Septic tanks must be properly maintained to ensure that the system is working properly for as long as possible. Luckily, there are several methods of septic tank maintenance that homeowners can perform in order to avoid costly repairs and service. Keeping notes and using products made for septic tank health, as well as other tactics can give any homeowner a little more peace of mind in knowing his septic system is working at optimum levels.
The first strategy for septic tank maintenance is to keep accurate records. If the house has been built recently, the date that the septic tank was installed should be known exactly. Older homes may take a bit more guesswork. Homeowners should ask the seller or realtor for the home for any available records regarding the septic system. Records may include information about service appointments on the tank and any other repairs that have been made.
Another effective type of septic tank maintenance is to pay careful attention to all water being used in the home. Too much water can mean a tank will become full faster. Spread out laundry duties over several days and use dishwashers sparingly to avoid over working the system.
Most septic tanks have aerator pumps to help stir water and sludge inside the tank. This aids in the decomposition process. Pumps should be cleaned every couple of months; an easy task. If the septic tank in use has one of these pumps, there should be a power box located inside the home. Power should be turned off, the aerator pump should be removed from the risers — metal cap and filter above the ground, and the pump should be sprayed down with a garden hose. Once all visible debris and bacteria have been removed, the pump can be replaced.
Homeowners should also pay close attention to the drain field, or the area where water is drained from the septic tank. Normally, no septic tank maintenance is needed for this portion of the system, but sometimes problems can turn up. Puddles, a foul smell, and slow water drainage can all signal a problem. In this case, switch to the alternate drain field if there is one available. If not, a septic professional will need to be called.
Other types of septic tank maintenance include using only septic approved paper products in the restroom, not allowing large items like pools and hot tubs to drain into the tank, and always reporting a small problem to a professional before it becomes a big problem. Commercial products that aid in the decomposition of waste materials can also be purchased. As a general rule of thumb, even with proper maintenance, a septic tank should be pumped every four to five years.