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Fred Chan
02-21-2015, 2:12 PM
Fifteen years ago when the septic system was installed the house was equipped with American Standard 5 gal. Flush toilets. I finally had the tank pumped and there was a 4in. "crust" on the top. The septic system has been trouble free in all this time. Am I better off switching to modern low flow toilets or staying with the old high volume ones?

Jim Koepke
02-21-2015, 3:06 PM
Not sure about your area, but I know in the States there are at least some states, if not all, that do not allow the installation of the old 5 gallon toilets.

Do you use anything like Ridex or other enzyme treatment in your system?

Did the person doing the pumping say anything about the "crust?"

Was there a problem that brought you to the point of having the tank pumped?

Inquiring minds want to know.

BTW, we are on a septic system and know nothing having grown up in the city. So far our septic system has given us less trouble than our old city sewer system.

jtk

Brian Elfert
02-21-2015, 3:57 PM
Often, the only reason to reduce water flow to a septic system is if the system is failing, or if the system is undersized for the amount of water being used in the house.

I bought a foreclosed house with septic system. The system had been replaced in 2011. I found out the reason the system was replaced is because the leach field was allowing sewage to seep up onto the ground. The previous owners were dumping their laundry water outside to reduce the load on the septic until they could replace the septic. The owners divorced not long after replacing the septic system and the wife couldn't keep up the house payments by herself.

Larry Edgerton
02-21-2015, 3:57 PM
The 4"crust is not a bad thing, it means the system is working. Which toilet that you use will probably not affect how the septic works, but you may have a hard time finding a 5 gallon flush toilet.

When I built my own house last year I asked the plumbing contractor I use what toilet currently made that they had the least problems with and he told me Mansfield tall toilets. I like the tall toilet and they had a very nice looking one in a classic style that was only $160 my cost. It has a 1.5 gallon flush but has a 1.5 gallon reserve that can be used by holding the handle down. No problems.

Larry

Fred Chan
02-21-2015, 4:04 PM
I toss in a packet of septonic once a year. I had it pumped after hearing discussion about the necessity of pumping regularly and out of curiosity to see how it was performing. The pump truck driver considered the amount of crust to be normal. I just want to know whether the septic system would perform better and last longer if I flush more water or less water into the tank.

George Bokros
02-21-2015, 4:12 PM
I would try to stay with the high volume toilet. People are having trouble in older homes with the waste piping not having enough flow to keep the sewer clear. This happened to my son. So now he and I in our respective homes flush twice to get adequate water flow to move the waste along. My house is newer and has the proper pitch to the drains for the low flow toilet but I still flush twice.

The plumber that cleared my sons blockage told him the combination of his house built in the late 50's combined with the new low flow toilet and a new water saving washing machine contributed to his problem.

John Coloccia
02-21-2015, 4:14 PM
You can make the system last a lot longer by pumping more often than once every 15 years. I pump mine every year or two.

Jim Dwight
02-21-2015, 4:14 PM
If a septic is designed and installed properly, what kills it is if solids start to get into the leech field. That normally happens because the tank is too full with solids. The idea of the septic is the solids settle and the liquid goes out into the leech field. I don't see any reason given the basic way a septic works that the size of the toilets makes a difference. I'm on a septic and have two old high gallon toilets and one newer low flow. When I redo the bathrooms with the high flow toilets they will get replaced with low flow units. The old ones do not flush very well and are low. All new toilets now are low flow. Good ones flush well.

Kevin Godshall
02-21-2015, 5:16 PM
Unless your "gray water", i.e. washing machine, possibly shower/bath, dishwasher etc, is delivered to a separate tank (this was only done on very old homes, and now the standard is running everything together into the septic tank), you will have plenty of water running through your system, making the choice of toilets one of preference, or of necessity.

Septic systems need a certain flow of water in order for them to operate properly. You will get a sufficient amount via your shower and kitchen sink.

