Can You Flush the Toilet When the Power Is Out: Veteran Plumber’s Prime Advice

A power outage is a headache that interrupts normal household functioning. No air-conditioning, no hot shower. You may even wonder; can I flush the toilet with no power?

The waste removal system of your home determines whether you can flush your toilet when the power is out.

Can you flush the toilet when the power is out? You can flush the toilet during a power outage if you live in a house with a gravity-fed waste removal system. When water is required for the toilet tank, water flows from a main storage tank of water through a pipe into the toilet’s tank.

If you live in a house with an electricity-powered waste removal system, flushing the toilet will be a problem during a power outage.

According to plumbing experts at Art Plumbing, a gravity-based sewage system will flush even after power is out. Flushing electricity-based sewage systems will be a problem when the power goes out.

Types of Waste Removal Systems/Toilets

  • Gravity-Fed Waste Removal Systems

A gravity-fed waste removal system uses gravitational force to push waste downwards. The waste moves through the waste pipes into the sewer.

Toilets on gravity-fed systems have their water tanks at the top. This allows the water to drop down to the toilet bowl.

As the water drops down the toilet bowl, it creates pressure that pushes the waste down into the sewer.

  • Pump Based Systems/Upflush Toilets

The Upflush toilets depend on electricity to pump waste into the public sewer system. Upflush toilets are in basements. This occurs in situations where the public sewer system is above grade.

Up flush toilets have their water tanks at the top, which allows the water to drop down the toilet bowl.

The waste is collected in a macerator located at the back of the toilet. It turns the waste into a slurry which is then pumped up into the public sewer.

A power outage means that the waste does not get pushed into the sewer. The waste starts accumulating in the chamber and may overflow.

An unpleasant situation may occur in your home. The sewage waste makes its way back into your basement.

Other Types of Toilets Include:

  • Commercial Toilets/Flushometers

These toilets rely on gravity and will flush even during a power outage.

  • Tankless Toilets

The tankless toilets have no tank to push down the waste into the sewer. They rely on an electric pump to supply water at high pressure through a water line. They do not flush with no electricity.

It is always good to have a reliable backup generator in your home. A whole-house generator comes in handy when the power goes out.

You will need the generator during winter when the pipe of the gravity-fed system freeze.

How Do You Flush a Toilet with No Power?

Flushing the toilet with no power is no rocket science. A power outage does not mean a water outage.

The tank of your toilet still contains water which you may use to flush down the waste.

You are still likely to get your water supply from the public water supply system. The city water supply uses gravity to feed water to residential homes.

But, if your water is from an underground source, a well, you may need to flush the toilet manually.

Fill up the toilet tank with a bucket of water and flush down the waste.

Do Toilets Use Electricity?

Most American toilets use a gravity-based sewer system for flushing. This means that they do not need electricity. But, Upflush toilets rely on electricity to function.

Modern technology has but changed the way things work. Some toilets rely on electricity to trigger the flush action. These are known as smart toilets.

Smart toilets use electricity to start flush functioning. This is unlike gravity-based or Upflush toilets that have a manual flush handle or button,

Smart toilets have a sensor that detects when your body moves away from the toilet bowl. The sensor then activates the flushing mechanism.

The more improved versions of the smart toilets have bidet wash. After you are done using the toilet, the bidet automatically starts to function.

According to Architectural Digest, smart toilets are efficient in saving both water and energy.

You may need to wave your hand across the sensors to activate the function you need.

The smart toilets rely on electricity and will not flush or auto-wash for bidets when there is no power.

Can You Flush the Toilet When the Water Is Off?

You have the advantage of flushing the toilet when the power is out. But, when the water is off, you must find an alternative and flush the toilet.

You only have one flush left from the toilet tank when the water is off. Unless you have a backup storage tank connected to your toilet, here is what to do:

  • Fill Up a Bucket with Water

Check if there is enough water to flush the toilet if the power goes out. It is always safe to have an extra storage tank filled with water to use during emergencies.

Fill up your bucket with water and make your way into the toilet.

  • Pour Water Manually into the Toilet Tank

Pour the water in the bucket into the toilet tank until it reaches the overflow tube. This means that there will be enough water to accumulate pressure needed to flush out the waste.

  • Flush The Toilet

Flush down the toilet after filling the tank with bucket water. The waste should go down the sewer as it does when there is power.

Repeat this process any time you feel the need to flush the toilet during a power outage.

  • Secret Tip

You do not have to flush the toilet every time you use it during a power outage. You may flush it after a few rounds of using the toilet.

Be sure to cover the toilet bowl with the lid to contain the odor within the bowl.

Does Plumbing Still Work with No Power?

You will have water flowing in your house from the public water supply system even during a power outage.

If you get your water from a well, you will be cut out of the water supply when the power goes out. In most cases, power goes out during winter due to storms that interfere with power lines.

What to Do When Power Goes Out During Winter to Facilitate Plumping

Keep checking your water pipes. The pipes could burst when water expands as it freezes in the pipes.

Frozen pipes affect plumping by blocking water from flowing into your house. You will experience flow back of sewage into your basement or toilet bowl.

How To Keep Pipes Free from Freezing

  • Ensure that the pipes are properly insulated. Most modern houses have insulated pipes.
  • If you live in older houses, check your pipes regularly. They are either located in the garage, the basement, or exterior plumping.
  • Cover uninsulated pipes with old blankets, foam, or towels.
  • Always leave a small stream of running water during winter. This helps to reduce the risk of freezing in uninsulated pipes.

