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Septic System vs. Sewer: What’s the Difference?

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What to expect during a septic tank pumping

Ever wonder what happens to your wastewater when you flush your toilet or take a shower? Does it all go to the same place? As long as there is no problem, no need to think about it, right?

Many homeowners get by with this mindset, but they forget that septic systems are actually more sensitive to household usage — and unlike with homes using city sewers, the maintenance/repair costs are left up to the homeowner.

Where’s it going?

So where is all the wastewater going? All the homes in the city are hooked up to the city sewer, right? Not true.

There are thousands of homes in San Antonio that were built before there was a city sewer, and remain on septic systems. Some of these areas include Shavano Park, Hollywood Park, Hill Country Village, and Castle Hills — but there are more as well.

So what’s the difference?

Septic systems are like a mini-sewage treatment plant for your individual home. Conventional septic systems do not have monthly maintenance, but should be cleaned every 3-5 years.

On the other hand, city sewage systems such as the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) usually charge monthly for their service. On average, the monthly cost of a city sewer service is about the same as pumping your tank every few years — since aerobic systems require more maintenance, they have a higher homeowner expense than a conventional system or city sewer.

Besides cost, they all work differently from each other. City sewer requires the least amount of homeowner awareness and maintenance. Homeowners may need to occasionally have the main pipe from the house to the city sewer line cleaned, repaired, or replaced, but that’s usually all.

With a septic system the entire system is the homeowner’s responsibility. No septic system lasts forever, so a replacement cost is inevitable at some point.

Impact of household usage

Household usage also has a great impact of how a septic system works versus a city sewer.

A septic system is designed to handle a certain amount of wastewater. Overuse (too many occupants, parties, or guests) or leaks adding water to the system can cause the system to fail. A homeowner connected to a city sewer does not have to consider these potential issues.

Should you buy a house with a septic system?

As San Antonio continues to grow, new homes are being built on the outskirts of town. SAWS has not extended city sewage services to these areas, so many of these homes are on septic systems.

Buying a home with a septic system shouldn’t be scary — especially if you make sure to get it properly inspected during your option period.

Need septic maintenance?

Whether you are in need of routine septic system maintenance or aren’t even sure if your home is on a septic system, we can help.

We installed our first septic system in 1937, so there’s not much we haven’t seen.

Need help with your septic system? Give us a call at 210.698.2000 (San Antonio) or 830.249.4000 (Boerne) or contact us online to see how we can help keep your septic system functioning at its peak.


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