How to Install Hot Wire Fencing

Hot wire fencing, commonly called electric fencing, uses an electrical charged wire to provide a shock to animals that contact the fence. This shock is meant to discourage the animal from contacting the fence and should not injure the animal. The proper installation of the electrical wire ensures that the fence accomplishes its task of containing, or excluding, animals without risk. Installing an electric hot wire fence falls within the capabilities of most do-it-yourself landowners.

Electric fence insulators prevent the hot wire from shorting out from contact with the post.
  1. Place stakes or markers on the planned perimeter of the fence. Mark corners of the fence and use a string to lay out straight lines from corner to corner. Place a stake or marker every 20 feet along the lines from corner to corner to mark out positions for line posts.

  2. Install the posts at the marked locations for the posts. Dig post holes with a post hole auger for wood posts and set the posts by tamping soil around the posts. Optionally use steel posts which are driven into the ground with a sledge hammer or post driver.

  3. Attach insulators to the post. Insulators are plastic or ceramic fittings that insulate the hot wire from the post and prevent grounding of the current. Attach the wire to the insulators around the fence.

  4. Mount the fence controller or charger in a secure and sheltered area such as a barn or other outbuilding. Optionally mount a weatherproof fence controller directly on the fence. If the fence controller is powered by an AC line current, place it near an outlet. Place battery-operated controllers where the batteries are sheltered from the weather.

  5. Connect the negative side of the fence controller to a ground system. Drive two or three metal stakes into the ground near the controller and connect a wire from stake to stake to the negative terminal of the controller. Keep the ground system at least 50 feet from any buried utility such as a water line or telephone cable.

  6. Turn on the controller and check the hot wire with an electric fence checker. Touch this device to the hot wire and the ground. If the checker lights up the hot wire is working.


  • Anything that provides an electrical connection between the hot wire and the ground shorts out the fence and renders it inoperable. This can be weeds or even trash that blows into the fence. Check the hot wire every day with the fence checker to confirm the fence's operation.
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