Septic Systems in NC - How to Make Sure Your Septic System Works Well
Did you know that approximately 25% of all US households use septic tanks?
Or that a septic tank is installed in one of three new homes built today?
If you're buying or building a new custom home with a septic tank, here are some easy maintanence steps and tips.
Top Tips For Maintaining Your Septic System
Tip #1 - Reduce Water Usage
A typical septic system is built to support about 50 gallons of water usage per day, per person. If your lot is rated for a 3 bedroom system, the assumption is that there will be 2 persons in each bedroom - ie, the septic system is planned to support normal usage by 6 people in that household. A 4 bedroom system is planned to support 8 full time residents.
Too much water usage can overflow the system. Any leaks or drips in the kitchen or bathrooms should be fixed as soon as possible. If you live in an older home, consider replacing old fixtures with today's standard low flow, or even ultra low flow fixtures.
Tip #2 - Reduce Solids
A garbage disposal is not usually recommended with a septic system. Dispose of sanitary products in the trash, not down the toilet.
As you can see in this diagram, solids generally settle to the bottom of the tank. Too many solids can fail to break down suffciently, or require more frequent pumping of the tank. They can also reduce the capacity of the tank.
Tip #3 - Don't Dump Oil or Grease
Pouring oil or grease down the drain can clog up the pipes leading to and from the septic tank. Septic systems are designed to handle a certain amount of greases, such as natural by products of dishwashing. However, when cooking meat, homeowners should dump the grease into a container and dispose of in the trash instead.
Tip #4 - Periodically Inspect and Pump the Septic Tank
Don't worry - you don't have to do this yourself! Scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of local Raleigh area septic tank service companies.
A septic tank service visit should include a full inspection of the tank itself. Here's a general guideline for how often a septic tank should be pumped.
Currently, most North Carolina septic tanks are at least 1000 gallons for a 3 bedroom system, with increasing sizes as the number of bedrooms the system is approved for increases.
Even if there is only one resident, it is still recommended that the septic system be inspected and pumped every 3-5 years.
|Estimated Septic Tank Pumping Frequency (Number of Years)|
|Adapted from "Estimated Septic Tank Pumping Frequency," by Karen Mancl, 1984. Journal of Environmental Engineering. Volume 110.|
Tip #5 - Questions to Ask When Calling a Septic Tank Service Company
Here are some of the questions you'll probably want to ask:
- What is the cost of a pump out?
- If the septic tank is larger than 1000 gallons, will the extra gallons cost extra?
- Does the cost include digging to uncover the septic tank lids (if necessary)?
- Does the cost include dumping fees?
- Will you inspect the inlet and outlet baffles, and does this cost extra?
- If the septic tank is very far from road access, what is needed for the truck to get accessbility to the tank?
- If I have a pump system instead of a conventional system, is emptying the pump tank part of your regular service? (The pump tank should be pumped, rinsed, and then pumped dry again).
Tip #6 - What Details Should the Septic Tank Service Company Provide for Me?
The septic tank Pumper should provide you with a receipt detailing the service that was provided. This receipt should include:
- Name, address, phone number of the Septic Tank Service Company
- Name of the certified Pumper
- Approximate number of gallons that were pumped
- Number of compartments pumped
- Condition of the tank baffles
- Condition of the septic tank
- Details on any work done to baffles or access lids. If scum and sludge layers were measured, they should be recorded on the pump receipt
- Details on any work done on the septic tank or pump tank
- Any other service work done
Tip #7 - Limit Weight Over the Septic System
When you purchase your home, you should receive a copy of the septic system layout, so that you're aware of the location of the tank and nitrification field. You'll want to avoid planting trees or parking vehicles over the system. However, planting grass or other small foilage over the tank is not a problem, nor is normal foot traffic.
Need a Septic System Pumping Company?
Find local Raleigh companies here: Raleigh Area Septic Pumping Companies
For further details, we recommend checking the Better Business Bureau or asking for referrals. Watch for follow up articles on types of septic systems and other questions.
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