There’s nothing worse than a power outage when we’re so reliant on electricity in the current age. However, power outages sometimes affect things we didn’t even think about. If you experience a lot of power outages in your area or you’re worried about storms coming up that may cause one, you might wonder if your toilet needs electricity to flush.
For the most part, a regular gravity-flush toilet doesn’t need electricity. However, an electronic toilet won’t flush, and if you live in an apartment building, you might not be able to because a power outage often means the water can’t circulate.
While it isn’t pleasant if your toilet can’t flush, there are a plethora of solutions if you don’t have running water. So now, let’s take a closer look at when you can and can’t flush a toilet during a power outage and your alternatives.
When You Can Flush a Toilet Without Power
If you live in a house (not an apartment) and have a regular gravity-flush toilet, you should have no issues using it when there’s a power outage. These toilets use only the water and the power of gravity to send waste down the sewer line and don’t require electricity whatsoever.
If the water stops, this is another issue in itself, but regular power shouldn’t affect your ability to use your bathroom.
When You Can’t Flush a Toilet Without Power
Some modern-day toilets are electronic and require power to work, so if there’s an outage, you won’t be able to flush them.
Apartment building toilets are also in danger if the power goes out. This is because apartment buildings usually have a water pump that sends water circulating; if the power goes out, this pump can’t operate. This is also true of septic systems that use a pump.
How to Flush When You Don’t Have Flowing Water
While most toilets won’t be affected by a power outage, they certainly will be if the water stops working. Fortunately, there is a way to flush the toilet even in that scenario.
You can simply pour water into the tank and flush. Make sure you only pour water to the fill line, which should be etched into the inside of the tank.
This is the correct amount of water needed to dispose of waste. If you can’t locate a fill line on the inside of the tank, pour the water until it’s a couple of inches below the overflow valve—this should do the trick.
You can also pour the same amount of water directly into the toilet to flush waste. The trick here is to pour it all in one fell swoop as it’ll trigger the flush. If you pour it in gently or bit by bit, it’ll fill up the bowl rather than send the waste away, so you need to make sure there’s quite a bit of force behind it.
Where to Get Water
If you don’t have running water but need some to fill the tank, you might be wondering how to find it. You have a few options.
The first is rainwater outside. If the weather is ideal, you can leave a bucket outside and use that to flush the toilet.
You could also use water from anywhere if you’re lucky enough to live by a lake or creek. Make sure the water is free of rocks or debris, but since it’s flushing straight into the pipe and isn’t required to be sanitary, it doesn’t matter if it’s not clean.
If you have a water heater, you can use the drain valve to collect some. Be very careful and ensure the water has had enough time to cool, or you can hurt yourself.
You can also use bottled water if you have it to spare but make sure you pour it into a bucket before flushing or directly into the tank. The force of water leaving a bottle isn’t enough to force the toilet to flush if poured directly into the bowl.
How to Prepare for a Power Outage
If you have a regular gravity-flush toilet, a power outage shouldn’t matter too much as long as the water is running—but if you have an electronic toilet, live in an apartment building, or want to be prepared, there are some steps you can take to ensure you’ll have a functioning toilet during the outage.
The main priority is to make sure you have plenty of drinking water, so go and buy some bottled water (on Amazon) and try to save it for hydration, not flushing.
As for flushing water—you can fill up containers from your tap to store. Using buckets and large containers is a good idea, as you’ll likely need a few gallons per flush, so smaller containers like flasks won’t be enough for this purpose.
You can also fill up the bathtub so there’s a massive source of water, which should last you for quite a while if used exclusively to flush the toilet.
If you have an electronic toilet and you’re worried about that (along with everything else) when losing power, you can always buy or rent a backup generator. These are particularly handy for those who have a lot of warning before a power outage or live in places where they frequently happen.
The key to getting through any power outage with limited inconvenience is always being prepared in advance. While this isn’t always possible, and sometimes they happen without warning, look out for bad weather in your area and stock up just in case.
Remember, it’s not just the toilet you need to think about. If a power outage is coming, make sure your phone is fully charged and on low-battery mode to give you a way to communicate with others and let your loved ones and colleagues know what’s going on.
It’s also a good idea to have a radio in case you lose cell signal so that you can keep up to date with news and extreme weather conditions.