Having your septic tank pumped is a typical part of owning a home with a septic system, but with responsible water use and waste disposal, you can avoid frequent pumping and keep your whole septic system in good shape for years. Spreading out your water usage throughout the day, keeping track of how many drains empty into your tank, and regularly having your leach field inspected will let you go longer between pumpings and also help you avoid any unpleasant plumbing surprises.
Spread Out Water Usage
Your septic system's leach field lets your tank hold more water than its actual capacity by letting water absorb out through the field over time. This prevents your tank from quickly filling with water and needing to be pumped. An average tank holds 1,000 gallons of water, while the average household uses close to 100 gallons of water a day; without a leach field or with a field that is damaged or not working properly, this can cause your tank to fill up very quickly.
A similar problem can occur if the leach field is overwhelmed. It takes time for water to be absorbed into the surrounding soil, and this can take even longer during wet weather when soil is already damp. If you tend to use most of your water during certain times of day, this can put more water into your tank than can be absorbed out through the field, causing the tank to fill. This in itself can be a problem, because when a tank overfills, the leach field can potentially get clogged.
To help avoid this, spread out what you use throughout the day and try not to do too many things at the same time. For example, don't have a dishwasher and clothes washer running at the same time someone in your house is taking a shower. You can also install low-flow showerheads and sink fixtures to decrease how much water you put down the drains.
Redirect Unnecessary Inflows
Along with watching how you use your water and appliances throughout the day, you can also check to make sure that only essential appliances and drains are going into your septic tank. If you have drains emptying into your tank that don't need to be there, this could very quickly have an impact on how quickly your tank fills up.
When it comes to what should drain into your septic, a safe place to start is almost anything coming from inside your house that produces water and waste. Outside your house is another story. Make sure your downspouts, gutters, or any other drainage systems, such as those used to keep water from pooling on concrete, are diverted elsewhere. If any rainwater drains into your tank, this can overwhelm your system very quickly as well as interfere with important bacteria. When in doubt, ask a plumber to take a look at your system and tell you what should and should not be draining into your septic tank.
Have Your Leach Field Inspected
Because your leach field is so vital to the rest of your septic system, it should be inspected on a regular basis. If you have your tank emptied every few years, make sure your leach field is inspected at the same time. Leach field failures can cause your septic system to be almost unusable until it is repaired or replaced, so it's worth catching potential problems early on.
Several things can cause a leach field to start to fail. If your tank is only emptied once it's completely full, sludge could make its way into the leach field and clog it up. Roots from plants or trees can damage or clog the pipes as well; while some plants are harmless or even beneficial, roots that grow too deep need to be taken care of quickly. Heavy items on top of the leach field can also damage the pipes, so try to avoid parking or driving vehicles over the area.
Your septic professional can take care of this inspection for you during your pumping visit, so make it a part of your regular maintenance and upkeep. Leach fields can be expensive to replace, so this will ensure it lasts longer and works more efficiently.
If you need help with septic pumping, contact a septic service in your area.