When it comes to installing a new septic system on your property, lots of factors need to be considered. You need to think about the soil type and local regulations too.
But among them, many people like to keep the cost at a minimum. So, it’s good to have prior knowledge of all the available inexpensive septic system alternatives before you finalize something.
I will talk about those options in this article.
Budget-Friendly Alternative Septic Systems
Alternative septic systems are a little different than the standard septic systems. But they work if you can pick the right one depending on your need.
Here is a list of such alternatives to septic systems: Pressurized Dosing
- Plastic Chamber Leach Field
- Advanced Material Media Filtration (Sand Filter)
- Lagoon system/Constructed Wetland System
- Cesspool system.
- Aerobic Sewage Treatment System
- Drip Distribution System
- Raised Bed/Mound Septic Systems
When you have a good understanding of choosing inexpensive but not cheap alternatives, you can decide easily. So, let’s talk about them more elaborately.
- Plastic Chamber Leach Field
Very easy to install and it will have less space than the conventional leach fields. And if you don’t want to disrupt the existing landscapes of your property, this can be an ideal choice for you.
This alternative also uses a standard septic tank but it uses interlocking polyethylene arches as the leach field instead of the conventional pipe leach field to ensure a continuous drainage area.
Also, you can add geotextile or gravel to improve its longevity but you don’t need them since the chambers offer an empty space so that the effluent can flow through.
Usually, this type of septic system lasts longer than the conventional septic system.
- Advanced Material Media Filtration
A cheap septic system where the conventional septic system is not possible. This system works by filtering the effluent using sand, synthetic textiles, or peat before releasing it to the leach field.
Not all locations have gravel. In such situations, this septic is a great and budget-friendly option.
To filter the effluent, you have many options. But the sand filter is the most common and practical among them.
The sand filter is nothing but a box made PVC or concrete and you put the sand filter box into the ground or above-ground.
The dosing chamber releases the effluent to the sand filter. Then it is collected at the bottom of the filter and ultimately pumped to the leach field.
Another effluent filtering system is geotextiles where a special type of geotextile is either vertically hung or laid horizontally in a container.
It works like a sand filter but it can retain more water than sand.
You will find the geotextile option more efficient if you limited space.
Now, it may sound all good but regular maintenance of the media filtration system is a must. Also, the media filtration system may get clogged and needed to be replaced even with regular maintenance.
- Constructed Wetlands/Lagoon System
In rural areas, it works best. You need a lagoon or pond for this system to work. Also known as constructed wetland, the lagoon system can be made of more than on ponds/lagoons too.
The lagoon system will receive, hold, and treat the wastewater. If the land is cheap where you live, the lagoon system can be a great cost-effective septic system alternative.
- Cesspool Systems
You can still find the cesspool system in older homes. They used to be very common in the past.
It’s nothing but a pit in the ground where the walls of the cesspool are usually lined by metal or stone and it is covered by a lid.
Where you don’t have any option to get the conventional septic system, a cesspool system is another inexpensive option available for you. There are more differences between a cesspool and a septic tank.
Of course, it comes with some problems when it fails but it’s still an option for those who have no other options available to them.
- ATUs – Aerobic Sewage Treatment System
It’s ideal for a single residence or family with small family members. Also, widely available in rural areas but can be installed anywhere if the traditional septic system is not your answer.
As the name suggests, it’s a small-scale sewage treatment system. It works like a septic system but it uses an aerobic process (more air and oxygen).
The oxygen encourages the growth of aerobic bacteria. The bacteria break down the organic waste in the sewage. That’s how the system offers a cleaner effluent.
Since the system uses more air and oxygen, the effluent (wastewater) is of better quality and odorless than the conventional septic system.
Due to the better quality effluent, you will have more flexibility placing the leach field. And it will cut the field size requirement in half!
Now, after the effluent becomes free from the organic waste, it is disinfected through the chlorinator. After the chlorination, the holding chamber holds the clean water and discharges it later.
Now, why this is an ideal alternative?
Well, due to the topographical conditions or difficult soil conditions, you may not be able to install the conventional drain field. So, the ATU can be a great alternative to such locations.
- Waterless Systems
This system completely eradicates the need for a septic system. Instead of using the septic system, people use the toilet as a compost bin.
It can be of many types but some of these toilets have mechanisms where the compost bin is located in a crawlspace outside the home or below the home.
Usually, the toilet has a remote system where the waste is transferred to the bin through a chute.
Another type of this toilet is incinerating toilets. These toilets will burn the waste into ashes!
It may sound weird but trust me that’s one of the most effective green alternatives to septic systems. Being eco-friendly, many people choose to go waterless.
You can see this system in many underdeveloped or developing countries.
- Drip Distribution System
If your property has steep inclines or the soil is very compact or shallow, the drip distribution system can be a good option instead of the traditional septic system.
Structurally, it is a lot similar to the traditional septic system but the drip disposal is a lot better than the conventional one.
Let me explain…
The conventional septic system does not have a better system to treat wastewater. But the drip distribution system has a pre-treatment chamber along with a filtering device to treat the wastewater.
There is an array of drip irrigation tubes. Once the wastewater is treated, the water is sent to that tubes to distribute over a larger area.
Since the water is clean, you can use that water to irrigate your lawn. The grass of your lawn will remove the excess nitrogen from the water and purify the water further.
Learn more about the pros and cons of a drip septic system.
- Raised Bed/Mound Septic Systems (MSS)
When you need something like a standard septic system but the soil around your house is either too shallow or too dense. You can consider it if the water table around your home is too high.
We call it the Mound system because it’s covered with topsoil that forms a mound. So, yes, it’s an above-ground system.
The mounds system has a dosing chamber to collect the wastewater leaving the septic system. This chamber separates the effluent out from the first septic tank’s sludge and scum.
The most important thing about the mound septic tank system is the drainage around it. That drainage will keep the system working properly.
Now, it’s a good alternative to a traditional septic system but I would not call it inexpensive. Besides, it requires high maintenance too.
So, yes, there are both pros and cons of mound septic systems like other systems.
Why And When Do You Need Alternatives To Septic Systems?
Like I said above, a standard septic system is not ideal for everybody due to various situations and property conditions.
Here are some of these situations and conditions where an alternative septic system will make more sense:
- You can’t get a standard septic system when the land is slope and it’s not possible to install it there.
- When the water table is higher.
- For aesthetic reasons, you can’t allow the conventional leach field takes the huge space or you simply don’t have enough space to install it in the first place.
- Too fast or too slow soil percolation rate won’t allow to have conventional septic system.
- Shallow bedrock
- Close proximity to wells or other water sources.
- Past failed experiences with conventional septic system like having septic tank overflowing in yard.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If the standard septic tank is not your option, you can go for a mound septic tank system, waterless system, aerobic treatment system, and so on.
You can always get a composting toilet. From composting to incinerating, it will take care of everything. You won’t be needing any septic tank that way.
That depends on how many people live in your house and the size of the septic tank itself. However, you should pump out the septic tank every 3 or 5 years.
Many people throw away napkins, cigarette butts, cat litter, sanitary napkins, diapers, baby wipes, coffee grounds, and other similar items down their toilets. Not just you will end up with a clogged toilet, these are seriously bad for the septic system too.
No, you can’t. But you can choose a different type of septic tank installation always.
There are certain situations where the inexpensive alternative septic systems for small lots will make more sense. And as you can see there are lots of practical options out there!
Of course, you need to assess the situation of your property first and choose the right alternative that will serve your purpose the most.