Prepare Your Septic Tank for Winter
Now that it's September, it's time to start thinking about septic tank/system care throughout the winter. Maintenance and care is more difficult in the winter months due to freezing ground temperatures and an increase in precipitation that make it difficult to access your tank. Preparing for cold temperatures is crucial for the correct operation and longevity of your septic system!
What to start with:
(1) Get your tank pumped. Your tank should be pumped on at least a yearly basis, but this can vary depending on how much use the system gets. It's always a good idea to make sure that your system is pumped right before temperatures start to drop. Snow and freezing temperatures harden the ground and make it extremely difficult to access your system. Avoiding this step to "wait out" the winter can potentially backfire - you may end up with an unexpectedly full tank.
That being said, it is best to check the ground water level prior to pumping a septic tank. If you are located in an area with high water or an area that sees increased rainfall in the winter (such as BC's Lower Mainland), if the tank is pumped empty it should be filled with water shortly after pumping. This will ensure the tank keeps its shape and doesn’t float in high water table situations.
(2) Seal off leaks. Be sure to fully inspect your system before cold weather sets in! This will allow you some time to make repairs if you find any leaks in the piping, the tank, or tank lid. Without this crucial step taken, you run the risk of a burst pipe. Water freezing within a leaking pipe can cause pipes to burst. Be sure to also inspect your tank walls and lid for any cracks or leaks!
(3) Insulate your tank. Septic system and drain pipe insulation is crucial to correct operation through the winter. Plenty of cost-efficient and robust options are available for septic pipe and tank insulation, including insulation board (minimum R-10 value recommended!), spray-on insulation, flexible insulation wraps or "blankets". Most insulation options will require professional installation so be sure to consult an appropriately qualified professional.
(4) Allow grass to get longer. This will keep a slowly growing layer of additional insulation and will help keep the septic tank, piping, and drain field more protected from freezing temperatures.
Tips for upkeep during the winter:
(1) Limit water usage where possible. It's always a good idea to be conscientious of your water usage during the winter - excess usage is always difficult on the septic system. Try low flush toilets, shorter showers, or more infrequent laundry to help save water! This will keep your septic system less burdened and keep it in good working condition.
(2) Avoid chemical usage as much as possible. If your septic system is properly maintained throughout the year, you should find that you won't need chemicals such as antifreeze added to get your system through the winter. You always want to limit chemicals in your tank to avoid damaging the healthy bacteria that flourish in the system and help to break down organic matter. If you find that you're in need, consult a professional before adding chemicals!
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