S2E7: Troubleshooting the Premier 1 Supplies Electric Fence
"Dirty Homecoming©" - Written, performed, and recorded by Mattie J. Bamman
Our electric fence was by far the most costly component of our garden, and, though it hasn't worked correctly, it ultimately brings peace of mind during our long Maine winters when deer fill our field, yard, and garden.
I bought the Premier 1 Supplies DS Versanet Plus electric fence kit after doing a lot of research. The net stands 5 feet tall for taller animals and gets denser at the bottom to keep out smaller animals. It's powered by the Intellishock 60 energizer, which is solar powered and very easy to set up. Everything seemed cut and dry until the electric fence stopped achieving the necessary voltage to repel animals, and something was getting into our garden nearly nightly.
It turns out very few (none) of the electric fence strands can touch the ground, or you'll loose voltage. Here's what happened:
- Our kit came with a wireless fence tester, and, though our energizer was putting out 8,0kv, our fence only put out 2,5kv (the fence won't repel animals without a minimum of 4,0kv).
- First, we tried to make the strands very taught by taking down and redoing all of the fence posts.
- This didn't work. So we took it all down again, mowed the grass, then put it back up.
- The fence read 4,0kv for several days before returning to 2,5kv.
I was confounded by three things that made me want to throw the whole system in the pond. First, our ground is pretty rocky, and sinking the fence spikes while making them taut was very challenging. Second, Premier 1 Supplies folks said even a little grass could bring the voltage down, and this seems wildly impractical since grass grows all summer and I'm not going to repeatedly take down the fence to mow. Lastly, even with the strands taut and grass newly mowed, the fence only read 4,0kv. Shouldn't it read 8,0kv, or at least 6,0kv? (And no, the strands aren't accidentally wrapped around the post spikes.)
With animals eating our about-to-be-ripe tomatoes, there was no time to waste. Electric fences are a way to scare off/train animals; they will not stop an animal once it has figured out there's food on the other side. I mean, what could stop you from eating dozens of free, perfect tomatoes?
Fortunately, getting the fence to work for just a few days was enough to repel the animals this year. For 2021, I'm considering putting down cardboard or landscape fabric on the ground along the fence line to keep down grass. But if an animal is standing on the cardboard or fabric, it won't feel the shock coming through the ground, so it'll have to be a very thin strip of material.
Something more promising — I will buy a longer ground rod. With our rocky soil, the little 3-inch horseshoe-shaped ground stake that comes standard with the Intellishock probably isn't adequate for conveying a strong current around our garden. The folks at Premier 1 Supplies said they typically recommend a longer rod, and that they're available at most garden stores. Fingers crossed.
I've been able to get all of the support I have needed from customer service at Premier 1 Supplies. I'm sure I've spoken with them for close to an hour at this point, and they've been in a hurry to get off the phone or supplied bad information.