Many of today's newer septic systems come complete with a built-in septic tank alarm. This alarm is contained inside the tank itself and is designed to alert a homeowner when the effluent (wastewater) inside the tank reaches a certain level. This could be caused by something as simple as high water usage inside the home or something as serious as a malfunctioning pump or other component.
How to Tell if Your System Has an Alarm
Septic tank alarm systems come with both a visual and audio signal. Hardwired into your home's electrical system, they are usually situated somewhere with easy access: the garage, laundry room, basement, or under the kitchen sink. Locating this panel is probably the best and easiest method of determining whether or not you have a septic alarm.
When Your Alarm Goes Off
A septic system alarm can sound for numerous reasons. Anything from a component malfunction to excess water being drained into the tank can cause this to occur. Many systems have their effluent pump set up on a timer to control the frequency of wastewater released into the drainfield. Excess water usage from normal household activities or ground water leaking into the tank can cause the effluent level to rise quickly, causing the alarm to sound.
Your alarm box should be equipped with two buttons: one red and one green. The green button signals the alarm has power and should always be on. The red button will flash when there is a problem with the system. When the alarm begins to sound, the red button will begin to flash. Manually turning the alarm off will silence the audio alarm but the red button will continue to be lit until the problem is resolved.
Walk around the septic system and visually inspect the ground surrounding the tank checking for pooling water. Allow the pump to run through several cycles while limiting water consumption inside the home, then check to see if the alarm light has gone off. Often, all that is needed is a little time to allow the additional water to funnel through the pump and out into the drainfield.
If the alarm is still on, then it's time to contact your septic company. Be sure to contact them as soon as you can and describe the problem. They can let you know how long you have before sewage will start to back up, as well as come out and solve the problem for you. Just remember to continue to limit water usage until either the pump catches up or you have your system inspected by a professional.