How to Protect your Septic Tank During a Freeze

Winter can be a stressful time for homeowners. The arrival of freezing temperatures may bring with it concerns about septic system disaster. While problems with freezing can occur, just a little bit of knowledge and preparedness will help keep any septic system in good condition all winter long.

Perhaps the biggest factor affecting whether a system will experience freezing is frequency of use. A frequently used septic system is unlikely to freeze unless an underlying problem exists. Moving water holds heat well, so keeping the system moving will prevent freezing in most cases. Regular use of warm water can further aid in prevention of frozen pipes. If a septic system will be used infrequently or not at all for extended periods of time, it’s best to insulate the septic tank.

A snowy winter can keep a septic system well insulated on its own. Fresh, loosely packed snow can be as effective as fiberglass insulation. Homeowners can take advantage of the insulating effect of snow by building a snow fence around the area of the septic tank, or by simply leaving snow as it lies over the tank. It is important for the purpose of insulation that the snow is not compressed. Packed snow will actually increase the chances of freezing.

Not all winters bring a lot of snow. In such cases, a thick layer of mulch can also insulate well. Whether snow or mulch, insulation materials should be about a foot deep and should cover an area that extends about five feet around the septic system. This will maximize the effectiveness of the insulation.

It is also important to be sure water fixtures are well-maintained within the home. Slow moving water creates a perfect environment for the buildup of ice, especially within the pipes that connect home and septic system. This connection is the most common region of the septic system for freezing issues to occur. As the trickle of water from a leak freezes and builds again and again within the pipe, it can create a blockage. Leaks should be addressed as soon as they are noticed.

It is also a good idea to check the ground above the septic tank for any standing water or excessive moisture. Overly saturated soil will itself freeze in the winter, which may lead to freezing conditions below ground. Standing water over or around septic systems should always warrant prompt investigation.

Insulation with mulch, along with a thorough inspection of fixtures in the home can be done before winter temperatures arrive. Repairing any leaky toilets or sinks right away will ensure that pipes do not freeze later on. A worry-free winter is all about being proactive.