Septic System Mistakes To Avoid

3 Important Things First-Time Septic Tank Owners Need To Know

by Melinda Crawford

Have you recently purchased a home that has a septic tank? Are you trying to figure out what the difference is between a house that has a septic tank and one that is hooked up to the city sewer system? On a basic level, there is very little that is different. Both types of systems take in wastewater from your home and dispose of it in some way. However, septic tanks are different enough that you might have some habits that need to change now that you've moved into your new home. Some things that you need to know include:

Regular pumping: The solids from the wastewater, such as toilet paper, are held in the tank itself, while the liquid is allowed to drain into the soil. Various types of helpful bacteria and yeast help to break down the solids further, but eventually the tank will become full of sewage solids that simply cannot be broken down by these bacteria. How long this may take will depend on the size of your septic tank and your home usage. If you're rarely at home, you may be able to go five or more years between septic tank pumping appointments. On the other hand, one or more people being home all of the time may mean that you need to have the tank pumped out every two or three years. If your tank is getting filled every 6-12 months, you should talk to your local septic tank company about there being a possible problem with your tank.

Careful what you flush: Although you are not supposed to, many people flush things like clay-based cat litter or deep fryer grease down the drain with a normal sewer system. Once these materials get into the city sewer lines, they consider it to no longer be their problem; but when you have a septic tank, these kinds of materials will simply accumulate in the tank and not get broken down. The result will be more frequent septic tank pumping and, potentially, a failure of the septic tank as a whole.

Staggered loads of laundry: When you have a house that's hooked up to the city sewer system, it doesn't matter when you do laundry. You can do laundry from sunup to sundown and the laundry water will simply get flushed into the city sewer system. With a septic tank, doing too much laundry at once can result in issues. The water from a load of laundry is relatively clean and free of bacteria. If you do too much laundry in one day, all of this clean water is going to be flushing the beneficial bacteria out of your septic tank. By the time the bacteria levels recover, you're doing laundry again next week. This can lead to sewage solids building up more rapidly and requiring more frequent septic tank pumping. Instead of having a single designated laundry day, try to spread your laundry out throughout the week. This allows the bacteria levels time to recover between loads, helping to keep the septic tank environment friendly for the beneficial bacteria.