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How Does Plumbing Work in Tiny Homes?

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Tiny Home Plumbing Solutions: The Ins and Outs of a Mobile Water System

The decision to live in a tiny house is a big one. Most likely, you’re making major lifestyle changes, and that’s probably the reason you’ve chosen tiny home living in the first place.

Living in a tiny home opens up a world of possibilities, especially when your little house is mobile. You can travel more, live wherever you’d like, and be free from most of the typical maintenance costs of owning a traditional home in a conventional neighborhood.

But tiny home living also comes with new sets of challenges, like how to create a plumbing system for a home that’s sometimes mobile, sometimes stationary. Tiny house experts agree that it’s good to have options when you consider plumbing solutions for your pint-sized dwelling.

Tiny Home Ideas for Public Water vs. An Off-Grid System

When the water supply into your tiny home comes from a city water system, you’re “on the grid,” and when you’re not connected to a public water supply, you are considered to be “off the grid.”

For both systems, the first step is getting water into your home for kitchen and bath use.

Tiny homeowners often opt for a water tank that fits inside (and is hidden by) kitchen cabinets. This is where your water is stored. You fill the tank by connecting an RV hose to a water supply (on-grid) or by carrying jugs of water (off-grid) to your tank. Once you have a water supply, the next step is heating the water for daily use such as cooking and showering.

When you’re off-grid, a tankless propane water heater is an efficient way to heat your water. You’ll also need a pump for water pressure in your sinks and shower. The pump requires a power supply, so if you’re truly off-grid, a gas or solar-powered generator will do the trick.

When you’re on-grid and connected to a public water supply, you won’t need to use a pump for water pressure, however, you may need a heated water hose in the winter so the water and spigot won’t freeze in colder outdoor temperatures.

Drainage Solutions: Where Does All the Water Go?

Another challenge you face as a tiny homeowner with a versatile plumbing system is where and how to drain your wastewater. Water from your sinks and shower is called “greywater” and water from your toilet is “blackwater.” Because sink and shower wastewater is easier to dispose of than toilet wastewater, many tiny homeowners choose composting toilets which eliminate the need blackwater disposal altogether.

When your tiny home is on-grid, or at a campground, you can connect to a public sewer or septic system with an RV sewer hose and dispose of greywater and blackwater that way.

Off-grid, greywater is easily sent through pipes from your home into a portable storage tank that you empty as needed at a designated dumping station. Alternatively, you can run the pipes into the ground to a section of the yard that irrigates a garden. When you choose this recycling plumbing solution, it is a good idea choose natural, biodegradable soaps and shampoos so the greywater won’t harm your plants.

Blackwater Tanks Instead of Composting Toilets

Discarding blackwater is a bit more complicated than greywater, especially when you’re off-grid, because blackwater contains harmful bacteria from toilet waste. As an alternative septic system, or when you do not have a composting toilet, your tiny home uses a blackwater collection tank. When the tank is full, you take it to a dumping station and dump it, or hire a professional service to take care of this unpleasant task for you.

Tiny home living combines the conveniences of owning a home with the versatility and freedom of mobile living and traveling. For a growing number of Americans, it’s an ideal way of experiencing the best of both worlds. Planning ahead for your tiny living plumbing solutions can make it an even happier adventure.

Paradise Septic has 50 years of experience answering all your residential plumbing questions, including alternative septic systems, like the ones necessary for tiny home living. Call today to speak to a knowledgeable professional.

Help for Homeowners: How Do Septic Tanks Work?

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Have you recently purchased an older home with a septic system?

Perhaps you’re building your dream vacation cottage on a plot of land beyond the limits of a public sewer system.

As a new or current owner of a septic system, you may be wondering, “How do septic tanks work?”

Septic Essentials

One essential element for keeping your septic tank functioning properly, while minimizing maintenance costs, is understanding how it works.

A standard or “gravity fed” septic system is fairly simple: It consists of a tank, a drain field, and soil.

Wastewater from your home’s bathroom, kitchen, and laundry flows into the septic tank where solids (sludge) are separated from liquids. Living bacteria within the septic tank help break down the solids.

The waste remains in the tank for one or two days before the liquids pass to the drain field. The drain field further filters the liquid until it passes into the soil where it can be safely integrated into the groundwater. When properly maintained, a standard septic system will function for 25 to 30 years.

What Can Go Wrong?

The main reason septic systems fail prematurely is lack of preventative maintenance.

When the system is not properly maintained, the drain field can become clogged with sludge and wastewater will no longer be able to soak into the ground. When this happens, water will not drain from your toilets and sinks because it has nowhere to go.

