How Electric Fence & Netting Works
What is electric netting?
It’s an electrifiable, prefabricated, portable fence that arrives at your door as a complete roll with the line posts already built into the fence’s mesh. The “mesh” is composed of vertical plastic strings “welded” to electrifiable horizontal strings. They are supported by white plastic posts—which are spaced throughout the netting. Each post has a steel spike at the base that’s inserted into the ground for support. A standard roll (164 ft) inclusive of posts weighs only 23 lbs.
Premier's Net Number System
Example: ElectroNet® 9/35/12
- 9 horizontal strands—hence 9
- 35 in. high installed—hence 35
- Verticals every 12 in.—hence 12
Consider a electric netting kit if you're new to using an electric fence. Why? Because all the parts and pieces necessary are included.
How electric netting works…
The visual combination of a close mesh of vertical and horizontal wires encourages animals to touch it with their sensitive nose, ears or beak. But all horizontal strands (an exception is the strand on the ground) in most netting connects to a powerful fence energizer that sends a shock down the wires every second. Result? Animals conclude the fence itself is painful—and then avoid it.
When animals touch an electric fence…
- The energizer pushes an electric pulse through its “+” positive terminal to the fence.
- The pulse travels through the conductors and pressurizes the fence with excess electrons. The pressure is measured in volts.
- When an animal touches the fence, excess electrons enter it and travel through the animal to the ground.
- After exiting the animal, the pressurized electrons travel through the soil’s moisture back to the energizer’s ground rod.
- The electrons collected by the ground rod are received by the energizer via the “-” negative terminal. The amount returned is equal to the shock effect.
Factors that affect a pulse’s strength and shock effect…
- Joules of output from the energizer equal the volume of electrons in a pulse. The more joules, the larger the potential shock effect to an animal.
- Resistance of conductors, animal and soil. High total resistance absorbs more electrons and reduces the shock effect.
- Electron loss via grass contact and poor insulators. Electrons that leak this way are not available to shock the animal.
- Soil resistance. This also absorbs electrons and reduces the total electrons that complete the circuit.
- Without proper grounding, the fence’s electrical circuit can not be completed. As a result, it will not be an effective pain barrier to animals.
Note: Lightweight varmints, such as squirrels and chipmunks do NOT make good foot-to-soil contact. As such, these critters won’t receive a memorable shock. Squirrels are especially cunning; they often jump onto the fence without making any ground contact. Without ground contact, an animal won’t be shocked. (This is why birds can perch on power lines without being electrocuted.)
The ground system is an essential component of any electric fence. Ground rods guide the pulse from the soil, back into the energizer. The larger the pulse or higher the resistance of the soil (because it’s dry, sandy, or rocky), the more ground rods that are needed to collect the electrons from the soil.
What is the effect of dry soil?
Soil moisture determines the conductivity (or not) of soil. Dry soil increases resistance and absorbs more electrons. A weaker, less effective pulse occurs that does not deter animals. To overcome this, use positive/negative fences (Pos/Neg), wide impedance energizers, higher output units and/or more ground rods.
In order to receive a shock from a Pos/Neg fence, the animal must touch both a positive (hot) and negative (grounded) strand at the same time. This will deliver more pain to the animal than an all hot net (Pos/Pos) because moisture in the soil is not required to complete the circuit.
I have more length than I need. What should I do with the excess?
An electric fence does not have to make a circle and the clips at the end of the net are not required to connect.
We recommend two methods for dealing with excess netting:
- Overlap the fences. As long as none of the electrified strands are sagging and touching the ground, the fences may be set side by side.
- Make a U-turn. This method involves a FiberTuff (or other insulated post) and results in a convenient gate:
- Insert one FiberTuff next to your starting post and construct your enclosure.
- When you return to your starting point, make a 180° turn around the FiberTuff, overlapping the excess net alongside the original. It’s okay if the conductors touch one another. (Pos/Neg netting is an exception. See below.) Try to keep all conductors from touching the ground—this will reduce the effectiveness of the shock effect.
- Secure the FiberTuff to the original starting post with the storage string to enter/exit the paddock.
Why Premier “knows” netting…
- We’ve used it for over 50 years (since 1970)—longer than anyone in the US.
- It’s in use 24/7 at Premier to fence sheep, goats, poultry and dogs in—and fence deer, coyotes, stray dogs, raccoons, etc. out.
- We talk daily to netting users nationwide—who repeatedly tell us what they like and/or dislike.
Why users like it so much…
- Much easier to install than they expect.
- More effective than they expect.
- It surprises new users that animals and poultry new to “net” very quickly learn to fear and avoid.