Take a look at this video here for a firsthand account of how to survive during a power outage in the winter.

If Power Goes Out, Does City Water till Work?

Cities collect water from rivers, wells, and lakes. They pump the water into water towers which are in high elevation areas.

The high elevation allows the water to flow into residences using the force of gravity. Water flows through the piping system into your houses even when the power is out.

During a power outage, city water benefits those living in main houses that don’t need pumping.

If you live in a high-story apartment, pumping is required to supply water to your unit. You will be locked out of the water supply during a power outage.

Residences that use underground wells have limited water access when there’s no power.

Note: City water depends on electricity to move up the tower. When the power goes out, the city may have a water shortage after exhausting the water in the reservoir.

In such homes, you need to have a backup water tank connected to your house. Ensure the tank is always full to avoid running out of water.

The Table Below Lists the Best Toilets and Alternatives for Camping, according to actual Campers:

Best toilet for camping Percentage of total results
A generic kitty-litter container can work as a make-shift affordable camping toilet. 12.50%
For people who prefer a smaller portable toilet, Thetford’s toilets are great. A user noted that they’ve been very satisfied with their Thetford335 for years. (click to view the product on Amazon) 31.25%
A lot of people prefer using multi-bag camping toilets, a popular one being the Clean Waste Wag Bag (click here for pricing on Amazon). 25.00%
The Reliance Luggable Loo portable toilet was frequently suggested as an inexpensive choice for camping. 18.75%
Some people suggested DIYing things and using scent-eliminating chemicals in combination with a cheap five-gallon bucket. 12.50%
Data derived from various online camping forums

Sewage Pump Power Outage

Electrical power outages have a massive impact on residential home systems. The most affected homes are those that rely on electricity to run the home sewage systems.

It is uncomfortable to stay in a house with a bad odor coming from the sewer. Often the only way to combat this is to either have a spray or odor blocker. One safe all-encompassing sewage system choice can be found by the brand Valterra, with a listing on Amazon. Find out more information for your odor eliminating needs here.

The pump-based systems contain certain components that need electricity to function. The waste collects in a treatment unit until the power is back.

Component Of an Electric Sewage System

  • Pump chambers
  • Flow/dosing equalization tanks
  • Aerobic treatment units
  • Recirculating media filters
  • Subsurface distribution
  • Low-pressure distribution

What to Do with a Sewage Pump When the Power Is Out

All liquid waste from the house goes into the waste-water treatment unit. Laundry water, shower water, dishwashing water all drain into the unit.

  • Limit water usage to toilet flushing and mandatory water uses during a blackout.
  • Limiting water usage minimizes the risk of the septic tank overflowing with waste. The liquid waste may start flowing back into the house.
  • You may stack your dishes and laundry to wash later when the power is back.
  • Avoid wasting water when brushing your teeth. Only turn the tap on when rinsing your mouth.
  • You do not have to flush the toilet every time you go for a short call. Only do so if the odor starts getting unbearable.
  • Keep the toilet bowl covered to prevent bad odors from spreading into the house.

The good news is that the septic tank can hold a day’s waste supply. But some septic tanks may be too small, which is why you should limit water usage. In a situation where multiple days might be left without any useable water; it might be ideal to have a backup plan. A portable toilet might be the best choice for you and your family one such emergency. Take a look at the brand Camco, who offers a great listing choice on Amazon. Click here for more information.

Sewage-Pump Precautions During a Power Outage

  • Avoid entering the sewage-pump chamber. The gases produced are toxic and fatal.
  • Even when the power is out, switch off the power supply at the circuit breaker.
  • Unplug the power cords before getting into contact with the pump. This helps to prevent shock in case the power comes back when handling the pump.
  • Always call a professional and reliable electrician to work on your pump.

When To Contact a Licensed Septic System Technician

  • When you notice a bad odor or visible sewage waste from your sewage system or toilet.
  • When you notice exposed electrical wiring leading to the control boxes
  • When there are damaged plumbing pipes
  • When you notice exposed electrical wiring leading to the pump
  • When there is damage on the disposal field or leaching trenches

What to Do with a Sewage-Pump When Power Is Restored

There are two types of sewage pumps: demand-dosed and time-dosed sewage pumps. Follow the following guideline on how to operate them when the power is back.

  • Demand Dosed Sewage System

A demand-dosed sewage system has its waste pumped out to a treatment unit or the soil. This happens as the septic tank fills up with waste.

Turn the pump on for about 2 minutes when the power is back and then switch it off for about 6 hours.

The timing ensures that the right amount of waste gets drained into the drain field over a given period. Repeat the process every 4-6 hours until the pump turns off automatically.

  • Time-Dosed Sewage System

A time-dosed sewage system uses a timer to control the number of times a pump turns on and off. It controls the number of times the liquid waste goes into the leaching trenches in 24 hours.

When the power is back, the timer automatically starts to operate. But, if power was out for long, time could be moments behind.

Continue to conserve water for about 24 hours or more which will allow the timer to catch up.

According to the Ohio Department of Health-Residential Sewage Program, most electric-powered sewage pumps have high water alarms.

The alarms should sound when the power is back based on how much water you used during the outage.

Final Thoughts

It is possible to flush your toilet during a power outage if you have a gravity-based sewage system.

Residents who depend on pump-based sewage systems have until the toilet tank runs dry to flush their toilets.

Another problem that toilet might have is why does my toilet whistle ? Or perhaps, if you have a dog that you had brushed, can you flush hair down the toilet without clogging it. Plus, for a clogged toilet, can you put bleach in the toilet tank to unclog the bowl?

Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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