If you have a septic tank, you’ve probably heard about the high costs to replace your system, and maybe you’ve even experienced some expensive repairs yourself. Rather than waiting until your system fails and costs start to add up, however, focus on maintaining your septic tank to avoid repairs. Read on to learn more about the best ways to maintain your septic tank.
Septic Tank Misconceptions
Misconception #1: Septic Tanks Take Care of Themselves
In a perfect environment, with best practices in use, it’s true that septic tanks can work well with less frequent intervention. However, even the smallest change to the environment of your septic tank can throw off the bacterial balance, and good habits can be hard to keep one hundred percent of the time. For this reason, regular maintenance and pumping of your septic tank are essential to extending the lifespan of your system and reducing the need for major repairs.
Misconception #2: It Doesn’t Matter What Goes Down the Drain
In order to break down waste effectively, septic tanks need a natural balance of microbes and enzymes. When harsh chemicals like drain cleaners, solvents, and disinfectants make their way into the tank, these valuable microbes are killed off, which means waste is not properly eliminated and clogs are more likely to occur. Other waste, like grease and certain paper products, can create issues as well. Rather than flushing these items, consider using the trash, and limit what goes down the drain to wastewater and sewage.
Misconception #3: Clogged Septic Tanks Need to be Replaced
It’s always better to prevent a clog than to repair it, but a clogged septic system doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. Jetting is the process of installing access ports to the ends of inlet lines and using pressure to clear the lines. Having your system pumped and jetted by a septic tank technician helps to clear clogs and prevents the need for more costly repairs or replacement.
Misconception #4: Septic Systems Don’t Last Longer than 20 Years
There is no set lifespan for your septic tank. Instead, how the system is treated and maintained determines how long it will last. In fact, a well-maintained system can last well over 20 years! To keep your septic tank running well into the future, control what goes down the drain, pump and jet regularly, and keep roots from growing into the lines.
Misconception #5: Only Enzyme-Based Products Work for Septic Tank Maintenance
Biological cleaners are not only better for the environment than harsh chemicals, they often work better too. Enzyme-based cleaners have been a popular choice for years, but they may not be the most effective green cleaner for septic systems and drains. While they act fast to break down fats, oils, and greases (FOG), they only liquefy the waste. The liquid waste may make its way further down the pipes, but it could solidify again, causing yet another clog. Consider using a bacterial cleaner instead. Rather than liquifying FOG, bacterial cleaners completely digest it, reducing the risk of clogs in tanks or leach beds..
The Cost of Repairing or Replacing a Septic Tank
According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost of a septic tank repair is $1,732, which is certainly less than the cost to replace it, but maybe avoidable with the right home habits, and even some DIY solutions. For example, bacteria may need to be added to your system to break down the waste. A septic repair company may charge between $400 and $600 for this, but you can purchase a bacteria-based cleaner and add it to your system for significantly less. The average costs of some other common septic repairs are:
- Responding to Call-$200
- Baffle repair-$300-$900
- Pump repair-$400
- Line repair-$1,100-$4,200
When it comes to replacing your septic system, the costs can add up quickly. The tank itself will run anywhere from $600-$4,000, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Then you’ll need to pay for additional items like gravel, fill dirt, and topsoil, which can cost up to $1,000 on average. Depending on the building codes for your state, you may also need a licensed plumber, in addition to your septic installer, to ensure the pipes are connected properly.
How to Keep Your Septic Tank Healthy
Repair and replacement costs may be high, but fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your septic tank functioning properly. Forming these good habits today will help your septic tank working for years to come. They include:
Pumping your Septic Tank Regularly
People often wait until major problems arise to think about pumping their septic tank. While the right bacterial cleaner can help keep scum and gunk to a minimum, the levels will naturally rise after a few years, and more frequently if harsh chemicals are used. Yearly inspections of your septic tank are highly recommended. If scum and gunk have risen too close to an outlet drain, the tank should be pumped. If not, it could flow into leach fields and create additional, and often more costly, problems.
Think about what you Put Down the Drain
When it comes to septic tanks, it’s not out of sight out of mind. Everything that gets flushed down the toilet will end up in your tank and eventually your leach field. While toilet paper is designed to break down in your septic tank, other paper products, including paper towels and even wet wipes advertised as flushable, can wreak havoc on your septic system in a short amount of time. Avoid certain food items as well. Grease, for example, can solidify and cause clogs, and even coffee grounds can resist break down in the tank.
Use Bacteria-Based Additives Instead of Harsh Chemicals
Your septic tank relies on bacteria and microbes to break down waste. When harsh chemicals and cleaners are used, you can not only do damage to your pipes, you can also throw off the natural pH balance of the tank. The bacterial additives available today are just as effective at unclogging drains as the harsh chemicals, without the consequences. Using a bacteria-based cleaner will help your entire septic system to work at peak performance.
Maintaining your Septic Tank
Even if you don’t think about your septic tank on a daily basis, it’s constantly performing a critical job for your home or business. Because your septic tank is an essential part of your daily life, it’s important to maintain it. Be sure to pump your septic tank regularly, at least once every few years or more frequently if scum and gunk rise to the level of your outlet drain. Consider what goes down your drain as well. Use septic-safe toilet paper and avoid flushing paper towels and wet wipes, even if they are advertised as flushable. Finally, swap your harsh chemicals for bacteria-based additives to help support the natural balance of your septic tank. These best practices will ensure that your septic tank works for years to come.