Understand your septic tank
In a septic tank the scum rises to the top while solid sediment settles on the bottom. The excess liquid is then pumped out to the drain field, sometimes by gravity, sometimes by a septic pump. If your septic system has a filter (which is normally located in the outlet tee), you need to know how to clean and care for it. If you have a pump system equipped with an alarm you should periodically test the alarm to make sure it’s functioning properly. While the bacteria breaks down the solids in the tank, they still need to be flushed out periodically.
Protecting the Tank
- Keep heavy things away from your tank. Parking a car or RV, building a shed, pouring asphalt or cement, or placing an above ground pool over your tank or drain field can cause serious damage to the tank, and the pipes. Which results in compromised effectiveness of the drain field, and is in violation of the law in almost every jurisdiction.
- Don’t flush or pour chemicals or anything that isn’t biodegradable down the drain. Doing this can cause clogs to the tank and drain field. Chemicals can kill the bacteria that break solids down. Here’s a few items to avoid tossing down the drain:
- Cat Litter
- Cigarette Butts
- Cotton Swabs
- Dental Floss
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Grease (such as Bacon Fat, Oils, Etc.)
- Ground Coffee
- Household Chemicals
- Paper Towels
- Avoid Garbage Disposals
If you have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly. A garbage disposal can cause clogs in the drain field, and leads to even more water waste. If you do happen to have a garbage disposal you will need to get your septic tank pumped more regularly every year.
- Flush a liter of buttermilk down the toilet once every couple of months. It’s great bacteria for your spetic system!
- Use septic-safe products, such as environmental safe soaps as much as possible. Use septic-safe toilet paper and septic-safe wet ones. Flush “RID” down the toilets every few months if possible.
- Your septic tank is equipped to handle only so much water at a time. You need to allow your tank time to separate the solids and the liquid, and be able to send the liquids to the drain field.
- Check for leaking faucets and running toilets.
- Consider having low flow, or high efficiency toilets installed.
- Make sure that you put your washing machine on the right load size. Washing a smaller load on the large load setting wastes water.
- Spread out laundry days. While it might feel more productive to get it all done in one day, spreading it out allows time for your septic tank to refill.
Electric Water Heaters:
Before Connecting Electricity.
If you turn your power on before the tank is completely full your upper heating element will burn out and you will be without hot water until the burned out element is replaced.
To replace the top or bottom heating element, disconnect the power to your water heater and drain the tank. Disconnect the wires from the heating element and loosen it using an element wrench. Remove the element and pull it straight out. Replace the old element with the new one and tighten using the element wrench. Reconnect the wiring and prepare to refill the tank.
Turn a hot water faucet on all the way for 3 minutes. Doing this ensures all of the air has been removed and the tank is completely full of water. Once the tank is full, turn the power on. If, after two hours, you still don’t have hot water, check the unit to make sure it is receiving the proper voltage. The label on the water heater will have the power requirements. Often times no electric power, or an incorrect voltage causes many electric water heaters problems. An electrician may be needed to solve wiring/power problems.
Leaks & Drips
Often times leaks are caused by faulty water supply connectors. Check your work carefully, use proper techniques, and quality materials. Because copper pipes need to be soldered, compression fittings are better suited for DIY’ers.
A thermal expansion tank is usually needed if you have dripping from your temperature and relief pressure valve discharge pipe.