Electric fences have been around a while and were essentially an improvement upon the good old standby of farmers and cattlemen, the barbed wire fence; the solar electric fence represents further refinement. Little has changed as far as the whys and wherefores of electric fencing: it is still primarily used to keep livestock in and predators out. However, our modern lifestyles have added a few more uses to the electric fence’s repertoire, such as keeping wildlife out of our backyard gardens and making sure our pet dogs don’t get to exercise their wanderlust. In addition, more homeowners are using this type of fencing to protect their homes from foraging bears, who are impinging more and more on human residential developments–or, as some might say, former bear territory.
Some time ago, I remember reading an article in Harper’s about the history of barbed wire fencing. More than corralling cows, farmers used this type of fence to lay out their property boundaries. When you think about it, the current use of electric fencing has the same purpose, since it is showing (joltingly!) where animals may and may not roam. So, instead of telling other people where the land lines are, fences are now used to tell animals the same thing. Hmmm.
Enough of that. My research indicated that solar electric fencing started to come into its own when livestock was being kept far from the reach of the electric grid. As time went on, residential applications began cropping up, as dog owners noticed that nothing but a bit of a taming current would teach Fido that staying in his own yard really was the best thing for him. Pesky garden-robbers thought twice after their tender noses came into contact with the jolting reality of an electric deer fence, sometimes abetted by a dab of peanut butter on the wire. It worked, and the animals were none the worse for wear.
Traditional v. Solar Fencing
The main difference between conventional electric fencing and solar is the method by which each is charged. Traditional electrified fences use an electric fence charger that is connected to the electrical grid, while the solar type of fencing uses a solar electric fence charger in conjunction with solar panels and energy storage batteries.
Advantages of a Solar Electric Fence
Besides being useful for remote areas and providing electricity for free, a solar powered electric fence has other advantages, as well. It is easy to move, have no moving parts to break and are immune to electrical surges from the power grid. The components are very easy to find, too–both online and at farmers’ supply and hardware stores. Batteries also tend to last longer, since they are being constantly trickle-charged rather than depleted and recharged on a regular basis.
Finding a Solar Fence Charger/Controller
The heart of any solar fence is its charger or, as it is otherwise known, controller. Depending upon your needs, these devices will energize fences from three miles to 200 miles long. Prices vary, as well, not only in regards to how many miles of fence the controller can handle, but also among brands. From what I could find, there appear to be three big players in this field: Zareba, Parmak and Fi-Shock.
I was able to find several online vendors of these devices, such as Amazon, Northern Tool and Tractor Supply. Like many retail sites, they allow customers to rate and review products. I had no idea that these items were so popular, and there are many reviews for you to sink your teeth into as you decide which fits your needs.
If you really want to be immersed in everything you would ever need in the solar electric fence arena, check out horse supply vendors. It’s no surprise that general farm supply sites would have these products, of course; I found that you really have to look for those, though. The horse sites come up early and often in search results and have an unbelievable range of products related to electric fencing in general and solar fence products in particular. In addition to chargers you will find batteries, post insulators, wire rope–well, the list goes on and on. Again, reviews and ratings are plentiful, so dig in. Cross-referencing between retail sites can be very useful and really expand the number of ratings and reviews for any given product.