Blog    |    Septic Tank Buyer’s Guide by GoToTanks


Septic tanks are the invisible superheroes that keep our lives clean and healthy. Most of us go through life barely noticing them. In fact, they are designed to only be noticed when something goes wrong. When they do go wrong it is very noticeable, very messy, and very unhealthy. That is why it is important to get the right septic tank for your personal or business needs.

Types of Septic Tanks

In the past, the idea of a septic tank was simply a concrete tank buried somewhere in the backyard. It was not cheap, but it was not the most expensive item that people had to buy for their property. Many older properties still have these basic units, but current regulations often do not allow new installations of those old types of septic septic tank systems. It is important to be aware of your area’s regulations regarding septic tank design.

What are the septic tank types? Most septic systems can be divided into four general categories, based upon function.

  • Standard Gravity – These are systems that simply allow the force of gravity to pull the wastewater through the filtering system.

  • Pressure Distribution – Pressure distribution applies external artificial pressure to force wastewater through the filtering system

  • Advanced Treatment, below ground – These filtering systems are located below ground level, providing more safety, but often requiring more effort to maintain.

  • Advanced Treatment, above ground – These filtering systems are located above the ground, which makes it easier to do maintenance but can pose a danger to those working or playing around them.

However, septic tank designs within these general categories can vary according to composition materials. Some septic tanks come precast in concrete. Others are made of plastic and fiberglass, or steel. Steel may sound like the strongest option to go with, but in fact it is the least popular. They are only built to last 20-25 years, but can rust out even before that.

All septic tanks require regular pumping, so the goal is not necessarily to choose the largest option. It is important that you choose something strong enough for your area, land type, and household needs so that you do not suffer a break and have to deal with a leaking tank.

How Big of a Septic Tank Do I Need?

Septic tanks come in different sizes, and which one you need will depend on the size of house or building it is intended for.

For instance, a one bedroom house may only need a small septic tank. A four bedroom house would probably require a larger one because the number of people living in the building will determine how much wastewater is produced. One good rule to go by is to get a septic tank one size larger than you need as determined by the number of people living in your household. That way, when the whole family comes over for Thanksgiving dinner, you do not have to deal with an overloaded septic tank.

Bear in mind also that you need to pump your tank every 2-5 years, so a smaller tank may save you money in the short term, but end up costing you more in pumping fees in the long term by needing to be pumped more often than the standard.

Septic Tank Options

A septic tank system does more than simply store wastewater. Its task is to safely disperse that water through a filter of some kind, purifying the toxins within it, and restore it back to the groundwater system to be used again. Since that filtering method affects the very water you drink and use, it is important that you have a proper and effective filtering method in place.

Advanced treatment systems are more expensive, but are often more efficient as well. Residential projects typically cost between 13,000 and 20,000 dollars. One example of this is an aerobic system. Aerobic septic systems use oxygen to help facilitate faster decay, thus reducing the amount of time for filtration. However, the faster decay can cause more problems in the system itself, so more maintenance care is required.

Other options include a septic tank with drain field and septic tank filters, which may be made of sand, textiles, or a newer method called Glendon Biofilters. General sand filters are not installed new anymore, but you may inherit them with your property. Typically, sand mounds are created instead. Glendon Biofilters are typically used when groundwater or significant rock is located near the surface. They are made of different layers of sand and gravel placed in a sealed box built into the soil with a sand fill placed over the top of the entire area. They work well, especially in areas where the soil type or land available might make other systems tricky, but they are not very aesthetically pleasing, so many have opted for combinations of other types of septic tank filters with or without drain fields instead.

Before You Buy

Before you buy, you need to check into local regulations. The EPA has some basic information you can find here, but the regulations that govern septic tanks are decided by your local government, so you will need to do some local research in order to determine what your first steps should be.

You will need to know the local regulations regarding septic tank types (concrete, steel, plastic, etc.). You also need to know the kind of septic tank designs that are allowed, and if you are allowed or required to have septic tank filters or septic tank draining fields.

Another important thing to consider is how close your tank will be to your property line. We often do not pay attention to the details hidden from our view, but you may be required to have your tank far enough away from your property line so that drainage does not seep into your neighbor’s property.

It is also important to inquire about maintenance costs. Some septic tank systems require very little maintenance beyond the regular pumping. Others, like many of the aerobic systems, require electricity to run. This means you will incur regular expenses just by running it and will have to keep them carefully maintained because electrical failure will mean septic failure.

Septic Tank Budget

It is important to remember when making your septic tank budget, that these tanks must all be pumped out every 2-5 years, so saving money on a smaller installation may come back to cost you more in the end on more frequent pumps or more frequent maintenance costs due to an overloaded tank. Plan ahead and budget for a size bigger than your average need so that you will be prepared for those above-average events.

  • Conventional systems (gravity based) are the least expensive and easiest to maintain, but they are most often banned by regulations. These cost $4,000-5,000. The same price will probably get you a Conventional pump system that can disperse to a drainfield upslope from your home.

  • Pressure Manifold systems are similar to conventional pumps and can also be distributed upslope into a drainfield. These cost $6,000-8,000.

  • Low Pressure Pipe systems are used for steeper slopes and lower soil depths. These run $12,000-15,000.

  • Drip Disposal Anaerobic systems allow you to use steep slopes and soil depths of less than 18 inches. They cost $17,000-25,000.

  • Drip Disposal Aerobic systems are available for the steepest slopes and soil depths of less than 13 inches. They sell for $25,000-40,000.

What does this tell you about your septic budget needs? It will take you at least $5,000 to get you started. Take a look at your property. Is it flat or sloped? The more slope you have, the more expensive your septic system is likely to be. How much good topsoil do you have on your property? The more soil you have the less expensive your septic system will cost. Plan and budget accordingly.

Consult the Experts

It is important to do some research before making a $10,000 (or more) purchase . It is even more important when you want this purchase to last multiple years without serious maintenance or replacement cost. Septic tank systems are not “one size fits all” pieces of equipment. They need to be customized to fit the unique challenges of your household and your property. They also need to pass area regulations as well. This research saves you money in the long run and protects you from the contamination of broken or poorly maintained septic tank systems.

You can go online and try to track down all the regulations yourself. You can try to do the mathematical equations to come up with the best size fit and type for your particular needs. You can get out and dig a hole in the ground to see how far you have to go before you hit significant rock…

…or you can call the experts at GoToTanks and let them guide you through this process. No one should have to go through the pressure of deciding all this information on their own, knowing that one small miscalculation may cost them $10,000 in replacement costs in just a few years. Why take the risk when you can contact Go To Tanks and save time and money in making this decision? Make the call today to get on the road to finding the perfect septic tank for your property. (Please note: you will need to contact the county for permitting and specific requirements from the Health Department.)

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