post

Maintaining Your Septic System

When you think about the maintenance of the systems in your home your first thoughts are probably HVAC, electrical and plumbing. However, one overlooked and undervalued system in your home is actually outside your home, the septic system. As with all the systems in your home, if you properly maintain your septic system you can avoid costly repairs.

First, understanding how a septic system works will help you maintain it. The wastewater from your home leaves through a pipe and goes to the septic tank. The waste separates into solid waste (sludge) that sinks to the bottom and oil and grease (scum) rises to the top. There are bacteria in the septic tank that helps to breakdown the sludge. The wastewater then exits the septic tank and goes into the drainage field. The wastewater is released into the soil which removes harmful bacteria, viruses and nutrients.

So one thing you have to watch is what you put down your drains (that goes into your septic tank). Everything that goes down your drains should be biodegradable and septic safe. Flushing things like dental floss, feminine products, paper towels, coffee grounds and other kitchen and bathroom products can clog the tank and drain field. Also, household chemicals, paint, oils and grease can kill the good bacteria in your septic tank. If you have a garbage disposal, you will want to use it sparingly as it will increase the accumulation of sludge and scum.

Another thing to be aware of when you have a septic system is how much water you are using. Per the EPA, the average single-home family uses 70 gallons of indoor water per person per day. Leaking faucets and running toilets can waste as much as 200 gallons per day. Faucet aerators and high efficiency toilets and showerheads can help reduce excess water usage. Many people like the convenience of washing all their laundry in one day, but with a septic system you need to give your tank time to recover. So it’s recommended to spread your washing, otherwise you risk flooding your drainage field.

Knowing where your septic tank and drainage field are is also very important. You don’t’ want to put anything heavy like a shed, parked car or RV, cement or pool in this area as it can damage the tank and pipes as well as compromise the drainage field. Another thing that can damage your septic system are large trees and shrubs. Roots, especially aggressive roots that come with Willows, can damage pipes and the tank.

Having your tank pumped regularly is part of proper maintenance. Professionals typically charge between $200-$300 for this service, however, it can vary by region. Keep in mind that if they have to dig to find your septic tank that will incur additional fees. When your tank is pumped they should also inspect the tank to make sure everything is in good working condition. The frequency of pumpings varies between owners. No matter the size of your family, if you have a garbage disposal it is recommended that you pump your system annually. If you are a family of four with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 2-3 years. If you are a family of two with no garbage disposal, it’s recommended every 4-5 years.

Every few months using a septic tank system treatment, like Rid-X®, by pouring into your toilet can add the bacteria necessary to keep your septic tank performing optimally. For those of you who like homemade treatments, you can pour a liter of spoiled buttermilk down the toilet every few months, as it too is a great source of bacteria. If you notice anything that seems off with your septic system, it is best to contact a professional immediately to address any issues as early as possible.

While this system doesn’t need constant supervision, remembering these key things will help prolong the life of your septic system.

Sources: http://www.epa.gov/owm/septic/pubs/homeowner_guide_long.pdf; http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-a-Septic-System

What is the Difference Between a Septic System and a Sewer System?

If you are in the market for a new home, you may have noticed that some neighborhoods are on public utility sewer systems and some neighborhoods use septic systems. Generally speaking, cities and towns, and their immediate surrounding areas, will be on sewer systems that are maintained by the local public works department. If a neighborhood is outside the area serviced by the local sewer system, the homes will generally use a septic system to handle waste water.

Large public sewer systems charge a monthly fee for their use, but offer the convenience to the homeowner of not having to maintain anything related to waste water outside of their home. Septic systems are the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain, but have no monthly fee, so are usually less expensive in the long run. However, some septic systems can be more expensive to maintain such as Low-Pressure Dose Systems that uses a pump to move effluent to a drain field or conventional systems that don’t percolate well and have to be pumped frequently.

If you are looking at homes in multiple neighborhoods, you will need to make quite a few decisions and choices in order to make the best decision of where to buy. Having some basic knowledge of the pros and cons of each type of waste water system will help in choosing between neighborhoods that are on public utility sewer systems compared to those on septic systems.

septic system

Where does the waste go?
Septic System: The waste goes into a holding tank.
Sewer System: Sewers lines carry waste to a treatment facility.

How does it work?
Septic System: Bacteria break down the solid waste and the liquid effluent is then released into the drainfield.
Sewer System: The facility removes contaminants and then discharges water back into local water supplies.

What is the cost?
Septic System: If buying a new home from a reputable new home builder, then the cost of the septic system is included in the price of the house.
Sewer System: The cost to use a public sewer system varies depending on location.  Some areas separate the cost of water and sewage, while others combine the two.

What type of maintenance is needed?
Septic System: Depending on the usage, septic tanks need to be pumped out yearly or every few years.
Sewer System: None

Who is responsible for the maintenance?
Septic System: It is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the septic system.
Sewer System: Your local municipality is responsible for maintaining the public sewer system.

What do you do if it fails to work?
Septic System: Call a professional septic repair company.
Sewer System: Call your local municipality public works department

What are the benefits?
Septic System: If maintained properly a septic system generally has fewer ongoing costs.
Sewer System: Sewer systems are very convenient and the homeowner has no responsibility for repairs.