Aerobic systems are a little more complicated than conventional septic systems, but nothing a homeowner can’t handle most of the time. They need occasional maintenance to keep them operating the way they should. For example, there are certain things you don’t want to put in the system. We made a list to simplify this and help you know what to do.
Don't get frantic when you hear the septic alarm. Systems should be designed with free board or extra room so you can still use the bathroom or do dishes. Hold off on laundry as it uses a lot of water. The alarm panel should have two lights; amber and red. We’ll cover what they each mean later in the article. If you are not comfortable reading through and finding an answer in here, call a licensed septic company when your alarm sounds or the light turns on and reduce non-essential water usage.
Do hire a septic company that is competent. People in the business for a long time generally know what they are doing. Picking someone just because they’re cheap is generally not the best call, you do get what you pay for. Some people say to use proprietary parts… that's a joke. No company manufactures parts; we know what parts are what. Most pumps are Franklin or Sta-rite and most aerators are Hiblow or Gast. Unless you’ve got a Norweco or Jet. Then I feel bad for you.
Don't ignore the alarm. It went off for a reason and the longer you wait, the more costly it will become.
Do look at your chlorinator to make sure it has chlorine for final disinfection. If your system smells, it's not because of chlorine or lack thereof, it's something else.
Don't shut the system off then forget. It doesn’t take that much power, so just leave it running. If you do decide to shut the system off so you don’t get sprayed while mowing or doing yardwork, don’t forget to turn it back on.
Do check around your aerator for ants, they love to ruin your system. If you have a Clearstream and it was put above the ground because the installer was lazy, you will need to check this more often as the ants can easily access the aerator and control panel. If your service provider or person who maintains your system installed the system and put the panel on the ground, fire them and find someone with common sense. Sorry, I have no mercy on this. The lazy design and lack of forward-thinking costs customers a lot of money.
Don't put chlorine tablet buckets in enclosed areas. Chlorine is corrosive and eats everything. Also, be sure to keep it away from fire, it’s highly dangerous near a fire. Store chlorine in a ventilated and dry area.
Do use ant killer to kill ants if they start mounding by any part of the system.
Don't use swimming pool chlorine tablets for tablet chlorinators. Only use calcium hypochlorite tablets that are designed for treating wastewater.
Do make sure all parts of the system are easily accessible at all times (do not build over any part, use landscaping that could grow over, etc).
Don't fall for statements like: "If you don’t use a licensed person, it’s illegal and the poop police will get you" or "It will void your warranty if we don't install it" The only things that void a warranty should be in your actual contract. Besides those, a two-year warranty lasts for two years period. If a maintenance provider says "I am turning you into the authorities get another one" why would you want to hire someone who just threatened you find someone new? A lot of states and counties make it mandatory you have a contract, but don't police the contractors. There are honest ones out there, but there are a lot of shady ones also because the states won't pull licenses. Stand your ground and find someone new.
Do have your system pumped if your maintenance provider says it needs to be done and he is honest. Too many times we hear that a provider noted that no sludge was in the system but then the next month it's suddenly full. That is impossible and I would be highly suspect of their motives if they said this. Get a second opinion, there are a lot of people out there that take advantage of people.
Don't put just anything down the drain or toilet. Whatever is put down those will go into the septic system and have to be treated. Be mindful of this. Aerobic systems are designed to treat domestic wastewater but that's it. We’ve written an article on it here
Do space your laundry out if you have a large family. Don't do ten loads in one day or you will overload the system. Space them out. Planning a load in the morning and a load at night is better than 10 in one day. Will this be a disaster if you do it once every three months? No, it won’t, but don't make this a practice. It's not good for any septic system, especially an aerobic septic system.
Don't put a garden around your system, making it hard to get to. People have emergencies then need things pumped and fixed fast. Some homeowners go as far as to say "don't damage the plants." Your house has sewage in it and you're worried about the plants? A septic system is about function not form. It doesn't need to be ugly, but plants and trees should not be planted next to it. Plants and trees need water and the aerobic septic system is full of nutrient-rich water. As soon as they find it, the roots go crazy and cause damage that costs a lot of money. Do not plant vegetable gardens in or near the field lines or spray areas. Dangerous bacteria are in the system and you can get very sick from eating vegetables from areas like this. They will look fantastic because of the water but don’t eat them.
