The appeals of a #VanLife are not lost on us. Be it for traveling alone or with friends and family, RVs are great for traveling across gorgeous locations in a mobile home. What could be more glamorous than that?
But what’s not so glamorous is the cleaning and maintenance involved. Of all the responsibilities of owning an RV, dumping the RV waste is probably the most challenging one.
How do you dump your RV’s waste? Is it possible to connect an RV to a septic tank?
We’ll address all your questions in this handy guide on methods to dump RV waste into a septic tank. Let’s get started.
The short answer to this is yes. You can dump your RV holding tank into a septic tank. However, there are several aspects to consider before doing this.
Some of the responsibilities include doing your research, learning about your RVs and septic tanks, and gathering the correct supplies.
RVs usually contain three tanks situated on the underside. They are:
This tank holds the freshwater needed for cooking and showering. It’s the water that comes out of the taps in sinks and showers. This is necessary especially when you’re camping in a place without access to city water.
This tank holds the wastewater from your RV sinks and shower. Some old, vintage RVs may not have this separate tank.
This tank holds the wastewater from the toilet. This is where all the wastewater gets dispensed if your RV does not have a grey tank.
If not maintained correctly, these tanks can cause severe problems. It’s also vital to clean these tanks periodically, especially if you stay in a cold location so that they don’t freeze.
Though this may seem obvious, never mix the hoses of different tanks.
It’s important to know about the workings of a septic system before using a septic tank. A septic system refers to an underground sewage structure. This is where domestic wastewater flows through for undergoing basic treatment.
Septic tanks are built using strong materials like concrete, plastic, or fiberglass, and they are generally shaped like a large box. Septic systems are commonly used in areas that are too far from a centralized sewer system or in places where it’s not practical or feasible to have a central sewage system.
Along with settling and anaerobic processes, natural bacteria are used in the basic treatment procedure and to break down the sewage.
Apart from the main tank, there is a system of pipes, a drain field to drain the waste into the environment, and a baffle to separate solid and liquid waste areas in the tank while preventing blocks.
The drain field is generally located very far from the properties and consists of rocks, stones, and other natural materials.
Chemicals are very rarely used in septic tanks as the natural environment created in the tank produces an effective environment for the breakdown of waste utilizing bacteria.
The septic tanks must also be regularly emptied to remove solid wastes that do not drain out into the drain field.
Usually, specific waste management companies with trucks are used to empty these tanks. And thankfully, depending on the system employed, it only needs to be emptied every few years.
However, homeowners need to be cautious about dumping certain solids and cooking materials into the system. One must also exercise caution while planting certain shrubs and trees near the tank as their roots can cause damage to the pipes and tank.
Now that the working of a septic system is out of the way, let’s take a look at some factors that need to be considered before dumping your RV waste into a septic tank.
Are you allowed to dump your RV tank wastes into a home septic system?
Different states and local municipalities have different laws concerning emptying RV waste into a septic tank. Some states and municipalities prohibit you from dumping into a home septic tank. It’s important that you evaluate whether the problems are just related to legal jargon or if there are other complications involved.
The laws vary depending on the terminologies and the kind of tank you’re emptying — whether it’s grey or blackwater. The best option would be to consult your local town or municipal office and enquire about the regulations.
The consequences of not following the guidelines may be severe. You may be fined for damaging the surroundings or bringing new diseases to the area. The fine may cost up to $1,000!
Generally, septic tanks operate without chemicals. There’s a subtle balance that’s created inside the tank by anaerobic and aerobic bacterial processes that aid in breaking down the waste in the wastewater.
It’s not recommended to add chemicals to your septic tank as it can completely change the tank environment and create several pricey complications down the line. Not only does it cause unnecessary stress and headaches, but its replacement expenses might also end up being costlier.
Many people use deodorizing and toilet cleaning chemicals in their RV toilets and blackwater tanks. You shouldn’t use them while emptying your blackwater tank into a septic system. Instead, there are several environmental-friendly alternatives that you can use.
If you plan to dump your grey water tank into your septic tank, make sure to use septic-friendly products including cleaning items, shampoos, and dishwashers that don’t alter the tank environment.
Empty your tanks when you’re sure that they are full. It’s better to not empty your tanks before they’re full, especially in cold weather. Lesser quantities of wastewater have more chances of freezing while a full tank uses gravity to give a good, clean flush.
Here are the steps involved in dumping your RV waste into the septic tank
There are some essentials items to buy before discarding your RV refuse into a septic tank — a protective pump, gloves, and a hose.
