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When Should You Pump A Septic Tank?

How often should you have your septic tank pumped? Answer: It depends.


Truth be told, there is no "magic number" of years between services. A lot of people may say "well, I've waited 25 years and haven't had a problem yet!" Or some similar exaggeration. Other people may swear by having theirs pumped every 4 years. Most experts recommend every 3-5 years between services, but lets look at why pumping is necessary, and how it can change based on different circumstances.


Components of a Septic System

There are three primary components of a conventional septic system. The homes plumbing, the tank, and the drainfield. Each of these components operate together to complete the system. First, wastewater leaves the home through the home's plumbing system. It enters the main sewer line as it leaves the house. From there, it enters the septic tank. Waste deposited in the septic tank begins a digestion process powered by bacteria. As the waste breaks down, the water leaves the tank and enters the lateral lines, leaving the solid waste in the tank. It is important that only water, not solids, leave the septic tank and enter the drainfield. The wastewater is then absorbed into the soil surrounding your drainfield.


The Purpose of Pumping Septic Tanks

Pumping septic tanks removes the solid waste inside the tank. Over a period of time, the solids build up inside the septic system. If excessive solids build up inside the tank, they could enter the lateral lines. Too much of this will result in a clogged, or plugged up drainfield. 


The Importance of a Functioning Drainfield

Your system's drainfield is the only exit for wastewater after it leaves your house. If the drainfield becomes inoperable, the wastewater has nowhere to go, and eventually the wastewater will end up backing up into your home. 


So, How Often Should I Pump My Tank?

Pumping your septic system is based on the size of the septic tank and how many people are using it. Each person, on average, generates 80-100 gallons of wastewater per day. For better reference, a chart is listed below:

Most modern septic tanks are 1,000 or 1,500 gallons in size. The average American family consists of three people per household. Assuming a 1,000 gallon tank, this household should pump their tank every three and a half years. If this household uses a dishwasher, then they should have it pumped every two and a half years. If they also use a garbage disposal, they should pump the tank every two years. For the same four person household, the tank should be pumped every 18 months or so. If these families are utilizing 1,500 gallon tanks, then they should have them pumped every three years, and two and a half years, respectively. 


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