We've all had that neighbour who pops their head over the fence when you're getting your septic tank pumped and brags that their septic tank has never needed to be emptied or they have never pumped their septic tank. Septic systems are not the most common topic of discussion between friends or family, so in this article, we will answer the question next and then tell you how you can extend the amount of time between septic system pumps and save you a lot of money in the process.
If properly looked after, a septic tank can last 20+ years. Septic tanks are designed to separate scum (grease), liquid effluent and solids or sludge. Unless you are using a septic tank treatment to break down solids and sludge, you will need to have your septic tank pumped out every 1-5 years depending on usage and if you have a garbage disposal. If your septic system collects too many solids you are at risk of damaging your tank and leach field by clogging it with solids.
While 1-5 years is what septic tank professionals recommend, this will depend on how you look after your septic tank and more importantly what you put down your drains, toilet or shower. Read on to see how you can delay a costly septic tank pump and potentially save yourself $300 to $500 for each septic tank pump and clean.
As mentioned above a septic system functions by separating out all waste into three main layers; scum layer, liquid effluent layer and sludge layer. The scum layer is what floats on top of the septic tank and mainly includes soap scum and grease or oil. Sludge is solids from poop or a garbage disposal shredding plant waste and fruit or vegetables.
The bacteria in the septic tank do break down this sludge, but in 90% of septic systems, they do this very slowly, too slow to make a real difference. This is why smart homeowners use a monthly septic tank treatment for less than $9 per month. This tablet that you flush down the toilet once per month not only adds the right bacteria to your tank but provides them with the oxygen needed to survive and break down much more sludge from your tank.
If you don't pump your septic tank the sludge will build up over time will have two main consequences:
You have probably heard the saying that prevention is better than a cure. When it comes to curing (fixing) your septic system, this can be very costly. For most US households, their septic system is one of the properties most expensive items. Prevention of a system failure and regular pumping can be as simple as proper maintenance, watching what you put down your kitchen sink or drain water and ensuring your septic tank is sized properly for your house.
There are several types of septic systems in US homes. Each septic system serves a different purpose or different use case. The septic system that is best at breaking down the human waste and sludge is the aerobic treatment unit septic system. Read that page to learn more about this septic system that has air injected into the sewage to allow aerobic bacteria to work faster to break down the solids. A good article to learn more about how you can do this with your septic tank is - What to put in the septic tank to break down solids & grease.
A full septic tank does not mean that you have too many solids in your septic tank. Every septic tank has a normal operating level. You can read more on this topic in this article - How to tell if septic tank is full.
In conclusion, your septic tank will need to be pumped to keep the septic tank functions working properly. There are ways of extending the amount your tank needs to be pumped and avoiding regular pumping which can be expensive. A septic tank treatment and watching what you put down your drains and toilets are the two most effective ways to make this happen. If you are experiencing septic problems or odor problems then it is probably time you got a quote from a septic professional to look at your system, but maybe try the cheaper maintenance tablets before you call the professional.