While septic systems are quite simple in concept and operation, they do need a little help now and then to perform at top efficiency. We recommend that you inspect your tank (or have it inspected) at least once every two years, and have it pumped out when needed. If you’d rather maintain it improperly, then stop reading right here.
How often you need to inspect and/or pump out your septic tank depends on your tank size, the sewage volume from the home, and the sewage’s solids content.
Sewage volume is basically the amount of waste all the members of your household produce. So the more people, the more volume. The number and types of household appliances also influence sewage volume. Unless your tank is large enough to process additional wastes, using a garbage disposal will lead to more frequent pump-outs. Since a garbage disposal can increase solids as much as 50%, a better, and less expensive, solution is not to use one at all. Feed your local landfill with that nice, useful organic waste instead. Or compost it and feed your garden.
What about all those special enzymes and septic products you see advertised? There are no additives that can reduce the solids in a septic tank enough to eliminate the periodic cleaning out. Your normal household wastewater contains an abundant supply of microorganisms that already effectively degrade the organic material, so unless you’ve committed micro-bug-icide by putting something nasty down your drain, you actually shouldn’t need to add anything.
About those nasty things. Don’t discard solvents, paint thinners, pesticides, automotive oil, or petroleum-based products by pouring them, or flushing them, into your system. Besides being dangerous contaminants, these can harm your septic tank’s micro-organism population – and your system’s ability to process organic wastes. More importantly, even small quantities of these materials may leach into underlying groundwater, presenting a danger to your family, your neighbors, and ultimately, the whole area’s underground water supply.
That takes care of the solids. But your septic system also manages all the liquids and wastewater that leaves your home through your sewer pipes. Reducing the total volume of liquids that your septic has to process will help prolong the life of the system, and reduce your maintenance costs along the way. Of course, the more people sharing your home, the more water will flow through the system. But you can reduce some of that volume by installing low-flow toilets or shower fixtures. Did you know that up to 53 gallons of water are drained into your system with each load of laundry? If several loads are done in one day, that can put considerable stress on your system. Spacing your laundry loads over the week will help your system. And when the time comes to replace your old washer, consider a highly efficient, front-loading washer. They use as little as a third the amount of water (and less detergent, too) that a conventional top-loader uses.
Modern ultra-low flush toilets use between 1 and 1.6 gallons of water per flush and will reduce water use by as much as 30%. Low-flow faucet aerators on sink faucets and low-flow showerheads will also help. All these small changes can make your septic system’s working life longer, easier and less expensive for you. And as an added plus, they’ll reduce your water, water-heating, and even laundry detergent costs,too! And even help the environment. How’s that for win – win – win?
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