I earned my B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Magna Cum Laude. That essentially means I know almost nothing about electricity or engineering.
NONETHELESS, I had to set up a simple circuit to keep my cows inside a paddock I made for them. I bought the portable electric fencing materials: a solar powered charger with battery, the electrical wire (polywire), and the posts.
The circuit is made by hooking up the charger’s positive terminal to the single fence wire, and the charger’s ground to a metal rod I hammered into the dirt. The circuit is “open” until a cow touches the wire, then the electrons travel through the cow to the ground and back to the ground rod. That’s the theory.
But I set it all up and the volt meter measured zero volts. I touched the wire and nothing happened. It was not conducting.
EITHER the ground was too dry and sandy, and my thick work boots too insulated, for the electricity to flow through me into the ground, or I was shorting the hot wire into the ground somewhere. For instance, the hot wire could be touching a metal wire on the permanent fence, or touching vegetation.
I checked the wire, and nothing was grounding it, or so I thought. But then I looked at the “gate handle” I had hooked onto the hot wire and to hook it onto the permanent fence. These have a rubber handle so you can grab it, and I thought they were made of two pieces of metal, such that it insulated the hot wire from the permanent fencing.
On a lark, I removed that gate handle and touched the wire. Zap! Ten thousand volts surged from my finger down to my toes and into the ground. It stung something sharp. Turns out those “insuli-grip” gate handles conduct electricity through the insulated grip. Now I know.
I dunno. My parents will probably be disappointed to know I spent four years in college learning differential equations, Maxwell’s equations, digital signal processing, and advanced analog circuits, only to shock myself with an electric fence after ignorantly shorting it. In college, I learned a ton of theory but almost no practice, and certainly no practice on something as low-tech and blue-collar as farming or ranching with electric fences.
Mark it up as just another practical lesson learned on the homestead.