Understanding Your Septic System: A Winter Preparation Guide

Septic System

Northern Alberta is home to some harsh winters. As the weather gets colder, a few things can happen to your septic system if it’s not properly prepared for the freeze. Some signs that your septic system is frozen are your septic alarm going off, high levels with a running pump, and sewage backup. 

How Sub-Zero Temperatures Affect Your Septic System

The temperature can cause your septic system’s components to freeze when it’s cold outside. This is why proper insulation is essential. A few of the most common situations that can cause a septic system to freeze include but are not limited to:

  • The line is too close to or above the frost level on the ground.
  • The delivery line from the tank to the field needs to be deeper.
  • A septic line that isn’t pitched correctly.
  • The delivery line has compacted soil above it, causing a ‘bow’ or ‘saddle.’
  • A delivery line without a drain-back feature or hole.
  • Infrequent or no use.

Symptoms of a Frozen Septic Tank

When your septic tank freezes, there are some noticeable signs you want to pay attention to during the winter. 

  • Slow drainage in sinks, showers, and bathtubs. 
  • A gurgling sound in the plumbing. 
  • Sewage backup. 
  • She is standing water or ice over the drain field. 
  • If you’ve opened any access points or risers and find frozen effluent or ice, it’s a clear sign of freezing.
  • A sudden strong septic or sewage odour indoors or around the drain field or tank area could be due to the system not properly processing waste.
  • The septic alarm is going off.

If you suspect your septic system is frozen, act quickly. Call a professional, try to avoid using the septic system, limit water usage, and don’t try to thaw anything yourself with open flames, salt, or antifreeze.

Winter Septic Tank Preparation

When preparing your septic system for winter, a few tasks can help you prevent a frozen septic system. 

Add Insulation

In Alberta, we’re prone to rapidly changing weather conditions during the winter. One day, it can be -40℃; the next, it can be 10℃. This can wreak havoc on your septic system. Protect your system by letting the grass grow longer over your drain field to act as extra insulation. You can also add mulch or leaves as well. 

Don’t Drive Over the Delivery Line Path

Driving over the delivery line and drain field is a recipe for disaster, as the soil and snow will become compacted and cause issues. Don’t park heavy equipment on the space, and set up signage so others can avoid doing the same. 

Schedule an Annual Inspection and Pumping

To keep your septic system in the best condition, it’s essential to have annual inspections for maintenance and repair. Catching minor issues before they become a backup saves you money and headaches. Our SepTech team can ensure the integrity of your system is good to go for winter. 

Typical water usage should be enough to keep your septic system running smoothly, but infrequent use may cause it to freeze. If you plan to be away from your property for a week or more during the winter, have your tank pumped before leaving to prevent freezing. 

Things to Know

Don’t Shovel the Drain Field

As a homeowner, you may think removing the snow from the drain field will prevent freezing, but the snow is an insulator for your septic system. Leave the blanket of snow untouched to retain geothermal heat. 

Pumping Issues are More Likely in the Winter

While your septic system can become clogged at any time, it’s a lot easier to deal with in the warmer months where you only have to pump your tank. In the winter, snow and ice can prevent you from reaching your tank to pump. It’s good practice to take care of most maintenance needs in the warmer months and schedule your annual maintenance just before winter to try and prevent this. 

Heavy Snow Can Impact the Disposal Process

Heavy snowfall can potentially add pressure to your tank, slowing down the bacterial action. Try to keep your tank clear of heavy snow build-up, don’t drive over it, and aerate the soil to avoid disrupting its processes. 

Be Aware During Holiday Gatherings

During the colder months, we have a few holiday gatherings. If you like to host Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will use more water than usual. Increased toilet, shower, dishwasher and laundry usage means your septic tank needs to work harder. Due to the slower disposal process, this might cause a clogged tank. Trying to be aware of your water usage, spacing out food preparation and using your appliances less can help lower the impact on your system.

Hire the Pros for Winter Septic Tank Preparation

SepTech Canada specializes in winter septic tank preparation in the counties of Strathcona, Camrose, Sturgeon, Beaver, Leduc, and Parkland. If you want to leave your septic system in the hands of the professionals, give us a call, and we can help before winter comes.