One of the advantages of living in Florida in general – and Central Florida in particular – is that the increasingly harsh winter weather making news this season is absent in the Sunshine State. While Northern and Midwestern states dig out from massive amounts of snow and sleet, we nevertheless complain bitterly when the thermometer dips to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
So if you’re a snowbird lucky enough to have a winter home here, or permanently relocated to escape the Arctic freezes, you may be wondering if your septic tank needs special attention this time of year.
Fortunately, the short answer is “no.”
However, certain times of year and certain weather conditions in Florida demand more vigilance on the part of homeowners who have a septic system. But back to that short “no.” What Florida lacks in snow and ice, it more than makes up for in winter visitors – many of who may be your houseguests. As your home is their vacation headquarters, they’re stressing your septic system with additional use. Since their home’s plumbing is most likely connected to a municipal sewer system, they may not know the special care a septic system requires.
Our colleagues at ADB Construct & Septic Corp. of Manchester, CT, wrote about the hazards that holiday guests pose to a septic system in their own blog.
Here’s their observation, because, frankly, we couldn’t say it better ourselves:
“Having guests over during the holiday season can cause damage to your septic system. Your system can become overworked with an increase in showers and laundry usage.
The preparation of elaborate holiday meals can contribute to an overworked system as well. Additionally, guests who are unfamiliar with septic systems might flush unauthorized items down the toilet, leading to damage of your system.
“In order to avoid these issues, stagger showers and laundry usage, rather than using a large amount of water all at once. Stagger your food preparation over a few days if possible. Additionally, you should remind guests what items can and can’t be flushed down your toilet.”
As we always say around here at Adams and Son Plumbing, no matter if your home is on a septic or sewer system, only three things should be flushed down the toilet – one them being toilet paper. That means no baby wipes, tissues, paper towels or feminine hygiene products. Ever.
Now, back to the weather and your septic tank
Anyone who has called themselves a Floridian for any length of time knows that summer is the danger season for septic tanks. To understand why, it helps to know how a septic system is constructed and how it operates.
As outlined by Nix Tank Company of Gainesville, GA, a septic system consists of three primary units:
- Inlet pipe: Waste from all of the drains in your house run through this pipe into the septic tank.
- Tank: An underground two-chamber tank holds the waste as it separates into sludge, scum and effluent (liquid).
- Drain field: A perforated pipe releases effluent into the soil for further biodegradation. Solid is routinely pumped by specialists.
The solid waste settles at the bottom of the tank and becomes sludge as microbes break the material down. Grease and lighter solids float to the top. On a non-rainy day, the liquid material, also called effluent, flows from the drain field into the soil and is purified by microbes.
Heavy rain results in excessive water in the soil. This limits the drain field’s ability to release effluents into the soil and leads to dangerous levels of liquid filling up in the tank. Day after day of heavy, sustained rain – as we experience in Florida during a typical summer – can saturate the drain field and overwhelm the septic tank, causing water to back up in toilets and drains. Add an active hurricane season to the mix, and disaster looms.
Save water to save your septic system
The best course of action during rain/hurricane season is to go into holiday houseguest mode. Schedule laundry to avoid washing more than one load a day. Give the dishwasher a break and wash by hand in the sink, running the water only to rinse. Shower, rather than bathe, and keep it brief. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and performing other personal grooming. If you have a swimming pool, don’t allow it to drain into your septic system.
Of course, call us if you suspect a leak anywhere in your house or on your property, as leaks also add to the demand on a septic tank – in addition to the other damage they cause. Our June 2018 blog post, “How to Detect Plumbing Leaks” provides valuable tips on locating leaks before they cause extensive destruction. Our July 2018 blog post, “Septic Tank Maintenance – What You Need to Know,” offers additional water-saving advice, as well as steps to keep your septic system trouble-free.
No matter what the season – rain or shine – Adams and Son Plumbing has been providing experienced, expert septic system service to Central Florida residences for 40 years.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.
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