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Does Your Septic Tank Need a Filter?

Septic systems are comprised of several components that all play essential roles in separating and treating wastewater. An effluent filter (a.k.a septic system filter, outlet filter, effluent screen, etc.) is a relatively cheap addition to residential septic tanks that will extend the life of your entire septic system. The devices require very little maintenance from homeowners while providing peace of mind to the household and its drain field.

There are plenty of variations of on-site wastewater treatment systems; however, they all aim to achieve the same goal: filter and treat wastewater before it returns to the environment. As the treatment of wastewater has evolved, we have gained a better understanding of its effects on the environment. Proper wastewater treatment is crucial to protecting the environment and the health of the general public from dangerous bacteria that are present in our treatment systems.

What is an effluent filter

An effluent filter is a cylindrical device installed on the outlet baffle of a septic tank that assists in the removal of solids from wastewater before it enters into a drain field. These effluent filters are designed to protect the drain field and allow for cleaner and more clear effluent to exit the tank.

The elimination of carryover solids from the septic tank by installing and maintaining the effluent filter minimizes the risk of a blockage and premature failure of the drain field. Some older wastewater treatment systems may not yet have an effluent filter. However, as septic systems have evolved, filters have become a standard operational component. Additionally, these components are a great addition to the proper maintenance of a septic system that can easily be installed onto existing tanks.

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Most towns and counties require by code that an effluent filter is installed on septic tanks, as part of the engineered system. Check with your local County to learn more about the requirements of on-site wastewater treatment on your property.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Effluent Filters

In the case of effluent filters, the benefits tend to outweigh the disadvantages. The EPA states that the presence of a properly installed effluent filter will extend the life of one’s leach field and improve the quality of effluent.


  • Cost-effective – The price of effluent filters is affordable
  • Prevent solids from entering drain fields and premature failure
  • Easily installed onto existing septic tanks
  • Require little maintenance
  • Peace of mind


  • Regular cleaning is required to maintain optimal operation
  • Due to their nature, clogging can occur


In many septic systems, an effluent filter may be optional – as you now know, there are plenty of benefits to installing a filter, so you may be wondering how much it will cost you. Typically, residential septic systems operate with a 1/16-inch filtration slot; however, the exact size is dependent on the household size, water use, and the age of its system.

On most residential septic systems, the cost of an effluent filter will range from $100 to $300 depending on the unit and installation charges. The price of a failed drain field will cost thousands of dollars and have adverse effects on the environment surrounding it, posing public health risks as well.

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Maintenance of Effluent Filters

Your effluent filter acts as an additional barrier for solid waste, preventing any solid particles from making their way into the leaching field. Though maintenance will be minimal, regular cleaning is required for optimal performance. Because of the nature of the component, solids will collect over time. Watch for signs that it might be time for cleaning. If the drains in your home seem sluggish or there is a gurgling noise coming from drains around your house, it could be the effluent filter. It may also be a sign that its time to have your septic tank pumped and cleaned if it has been a while. Most times, filter maintenance will simply consist of scraping off the solids that have built up on the filter screen.

During routine septic service, such a pumping out the tank, the filter should be inspected and cleaned. For the average residential household, the septic tank will require pumping every 1-3 years. Of course, this will vary for each person depending on their characteristics, such as household size, the amount of water used, and the number of solids that get filtered through. Preventing unnecessary solids from entering the septic system is essential to the success of all wastewater treatment systems. Remember to follow the septic do’s and don’ts to extend the life of your system and prevent expensive repairs.

A compromised drain field can have dramatic economic and environmental consequences, so it is vital to ensure it remains operating correctly. Installing or replacing an existing effluent filter on the septic tank provides additional protection at an affordable cost. Protect your drain field and prevent expensive emergency repairs by installing or inspecting an effluent filter. Contact us to schedule a service or visit our residential services page to learn more about the services we offer near you!

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