For many homeowners, a septic tank is a mystery. You understand its function, the need for regular maintenance and how it works. However, beyond that, they may not know exactly what they need to consider and prefer to leave the details of their septic tank to a company that specializes in septic tank emptying.
As a homeowner, many of the problems that can arise with your septic tank can be solved through maintenance. However, you may be wondering whether special consideration needs to be given to your septic tank during colder weather.
Cold Weather and Its Effects on Septic Tanks
Just as cold weather can affect pipes and other parts of the plumbing system, it can also impact a septic system. It is very important that a homeowner is prepared for the winter season because if not, a number of septic tank problems can arise.
Unfortunately, even though septic tanks are located in the ground and covered with layers of dirt and, in the colder months, layers of snow, this does not mean that this layer of “insulation” will prevent a septic tank from remaining unaffected by the weather. Unfortunately, this coverage of dirt and snow can actually make the vehicle more susceptible to damage.
All types of weather can impact a septic tank, but the colder winter weather can be the harshest.
At low temperatures, it can be difficult for the bacteria in a septic tank to survive. These bacteria are an essential part of the septic tank, which does not fill the waste until it is emptied. The bacteria physically digest this waste, leaving only carbon dioxide and water. The remaining waste sinks to the bottom of the tank, where it remains as sludge. If the number of temperature-sensitive bacteria is insufficient, sludge formation occurs, which can be a problem. When temperatures drop to 50°F or below, the bacteria slow down or disappear altogether. Combined with the potential increased load on your septic tank from richer, heavier winter foods, this can be a real problem.
Frozen septic tanks
The pipes that run from your home to the septic tank can freeze in the winter, and some homeowners believe antifreeze can help mitigate this. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good idea because adding antifreeze to a septic tank can affect the bacteria.
Thawing frozen water
Thawing frozen water can also cause problems. The sudden flow of condensation water can actually saturate the drain field. This means that no water can flow out of the sewage treatment plant. The result is that water flows backwards through the pipes and back to the toilets and drains in your home. The consequence of all this is that there is a risk of environmental pollution.
Fortunately, there are preventative measures that can counteract these problems. These include:
- Have your septic tank serviced regularly
- Seed the tank with bacteria that can function in colder temperatures,
- Avoid cleaning products that contain substances that can harm bacteria.
- Keep your gutters clean
- A standpipe gives you easy access to your tank in any weather.
These measures will certainly help your septic tank function properly even in colder weather. However, if you have any concerns about your septic tank, it is always a good idea to have someone come out and take a look.