied the wire in knots, it sparks. that's not good.

    our charger has two settings and recently i turned it up to high (when the pony was here) and tested my fence all around and got 10,000 volts. that might kill someone, right? so i dropped it down again. it reads 6k.

    but now i'm talkin' theoretical. baasha doesn't need the fence turned on.

    but, the shepherd is coming soon with his flock and i hate it when they rub our tposts. i may just turn it on to deter the sheep - if they're tall enough to get zapped by it....

    sorry to ask more questions than offer help.

    we're new too.


  2. lytha asked me to read about your problem.
    I'm not a horse person nor am I an horse fence expert.

    1) About your switch question: it depends on the switch.
    Probably the easiest solution would be: connect your top strings to the charger and have a connection to the lower string that you just disconnect in case of snow.
    If the switch has one input and two outputs that the switch is switching the input signal between, it sounds like you have to connect both strands to one output and just the top one(s) to the other output. Then either both strands or just the top strand is hot.
    If you have a different switch, I don't know.

    2) We have wire connectors that work like your description but we don't have to pigtail.
    The sparking problem that lytha mentioned comes from the knotting: the fence is not always charged, but in "shots" that go through the wire with much power. At those knot places it might be a shorter circuit to jump from one loop of the knot to a "later" one instead of staying within the suggested little wire (especially when the rope is wet). At those spots your circuit might lose energy (meaning efficency).

    As far as I understood the concept of those fences you can't have a circuit for some reasons:
    1) a closed electric circuit always needs a device where the electric energy goes (like a bulb is turning the energy into light and heat). If there is just a long wire that wire would get warm.
    2) the electricity takes the way of the smallest resistancy. Your horse might have a higher electric resistancy than the wire that goes back to your charger.
    3) if your horse touches the fence: that's the moment when you want the circuit to be closed: the electricity goes through the fence, through the horse (turning the electric energy into pain), through the legs into the ground. And here are the grounding bars important: If you don't have them, the circuit isn't closed, because the electricity doesn't go back to the charger. That description might not be totally accurate, but it may be helpful (I think the grounding bars are needed, so the charger can give the electrons enough energy compared to the electric potential of the ground, or else the electrons don't have enough energy to go the way through your horse...)

    You write that you were getting about 4k volts near the ground rod - I think you shouldn't be able to measure anything there, because the ground rod is just giving ground potential to your charger. Like in a normal electrical outlet in the house (you have ground potential on one of the pins and 110 volts on the other - if you measure the ground potential you measure NIL).
    Did you identify the two right outlets of the charger correctly? Sounds like you got them mixed up.

    As I said I'm not a fence expert and we had a horseman here to connect ours. I try to share my thoughts based on being a physics teacher that is not specialized in horse fence supply technology...

  3. There are some good points.
    I use rigid polyposts, stuck into the ground. They are none conductive. The wire goes through a notch on each post, at three heights. Or as required. The wire itself is a continuous length. it doesnt touch any where except the posts. The supply is attached to the wire, when needed by a single "crocodile" clip, which is attached by wire to the charger. Hence an alround electric fence. If there was an issue with the bottom section of wire touching grass or snow, then it should be run as a seperate wire, that can be made live or not. I suppose though over the pond your systems may be different. We can run the hot wire from a mains supply, or from truck battery.

  4. You can probably simply connect your top strand to your bottom strand with a length of electric wire and therefore electrify the bottom strand. Then when you want the bottom off, just turn off the charger and remove the connecting wire, turn the fence back on.

    I don't know how dry your soil is, but assuming pretty dry? Dump some 5 gallon buckets of water around your grounding rods. We've been in a drought so I did that here a few weeks ago and it helped.

    We use a solar charger here, and have really liked it. ~E.G.

  5. Boy this makes me realize how much I DON'T know about wiring a fence. I feel for you Funder!! Have a beer and celebrate for getting this far, and knowing the end is soon!

  6. Lytha - please tell Deine Mann TYVM for the helpful comment! I read it at work that day and thought about it all day, then went home and finished mucking with the fence (but not blogging it.)

    See, everything I've ever read or learned about Electricity for Beginners is that You Have to Have a Circuit. It didn't really occur to me that a fence is half of a circuit, and the critter getting shocked COMPLETES the circuit. It's a real "duh" moment in retrospect.

    Everything I've read (and I'm pretty obviously NOT an expert) says that volts don't kill. More volts just make it even more unpleasant for the shockee. Amps are what kills.

    Chey - I don't think we have posts with holes in them. You can buy step-in fiberglass posts that you snap insulators to, but they're not recommended for boundary fences, just movable internal fences.

    EG - I went with an AC charger because solar chargers cost 2x as much and don't last as long. The solar panel feeds a battery, and eventually the battery wears out. Solar is a fantastic option out here, but I went budget ;)

    All my ground rods are near the water tank. When I dump and scrub her water, and even when I top it off, I can easily water the rods. I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the sand holds moisture. I soaked the ground when I filled the tank last weekend and it's still damp a foot under the surface.


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