Septic Systems vs Sewer

What’s The Difference?

Septic systems and sewer systems are two different ways of treating and disposing of waste and water generated in your home. Both methods work by carrying the water away from your home and treating it so that it can be released back into the environment as clean groundwater. Although they may perform the same function, each system does so in a very different way. It’s helpful to understand how each one works, and why it may be better to choose one over the other, depending on where you live.


WHAT IS A SEWER SYSTEM?

A sewer system consists of the various underground sewer pipes as well as the water treatment facility and all of it is maintained by a municipal utility department. If your home is part of the local sewer system, the wastewater and any other materials that get washed away when you flush your toilet, take a shower, or run water in your kitchen sink, goes down the drains in your home and through the pipes that carry it away. A sewer system connects entire communities and puts the burden of treating wastewater, as well as maintenance of the system, on local government agencies.

WHAT IS A SEPTIC SYSTEM?

Septic systems are a form of on-site waste management used to treat the wastewater from an individual household. It consists of a tank and a drain field with a pipe that carries the wastewater away from the home. The soil in the drain field contains microorganisms that digest the organic materials and remove most of the contaminants from the water before it filters through the soil and into the groundwater. With a septic system, it is the homeowner’s responsibility for the maintenance of the septic system and treatment of the wastewater.

PROS AND CONS OF SEWER AND SEPTIC SYSTEMS

The biggest advantage that sewer systems have over septic systems is that there is less responsibility on the homeowner for maintenance. They are essentially a hands-off option that allows you to have one less thing to think about. The only time you may have to get involved with plumbing maintenance is if you happen to flush an object down your toilet that’s too big. Sewer systems are virtually maintenance-free, although you have to do is pay the monthly bill.

Although tapping into the local sewer system sounds like the way to go, what happens if you live in a rural area, outside the reach of the sewer pipes? In such instances, a septic system offers a way to take care of wastewater. If you are building a new house and it’s possible to connect to a sewer, you may want to weigh your options carefully as connecting to a sewer can have a higher upfront cost than installing a septic system.

When it comes down to it, homeowners who have a choice of whether or not to install a septic system have to weigh convenience over cost. Their choice will depend on how comfortable they are with being responsible for maintenance. Once you’re aware of the do’s and don’ts of owning a septic system, many people prefer them because of the more affordable cost rather than having to pay a sewer utility bill.