What do I do if My Septic Alarm is Going Off?

If you’ve ever experienced your septic alarm going off, it can definitely cause some panic and confusion; and if you happen to be experiencing that right now, you’ve come to the right place! Don’t worry, it does not necessarily require immediate attention, so take your time to read the entirety of this article so you know what to do either now or in the future.

How Septic Systems Work

The alarm works in coordination with the septic system for the purpose of warning you when the water level within the pump tank has risen too high or has dropped too low. All septic systems with pumps will normally have some sort of timer installed. The timer manages the time intervals within which the pump is allowed to pump wastewater into the drain field. These specific time intervals happen at key times during the day. This prevents the drain field from becoming overflowed during any period of increased water use, which could potentially harm the drain field.

What’s Happening When There’s a Problem

If for whatever reason, a lot of water is being introduced into the system in between the pumping cycles, the water will have no place to go besides the pump tank. Consequently, the water level will rise inside the pump tank until the timer allows for the pump to come back on. Since the timer only allows the pump to come on for certain time intervals, it may take several pumping cycles before the water is pumped back down to normal levels, depending on how much water was and continues to be, introduced into the system.

Potential Causes for the Alarm to Go Off

  1. Too much water is being introduced into the septic system. This is the result of too much water usage, which could be due to several loads of laundry, an abnormal amount of dishwashing, or maybe a lot of long showers.
  1. Groundwater is somehow getting into the system. If too much standing water, caused by rain or another source, accumulates around the septic tanks, the water can potentially seep into the tanks and cause the internal water level to rise.
  1. There may be a problem with one of the septic system’s components. Anything, including the pump, floats, alarm, and timer, could possibly be faulty and cause the septic system to not work properly.

What to do When the Alarm Goes Off

If the alarm happens to be going off, the best thing to do is to push the red button or switch on the alarm box. This will turn off the alarm. There should be a red light and a green light located somewhere on the alarm box. The green light means that the alarm has power and should always be on. The red light indicates the alarm is receiving a signal from the pump tank that the water level is rising higher or is dropping lower than it should be.

Next, check the septic breaker to ensure the system has power. If the breaker happens to be on, check to see if there is any standing water surrounding the septic tanks. Let the septic system run a couple of pump cycles (should last about 10-15 hours) and the red light on the alarm box may go out on its own. Try to minimize water usage during this time. If the red light goes out, that means the system is working properly and just needed to catch up with the excess water overflow in the tank. 

However, if the red light is still on, contact your septic company (like Miller’s) for emergency service. To clarify, an alarm signal from the septic system does not mean sewage is going to immediately back up into the house. The alarm is set up to go off at a time that will allow for 24-48 hours of regular usage (though you should try to minimize usage) until a backup will happen.

Need regular maintenance or emergency service on your septic system? Call (804) 581-0001 or visit our contact page to schedule an appointment. 

Want more info on septic systems? Explore our web pages on septic systems at, and under, the navigation tab for “Septic”.

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