Author Topic: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!  (Read 7445 times)

Offline archer

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My experiences with my septic system last weekend. I just moved into this house in June so have not had time to learn everything yet.

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Last Saturday when I got up to feed the chickens I heard a strange noise start. It was a whining irritating sound. I followed my ears and found that it was the alarm for the septic system.

Since I had not done my homework yet, I did not know what to do. I silenced the alarm and started making phone calls. Not one septic company in this area works on weekends. So I left a few voicemails and we waited until Monday.

Let me tell you the weekend was troublesome. We had hot/cold water and power, but not having the waste system working meant:
    no toilets
    no washing dishes/etc in the house
    no showers

We made due by using my camping toilets and the local woods. Dishes were washed outside. We setup the solar shower which worked so-so, I need to rig some way to hang it up higher.

Monday am at 7:15 I got a call from the local Roto-Rooter and they sent their tech.
The problem turned out to be: the tie-wrap that held the alarm sensor broke and dropped the sensor into the liquid tank and that is why it was reporting the liquid level high.

I asked a lot of questions and learned that there is maintenance I need to do at least once a year, so it was a good learning experience. And for $150, it was not too expensive of a lesson.

 

Offline Cedar

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2015, 09:47:39 AM »
The problem turned out to be: the tie-wrap that held the alarm sensor broke and dropped the sensor into the liquid tank and that is why it was reporting the liquid level high.

I think I would have complained had I been dropped in too. I have had septic systems all my life and I have never heard of a sensor. We have never had any problems with them except once.

No bleach (read labels), no tampons, no condoms, no anything which doesn't make common sense. You can hook your clothes washer to a garden hose and use it to water things. My parents used to water their 1,000 rose rose garden with it. I will from now on have a 'toggle' to have my shower, sink, and laundry to go to greywater outside if I like.

Cedar

d3nni5

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2015, 10:02:18 AM »
As I grew up all we had was septic sytems, until i was like 25, every house I lived in we had one.   

Basic premise is that there is some bacterial action going on in the tank, eating up all the waste.   So the no bleach thing makes sense, considering it kills off those microbes.   

The worst is when a baffle gets clogged or something similar.   It is NO fun digging one of these things up, I've done it enough of times.  Rid-X is your friend, use as directed.  Sometimes it is not enough and a local pumping service is required to keep the system running.

All the "grey" water in the house (showers, sinks, washing machines) we always had going out to another leeching field, not through the septic tank, that was just for the toilets as I can recall.

Online Mr. Bill

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2015, 10:38:58 AM »
I have had septic systems all my life and I have never heard of a sensor.

If you have an "engineered" system like ours, it pumps uphill from a holding tank to the drainfield.  (Archer, is that what you've got?)  Two sensors turn the pump on and off, and a third sets off an alarm if the level gets too high.

Offline archer

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2015, 12:51:10 PM »
If you have an "engineered" system like ours, it pumps uphill from a holding tank to the drainfield.  (Archer, is that what you've got?)  Two sensors turn the pump on and off, and a third sets off an alarm if the level gets too high.

yep, it's a 3 chambered system with a pump in the 3rd chamber that pumps the liquid to the leach field. The soil here has a lot of clay the septic guy said and they need to pump it a sand leachfield 'berm' downhill from the house.

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2015, 01:18:28 PM »
Yep, that adds an extra annoyance to what would otherwise be a nice simple septic system.  In ours, the 3 switches are rubber-coated tin cans with a switch inside, attached to electrical cables which are clamped at various heights in the holding tank.  The switches turn on or off depending on whether the tin can is floating rightside-up or upside-down.  Ours failed when one of the cans developed a leak.

Here's another thing to be aware of -- well, with luck, maybe not in your location, because the winters don't get too chilly.  But if you're pumping uphill from that holding tank, the outflow pipe will always be full of water.  And because the pump may only run every few days, there's plenty of time for that water to freeze if the pipe isn't buried deep enough.

We learned the hard way that part of our outflow pipe was "protected" by about 3 inches of soil.

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2015, 01:36:14 PM »
SOme of the engineered systems arent necessarilly needed, but the companies convinced the county out here that the new codes MUST use them -- luckily, my house is old. So, my system is gravity to sandy soil. 40 years old. Pumped when I bought the house 17 years ago. I have never pumped. I do use "cleaning" and "recolonizing" bacterias on occasion, the ones recommended in my rural hardware store. I NEVER put any bleach or chemicals into it ! If I ended up needing to use bleach for something, Im gonna dump it somewhere I dont care about on the property, not into my sepetic. But, I dont use bleach or chemicals. I do know we have realy big trees that have grown since its leach filed was installed, so I would assume in such a dry area that the tree roots are looking for the leach field. But, it still works

Offline archer

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2015, 01:40:19 PM »
Yep, that adds an extra annoyance to what would otherwise be a nice simple septic system.  In ours, the 3 switches are rubber-coated tin cans with a switch inside, attached to electrical cables which are clamped at various heights in the holding tank.  The switches turn on or off depending on whether the tin can is floating rightside-up or upside-down.  Ours failed when one of the cans developed a leak.

Here's another thing to be aware of -- well, with luck, maybe not in your location, because the winters don't get too chilly.  But if you're pumping uphill from that holding tank, the outflow pipe will always be full of water.  And because the pump may only run every few days, there's plenty of time for that water to freeze if the pipe isn't buried deep enough.

We learned the hard way that part of our outflow pipe was "protected" by about 3 inches of soil.

i have the cans also.. lovely... thanks for the tip about freezing..

Offline Beetle

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2015, 06:42:53 PM »
Glad it wasn't to expensive.

Offline never_retreat

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2015, 08:47:35 PM »
Yep, that adds an extra annoyance to what would otherwise be a nice simple septic system.  In ours, the 3 switches are rubber-coated tin cans with a switch inside, attached to electrical cables which are clamped at various heights in the holding tank.  The switches turn on or off depending on whether the tin can is floating rightside-up or upside-down.  Ours failed when one of the cans developed a leak.

Here's another thing to be aware of -- well, with luck, maybe not in your location, because the winters don't get too chilly.  But if you're pumping uphill from that holding tank, the outflow pipe will always be full of water.  And because the pump may only run every few days, there's plenty of time for that water to freeze if the pipe isn't buried deep enough.

We learned the hard way that part of our outflow pipe was "protected" by about 3 inches of soil.

I don't have one but I have seen a switch on the controller that says off, auto, and on.
If you bump the switch from auto to on for a few seconds you will put some flow through the pipe and keep it from freezing up.

Offline archer

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2015, 10:00:34 PM »
It was a good lesson..
Good idea never_retreat. the timer has a min of minutes to turn on and a max of hours. i'll have to see what i can do with that if it gets to freezing here

Offline BLACK SHIRT

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2015, 06:02:19 AM »
I recently bought a new home with a septic system. The septic Inspector checked it out and told me every time I think about buying RidEX to call him and he will come over and take the money. He said it is a complete waste and just simple marketing. The system will work just fine without it.

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2015, 06:21:29 AM »
Yep, mine went into alarm mode and would not reset while I was in Arizona and my wife was home. Called every frigging septic guy in the book, no one cared until monday. After three separate technicians came out, each more expert than the last, they clipped the wires to the alarm and said, "that won't bother you anymore". I still have to pay $125 a year for a monitoring service, but apparently, the system was never on line anyway. However, without paying a service I get nasty letters from the county health department for being out of compliance and one year they threatened to revoke the certificate of occupancy for my home.

I understand my system: it's overly complicated, but I know where there's a wye that I could uncap if I wanted to install a couple 55 gallon drum system on the sly. ;)

Offline Marinesg1012

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2015, 06:31:58 AM »
I have a septic, its gravity fed and is a two tank system which saved my butt when the contractor who installed it crushed the primary tank putting in a retention wall on the back of my house. having the second tank allowed me to use that as the primary tank until we could get the first tank fixed.
I had the second tank added to the design due to the fact that we are required to use a new type of leach field and everyone is saying that you have to ensure no solids get into the new designs becuase they are smaller and have less wiggle room then the older larger designs. Adding that to my septic (which added about a grand to the total cost) saved our bacon, and allowed us to continue living in our new home, during the 2 months it took the contractor to fix his mistake.

Offline PorcupineKate

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2015, 08:39:06 AM »
I have some mold allergies so I use some bleach in the laundry and other cleaning around the house.  Now that we have a clothes line up and working I use even less bleach.  How bad is this for the septic?  There are only two of us on a 3 bedroom septic that was last emptied Dec 2013.  We do not have the newer style system.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2015, 09:01:31 AM »
Don't use bleach!!! You might have to grind up some liver or old hamburger or something and put it by whatever means into your septic tank, or get the commercial granules to put the 'good bacteria' back in. In the lagoons (open septic) in northern Canada, once every couple of years, several people I know toss road kill in (seriously).

You might consider Borax instead of bleach.. look into it.

Cedar

Offline mountainmoma

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2015, 09:15:05 AM »
DOnt use bleach. But, if you do, use the commercial products to repopulate good bacteria.

