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If you have a septic tank installed in your house, you may have a septic tank alarm system somewhere in your home. In this article, we will take a look at what these alarms are for and how they function.
So, what is a septic tank alarm system? A septic tank alarm system is a device that monitors the water elevation inside the tank and alerts you when the water level rises higher than it should be, this could be an indication of a problem with the septic tank pump needed in some systems.
Not all systems need a pump to move the effluent (wastewater) from the tank to the drainage field. Systems that are designed using gravity to siphon the wastewater downhill from tank to drainage area do not need a pump. Since gravity doesn’t stop working, there is no need for a septic tank alarm to indicate a potential problem with the pumping system in an electrical-based pumping. Read this article if you want to learn more about does your septic system require electricity.
In the remainder of this blog post, we will take a deeper look at septic tank alarm systems, namely how they function, why you might need one, and what to do if it’s going off.
How Does a Septic Tank System Alarm Function?
Let’s look at exactly how a septic tank system alarm works to help us fully understand what it is.
A Septic tank Alarm System may be designed with a few different types of notifications depending on which you have. The Alarm may include a Green/Red Light, an Audible Alarm or Buzzer, or both.
Some municipalities require alarms to be tied into the municipal grid so authorities can monitor malfunctioning waste systems.
Septic Tank Alarm Systems for Electrical-Based Pumps
A Septic Tank System alarm works with the use of a float that is placed inside the tank to monitor water levels. Think of this much like the float in the back of your toilet tank. In the toilet tank, the float monitors the water in your tank, and when it reaches a predefined level it should turn off the water so no more flows into the tank.
In a septic system, the float on your alarm monitors the water in the same exact way, its job is to let you know when the water level in the tank has risen to a preset level indicating a potential problem with the system.
Septic Tank Alarms for Aerobic Systems Compressor Pumps
You may also need a septic tank alarm if your home has an Aerobic based system. These systems push condensed air through the system to help with the decomposition process of the sewage.
In these types of systems, a septic tank alarm is used to indicate a possible problem in the air pressure, which could mean there is an issue with the compressor pump is malfunctioning.
Why Would You Need a Septic Tank Alarm System?
So now that you have a clear understanding of what a Septic Tank Alarm System does, you may still be asking why you need one.
Remember that the alarm is used to alert you to a problem in the septic system that can lead to potentially bigger problems down the road. The goal of the alarm is to have correct the issues before something catastrophic happens.
Let’s take the example of an electric-based pumping system that needs to pump the effluent (wastewater) out of the septic tank, uphill to the drainage area. (This is pretty common) Then the system can’t operate using gravity to move the effluent out of the tank and through the rest of the system.
So, an electric-based pump is placed in the tank to either pump the water out of the tank in pre-set intervals or based on the water level hitting a certain height. If your pump were to fail, then the water levels would rise higher than they should, leaving the potential for sewage to flow back into your house or basement.
The alarm is a fail-safe that will alert you that the water level is too high, aka the pump is not working for some reason, allowing the water level to build up in the tank.
The Alarm in an Aerobic System
The Alarm in an Aerobic System also lets you know that the compressor pump isn’t working properly, meaning air isn’t getting into the system at the required level to decompose the waste.
If you have any type of pump component to your system, it is a good idea to have a functioning alarm on the system.
Where is Your Septic Tank Alarm System Located?
You septic tank alarm may be located in a few different places. If you hear it going off check the following locations to try and locate your alarm. Don’t panic it’s not a fire or carbon monoxide alarm!
Your Septic tank alarm may be located in the following places first:
- On the side of the tank
- Connected to the side of your house
- In your basement
- In a utility closet
What does it Mean if My Septic Tank Alarm is Going off?
What does it mean if your septic tank alarm is going off? If your septic tank alarm is going off it essentially means that the alarm is detecting an improper water level or problem with the pump in the septic tank for electrical-based assisted pumping systems or a problem with the air pressure the compressor pump of your Aerobic Septic System.
But don’t panic there may be a few other reasons that your alarm is going off besides total pump failure.
What to Do if Your Septic Alarm is Going Off?
So if you have an alarm that is going off, you probably want to know what you should do next to help troubleshoot the potential problem with your septic tank system.
When you hear your alarm going off follow these steps:
- Locate the alarm, if you don’t know where it is read above to find some common locations for septic tank alarms.
- If your alarm has an audible alarm, it should have a silence button or switch on the alarm. You can hit this button to silence the alarm. (Notice the Red Light on the alarm will stay lit until the problem is resolved.) The silence button just keeps you from going crazy from the sound.
- Your septic alarm system should be wired to a separate breaker than the actual pump it is monitoring. So the next thing you want to do is locate the breaker for the pump and make sure it hasn’t been tripped. Sometimes these breakers can trip or be turned off and they are left off by accident, this would keep the pump from turning on and pumping out the water level from the tank. This would cause the water level to rise above the desired level, causing the alarm to trip. If your breaker was tripped just turn it back on, and the pump should kick back on and pump the access water out.
- Sometimes one of the floats could have a problem giving you a false positive on the water level. If you are comfortable checking this then make sure your floats are properly attached and functioning properly.
- If you determine your pump or aerator is not functioning properly then you can either replace them yourself or call a local septic company to help you.
How to Test Your Septic Alarm?
It’s a good idea to test your septic tank alarm periodically to make sure it is working correctly. I would recommend once every 6 months to be safe, obviously the more the better.
Testing your septic tank alarm is usually pretty easy. Each septic tank alarm should have a test switch that you simply turn on to test your alarm.
Here is a video on how to test your septic tank alarm.
Can Heavy Rains or Flooding Cause My Septic Tank Alarm to Go Off?
The simple answer is yes it can. If flooding in your system is bad enough it could keep your system from being able to pump water out of the tank into the drainage field. Which would create the water levels in your tank to rise, and set the alarm off.
If you are experiencing heavy flooding, reduce water usage as much as possible until the flooding subsides.
If you have a broken lid to your septic tank, heavy rain may get into the tank causing a high-level alarm to go off. You want to make sure to replace the cracked cover or lid as soon as possible to keep the tank sealed as tight as possible.
Hope this has helped answer your questions about your septic tank alarm system. If you still have questions consider calling a septic system expert to help diagnose and repair the problem. Find local Septic Companies
If you have other septic system related questions check out our septic Wiki Section for more information.
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