Septic systems are very low maintenance systems which can provide reliable service for 20 years or longer. The level of maintenance and frequency of problems can both be greatly reduced by knowing how to recognize problems and taking steps to protect your septic system.
The most critical element of any septic system is to limit the amount of water which enters the system. The lower the volume of water the more efficient the septic system will be able to function. Homeowners can reduce the amount of water by making just a few changes in their lifestyle. Only wash full loads of clothes or dishes. This alone will greatly reduce the amount of water entering the system. Take shorter showers, and install water conserving shower heads. Installing water conserving toilets will also make a very large difference in water usage.
When looking at average water usage, one of the largest areas of use is leaks and drips. Homeowners simply ignore needed repairs, or put them off for long periods of time. This wastes a great deal of water as well as causes a constant influx of water into the septic system. Repair all water leaks or dripping faucets as quickly as possible.
Do not use a garbage disposal if your home is on a septic system. The debris from the disposal will not break down properly in your septic system causing a build up of sludge in the bottom of the tank. This will greatly increase the frequency of pumpings.
Never plant trees or large shrubs over any element of your septic system. The root systems of these plants will clog piping and can crack and otherwise damage a concrete septic tank or distribution box. You want to have only a healthy lawn over your septic system. Grass will help prevent erosion, and will help with evaporation.
Never allow any vehicle traffic over the septic system. No element of your septic system is design or intended to support the weight of a vehicle. The result can be crushed pipes, cracked distribution boxes and damaged septic tanks. It is important to keep your system water tight to prevent leaks and the unwanted introduction of ground water into your system. Any cracks in the septic tank or distribution box eliminates the water tight integrity of your system and leaves it at risk for failure.
Limit the amount of chemicals allowed to enter your septic system. Harsh chemicals such as drain openers can kill the bacteria in your septic tank. This bacteria is required to break down the waste products into a liquid form which can then be absorbed back into the soil. You should never allow gasoline, paint thinner or other chemicals to enter your septic system. Killing the bacteria in your septic tank can result in the need for pumping out your system at an average cost of $300 to $500.
By limiting the amount of water entering your septic system, avoiding harsh chemicals, and applying some common sense, you can greatly reduce the potential for system failure as well as the frequency of pumpings required, saving you money and headaches.