Can You Flush The Toilet During A Power Outage? (Find Out Now!)

Kerry Souder
by Kerry Souder

Being forced to sit in the dark brings to light how much we rely on electricity to live. It’s no secret that power outages can make your life inconvenient, but the good news is there’s a chance that inconvenience will not affect your toilet usage.

The short answer to if you can flush your toilet during a power outage is… Sometimes. Usually, you should be able to flush your toilet as long as your home’s water system does not need electricity. However, there are also cases where flushing will not be possible. We’re going to talk about both situations.

Since many toilets are not dependent on a power source to run, you should be able to use it as normal for a limited amount of time. Let’s look at when you can and cannot flush during a power outage as well as other ins and outs of the topic.

Do You Need to Install or Repair a Toilet?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

When you Can Flush During a Power Outage

In many cases, you should be able to flush your toilet without any issues during a power outage, though you may need to manually add water to the tank after some time. Here are common situations where you will be able to flush.

You Have a Standard Gravity-Flush Toilet

Gravity-flush toilets are the oldest toilet types and don’t rely on any mechanical assistance to function. Instead, they use gravity to flush waste and toilet water downward through the toilet trap and into the home’s drain system and eventually the sewer lines or septic field.

When you flush the toilet, the lever inside the tank, which is attached to lift chain will lift up that flapper valve at the bottom of the toilet’s tank. This will send a large rush of water from the tank into the bowl and force anything in the bowl down the trap. As you can see, there is no electrical output, so a power outage won’t impact the way this type of toilet works.

You Live in a Large Community

If you live in a municipality, there’s a good chance a power outage will not impact using your toilet. This is because municipalities usually store water in holding tanks, so the lack of power will not impact water pressure or access to water.

You Use Well Water

If you get your water from a well, you will not have any immediate problems flushing during a blackout. This is because you will have your own holding tank for your water supply. That said, your well pump and pressure pump will lose power, which will lower water pressure. That said, you should have enough water to flush for several days. After that, you will still be able to manually flush the toilet as long as you can get water from another source.

When you Cannot Flush During a Power Outage

There are a handful of instances where you will not be able to flush your toilet during a power outage. It’s important to know the ins and outs of your toilet for this reason or else you risk causing a sewage backup by trying to flush when you definitely should not. Here are the main instances where you will not be able to flush your toilet without power.

You Have a Septic System with an Effluent Pump

An effluent pump will transfer waste from the septic system to a drain field or treatment system, which is located at a higher elevation. When the power goes out, this pump will not work at all. That said, you may be able to get a few flushes in, but you risk completely overflowing the septic system and having a sewage backup on your hands.

You Have an Upflush Toilet

Upflush, or pressure-assisted, toilets look and appear to function like traditional gravity-flush toilets, but they are different in a few key ways. Namely, any waste and water flushed down your toilet will be discharged out of the bowl and into a pump with a macerator, which is basically a garbage disposal. After any waste is ground up, it will be sent to your plumbing stack.

In most instances, upflush toilets are more efficient than gravity-flush toilets. However, they do require an electrical outlet. This means they will not be functional during a power outage. When the power goes out, the pump will stop working. This means you won’t be able to flush at all.

You Live in an Apartment Building

If you live in an apartment building, there’s a chance that you can lose access to your water supply during a power outage because the pump that circulates water throughout the building will stop working. The sewage system itself won’t experience any issues, so you will technically be able to flush the toilet as long as you have access to a different water source.

How to Prepare for a Power Outage

Though you often can’t predict a power outage, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Luckily, these are all very easy and attainable, so you don’t have to stress too much. Here’s what you can do:

  • Install a standby whole-house generator, so you have a backup power source
  • Get a toilet kit. This usually has a toilet box, liner bags, glow sticks, toilet seats with covers, hand sanitizer, and more.
  • Make sure you have excess water handy to pour into the toilet tank. You can use water bottles, buckets of water, collected rain/melted snow, etc.

Related Questions

Can I add water directly to the toilet bowl to manually flush?

Yes, but it is not the most effective way to do so. The better option is to pour the water into the tank and flush. This will ensure a cleaner flush and save water, too.

Can I shower during a power outage?

This is another “it depends” answer. If you have a tankless water heater, you can technically shower, but you will not have any hot water. An electric heater will leave you with a very limited supply of hot water. However, you won’t be able to tell how much. If you have a gas heater, it can go either way.Older models will work without electricity, but newer ones are now built with electrical components. Whatever the case, it is safe to shower without power. It just may not always be comfortable.

Do You Need to Install or Repair a Toilet?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Final Thoughts

Whether you can flush your toilet without power depends on what type of toilet you have, where you live, and the source of your water supply. In most cases, you should be able to flush a toilet without access to electricity.

How many times you can flush will depend on how much water is left in the pipes. After depleting that water supply, you’ll have to add water to the tank to manually flush. However, you should avoid flushing if your sewer pipes are powered by electricity as you can easily back your system up.

Kerry Souder
Kerry Souder

I am a copywriter and editor based in the Las Vegas area with nearly a decade of experience under my belt writing landing pages, cost guides, blog posts, newsletters, case studies, and social media content. I have a degree in Strategic Communication and experience working in both the account and creative spheres. My goal is to always be discovering new interests and bettering myself as a writer and editor along the way.

More by Kerry Souder