I have mold allergies, I use a great product, this works best https://moldzyme.com/shop/kits-discount-savings/moldzyme-diy-small/

But, other wise clean surfaces with white vinegar or even hydrogen peroxide (all fabric bleach)

In general, I do not use even all fabric bleach in the laundry, but my laundry water does not go to the septic, it goes to grey water in any case. I do sometimes use Borax, for cat pee if that comes up, but not often as it is not great for the soil.

Offline reefmarker

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #17 on: August 27, 2015, 09:21:08 AM »
I recently bought a new home with a septic system. The septic Inspector checked it out and told me every time I think about buying RidEX to call him and he will come over and take the money. He said it is a complete waste and just simple marketing. The system will work just fine without it.

If you feel you must put something down the loo to help the septic system work:  go to a big box club and buy 2 lbs of bakers yeast for $4.  Put one pound down a month.  In a year you will spend about what one box of ridex costs.  This is also what the septic tank pumpers told me  to do.  I have never had a septic tank pumped that did not have something else wrong with it.  When they are put in correctly and not way way way overused (22 people for 2 weeks on a 1000 gallon system) they seem to work forever (15+ years on my last house).

Avoid adult disposable wipes/wash clothes.  My current house's septic system was full of these fine sheets of very thin plastic, from the last owner.  It messed it up.  Pumpers said it was adult wipes.  They are in some cases, a thin sheet of plastic with lint/felt glued on to feel like a wash cloth.  The plastic will never go away and it is large enough to form horrible clogs.

Offline kckndrgn

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #18 on: August 27, 2015, 12:24:38 PM »
all good points.

I grew up on a septic system.  Never had it pumped until my parents sold the house after I moved out.  And they only had it pumped because of the inspection when selling the house.

Other than the bleach, be careful with grease/oil going down the drain.  If it's the type that will be solid at room temp then you can run the risk of the grease plugging up the plumbing.

My wife works at a yeast making plant, I can get all the yeast I want :)  and we give a few pounds to her parents a couple of times a year for their septic.

Offline PorcupineKate

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #19 on: August 27, 2015, 04:22:48 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions about the bleach.  Does anyone have any good references on the care of a septic?

Offline kckndrgn

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #20 on: August 28, 2015, 05:14:45 AM »

Offline Zef_66

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #21 on: August 28, 2015, 10:48:21 AM »
I will put up another recommendation about the yeast. Growing up we were on a septic system with grey water going into a leach field. And my parents, brother and his family still live there. The tank has only been pumped once in 25 years because of a backup on the inlet pipe. But we had to get in the tank to fix it, so we pumped the tank. There was only about 18" of stuff in the bottom and the pumper said it was working well.

My dad will once or twice a year mix a couple pound of yeast with some warm water and brown sugar in a bucket. Let it sit for a little bit until it starts "working". Then flush it down the toilet. This has worked well and kept the good bacteria going in the tank.

Offline archer

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #22 on: August 28, 2015, 12:30:50 PM »
My dad will once or twice a year mix a couple pound of yeast with some warm water and brown sugar in a bucket. Let it sit for a little bit until it starts "working". Then flush it down the toilet. This has worked well and kept the good bacteria going in the tank.

give a new meaning to the term 'bathtub booze'

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #23 on: August 31, 2015, 07:56:09 AM »
This thread is the first I've ever heard of engineered septic systems that require power.   Mine is powered by gravity and water flow. 

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #24 on: August 31, 2015, 08:58:21 AM »
This thread is the first I've ever heard of engineered septic systems that require power.   Mine is powered by gravity and water flow.

Yeah, it's a fairly ridiculous situation.  In our case, it's because only the top (uphill) quarter of our property has soil suitable for a drainfield -- the bottom 3/4 is full of rocks.  The original owners didn't realize this.  So they put the water well in the good septic zone, thereby making a large chunk off-limits for septic, and then they bulldosed most of the remaining good soil to make a level area for the house -- and THEN they started looking for a drainfield location.  By that point, the only suitable spot remaining was about 5% of the property, uphill from the house.

Offline reefmarker

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Re: Do you have septic? do you know how yours works? Better learn!
« Reply #25 on: August 31, 2015, 04:58:54 PM »
This thread is the first I've ever heard of engineered septic systems that require power.   Mine is powered by gravity and water flow.

Build a house right next to a lake with a septic tank in the wrong kind of soils.  You could have a septic tank that costs as much as your house.  Complete with a heated tank that turns what can't be processed away to ash that must be emptied when full.