Original vs Fake Solar Energiser


Solar electric fence energisers are a great alternative to mains or battery powered energisers. Solar energisers offer compact, self contained packages that can be placed almost anywhere. Unfortunately, like in most industries, many electric fence energiser manufacturers have to compete with cheap copies or fakes. It can often be difficult to resolve issues caused by cheap copies, and smaller companies may struggle with the complex, and expensive legal processes required to take action against copyright violators.


One fundamental difference between the 'real thing' and a copy is quality. Original designers and manufacturers will design a product to do its job efficiently, and effectively. Fakes are often simplified and made cheaper by cutting corners, resulting in a poor quality product. While the lower price may be appealing to buyers, they may be receiving a product that doesn't perform to specification and get little to no technical support.

Safety Concerns

Original designers will usually be familiar with their industry requirements and create products within a strict set of regulations and safety standards that apply to the country in which they want to sell their product. Obtaining these standards, and manufacturing products that comply with them is a costly process for manufactures, but ensures that the product is safe. Some makers of copies may skip this process or copy a compliant design to avoid these costs. They may also simplify a copied design, reducing production costs but also the safety of the product. This can result in a product that is potentially unsafe, and not legally approved for sale in your country. Unfortunately, these fakes sometimes slip through into the marketplace to users who are unaware of how to tell if a unit is approved, safe, and good quality. The sellers may also be unaware, or knowingly choosing to avoid the extra costs. Labels can be misleading and quoted standards and symbols may be false, inaccurate, or irrelevant. For example, the CE symbols on the units pictured below are not applicable in Australia.

A Case Study – comparing an original design, 0.1 Joule solar energiser with a copy

This article looks at one example of an original solar electric fence energiser from a designer and innovator (who will remain unnamed). Because they are the designers and the first to bring the product to market, they are invested in the design, and can continue to develop, and improve it. Another company (who will also remain unnamed) has copied the design, and is now producing a poorer quality model at a lower price.

In order to compare the two products, units from each manufacturer were tested to find points of difference between them. Both units are 0.1J Solar energisers, and both are labelled 'Fence Control'. On the outside, there are a several differences between the two units, but without already knowing which is original and which is fake, there are very few ways to figure it out. Here are the main differences...

The most obvious difference between these units is the label. The Original label has a much neater text layout, making it easier to read and understand. The Original also includes a model number, and warnings on the main label. The Fake has a separate label on the other side of the case for the warnings text, and has no model number. The Fake label uses no bullet points, and is riddled with grammatical errors and misused or missing punctuation.

Label of original designer's unitLabel of fake unit

Figure 1 (Click image for full size view): Main label of each unit Left: Original; Right: Fake

There are also some differences to the outside case, particularly the quality of the plastic moulding and injection.

Bottom of original designer's unitBottom of fake unit

Figure 2 (Click image for full size view): Bottom of each unit Left: Original; Right: Fake

The Original unit has much smaller and cleaner injection marks, and much cleaner edges on the cut-out for the battery housing. The Fake also has visible moulding marks around were the battery cover screws into place. The Original unit also has small, moulded 'feet' in each corner of the bottom face, while the Fake unit does not.

Upon opening the units, the difference in quality of the case became more apparent. This is most obvious in more detailed areas. As seen below, the Original unit has much cleaner edges.

Detailed moulding of original designer's unitDetailed moulding of fake unit

Figure 3 (Click image for full size view): Fine detail in the plastic moulding, Left: Original; Right: Fake

Internal components and circuits were compared when the units were opened. On first glance, the most obvious difference is that The Original unit's circuit board has been dipped and completely covered in potting to protect it from moisture damage and ants. Upon further inspection, the Fake did not appear to even be sprayed with protective sealant, and therefore has no protection from moisture and ants.

Circuit board of original designer's unitCircuit board of fake unit

Figure 4 (Click image for full size view): Circuit board of each unit, Left: Original; Right: Fake

The Original unit includes a varnish dipped transformer, while the Fake's transformer is unsealed (i.e. not potted or dipped). Unsealed transformers simply do not last. Australian manufacturers stopped using unsealed transformers a decade ago due to high failure rates. These failures are caused by moisture penetrating the wire windings and degrading the insulation (see Figure 4 - transformers are circled in red).

The Original unit also includes Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) reduction circuitry, while the Fake does not. These are additional parts required to meet Australian C-tick standards, and help prevent the energiser from interfering with other electrical appliances, such as televisions.

Finally, a number of technical tests were conducted to assess various specifications for each unit. Testing revealed several issues with the Fake unit that could potentially cause problems for customers. Compared to the Original unit, the Fake one draws more current, which means its battery will flatten more quickly in periods of bad weather (i.e. with insufficient sunlight). The ratio of solar charging current to the current drawn by the energiser is also quite low. High-quality solar energisers typically use a ratio of 10:1 (charging current to current drawn), while the Fake unit we tested had a ratio of around 3:1. This means that in areas with fewer effective sunlight hours per day, the energiser will be unable to charge the battery enough during the day, and will therefore require frequent recharging. The recharging circuit on the Fake unit also does not 'float' the battery to the right voltage. It was trying to charge the battery to a significantly higher voltage than necessary, which will cause overheating and reduce the battery's lifespan.


Analysis confirmed that cheap copies of original energiser designs can be of poorer overall quality. The original product manufacturer will have incurred greater, (and necessary) costs in research and development of a quality, safe, compliant product. They will have invest more time and effort, and can provide quality technical support. Not only is there a risk that a copy may be unsafe or unsuitable, but they may also perform below specification, be more likely to fail, and require more maintenance compared to the original designer's product. Buyers should consider why a copy is cheaper: it may be that the original designer is being ‘ripped off’ rather than ‘a rip off’.

Evaluation and testing conducted by Pakton Technologies - electric fence electronics specialists since 1995.

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