Inexpensive Septic System Alternatives

Most people are familiar with the typical septic system. The traditional septic tank and leach field system may or may not function based on the landscape on which it is built. Landowners have to adopt an alternate septic system in those cases where conventional methods do not work. The unusual water accumulation in your garden or leach field is the first sign that you may need to switch systems. It’s possible that you’ll need to install one of the inexpensive septic system alternatives.

To build an alternate septic system, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors. These include the size of the land, soil depth, materials, and cost. [1]

It would be best if you considered the ground on your property together with the surrounding environment before deciding which system is the best for you. If you’re not sure about which septic system is best for your property and budget, you might need to contact a local septic service company for advice.

What are inexpensive septic system alternatives?


Alternative septic systems refer to units that function differently from the conventional septic system. When site and soil conditions on a property are limited, or when the effluent is not adequately treated enough for the receiving environment, an alternative solution is required. [2] 

Before releasing the effluent to the receiving environment, alternative systems purify it by lowering the organic load, nutrients, and pathogens. In most cases, such systems require less physical space. This means drain fields can be smaller and more efficient as a result.

Because alternative systems are more advanced, they require more maintenance. They utilize more equipment and operate in a sensitive environment, which means that they are sufficiently complicated.

Alternative systems that don’t work correctly have an impact on public health and welfare. If they are not adequately maintained, they have a high chance of failure.

Regular maintenance by a licensed operator improves treatment, lowers the risk of costly repairs, and preserves the environment. Alternative systems are usually subject to performance requirements set by the local health and building agencies.

The owner should adhere to the system’s Operation and Maintenance Manual and have the system inspected at least yearly by a licensed operator. [3]

Do you need an alternative septic system?


The fact that traditional septic systems are common does not indicate that they are suitable for all properties. There are numerous reasons why the conventional sewage treatment approach may not always work.

Some plots of land, for example, have bedrock that is too close to the earth’s surface. It is impossible to dig deep enough to build a septic tank because of this.

Many individuals also live close to water sources that are particularly vulnerable to pollution, implying that the traditional effluent treatment method of septic tanks is insufficient to preserve the ecosystem.

Another major challenge that many homeowners have to confront is constructing alternative septic systems on land that does not “perk.” The soil’s ability in absorbing and retaining water is referred to as “perking.” If you put a typical septic system on land that won’t absorb all that water, you can have a flooded leach field on your hands.

This is because wastewater is released into the soil as part of a traditional septic system. Before entering the groundwater system, the effluent is further cleaned in the ground by bacteria and plants.

Fortunately, the field will have to pass a “perk” (percolation) test before you break ground on any new septic system [4].

This is to ensure that the soil is suitable for a traditional septic tank. Never fear if your field fails the perc test or you have additional concerns regarding a conventional septic system on your property.

Alternative septic systems are helpful in such a situation. Each alternative septic system necessitates a different level of maintenance. Additionally, alternative septic systems, the cost varies depending on the equipment required to operate correctly.

Inexpensive Septic system alternatives


  1. Mound Septic system

If the soil surrounding your building is too dense or shallow, or the water table is too high, mound systems are an excellent inexpensive septic system alternative to septic tanks. The mound system is a popular alternative to conventional septic systems, although they are more expensive and need regular servicing.

They are constructed above the ground with topsoil. They are also equipped with an additional device known as the pump chamber. The chamber divides effluent from sludge and scum in the first septic tank. The mound septic system cost ranges from $10,000 to $20,000, with a $500 yearly maintenance fee.

Mound septic systems have a number of advantages, including:

  • They’re ideal for areas where in-ground septic systems aren’t possible;
  • They don’t pollute oceans or rivers; and
  • They don’t pollute oceans or rivers.

Nevertheless, mound septic systems are pretty costly compared to traditional designs. The extra cost is created from the need to pump the waste through the treatment process because it can’t flow uphill on its own.

  1. Pressurized dosing

The pressurized dosing system employs pressure to evenly and precisely deliver effluent onto the leach field. The strategy might be ideal for rehabilitating a drain field following a septic system failure. Since this approach focuses solely on effluent distribution into the ground, it can be implemented together with the water treatment technologies listed below.

  1. The plastic chamber leach field

A plastic chamber drain field is one of the best inexpensive alternative septic systems for small lots and locations with fluctuating or shallow groundwater tables. The plastic half-pipe chamber is used instead of the gravel in the drain field, generating a gap for the effluent to flow through.

The plastic chambers are half-moon-shaped and sit in the soil with the open side facing down. They allow effluent to contact the soil underneath them, purifying the water and allowing it to drain into the ground. This system can cost between $1,500 and $10,000.

These systems have the following advantages:

  • They last longer than traditional septic systems
  • They are less expensive
  • They are easier to inspect chambers
  • They have a smaller carbon footprint

This system is only affordable if you have access to low-cost gravel. Otherwise, the expense may be prohibitive.

  1. Sand filter system

This is a big 2-4 feet deep sandbox with a concrete or PVC watertight liner. Before disposing of effluent to the leach field, aerobic bacteria and filtration are used to treat the sand. The boxes are partially or wholly buried in the ground, although they can also be raised above ground level if necessary.

