The Importance of Septic Tank Maintenance
Living the rural lifestyle has its advantages for those who wish to avoid the hustle and bustle of a more urban environment. It also means that certain services aren’t readily available including access to a municipal sewage system. In these cases a self contained waste management system or septic system is needed and the septic tank is the most important part of this system. It only makes sense then that regular maintenance is an important part of keeping the tank and the rest of the system in good working order.
If you currently own or are thinking of buying a home with a septic system you may be wondering why is septic tank maintenance so important? As the system is used sludge, grease and other solids build up in the tank and failure to pump it out can lead to a clogged up system.
This can lead to backups and overflows which can cause damage to not only your home but also the environment. It can also cause damage to the system which can lead to expensive repairs or in some cases an even more expensive scenario, replacement. In the case of environmental damage the home/property owner is responsible for any damage and can face criminal charges and fines.
If you look at what a septic tank is you can see why maintaining it is important. It is what its name says it is, a tank that collects everything that is put down a homes drains and toilets. It has an opening at both ends, one connected to the house to accept the waste water and one at the opposite end that allows liquids to flow into the drain field. All the solid waste settles to the bottom and like any tank it will fill up sooner or later.
There are really two parts to proper septic tank maintenance; pumping/cleaning and what gets put into it.
Determining how often the system need to be cleaned depends on the system itself and how it is used. First you have to factor in how big the tank actually is. Most tanks are of the 1000 to 1500 gallon variety. The second factor is the amount of use the system gets; how many people are consistently using it, is there a washing machine and how often is it run, what about a dish washer and is it run daily.
A general rule of thumb is that for 1 to 2 people the tank needs maintenance every 4 to 5 years while 3 to 4 people will up the cleaning schedule to every 2 to 3 years. For even larger families or a system that gets excessive usage it may require pumping out and cleaning every 1 to 2 years.
What gets flushed down the toilet and flows down the sink drains can also impact the maintenance schedule of any septic tank. Septic systems are designed primarily to deal with sewage and water, anything else that gets put into them can cause problems. Paper towels, cotton balls, sanitary napkins or any other solid materials that are slow to degrade or are non-biodegradable causing the tank to fill up faster then normal and can cause clogs requiring expensive repairs or replacement.
A full system inspection is probably the most important part of any septic tank maintenance program. This should be done every time the tank is pumped out by the pumping service. It will add some extra cost to the on-site visit but it is well worth the cost when you consider how much system repairs and replacement can cost.
A full septic system inspection included with septic tank pumping will include:
1. A thorough examination of the tank after it has been pumped and cleaned.
2. Checking all the components of the home plumbing system as this can also have an effect on system performance. Connections will be checked and water run through each fixture to ensure there is proper water pressure throughout the system. Running water through the system will also give the inspector the opportunity to make sure that waste water is flowing into the septic tank in an acceptable fashion.
3. The drain field needs to be inspected. A visual inspection of the ground over the drain field will be done to make sure there are no signs of system clogs. If there looks like there is a problem small cameras mounted on a plumbers snake can be used to inspect the pipes going into the drain field.
Keeping your septic system working efficiently requires proper maintenance practices throughout the year. Get it pumped out at regular intervals, avoid flushing non-biodegradable or hard to degrade items into it and get it inspected regularly will go along ways towards extending the life of the system. It will also prevent problems that could lead to expensive repairs.