Types of Septic System Alarms

Updated March 23, 2017

Septic system alarms come in two types (high water and air pressure) and with a variety of features. They can be placed indoors or out and can alert the homeowner using an audible warning (a buzzer) or a visual cue (flashing lights). The latest septic alarm systems come in both wireless and hard-wired configurations.

Septic System Problems

Septic tank systems can fail or begin to fail for a variety of reasons: the pump which removes water from the tank can break; the pump can lose power (e.g., burn out or shut off after a power outage); the pump can't handle the amount of water entering the tank; water enters the tank through an external source (e.g., groundwater); the pipes become clogged; or the tank leaks.

High Water vs. Air Pressure Alarms

High Water alarms are activated when the amount of water in the tank passes a certain, predetermined level which is calculated to be too near the tank's capacity. High-water alarms monitor the liquid level using either a buoyant float or electronic sensor in the tank, which triggers an alarm when there is too much liquid in the tank. In aerobic septic systems, the air pressure can be monitored, triggering an alarm when the air pressure drops below or above a certain level. Some alarm systems offer both high-water and air pressure warnings, using two, different coloured lights to indicate which problem is occurring.

Alarms do not indicate the exact cause of a problem (e.g., water leaking in from the outside, clogged pipes, etc.). Once an alarm is activated, the septic system owner should immediately contact a septic repair company to determine the cause and make appropriate repairs. Failure to do so could result in the septic tank backing up into the home or building.

An Ounce of Prevention

Septic tank failures cost homeowners millions of dollars each year. A working alarm system will detect problems early, and prompt attention to the warning can prevent serious structural damage to a home, loss of property and unnecessary repair expenditures.

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About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.