The Essential Plumbing Resource For Homeowners

How Septic Tanks Function And How Often You Should Get Yours Pumped Out

As a homeowner that lacks access to a centralized sewer system, you probably rely on a septic tank system to dispose of the wastewater and sewage that exits your home via a network of buried drain pipes. While having a private means of disposing of your wastewater creates a sense of self-sufficiency, you're responsible for maintaining your private wastewater treatment system to keep it healthy.

One of the basic tasks you'll need to carry out as a part of routine septic system maintenance is to pump out your septic tank. But how do septic tanks work and how often should they get pumped?

Keep reading to find out.

How Septic Tanks Work

Before digging into the details of what impacts the frequency of septic tank pumping, it's worth your while to understand how septic tanks function.

Septic systems emulate the centralized sewer systems provided by municipalities in that they have a central place where all the wastewater and sewage exiting a home gets collected. While municipal sewer systems have a large reservoir that can hold wastewater from entire local communities, septic systems include tanks that serve individual households only.

When the wastewater from your household is deposited at the septic tank, it is separated into 3 main layers, as elucidated below:

  1. Scum: the oils, fats, and other floatables that can be seen on top of the tank.
  2. Sludge: the solid waste that settles to the bottom of the tank.
  3. Effluent: the liquid discharged from the tank into the drain field or leach field for treatment. 

Over time, the wastewater-holding capacity of septic tanks is reduced due to the buildup of sludge and scum. When this happens, septic tank pumping will be required to help remove the built-up waste and restore the tank's working capacity.

Determining How Often You Should Get Your Septic Tank Pumped Out

While every household is required to pump out their septic tank from time to time, the frequency of septic tank pump-outs may vary greatly from household to household. Highlighted below are the primary factors impacting how often you should schedule a pumping service for your septic tank system.

  1. The size of your tank: The bigger the size of the tank you have, the more working capacity it will provide, thus prolonging the need for a pumping service.
  2. The size of your household: The larger the size of your household, the more strain you'll put on your septic tank, thus the more frequently you'll need to undertake pump-outs.
  3. Your household's water usage pattern: If your household members use more water than the daily average used by an American household of the same size, you'll put more strain on your septic tank, hence warranting more frequent pump-outs.

If you want to keep your septic system healthy and working well, regular septic tank pumping is absolutely necessary. To schedule a septic tank pumping service for your private property, contact a septic system professional near you.