Home Business Insights & Advice Septic tank problems that occur during cold weather spells

Septic tank problems that occur during cold weather spells

by Sarah Dunsby
4th Jan 24 12:43 pm

For many homeowners, a septic tank is something of a mystery. They understand its function and the need for regular maintenance and how it works. However, beyond that, they may not know exactly what they may need to consider, preferring to leave the details of their septic tank to a company who specialise in septic tank emptying.

As a homeowner, many of the issues that can occur with your septic tank can be resolved through maintenance. However, you may be wondering if there is any special consideration that needs to be made to your septic tank during the colder weather.

Cold weather and its effect on septic tanks

In much the same way as the cold weather can affect pipes and other parts of the plumbing system, it can also affect a septic system. It is very important that a homeowner is prepared for the winter season because if they are not, there are a number of septic tank issues that may occur.

Even though septic tanks are located in the ground and covered in layers of dirt, and during the colder months layers of snow, this unfortunately does not mean that this layer of “insulation” will prevent a septic tank from being unaffected by the weather. Unfortunately, this covering of dirt and snow can actually make it more susceptible to damage.

All types of weather can have an effect on a septic tank, but the colder winter weather can be the hardest.

Low temperatures

In low temperatures, it can be difficult for the bacteria in a septic tank to survive. These bacteria are an essential part of the septic tank which does not just fill waste until it is emptied. The bacteria physically digest this waste so that only carbon dioxide and water remain, with any waste that remains sinking to the bottom of the tank where it remains as sludge. When the bacteria which are sensitive to temperature are not sufficient in number then the sludge will build up and this can be a problem. When temperatures plumet to 50°F or lower the bacteria slow down or stop completely. This, combined with the potential increased load you place on your septic tank with richer heavier winter foods, can be a real problem.

Frozen septic tanks

The pipes running from your home to the septic tank can freeze during the winter and some homeowners believe that antifreeze can help alleviate this. Unfortunately, this is not a good idea, as adding antifreeze to a septic tank can interfere with the bacteria.

Thawing frozen water

When frozen water thaws this can also cause issues as well. The sudden flow of thawing water can actually saturate the drain field. This means that it is not possible for water to drain from the septic system. The result is that water travels backwards through the pipes and back to the toilets and drains within your house. The consequence of all of this is that there is a potential for environmental contamination.

Preventative measures

Fortunately, there are preventative measures that can be taken to counteract these issues. These include:

  •  Having your septic tank maintained on a regular basis,
  • Seeding the tank with bacteria that can function in the colder temperatures,
  • Avoiding cleaners that contain things that can harm the bacteria,
  • Keeping your gutters clean
  • Having a riser that offers you easy access to your tank no matter what the weather is.

These measures will certainly help to keep your septic tank working as it should be even when the weather turns colder. However, if you have any concerns about your septic tank, it is always wise to have someone come and have a look at it.

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