We get this question in one form or another from a fair number of the clients we serve. It’s a good question, but the simple answer is that it’s almost never an either/or proposition. Most people have septic tanks because they simply live too far outside of town to be able to tie onto the municipal sewage system.
While it’s true that the above covers the vast majority of cases, there are some instances where people in, or near town opt not to tie onto the municipal system and have a septic tank installed instead. The question is, why? Why would someone choose to opt out of the municipal system?
The answers vary from one person to the next, but septic systems do offer some advantages over the more mainstream alternative, with the biggest one being the difference in cost structure. If you sign up for municipal sewage service, then you’re on the hook for a monthly bill, every month, for as long as you remain on the system.
While it’s true that home septic systems carry a fairly hefty upfront cost to have them installed, there’s no ongoing monthly fee, so if you’re interested in reducing your month over month costs to an absolute minimum, then getting rid of your monthly sewage bill could be really attractive. But still the question you’re asking is is it better to have a septic tank or sewer?
Another point in the favor of septic systems is the fact that the septic tank owner is freer and more independent, not beholden to the municipality for waste management services. That won’t be appealing to everyone, but if you’re a libertarian-minded individual who values personal freedom, then that’s a pretty compelling selling point.
That greater freedom, however, also comes with greater responsibility. If you’re tied into the municipal system, and there’s a problem beyond the standard clogged toilet or a problem with one of the pipes inside your house, the municipality has people who will take care of it for you.
It’s’ not like that if you have a septic system. You’re on the hook for any problems that arise. When you combine that with the fact that septic systems do come with a few periodic expenses and it’s easy to see why some people will go ahead and tie onto the municipal system if given the opportunity.
As to those greater responsibilities, they include periodic inspections of your system, incremental repairs and periodic tank pump outs.
Although septic tanks are incredibly rugged and built to last, they do require periodic maintenance to keep them in good working order. We recommend an annual inspection to minimize your risk of a serious problem. That interval will almost always allow you to catch emerging problems while they’re still relatively small and generally easily resolved.
Where incremental repairs are concerned, those will arise on the heels of your annual inspection. In many, and perhaps even most cases, the annual inspection will reveal that everything is fine and no repairs are needed. In that case, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your system is solid. If a problem is found, then as mentioned above, the repairs should be relatively simple, or at least straightforward, and you should be all set till your next inspection.
Where tank pump outs are concerned, the exact interval depends on a number of factors. If you live alone, seldom have visitors and watch how much water you have flowing through the system, you may be able to get away with a tank pump out every five years, or even longer than that.
On the other hand, if you live with several others, you frequently have overnight visitors, and you don’t pay much attention to how much water flows into the tank, then you’ll almost certainly need to have the tank umped out every three years, and perhaps more frequently than that.
All three of the above are important, but in our view, the tank pump outs are just absolutely essential. If your tank fills to capacity and you don’t do anything about it, you could wind up with raw sewage backing up into your home. If you’ve dealt with that problem at some time in your life, then you know what a nightmare it can be. If you haven’t, count yourself lucky. It’s something you never want to face.
In addition to being virtually impossible to get the smell out, it represents a dire health hazard for you and everyone living under your roof. It’s something that should be avoided at all costs.
Ultimately then, the answer to the question ‘Is it better to have a septic tank or sewer?’ is, it depends. Mostly, it depends on you. Are you the type of person who values personal freedom and independence over convenience? If so, then you’ll almost certainly regard the home septic system as the superior choice. It’s important to remember though, that you may not have an either/or option. If you live in a rural area, the option to tie onto the nearest municipal system simply won’t be available.
If you do have the option and decide you want a septic system, give our office a call. We are the premier septic service company in the region and nobody knows about installing and maintaining septic system than our talented technicians. If you already have a septic system and you even suspect you might be having problems with it, call us and we’ll take good care of you.