Solar Powered Electric Fence

Part of moving the bees to our place in the country is so they can be out of town and away from people.  Of course, getting away from people means getting them closer to good old mother nature herself.  For anyone who has read Winnie the Pooh, you know that bears like honey when they get a rumbly in their tummies.

Bears don't read very well...

Not much will really stop a hungry bear, but the official recommendation is to enclose all “country bees” in an electric fence.  When a bear attacks a hive, the bees always come out in great number to ward off the attack.  Bear fur is typically too thick to present a problem.  The only sensitive place on a bear is apparently their nose/mouth area.  While my electric fence is a little more “juiced” than a bee sting, most folks agree that a bear has to learn about the fence with their mouth or nose.  I’ll talk more about that another time, but it makes sense that an electric fence properly set up should deter all the Poohs out there.

So, you may be wondering how solar power can deliver enough juice to make a bear even notice it was there.  It turns out that the people who make electric fence controllers make a version that runs on DC (i.e. deep cycle batteries, not house current which is AC).  The controller I bought is designed to power up to 25 miles of fence.  All told, I have maybe 1000 feet of wire strung on a few poles, so the charger will deliver a good shot when it fires.  I won’t bore you with the calculations about the capacity of the battery but it is roughly the size of a car battery just for perspective (a car’s starter battery would not work here though…this application needs a long continuous  draw on the battery rather than the quick hit when you start a car)

The battery, fence controller, and charge controller

The instructions show that the fence will run for 2 weeks on a fully charged battery of the proper specs but I do not want to have to worry about whether the battery is still charged if I don’t make it out there for a few weeks.  Instead, I bought a solar panel and a charge controller to keep the battery full.

See? It's pointed south

I pointed my solar panel south and angled it to the optimal angle to get direct sun.  Output wires from the panel go into the charge controller which regulates the power going into the battery.  The charge controller makes sure the power is the proper voltage and that the battery does not get over or under charged. The charge controller also has a “load” connection so I connected the fence controller to that connection and we’re off and running!  All of the charging/controlling/shocky-shocky stuff is inside a beehive surrounded by my other beehives as a sort of a theft deterrent.

Oh, by the way, without thinking I tried to use a regular household switch at the gate to turn the power on and off.  Of course, the fence controller pushes somewhere around 10,000 volts which didn’t even slow down for the switch rated for household current of 110 volts.  If you want a switch, make sure you get one rated properly…same with any wire you may need to use (I only used fencing wire which handles the charge nicely)

So, I hope some of that makes sense.  So far it is alive and well.  Let me know if you want more details…

10 thoughts on “Solar Powered Electric Fence

  1. I saw that sign in a picture of your previous post and thought it a nice touch. However, a little spiral razor wire mounted around the top strand of the fence would be the cherry on the sundae!

  2. Ceecee – I have not seen a bear on my property but a fellow beekeeper down the road 15 minutes has had problems…so they are definitely in the area

  3. Hey fellow bee keeper,
    We are upstate NY, bear country. Setting up a new set of hives. Solar electric fence is the way to go due to distance from the house. May I ask which fence mfg you used? And trying to figure out a gate is baffling me. Was going to use metal fence posts with insulator caps rahter than digging post holes in very rocky soil. All sugestions appreciated.

  4. Hey Paul,
    My fence charger is from Tractor supply. They sell zareba products. I got the DC powered cherger rated for 25 miles of fence. My battery came from wal mart…a deep cycle battery of the shelf. I ordered a solar panel and charge controller from somewhere online…I can’t remember the place off hand but they are all pretty similar.

    My gate is wood as you can see…I just hooked wire from the fence to the hinges on the gate. They do the flexing. The mesh on the gate itself is attached to the hinge also to keep continuity. I will probably do a better job with my gate mesh this summer when I have a chance. There is not real reason to use wooden posts set with concrete other than I just wanted to. I think metal posts would be fine as well. I figured longevity would be better with my setup…wind and shifting ground, etc. I also do not know how well a metal post on the corners would do…there is a lot of tension on the wires. A hungry bear wouldn’t slow down for wood or metal if he was on a run though so that won’t make any difference on that aspect of it. Heck, I’d say try it and see! Holler if you have more questions

  5. Thanks for sharing all this great info. An electric fence just moved to the top position on my “to do” list after a bear got into my bees yesterday and destroyed one of the hives.

    The first step is to enroll my son in helping me and then we’re off to Tractor Supply.

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