Follow these tips to keep your septic system running efficiently
Our septic system is something most of us don’t want to think about too much. But it’s important to keep it maintained and to follow some best practices to keep it performing at its peak. And by doing so, your system should last for many years to come. A well-constructed system can last for 20-30 years. But failure to maintain it can not only be very costly, but it can also pose a serious health risk for you and your family.
Fortunately, a septic system is simple to maintain and does not cost a lot of money. Follow these 7 steps to keep your system healthy:
- Understand How Your Septic System Works: The first step in caring for your system is knowing how it functions. In simple terms, the septic tank processes your home’s wastewater, with floatable matter such as oils and grease rising to the top and heavier solids dropping to the bottom. The remaining liquid is then released into the drainfield where it’s absorbed into the soil. Read more here [link to How Does a Septic System Work page]
- Inspect and Pump Routinely: It’s important to have your septic system inspected and pumped out regularly by septic system professionals. According to the EPA, conventional systems should be pumped every 3 – 5 years. Alternative systems with pumps or mechanical components should be inspected more often, generally once a year. A septic professional can recommend how often your system should be pumped based upon household size, wastewater generated, tank size and volume of solids in wastewater. It’s a good idea to record pump out dates or to set up a maintenance contract with a trusted septic service professional to prevent system failure.
- Watch Your Water Usage: All the water that goes through your home’s pipes enters your septic system, whether it be from toilets, sinks, showers, or the dishwasher and washing machine. According to the EPA, the average single-family home uses nearly 70 gallons of water per individual per day. The more water that enters your system, the faster it fills up. Efficient water use improves the operation of your system and reduces risk of failure. Here are some ways to use water more efficiently:
- Spread washing machine and dishwasher usage out throughout the week. Doing all your laundry on one day puts a lot of stress on your septic system. It needs time to treat the wastewater. Too much water can overload the system and flood your drainfield.
- Purchase washing machines and dishwashers that bear the ENERGY STAR label. Energy Star appliances use less energy and less water saving you money on utility bills and increasing the efficiency of your septic system. According to the EPA, Energy Star washing machines use 35% less energy and 50% less water than standard models.
- Reduce the volume of water flowing through your sinks and showers with faucet aerators, high efficiency shower heads and shower flow restrictors. And remember not to let the water run unnecessarily while you’re doing dishes or heating up the shower.
- Fix leaky faucets and toilets which can waste as much as 200 gallons of water a day.
- Look for high-efficiency toilets. According to the EPA, toilet use accounts for 25%-30% of household water use. Older toilets are equipped with reservoirs that range from 3.5 to 5.0 gallons. Look for newer, more efficient ones that use only 1.6 gallons per flush.
- Think Twice About What Goes Down Your Pipes: Everything that goes down your sink, toilet and garbage disposal goes into your septic system and can impact how it performs and how fast it fills up. Do not flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper and be careful about what goes down your kitchen sink, especially crease, oils and fat that can clog your pipes and septic system. Keep these items out of your pipes.
- Grease and cooking oils
- Non-flushable wipes
- Feminine hygiene products
- Cigarette butts
- Cat Litter
- Paper towels
- Coffee grounds
- Use Garbage Disposals Sparingly: There is a misconception that garbage disposals blend things to liquid form, but that’s not the case. They only chop them up. Ground-up food particles add to the layer of solids on the bottom of your septic tank causing it to fil up faster. Only use your garbage disposal to dispose of very soft perishable foods.
- Watch Out for the Chemicals: Your septic system contains bacteria that digest and naturally treat household waste. Pouring toxins down your drain can kill these organisms and reduce the effectiveness of your septic system. It’s especially important to avoid using chemical drain cleaners. Antibacterial household cleaners and chlorine bleach should also be avoided. Look for natural cleaning products with biodegradable ingredients.
- Maintain your Drain Field: The drain field is a series of pipes or tubes that purifies liquid waste and disperses water into your soil. It’s an essential component of your septic system that needs to be protected.
- Don’t park or drive on your drain field
- Plant trees an appropriate distance away to keep roots from growing into it. A septic system professional can advise on the proper distance
- Keep roof drains, sump pumps and other rainwater drainage systems away from you drain field area. Excess water can reduce the effectiveness of your system or halt the wastewater treatment process entirely.
Remember, maintaining a healthy septic system protects you, your family, your neighbors and the environment. A septic system failure can result in inadequately treated waste and harmful toxins seeping into your yard and the groundwater. For an inspection, pump out or septic service consultation, call the experts at Flamingo Plumbing at 904-647-5466.