New Country Mom and Septic Tanks, Etc.

Updated on December 26, 2013
K.D. asks from Alto, MI
7 answers

I'm living in the country for the first time and loving it. I've been doing a lot of reading about this new life of mine, here and other places,but still have a couple of questions. The most pressing is water usage. We have well and septic here. Our primary septic tank is 1000 gallons with a secondary tank that I'm not sure on size. It was just inspected and pumped in November, and we were told with proper care it should be fine for 5 years. We have 5 people in our family,but two of the kids have severe allergies, so lots of laundry to keep clothes clean enough. Things I read say no more than two loads of laundry a day. I have a water efficient washer. Would that allow me to do an occasional third load on days like today when someone wets the bed? Obviously that can't sit, but I had already starteda load before they woke up and winter bedding makes that a two load job.

My other main question is, although we were blessed to be skipped by power outages this time, we do need a generator. Many people near us are on day 5 of no power and still have to wait. What kind of generator do we get and why? We're assuming whole house so we can have water from the well, but just wanted to check. We have propane for heat, but everything else is electric.

Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

We don't have a garbage disposal, and I use a diva cup, so no feminine products. I'll probably do something similar for my daughter when the time comes. Also, we use all natural soaps, detergents, and cleaners. So most of that stuff is pretty safe. Mostly just regular house water and toilet water going into the system. I've read if you put too much water in the septic, water that hasn't properly seperated can clog the drain field of the septic tank. Sounds like so far no one has had that problem?

More Answers



answers from Boston on

Don't worry about the septic. Check it every 3 months or so and if it seems to be getting high, get it pumped. The pumping is fairly cheap - do as much laundry as you need to. Really, it's not worth restricting your water usage to avoid an extra pumping every now and again. Our system has failed and needs to be replaced so we have to have ours pumped every 3-4 months - most people go years between pumpings.

If you can afford a whole-house generator that you can have wired into your electric panel so that it switches on automatically in an power outage and fires up everything then that's the way to go. If you can't afford that now though (it's expensive!) then a portable generator is better than nothing and you can get one for about $800 new and just run extension cords to the critical things you would need to power up (your well's pump, your fridge, and some source of heat). We borrowed my parents' portable generator when we were without power after a hurricane a few years ago and I was able to power up some lights, the fridge, an electric griddle, my wi-fi and router, computer, a TV, etc. so I was actually able to work from home and keep the kids entertained at night. Generators are loud but our whole neighborhood was running them so you just got used to the noise after a while.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My part of town doesn't have city water and sewer so we've had a deep drilled well and septic system for years. When my kids all lived home (6 people in the family) we'd have the tank pumped every other year. Now it's every 3 to 4 yrs. I use to do what averaged to be 3 loads of laundry a day with a standard over sized washer. With a high efficient washer you should be able to do 4 or 5 loads without an issue.

The main thing to watch is the well level. If your water starts to discolor and get a brownish tint it means that you are drawing off too much water. When they drill a well they put a medal pipe down to the water level. If you draw off too much water the dirt not covered by the pipe dries out and starts to fall into the water below. So if that starts to happen you need to cut back on your water use and let the well refill to it's normal level. After a few days the water will run clear again.

edited to add: we compost and don't put food stuff down the sink. no tampons flushed either. basically just household water and toliet paper. the more stuff you put into the system the more it throws off the ph balance and that can lead to problems.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Our septic tank is over 30 years old and never been treated or dug up/worked on for issues. We don't flush chemicals down it every month to boost anything. We don't do anything at all for the benefit of the septic tank. It's like we ignore it. No problems, no issues at all. His parents house's septic tank is over 25 years old and never any problems.

Hubby bought this 15 acres over 30 years ago. He got a terribly old small single wide 1 bedroom trailer to live in since he was single. His parents liked the area so decided to retire, at some point, here on the same property. They bought their own double wide house, got their own utilities set up, put in their own septic tank, etc...totally a separate home just on the same patch of land.

They were not ready to retire and move so they asked hubby if he'd like to live in their house since it was 3 times the size of his he had on his corner of the property. He moved into their larger house and his old mobile home was sold and moved off then that older first septic tank sewer line was capped and left alone for years.

That first septic tank just sat there. Not being used. When he and I married we lived in his parents house until they did retire and move here. Then we moved into town. This year is the first time that old septic tank had been used. Again, we did not treat it to reactivate or anything. It just started working and continues to do so every day.

We watched for any issues that might come from it being dormant for so many years. I often do 4-6 loads of laundry per day. We all take baths/showers. We run the dishwasher at least every other day but if we have company we might run it twice per day while they are here. We also have a garbage disposal that we put everything down it. So does my FIL.

