Sunday, October 24, 2010

How (not) to do it

Astute observers of my pics might have noticed that the fence charger was plugged in to an extension cord which ran out of the back door of the barage. This is not an optimum solution, but it's ok for a couple months in summer. I knew I needed to fix it before winter.

I believe that one of the most important steps of any home improvement projects is setting the scope. There's Doing It Right, there's Rednecking It Up, and there's a lot of variants in between. Running an extension cord to the fence charger is definitely redneck. Running Romex in buried PVC pipe out to a waterproof outlet box on the fencepost is the optimum solution.

After an extensive cost/benefit/manpower analysis*, I decided to do it halfway right. I already had the PVC pipe (inherited from the previous owners), so I only needed the box, outlet, and PVC connectors. I got a few things along the way and picked up the last stuff I needed at the hardware store yesterday. I got started on my project this morning, and almost finished before it started pouring down rain.

I had never personally done a project like this before. But I've done variants of each part, and I was totally confident that I could do it.

I wanted to go from just to the side of the doorway to the hinge post.

I tied a line

and dug a trench. The sagebrush was surprisingly easy to get out! I had to uproot three roots, and I found one tin can and one rotten leather glove. No rocks, no clay - it's super easy digging.

Then I dry-fitted all the PVC. I used the mason's twine as a (cheap) substitute for fishtape, and I ran it through each piece as I dry-fitted them. If you tie a nut on the end of your string, you'll have something a) heavy, to move the line through the pipe, and b) a handy place to tie the wire when you're ready to pull.

If you're Doing It Right, with Romex, it doesn't matter which end you start at. If you're halfway rednecking it with a frankenstein'd extension cord, you have to start at the terminal end.

It enters the barage in a very tight little hole I drilled in the wall. When it dries out again, I'll silicone caulk that pipe, just as a DIR touch.

Ready to glue

Looks pretty good!

PVC is easy to cut with a hacksaw. You want to run a knife blade around the inside and outside of your cut edge, to remove burrs and smooth out the cut. That's way more important for water pipes, but I did it for my electrical pipes anyway.
If this were a water pipe, or if vehicle traffic came through, I'd need to bury the pipe much deeper. But it's a pipe full of air, and the heaviest thing that goes over the pipe is a horse, so it'll be ok 8" deep.

I was hungry, so I went inside and had some nuts and watched a bit of football. I deeply regret that now - when I came back out, the Lonely Mountain was almost invisible:

I got busy glueing pipes together. PRO TIP: PVC solvent will melt vinyl gloves. Polyvinyl chloride, yo. Oh well - it still kept the primer mostly off of my hands. To glue PVC, you just smear purple primer over both parts, then smear PVC cement over both parts, then shove them together, twist, and hold for 30 seconds. For extra security, smear some cement on the outside of the joints, too.


I was pretty sure that PVC cement would melt my phone, too, so no pics of the actual process.

By that point, it was spitting rain on me and extremely windy.

I went in the house and checked the radar.

Oh. Shit. It's really for reals going to rain all day.

I dashed back outside and mostly finished up. I unplugged both ends of the charger extension cord, then lopped off the female end. Stripped the outer sheathing back, twisted one of the wires to the nut on the mason's string, and wrapped the whole thing in electrical tape, to make it slightly more aerodynamic. Pipedynamic. Whatever. I sprayed it with some WD-40 for good measure.

It was surprisingly easy to pull the wire through the pipe. I shoved the wire in with one hand and pulled the string out with the other - had to pull very hard to make the second 90* bend, but it worked!

It rained harder and harder as I glued the last bit of pipe connector, attached the weatherproof box, wired the cord to the outlet, and assembled everything. Once it dries back out tomorrow I can double-check the connections and plug stuff back in, but for now it'll be ok. I even got part of the trench filled back in before my husband came out and shooed me into the house to dry off - he filled in half the trench before he got cold too.

It looks amazingly professional. I am very pleased. Now I can plug the charger and tank heater in! And best of all, it'll be really easy to Do It Right when I can afford to buy 100' of romex and get the electrician out to tie it in properly.

Tomorrow or later this week I'll build a box to cover the outlet and the charger. There is a plastic shoe box duct-taped over the charger right now, sigh. Oh well - it sheds water!

*I checked my bank account and my pockets, then wandered aimlessly around Home Depot writing down prices of stuff.


  1. just got yourself hired to help me build out 24,000 feet of fence, 3000 feet of driveway, two more barns, and a WHOOOOOLE bunch of water line ! :)

  2. Great accomplishment! I envy your rock-less soil!
    One more technical point, how-some-ever...
    I was told that Romex in conduit is a no-no, electrical code-wise. Evidently it "sweats" and creates condensation in the pipe, which is then not good for the Romex, or something. I just get the three 14 gauge wires (white, black, green for ground) and run them through. They're a little more flexible, too. (14 is easier to work with than 12 gauge, though it won't carry quite as much of a load--one tank heater and one fence charger isn't much, however.)
    Granted, I am NOT an electrician (I just play one on the interwebs), nor do I live in an urban or suburban area, with their more stringent electrical codes. So I would check locally to be sure...
    @ Jason: I'll help...If you adopt me and my horsies (and I should probably bring along the hubby)...

  3. Hey Lady! Thats one hell of a job! Now then, I need some electric put into an outside store. Any chance you comin1 over here?

  4. Funder, a couple of things:

    1. There is NOTHING WRONG with an extension cord run to your electric fence charger. Especially not when you run it out the back window of your guest house. Ask me how I know.
    2. Your progress is making me look bad.
    3. For excellent examples of "Rednecking it up", please refer to It makes me feel so much better about my own house.
    P.S. I agree with Jason and Cheyenne... do you hire out? ;)

  5. I wish I had your smarts and initiative! Redneck? Not hardly! More like get-er-done gumption!

  6. wow what a lotta work. i am totally impressed, i haven't had to do anything that complicated. my new barn will need electricity though, and my man says he'll do it for me for christmas: )

    that little electrical box on your wall looks just like a geocache. we've often been disappointed to just find wires inside, and no joy: (

    we have the charger right on the barn wall under the eaves but there is a section of gate and hedge where we needed the electric wire to circumvent so we bought one of those 8 meter insulated wires that i connected to the electric wire, wove through the hedge by the gate, and ended up 8 meters later starting up the normal electric wire again. so far so good, and i didn't have to dig, woo!

  7. Electrical work of all kinds scares can have that!

    I solved my electric fence problem with a heavy duty 35 mile solar charger. :D That thing just keeps on ticking and ticking and ticking. A lot of people say a solar charger doesn't give enough "zap!" to make it worthwhile, but the key is the grounding system...a good grounding system makes the fence, solar OR electric.


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