Keeping Your Septic System Happy
Between basic maintenance and proper use, keeping a septic system in good working order isn't really all that complicated. Unfortunately, changing your family's basic habits, shopping decisions and semi-annual to-do list takes a bit more effort than you might expect. Once you understand the impact of these actions and choices, it's easier to motivate yourself to make the change, and ensure your family is following suit.
Anything you're putting down the drain can potentially have an impact on your septic system, so it's critical that you be mindful of this. Septic tanks hold solid waste, where bacterial digestion acts upon it to break it down into particulates small enough to fit through a fine mesh screen. This digestion process takes time to work on typical solid waste, but if those solids are inorganic, or have different rates of decay, they'll remain in the holding tank for longer. Over time, this can lead to a build-up of solids which simply won't break down fast enough to keep up with regular use.
There are some simple changes in your daily habits that need to take place. Don't use anti-bacterial cleaning products that might end up going down your drains, including hand soap, and multi-surface sprays, as these will kill off the bacteria doing the work in your septic tank. Don't flush anything in the toilet that isn't meant to be there, such as paper towels, facial tissue, cotton swabs or feminine hygiene products, as these will all add to the volume of solids, and won't break down as quickly.
Every home is different, but septic systems are installed based on the anticipated number of residents in a house. In other words, a three-bedroom house will be presumed to have four residents, and will have a septic tank designed to suit four people. This is also subject to state regulation, as minimum code requirements may not allow smaller tanks to be installed on new constructions.
Ideally, you should begin by having your tank inspected so that you know its current state, and approximate time since its last clean-out. Going forward, get your septic system contractor to provide their best guess at how long you should wait before you schedule your next clean-out. From that point forward, you can rely on industry standard guidelines, which recommend that a family of four, using a 1000 gallon tank, have it pumped out approximately every two and a half years.
Basic maintenance and appropriate habits will help to ensure that you have the fewest possible problems with your septic system. If you do encounter issues with leaking, poor drainage or standing water, contact a plumber or septic tank company to evaluate the system.
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