Homeowner’s Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Your Septic System and How it Works

Welcome to the ACE Septic & Waste’s Homeowner’s Guide!

As a Florida homeowner, understanding the fundamentals of your septic system is vital for efficient operation and maintenance. This in-depth guide breaks down septic systems’ 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.

If you’d prefer to jump to any specific section of this guide, we encourage you to use the jump links below:

What is a Septic System?

A septic system is an essential wastewater treatment and disposal system commonly found in rural and suburban areas, particularly in Florida. An onsite wastewater treatment and disposal system (OWTDS) consists of several vital components, with the septic tank and drain field being the system’s most fundamental and best-known parts.

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

What is a Septic Tank?

A septic system is an essential wastewater treatment and disposal system commonly found in rural and suburban areas, particularly in Florida.

An onsite wastewater treatment and disposal system (OWTDS) consists of several vital components, with the septic tank and drain field being the system’s most fundamental and best-known parts.

Why Do You Need a Septic Tank?

A septic tank is the hidden hero of the household. Since it lives underground, it is the quintessential definition of out of sight, out of mind. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or something you can ignore.

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. An easy way to identify if your property has a septic system is to head out to the yard to see if your property has septic system covers.

Septic tank brands and styles vary, so you may be unaware of the specific type of septic tank you have. Depending on design and functionality, septic tanks can be conventional or advanced. Should you want to know the specifications of your tank, an inspection from a vendor like ACE can help.

Before you know it, you’ll have all these questions as a homeowner, like how high the water is in your septic tank, or what’s the role of risers on my septic tank? It’s essential to monitor the water level in the tank, as dramatic fluctuations could indicate issues.

Baffled vs. Non-baffled Tanks

A septic tank is the hidden hero of the household. Since it lives underground, it is the quintessential definition of out of sight, out of mind. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or something you can ignore.

An illustration of a septic tank with the effluent inside separated by a baffle.

Septic tanks can be baffled or non-baffled. 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?

A septic tank is the hidden hero of the household. Since it lives underground, it is the quintessential definition of out of sight, out of mind. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or something you can ignore.

The lifespan of a septic tank largely depends on proper maintenance and responsible usage. With proper care, a septic tank can last 20-40 years. Avoid flushing non-biodegradable items like “flushable wipes” to extend their lifespan.

What is an Effluent Pipe?

A septic tank is the hidden hero of the household. Since it lives underground, it is the quintessential definition of out of sight, out of mind. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or something you can ignore.

An effluent pipe is a conduit that carries treated wastewater from the septic tank to the drain field, allowing it to percolate into the ground.

What is a Dosing Tank?

A dosing tank, or pump tank, plays a crucial role in septic systems. 

It 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 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, as the name suggests, is a hill constructed with septic-approved sand, which elevates an area of your yard that is built 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.

What is a Drain Field?

A drain field, also known as a leach field, marks the final stage in a septic system’s wastewater treatment process.

A newly installed drain field surrounded by septic sand.

The science behind drain fields and how they use soil and sand to distribute wastewater into the earth is fascinating, but for the purposes of this guide, we’ll just focus on the nuts and bolts of what a drain field is and what it does.

Drainfields often come in varying designs and styles, usually dictated by the soil composition, property size, and available space for installation. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of various drain field designs, but understand that the needs of your property will dictate the type of drainfield you need.

Septic-approved sand is a pivotal and specialized material used in drain fields to facilitate filtration and treatment of the effluent.

Drainfields, like septic tanks, vary in their size and style. Discover how you can determine the size of your drain field, whether through system design plans or consulting a licensed septic professional.

Why Do I Need a Septic Filter?

The last major component of 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 by preventing clogs and soil contamination. Septic tank filters, of all the components in a septic system, are probably the easiest to clean yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference between Septic and Sewer?

Septic systems 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.

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.

We are Florida's trusted septic experts, dedicated to ensuring your septic system operates efficiently for years to come.

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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