Keep Your Septic Functional During Winter

Edited by Mian Sheilette Ong, Adrian Penaflor, Lynn, Anonymous and 8 others

As a home or business owner, you know that there are various components that you have to take note of in your property. One of the main things to consider is your septic system. Since you cannot access the municipal or the city sewage system, you are allowed to have a wastewater treatment system of your own. The septic system is your premise cleaner and sanitizer. It isolates the toxic raw wastewater from your living environment. It makes sure that your household stays safe and healthy. Your septic is responsible for collecting, treating, and purifying the produced wastewater before it releases it into the surrounding environment again. With the help of your wastewater treatment system, you don't wade in filth, get sick, or have contaminated drinking water. It was definitely a milestone for man when he came up with the septic system. That is why you have to make sure that your septic is functional, even during winter. Harsh cold weather can take a toll on your septic. Your job is to help it do its work efficiently, even if the snow sets in.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Babybearmian upload10 septicwinter.jpg
Ad

Common Freezing Issues with Septics

There's nothing worse than having your septic freeze over during winter. Below are some of the most common freezing issues that septic owners face as winter sets in:

  1. 1
    No protective cover from snow. Your septic system needs an insulating cover or blanket.
    The tank and the drain field, mound, or trench, should all have this cover to trap heat inside the system. As you know, there are resident anaerobic bacteria in the septic tank that break down the solid waste materials and treat the raw wastewater that your household produces. The heat maintains a high level of metabolism among the bacteria. If you don't provide a good snow cover, the frost will go deep into the septic components, eventually freezing the entire system.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Soil compaction. This is caused by placing heavy vehicles and structures over the septic system.
    When this happens, the septic underneath freezes more easily, resulting in damaged septic parts and eventually a failed system.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Snow compaction. Snow that is compacted insulates poorly.
    When you drive over the septic, you compact the snow and this pushes the snow even deeper into the septic. Always use insulated pipes in your septic so that your septic system will still be insulated, even if you drive over your septic in the winter.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Long intervals of not using the septic. This often happens to various cabins or homes that are not always used during the weekend.
    It also takes place in homes where there are only one or two inhabitants. Wastewater does not enter the septic system regularly to prevent it from freezing.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Not enough plant cover. This usually takes place during the fall when there are new septics installed.
    Not enough plant cover is established before winter. The vegetative cover helps insulate the septic and also aids in holding the snow.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  6. 6
    Leaks in the plumbing system. If there are leaks, the small amounts of water that enter the septic will easily freeze the system over.
    The water discharged by humidifiers and furnaces also add to the moisture because of the discharge that they release in small amounts.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  7. 7
    Poor drainage in the pipes. When pipes are deteriorated, full of back-filled soil, or poorly installed, water tends to accumulate on one side and this liquid freezes over.
    Make sure that the wastewater drains out of the pipe.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  8. 8
    System is waterlogged. The septic becomes water logged when it is failing hydraulically.
    The water that goes to the side will freeze and this will prevent the next batch of wastewater from being treated.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  9. 9
    Cold air is in the septic. If you have it uncapped or open, surely cold air will enter the septic and freeze it over.
    Babybearmian upload11 septicwinter.jpg
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

How You Can Keep Your Septic Functional During Winter

Winter is considered as a harsh season for your septic system. As a responsible homeowner, you have to make sure that you perform the following to have a functional septic when snow starts to fall:

