How Does a Septic Tank System Work?

Written by on . Posted in Plumbing

If your home isn’t connected the the city’s sewer lines, then chances are it uses a septic tank system. While millions of homes throughout the country use a septic tank, few individuals know how they work. Here we’ll take a look at the mechanics behind them and reveal how exactly they work.

What is a Septic Tank System?

A septic tank system consists of a large tank that’s usually made of fiberglass where toilet waste and drain water flush down (known as the septic tank) and a drainfield where the liquids are eventually dispersed. According to U.S. construction and housing codes, each home must either be connected to a sewer or have a septic tank installed. Without either of these, there’s simply nowhere for waste to go when it’s flushed down the toilet.

How Does It Work?

All of the drain pipes in your home (kitchen sink, tub, toilet, bathroom sink, etc.) connect to a large single pipe which goes to the septic tank. Anytime you flush the toilet, take a shower or drain any water, it travels down this large pipe into the septic tank. Once it’s, the contents automatically separate themselves into three layers – solids at the bottom, clear liquids in the middle and the scum layer at top.

Over time, the natural bacteria found in the waste water work to break down the solids and turn them into liquid. While there’s still some dangerous germs and bacteria found in septic tanks, it’s generally less than you would imagine because of the oxygen-free conditions inside.

On the opposite end of the septic tank, there’s a large pipe that sucks up the liquids and disperses them into an area of the yard known as the drainfield. Typically, this area is covered by a couple layers of gravel which act to filter the liquids.

Cleaning Your Septic Tank

Contrary to what many homeowners believe, you shouldn’t need to pump your septic tank but once every 5 to 7 years. As long as you refrain from flushing down items and liquids which aren’t natural waste and water, then it should continue to work properly without giving you any trouble. With that said, many homeowners and families flush paper towels, cigarette butts and other items without giving it a second thought. While it may not cause any immediate danger, it can clog up your septic tank and cause it to back up into your yard. When this happens, you can expect to pay well over $1,000 for someone to come and excavate your yard to fix the problem.

Here at The Georgia Plumber, we like to pass along resources for information we think might be helpful to you. A site we recommend that is related to this subject is:


Tags: , ,