When Should I Pump My Septic Tank?

Video Transcription

How often should you pump your septic tank? Should you pump your tank at all? If you ask around, you’re bound to get some bad advice. The fact is, knowing when to pump your septic tank is one of the most confusing parts of owning a septic system. In today’s video, we’re going to learn how to use a special tool that’s going to show us when it’s time to pump your tank. Not only will this allow you to take proper care of your system, but it’s going to save you money over time. All that today on Stuart On Septics.

How a Septic Tank Works

Before we learn how to use a core sampler, let’s first lean how a septic tank works. Okay, let me give you some background as I draw a cross sectional view of the septic tank. Since we all prepare different foods, take various medications, and use a variety of cleaners, each septic tank is basically its own chemistry project. The amount of waste water we generate, our personal habits, and products we use, all affect the workings of our septic tank and how often we need to have that tank pumped out. Remember, the longevity of your septic system is directly linked to proper maintenance and the amount and strength of waste water you put into your system. Tanks are usually made out of concrete and are about eight feet long by four feet wide, and three to five feet deep. On this drawing, the inlet is on the left and the outlet is on the right. The inlet flow is baffled by a plastic tee. The outlet is usually a few inches lower than the inlet. This means that the tank’s normal level is even with that outlet pipe.

The Job of Septic Tank

The job of the septic tank is to separate the waste water into three separate layers, trapping the solids and greases inside the tank, and only allowing the liquid effluent to leave the tank. This settling is down both through biological activities and retention. If your tank doesn’t settle out into these three layers, there’s something not right and your tank is not working as it should. Let’s look at the layers. The scum layer is the top layer, shown here in brown, and is made up of fats, oils, and greases. The yellow middle section is the liquid effluent. The tank’s outlet tee is designed to allow this water, and this water only, to exit the tank and move onto the absorption field. The sludge layer accumulates on the bottom of the tank and is shown here in blank.

When Septic Tanks Should Be Pumped

The tank should be pumped when the sludge plus the scum layer equal 25 to 33% of the liquid depth of the tank. Never pumping your tank, allows the sludge and the scum to build up to unhealthy levels. Excessive sludge buildup will render the septic tank useless and allow all waste water to bypass the tank, going out into your field system and wreaking havoc. Have all your sludge and scum removed when it’s time. In fact, be sure to verify that your pumper has done a thorough job when they pump your tank. Don’t allow them to leave six inches of sludge in the bottom. A good pumper will back flush into the tank to help put the sludge into suspension so they can effectively pump it out.

The Core Sampler

This is the core sampler. As you see, it comes in this fancy PVC case that looks like a giant ear cleaner. So this is the core sampler. It’s eight feet tall. At one end you have this cute little ball here. You’ve got the tube is clear, and then at the bottom you’ve got a little stopper. What that stopper does, what you do is you, we’re going to put this down into the bottom of your tank. When it hits the bottom, we’re going to pull this shut, so it does that. It makes that exact sound. It makes a bop sound. It closes the end of this. When it does that, what we’re going to do is we will wrap it around this boat looking thing. What would you call that? I think it’s something they use on a boat, so I’ll call it a boat thing. Then, we can look at the contents of the tank. Let’s do that.

I’m going to pull this lid off. Pull out the internal lid. I have to make grunting sounds when I do that because it’s such hard work. Here’s the open end. We’re going to put it down into the tank. I’m just going to push it down in there, slowly and straight down until I get to the bottom. Oh, there’s the bottom. Then, I’m going to take this and while holding it down on the bottom gently, I’m going to pull on the rope, and it made a thud sound, which means that the end of the tube was engaged. I’m going to wrap it around the boat thing, right here. Then, as I pull it out, look what we have. We have a cross-sectional view of the contents of the septic tank. The first thing that you notice is that our water level is here, so this is the water depth of the tank. This is how deep the tank is. We’ve got one, two, three, almost three and half feet of water depth. Now, down here we’ve got the sludge. You see the sludge goes to almost two feet.

How Often to Pump Your Septic Tank

The rule of thumb with sludge is, you want to pump your septic tank when your sludge layer is 25 to 33% of the depth of your tank. So this tank, has almost two-thirds sludge, so it needs to be pumped quite badly. Another scenario would be, say if you had four feet of water and the sludge was at a foot, you’d be right at the edge of needing to have that tank pumped. Maybe you could wait a little while longer till it was about a third or you could go ahead and have it pumped. But if you have four feet of water and you only have six inches of sludge, then you don’t need to have it pumped. Even if it’s been five, six, seven years, you don’t need to have that tank pumped. That’s where you’re going to save money because the core sampler tells you exactly when you need to have the tank pumped. This tank needs to be pumped.

Then, we loosen the end here, we’re on the boat thingy, and the contents fall right back into the tank. That’s how the core sampler works. If you’d like to purchase one, feel free to give me a call or send me an email.

Final Precautions

Hi, I wanted to mention a few things before we go. One, make sure that you wear rubber gloves. If you’re getting into your septic tank or if you’re doing core sampling, septic water, as you have probably guessed, is kind of nasty. It’s not something you want to get on your hands. You also might want to have some alcohol-based hand sanitizer on hand, just in case. You know, the fact is, pumping your septic tank is expensive, but it’s also a necessity. Having your local septic pumper on a regular schedule and have them come out and pump your tank every year or two, might be convenient for them and it might be profitable for them, but it might not be necessary. Using a core sampler forgoes the guesswork and lets you know exactly when it’s time to pump your tank. You can purchase a core sampler online at septicdesign.com, or by contacting me directly at the number below. Thanks again for watching. We’ll see you the next video.