Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems in Florida

Everything You Need to Know About Septic Systems in Florida!

ACE performs a drainfield installation for a septic system in Florida.

Welcome to ACE’s Homeowner’s Guide for Septic Systems in Florida!

As a Florida homeowner, understanding the fundamentals of your septic system is vital for efficient operation and maintenance. This in-depth guide breaks down your septic system’s core components, providing valuable insights and links to additional information. Whether you’re new to septic systems, or are an experienced homeowner looking for comprehensive information, this is a great guide to get you everything you need to know about septic systems.

To make things easy for you we provided jump links below to navigate you to any specific section of this guide. If you’re looking for immediate septic or lift station services, head over to our Contact Page or call us at 813-971-8770.

What is a Septic System?

A Florida septic system is an on-site wastewater treatment system (OWTDS) used primarily in rural and suburban areas without access to centralized sewer systems. The Florida EPA estimates that 1/3 of Florida homes (nearly 7.5 million people!) rely on septic systems instead of sewer. With over 2 million septic systems in use in Florida today, it’s important for Floridians to know how their wastewater treatment works and the do’s and dont’s of septic.

A septic system consists of a few key parts. Here’s the breakdown.

Illustration of a home's septic system, highlighting the drain pipe, septic tank, header, and drainfield.
Icon showing the number 1.

Drain Pipe:

All drains in your house lead to the primary drain pipe. This is where wastewater exits your home and moves into the septic system.

Septic Tank:

Wastewater from the home flows from the drain pipe into the septic tank, where solids settle to the bottom, forming sludge, while oils and grease float to the top as scum. Bacteria in the tank break down the solids.

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Septic Header:

This pipe network connects the septic tank to the drain field, ensuring even distribution of effluent across multiple drain field lines or trenches. This helps maintain system balance and efficiency, preventing clogs and backups.

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The liquid effluent from the tank flows into the drain field through the septic header, where it is further treated as it percolates through the soil. The soil acts as a natural filter, removing harmful bacteria, viruses, and nutrients.

Septic systems come in a variety of shapes and designs, engineered to fit both residential and commercial needs.

Why Do You Need a Septic Tank?

For every homeowner’s septic tank in Florida, efficient treatment is essential. You need a septic tank for the following reasons:

Waste Management: A septic tank safely processes and disposes of wastewater from your home, including water from toilets, sinks, showers, and appliances.

Environmental Protection: Properly functioning septic tanks prevent untreated wastewater from contaminating groundwater, rivers, and lakes, protecting public health and the environment.

Cost-Effective Solution: For homes in rural or suburban areas without access to a centralized sewer system, septic systems in Florida provide practical and cost-effective solutions for wastewater treatment. In some cases, septic is the only option Florida homeowners have. As a homeowner, you will need a septic tank if your property requires a septic system due to an inability to connect to public sewer.

Regulatory Compliance: Many areas require homes without access to municipal sewer systems to have an approved septic system to comply with health and building codes. Florida, in particular, has high regulatory standards when it comes to septic.

Property Value: A well-maintained septic system can enhance the value of your property. You can ensure proper wastewater management and avoid potential health hazards through regular maintenance and inspections with a licensed septic company like ACE.

Just like septic systems, septic tank designs, brands, styles may vary, so you may be unaware of the specific type of septic tank you have. However, they can generally be classified as either a conventional or an advanced tank. If you need to know the specifications of your tank, an inspection from a licensed vendor like ACE Septic and Waste will get the job done.

Baffled vs. Non-baffled Tanks

Septic tanks in Florida septic systems can be baffled or non-baffled. 

An image depicting the Florida-recommended baffled septic tank.

Baffled tanks have internal dividers that enhance the treatment process by separating solids from liquids. In Florida, regulations often require baffled tanks to ensure effective treatment.

How Long Does a Septic Tank Last?

The lifespan of a septic tank largely depends on proper maintenance and responsible usage.

Images of different sized septic tanks lined up.

With proper care, a septic tank can last 20-40 years. Avoid flushing non-biodegradable items like “flushable wipes” to extend their lifespan. You can also utilize maintenance agreements with reliable companies to make septic management easier.

What is Effluent?

Effluent is the liquid wastewater that flows out of a septic tank after the solid waste has settled.

A Florida home looks beautiful by having operable septic systems distributing wastewater back into the ground.

Wastewater contains dissolved and suspended organic and inorganic materials and is further treated in the drain field where it percolates through the soil. When reading about septic, you’ll often see the terms effluent and wastewater used interchangeably.

The effluent pipe is a conduit that carries treated wastewater from the septic tank to the drain field, allowing it to percolate into the ground. Functioning septic systems in Florida means your property will experience the tremendous benefits that treated effluent provides.

