Alarms, Controls and Monitors Not Only Protect Your Client’s Investment, But Also The Environment

Septic AlarmAlarms are just as important in aerobic systems as they are in houses and cars. But, telling that to a homeowner can sometimes be a hard sell, especially when that homeowner is looking to cut costs along the way.

If you live in a region where it is not a requirement or law to have an alarm put in, then you have to rely on your persuasive skills and knowledge of the industry.

Alarm and Monitoring Options
In the past year, Dave Couture from Polylok has seen great advances in alarms, monitors, and controls. “There is a lot more technology going into alarms now more than ever,” said Couture. “We have wireless alarms, level monitors, and a duo alarm.”

A wireless alarm can be used to detect tank or filter levels. “This is a great option if you want to save on labor costs and when power is not available at the site,” said Couture. “The unit has 150′ range and is easy to install. The wireless alarm eliminates the need to dig and bury a conduit to power a conventional alarm.”

“We’ve also seen an increase in the interest of a level monitor with a pressure switch. The installer or homeowner can see the exact percentage level of the tank and set the alarm to whatever percentage you want. For instance, if you want to set it to 80 percent, then you know that you have about two weeks to get someone out to check it.”

Although they aren’t new this year, Couture has also seen a rise in the number of duo alarms being installed, which monitor the tank and the filter. “In some areas, these are mandatory,” said Couture.

Eric Swaim with Pro Flo Aerobic Systems has seen a lot of improvements with alarms that aide the maintenance provider when they go out. “There’s a control panel that has a computerized module that records when the pump runs, how long it runs, and if an alarm goes off. A maintenance provider can plug into the panel and download the information. Based on that information, he can figure out how many gallons of water went through the system in any given time and gives him real information to take back to the homeowner.”

Educating the Homeowner
If a homeowner is new to an aerobic system, then they may not realize all of the things that can go wrong. They may look at an alarm on their aerobic system as a nice extra precaution, like an alarm on their house.

But, as Swaim can tell you, homeowners can be in for a surprise when their system backs up into their house or into their yard. “When you have city people move out into the country, you have to make sure that you educate the homeowner on how to properly use and maintain their system. About 90 percent of problems can be avoided by simply educating the homeowner.”

“There are homeowners that are used to doing all of their laundry on Saturday when they have a city wastewater plant,” said Swaim. “If you do that with an aerobic system, then you’ll have it spraying out in your yard. Homeowners need to understand that they can buy an efficient system. But they also need to know how to maintain it and put alarms on it so that if something goes wrong, they will know about it in a timely manner.”

Pointing out the cost of reconstructing a leach field as something that is likely to happen can help convince a homeowner that alarms and monitors are worth the investment.

“For example, if you don’t clean out your tank and don’t have an alarm that warns you to clean it out, and your system fails, then it will either back up into the house, or it will overrun the system and flood out in the field,” says Couture.

In addition to the cost of fixing their aerobic system, an overspill can contaminate local water supplies. If you have an overspill at a residence, it can run off into a neighbor’s yard, into the ground, the water supply, creeks, or recharge zones. “When you get a system that is not absorbing or a system that is full, the water has nowhere to go,” explains Couture. “When it floods out in a field, the waste goes everywhere—into streams and yards. Water always takes the path of least resistance.”

Environmental Impact
Some cities now require homeowners to install an alarm or an autodialer to their system.
Autodialers can call or text up to several numbers. Some will continue to call until someone picks up. The devices range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on what you want it to do.

“A year and a half ago, Harris County, where Houston is located, made it mandatory for all aerobic systems (residential and commercial) to have autodialers,” says Swaim.

“An alarm goes to a central location. Whichever maintenance provider is assigned to that location is notified about that alarm through text or email about the specific system failure (high water, air loss, low chlorine, pump failure, etc) so that he is prepared before he gets to the site.”

Harris County put these regulations in place to improve their water quality. “The state is slowly changing and a few of the counties have put these extra precautions in place. We may all be using that system in a few years, but right now in Texas, it’s just in the main metropolitan areas.”

“The industry as a whole is very healthy and treats the environment well,” says Swaim. “As long as an aerobic system is maintained properly, and the homeowner only puts in what is supposed to be put in, it will function correctly and not harm the environment.”

When a homeowner learns that with an alarm, or other controls in place that they can prevent costly problems and environmental hazards, it can be a fairly easy sell. Because in the end, no parent wants their children playing in a yard full of wastewater.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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