Basically, how a system works is that as bacteria works on the discharged fluids and solids, sludge settles to the bottom, and scum rises to the top. Clear effluent is drawn off from under the scum layer and discharged into a leech field or a sand mount. Scum on top indicates that the system is working fine, and it's generally the sludge layer that determines the need for pumping.

Lastly, some things build up your sludge layer and should be monitored. One of the biggest are disposable wipes. Some are biodegradable (not really) and others aren't. Also, kitchen waste through a disposal, will add to your solids build up, and factor into your schedule of pumping/cleaning.

Myk Rian
02-22-2015, 6:58 PM
I would try to stay with the high volume toilet. People are having trouble in older homes with the waste piping not having enough flow to keep the sewer clear. This happened to my son. So now he and I in our respective homes flush twice to get adequate water flow to move the waste along. My house is newer and has the proper pitch to the drains for the low flow toilet but I still flush twice.

The plumber that cleared my sons blockage told him the combination of his house built in the late 50's combined with the new low flow toilet and a new water saving washing machine contributed to his problem.
Septic and sewer systems are not the same animal. Low usage units are causing problems in CITY sewer systems.
We have a 1.5 gal toilet, and a water saving washer feeding our septic system. It doesn't care how much, or little water is going to it, and has been happy for the 25 years it's been there. Our first system failed because the tiles collapsed, and POs had no clue how to care for them. We get it pumped every 3 years..

Brian Elfert
02-22-2015, 8:24 PM
I think the issue of not enough slope in plumbing lines can happen regardless of septic or city sewer. The problem is usually lines inside the house.

I have to dig up and replace all the sewage lines under my house this summer. It won't be all that much fun. In 1980 plumbing codes still required cast iron under concrete while the rest of the plumbing is plastic. The cast iron is having all kinds of issues that lead to clogs. The line to the septic once it leaves the house is plastic. The joint between the plastic and the cast iron is letting roots in.

Larry Frank
02-22-2015, 8:36 PM
A lot has to do with how your system is designed .... such things as type of soil, size of leach field all are factors. If your system is on sand or well draining soils then the amount of water is not a problem. Mine is on clay and using less water is a good thing.

Pumping the tank on a regular basis depending on how many people are using it is a really good idea.

George Bokros
02-22-2015, 8:38 PM
Septic and sewer systems are not the same animal. Low usage units are causing problems in CITY sewer systems.
We have a 1.5 gal toilet, and a water saving washer feeding our septic system. It doesn't care how much, or little water is going to it, and has been happy for the 25 years it's been there. Our first system failed because the tiles collapsed, and POs had no clue how to care for them. We get it pumped every 3 years..

I am not cautioning about the impact on the septic but on the issue of inadequate pitch on his sanitary sewer piping.

roger wiegand
02-23-2015, 10:25 AM
I am not cautioning about the impact on the septic but on the issue of inadequate pitch on his sanitary sewer piping.

A much more common problem is too much rather than too little pitch. The liquids run off, leaving the solids behind. The standby 1/4" per foot (for small drains) seems to be a fairly magical number, where everything works as its supposed to.

Brian Elfert
02-23-2015, 10:40 AM
A much more common problem is too much rather than too little pitch. The liquids run off, leaving the solids behind. The standby 1/4" per foot (for small drains) seems to be a fairly magical number, where everything works as its supposed to.

The first house I bought had the drain line from the kitchen running at a 30% angle to meet the sewer connection in the basement. I have to believe it clogged up a lot. It was one of the many reasons why the house got torn down and I built a new one on the lot. (City was going to condemn the house.)

Mike Lassiter
02-23-2015, 12:47 PM
Fifteen years ago when the septic system was installed the house was equipped with American Standard 5 gal. Flush toilets. I finally had the tank pumped and there was a 4in. "crust" on the top. The septic system has been trouble free in all this time. Am I better off switching to modern low flow toilets or staying with the old high volume ones?

