There are two main types of residential plumbing systems. There is a sewer connection, which empties your waste and wastewater into a public system. Alternatively, there are also homes with a septic tank that discharges waste into your own backyard.
The drains and toilets should essentially work the same whether you have a home with a septic tank or a sewer connection, however, there are differences in the ways you should use your drains in homes with septic tanks. Here are four things you need to do differently in a home with a septic tank rather than a sewer connection.
1. Don't Use a Garbage Disposal
If you just moved into a home with a septic tank and there is no garbage disposal, then you may be tempted to install one. However, if your home has a septic tank, then you should not install a garbage disposal. While some garbage disposal manufacturers may insist that their products are compatible with septic tanks, it is still a good idea to avoid using them all together.
Everything you put down the disposal will sit inside the tank until your septic professional comes to pump it out. Without a garbage disposal, you'll only need to have your tank pumped every few years. With a disposal, you'll need to have it pumped annually — and it may even become full, leading to sewage backups and slow drains — long before this.
If you live in a home that does have a garbage disposal and a septic tank, then try to severely limit your use of the disposal. In addition, make sure you are using your disposal correctly and not putting items down the drain that will hurt your septic tank.
2. Buy One-Ply Toilet Paper
Plush, thick, two-or three-ply toilet paper may feel nice, but it's not the best choice for septic systems. This toilet paper takes longer to break down and will sit at the bottom of your tank, taking up space that's really needed for waste and wastewater. Stick to one-ply toilet paper. In addition, avoid flushing anything that is not biodegradable such as tampons, wet wipes, or cotton swabs.
3. Space Out Showers, Laundry, and Other Water-Heavy Operations
When your home is connected to a sewer line, you can send water down the line day in and day out without issue. However, a septic tank has a maximum capacity. If you over-fill the tank by sending water down the drain faster than the tank is able to empty, then you'll end up with sewage backups and a very wet yard.
Septic tanks are sized based on the expected occupancy of a home. For example, if you have a 3-bedroom home, you probably have a 1,000-gallon tank, as that size can comfortably hold the average amount of waste that three or four people generate. However, your tank may not be able to handle all of the water from five back-to-back loads of laundry and three showers. Space out your water-heavy operations to prevent problems.
4. Schedule Preventative Maintenance With a Sewer Company
When your home is connected to a sewer, you don't typically need to call the plumber to care for the sewer line unless you're having issues with backups or slow drains. With a septic tank, however, you need to schedule regular maintenance appointments — ideally before anything goes wrong.
For example, you should plan on having your home’s septic tank pumped every two to three years. While on-site, your septic care team can also make sure the tank is in good shape, the lid is secure, and the drain field is properly aerated. If these professionals detect any issues with the tank, lid, or drain field, then they can fix the problems before you suffer consequences like a sewage backup.
Follow the tips above, and you should have a lot fewer plumbing issues while you’re living in a home with a septic tank. Contact Stuart Plumbing & Sheet Metal Inc. if your tank is due to be pumped or if you're having any trouble with your septic system.