As a homeowner with a septic tank, be aware of any the following indicators that your drain field may be clogged and unable to function optimally:

  1. Water from your toilet or tub fails to empty completely, or is unusually slow.
  2. Your toilet or sink makes a gurgling sound.
  3. Unpleasant odor and puddles over the drain field.
  4. Surfacing sewage or lush vegetation in your yard.
  5. Plumbing backups inside your home.

Septic Tank Maintenance Tips and Recommendations

The essential element for keeping your septic tank in good working order is preventative maintenance. Once you are aware of how the system works and any potential problems, you can take the necessary precautions to prevent unpleasant plumbing conditions.

Experts recommend the following maintenance tips to maximize the life of your septic system:

  1. Pump your septic tank every three to five years to remove sludge buildup that may clog pipes.
  2. Avoid adding septic tank “balancing” additives. Your system’s naturally occurring bacteria is sufficient.
  3. Use less water. Excessive water usage will prevent the drain field from absorbing water efficiently which can lead to overflow problems.
  4. Dispose of less solids in your toilet or drain. Solids that do not decompose will build up in your tank and could lead to sewage backup. Be aware of the items you flush.
  5. Avoid improper disposal of chemicals including paint, drain openers, gasoline, motor oils, and any other chemical that is harmful to the environment as well as to the bacteria in your septic tank.

Maximize the Life of Your Septic System

Now that you know how septic tanks work and the potential problems that may occur, you can take preventative action to keep your system in perfect working condition for the next 25 to 30 years.

For regular maintenance and in the event something goes wrong, Paradise Septic if your go-to. We’ve been serving the Phoenix Valley area since 1958. You can count on us to help keep your system running smoothly.

Contact us today.

Yearly Septic Tank Maintenance

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When we think of beautiful things, septic tanks are rarely called to mind. But are they not elegant in design? Eco-friendly? Efficient? Sanitary? Largely self-sufficient? Profoundly useful?

Honestly, if we seriously considered all that our septic systems do for us (and save us from), they would certainly command more respect and admiration than they do, instead of being relegated to among the least spoken – or thought-of parts of our households.

Which is why we owe it to them to do basic maintenance and employ “septic best practices” throughout the year. Not only that, but when a septic system goes bad after years of neglect, it goes really, really bad . . .

Neglected septic tanks can cause noxious odors, drain backups, standing water (or even sewage) in your yard and, in the end, may require complete replacement.

How to show your septic tank you care:

 

  • Be mindful of water usage. It’s never a good idea to overload your system with too much water, which means doing several back-to-back loads of laundry should be avoided.

 

Your tank needs time to separate sludge and scum from the water, so sending too much through at once can result in solid waste getting into your drainfield pipes, clogging them up, and creating pools of unsanitary standing water.

 

  • Be careful what you flush or put down drains. Although most people know that it’s never a good idea to use a sink or toilet as a garbage can, it’s even more crucial to remember when you have a septic system.

 

Solids that can’t be broken down naturally in a septic tank (egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit skins or other food waste) will typically find their way into drainage pipes and clog them.

In fact, garbage disposals are not recommended for use with septic systems and people who have both should use the disposal sparingly and with discretion, especially in the case of grease and fats.

And of course, whether you have a septic system or not, never, ever flush or rinse paint, paint thinner, oil, medications, feminine hygiene products, plastics, cat litter, etc. down the drain.

 

  • Use septic-safe products and limit use of chemicals. There are several brands of toilet paper, detergents, soaps and cleaners that proclaim they’re “septic safe” right on the label and we do recommend using them.

 

However, there really are no soaps or chemicals that actually “help” a septic tank, so it’s best to be mindful of how much you’re using and allowing into the tank at all times.

Your septic tank relies on bacteria to break down the solid waste “sludge,” and harmful chemicals or too much soap can kill that bacteria and interfere with its ability to work, but you should be OK if you’re using cleaning products in moderation.

 

  • If it’s been awhile, have your tank and system inspected. The average septic system should be inspected every three years and doing so is the smartest way to avoid potentially huge repair, replacement and clean-up bills.
  • Don’t hesitate to call a professional at the first sign of a problem. If you’re noticing foul odors around your property, experiencing slow flushing/backups or see standing water near your tank or drainfield, it’s imperative to call a pro immediately.

 

A small problem caught in time can help avert a crisis and save you the time, money and headache of having your yard torn up for a complete septic tank or drainfield replacement.

 

  • Scheduled maintenance is the way to go.  If you can locate a reputable septic company that offers scheduled maintenance, we highly recommend it.

 

Here are some guidelines to help you determine a pumping schedule that’s right for you:

http://paradisevalleyseptic.com/do-you-need-your-septic-tank-pumped/

But signing up for scheduled maintenance means that you never have to worry about remembering to order service and, even better, a professional septic service technician will take several factors (garbage disposal, water softener, laundry usage, etc.) into account when determining your system’s needs.

