Can You Flush the Toilet When the Power Is Out?

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If you’re trying to flush the toilet in your home and the power is out, you might be wondering if it’s possible. The answer depends on where you live and what kind of toilet system your home is using.

For most toilets, you should be able to flush a few times using the already stored water – known as a final flush.

Can You Flush the Toilet When the Power Is Out?

In most cases, yes. If you have water and a gravity-fed toilet system, you should be able to flush indefinitely as it doesn’t require electricity.

However, other toilet systems such as upflush toilets that rely on electricity won’t work during a power outage.

To be precise, whether or not you can flush a toilet when the power is out really depends on two factors, the type of toilet system and the water supply.

1) Type of Toilet System

There are three types of toilet systems installed in most homes.

1. Gravity-Fed Systems

If you have a gravity-fed toilet system, the answer is simple: yes, you can flush the toilet with the power out.

A gravity-fed toilet doesn’t rely on electricity to function and will continue to flush even without power. These toilets have a small tank at the top, which can store up to 3/4 of a gallon to 1 gallon of water.

When the handle on this tank is pushed, the weight of water flows down due to gravity and pushes the bowl’s content out.

All homes with gravity-fed systems should be able to flush indefinitely so long as there is water in the tank—something that typically won’t be an issue during a power outage.

However, if the water supply in your home is from a well and uses an electric pump to refill, you may have to fill the water tank manually to flush.

2. Pump Based Systems

If your home uses a pump-based toilet system, you may be able to flush your toilet without electricity.

Since these systems are partially gravity-fed and use water under pressure to function, they will be able to flush intermittently during an extended power outage.

However, pump-based toilet systems use a separate tank to store the flushed waste before pumping to public sewer systems. So, while you can flush the waste out of your toilet bowl (using gravity), it’ll be stored in the tank, and electricity is required for the pump to push away the waste from there.

If there’s no electricity for a long time, the tank may overflow with waste—not a situation you want to be in.

If you have a gauge on the tank that indicates when it is full, you can flush until it reaches a concerning level. But if you don’t, it’s best to avoid flushing during a power outage and wait until the electricity comes back.

3. Upflush and Other Electric Pump Toliets

If you have upflush toilets (aka macerating toilets) that use electricity to function, the answer is no.

These systems are usually installed in basements and other areas where gravity-fed systems won’t work (such as when the sewer system runs above ground).

The flushing mechanism on these toilets is similar to gravity-fed, i.e., water rushes down from the tank and empties the content of the bowl. But, the waste is then fed into a macerator whose job is to break down the waste into a slurry.

The macerator relies on an electric pump to flush waste upwards into the public sewer system. Without electricity, the pump won’t work and won’t be able to move the waste up to the public sewer.

So even if you can flush the toilet, what’s flushed away will be in your tank and not going anywhere until electricity returns.

2) Water Supply

The next factor on whether you can flush the toilet when the power is out is the water supply—city water or well water.

1. City Water (municipal)

City water is generally a reliable source of water during a power outage. The water is stored in water towers and uses gravity and pressure pumps to keep water moving.

Depending on your location, city management has power backups in place to ensure the water supply isn’t affected when lights are out.

So, even when there’s no electricity for days, you should be able to flush your city-fed toilet indefinitely. The only thing that matters is where you live:

  • If You Live in A House: You’ll get an uninterrupted water supply and can flush to your heart’s desire as long as municipal water is available.
  • If You Live in An Apartment: Apartment complexes and commercial buildings often use their own electrical pumps to provide water to individual locations on the property. So, you may not get access to water if there are no power backups installed.

2. Well Water

If you use well water and pump electricity to keep the well working, you won’t be able to flush when the power goes out.

This is a problem because wells require electricity for 2 reasons:

  1. A submersible pump at the bottom of your well pulls up groundwater into your holding tanks. This is how you get access to water.
  2. A pressure pump sends water from your holding tanks to the fixtures in your home through a network of pipes. This is how you get access to pressurized water.

So, in case of power failure, you’ll have access to the water stored in the holding tanks (capacity differs but usually between 10 to 30 gallons)

After that, if you want to flush, you’ll need a generator to start pumping water from the well to your holding tank and then to your toilet tank.

How to Prepare for a Power Outage

Preparations for power outages are essential to know especially if you live in places where this is common. Here are a few tips to help you be prepared for the next time it happens:

1. Store backup water

If your well is powered by electricity, you should consider storing a supply of water. Just in case the power goes out for more than just a few hours (like during hurricanes), you can have extra water stored away, so you don’t have to miss flushing the toilet.

2. Fill flushing tank manually

If you use a gravity-fed or pump-based toilet system with a built-in tank, you can fill the flushing tank with water manually. This will allow you to flush even if there’s no electrical power as long as municipal water is available.

3. Install a generator

If you can’t store water or fill the flushing tank manually, consider installing a generator. These are standalone power sources that provide electricity for your home when there’s no light.

Of course, generators require gasoline to run, so this is why it’s important to know how much fuel is left at all times. You don’t want to be stranded with a dead generator and no gas to keep it running.

4. Store enough drinking water

Store enough water for each member of your family. Be mindful of children and older adults who have higher limits for fluid consumption per day.

5. Make a list of places you can go to get water

Know where you can get water in case you run out. You won’t want to find yourself in a situation where there’s no water and no way to generate electricity.

Here are a few places you can go to get water:

  • Your public library might have access to a functional electricity generator or be open for extended hours as an emergency shelter.
  • Your local fire department might also serve as an emergency shelter and have water available.
  • A church with a functioning generator could provide you with drinking water as well.
  • You can also get water from neighbors or friends who don’t live too far away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put water in my toilet tank to flush the toilet during a power outage?

Yes, you can manually fill water into the flushing tank to flush during a power outage. A toilet tank usually can hold up to 1 or 1.5 gallons of water which shall be suitable for several flushes.

Do toilets work without power?

Gravity-fed and pump-based toilet systems will work without power. With these, you can flush using gravity or smaller amounts of stored water in the tank, which is enough to get rid of waste.

Final Words

To sum up, there are a few ways to handle the problem of flushing the toilet during a power outage. You can store water in your holding tanks, manually fill your flushing tank with water, or install a generator if you don’t have access to municipal water.

Hopefully you now know whether or not can you flush the toilet when the power is out.

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