How Often Should You Pump a Septic Tank?

Whether in a domestic or commercial setting, dealing with septic tank issues can be costly and inconvenient. As such, it is essential to undertake regular maintenance of your septic system to mitigate any issues. One way to do this is through pumping, which removes liquid, sludge and solids from the septic tank.

One of the most common questions regarding septic tanks is how often they should be pumped. Several factors can influence the answer to this question, including the amount of wastewater generated and the size of the septic tank itself. You may need to consult a service professional in some cases for guidance and advice, but in this article, we’ll run through the general principles of how often you should pump your septic tank. 

How Septic Tanks Operate

A septic system treats wastewater and returns it to the soil after being treated in the septic tank. Wastewater from toilets and drains flows through an exit pipe into the septic tank. Within the tank, solids settle at the bottom, while liquids remain above. Bacteria introduced into the tank aid in the breakdown of solid waste, while filters prevent solids from escaping into the drain field.

The liquid portion (known as effluent) undergoes partial treatment by the bacteria within the septic tank before being released into the drain field. As the effluent seeps through the soil layers, it is filtered even further, and is fully treated when it discharges to groundwater.

Which Factors Determine How Often a Septic Tank Needs To Be Pumped?

The pumping frequency for a septic tank can depend on a number of factors. In general, the heavier the water usage, the more frequently pumping will need to occur. There are other elements, however, that should also be considered.

1. Type of Septic Tank

Different septic tanks will need different frequencies of pumping. For example, septic systems in rural areas utilizing an aerobic treatment unit (ATU) require an annual clean. The ATU employs oxygen to facilitate the breakdown and conversion of solids and wastewater materials into gas, and this maintenance helps to ensure the system continues to work efficiently.

2. Size of the Septic Tank

Larger septic tanks can hold more waste, and consequently require less frequent pumping. Larger tanks are usually installed for a reason, however – because it is anticipated that they may need to hold a larger amount of waste. This can result in the need for more frequent maintenance.

3. Household Size

Again, this is linked to usage and how frequently the system is put under strain. There is a correlation between the number of people living in a home and the amount of water that is used – and the more water that passes through the system can increase the likelihood of more frequent septic tank pumping.

4. Water Usage

As outlined in the previous points, higher water usage increases the need for more frequent pumping. Forming environmentally friendly and sustainable habits (for example, not leaving taps running when you leave the room; not running the dishwasher when it isn’t full; etc.) can help to reduce usage and consequently reduce the strain on the septic system. 

How Do I Know My Septic Tank is Full?

There are some clear indicators that a septic tank is full and needs to be pumped. These include:

  • You have trouble flushing the toilet, or it is frequently backing up
  • The pipes in your home gurgle or drain very slowly
  • Water pools around the septic tank
  • Unpleasant odors 

Any of these symptoms could indicate that there is an issue with your septic tank that needs to be resolved. The best course of action is to call a licensed professional who can diagnose and resolve the problem.

How to Maintain a Healthy Septic Tank

Introducing some best practices can help to prolong the life of your septic tank and reduce the need for frequent pumping. 

1. Efficient Water Use

Reducing water waste will, in turn, reduce the strain on the septic system. Fixing leaks and installing efficient fixtures are just two ways to lessen the burden.

2. Proper Waste Disposal

Introducing foreign objects, chemicals, food waste and ‘flushable’ products into the septic system can cause it to become clogged or damaged. Be mindful of the products that should be disposed of in the garbage as opposed to the septic tank.

3. Maintain The Drain Field

Ensure the area around your septic tank is protected by not parking or driving over the drain field, planting trees and plants an appropriate distance away from the system, and ensuring that excess water drains away from the system where possible.

4. Laundry Management

Running fewer loads of laundry – and reducing the frequency of washing machine usage in general – can have a positive impact by reducing the amount of water the septic system is required to process.

5. Use Energy Efficient Appliances

Choosing energy efficient dishwashers and washing machines use less water and energy, which consequently places less strain on septic systems.

6. Use Biodegradable & Septic-Safe Products

Using biodegradable products can help reduce the need for frequent pumping. Biodegradable items such as soaps, shampoos and detergents contain straight hydrocarbon chains that microorganisms and bacteria can easily treat.

In Conclusion

Pumping your septic tank is an essential part of maintaining the septic system. However, knowing when to pump is critical. Pump too often, and you risk overspending and wasting money; pump too infrequently, and you could encounter problems that could cause damage to the septic system.

At Jensen Precast, we offer a variety of septic systems. Browse our septic systems today or contact us for more information.

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