Let’s face it, when you have a septic system, fore-thought on proper maintenance isn’t always a priority in your daily life. Keep in mind, though, the cost to repair or replace a system can be a financial hardship if not properly planned for. Proper maintenance of a septic system can extend its functional life, significantly delaying the need for repair or replacement.
So what can you, the homeowner, do to get on a maintenance schedule? Well, the following will provide insight on proper septic care, starting with installation.
Installation is Key
First step in this process is locating a reputable septic company or engineer about the design of your system based on your property. A great engineer will work within the regulatory requirements of your governing municipal, county and/or state health agencies to find the most cost effective and aesthetically designed septic system solutions to fit your budget and property.
After you apply for a building permit for installation of the septic system, which is required in most locations, a percolation test will be required to determine if the ground will sufficiently support the system.
Proper Care After Installation is Crucial
Once your septic system is installed, properly maintaining the system is an important factor in its longevity. Though most experts life septic systems between 20 to 30 years, if properly maintained, a septic system could continue to function well beyond that. Basically, a septic system is much like a car. Certain maintenance should be performed at specific times for the integrity of the system. The more you neglect a septic system, as with a car, the more problems you’re likely to have with it and shorter life expectancy it will have.
So, to understand the importance of proper septic maintenance, you should first know the main function of a septic system. Plain and simple, it’s meant to recycle wastewater from your home or business and enter it back into the environment for use. When a system is functioning as it’s designed to, you’ll have three levels of waste in your tank including water, sludge and scum. Bacteria in the system should sufficiently breakdown most of the scum and sludge that enters the system. Water in the tank will flow from the tank to the septic field and in the process, good bacteria in the ground will essentially “purify” the water of harmful chemicals and bad bacteria, allowing clean water to flow into the environment for additional filtering in the soil.
Not maintaining your system can be detrimental to your health as well as the health of the environment, including contamination of groundwater.
Septic System Pump Out
Septic tank maintenance is critical as the septic tank retains all those unpleasant solids that enter the system, such as human waste, and allows water to flow out of the tank and re-enter the environment through a filtering process. Not pumping a septic tank can cause serious issues for your system and should be performed regularly. It’s recommended that a system be pumped every 3 years or 36 months, or more often for high usage households and businesses. Also, at the time of pumping, a septic contractor will evaluate the condition of the tank for cracks and deterioration.
Before You Go, You Should Know…
When it comes to what you can flush into your septic system, remember this: if it doesn’t immediately break down, don’t flush it down. The only things you should be flushing into your system is excrement, urine and one-ply toilet paper. Anything else should be thrown in the garbage for disposal.
For a more comprehensive list of what to avoid putting into your septic and why, read our blog piece “To Flush or Not to Flush” (LINK TO OTHER BLOG).
Landscaping and Structures
Most governing health authorities have very specific requirements as to what you can build or plant within specific proximity to your septic system. Erecting structures or planting heavy vegetation or landscaping near or over your system can damage your septic. They can cause minor or major damage, impeding your systems functionality.
Also, your lawn can show symptoms of septic problems. For more information on this, visit our blog piece, “Celebrate Arbor Day, Just Not Near Your Septic System” (LINK TO OTHER BLOG)
Use Proper Appliances
When you have a septic system, choosing proper appliances is important as they can limit stress on your system. High efficiency washing machines, toilets, dishwashers and high efficiency faucets and showerheads are the best option, as they limit water usage. High efficiency washing machines typically use approximately 28 gallons of water per load, compared to 41 gallons for traditional washers. High efficiency appliances also use less energy, so you’ll save a little money on your electric bill too!
Also, when it comes to detergents, it’s always recommended to use environmentally friendly, liquid detergents. Powder detergents can cause cause build-up or blockage in the system, causing clogs and back-ups. Also, limit the use of bleaches and harsh chemicals, as they can greatly decrease much needed bacteria in a septic system.
Limit Water Usage
Even with high efficiency appliances, it’s still recommended to limit the amount of water you use if you have a septic system. A typical household member will use, on average, about 70 gallons of water per day. Here are some steps you can take to limits your water usage:
- Make sure your appliances are energy efficient, including toilets, faucets and showerheads.
- When you do laundry, make sure you set the load size to the proper size based on the amount of clothes you’re washing. If this isn’t an option and you can only run larger sized loads, make sure you wash as many clothes at once as possible.
- Make sure your appliances and plumbing are not leaking. Per the EPA, one leaking toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water per day.
Maintenance of your septic system is easy if you’re informed. Make sure you discuss proper maintenance with your septic service provider and they can set you up on a maintenance program that works with your system and usage.