Our septic systems have not had any issues at all. I can't say how easy is it to forget it's not city sewer.

I hope you have as good of luck as we've had on both the septic systems we have on our property.

Propane powered generator. Call your local heat and air guys. They install it and it kicks on when the power goes out. Expensive but completely totally worth every penny.

We have a friend out in the country who was without power for 2 weeks during an ice storm about 5 years ago. They had 2 gasoline powered units and they had to get up, go outside, and refill the tanks on them every 2 hours. Plus run into town ever day to fill all the gas cans. There hardwired their heating unit so they could plug it in to an outlet. Then they could plug it in manually anywhere. A heavy duty extension cord carried the power fine, of course a normal extension cord would not be sturdy enough for that current. They used the old gasoline powered generator to run the heat, the fridge, the microwave, and a tv on it. They would just plug this item in for a while then exchange it out with another big appliance/unit. The manual work to keep that tiny gasoline generator was why they decided to go with the permanently installed propane unit.

After than they went through their heat and air guy to get this propane powered generator. It kicks on every Wednesday and cycles through a check system of some sort. It came on one day by itself while the kids were outside playing and I asked why it came on.

It runs the whole house, it comes on automatically when there is a power outage. When weather starts turning winterish they just make sure they have the propane tank filled as much as possible. As long as propane is available there is full power to their house. We have a standing invitation to go out there if we lose power too.

The cost for the unit and installation was a couple thousand dollars, comparable to putting in a new heat/ac unit. But if you think about it it's a guarantee your family never goes without heat or even air conditioning in the summer heat. There can be power outages at any time.

This is what the unit outside looks like. A big box that is totally enclosed. It looks much like a central AC unit without the circular fan on top. There are many kinds but I would also choose an enclosed one just so cleaning and stuff would be easier.


answers from Lakeland on

I wouldn't worry about running out of water but you need to be careful that you do not burn out the well pump motor (it is usually in the ground inside the well) the deeper the well the harder that pump works. As long as you are not washing three or more loads a day you should be fine.

As for the septic just add some enzymes every few months and that should keep it working properly, also don't use a lot of chemical cleaners like bleach (it kills off the good bacteria in the septic). And NO feminine products or anything else flushed, just human waste and toilet paper. There should be an over flow for the liquids in the septic (that would be the second tank or leech field). Or you may have a sand mound where everything gets ground down and pumped into the sand mound. I don't like those systems because they tend to break sooner and wont work without power. You should also have an alarm on the septic system to sound if it stops working, you don't want a back up in your house or yard (YUCK!!).

We had a generator installed after we bought of current home, living in the country and in an area prone to hurricanes we needed one. It runs the entire house (over 3000 sq ft) and has an automatic switch. I am not sure what size it is but total cost was over $10k for the unit and install of it and the propane.

You can get different sizes depending on what you want running. I would suggest that you have your well pump, heat (if it needs electric), refrigerator and a few lights/outlets. Get pricing for the basics and go from there.

We have a Kohler 14/20resa and a 200 gallon propane tank. My husband works from home and having electric is must for him, we also have wireless internet that he can take anywhere there is a cell signal. He works for a large company with international locations and they don't care if we lose power he still needs to be able to work.



answers from Austin on

We've been on septic for 0ver 20 years, and have only had it pumped maybe 3 times... our tank is much too small, but we do have a dual field, which does help some. However, we haven't switched it over for many years.

When we moved in, we were a family of 6..... Kids have grown up and moved on, but we've also had family move back in for months at a time, so the washer load can still be pretty heavy. I never did try to restrict water usage.

We do have city water, though.

A few suggestions.... don't dump any grease down the sink... do not flush tampons or any other sanitary products, even if they say septic safe. I wouldn't even flush personal wipes (even if they say septic safe) on a regular basis... an occasional one is probably ok, but not every day. Those don't really break down very well.

Oh, yeah... we don't bother with any RID-X or anything like that, either.


answers from Washington DC on

we too are on a well and septic, and have to be prepared for electrical outages as we're rural and so not the first on the power company's radar.
yeah, you can do an extra load from time to time when you need to, but two loads a day is a lot, so i'd try and keep it to no more than that when possible. you're smart to have an energy efficient washer.
our generator is a john deere, 6200 watts. my husband has it rigged so we can hardwire it into the house and it'll run everything but the hot water heater (that includes 2 fridges and deep freeze, and emergency laundry). we got the deere because it's highly rated, a powerful little workhorse. like you, our heat (and stove) is propane. we have fireplaces that help too, but you've got to have water, don't you?



answers from New York on

We pump our septic every third year. We are only two people.
Better to be safe than sorry. How often does your neighborhood lose power that you feel you need a generator? Unless you have $10,000 sitting around I would think twice about it.

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