Septic System – Overview
The septic system is one of the most important yet often overlooked plumbing fixtures of a residential property. While most homeowners in the U.S. have a septic system installed in their homes, they are unaware of where the tank is located. Moreover, most people also do not know the safety measures that need to be taken to ensure the health and safety of the septic system. As a result, overtime septic systems collapse.
With regular maintenance, you can extend the life of your septic system and enjoy its benefits for more than 25 years. And if you are not sure how to get started, use our tips to maintain the health of your septic system. But before we get into the details, it is best to know how a septic system works.
How the Septic System Functions?
There are two main parts of a septic system:
- The tank
- The drain field
The tank receives wastewater from your laundry room, kitchen, and toilets. Once the wastewater enters the tank, the heavy solid waste in the water gets settled to the bottom of the tank and forms a sludge layer. Whereas the lighter solid particles and grease float on top of the tank that forms the scum. This separation takes around 24 hours after which the water pushes into the drain field.
The two layers of solids are eventually eaten up by the bacteria. However, it is possible that bacteria cannot cope up with the waste and there is a huge waste buildup in the tank. When this happens, the waste gets pushed into the drain field along with water.
6 Ways to Keep Your Septic System Healthy
It is important that you take care of your septic system so that waste does not get flowed into the drain field. You can do so by trying some of the following tips.
Manage Water Flow
In an average household, each member uses up to 70 gallons of water every day. But in case there is a leakage, that amount can rise up to 200 gallons per day. Moreover, all the water that flows out of the house goes into the septic system. Therefore, it is essential to manage the water flow in your house. Take all necessary steps to conserve water in your bathroom, kitchen, and laundry. This can include:
- Using less sink water as you wash hands or do the dishes
- Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth
- Try and take quicker showers
- Ensure there is no leakage in the faucets or pipes
- Maximize load when using a dishwasher or washing machine
- Spread out the use of water (such as doing the laundry thrice a week on every alternate day), and...
- If possible, invest in efficient toilets and showerheads.
By using all these water conservation tips, you can reduce the load on your septic system.
Keep a Check on What Goes Down the Drain and Toilets
As mentioned earlier, all the water that flows out of the house goes into your septic tank, it is critical that you keep a check on what is going down the drains and toilets. Never flush down things such as cigarette butts, paper towels, condoms, diapers, sanitary napkins, and other similar items. They can surely clog your toilet, but even if that does not happen, these items will clog up your septic system.
Moreover, if you have kids in the house, you need to keep a check on the items that they flush down the toilet including pencils, toys, and crayons. In that case, it is best to keep the lid closed and ensure that the toilets are out of children’s reach.
Similarly, you need to make sure that items such as grease and leftover food particles do not go down the drain. Grease can accumulate along the inner lining of your drainage pipes and can damage your pipes over time. Moreover, it flows into your septic system. If too much grease accumulates in your septic system, it may damage your drain field and you may need to invest in a new one.
Create Diversions for Rainwater
One of the most detrimental factors to the health of the drain field is the accumulation of water. This is particularly a concern in areas where too much rainwater collects in the area. When the drain field is already moist, this affects its ability to handle wastewater from the tank. Therefore, it is important to create diversions for rainwater. One possible way is to make sure that the gutters on your roof are directed away from the drain field.
Keep Tree Roots Away from Septic Tank
Another external factor that can damage your septic tank is the tree roots. When roots enter the pipes and tank, it can damage the tank. The damage is more extensive in case of aggressive roots that grow quickly. To save this damage, it is best to keep all the trees away from the tank. If there are no trees in your yard and you are planning to plant them, make sure they are at least 100 feet away from the tank.
Avoid the Use of Chemical Cleaners and Other Harmful Chemicals
Chemical drain cleaners and other harmful chemicals such as thinner, gasoline, and other petroleum products should never be poured down the drain or toilet. These chemical products enter the septic tank and disturb the natural balance that allows bacteria to break down the solid waste.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
A septic system needs maintenance by a professional plumber to improve its efficiency and life. While the maintenance needs may vary, a 1,000-gallon septic tank needs service once every 5 years. Moreover, schedule an inspection once every year. A professional plumber will check the level of scum and sludge layers and suggest what you need to do to improve the health of your septic system.
Other measures to maintain the health of your septic tank include:
- Adequate use of garbage disposal
- Minimizing the use of heavy-duty cleaners
- Vigilant use of water softeners or other treatments for hard water
When it comes to the health of your septic system, what you do in your kitchen, toilets and laundry is a key player. External factors such as rainwater and tree roots can be equally detrimental to the health and safety of your septic tank. But one thing is for sure. You need to schedule regular maintenance by a professional plumber.