What is a Dosing Tank?

A dosing tank, or pump tank, holds and distributes wastewater effluent to the drain field in controlled doses.

Due to the dramatic fluctuations of the water table in Florida, your property may require a dosing tank based on the year your home was built and the degree of separation between the drain field and the highest point of the water table during the year.

If your septic system in Florida requires a dosing tank, that dosing tank will include a pump. The pump’s role is to evenly distribute effluent to the drain field over time, preventing overloading and ensuring effective treatment.

Frequently, a dosing tank involves a mound system. A mound system is a hill constructed with septic-approved sand. This hill elevates an area of your yard so that you can satisfy Florida’s septic regulations regarding the water table. When a mound system is needed, which a company like ACE can help you determine, stabilization of the mound is critical to maintaining efficiency, as stabilization helps the system avoid shifting, settling, or erosion. Remember that dosing tanks require electricity to operate the pump responsible for distributing effluent to the drain field. The last unique feature of a dosing tank is the high water alarm. A high-water alarm is a critical feature that alerts you to potential issues like pump failure or an inoperable float or float switch, preventing costly backups and repairs.

Recommended Reading:

Types of Pumps in Septic Systems

Learn about different pumps used in septic systems, including effluent and grinder pumps, and how they help improve efficiency and safety.

What is a Drain Field?

A drainfield, also called a leach field or absorption field, marks the final stage in a septic system’s wastewater treatment process. Drainfields handle dispersal and treatment of the effluent from the septic tank. 

A newly installed drain field surrounded by septic sand.

Here’s how it works:

Structure and Design:

The drainfield consists of perforated pipes laid in trenches. Drainfields often come in varying designs and styles, usually dictated by the soil composition, property size, and available space for installation. These trenches are usually 1 to 3 feet deep and 1 to 3 feet wide, with septic-approved sand, gravel, and/or crushed stone around the pipes to help with drainage and prevent clogs.

There are advantages and disadvantages of the various drain field designs available; your property limitations and household water usage will dictate the type of drainfield you need.

Icon of a septic tank.

Effluent Distribution:

Effluent from the septic tank flows into a distribution box or header pipe, which spreads it evenly to the perforated pipes. The perforations in the pipes allow the effluent to seep out and filter through the gravel and soil.

Illustration with a hand and a drop of water to represent clean water.

Soil Treatment:

As the effluent moves through the soil, it undergoes natural filtration and microbial treatment. Soil bacteria break down organic matter, while the soil itself removes pathogens, nutrients, and other contaminants through a process called adsorption.

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Environmental Protection:

Because Florida’s drinking water comes from underground aquifers, a properly working drainfield is absolutely vital for the entire state. The drainfield protects groundwater and nearby water bodies from contamination by treating and dispersing wastewater safely.

Icon of a calendar and a star badge, to demonstrate experienced technicians.

Maintenance and Lifespan:

Regular maintenance, like avoiding excessive water use and pumping the septic tank regularly, is key to preventing drainfield failure. A well-maintained drainfield can last for decades, but neglect can lead to costly repairs including replacements for your Florida septic system.

Why Do I Need a Septic Filter?

The last major component of Florida septic systems is septic tank filters.

A septic tank filter is a component in a septic system that captures and prevents solid particles and debris from entering the drain field, helping to protect and extend the septic system’s life. 

Septic tank filters, of all the components in a septic system, are probably the easiest to clean yourself.

Swipe through to learn how.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference between Septic and Sewer?

Septic systems in Florida treat wastewater on-site, while sewer systems transport it to centralized treatment facilities. For more information, click here.

Do I Need a Plumber or a Septic System Expert?

It’s advisable to consult a septic system expert specializing in installation, maintenance, and repair when dealing with septic system issues. Generally speaking, if it’s an issue with anything inside the house, you’ll need a plumber, and if it’s an outside issue, you’re more than likely in need of a septic company like ACE. For a full breakdown, see our 5-Point Self Inspection guide. Customers should know that ACE carries a plumbing certification for minor issues such as clogs. The way we see it, if we’re already on site, it doesn’t make sense to have to call another company for a problem we can fix ourselves.

Are There Alternatives to Conventional Septic Systems or Drain Fields?

Alternatives like aerobic treatment units (ATUs) may be suitable options for traditional septic systems in specific scenarios.

ACE Septic & Waste is Florida's trusted septic experts in Tampa Bay and Central Florida. We're dedicated to helping you protect your biggest investment.

For more information and expert assistance regarding septic systems, contact ACE Septic & Waste. We also suggest following us on Instagram, where we post helpful DIY maintenance tips.
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