Indoor plumbing is one of man’s greatest achievements. Yet today, we often don’t consider how all the waste water we create in our home is dealt with.
Well, there are two very different designs. In urban areas, it’s common for municipal sewer lines to connect multiple homes and transport the waste water to a treatment plant. But in rural areas, individual houses typically have their own septic tank.
While many households don’t necessarily have a choice between sewer lines or a septic tank, it’s good to know the pros and cons of each system. And you may be surprised to learn that a septic tank has many advantages.
How a septic tank works
The septic tank is usually made of concrete, steel, or fiberglass. It is installed underground away from the home (usually at the back or side of the property). When you use a sink or flush a toilet, the water is directed through underground pipes into the septic tank, where waste and water are separated. The water is released from the tank into the surrounding soil, while the waste is collected until it is pumped out during periodic maintenance.
Living with a septic system
When your house has a septic tank, you do have to be aware of how much water you’re using so you don’t overwhelm the system. You can look at this as a positive or negative, but homeowners have an incentive to be more efficient with water, and more responsible with their drains by not dumping non-food items that could cause a backup.
Pros of a septic tank
- More cost efficient – Extensive sewer lines are very expensive to build and maintain. On the other hand, a septic tank is cheaper to install and doesn’t come with monthly maintenance costs.
- Durability – When properly maintained, a septic tank rarely needs to be replaced.
- Environmentally friendly – Septic tanks do not contaminate the water supply. They remove bacteria before water is released into the soil. Plus, the recycled water is absorbed by nearby plant life.
Cons of a septic tank
- Requires period maintenance – The tank needs to pumped every three to five years. This cost is the responsibility of the homeowner, which can be between $200-400.
- Backed up drains – The septic lines can get clogged by a host of materials (many that shouldn’t be flushed or put down the drain the first place). Signs of a backup include slow sink and tub draining, as well as slow-flushing toilets. When you notice these, bring in a plumber to inspect the septic system.
- Potential of ruptured pipes – If a drainage pipe running to your septic tank breaks due to a tree roots, a vehicle rolling over it, accident while digging, earthquake or any other reason, you could have a big mess on your hands. As the waste water leaks into the soil, the ground will become soggy and you’ll likely notice a foul smell. The ruptured pipe will need to be replaced as soon as possible.
After comparing the pros and cons, it’s clear that a septic tank has a lot to offer. When homeowners properly maintain their tank and are mindful of their water usage, a septic system can provide decades of dependable, low-cost waste water management.