If your home isn't connected to a sewer system, you still need a way to safely remove waste water. About a quarter of homes in America use a septic system, according to the EPA, and many homeowners find that it is a satisfactory solution. However, you need to make sure that you properly care for and maintain your septic tank to protect the integrity of both your plumbing and the environment, not to mention your own health and safety.
How Your Septic Tank Works: In a septic system, a drain pipe takes the water away from your house, but instead of expelling it into a sewer it deposits it in an underground tank. Once in the tank, the solids fall to the bottom while water is permitted to exit into a drain field, where it percolates down through the ground. The soil naturally filters out harmful bacteria before the water reaches the water table below. Some systems use additives inside the tank as well to help break down the solids, although the question of their effectiveness is controversial.
Inspection, Maintenance and Conservation: Follow these tips to keep your septic system functioning properly, out of sight but not out of mind:
- Keep Your System Well Maintained: Regular maintenance can help prevent problems before they occur, so you don't end up with sewage backing up into your yard or your home. How often you need inspection and maintenance depends on the specific type of system you have, but most need to be checked at minimum every three years. Your septic inspector will look for leaks, clogs and other malfunctions and determine if your tank needs pumping to remove the solids. The frequency of pumping will depend on the size of your system, how many people use it and how much waste you produce.
- Practice Good Septic Hygiene: Make sure you don't flush anything down the drain except for human waste and toilet paper. Anything else can clog up your system, even if the object in question is labeled as flushable. You also want to avoid washing any chemicals down the drain. This can inhibit the natural breakdown of materials in your septic tank as well as harm the environment if they are released in the drain field or back up into the yard. You may want to forego a garbage disposal, since the disposal sends a slurry of ground-up food waste into your tank, increasing the frequency with which you need to have it pumped.
- Economize On Your Water: In general, the less water you use, the better your septic tank will function. To conserve water, repair leaks in your plumbing, install low-flow faucets and don't run too many water-reliant appliances like dishwashers and washing machines at once. If you have a pool or hot tub, don't empty it into your septic tank or its drain field or you can overwhelm the system. If you see water on the ground in the area where your septic tank is buried, or smell sewage in your yard, it means your system is backed up, which is a major health hazard.
For more tips on how to keep your septic system flowing and to address any concerns about how yours is working, contact a qualified plumber today.
Give local Benjamin Franklin® a call with questions or concerns about any aspect of your plumbing system. We’re always here to help!