Own A Septic Tank In A Cold Climate? Should You Pump During Winter?

If you've recently purchased a home in a rural part of your county, you may be adjusting to life with a septic tank rather than a public sewer hookup. While a septic tank can be an eco-friendly and inexpensive way to handle your household's solid and liquid waste, a clogged or leaking septic tank can pose a number of issues -- from standing sewage in your yard to backed-up toilets and sinks. Should you pump or clean your septic tank during winter months? How frequently should this process be performed? Read on to learn more about some things you can do to keep your septic tank in top condition all year long.

How frequently should you pump your septic tank? 

Although septic tanks are designed to operate as self-contained ecosystems, with bacteria and enzymes digesting and disposing of solid waste, these ecosystems still require an occasional cleaning. Having your septic tank pumped involves removal of solids or "sludge" built up on the bottom and sides of the tank that can eventually clog your pipes or prevent the septic tank from properly filtering liquid waste into the drain field. 

Fortunately, the pumping process is relatively inexpensive -- and can save you a septic repair bill that could reach thousands of dollars. Most homeowners are able to have their tanks pumped for between $279and $517, depending upon the size of the tank and the cost of living in the region (including the price of fuel). 

The frequency with which you need to pump your septic tank largely depends upon the number of people using your home's plumbing and the size of your tank. For example, a 3-person household with average water use habits and a 2,000 gallon septic tank will need to schedule a pumping around once every 8 years, while a 5-person household with a 1,000 gallon tank will need more frequent pumping at once every 2 years. If you find that your tank size may be inadequate for your family's sewage needs, investing in a new tank can keep your maintenance bills down.

Should you schedule your septic tank pumping for cold or warm weather?  

In general, it's best to clean your septic tank or pump it of solids before freezing temperatures hit. Because septic tank solids aren't immune from the cold seeping in through frozen ground, attempting to pump these solids from an underground holding tank can be a time-consuming process and may not end up completely clearing your tank. Allowing frozen or near-frozen sludge to remain stuck to the sides of your septic tank could mean you'll be booking a repeat cleaning ahead of schedule. After evaluating the proposed cleaning frequency based on your water usage and septic tank size, you may want to schedule this process for a summer or fall date that will remain memorable -- such as Labor Day or the first official day of autumn. This can ensure you'll enter the cold season with an empty and properly functioning septic tank.

However, if your septic tank is beginning to display problems -- for example, if you've noticed your laundry room sink backing up when you run a load in the washer, or if your bathtub drain suspiciously gurgles each time you flush the toilet -- having your tank pumped quickly is more important than ensuring this process happens in warm weather. Repairing a ruptured or cracked septic tank during winter months can be difficult, particularly if the ground is too frozen for crews to excavate your septic tank, so bringing a professional's attention to your problem before it causes more extensive damage is key. Contact a company like Rob's Septic Tanks Inc if you have problems.