The 8 Best Electric Fence Chargers
Whether you're a rancher who needs to keep livestock safe or a gardener who just wants to prevent pests from getting in your plants, an electric fence charger can offer the protection and peace of mind you want. When shopping around, be careful not to get one with continuous current, as animals can get stuck on them and be electrocuted. Our selections are both safe and effective, however. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best electric fence charger on Amazon.
A Brief History of Electric Fences
This can allow your livestock to escape, or worse, your T-Rex to go on a murderous rampage.
Electric fences have been around for a lot longer than you might think. In 1886, a man named David H. Wilson built a 30-mile fence that was powered by a water wheel. It wasn't terribly effective, but the idea was out in the world.
The next time electric fencing would be used would be for more nefarious purposes. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the Russians set up fences that were charged with up to 3,000 volts. The fence had the opposite of its intended effect, however, as the Russians were far more frightened of it than were the Japanese, who easily circumvented it with insulated wire cutters.
The Germans also used them during WWI, and they built a 300 km "Wire of Death" across the Dutch-Belgian border. The fence truly earned its nickname, too, as it killed several thousand people.
Things calmed down considerably in the 1930s, however, as fences returned to being primarily used for agricultural purposes. They began to spring up across the United States and New Zealand, and it was the New Zealanders who would introduce pulsed fences. A man named Bill Gallagher needed to devise a way to keep his horse off his car, which was apparently a big problem in New Zealand in the 1930s.
He used the ignition coil on his vehicle to charge his fencing, and while it was effective at keeping his horse at bay, it had other issues. It used a current that was prone to emitting long, unpredictable blasts of electricity. There was also the slight issue of causing fires, which seems bad, but then again we're not ranchers.
One of Gallagher's countrymen, Doug Phillips, used a capacitor to make a non-shortable electric fence, which made it possible to greatly extend their reach while also significantly reducing costs. A farmer from Iowa, Robert Cox, took care of that whole brush fire problem in 1969 by improving the fence brackets, which enabled the wires to be lifted higher off the ground and away from flammable grass.
Since then, various improvements to materials, such as the use of polyethylene insulators and high-tensile steel wire, have allowed these fences to be much more practical and cost-effective. They're actually often less expensive and easier to install than regular fences, as they need less reinforcement, since they don't have to physically hold large animals back.
The biggest downside, of course, is that they can go down at an inopportune time. This can allow your livestock to escape, or worse, your T-Rex to go on a murderous rampage.
Choosing the Right Electric Fence Charger
Without a quality charger, an electric fence is just a fence — and a flimsy one at that. However, there might be more options on the market than you're expecting, and buying the wrong one can be an expensive mistake.
The first thing to consider is what, exactly, you need your fence to do. A charger that can power miles of fence and contain massive livestock will be different from one designed to protect your garden against smaller pests.
The answer to that question will go a long way towards helping you decide what kind of power source to use.
Obviously, you have to place these in an area that receives lots of direct sunlight, and they may not be ideal for areas that suffer through gloomy, overcast winters.
Many can be plugged in to a basic 110V or 220V socket, and these will provide continuous power at a low cost.
You can also find battery-powered models, which are excellent for remote areas, but these are more expensive and you'll really need to stay on top of changing those batteries.
The last category contains the solar-powered options. Obviously, you have to place these in an area that receives lots of direct sunlight, and they may not be ideal for areas that suffer through gloomy, overcast winters. You may be able to find hybrid chargers that use both batteries and solar panels, however.
Ideally, you'll want to find a low-impedance model, as these are both safe and effective. High-impedance models can start fires, or even kill animals that get stuck on them.
The final thing to think about is how powerful you want your energizer to be — but that question is so important it deserves its own section, so keep reading.
Joules, Volts, and Amps: What Does It All Mean?
When comparing chargers, you might see two types of joules listed: stored and output. Basically, the stored number tells you how much juice is kept in the energizer, and the output is how much reaches whatever's being shocked. The output will typically only be about 60% of the stored number, because you'll lose some power as the electricity flows down the line.
As a result, the more fence you have, the more joules you need. The standard is that you should expect to need at least one joule per mile of fence.
However, you don't want to fry smaller animals like chickens or your dog, so don't overdo it.
The voltage is the amount of energy running through the wires. Larger animals with thicker skin need higher voltages to deter them, and some escape artists — like goats — need plenty of discouragement to keep them from testing your fence for weaknesses. However, you don't want to fry smaller animals like chickens or your dog, so don't overdo it.
Be careful when looking at voltage, though. If you're using a plugged-in charger, there might be a voltage number that corresponds to the socket you can plug it into, not the amount of electricity that shoots out.
You might also see amps mentioned. This is the amount of electricity that actually zaps the animals. Think of voltage as the amount of water pressure in a hose, while amps are the amount of water actually coming out the end.
Keep in mind that electric fences are psychological barriers. That means that the shock should be just enough that the animal feels a sudden and alarming discomfort — you do not want to hurt them. Eventually, they'll associate the fence with discomfort and avoid it.
Also, if you choose one with dangerously high voltage, you'll feel guilty about tricking your buddies into touching it (don't do this).
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