Septic System Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Every home owner or renter has heard horror stories about septic tank disasters. You can avoid living your own horror story if you provide basic maintenance for your septic system. Here are the answers to the top five questions about caring for your septic tank:
What is a Septic System and what does it do?
A septic system is generally made up of two parts: a septic tank and a leaching field. Your septic system stores and treats sewage and greywater from your home before it is released back into nature (and your local water table.)
Do I have a septic system?
Nearly 1 in 4 homes in the United States has a septic system or cesspool. It you live in a large city or your home is served by "town sewer", then you probably aren't actively using a septic system. However, if you live in a rural area or small town, the odds that you use a septic system increase. Many US states require that homeowners certify that their septic systems are functioning properly before they can sell their house -- so your local town hall may be able to look up the answer to this question if you don't know.
Where is the opening to my Septic Tank?
If it's time to have your septic tank cleaned this is a critical issue! It can get tricky, because the opening is typically buried several feet under the ground! I can tell you from personal experience that it's no fun digging multiple holes in a yard, hoping to get lucky and hit the septic tank. If you have a septic system, but don't know where the opening is, go through the documents you received when you purchased your home. If you're lucky, the previous owner included a map. If not, can you get ahold of the previous owner? How about calling around to the different septic contractors that maintain systems in your town and try to find the one that serviced your home before you owned it?
How often does my Septic Tank need to be cleaned?
How often you need to clean your septic tank depends on a few factors, like how many people live in your household and how large your septic tank is. The general answer is 1-3 years. Most home owners usually have their septic tank cleaned every two years, this kind of steady, regular maintenance will help keep you trouble free.
Why should I bother cleaning my Septic Tank?
Think of all of the waste water that is used in your home. You have waste water from the toilet, and water that goes down the drain from when you cook and clean or even run the garbage disposal. It is full of food and grease and bugs and all of those things you will never (and hope never) to see again. Some of this matter accumulates at the bottom of the tank or gets stuck floating near the top, lessening the capacity of your septic tank and increasing your water bill.
The septic tank is cleaned by pumping all of the sludgy matter out of the tank to be hauled away and disposed of elsewhere.
I need to have a new septic system built. Where do I start?
You should start with an understanding of septic design.
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