Top Tips for Extending the Life of Your Septic System

One of the most common questions septic owners ask is how long they can expect their septic system to last. This isn’t too surprising when you consider that the average cost to replace a septic system can range from $13k to $25k. But the answer is hard to pin down. While the average septic system lasts 20-30 years, a well-maintained system can last much longer, even as long as 50 years! While that may have you breathing a sigh of relief (or worry, depending on how old your current system is), keep in mind the lifespan of a septic system depends almost entirely on how well it is treated. Follow these care and maintenance tips to help ensure your septic system enjoys a long, happy life.

Conserve Water in Your Home

Most residential septic tanks have a capacity of 1,000 to 1,500 gallons, which leads many septic owners to incorrectly believe they have that much water to use in any given day without overwhelming their system. But the truth is, the septic tank is typically already half full, at least. The septic tank is a holding chamber for your home’s wastewater, where the solids settle to the bottom, the fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) rise to the top, and the effluent takes up the space in between. This design ensures that only relatively clear effluent finds its way out to your drainfield. Overwhelming your system by flushing too much water into the septic tank can result in wastewater backing up into your home or forcing solids out into the drainfield, which can lead to catastrophic failure of your entire system.

Be mindful of every drop of water you flush into your septic system, avoiding mindless water usage, like running the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving. Limit long showers and be sure to stagger water-heavy chores, like laundry and running the dishwasher, throughout the week so that you are not flushing a lot of water into your system all at once. You can also drastically reduce your household water usage by installing more efficient, low-flow showerheads and faucets throughout your home.

Watch What You Flush into Your System

Many septic owners drastically shorten the lifespan of their septic system by flushing things they shouldn’t down the drain. Septic systems are simple in design, but they rely on a delicately balanced ecosystem of bacteria that breaks down the solids in your system. When septic owners flush things that interfere with this ecosystem—harsh chemicals, FOGs, or any solid that will not break down easily—they put added strain on the septic system that may make it difficult for the system to keep up with treating the household wastewater. The result is typically an overwhelmed system that either backs up into the home or flows out into the drainfield, potentially leading to septic failure.

  • Avoid flushing harsh chemicals that may kill the bacteria living within your septic system. This includes any form of antibacterial household cleaners as well as other chemicals that may upset the delicate balance within your system.
  • Limit the FOGs that enter your system as much as you can. Because most household kitchens drain to the septic tank, it’s important to be mindful about how you clean up cooking grease and dispose of food scraps. As a rule, we recommend against using a garbage disposal in a home with a septic system because they introduce a lot of FOGs as well as undigested solids into the system.
  • The only solids that should be flushed into your system are human waste and toilet paper. Any solids that cannot easily break down—including “flushable” wipes—should never go down the drain.

Protect Your Drainfield

Because it’s underground and out of sight, the drainfield tends to be overlooked when it comes to properly caring for a septic system. However, as the secondary treatment system for your septic system, the drainfield is responsible for filtering and purifying effluent before it trickles down to the water table. When septic systems fail, it is often due to drainfield neglect, so properly caring for your drainfield is a great way to extend the life of your septic system.

The drainfield is a system of buried, perforated pipes that can be easily dislodged or crushed. Be sure you know where your drainfield is located and be careful to avoid driving heavy machinery or vehicles overhead. When landscaping around your drainfield, consider the root structure of the plants you want to include. Shallow-rooted herbaceous plants, like native perennials and grasses, are the best options. Avoid plants with aggressive, deep, water-loving root systems, like trees and large shrubs. You also want to be sure to keep your drainfield dry by directing stormwater away from it and maintaining a healthy layer of grass.

Have Your System Regularly Serviced

Man meeting with service tech to go over septic service

One of the most important things you can do to extend the life of your septic system is to maintain a regular service schedule. In fact, this is such an important aspect of septic care that Ohio updated its septic regulations in 2015 to require every septic owner to have an operation and maintenance plan with an approved septic provider. Regularly servicing your septic system allows you to get ahead of any potential issues before your system is failing, which not only protects you and the environment, but it also helps lengthen the life of your system. A routine service visit includes an overall inspection of your system to ensure everything is working properly. In addition to that, your septic tank should be pumped every 2-3 years, depending on household size and use. This prevents your system from becoming overwhelmed by the solids in the tank.

Trust Supeck Septic to Keep Your System Running Smoothly!

Supeck Septic has been Northeast Ohio’s most trusted septic provider since 1968. We are an approved service provider for all makes and styles of septic and aeration systems, regardless of age or complexity. We are licensed, bonded, and insured to provide you exceptional inspections and routine or emergency septic care. Contact us today!

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Garbage Disposals and Your Septic System

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