Florida is a unique state in many ways. With its beautiful weather and natural beauty, it has become a popular destination for part-time residents, often called snowbirds, because they spend winters in the Sunshine State to escape from cold, wintry conditions found elsewhere in the country.
Septic Systems in Florida
Septic systems are common throughout the United States, but especially so in rural areas like parts of Florida. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost 20% of all households nationwide rely on septic systems as their main wastewater management system. In total, there are more than 8 million private septic systems in operation across the country, many of which are located in the Sunshine State.
Many people own homes in Florida but choose to leave them empty for part of the year. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Florida Realty Marketplace in 2023, there are an estimated one million snowbirds in Florida. While this can be beneficial in terms of saving money on rent and utilities, there are also risks to be aware of when leaving your home unoccupied for an extended period of time. One such risk is that of septic systems malfunctioning due to lack of use.
Possible Problems With Unused Septic Systems
If a septic system is not used regularly over a long period of time, it can experience issues or even begin to fail.
Septic systems rely on regular use to properly function. When a septic system is not used for an extended period of time, the lack of water flowing through the system can cause the beneficial bacteria and organisms that help break down waste in the septic tank to become inactive.
This can lead to the accumulation of organic material in the tank, clogging pipes and restricting flow. The organic buildup can eventually reach critical levels and start to contaminate groundwater, not only damaging the septic system but also posing a health hazard for nearby residents. In addition, sediment build-up in untreated wastewater can also damage irrigation lines and affect plant life in the surrounding area.
Besides bacterial action, another process that keeps septic systems functioning properly is aerobic decomposition. Aerobic decomposition requires oxygen which is supplied by regularly flowing water. Without enough oxygen, aerobic decomposition cannot take place and this can lead to anaerobic decomposition, where toxic gases are released into the atmosphere as a byproduct of biodegradation.
Snowbirds should also consider that parts of Florida experience heavy rains during certain parts of the year, and may be prone to tropical storms and hurricanes. An excessive amount of rainfall can cause a few problems for septic systems: empty septic tanks could “float” as the ground around them becomes saturated, or an oversaturated septic drainfield could cause backups into the home.
Tips to Keep Your Septic System Functioning When You Are Away
The lack of proper maintenance and regular use of a septic system over an extended period of time can mean costly repairs or even replacement later on down the line if left unchecked. It is therefore important for homeowners who plan on leaving their property unattended for an extended period of time to have their septic tank inspected before departure and set up any necessary maintenance plans if needed.
To protect your property from potential harm due to lack of use, here are some tips for homeowners who plan on leaving their property unattended:
- Have a septic tank inspection by a professional your system before you leave. and ensure that any necessary maintenance or repairs are completed. Even a problem that seems minor now, like slow drains or some pooling water, can escalate into a serious issue, particularly if you are not there to notice.
- Have someone check on your property while you are away if possible. Ideally, have them flush toilets and run some water periodically.
- Make sure all appliances connected directly or indirectly to the plumbing system are completely shut off.
- Make sure any water entering the tank is running clear and not backing up.
- Consider adding aerobic treatments if recommended by a septic professional.
- Avoid planting trees or shrubs too close to the drainage field as root growth may disturb the underground pipes. Plants can grow extremely quickly in Florida’s climate, so plan ahead and leave enough space for them when they are fully mature.
- Empty out all garbage disposals before you leave.
By following these tips and taking steps to ensure proper maintenance of your septic system while away from home, you can make sure that it continues working properly when you come back after an extended absence from Florida’s beautiful shores!
Other Tips for Snowbirds Leaving Florida
Here are a few additional tips for snowbirds who are leaving their Florida residence for the summer:
- Make sure all windows and doors are closed and securely locked.
- Make sure all electrical devices and appliances are unplugged or turned off.
- Put a timer on any lights or fans to turn them on periodically.
- Set the thermostat so that it does not get too hot inside the house. Remember that the temperatures in the Sunshine State get very hot in summer, which can lead to problems when you return.
- Have someone check the house regularly while you are away to make sure everything is safe and secure.
- Have any vital documents stored in a safety deposit box or other secure location.
- Have any important mail forwarded to an alternate address.
- Make sure that valuables are secured properly in case of theft.
- Turn off the main water line if possible, or have someone regularly check it while you are away.
Septic Service In & Near Lakeland
Septic & Drainfield Depot is your expert septic company in and near Lakeland. We have been working with homeowners and business owners throughout central Florida for years, so we understand exactly what it takes to keep a septic system healthy and functioning efficiently – whether you are a year-round resident or a snowbird.
Contact us today for a free estimate.