Though you won’t be touching the waste, you’ll be dealing with hoses that contain waste. Hence, it’s better to protect your skin from harmful substances.
While a pump is not absolutely necessary, it’s better to have one. You can also keep a water source like a garden hose nearby to clean the system after you’re done.
Before dumping your RV holding tank into a septic tank, keep a cleanout pipe and the septic system’s access port ready.
The cleanout pipes are generally made of PVC and are easily accessible. It’s crucial to use the appropriate pipe and it’s better to seek professional advice before dumping.
Locate your RV’s sideboard where the waste tank valves are situated. You’ll find two valves — one for black water and one for grey.
Attach one end of the RV sewer hose to the wastewater outlet, ensure a snug fit, and the other end of the hose into the septic tank.
Alternatively, if you use a pump, connect the waste pump to the RV and then connect the cleanout pipe to the sewer hose.
It’s better to place your foot or a huge brick onto the end connected to the septic tank to prevent it from getting loose and causing an unpleasant mess.
Also take care to see that the waste flows downwards into the cleanout pipe, particularly if you aren’t using a pump. You can use props like blocks to maintain the position.
After both hose ends are tightly connected, open the valve of the blackwater tank. Make sure to empty your black water tank first so that the grey tank, with its relatively clean water, can wash out your hose afterward.
Switch on the pump or the macerator and let the tank drain completely.
Once the black tank’s flow stops, open the grey water tank’s valve and restart the process. When both the tanks are completely empty, close both valves. Finally, connect a clean source of water and repeat the process to flush out the tanks and hoses.
This is one of the best dumping processes. But in the absence of a cleanout pipe, an access port will do too.
Convenience is the primary advantage when using a septic tank to release your RV waste. If you’re not staying in a camping ground and if there’s no access to a public dumping space, this can be your best option.
This can also be the best method if you’re camping on somebody else’s property or someone else is staying on your premises.
It’s simpler and more convenient to dump your RV tank waste into a septic system instead of dumping it into an indoor drain system.
As stated earlier, if you use chemical products in your RV, there are chances of facing problems while dumping your RV waste in a septic tank. There may also be laws prohibiting you from dumping, and it’s better to be informed about them.
If you regularly dump your RV wastes into your septic tanks, it can disrupt your septic structure, causing leaks and blockages. This issue is very common when the septic tanks are small.
If you’re unable to dump your RV holding tank into a septic tank, here are some alternative options you can try.
Using a camping ground’s dump station is one of the most convenient and best ways of dumping your RV holding tank.
This method involves no legal complications to deal with nor will you have to compromise your home septic system.
If you dump the waste in a campground, there’s no need for excessive vigilance in terms of using any chemicals either.
You can also scout online for RV dump stations.
Another option is to dispense the waste into a municipal sewer or directly into your toilet. The bucket method works best only when there’s a small quantity of waste in your RV holding tanks, and it is best avoided for large quantities of waste.
However, if you dump the waste down the toilet of a home using a septic tank, you must ensure that you avoid chemicals.
If you find the bucket method to be too unpleasant, there’s also an option of using a macerator. Be prepared as this is a relatively complicated method.
A macerator is a grinder that breaks down the waste so that you can flush it down the toilet. It uses a special pump to chop the waste into a viscous solution. You can connect the macerator pump to a hose and channel it to the septic tank or any other cleanout port.
Some sources recommend emptying this waste into your toilet and flushing it. However, there’s a big room for error in this method and you could potentially end up in a messy situation. Hence, it’s better to dump the macerated waste into a cleanout port to prevent unnecessary hassle.
This method is similar to emptying the waste into a septic tank. You will have to use the cleanout pipe on the property that empties into the public sewage system.
An advantage of this method is that you don’t have to worry about avoiding chemicals. However, do go over the local and municipal laws concerning this procedure.
Dealing with the waste disposal of your RV is probably one of the most challenging parts of the RV maintenance process. However, it’s essential to complete this task so that you have the best camping experience.
Dispensing your RV holding tank into a septic tank is one of the best methods of emptying your RV holding tanks.
Using a septic tank is the most convenient method of dumping waste, especially if you’re camping in an area without a dumping station. Moreover, it’s the best choice if there’s no public sewage system available.
But there are numerous aspects to consider before dumping your RV waste into a septic system. Familiarize yourself with the local and state laws, use eco-friendly cleaning products, and then find a septic tank to empty the waste.