How to Protect Your Septic System from Freezing Temperatures

Many homeowners now prefer septic systems for waste disposal, simply because they are less costly and better for the environment. Plus, they can last longer in harsh conditions. Unlike municipal sewer systems, which are prone to aging, overuse, and deterioration, septic systems only need to process the waste from an individual home or structure. Hence they rarely face issues of overuse, while providing a cleaner alternative to waste disposal.

However, even the best septic systems can be susceptible to outside factors, such as prolonged periods of freezing cold weather. From the plumbing fixtures, drains, and pipes within your home, to the drainage field itself, there’s always a chance that when the temperatures fall, your waste disposal system could be at risk.

So to keep your septic system healthy and safe despite what the winter weather brings, keep the following tips and guidelines in mind. With a little preparation and knowledge of what to do when extremely cold weather arrives, your septic system will remain healthy and functioning until the spring rolls around.


Five Tips for Septic System Care in Winter

1. Start with a great tank

An aging septic tank (especially one made of  concrete), is more susceptible to freezing due to the higher likelihood of cracks and leaks developing in the tank itself. To mitigate this risk, opt for a modern, poly tank (like Rotoplas’), which is resistant to cracks and corrosion.


2. Keep your drainage field dry and free of clutter

A layer of snow on your drainage field won’t necessarily hurt your system, and can even act as an insulator of sorts for the soil underneath. Adding a layer of mulch before the first snowfall arrives can also provide a little extra peace of mind.

But if there is excess frozen water or more compact frozen materials on top of your system, it can send frost deeper into the soil. This can cause problems for the disposal of filtered wastewater. As such, make sure you don’t park any vehicles or heavy equipment on top of your drainage field to avoid added pressure.


3. Maintain consistent water usage

If your septic tank is filled to capacity and some of the material inside freezes, it can push back up into your pipes. Conversely, if your home is left unoccupied with little water use, the small amount of liquids in your tank may have a higher likelihood of freezing.

So maintain your water usage and keep it consistent all winter long for the optimal results. By keeping your water usage routine, you won’t add any extra obstacles for your system’s ability to handle waste.


4. Keep an eye on faucets and pipes

A deep freeze can cause the pipes that lead from your house to your septic tank to freeze. And this in turn can lead to cracks and leaks that can take weeks to uncover and fix.

So if you think your home’s pipes might freeze, take a few steps during a long period of cold weather to keep them running smoothly.

  • Open up under-counter cabinets to let warm interior air in
  • Set faucets to a very slow drip during the lowest temperatures
  • Use a hairdryer to blow on the pipes directly if you notice that your water flow starts to dwindle due to potential freezing

By keeping your pipes from freezing, you’ll prevent all sorts of costly repairs or expenses down the road, both inside and outside the home.


5. When in doubt, call a professional

If you do suspect your pipes or septic system is freezing, call a professional first.

Never add antifreeze, salt, or other additives to the system. These can disturb the bacteria balance in your septic tank and cause a new wave of issues. Don’t use a blow torch or other extreme heating method to unthaw pipes. This can cause them to quickly expand and break. Lastly, never keep water running continually in a steady stream, as this can overload the system.

Professionals have special tools to address freezing issues, such as steamers and high-pressure jetters which will thaw out pipes without causing damage. So if you suspect signs of trouble, call a plumbing or septic professional first to get the issue handled quickly and safely.


Freezing temperatures are typically not a major concern for septic systems, simply because they can generally handle the pressure. But it never hurts to prepare if you’re in an area that experiences more severe or prolonged cold spells.

So stay vigilant, keep usage consistent, and be smart about potential repairs. With a little due diligence, you can enjoy a properly functioning septic system all winter long.


Want to know more about our septic tanks and other liquid storage solutions? Contact us today! We’re happy to help find the right tank for you.

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How to Protect Your Septic System from Freezing Temperatures
Though rare, an extreme cold spell can harm your household pipes and septic system. Here’s how to protect your system from freezing all winter long.

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