Editors Note: It seems that lots of people have lots of questions about electric fence. Luckily we found someone who has a lot of answers. Here’s our new author, Wayne R. who runs FencerFixer.
I usually say if you have over 10 or 20 acres of area fenced off, then go ahead and buy a good fault finding tester. If you have less than that, then purchasing a standard digital fence tester is fine. You can run around a 5 or less acre lot pretty quick if you test your fence and see the voltage has dropped down by a lot.
Where a fault finding tester comes in handy is on the bigger areas or smaller areas with a handful of cross fencing as well. Even people that have been doing electric fence for 10 or 20+ years without a fault finding tester wonder what they did without one after they buy one and learn how to use it.
Here’s how to use your fault finding tester.
(The numbers below are just an example and generic to help you understand. We’re talking about I believe fault finding testers with arrows pointing in the direction of the fault.)There’s an easy way to understand these testers. You’re looking for HIGH Kv and LOW to NO amps. So let’s say you’ve had a pretty clean, single wire fence and usually get around 7kv on the fence and hardly ever any amps. But one day you test the fence and you are getting 3kv and 20 amps.The higher the Amp (A) number the worse and heavier the short is.You should always start first by testing the fence charger by itself to make sure it’s not the issue. Then start testing near the beginning of the fence run if the fence charger is operating well.
Twenty amps, is a pretty good short on the fence and you don’t see any vegetation on the fence. What we say to do is test every so often watching the arrow. If the arrow keeps pointing down the line and us still up pretty high, then keep testing.
Eventually you’ll come to a test spot and this is where a fault finding tester will do two things. It will either point the arrow in the other direction or you’ll get no more reading and it’ll say 0 amps and barely any kv reading. If it does either of these, you’ve gone past the fault and need to back track between where you just tested and the previous test spot.
The fault could be a number of things. It could have been a broken wire and touching ground, a handful of insulators are cracked from age and are allowing the wire to short out to ground, or there’s an underground wire going under a gate that wasn’t properly protected and it’s arcing to ground.There can be a bit more to it than that, but that’s the simple way to use them. I think they’re worth their weight in gold and they do a really good job at helping find shorts once you understand on how they’re used.
If you have any questions or want to add you’re input, please feel free to do so. We’ll do our part to help understand and welcome any ideas.
Some of the newer energizers also have an on/off feature right on the fence tester. Once your find the fault, you can switch off the live fence, fix and turn back on. Saves lots of time. Down side is it doesn’t seem to work when you’re out more than a mile from the energizer. . .
You’re right on the money with what you stated. Speedrite/Stafix make a remote/fault finder/voltage meter all in one for some of their models. I hear they work fine, except for some of the distances like you were saying. (6000i, M36R, 63000RS)
Gallagher had some bigger models for a long time that you could a remote that they may or may not still make. It was used on models like their old 220v units (MX5000, MX2500, MR5000) and some of their later 110V units (MR5000, MR2500, MBX2500) It was just a remote only though.
Gallagher did just come out with some newer models that are able to use their version of a remote/fault finder/voltage meter called
“i Series” They have a 3 out right now, M1200i M1800i, and a M2800i, but I don’t think the M1200i has the abilty to talk to the remote. I think the remote part only works with theirs, but the fault finding/voltage p[art will work with anything. Imagine the speedrite/stafix stuff is the same way.
There’s some things I found out that helps with the communication back to energizer for the remote. On some of the models, they have sensitivity settings for electrical interference. If the sensitivity is turned down on the charger, it helps out the energizer from turning off on it’s own, but lessons the chances to pick up communicaion from the remote the farther out you go.
The other thing that effects the communication, is grounding for the charger. The remote sends the signal in a loop. It goes from the ground your standing on, through your body, down the fence line, and back to the charger. If you or the charger aren’t grounded well enough, it lessons the chance for the grounds to work together for you and the charger.
Here’s what Gallagher’s remote fault finder looks like.
I found this little video on youtube awhile back about their new i Series chargers.
How should underground wire be protected? I know NRCS wants it in plastic waterline. The guy that built my fence didn’t do so. I lose about 3 kv from my charger to the fence about 30 feet away. My fault finder picks up voltage from the coated wire where it isn’t buried so I am sure it is losing volts under every gate.
Hi there Steve,
What I always say to people when running a cable under ground (Eg. under a driveway or gate) Is to first use good double insulated fence wire and 2nd to run it through 1/2″ or 3/4″ plastic PVC pipe. Aluminum or galvanize steel double insulated cable.
Here’s a good brand of wire that’s made to last. Maybe more than you would need, but could use it as lead out cable from the fence charger to the fence itself or down to the ground rod.
Dig a trench down about 3 inches give or take, lay the pvc pipe down in the trench and push the wire in and add sections of pvc as needed to make it all the way across the underground section. You could also put a couple of 90 degree elbows on each end to feed the wire into and where it comes out the other end.
You do have to worry about water getting into the pipe, but just take a bit of caulking and close off either end of the elbows. Don’t have to go over board with the caulking, just enough to block off the opening of the elbows, you may have to pull the wire out sometime, and the caulking isn’t too bad to pull loose once it’s dry.
What you could try first before you do all of this, is to disconnect the wire going into the first gate, that way it’s take out of the system. Then retest your fence and if the voltage jumps up, then you know that section before the gate is good. Then go down to the next gate and repeat. If you get down to the 3rd gate and the voltage stays down, then that might be the underground wire that’s bad.
Sometimes what happens is when an installer lays the wire down in the trench, they dump the dirt and rock over it and sometime barely cut into the insulation, and over time the insulation breaks down and starts arcing. Then you develop a short and start pulling out your hair trying to figure out where the short is at.
Hopefully this will help you out some, and let me know what you end up finding out and ask anymore questions you may have.
Here’s another wire that’s the same stuff just a smaller role to start with.
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