Inspect Your System
If your system is only a septic tank and drainfield, commonly called a gravity system, you need to inspect it at least once every three years. All other types of systems are required to be inspected at least once every year. Your local health agency may have a more stringent inspection requirement. You can hire a septic professional to do the inspection or, if your local health department allows it, you can do the inspection yourself.
Septic tanks are settling chambers that allow time for solids and scum to separate out from wastewater, so clear liquid can safely filter into the drainfield. It is important to keep the solids, called sludge, from building up and coming near the outlet baffles of the system – if this happens, solids could plug the pipe to the drainfield, or even worse, clog the drainfield.
Options for inspecting your system include:
Pump Your Tank
Pump out your septic tank when needed. Don't wait until you have a problem. For a typical household, septic tanks are usually pumped every three to five years. Routine pumping can prevent expensive failures such as a clogged drainfield or sewage backing up into the home. Using a garbage disposal will increase the amount of solids entering the septic tank, requiring more frequent pumping. Four major factors influence how often you need to pump your septic:
Get tips on hiring a septic pumper.
Use Water Efficiently
Practice water conservation. The more wastewater you produce, the more wastewater the soil must treat and dispose. By reducing and balancing your use, you can extend the life of your drainfield, decrease the possibility of system failure, and avoid costly repairs.
To reduce your water use:
Learn more about water conservation and water recycling.
Toilets Aren't Trash Cans
Your septic system is not a trash can. Besides human poop and pee, toilet paper, and soap used for washing, not much else should be going down your drain.
Take Care at the Drain
Your septic system contains a collection of living organisms that digest and treat household waste. Pouring toxins down your drain can kill these organisms and harm your septic system. Whether you're at the kitchen sink, bathtub, or utility sink:
Septic tank additives sold in stores aren't necessary to keep your septic tank working properly and they don't reduce or eliminate the need for routine pumping.
Maintain the Area Around Your System
Keep accurate records of your septic system. Know where the system is and keep a diagram of its location. Records of its size and location may be available at your local health department. It is also wise to keep a record of maintenance on the system. These records will be helpful if problems occur, and will be valuable to the next owner of your home.
Don't Ignore Problems
Minor septic system issues can turn into big costly problems. Fixing minor problems and paying maintenance fees of a few hundred dollars every few years is a bargain compared to the cost of repairing or replacing a malfunctioning system, which can cost thousands of dollars. Don't avoid the signs of septic system failure.