If you have questions about your septic tank, septic system, new tank/system installation, scheduled service, etc., please feel free to reach out anytime!

Community Sewer Line vs. Private Septic: What to Know When Buying a Home

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Although it’s easy to overlook, one of the fundamental questions you should ask when buying a home is whether it has sewer or septic.

While it’s true, the way waste materials leave a home is rarely key in the decision to buy one – it’s still something that’s important to take into consideration. Both community sewer lines and private septic systems are highly effective, when in working order, but both have their pros and cons.

Inspections

Whether sewer or septic, it is absolutely imperative to have professional inspections performed before making the decision to buy. Laws stating who has to pay for such an inspection vary from state to state, so be sure to check your statutes.

Many potential homeowners don’t realize that sewer line inspections are a must, since most municipalities are responsible only for the parts of the sewer that are off-property. This means that the cost of replacing broken, clogged or bellied sewer lines (as well as digging up part of the property to do so) lies with the homeowner.

Septic system inspections (which should include tanks, lines, drainage fields, etc.) are necessary because the upkeep of the entire system is the responsibility of the homeowner. It’s customary to proceed with a purchase only after all needed repairs have been completed or paid for by the seller, the entire system passes inspection and, if necessary, the tank has been pumped (at the seller’s expense).

Running Costs

Many homeowners enjoy the convenience associated with community sewer lines, since the community is responsible for what happens to the waste once it leaves the property. However, most cities or townships charge a monthly fee for the privilege, so in the long run, it can end up costing more for sewer access.

While using a private septic system involves no monthly fee, the homeowner is not only responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the system, but also for paying for and adhering to a pumping schedule that’s appropriate to the size of the household (typically every 2-3 years). Smart septic owners have their systems checked and maintained periodically too, because an ounce of prevention rarely goes so far as in the case of avoiding potential septic failure.

Warnings

Depending on whether you have a clogged, broken or damaged sewer lines or septic systems, there several different are ways your house will warn you. The most common signs of trouble are:

  • Water backing up in toilet or sinks
  • Gurgling toilets (especially during washing cycles)
  • Poor flushing or draining action
  • Water bubbles as it’s flushed or draining
  • Sewage odors inside or outside
  • Standing wastewater near pipes or septic system
  • Must or mildew odors
  • Visible mildew
  • Increase in vermin (rodents and insects)

Worst Case Scenarios

Though both sewer line backups and complete septic system failures are the stuff of nightmares, we have the give the “most ghastly” prize to the sewer line backup.

If all warnings go unheeded and a sewer line is neglected, a home can literally become a sewer, itself. Raw waste can come back up through your pipes, into your sinks, toilets, tubs and showers and, if there’s overflow, can do thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home.

The mess from a septic system failure usually confines itself to the outdoors, but still, your property (and possibly your beautiful lawn), will be devastated by raw waste and odor.

Associated Costs of Worst Case Scenarios

The cost of a sewer line backup depends completely upon its severity and how much property it comes into contact with. Because of the amount of dangerous bacteria and other pathogens found in sewage, almost anything it has contact with for more than a few minutes will be unusable, especially flooring, mattresses, paper products, leather, stuffed toys, etc.

Both the household plumbing and electrical systems will need to be checked and anything that can be salvaged will need to be deep cleaned and disinfected (ideally by professionals). Then there’s the matter of fixing/replacing the broken/clogged sewer pipe.

Once again, cost will depend upon the issue, pipe accessibility and the area in which you live. You can count on having your yard torn up, but if you’re lucky it will only be a modest section and won’t involve sidewalks or other structures.

A septic failure can be a financial disaster, as well, even though the damage usually stays outside (though the odor doesn’t). With several more “points-of-failure” possibilities to choose from, your system could have one, two or more issues.

Since septic systems typically rely on pipes to not only carry waste to the tank, but to disperse wastewater into drainfield, there could be several breaks, cracks or clogs in a neglected system (which can lead to a fair amount of torn-up property).

Then there’s the matter of the tank and/or the drainfield. If either or both of them have been compromised beyond repair, one or both of them may need to be completely replaced, which are both large and pricey undertakings.

The Good News

For homes with community sewer lines, simply taking prompt action when you begin to notice any of the warning signs we mentioned should be enough to avert disaster.

And for homes with septic systems, almost all the scary stuff we just covered can be completely avoided through regular, reasonably priced maintenance and pumping plans.

If you have questions about sewer line or septic tank inspections, maintenance plans, pumping costs, etc., please don’t hesitate to reach out any time.

Drywell Maintenance Tips

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The Monsoon season is a crucial time for giving dry-wells a quick check-up.

