Septic systems are ubiquitous in Ridgefield and the surrounding towns and are simple enough to maintain that anyone can successfully navigate one. Often, the idea of a septic system may be unfamiliar – and even daunting – to new buyers, but in truth, following a few basic rules will keep your system healthy for years to come. Having a detailed home inspection – including checking the septic system – will ensure it is in good working order when you purchase the home. Here are 5 tips every septic system owner should follow:
1. There is a large financial incentive to maintain your septic system as yearly maintenance generally costs around $200-300 per year, while replacing a whole septic system usually costs up to $15000 or even more depending on the size and location of the system. An average system should be pumped every 2-3 years depending on the size of the tank and number of people in the house. Calling a reliable septic company will ensure your tanks are properly attended to.Poorly maintained septic systems can create hiccups in selling a home and may delay sale or require fixing to meet code.
2. Avoid introducing large amounts of water into the system at once. Draining a hot tub, for example, can disrupt the chemistry of the system and should be avoided or done slowly. The same goes for long showers, doing multiple loads of laundry in sequence, or any other water-heavy activity.
3. Do not send certain chemicals and materials down the drain. The rule of thumb to use is that only water, toilet paper, and waste should be flushed. Most house cleaning supplies are also okay when used in moderation and according to the product guidelines. Drain cleaners, though, must be universally avoided as they can destroy the delicate chemical balance of your septic system almost immediately. In addition, many products that you might have around the house, such as paint, varnish, or antifreeze can ruin your system’s chemistry and should not enter the system. Septic systems rely upon the health of their bacteria, so anything that will disrupt the lives of these simple organisms, even unexpected things such as chemotherapy drugs or large quantities of anti-bacterial soap, can cause problems.
4. You should know about your septic system’s location. If the system was constructed in the last 30 years, the town should have files that will show you the locations of each of the components. It is important to know where your leaching field and main tank are. Waste flows into the main tank, where materials that are lighter than water rise to the top and materials that are heavier than water sink to the bottom. In between is a layer of mostly water. Every time one gallon of water enters the system main tank, another gallon will exit out into the leaching field, which is a set of underground pipes that drain water into the ground. In a properly maintained system, only liquids will ever leave the tank. However, when certain elements are introduced into the system, it can fail, causing solids to either back up or enter into the leaching field. Fixing a malfunction such as this can be very expensive.
5. Your septic system’s health is not merely a function of what enters it. Most importantly, the leaching fields require special attention. Avoid planting plants directly above the leaching fields. Roots, for example, can enter the field and disrupt its functioning. Also try to avoid driving over the field as this can compress the soil and make it difficult for water to leach out. During the winter months, avoid shoveling snow off of the leaching field. Snow acts to insulate the ground, making the field less likely to freeze and fail. The leeching field can also be damaged directly, such as by accidentally severing one of the pipes or other physical damage. Knowing the location of each of the system’s components is vital to maintaining the system.
Although septic systems may seem difficult, in reality they are quite simple to maintain and own. Maintenance is as easy as keeping some simple rules in mind and calling a septic company to inspect and pump the system regularly. Although transitioning to a more rural suburban life might be tough at times, your septic system will be a breeze. For more detailed information about the maintenance and science of your septic system, you can consult the following in-depth sources from the New Hampshire DES and West Virginia University’s National Environmental Services Center.