  1. 1
    Pump out your septic tank on a regular basis.
    Babybearmian upload3 septicwinter.jpg
    Follow your regular pump out schedule for your septic before or during winter
    .
    This will eliminate the accumulated sludge in the septic tank. When the sludge is removed regularly, solid waste particles will not flow into the drain field and clog the entire system.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Remove trees and other hardwood plants over or near your septic system.
    Babybearmian upload5 septicwinter.jpg
    Having a garden is great but make sure that you plant away from your septic
    .
    Roots of hardwood and higher plants are invasive. They penetrate into the system and block the normal flow of the wastewater treatment process. Roots also damage the components of the septic, resulting to wastewater leaks, backups, overflows, and flooding.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Do not treat your drains and toilets as garbage cans.
    Babybearmian upload4 septicwinter.jpg
    Dispose of your waste properly
    .
    Do not dump grease and non-biodegradable materials into your toilets and drains. These substances cannot be broken down by the resident bacteria. As a result, they will only accumulate and clog the system.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Do not use harsh chemicals for cleaning.
    Babybearmian upload6 septicwinter.jpg
    These chemical compounds kill off the resident bacteria
    .
    Without bacteria, there will be no wastewater treatment at all. Use eco-friendly cleaners instead.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Refrain from driving over your septic or from building any structure over it. The heavy weight of these structures and vehicles will result to snow and soil compaction, which presses the snow into the ground more.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  6. 6
    Place a good layer of mulch over your septic. You can do this if you know that your septic has poor plant cover and is very prone to freezing over.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  7. 7
    Conserve water.
    Babybearmian upload13 septicwinter.jpg
    You can do this by using your dishwasher and washing machine alternately, not using the tub every day, and taking showers
    .
    Babybearmian upload1 septicwinter.jpg
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Your septic system is an indispensable component of your entire property. Care for it well so that you will have it functioning optimally during winter.

How to Maintain the Functionality of the Septic during Winter

  1. 1
    Home and business owners should pump out their septic system regularly.
    Also, it is relevant for home and business owners to adhere to the regular pump out schedule during or before the winter kicks in.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    If there are trees or any hardwood kind of plants that are on top of the septic system, don't hesitate to remove them.
    It is nice to have a garden however; homeowners must ensure that the plants are away from the septic system. The roots of high and hardwood plants are known to be invasive. They could penetrate the system, and then barricade the normal stream of the wastewater treatment procedure.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Toilets and drains should not be treated as garbage cans.
    Thus, home and business owners should dispose the waste correctly. It is a no-no to dump non-biodegradable materials and greases in the drains and toilets.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Whenever they clean the toilet, it is not advisable to use very strong chemicals.
    Such chemicals will just kill the resident bacteria in the septic system. If there are no resident bacteria, then wastewater treatment is not possible. Instead, home and business owners could utilize eco-friendly cleaners.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Put an excellent layer of mulch on top of the septic system.
    This must be done especially if the septic has a busted plant cover and if it is susceptible to freezing.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

    Advertisement

Tips

  • Always work with your septic expert with regard to septic system care and maintenance.
  • Also work with an arborist to see what you can do with the trees near or over your septic.
  • Be aware of your living conditions. A larger household means that there is a need for a larger or an additional septic tank.
  • Set a budget for your septic maintenance to keep it in good form all the time.

Questions and Answers

How to prevent septic system freeze up?

To prevent freezing your septic system, I suggest that you do the following:

  • cover it with snow- snow is a great insulator, cover it using at least 10 inches of snow
  • dry soil conditions- cover it with dry soil as well, around 5-10 inches
  • make sure leaks are fixed

How to keep new septic from freezing?

I'm purchasing a new house the end of the this month and the previous owner is putting in a new septic system and I live in Minnesota. What should I do to insure it doesn't freeze up this winter? Should I just plant grass as quick as possible or put the grass matts down? or do that and cover with hay bails before winter

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Grass or grass mats would be just fine as long as you do cover with hay bales in the winter months.

Is using an insulated blanket/tarp on a septic field good to prevent freezing?

Is using an insulated blanket/tarp on a septic field good to prevent freezing?

You can use a tarp and I have had success using a sewer blanket because I live in a colder climate for almost half of the year. Try to avoid using products that require electricity for long periods of time unmonitored. Animals like squirrels will chew on the wires within the insulated electrical blanket.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

unable to use our septic tank in the winter cause us problems?