- Because it’s so easy to fence around obstacles and up and down hills.
- The rolls are not heavy. The photo of a 164 ft roll held by Kylie (above) isn’t an exaggeration.
- Ships free
- Most of our netting ships free if ordered online. Learn more about our free shipping offer.
- Simple & quick to install
- 10 minutes is the average time to install a 164 ft roll of netting.
- It arrives via FedEx/UPS as a complete preassembled fence. All line posts are pre-fitted into each roll. All you need is an energizer and corner posts.
- A roll of netting will last 10 years if used with care. Lawn mowers and ice storms are its worst enemies!
- Netting adapts to dips and curves in difficult terrain.
Why it’s a unique “fence”…
It’s almost a mistake to call netting a fence. Why? Because the word “fence” suggests a barrier that’s costly, time-consuming and complicated to install and won’t be removed for decades. But netting is the exact opposite:
- It’s so easy to move that it’s often moved several times a season.
- It requires no “sweat energy.”
- It’s quick. 600 ft can be moved or installed in an evening by nearly anyone over 12 years old.
- It doesn’t require a contractor.
- It doesn’t require tools.
- It’s not physically strong.
What users dislike about electric netting…
- That it must be moved when tall grass covers the lower “live” strands. The alternative is to apply a strip of herbicide to kill weeds.
- That ice and heavy snow can flatten it.
- That high wind can be an issue.
- That animals can become entangled in it and die. (On a % basis entanglement is rare, but it can and does occur.)
Why taller nets are not always better…
Shorter nets are easier to install and/or remove, have less wind resistance, are less affected by storms and cost less. For example, ElectroNet® (only 35") is often tall enough for most temporary sheep/goat fencing situations. So why invest more $$ than necessary?
Rules for reducing risk of animals challenging netting…
- Never leave netting unenergized.
- Never allow animals or poultry to be on both sides of a net at the same time.
- Never use netting for weaning mothers from progeny.
- Never force animals against netting. Give them time and space to avoid contacting it.
- Don't use a high-output energizer to combat weed contact. If soil is dry use a wide-impedance unit.
For safer electric fences:
- Make them visible to humans and animals. Visibility is increased by contrast (that’s why many Premier nets are black and white in color.)
- Educate. Hang warning signs on all electric fences. Tell children to never touch it. Everyone should avoid head and neck contact.
- Allow space for people and animals to walk easily along or around it.
- Avoid fence energizers higher than 8 joules in output unless they include delayed pulse technology. It’s best not to use high-output energizers on short fences that have public exposure.
Note: Do not use an energizer that is labeled high impedance, continuous current, weed burner or weed chopper. We recommend only low or wide impedance energizers.
Continuous current (high impedance) energizers have a pulse type that is long (in time) but low in energy. Low impedance have pulses that are very short (in time) but higher in energy. The long duration continuous current pulses create a spark that is also long in duration—long enough for it to set fire to grass/weeds/leaves/needles that might touch the fence. In our opinion they should never be used on any fence for this reason. They must not be used on electroplastic fences (can melt the plastic). Low impedance pulses are so short (3/10,000 of a second maximum) in time that heat build up is less likely.
To Reduce Risk and Liability…
Are electric fences a serious safety risk to humans?
Because touching an electric fence is painful and the voltages are high, most assume that the risks from an energized fence must also be high. That’s a myth. Consider that millions of people throughout the world are "exposed" to millions of electric fences every day—yet they are involved in (but are not always the cause of) less than one human death or serious injury per year worldwide. Compare that to the number of annual injuries and deaths that occur from human exposure to tractors, skid loaders, ladders, PTO shafts, balers, mowers, combines, bulls, stallions, rifles, shotguns, knives, etc. This is not to suggest that there is no risk at all. There is, indeed, a small level of risk. And with risk, there is also liability to the fence’s owner.
What NOT to do!
- Never place your head or upper spine near an electrified wire. Accidental head or neck contact can occur when pushing a voltage probe into the soil. Be careful when doing so to avoid head-to-wire contact!
- Never attempt to step over or climb through an energized fence of any kind.
- Never encourage anyone to touch an electric fence.
In 1991 an accidental fatality occurred when a young child’s head contacted an electrified fence while the child was crawling on wet grass. The fence was correctly installed and functioning properly. The energizer was a UL approved unit. As a result, Premier strongly advises against allowing toddlers access to any electrified fences. Also, due to this incident and others, experts now suggest that human contact by an energized wire to the head and neck may be the most dangerous point of contact. We urge all to especially avoid this kind of contact.