While gravity distribution is possible in some situations, the most common system uses a pump and controls to dispense the effluent on top of the filter equally.

The effluent is then collected at the bottom and gravity-fed or pumped to the leach field. Before sending the effluent to the drain field, some sand filters recycle it to the tank multiple times. Sand filters are typically used as a pretreatment, but they can also be utilized as the primary treatment.

The effluent goes directly into the soil beneath the filter, earning it the name “bottomless sand filter” .To avoid frequent sand blockage, sand filters must be well-engineered and manufactured and well maintained. This device is one of the compact septic systems and can operate without a leach field. It costs anything from $6,000 to $10,000.

The following are some of the benefits of a sand filter septic system:

  • It’s ideal for areas where there isn’t enough soil to filter out water waste naturally.
  • No need to spend a lot of energy treating wastewater
  • Ideal for rocky locations

The main system disadvantage is that the system frequently gets clogged because the pipes are smaller. Furthermore, if there is too much wastewater in the tank, it will overflow.

  1. Aerobic treatment unit

The wastewater is treated using an aerobic technique in a multi-chamber concrete tank usually buried underground. Four chambers collect, aerate, filter, and pump the effluent in the most complicated systems. The first chamber functions just like a regular septic tank but on a smaller scale. An air pump is used to continuously inject air into the wastewater in the second “treatment” tank.

Aerobic bacteria handle sewage more efficiently than anaerobic bacteria in a conventional septic system, thanks to the presence of oxygen. A third and fourth chamber are utilized in specific systems to clarify the water further and pump it out. A synthetic media filter is also used in so-called “fixed-film” systems to aid the bacterial process.

Aerobic systems usually result in higher-quality effluent than typical systems when adequately maintained. Similarly, the purified wastewater may be disinfected before being discharged.

In rural areas, the discharge could be to a small drain field or sprayed over a broad region. Septic systems which rely on aerobic treatment are technically tiny sewage-treatment plants. They are commonly referred to as aerobic treatment units (ATUs).

Because these systems are costly to construct and maintain, they are typically employed in situations where high-quality treatment is required in a small space or with poor soils.

On waterfront properties, they’re becoming more frequent because they are among the best green alternatives to septic systems. The system ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 for a single ATU installation.

Its advantages are outlined below:

  • It saves space
  • It reduces groundwater pollution
  • It allows selection from a number of design alternatives
  • Reduces septic odors
  • It is simple to install

The aerobic system requires a lot of care and can cost up to three times as much as a regular septic system.


  1. Drip distribution/irrigation

A pump distributes wastewater to an array of shallow drip tubes dispersed over a vast area via a filtering system. To deliver clean water to the system, a pretreatment unit is necessary. The water might be applied to water a lawn or non-edible plants that absorb nitrogen from the wastewater.

This technique is suitable for shallow soils, clays, and steep slopes. In cold regions, freezing can be an issue because the tubes are close to the surface. Expect hefty installation costs, as well as additional monitoring and maintenance, as with other alternative systems. The drip distribution system cost ranges from $6,000 to $10,000.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Drip Distribution Systems

Drip distribution systems aren’t as prevalent as they once were, but they do have their advantages, such as:

  • They work well in locations with high water tables.
  • It does not necessitate regular pumping.

These systems tend to have more components than standard tanks and thus may not be suitable for smaller properties.

  1. Constructed wetland system

This is a self-contained septic system that can be used in practically any sort of soil by those who desire to take an active role in wastewater recycling. An artificial shallow pond is lined and filled with rock, tire chippings, or other material in this system. Special facilities that treat wastewater and give a pleasant atmosphere live in the medium.

A perforated pipe distributes wastewater from the septic tank across the bed, where it is broken down by plant roots, bacteria, and other microorganisms. The treated water is collected in a second pipe towards the back of the marsh. The homeowners should allocate time to plant, trim, and weed the wetlands area.

  1. Waterless Systems

This is another excellent inexpensive septic system alternative. You’re basically utilizing your toilet as a compost bin instead of a septic tank. Some of the bathrooms include a remote mechanism that directs the waste to a compost bin via a chute. The container is hidden in a crawlspace beneath or outside the house.

In addition, there are incinerating toilets that will turn your waste into ash. Waterless septic system designs range in price from $1,100 to $2,000.

Benefits of waterless septic systems include:

  • Conservation of water
  • Cost-effective
  • On-site waste treatment
  • Less toxic
  • minimal destruction of the environment
  • Lower maintenance costs

Although the system has numerous advantages, it also necessitates additional maintenance. Failure to service the system will result in odor and bug problems that are impossible to eradicate. Furthermore, this choice is more costly than the low-flow options.

Related: Can Septic Tank Be Uphill From House

Final Word

You should not be worried if your building is neither connected to the municipal sewer system nor suitable for a traditional septic tank. There are numerous inexpensive septic system alternatives available for circumstances like these. However, you may want to engage an expert to inspect your property first so that you may better understand your possibilities.

You can select the best alternative for your situation by studying the benefits and drawbacks of each option and comparing them to your budget. Remember to also check with your local authorities to confirm that your choice complies with local legislation.

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