How to Electrify a Chain Link Fence

How to Electrify a Chain Link Fence

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If you have an existing chain link fence, but you have to beef up security – or add protection against wild animals like bears – you might be wondering how to electrify a chain link fence.

The good news is that it is possible to retrofit a chain link fence with an electric fence, and we’re going to give you a step-by-step guide right here.

1. Choose the Side of Your Fence

The first thing you need to do when you’re electrifying a chain link fence is choose which side your electric fence will be on.

If your fence is in a remote area and the electric fence will be for protection from animals like bears, you probably want to put the electric fence wires on the outside of the fence.

If, however, your fence is in a more populated place, there may be rules about putting an electric fence on a part of the fence that could be touched accidentally by a passer-by. In that case, you may want to put your electric fence on top and on the inside of your existing chain link fence. This way, it would only be accessible to someone who is actually trying to go over or through the fence.

2. Offset Brackets

The next thing you will probably need to do to electrify your existing chain link fence is design and manufacture offset brackets.

One of the most important things to do with any electric fence is to ensure that the wires aren’t touching any other metal fence components. If they do, this creates a short circuit and can make your fence less effective or even make your fence live. If your electric fence is connected to an alarm system, siren or something else, you will also get lots of false alarms when this sort of short circuit happens.

Electric fence insulators are supposed to keep wires away from the fence, but if you’re retrofitting a fence, you might not have enough space between the new wires and the existing fence.

Offset brackets can be manufactured from pipe or something like angle iron, and they can be welded to brace bands, which can be bolted in place. You could also weld your offset brackets to your existing fence, although this is only really necessary for tension posts. Everywhere else, bolt-on brackets will work fine.

3. Decide How Many Strands You Need

Once you’ve designed your offset brackets, the next step in converting a chain link fence to an electric fence is to decide how many strands your fence will be.

The number of strands on your fence is the number of electrical wires you will have. Usually, this is an even number because an electric fence is a circuit, and you need to have a wire out and a wire in to complete the circuit.

This is also important if you are going to have any monitoring equipment on your fence because the fence wires will transmit information about shorts on the fence to your fence security equipment.

4. Choose an Electric Fence Energizer

The next thing you will need to do to retrofit your existing chain link fence is to choose an electric fence energizer.

Most electric fence energizers are designed to power a specific amount of wire, so at this point, you will probably need to know the length of your fence and how many strands of wire you will have on the fence.

You might also want to have more than one energizer if you plan to have zones on your fence, and you will also need to decide if you want a solar-powered energizer or a plug-in model. This will depend on where you plan to install your energizer and whether you have an available power supply.

If you do opt for a solar-powered energizer, remember that it will require a storage battery that will probably need to be replaced from time to time. This will allow your fence to work even when it’s dark or on cloudy days.

5. Wire, Insulators and Tensioners

The next item on your electric fence shopping list will be wire, insulators and tensioners.

Most electric fences use high-tensile galvanized wire,  but there are other options like stainless steel and even aluminum. You will need to buy enough wire for all the strands of your fence, as well as all the loops and connections at corners, ends and gates. Clamps and ferrules for wire joins are also a good idea.

There are lots of options when it comes to electric fence insulators, but usually, a simple plastic insulator that can be riveted onto your post or bracket works best. They are also available in different colors and are UV resistant, so they’re less likely to degrade or crack over time.

Tensioning equipment for electric fences usually consists of a ratchet-type tensioner and strain insulators. These are installed at the corners and ends of the fence, and as the name suggests, they are designed to keep the electric fence wires taut. This is important because loose electric fence wires are likely to cause shorts and false alarms on your fence.

6. Signage, Grounding and Gates

Finally, as far as buying electric fencing equipment for an existing chain link fence, you will need to have safety signage, grounding equipment and special equipment for gates.

Safety signage is usually installed on electric fencing every 15 meters or about every 50 feet. It’s designed to alert the public that the fence is electrified and that they should not touch it. This is a legal requirement for electric fences in many places, so you don’t want to skip this!

Grounding your electric fence is also very important. Usually, this is done with a copper ground spike installed near the energizer.

Gates on electric fences are a little more complex than the fence. Usually, they need to have electric fence wires on the body of the gate, but you also have to run cables under the gate to bridge the fences on each side. Your electric fence contractor or supplier should be able to advise you about the best options for your gate.

7. Electric Fence Installation

Most electric fence energizers include installation instructions in their user manuals, but while they are all a little different, the basic principles are the same. To create a working electric fence, you will need:

  • Insulators and tensioning equipment installed on line posts and tension posts, respectively
  • Wires that are offset from the fence to prevent shorts and false alarms
  • “Loops” at corner and end posts to join wires horizontally and vertically as required – this completes the electric fence circuit and allows the fence to work
  • Signage installed on the fence as per local regulations
  • An energizer that is properly grounded and that has a live out and live return as well as a ground out and ground return system
  • Monitoring or alarm equipment if you plan to connect your electric fence to those kinds of systems

Electric fence systems are usually not incredibly complex, but it does take some skill to install them correctly. This is usually a job best left to a skilled fence company that specializes in electric fence systems.

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