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. There are also 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 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 used 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
Hopefully, 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!