Hiring a professional to pump, or empty, your septic tank is a great way to keep it functioning properly. However, hiring someone to empty the tank should be done on a regular schedule. Regularly emptying the tank is preventative maintenance. If you notice a problem with the system, then it’s actually a good idea to have the tank pumped as part of the repair process, but you can’t expect emptying the tank to fix the problem. This schedule depends on the size of the septic tank and the number of people who are using it.
When to EmptyAs mentioned above, emptying should be done on an estimated schedule based on the size of tank and number of people using it, but if you don’t remember when it was last pumped or want to go the extra mile in maintenance, there’s also a way to directly measure sludge buildup.
1. First, an open tank can be extremely dangerous due to suffocation by methane gas and potential sickness from septic pathogens, so this procedure shouldn’t be attempted with professional guidance and proper protective equipment.
2. Buy or make a device that consists of a long stick with an 8 x 8 inch thin board attached to one end at a 90 degree angle.
3. Insert the stick with the board end first (so that you can feel different levels of resistance) and find the bottom of the outlet tee. Make a mark on the stick.
4. Then, insert the stick further into the tank until you feel the top of the sludge layer. Make a mark.
5. At this point, you know how far the sludge layer is from the bottom of the outlet tee, and if you know the size of the tank, you also know the % of the tank that’s filled with sludge.
6. The tank should be pumped or emptied if the solid matter has accumulated and reached above 30% of the total capacity of the tank or if the sludge level has reached within 12 inches of the bottom of the outlet tee/baffle.
7. Safely dispose of the stick.
If you find that the sludge is ready to be pumped, but it’s before the scheduled time, you might want to look into ways of cutting back on waste. If you find that the sludge is lower than expected, then you’ve saved yourself the cost of pumping for another year or so.
To lessen the frequency of pumping:
1. Don’t put non-biodegrable material down the drain – Only toilet paper and human waste should be flushed down drains in the house. It’s easier said than done because there are many things that we flush out of instinct, but it’s important to remember that it all ends up in the tank and will eventually need to be pumped. Diapers, paper towels, tampons, cigarettes, dental floss, kitty litter, cotton balls, q-tips, baby wipes, coffee grounds, etc. All these products should be disposed of in the garbage bin and should not be flushed in order to reduce pumping costs. In addition to causing the faster accumulation of sludge inside the tank, some of these objects may actually cause a clog in the small pipes of the drainfield, leading to a big repair bill.
2. Avoid the garbage disposal – All the food scraps that go through the garbage disposal and down the drain end up in the tank. It might not seems like a lot per day, but imagine how much it is over the course of a month, or a year. I know it’s convenient to use the disposal to help keep the trash from getting smelly, so you’ll have to weigh the potential for have septic problems with the annoying of taking the trash out more often. I like to put food scaps in kroger bags and seal them up before putting them in the trash. This works most of the time for keeping the smell down.
3. Conserve water – Water is also stored inside the septic tank. Avoid wasting water in order to minimize the amount of waste water contained in the septic tank. Minimizing your water usage can reduce the frequency of your need to empty septic tank.