Help for Homeowners: How Do Septic Tanks Work?

How a Septic Tank Works

Have you recently purchased an older home with a septic system?

Perhaps you’re building your dream vacation cottage on a plot of land beyond the limits of a public sewer system.

As a new or current owner of a septic system, you may be wondering, “How do septic tanks work?”

Septic Essentials

One essential element for keeping your septic tank functioning properly, while minimizing maintenance costs, is understanding how it works.

A standard or “gravity fed” septic system is fairly simple: It consists of a tank, a drain field, and soil.

Wastewater from your home’s bathroom, kitchen, and laundry flows into the septic tank where solids (sludge) are separated from liquids. Living bacteria within the septic tank help break down the solids.

The waste remains in the tank for one or two days before the liquids pass to the drain field. The drain field further filters the liquid until it passes into the soil where it can be safely integrated into the groundwater. When properly maintained, a standard septic system will function for 25 to 30 years.

What Can Go Wrong?

The main reason septic systems fail prematurely is lack of preventative maintenance.

When the system is not properly maintained, the drain field can become clogged with sludge and wastewater will no longer be able to soak into the ground. When this happens, water will not drain from your toilets and sinks because it has nowhere to go.

As a homeowner with a septic tank, be aware of any the following indicators that your drain field may be clogged and unable to function optimally:

  1. Water from your toilet or tub fails to empty completely, or is unusually slow.
  2. Your toilet or sink makes a gurgling sound.
  3. Unpleasant odor and puddles over the drain field.
  4. Surfacing sewage or lush vegetation in your yard.
  5. Plumbing backups inside your home.

Septic Tank Maintenance Tips and Recommendations

The essential element for keeping your septic tank in good working order is preventative maintenance. Once you are aware of how the system works and any potential problems, you can take the necessary precautions to prevent unpleasant plumbing conditions.

Experts recommend the following maintenance tips to maximize the life of your septic system:

  1. Pump your septic tank every three to five years to remove sludge buildup that may clog pipes.
  2. Avoid adding septic tank “balancing” additives. Your system’s naturally occurring bacteria is sufficient.
  3. Use less water. Excessive water usage will prevent the drain field from absorbing water efficiently which can lead to overflow problems.
  4. Dispose of less solids in your toilet or drain. Solids that do not decompose will build up in your tank and could lead to sewage backup. Be aware of the items you flush.
  5. Avoid improper disposal of chemicals including paint, drain openers, gasoline, motor oils, and any other chemical that is harmful to the environment as well as to the bacteria in your septic tank.

Maximize the Life of Your Septic System

Now that you know how septic tanks work and the potential problems that may occur, you can take preventative action to keep your system in perfect working condition for the next 25 to 30 years.

For regular maintenance and in the event something goes wrong, Paradise Septic if your go-to. We’ve been serving the Phoenix Valley area since 1958. You can count on us to help keep your system running smoothly.

Contact us today.


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