We have noticed that when we do not use our septic tank over the winter that we have to have the tank emptied more often. Our town insist on having septic tanks emptied when the level of sludge gets above a certain level. Over the last few years we do not use our tank in the winter and we have had to get the tank emptied every 2 years instead of 7 years to conform with our town's regulation. The only thing that we think we are doing differently is not using the tank in the winter. Can that be our problem? Thanks for you time

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Are you insulating the top of the tank in the winter? Condensation and temperature fluctionations will have ice forming and melting but not evaporating like condensation does in the summer months. This will cause the sludge level to rise.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Can I insulate my septic tank using bales of hay?

I own a farm and have access to hay bales. Would that work as well as covering the tank with a septic blanket?. I have tried: I have tried using a septic blanket.

Hay bales are one of the best methods to keep your tank insulated in the winter.

See more questions like this: What depth of Hay for insulation?

Can a very cold spell of weather cause a sewagey smell in my cabin?

I winterized my cabin in SE Ohio at the end of November, but our winter has been mild. My son & I have used the cabin since winterization, bringing in drinking water, not using the drains. I had been told that, rather than use a chemical toilet, I could use the septic system, as long as I plunge & re-antifreeze the toilet when we leave it.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

We had been doing that. I was @ the cabin on Wednesday, plunged, etc., & then a real cold spell hit from Wednesday night to Saturday (low 20's). I noticed a sewage smell coming from the toilet when I entered the cabin bathroom. Would that be because of some freezing down in the system?

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Yes, also by adding the antifreeze again you "woke" up the septic system and any gasses from the new sewage from your last visit filled the lines. Run water down the drains regularly to clear out the lines if you are not going to use the chemical toilet in the winter. Your soakaway may have been designed to handle more summer use than winter use and that can also cause a sewage smell if you use the septic system in the winter.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

We provide an adult foster care, so we go through a lot of water, toileting, dishwasher, shower, etc., its been awhile since I have had it empty, below zero now but on Thursday was thinking of have it emptied. is that OK. Everything is fine,but its overdue?

Is it OK if I have my septic tank emptied on Thursday, 2days from now. Foster care we use a lot of water, I am over due to empty it. Below zero now, but in 20s on Thursday. Somebody I can get to do it, is it OK

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Because you have heavy usage all year long, unlike a cottage, it is perfectly fine to empty a septic tank in the winter months. A full septic tank in the winter can cause problems and is super expensive to fix in the winter as well.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

We have a holding tank for sewage?

We have a holding tank for sewage but want to use our pre-existing septic tank and bed for rerouted grey-water ( bath ,dishwasher etc.). How do we do that? Also because we live in a cold climate what things should be done to prevent freezing in winter.. I have tried: The cottage is heated in the crawl space and the plumber has hooked up the old septic to the bath tub and all the other grey water disbursements with a pipe that back washes into the holding tank if there is over use of water.. I think it was caused by: Although we have no problem, we want to make sure that the water still flows in the winter as we do not want a back wash of water to the holding tank and cause the tank to fill too quickly. The pumping is very expensive for the holding tank. Should we be filling the old septic tank with gravel?

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

Comments

VisiHow welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.




Babybearmian
Premier Author
88 Articles Started
1,594 Article Edits
23,965 Points
Babybearmian is a premier author with VisiHow. Babybearmian has achieved the level of "Lieutenant" with 23,965 points. Babybearmian has started 88 articles (including this one) and has also made 1,594 article edits. 661,000 people have read Babybearmian's article contributions.
Babybearmian's Message Board
Babybearmian: Hi, my name is Babybearmian.
Babybearmian: Can I help you with your problem about "Keep Your Septic Functional During Winter"?
 

Article Info

Categories : Home

Recent edits by: Maria, Donna, Ryannican21

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 12,467 times.

Do you have a question not answered in this article?
Click here to ask one of the writers of this article
x

Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No