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Do's and Don'ts of Caring for Your Septic System in the Winter

Whether you're new to septic this year or whether you've had winter problems with septic in the past, it's important to remind yourself of good septic care tips and what you should and shouldn't do to keep your system happy in cold weather. Here are some do's and don'ts to keep you on the right path.

Do: Insulate the System if Needed

If there's plenty of grass growing above your septic tank and drain field, simply allowing it to grow a bit longer before winter hits can help provide insulation to the area in question. Thick snow cover is also an excellent insulator, so if you live in a very snowy climate, insulation could take care of itself. 
If your septic system is new and the grass hasn't grown back, though, you may want to consider using a septic blanket or a few inches of mulch for added protection. This is especially important if you've had septic freezing problems in your area before or if you know that you're likely to have a lot of hard freezes with little to no snow cover.

Do: Go Easy on Your Septic During Heavy Rainfall or Snowmelt

Your septic system's function is predicated on the drain field's ability to absorb all that liquid waste. When your entire yard is saturated with several inches of rainfall or rapidly melting snow, however, the absorption capacity of the soil may be almost nonexistent. In these cases, it's a good idea to curtail laundry washing and other water-heavy activities for a couple of days.

Do: Consider Scheduling an Annual Septic Inspection Before Winter Sets in

Septic maintenance issues can cause significant problems when freezing weather is in the area. For example, if there are cracks letting water seep into the septic tank, water can freeze in the cracks and make them wider. The bigger these cracks get, the more water they can let in, which can make the septic system more likely to become overwhelmed.
Drainage problems, such as blocked drain field pipes, can also cause disaster in freezing conditions. So a professional inspection to make sure everything's ready for winter is a great idea.

Don't: Use DIY Methods in Case of Freezing

If your septic tank, drain field, or sewer pipe freezes, it's important to recognize that you have a serious issue on your hands. Don't panic, but don't try to melt the ice with an open flame either. In fact, many DIY thawing techniques can make the problem worse, and some can significantly damage your septic system.

Don't: Use Too Much or Too Little Water

In very cold weather, running a hot load of laundry each day can help reduce the likelihood of a freezeup. In fact, it's important to keep using water during cold weather, so the system won't stagnate (stagnant water freezes more easily). So don't stop using water altogether unless you suspect the tank is already frozen, in which case you should call an emergency septic professional.
However, using too much water can cause the problem mentioned earlier - overwhelming the septic tank with too much volume. In addition to reducing water use when the ground is very wet, you should be careful not to make the mistake of leaving a faucet running at all times. This may be a good way to keep pipes from freezing if you have a sewer hookup, but not with septic.
Even one drip per second can waste around five gallons of water per day, and a tiny trickle of just two drops per second can waste twice that much. Since you're using a septic system, though, this water doesn't just vanish down a sewer; it contributes to overloading your tank. Leaving just a couple of faucets trickling can make things that much harder on the system.
Keeping these tips in mind can help you successfully navigate your winter season with an intact septic system. And if you do have any problems, remember that we're here to help. Browse our website to learn more.

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