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Things to know about buying a property with a septic system.

Understanding how do septic tanks work save you ridiculous money, protect your family and maintain the environment. Here is how to keep it that way.

Getting to know how do septic tanks work is very important to homeowners and especially prospective buyers. Many people feel worried about the presence of a septic tank. They are scared of the possible failures and the costly repairs and replacements. Well, that worry has no base at all.

In rural areas, septic systems are used more often than public sewer lines. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than one in five households in the United States depend on on-site sewage system.


They efficiently treat all the wastewater that leaves your house. They separate the water from the waste and discharge the clean liquid to the underground water supplies. They can easily last for decades If they are properly designed, installed and maintained.

It is recommended that the septic tank and the leach field are installed at least 50-100 feet away from the well to prevent contaminants from the wastewater ending up in the drinking water.

If you’ve found the perfect home but it has a septic system, don’t worry! This article is for you. We are going to talk about the components of the septic system, how do septic tanks work, the things that can go wrong and how to keep your tank in great shape.

How Do Septic Tanks Work: What is a Septic Tank?

According to the EPA, any conventional septic system composes of a pipe connecting the house with the septic tank, a septic tank, a drain field, a distribution box, and soil and gravel as the last treatment to remove harmful bacteria from the water.

Septic tanks are usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene and have a capacity of around 1000 to 2000 gallons. The job of a septic tank is important to the whole functionality of your septic system.

There are two chambers in the tank, separated by a partial wall. One is larger than the other. All the wastewater and solids that leave your house – bathrooms, kitchen drains, laundry – end up in the large chamber via the inlet baffle on the connecting pipe.

The wastewater inside stays in place until solids have settled in the bottom of the tank to form something known as sludge. Clean water or effluent hangs in the middle. How do septic tanks work rely heavily on the presence of bacteria. They break down the waste from the water.

Oil and grease float to form a top layer known as scum. Once settled, the liquid (effluent) flows through the dividing wall to the second chamber where it receives further treatment. Finally, the water or the effluent leaves the second chamber through the outlet baffle into the drainage field.

Input baffle: You can find it in the first chamber of the septic tank. It allows water to flow into your septic system without disturbing the scum layer. This baffle guides wastewater to flow down, across the septic tank and then up.

Output baffle: It is in the second chamber. It serves as a filter to retain solids from traveling to the leach field.

How Do Septic Tanks Work: The Drain Field

A drain field/leach field receives only the water from the septic tank via the effluent filters (outlet baffle). Then bacteria clean the liquid further and it seeps through the holes in the pipes into the surrounding gravel.

How Do Septic Tanks Work: The Distribution Box

The distribution box container has a fundamental role in how do septic tanks work. It lies between the septic tank and the drain field. It receives the septic tank effluent (only liquid) and distributes it evenly to a network of drain lines. The even distribution of the effluent leads to a longer leach field’s lifetime. An uneven distribution causes damage to the leach field and can lead to saturation. The distribution box is usually made of concrete or plastic with several holes to ensure easy flow of effluent to the drain lines. Distributions boxes have different sizes and shapes depending on the size of your septic tank and the septic system.

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