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It is possible to use the bathroom while the tank is being pumped. The amount of wastewater sent to your septic tank using the bathroom once is not enough to affect the pumping process. But check with technicians before using it.
As they check for leaks and signs of wear, and may ask you to flush toilets and run water to see how the system works.
How Do Septic Tanks Work?
A septic system is a wastewater processing unit for houses that don’t have access to a city’s sewer pipes. It comprises two main parts: a septic tank which is directly connected to the house and a drain field (leach field).
The tank is buried near the house, and it stores and decomposes the waste by bacterial activity before draining to the leach field. There are concrete, metal, and fiberglass tanks. The tank has baffles that prevent solids from getting into the drain field.
The leach field comprises a group of pipes with holes that empty the decomposed wastewater (effluent) below ground. After good filtration by good soil, the organic matter in the effluent acts as a fertilizer. You may notice that the healthiest part of your yard is above the drain field.
Septage is the combined wastewater from your shower, toilet, washing machine, and sink that enters the septic tank. On entering the tank, the mixture separates into 3 parts:
- The densest particles that settle at the bottom are called sludge.
- Effluent or gray water settles in the middle and is relatively clear.
- The scum layer of oils, proteins, and fats floats at the top.
With the consistent buildup of sludge and scum over time, septic tanks need to be drained and cleaned to avoid disastrous consequences.
How To Pump Your Septic Tanks
Getting your septic tank cleaned is mainly about getting rid of the buildup of scum and sludge. Emptying the effluent isn’t enough. A thorough cleaning of the tank is necessary as well. The three steps involved are:
Preparation and Inspection
The first thing you should do is to locate your tank’s access point. If it is hidden, it will have to be exposed. You can handle this by yourself or have the technician do it.
The technician will then check the levels of waste in the tank, the outlet pipe for leaks, and any problem with the drain field. If there is an issue with the drain field, the liquid level in the tank will be very high.
Following step one, the technician will insert a vacuum hose into the access hole of the tank. A pump connected to the hose will suck the debris in the tank.
While the pumping happens, the technician will look out for any backflow from the outlet pipe. Excessive backflow could be an indicator of sagging in the drain field.
Cleaning and Inspection
Using a septage spoon, the technician will break up and remove the accumulated scum and sludge. Finally, they will inspect the tank for any signs of wear or damage. As stated earlier, they may ask you to run water and flush toilets in the house to test the response of the system.
Clean the tank through the access hole to ensure proper cleaning. The baffles should also be checked for damage. Note any problems discovered and work towards resolving them as soon as possible.
How long does it take to get your septic tank pumped?
The capacity of the septic system is the primary factor in determining how long it will take to clear up the tank. Other factors that play a role include having the right equipment, and doing it yourself, or calling a company.
An average three- or four-bedroom house likely has a tank between 1,000 – 1,250 gallons in size. It will take about 20-30 minutes to empty a tank of this size. A tank of 1,500 – 2,000 gallons will take between 45-60 minutes.
If you are emptying a tank of 1,000- 1,250 gallons by yourself, it will take you about 35-40 minutes to get the job done.
The time is also reduced if you regularly empty your tank and no items clog the hose during pumping. When you make a pumping appointment, make an allowance for complications that might prolong the time.
Tips To Maintain Your Septic System
The only materials the system can process are human waste and toilet paper (preferably 2-ply.) Any other thing that gets sent into the system can end up clogging or damaging it. To prevent untoward circumstances, here are some tips to note:
- Inspect and pump your tank regularly.
- Avoid excessive use of water. Take shorter showers. Don’t leave your tap water running when you wash your face or brush your teeth or shave, and spread out your laundry over some days (don’t do 6 loads in one day.)
- Do not flush or drain sanitary napkins and hand wipes, and disposable diapers. Condoms, kitchen grease, hair, cigarette stubs, and paper towels are also banned.
- Compost your kitchen waste, and use a drain catcher in the sink.
- Keep trees away from the septic system to avoid roots interrupting it.
- Park vehicles away from your drain field.
- Limit the use of antibacterial agents and other chemicals that can kill the decomposing bacteria that break down substances in the tank.
- Do not dispose of your medications or pet excrement into your drains.
- Fix all leaking toilets and faucets to avoid water wastage.
What Happens If You Never Pump Your Septic Tank?
Some people believe the use of bacteria will help eliminate the need to pump out a tank. However, this misconception could lead to more problems than a filled septic tank can cause. There are a range of issues that you may face if you never pump your septic tank.
The solid buildup will diminish the storage capacity of the tank. Eventually, the buildup will feed into the drain field and cause a clog.
The resultant backflow can cause the sinks and toilets to regurgitate the wastewater from the tank. When the overflow of unprocessed wastewater floods the drain field, groundwater can be tainted.
How Much Does It Cost To Pump Your Septic Tank?
The average cost of pumping and cleaning a septic tank is about $400. However, many homeowners pay between $282 and $525+. If you rent equipment for an hour or two to do it yourself, it might cost you between $286 and $350+ if there are no snags.
The cost is also heavily dependent on the size of your tank. Large tanks will be emptied at prices beginning from $1,000.
How Often Should You Empty Your Septic Tank?
Tank size, system design, and amount of wastewater produced influence cleaning frequency. There are systems that require less cleaning for the same usage level as other designs.
A larger family will be more likely to fill up the tank faster, and excessive use of water will also increase the rate of filling.
It is advisable to empty a regular-sized tank every 2-3 years. But, it could be emptied more or less frequently. A small family or a sole house occupant could empty their tank every 5 to 10 years.