I have a well and septic tank. Moved in here March 97 with 1000 gal septic tank and 300 feet of field lines in front yard. We don't flush the toilet every time it's used (pee'd in) although in the master bathroom I installed a new toilet that is advertised to suck 23 golf balls down when flushed. Original ones both were 1.9 gpf I think. The new toilet used a little less than that per flush and it actually flushes extremely well - compared to the original one that sometimes required flushing 2-3 times or plunging too in order to actually flush completely. After many years of that, I finally got tired of the poor flush it had and researched online to find the newer lower gpf toilets actually do work as intended. The earlier ones to my understanding mostly failed to actually provide the reduced water consumption intended due to multiple flushes often required.

I also have a front load GE washer and dryer that uses less water than the old top load models we replaced. Washer uses less water, spins faster which extracts more water from the clothes so the drying time is less. All in all using less energy and water. The skipped flushes don't sit for very long and both my wife and I just feel it is wasteful to flush a few ounces of pee down the drain with over a gallon of water every time one of us uses it. Kids gone for years, just the two of us here - when not working. During the summer when most people in "the country" can see where the field lines are in their yard by the lush green grass from the water it gets while the rest of the yard is not as green or tall after a few days since cutting it - our yard shows exactly the opposite. Our grass is often brown and even almost looks dead compared to the rest of the front yard. I attribute that to the gravel beds allowing the ground to dry out along with the little water usage we use. Our water filter shows our average daily usage for 2 people to be 35 gpd. It has been in place for over a decade now and I guess this is a lifetime average of our daily water usage.

The impact of the reduced water usage really applies to those on "city sewer" more than like myself. My wife works at local water dept and one year at the company Christmas party dinner the General Manager stated to everyone the water for the city water supply comes from a large lake. I forget the exact amount but something like 5-10 million gpd of water treated at the water treatment plant. Most of that water then goes back to the sewer treatment plant to be treated and discharged into a local river. He said the water leaving the sewer treatment plant was actually cleaner than the water in the lake that was used for the city water source due to EPA regulations. By reducing the waste water used city's reduce the treatment cost.

He and I discussed the thought that perhaps we should be recycling that water from the sewer plants back into the potable water system. He agreed with the ideology but said most people had a problem drinking "pee water". Yet if/when this starts happening the water treatment cost will go down on the filter plant side and the depleting of the ground water in larger cities should stop or at least be greatly reduced.

I find the idea of drinking "pee water" somewhat odd, as the local lake was built decades ago and water runoff from hundreds of acres around it ends up in the lake. The lake is a huge fishing attraction locally and also people swim in it in the summer. So no doubt it is already "pee water" to some extend now. I would guess that the same water ends up being used and reused countless times. The only real difference is that when you don't KNOW where it originated it doesn't become a issue.

If your toilets work good especially after 15 years of no problems I would see no reason to change them as far as reducing the load on the septic system. I would think they are contributing little to the total volume of water that is going into it percentage wise. But some savings could be had by reducing your water usage, either for city water you pay for, or by using less that you have to pump from your well if you have one. My well has the same pump installed in it in early 1997, I have had to replace the bladder tank buried in the ground twice though.

Ole Anderson
02-23-2015, 4:19 PM
I am on my original septic system for 40 years now. Been pumped 3 times, never use an enzyme, moderate use of a garbage disposal, standard 2.5 gal flush toilets, am gone 3 months of the year. But we haven't had kids in the house for about 20 years now, that helps. Inspection and pumping is on my agenda this summer. I know my field is living on borrowed time, its not reasonable to expect more than 40 years of use. People who grew up on a city sewer system freak out thinking about having to use a septic system. Frankly, with proper soils, it is better for the environment than city sewers and as long as you don't dump unreasonable amounts of bad stuff down the drain, you will be fine.

Art Mann
02-23-2015, 11:08 PM
When I built my house, there was no such thing as water conservation toilets and the disposal system was designed for 5 gallon flushes. When I needed to replace a toilet at the far end of the house, the only kind I could find was a water conservation toilet. It worked great for a day or two and then refused to work properly. As it turned out, there wasn't enough fall in the line to remove all the solids with such a small amount of water. I have found that if I flush twice instead of once, it works fine. Somebody should have thought about older houses before they forced everyone to use water conservation toilets.