About 25% of homeowners in the United States rely on a dedicated septic system for their home’s wastewater. A septic system is a delicate one, dependent on a series of biological and mechanical processes. Properly maintained septic systems rarely have problems, but even the best maintenance can’t prevent everything. That’s why a working septic tank alarm system is such an important component of any system. Septic tank alarms warn you when water levels become high enough that backup or overflow is likely, letting you address the cause of the rising levels and prevent a more serious problem down the line.

How does a septic system work?

Septic tanks are located underground near the home, usually in the back or side yard. Water from the home – laundry waste, shower water, dish water, toilet waste – enters the tank from an intake pipe. Heavy solid waste sinks to the bottom of the tank (called the “sludge layer”), while lighter waste like oil floats to the top (the “scum layer”). Clarified water is left in the middle. The clean water then flows out of a discharge pipe into a designated drain field. The remaining organic liquid and solid waste in the tank is broken down by bacteria in a natural decomposition process, slowing its accumulation. Most septic tanks need to be cleared of accumulated solid waste every three to five years in order to prevent clogs and backup. Backup can also be caused by environmental conditions like a drain field too saturated with water to accept septic outflow, excessive water usage, or blockages resulting from inorganic material like cigarette butts or sanitary napkins.

What happens when a septic system backs up?

It’s not good. When a septic system stops draining properly, sewage and solid waste can seep to the surface of the ground. Even worse, it often backs up into the house itself, flowing from backrooms, sinks, and washing machines.

In addition to the environmental and sanitary issues, such a serious backup will undoubtedly cause damage to the septic system’s parts, requiring repairs that could run up to several thousand dollars to take care of.

The importance of septic tank alarms

In addition to regular maintenance and waste treatment, backups can be avoided with a good septic tank alarm. A float switch is set to trigger the alarm when water levels in the tank are dangerously high, alerting you to the problem and allowing you to minimize water usage and find the cause before it’s too late. Most alarm systems have the float switch set at a level where you will still have a day or two of normal water usage before overflow or backup is imminent, but it’s still crucial to investigate as quickly as possible.

Without a reliable float switch, the septic tank alarm system could fail and result in septic tank backup. If you’re installing or replacing your home’s septic tank alarm system, be sure to get the best switch you can to ensure long life and functionality.

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