Septic System Basics

Nearly one-fifth of homes in the United States rely on septic systems to dispose of their home wastewater. This is because these homes are too far away from their city sewer connection, or they are outside of the sewer agency’s service area, therefore many homes with a septic system are located in rural areas.

It is important to know what a septic system is and the basics of how one functions, especially if an individual is looking to buy a home on the property, renovate their home, or repair their septic system. We have compiled all the essential information about the basic operations of a septic system and the importance of regular maintenance. Whenever a homeowner experiences an issue with their septic system, wants to know where their septic system is located, or has any other septic system-related question or concern, they should contact a certified and professional septic company, such as Acuantia, to ensure everything is done legally and according to regulations.

What Is A Septic System And How Do They Work?

There are two basic components that make up a septic system. These components consist of a septic tank and a wastewater disposal system. When a sink is run, a toilet flushed or a shower is turned on, all of the wastewater flows from the home and into the septic tank. Once in the septic tank, the wastewater will then separate into three parts through an anaerobic process. Any grease and oil that is in the wastewater will float to the top of the tank, and any solids and heavy particles will sink to the bottom. The fluid remaining in the middle of the tank is what’s called effluent or “clear zone.”

Once the wastewater is separated, the effluent will then flow through a filter to ensure no solids or grease pass out of the tank. Once through the filter or screen, the effluent will flow out of the tank and into the wastewater disbursement system. Then, the effluent will slowly absorb into the soil via perforated pipes, slow-release chambers, or another type of sewage dispersal system.

Normally, septic systems are composed of two main components: a septic tank and a wastewater dispersal system. When a sink is run or a toilet is flushed, the waste is then sent out of the home and into the septic tank. Through a process called anaerobic digestion, the solids, grease, and oils are separated from the wastewater. The wastewater is then sent through a filter and into a wastewater disbursement system that is buried under the ground called a drain or leach field. This subsurface wastewater disbursement system can be in the form of perforated pipes or chambers that slowly release wastewater into the soil. Some septic systems have pumps or other components, but every system has a septic tank and sewage disposal system. Our team at Acuantia can help you determine the best system for your location.

Do I Need A Septic System?

When a home is located too far away to connect with the city’s sewer connection, it will need a septic system to dispose of the home’s wastewater. This is because the wastewater from the home cannot simply be put directly into the ground or into a nearby river or pond. This is extremely dangerous and can release harmful bacteria into the environment where it can harm local wildlife, pets, and humans.

If you think you need a septic system installed on your property, it is always best to call a professional. Our team at Acuantia can perform a site and soil evaluation to determine:

  • If the home needs a septic system
  • If there is a septic system present already
  • What type of septic system is right for the site
  • Where the septic system should be placed

What Are The Different Types Of Septic Systems?

Septic systems are not a one-size-fits-all single-design solution. There are different types of septic systems for different soil types, elevations, and other engineering needs. Depending upon where the homeowner lives in the United States, the type of material and design used for the septic system will vary. In some climates with excessive heat, the material used will need to be heat resistant, and in areas with colder climates, special measures to protect the tank and components may need to be put in place such as wrapping them or situating the disposal field below the frost line. The type of soil present on the property will also determine which type of septic system will be effective. Here are the three main types of septic systems used in the United States.


As the name suggests, this is the most common type of septic system used. Generally, conventional septic systems are used for single-family homes or small businesses. The drain or leach field in these types of systems is made up of gravel and stone. Conventional septic system design has been in use for decades as it is the simplest type of septic system.

The average cost to install a conventional septic system can range between $8,000 and $14,000 depending upon the number of bedrooms, number of fixtures, etc.


In the past 30 years, chamber septic systems have become increasingly popular. In place of gravel or stone drain fields, they use chambered drainage systems. The different materials that can make up the chambers include:

  • Synthetic materials (expanded polystyrene)
  • Open bottom chambers
  • Fabric-wrapped pipe

A chamber system is commonly used in areas characterized by a high water table and a lack of gravel. Additionally, they are one of the most cost-effective systems since the chambers that are used can be made of recycled materials, reducing their carbon footprint and offering significant savings.


Drip dispersal fields are becoming more and more popular as a means to disperse effluent. It is popular among homeowners because less soil is required to cover this type of dispersal system. Usually, drip lines are buried about 10″ below the ground surface. This is because the drip laterals are inserted 6 to 12 inches into the ground. Having an additional tank known as the “dose tank” is the only disadvantage of this system. The “dosing” or pump tank stores the treated effluent and then distributes it via the drip tubing in metered doses throughout the day. Our experts set the panel to a timed or on-demand dispersal setting. Although drip distribution is not without fault, many homeowners find it to be adequate and sufficient.

The average price of a drip distribution system installation can be between $15,000 – $25,000 depending upon the number of bedrooms, number of fixtures, etc..

How To Know If Your Septic System Needs Repair

Knowing when you have an issue with your septic system is crucial to preventing major issues. As well as regular maintenance, it’s important to know the warning signs of a faulty septic system. The classic warning signs that a septic system may need to be repaired are:

  • Slow or frequently clogged drains
  • Sewage back up into the home
  • Strong odors that won’t go away
  • Regular gurgling noises
  • Saturated drain field area, usually accompanied by foul odors.

When a homeowner, builder, or developer encounters any of these issues with their own home or a home they’re in the process of building, they should contact the experts at Acuantia immediately. Our qualified experts can diagnose the issue at its source before the integrity of the entire septic system is compromised beyond repair.

Why Choose Acuantia?

We solve homeowners’ onsite wastewater needs by:

  • Providing a one-stop-shop experience
  • Partnering with trusted, high-quality service providers
  • Affordably managing your project end-to-end
  • Simplifying the complicated onsite wastewater experience
  • Managing and completing your job to the highest standard
  • Maintaining your system to keep it running into the future

Share this post: