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Anaerobic vs Aerobic Septic Systems – What’s the Difference?

November 7, 2023

When you flush the toilet or rinse the dishes in your sink, where does everything go?

For those living in more rural areas or just beyond municipal reach, it all goes to the septic tank that’s located adjacent to your home.

And within the tank, are millions of bacteria and they’re the ones that are responsible for breaking down all the waste.

There are two main types of septic systems – anaerobic and aerobic, each of which has its own pros and cons.

Which is the better choice? What type of septic tank should you get? For the answers, be sure to keep reading. We’ll be going through everything that you need to know below.

Anaerobic vs Aerobic Septic Systems

anaerobic vs aerobic septic systemsAnaerobic and aerobic septic systems handle household waste differently.

An anaerobic septic system (the more conventional septic system) relies on bacteria that don’t need oxygen to break down human waste. The breakdown occurs in the septic tank before the wastewater leaves for further treatment in the leach field.

These anaerobes are hearty creatures; they thrive without requiring much from their environment. That’s one reason why these systems have become so popular outside city limits, where countryside construction often doesn’t include sewage lines.

In contrast, an aerobic septic system works a bit harder to manage your home’s waste. This type of setup uses aerators within three separate tanks to introduce air into the mix. With this boost of oxygen, aerobic bacteria can work efficiently at breaking down organic matter, even quicker than their anaerobic counterparts.

How Does an Anaerobic Septic System Work

The Role of Bacteria in Waste Breakdown

Once human waste enters the system, anaerobic bacteria get to work. They don’t require oxygen to live and play an essential role in breaking down organic matter. As these bacteria colonies consume the solid waste, they convert it into methane gas through anaerobic digestion.

This process doesn’t just happen anywhere either; it’s confined within two main pipes inside the septic tank.

Components of an Anaerobic System

An anaerobic system consists primarily of a trash trap and a pump tank alongside the treatment area or ‘tank’. When you flush your toilet or drain water from sinks and showers, all that liquid travels to this area via one pipe while another lets out gases safely away from your home.

Pros and Cons of Anaerobic Septic Systems

This conventional system functions with the help of bacteria that don’t require oxygen to live.

Anaerobic systems are comprised of two main components – a trash trap where waste enters and a treatment tank where solid waste settles.

This settled waste gets broken down by anaerobic bacteria colonies, which perform the vital task of converting human waste into more environmentally friendly substances.

However, these systems can be difficult to install outside of city limits due to land requirements and percolation tests.

Not only that but solid waste that’s not fully digested can also build up over time leading to potential problems like clogging or backups if not pumped out regularly from the septic tank risers.

One way to help facilitate the bacterial digestion of waste is to use a septic tank additive, like ACTIVE Septic Tank Treatment.

How Does an Aerobic Septic System Work

When it comes to aerobic septic systems, the name of the game is oxygen. Oxygen plays a vital role in breaking down waste efficiently and effectively.

The Role of Oxygen in Waste Breakdown

how does aerobic septic system workOxygen fuels the aerobic bacteria (‘oxygen loving bacteria’) within these treatment systems. These microorganisms need oxygen to survive and use it as an energy source for decomposing organic material from family waste. The oxygen requirement for these bacterial colonies makes them more efficient at degrading waste compared to their anaerobic counterparts.

This enhanced treatment process happens inside what’s known as an aeration compartment or tank. It’s here where air is introduced into wastewater, promoting growth and activity among aerobic bacteria cells.

The Components of an Aerobic Septic System

An aerobic septic system consists of a trash trap, pump tank, drain field (also known as leach field), just to mention a few.

When human waste enters the system via your home plumbing network, it first encounters a trash trap that catches non-biodegradable items before reaching other parts like the mechanical pumps that are designed for pushing treated water out onto your lawn through sprinkler heads.

The end result? Wastewater leaves cleaner than conventional septic systems could ever achieve.

Pros and Cons of Aerobic Septic Systems

These types of septic tanks are similar to their anaerobic counterparts in that they are essential in taking care of waste materials. But how do they stack up?

Pros of Aerobic Septic Systems

One major pro is that aerobic treatment systems are highly efficient at breaking down human waste. This is due to the bacteria colonies inside the systems that thrive in oxygen-rich environments; it makes them more environmentally friendly as well since they release cleaner water into your leach or drain field.

Cons of Aerobic Septic Systems

Aerobic septic tanks aren’t without drawbacks though. They’re typically pricier than conventional septic systems because they have mechanical parts that require regular maintenance. Also, replacing these components can rack up additional costs over time.

Choosing the Best Septic System for Your Needs

choosing the best septic systemDeciding between anaerobic or aerobic septic systems can be a tough call, with advantages and drawbacks for each. To make the best decision, you want to consider two things – your property’s characteristics and budget.

Evaluating Your Property

First, you need to evaluate your property size and location. Aerobic systems generally require more space than their anaerobic counterparts. They also need electricity to run aerators that pump oxygen into wastewater for bacteria cell digestion.

You also want to consider the soil type as that will affect how the waste gets absorbed after treatment. For example, a leach field or drain field will work well in sandy soils but struggle if it’s heavy clay.

Budget Considerations

The other consideration is cost – both initial outlay for tank installation as well as ongoing maintenance expenses like pumping sludge from tanks every few years (or when solids rise).

Anaerobic systems are generally cheaper up front because they’re simpler with fewer mechanical parts needing replacement over time. However, aerobic treatments can be less costly in the long term due to lower environmental impact fees within city limits where strict sewage rules apply.

Comparing Anaerobic and Aerobic Septic Systems

comparing anaerobic and aerobic septic systemsThe choice between anaerobic and aerobic septic systems often comes down to your specific needs. Both have their strengths, but they operate differently.

Anaerobic systems, the more conventional type of septic system, are simple in design. They use bacteria that don’t require oxygen to break down human waste inside a single septic tank.

The solid waste settles at the bottom where it’s consumed by these hard-working little critters. If you’re looking for cost-effectiveness with fewer mechanical parts to worry about, an anaerobic system might be right up your alley.

Aerobic systems, on the other hand, utilize three tanks: a trash trap for larger solids, an aeration tank which introduces oxygen into wastewater (creating conditions perfect for bacteria colonies requiring oxygen), and finally a pump tank from which treated water is distributed onto your lawn through sprinkler heads – environmentally friendly indeed.

Anaerobic vs Aerobic Septic Systems – FAQs

Which is better: aerobic or anaerobic septic system?

It depends on your property and budget. Aerobic systems treat waste more thoroughly, but they’re pricier and complex. Anaerobic systems are simpler, cheaper, but need larger land.

How do I know if I have an aerobic system or anaerobic septic system?

A quick way to tell: if you have a control panel with alarms and breakers near your tank, it’s likely an aerobic system. No panel usually means it’s anaerobic.

What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in the septic system?

The main difference lies in oxygen needs. Aerobes require oxygen to digest waste; anaerobes don’t. Thus, each thrives in different kinds of tanks – aerated for aerobes, non-aeration for anaerobes.

How long does an anaerobic septic system last?

Anaerobic septic systems can last anywhere from 15-40 years given proper care, which includes regular inspections and pumpouts when needed by professionals.

How do anaerobic septic systems work?

Anaerobic septic systems contain anaerobic bacteria that will break down the solid waste in the absence of oxygen.

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Ethan Clarke

Ethan Clarke is a seasoned expert in appliances and household waste systems. Referencing his extensive experience as an appliance repairman, Ethan shares his invaluable knowledge through detailed maintenance & troubleshooting manuals. Ethan’s insights help homeowners understand and maintain their appliances efficiently, ensuring longevity and optimal performance. He’s here to provide practical, easy-to-follow advice for all your appliance needs.

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