San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Electrify Your De-Fence

Your home is your castle, and just about anybody living in Costa Rica these days understands that home security is increasingly important, no matter where your castle is. Moats and crocodiles aside, the homeowner or builder has a few choices when laying his or her first line of defense against intruders.

Walls, of course, are the foundation. But something must ride atop that wall, telling would-be intruders that should they try to scale your barricades, they will be punished.

One’s options basically boil down to whether you want to cut your invaders or electrocute them – do you buy barbed or razor wire, or do you buy electric fencing? Ramón Machado, who runs the aptly named home security business Sistemas de Seguridad, in San José, argues in favor of sending a jolt of electricity through trespassers.

“The advantage is that an alarm system tells you when someone has gotten inside. A fence keeps them from getting in, and it doesn’t take away aesthetic, like barbed wire,”Machado explained.

Sistemas de Seguridad (290-2850, 850-5594) offers two electric fencing systems –fencing that will simply give intruders a very discouraging, though not fatal, jolt of electricity, or one that zaps intruders and then sets off an alarm and flashing light and calls a phone number – be it a cell phone, home number or the police.

The fences themselves can be of three, four or five wires that surround the property. “It can be installed at condos, houses, farms, airports, buildings – any place you

want to protect. It can go over bars, over walls, along chain-link fences and on roofs,” Machado said.

Machado recommended that electric fences be placed at least a meter and a half off the ground to keep children or large animals such as dogs from accidentally running into them. Another advantage of electric fencing, he continued, is that smaller animals that could run into the higher-up wires – cats, squirrels, birds – are not large enough to set off the electric volts.

The fencing is connected to a central panel, located where the client desires, that takes 110-volt current and converts it to 10,000-14,000 volts, which runs through the wires. But while the voltage is high, the amps are low.

“With the low amps, it’s more economical because it consumes less energy, and it is non-lethal,” Machado explained. “The amps are what kill. The voltage will give a big jolt, but it won’t kill.”

Prices for Sistemas de Seguridad’s systems depend on the number of wires, the distance the fencing is to run, the number of corners it turns and if there are stairs or different levels the fencing has to drop or rise. However, Machado estimated that many projects run between $10-20 per meter.

Included with the purchase, the client receives signs warning of the high-voltage wires, which can dissuade potential burglars, and a year’s warranty. Sistemas de Seguridad employs specialized electric engineers to install the fencing, who also provide regular maintenance and fix any problems during the warranty period,Machado said.After the year is up, clients can purchase a continued contract for preventive maintenance and repairs for approximately $200 a year.

Edgar Mora, owner of security wholesaler Intrade A.B.C. (290-4604), warns that before purchasing an electric fence, it is important the consumer look for a supplier in their region.

“This is a product that requires a high level of service,“ Mora said. “If you are a friend of mine, and live in Nosara (on the northwestern NicoyaPeninsula), and I install your alarm system, and in five months you have a problem, I have to charge you ¢50,000 (about $96) to send somebody out there to fix it, and I’m still losing money.”

Mora recommended that buyers find a security company in their immediate region, or find a local electrician to install the fence who can return for maintenance or to fix problems.

While Intrade, located in San José, specializes in wholesaling, Mora said he can do installations, which run ¢150,000 to ¢300,000 ($290 to $582), depending on many of the same factors listed by Machado.Mora’s fences can be of five wires, which measure a meter in height, or up to nine wires, which would be nearly two meters tall.Mora recommends the fences be installed at a minimum height of two meters. Like Machado’s, his systems can also include an alarm that can link to a home security alarm system.

Marco Ramírez, with Iesa Electroguanacaste (653-9004), based in Huacas, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, said his company can electrify existing fences, such as chain-link fences or other enclosures that conduct electricity.

A central panel takes either 110-volt or 220-volt electricity and runs it through the fence, and returns it to the panel. The closing of the loop is vital, Ramírez explained, so electricity is not constantly being used up.

“There also must be adequate signage,” Ramírez said, adding that Costa Rican law requires electric fences to be identified by warning signs. Prices depend on the project, Ramirez explained, saying it was impossible to give an average or sample price.


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