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Thread: Thawing a septic system

  1. #1

    Default Thawing a septic system

    Just wondering if anyone has experience thawing a septic drain system? The run from the house to the tank is 15-20 feet and is not the problem, I think the drain field is frozen and am worried the tank is nothing more then a holding tank. If I were to buy gravel warming blankets, can I use those over the field and run a herman-nelson through one of the tank risers?

    We are going easy on the water but its only a 1.5k tank. It was almost -60 last week in the low spots and finally warmed up a little.

  2. #2
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    I'm afraid you're hosed until summer. Are you on permafrost? Lack of snow for insulation this year is going to catch up to a lot of folks, I'm afraid. If you're really rich you could make it an interesting experiment; about $10K in power blankets, for a couple weeks sucking 100 amps... plus blowing heat through the drainfield line (you will probably need to steam it open first, and the chance of overheating and damaging the ABS is high), then, if you did get it thawed you'd need to cover it with a lot of insulation or it would just refreeze.... Less expensive to treat it as a holding tank and have it pumped as needed.
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  3. #3
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    + 1 on “hosed until summer”. A few years back the outflow pipe on my .5k lift station tank froze up. Then, because no more warm water from the cabin was being added to my primary 1k tank, that tank also froze up. It wound up w/ about 3” of surface ice in both chambers. Couldn’t break through it with my 8’ ice pike (through the inspection/pump out pipe) until May. So once that froze my option for pump out was gone. I could have called a steamer out but I had a back-up outhouse and an alternative grey water leach line from the cabin’s olden days, so I put up with it from mid-Feb until June.

    (By the way, ground heave broke my well line connection at the pitless shortly after the septic froze. And that fix had to wait until late June when DOT finally lifted weight restrictions on our rural dirt roads so the excavator could get to me. Ain’t life grand?)

    In my opinion, if you are going to use your septic tank as a hold and pump, which is your most viable option now (assuming you have that option), don’t scrimp with water, and get heat into your tank if possible, even if just a 100w light bulb. You will need enough warm water in there, and some kind of added heat if possible, to fight the ground freeze between pump outs.

    As I have posted here before, I now have 40’ of submersible heat trace in both my primary tank and lift station tanks. And I don’t hesitate to flush or shower - meaning I want to add warm water in there. But the weak point in my system continues to be that outflow pipe as it exits the lift station tank. Other than those times when the lift pump kicks on and empties the tank, it has no warm (relatively) water from the system to fight the ground freeze.

    I was worried through November and early December that this year’s early hard cold before snow was going to set us up for a winter/early spring like we had some years back here on the Kenai Peninsula, when water lines were freezing at 15 feet. That was the year my tanks froze. Since then we have maybe a foot of snow on the ground, but it has been cold these past two or three weeks. Hopefully the artificially warm effluent from my tanks will keep things functioning both at that outflow pipe and in the leach line itself.

    By the way, the nominal watt rating of the heat trace is 10 watts/foot, but it is self regulating and my “Kill a Watt” meter tells me the lines are drawing about 120 watts each, rather than 400 watts. I have them on a timer, 12 hours/day in the primary tank and 4 hours/day in the secondary tank, reasoning the material in it has already been warmed. . I have never gotten around to taking the temp of the effluent in the tanks, but I should do that. I suppose too great a temp would inhibit proper digestion of my leftovers. But when I had the tanks pumped and lift apparatus cleaned last summer (first time in 9 years) they said everything looked good.

    They did not, however, say it did not stink.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by CinANC View Post

    By the way, the nominal watt rating of the heat trace is 10 watts/foot, but it is self regulating and my “Kill a Watt” meter tells me the lines are drawing about 120 watts each, rather than 400 watts. I have them on a timer, 12 hours/day in the primary tank and 4 hours/day in the secondary tank, reasoning the material in it has already been warmed. . I have never gotten around to taking the temp of the effluent in the tanks, but I should do that. I suppose too great a temp would inhibit proper digestion of my leftovers. But when I had the tanks pumped and lift apparatus cleaned last summer (first time in 9 years) they said everything looked good.

    They did not, however, say it did not stink.
    I'm up north, no-go on getting it pumped until summer.

    This is what I was looking at

    http://www.thawground.com/category/ground-thawing-tips/

    I know my forced air heater will thaw pretty much anything, maybe I will go with something smaller like this

    http://www.septicheater.com/freeze.htm

    to avoid the possibility of melting my insulated PVC that go from the tank to the house.

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