Don't treat the system as a city wastewater treatment plant. Using water when needed and not wasting it helps prevent hydraulically overloading the system. Don’t let leaky faucets and toilets go unfixed. You may not think it’s a lot of water, but in 24 hours they average 100-150 gallons of water use. It's just unnecessary usage of your effluent pump.
And that concludes our 16 Aerobic Septic System Do's & Don'ts. We hope this list will help you manage your aerobic septic system more effectively. With just a little bit of care and attention, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on maintenance and pumping costs. This kind of education is what we’re all about!
It's good to know more about septic system care. I like how you said that hiring a competent septic company is a must. We just moved into a home with a tank, so I'll have to find a good company to come and inspect it.
Very Smart! The best preventative maintenance is having regular septic inspections. The professional you hire will let you know when you need to pump your system, ensuring long system life!
What about the lights??? We have a Delta system and our repair guy came out in Oct 2018 to address smelly water from the sprinklers. Turns out the air blower was out, the alarm and light were out and there were some bad fuses. He replaced the fuses and rebuilt the air blower (not sure which he did first). He says the light housing is bad and so old (house built in 2001) he can't find a replacement for it. I don't know if I fully believe this so I went searching myself and came across your post. What about… Read more »
Without more information, a rebuild kit (or potentially a new aerator) is going to be your best bet for service! The pumps typically have a 3-5 year service life, and its likely that pump is too old to rebuild.
As a new homeowner, I don't know a lot about the appliances in my house and wanted some tips. I didn't know that you should check the chlorinator on your septic tank to make sure there's enough chlorine for final disinfection. That's something I need to pass onto my husband so if there is a problem, we know we should hire a septic tank pump company to help us find the problem wrong with our septic tank.
Septic chlorine can be bought online and that is something you can do yourself. It’s usually a 4” pipe that is sticking out of the ground in between your aerobic tank and pump tank. If not, it is located inside the tank. Having a company come out and do just that would cost you 3 years’ worth of chlorine. You should put 3 tablets in and should do that once a month.
Pumpkins grew where I discarded old pumpkins last year, and are in the aerobic spray area. Will these pumpkins be edible if the meat is canned in jars to kill bacteria?
I wouldn’t not eat them there are bacteria like cryptosporidium that take special process to destroy and are very dangerous to ingest.
Thanks for explaining that we should prioritize experience over cost when choosing a septic company, since it's an industry where we'll get what we pay for. My husband and I just bought an older home that needs to have a new septic tank installed, so we're currently trying to find the right professional for the installation. I'm glad I read your article because keeping your tips in mind will help me find a septic company with a good balance of price and quality.
Your very welcome it is very important because in the long run the cheap guy normally cost you a lot more and the savings you get are minimal to the cost down the road.
We have an aerobic system in Texas with 2 sprinkler heads to discharge. We also have a low spot in the back of our property. Was considering building a small pond in the low spot as our lot drains downhill. The pond would be close to the septic sprinklers (maybe 10 feet) but they would be spraying away from the pond onto grass. Do you think the septic sprinkler spray would pose any harm to the pond? The pond would likely be filled by rain water, but is possible some of the spray could be blown by the wind into… Read more »
The rule is 50 feet from an open body of water in the state of Texas. That’s a good safe rule. You can move the spray heads if you would like but it’s not advised to be that close to the pond. If kids go in bacteria could be present from the system. The bacteria one is all it takes to make billions more could take over and someone could get sick. So it’s a no sorry.
It's good to know that you should get your septic system pumped if your maintenance provider says it needs to be done. My brother has a septic system, and he thinks it's backed up. I'll pass this information along to him for his benefit.
We bought a house 2 years ago and have been having terrible smelly water being sprayed from the aerobic sprinkler system. We hired someone to come out and pump out the tanks and he told us the trash tank was “packed” with very dry solid like sludge and even the clean water Tanaka had about a foot of solid sludge in the bottom.... what normally takes him 45 mins to drain took him almost 2 hours. He had to use water to break up the sludge to even drain it (shame on the previous homeowners for neglecting the system.) while… Read more »
Fuji Mac 80 is the aerator you want 3 year warranty it is true the diaphragm fails in 3-5 years but you can rebuild them. Please contact wholesale septic supply they will get you the right parts.
I just want to say thank you for your information.
Your Welcome! We strive to provide the best information available online for septic needs!