We often receive questions about the difference between a septic system and an aerobic septic system. Some of the most significant differences between the two are their cost, the bacteria inside the system, and where the systems can be installed. In this article we will go over the ins and outs of aerobic septic systems and how high quality bacteria products fit into that picture.
Before we dive more deeply into this septic system conversation, it is important to note that an aerobic system is still a septic system. The purpose of both traditional and aerobic systems is to break down waste. The difference comes in the processes behind how the two systems work. Let's explore what those differences are in a little more detail.
To understand both treatment systems better, we first need to understand the different types of bacteria that exist in both system types.
There are two main types of bacteria, aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic need oxygen to thrive and are very effective at breaking down sludge, grease and residue. As a byproduct of this waste break down they create carbon dioxide and water.
Anaerobic bacteria on the other hand do not need oxygen to thrive. Anaerobic bacteria also do a great job of breaking down waste but the key difference between these two types of bacteria is that Anaerobic bacteria primarily create hydrogen sulfide gas and methane as byproducts.
Hopefully this quick overview gives a little insight into how these types of bacteria change based on the kind of environment they are in.
Now that we have talked about the different types of bacteria, lets look at aerobic septic systems.
Aerobic septic systems differ from septic systems in one vital way. Aerobic systems pump oxygen into a waste tank to increase the activity of aerobic bacteria. Without this oxygen influx, a normal septic system has increased activity of anaerobic bacteria, which are often less efficient than their aerobic counterparts. In the big picture, this means the effluent (or out flow) from an aerobic system is significantly “cleaner” than the effluent from a septic system. This cleaner effluent means the drain field has to perform less filtration, which, in turn, potentially means less maintenance and work to keep things running.
By now it seems like everything points overwhelmingly in the favor of the aerobic septic system, so why would anybody choose a normal septic system? According to http://deq.state.ok.us (the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality) the first factor is upfront cost. A septic system includes a tank in the ground and some sort of lateral lines (or a tank or a lagoon). Though this is all still expensive, it is significantly less expensive than an aerobic system which has at least one tank (typically two tanks), an aerator, a disinfection unit, another tank, a pump, and a dispersal unit. Some aerobic systems may be slightly less complicated than this example, but they have significantly more cost involved due to the added structures and units. Furthermore, aerobic systems need constant electrical flow to the aerator and typically have some sort of disinfection unit that is also electronic or consumes chlorine tablets.
So if a traditional septic system is cheaper, then why do people choose the Aerobic System? According to The Pipeline, a publication by West Virginia University, it all comes down to the drain field and soil type. If the soil in an area doesn’t absorb much liquid or a high water table prevents percolation et cetera, a traditional leach field may not be an option, because they need an area with high percolation rates. In these instances, an aerobic system’s increased efficiency and disinfection stage mean the effluent water can even be sprayed above ground to evaporate away.
Now that we know the difference between the two system types, how do Unique products, including our Septic System Digester, perform in each system?
Unique Drain + Septic's septic treatments are made to work flawlessly in both system types. The bacteria that we selected for our proprietary blend are known as facultative bacteria. Sacramento State defines facultative bacteria as, “Facultative bacteria can use either dissolved oxygen or oxygen obtained from food materials such as sulfate or nitrate ions. In other words, facultative bacteria can live under aerobic, anoxic, or anaerobic conditions.” This keeps them working in both normal septic and aerobic Systems. Furthermore, because they are facultative, if something happens in an aerobic system (say the aerator or electricity goes out) the bacteria will simply switch to an anaerobic state and keep breaking down waste. Aerobic systems can experience mass bacteria die off when the aerator stops providing enough oxygen to the bacteria so it helps to have flexible bacteria strains that can continue to work even when you have technical problems.
In conclusion, the biggest differences between aerobic septic systems and septic systems are primarily mechanical. But they also differ in the kind of bacteria they use and their cost. An aerobic system might be your best option if you are willing to spend the money, have a high water table or if the soil can't absorb much water in your area. As with everything, keeping your system up and running takes a consistent effort and the right treatment habits. Which is why we always recommend Unique Drain + Septic Products to treat your system. Our proprietary blend of bacteria and waste digesting microbes works hard so you don't have to. Keeping your systems clean and clog free regardless of your system type.