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Septic Systems: A Guide for New Homeowners

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If you've just moved into a home with a septic system after always living in homes that were connected to public sewers, you may feel a bit lost. Sure, the day-to-day operation of running water down the drain and flushing the toilet is the same, but where does that water and waste go? How does your septic system handle it, and is there anything you need to be doing to maintain it? This guide will answer those questions and more.

How a Septic System Works

Septic systems have two main components: a tank and a drainfield. When you flush the toilet or send water down a drain, it all runs through the septic tank, which is buried underground somewhere in your yard. As the water and waste sits in the tank the solids settle to the bottom while the liquid slowly seeps out into the drainfield. The solids in the bottom of the tank are slowly broken down by bacteria, and the smaller products into which they are broken down slowly rinse out into the drainfield, too.

Septic Tank Maintenance

In order to prevent the tank from backing up (yes, this can happen) you should have it regularly cleaned out by a septic tank maintenance company. Generally, experts recommend having your septic tank pumped and cleaned every 3 years. If you have only one or two people living in your home, you can probably get away with having it pumped every 4 or 5 years. On the other hand, if you have a large family, your septic tank handles a larger volume and should be pumped every 1 to 2 years.

Preventing Septic Tank Problems

Septic systems can flood your yard if they become overloaded with too much water or filled with too many foreign objects. To minimize your risk of a problem, conserve water when possible.

Avoid putting at litter, coffee grounds, feminine hygiene products and cotton swabs down your drains, as these items can accumulate in the tank and cause backups. It's not generally recommended to use a garbage disposal with a septic tank. If you do have a garbage disposal, you'll need to have your tank cleaned and pumped every year.

Living in a home with a septic tank does take a little getting used to. You'll have to be conscious of what you flush, and remember to make appointments to have your tank cleaned.  The vast majority of homeowners adapt pretty quickly. Once you understand the basics of how a septic tank works, a lot of your worries fade away. Keep on top of your septic tank maintenance by keeping in touch with local services such as SOS Septic Inc.