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The Importance of Proper Ventilation in a Septic System

Septic Tank Flowing

When you think of a septic system, you probably think of your septic tank and maybe even your leach field. There’s one more part of your septic system, however, that should not be overlooked. Your septic tank vent performs an important role in the process. Learn what it does, what it looks like, and how to tell if it’s working properly in your home.

What Does a Septic Tank Vent Do?

When empty, a septic tank is filled mostly with air. Once the septic system is up and running, however, the tank will quickly begin to fill with wastewater and solids, like fats, oils, and greases. As the water level in the tank rises, the air inside becomes pressurized and needs somewhere to go. A septic tank vent provides the pressurized air and gas inside the septic tank with a safe way to exit the tank.

Types of Ventilation

Some pressurized air may escape through the outlet pipes in the tank, those that take the broken-down wastewater, or effluent, out of the tank and into the drain field. However, it’s best not to rely on outlet pipes alone to vent your septic system, as their primary job is to drain wastewater, not air, from the tank.

In addition to the outlet pipe, a septic tank will need another ventilation source. The most common types of septic vents are:

Roof vents

These are the most common septic vent today. Roof vents are installed on the roof of your home and look like small, capped chimney vents. They are extremely effective at venting large amounts of gas quickly.

Yard Vents

These vents are made of PVC and installed in the yard, usually near the leach field. The PVC is often hooked at the end, like a cane, to allow the air to flow out, but not onto anyone that is walking by. Yard vents are not as effective as roof vents, but together, roof vents and yard vents can easily help maintain the pressurized balance inside the tank.

Importance of Proper Ventilation

The waste inside your tank produces gasses like methane and carbon dioxide that mix with the air. This increases the pressure inside the tank and could prevent the waste inside from flowing out. In addition, if the gasses, particularly methane, start to build up, it can become not just a health hazard, but explosive and dangerous, as well.

Signs of a Faulty Septic Vent

Foul Odors

This one is easy to notice but not fun to deal with. If you begin to smell foul odors inside your home, particularly near drains and toilets, it could be an indication that the air and gasses inside your septic tank are not venting properly.

Slow Drains

Is your shower or sink suddenly draining slowly? It could be a sign that the waste inside your tank isn’t draining properly, but it could also be the result of too much gas inside the tank.

Water Backup

This is both common and unpleasant. When wastewater begins to back up into your drains, it could be due to a faulty septic vent. Unfortunately, the water backing up into your sinks is most likely contaminated with bacteria, so it’s a good idea to take care of the problem quickly.

Visual Signs

It’s a good idea to inspect the area around your septic vents periodically. If you notice the pipes are damaged or full of debris, it’s likely that the vent isn’t functioning properly, as well.

Whatever the sign, faulty septic vents can be a serious problem. As gasses continue to build inside the tank, it could lead to damage inside, as well as pose significant health risks for your family. If you suspect that your septic vent isn’t working properly, consider calling a plumber or septic expert to quickly fix the problem.


Consider increasing the vent pipe’s height

If your septic vents are working properly but you still find yourself smelling foul odors at your backyard barbecue, you may want to consider increasing the height of your roof vent pipe. Though it may not be as aesthetically pleasing, when the top of the vent pipe is higher, the gasses and odors may stay in the natural air stream above your home and not make their way back down to ground level. Though local municipalities likely have specific guidelines to follow when it comes to roof vents, the recommended height is one to two feet above the roofline.

Prune Trees and Shrubbery

Whether you have a roof vent or a yard vent, it’s important to make sure that either is free of debris and can vent gasses properly without obstructions. Consider pruning trees that may hang over your roofline and avoid planting shrubbery too close to your yard vents. This should help them function well all year round.

Use a Bacteria Based Product

The balance of waste and gasses inside the tank is a delicate one. While this article has focused mostly on venting gasses, it’s just as important to make sure that the waste inside your tank is properly draining. This allows gasses more room to move and safely vent, as well. Consider adding a bacteria-based product to your septic tank regularly. Once the bacteria are introduced to your tank, they get to work immediately, fully digesting the waste inside, along with fats, oils, and greases. This will help maintain the natural balance in the tank and keep it functioning at peak performance.

Your septic tank vent performs an important task by releasing pressurized air and gasses from inside your septic tank. Whether you have vents on your roofline or your yard, it’s important to ensure they’re functioning properly. If you notice odors or backups coming from your septic tank, call a plumber or septic expert to look into it. In the meantime, keep the area around your septic vent free of debris, and consider using a bacteria-based product to maintain the balance of wastewater, gasses, and air inside the tank.

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