See, without proper maintenance, it’s only a matter of time until your backed-up lawn water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and fungi.

We’d like to help you avoid that scenario.

Drywell Types

While most drywells rely on perforated walls to disperse water, the types of things that clog them up depend upon what you use your drywell for.

 

  • Septic Drywells – Not to be confused with seepage pits or cesspools, and never to be used for sewage, septic drywells can be used to lessen the load on your septic system by taking care of your graywater, or the relatively clean water that comes from your washing machine, baths, and sinks.

 

While effective, over time, materials like soap scum and lint can start to build up on the walls of the drywell and begin to plug up the holes.

Investing in a graywater filter and keeping it clean can go a long way in discouraging buildup but, depending on how much graywater your household produces, you may still need to clean the inside of your drywell.

 

  • Runoff Drywells – If your drywell is solely used to take care of excess water from downspouts, storms and surface runoff, you won’t have to worry about soap scum, but you will have to worry about natural debris.

 

It’s always a good idea to make sure that the cap of your drywell is free from any brush, dirt or lawn debris, and keeping both your rain gutters and the area around the drywell clean will also help to ensure that less junk is finding its way in.

But, just as with septic drywells, the amount of water your well is expected to handle, as well as its age, can make an internal cleaning a necessity.

Cleaning Your Drywell

Once you’ve cleaned your drywall’s surrounding area, you’ll remove the cap and assess the situation. If standing water is making it hard for you to get to a clog, you should be able to rent a pump at any local home improvement store, but make sure that you have a safe and legal place to divert any water you pump.

Otherwise, simply reach in, remove any debris, scrape/scrub the walls and clear the perforations of gunk.

I Pumped and Cleaned, But I Still Have Standing Water . . .

Like anything else, drywells aren’t forever. Whether it’s simply a case of soil compaction or an actual wall collapse, you’re now going to need a professional to either fix things (if possible) or drill and install a new well.

Beyond this, drywells should be regularly checked, particularly during monsoon season here in The Valley.

Paradise Septic offers a FREE INSPECTION of your drywells, headwalls, catch basins, culverts, etc.

And we don’t just inspect, clean and maintain drywells, we also design, drill and install them. Whether you’re building a new structure or need an old drywell replaced, Paradise Valley Septic is there every step of the way, with:

 

  • Perc testing
  • Subsurface characterization
  • Registration assistance
  • Aquifer Protection Permit Application (when needed)
  • Best Management Practices Program (when needed)
  • Investigations/Sampling
  • Abandonment/Clean Closure

 

Reach out today and let Paradise Valley Septic take care of drywell headaches before they even start!

Keep Your Septic System Running Smoothly

Stop Problems Before They Start: Keep Your Septic System Running Smoothly

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When your septic system is running smoothly, it’s the unsung hero of your household system. You probably don’t even think about it most of the time. But, that doesn’t mean you should neglect it until something goes wrong.

Let’s look at some things you can do to prevent problems with your septic system:

Prevent Problems Before They Start

There are several things you can do to keep your system in tip top shape:

  • Space out your laundry chores. Doing all your laundry in one day puts tremendous strain on your drainfield. Gray water will go into your system all at once, and the ground won’t have time to absorb it.
  • Opt for liquid or gel detergent for your dishwasher and washing machine rather than powder. It has inert fillers that are bad for your septic system.
  • Throw your grease in the trash. If you put it down the drain, it can clog up the holes in the leaching field.
  • Don’t flush materials like tampons or wet bathroom wipes. You may think these are both considered flushable, but they add to the solid waste that’s hard to break down in your septic tank. Toss them in a garbage can instead. Feeling grossed out? A lidded garbage can is a good option.
  • Avoid parking on the grassy region where your septic system is located because it could damage the pipes.

Know How Your Septic System Works

All the waste that goes through your plumbing system ends up in your septic tank, and then is safely broken down. This is thanks to the design of the system and the microorganisms that live inside it. The materials are broken down into liquids that can be moved through the system to your leaching field where the nutrients are put back into the ground. Problems start when things that go down the drain or get flushed remain solid. When these things can’t be broken down, your system gets sluggish.

Keep Your Septic System Professionally Maintained

You can stop problems before they start by doing the things listed above, however there’s still a need to call professionals in on a regular basis. They are needed to pump the septic tank and they can also spot problems you may not see.

A Professional Touch

Paradise Septic offers the professional touch you need for annual maintenance and when something goes wrong. We’ve been serving the Phoenix Valley area since 1958. You can count on us to help keep your system running smoothly. When a breakdown occurs, call us and we’ll get your septic system back up and running in no time.

Contact us today if your septic system needs a professional touch.