A septic tank is an important piece of equipment that takes care of one of the most essential tasks in the home. Those living in rural areas that are not connected to a main sewage line often rely on septic tanks to dispose of household wastewater and sewage. A septic tank functions as a mini sewage treatment system that can break down and remove the waste material for an entire household. The interior of a septic tank is essentially a small eco-system that relies on bacteria to break down solid matter and separate it from liquid waste. There are many chemical and biological additives available for septic tanks that claim to prolong the life of the tank and increase its efficiency. However, a number of studies have found that introducing additives into a septic system can actually harm the tank and may even increase the amount of times that it needs to be pumped.
Septic tanks work by separating liquids and solid matter. Waste material is slowly broken down by anaerobic bacteria and is flushed from the tank along with the liquid into a drainage field. Any solid waste that cannot be broken down remains at the bottom of the tank as sludge that needs to be pumped out every two to four years. If they are properly maintained, septic tanks can last for up to 30 years, and controlling the amount of solid waste that enters the system will reduce the amount of times it needs to be emptied. Household chemicals such as bleach and drain cleaner should never be introduced into a septic system as they can kill off the bacteria that live inside the tank.
There are many additives available on the market containing ingredients such as yeast, bacteria, enzymes, or hydrogen peroxide that are designed to aid the fermentation process inside the tank. Some manufacturers even fraudulently claim that their product eliminates the need for pumping as the additive can break down all of the solid waste within the tank. However, septic tanks are more than capable of doing their job without the help of chemical or organic additives. As long as they are properly cared for, septic tanks create their own bacteria that feed off of the waste material inside and break it down into sludge. Homeowners should only add a small amount of bacteria to their tank if the existing bacteria have been killed off by excessive use of household chemicals.
Know Your Septic
Limiting the amount of solid waste that enters a septic tank is one of the best ways to keep it in perfect working order. Never flush items such as tampons, baby wipes, cigarettes or paper towels down the toilet as they cannot be broken down by a septic system. Homes that use a septic system should never install a garbage disposal as the small food particles collect at the bottom of the tank as sludge that needs to be pumped out more frequently.
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Problems with your septic system can render your home uninhabitable within minutes. If your system becomes backed up, it could lead to water and sewage overflowing from your toilets and drains. In order to keep your system in good condition, you will need to find a reputable septic company that has many years of experience in installing and maintaining septic tanks. Hiring an inexperienced technician or one that cuts corners could lead to disaster and may even lower the value of your property.
The best way to find a skilled contractor is to ask for referrals from friends and neighbors. You can also check out websites such as angieslist that rate local contractors and allows customers to leave reviews. Your local authority or health department should be able to provide you with a list of septic companies operating in your area.
Do Some Research
Once you have narrowed your search down to a few candidates, perform some research on each contractor. Check that the company is licensed and registered with the state and that they have general liability insurance. Visit each company’s website to see their background and experience and to see what types of septic systems they work with. Do a little extra research on septic tank maintenance and care to see if a contractor uses modern techniques and practices when installing and servicing septic tanks. If you have doubts about a particular company’s credentials, then you can call and verify their license number with your state’s licensing board.
Ask What Services Each Contractor Provides
If you require a whole new system installed on your property, ask each company what aftercare they provide. Septic tanks need emptying every three to five years depending on how many people reside in your household. The tank and drainage field also need regular inspection and maintenance. Ask the contractor if aftercare is included in the price of installation and how much they charge for emergency callouts. You should also enquire about what guarantees each company offers on their work and how quickly they can send a technician in the event of an emergency.
Watch Out For Hidden Charges
If your septic tank is located underground, then some companies may charge you an extra fee if they have to dig to gain access to it. There may also be an extra charge for properties that are in remote areas or are difficult to access. If your property is built on a slope or is far away from a road where the contractor’s truck can park, ask if you will have to pay more for them to pump the tank from a large distance.
Get a quote from several different companies for whatever work you require. Be wary of simply selecting the cheapest contractor as they may use a lower quality of materials. Never attempt to inspect your septic tank yourself unless you have experience with sewage systems. Septic tanks create toxic gases that can be dangerous, so leave pumping and other maintenance tasks to the professionals.
Most properties in rural areas rely on a septic tank to dispose of household wastewater. A septic tank works by separating liquids from solid waste and then pumping the liquid into the surrounding soil. Solid waste collects at the bottom of the tank and needs to be emptied every one to five years depending on the size of the household. With proper care and maintenance, your septic tank can last up to 30 years before it needs replacing. There are many things you can do to prolong the life of your tank and keep it in perfect working order.
A septic tank needs time to separate solid waste from water. Overloading your tank with too much water will upset the bacteria inside that are responsible for breaking down waste material. It could also lead to the system becoming backed up. Make sure none of the faucets in your home are leaking and that the toilet does not run between flushes. Only use your washing machine and dishwasher when they are completely full, and replace any old kitchen appliances with modern ones that conserve water.
Don’t Use a Garbage Disposal
A garbage disposal will increase the amount of solid waste in your septic tank by as much as 50%. Houses that rely on septic tanks should never use a garbage disposal or only use top-of-the-range varieties that grind food down into tiny pieces.
Protect Your Drainage Field
Protect the drainage field around your tank by ensuring that nothing heavy is ever placed on top of it. A car, hot tub or structure could begin to sink into the ground and damage your pipes. Remove any trees that are within 100 feet of the drainage field especially those with strong roots. The drainage field should be covered with soil only and never concrete, asphalt or plants.
Be Careful of What Goes into Your Tank
Non-biodegradable items such as tampons, diapers, wet wipes, kitchen towels and dental floss should never be flushed down the toilet as they will clog your septic tank in a short space of time. Pouring cooking grease down the drain is also dangerous as it can cause a blockage. Strong chemicals such as bleach, drain cleaner, and detergents should be used sparingly as they can disturb the bacteria in your tank.
Hire a professional company to empty your septic tank as soon as the solid waste fills one third of the tank. Ask the technician to perform a full inspection of your tank while emptying it to ensure that all the components are working correctly. Make sure the technician opens the manhole cover and inspection ports to measure the sludge and scum levels inside your tank. Never open the ports yourself as the bacteria inside produce a toxic gas that can be extremely dangerous. Be sure to perform regular inspections and maintenance of your septic tank to prevent bacteria from contaminating groundwater and nearby lakes and ponds.