Power outages are typically unpredictable although at times there’s a planned disruption in service because of upgrades being done or something like that. Without power, your home may almost come to a standstill because electrical appliances won’t work. Washing dishes by hand is a bygone memory for many of us, but when the power goes out, the dishwasher isn’t going to work!
Worse still, you may not be able to flush your toilet.
Yes, well… In fact, if you ask whether you need electricity to flush a toilet, the answer is “it depends”.
It depends because some homes have gravity-fed waste removal systems, while others have a water removal system powered by electricity, which will obviously be affected by a power outage, in contrast to the gravity-fed waste removal systems.
How much Electricity Does a Toilet Use?
Officially, the answer depends on the type of toilet you have. For the most common type of toilet, absolutely no electricity is used, the toilet works exclusively based on gravity, and the tank fills based on water pressure. No electricity is used at all.
The other type, electric toilets, sometimes called macerating toilets or macerator toilets, are outfitted with a grinder and pump combination that pushes waste to a unit behind the toilet in a large container lodged either in the wall or just behind the tank. The blades in the grinder then turn on, pulverize the waste, and pump it out of the unit through a pipe.
Can You Flush a Toilet Without Power?
Yes, you can flush a toilet without electricity because the toilet tank on the back, full of water, empties into the toilet bowl, and gravity pulls it down through the toilet and pipes, along with all of the contents of the toilet!
If you have a gravity-fed waste removal system, you won’t encounter any toilet-related plumbing problems when the electricity goes out. Instead of using electricity, these systems use the force of gravity to push waste downward through piping and into the sewer. You may only experience difficulty with a gravity-fed waste removal system during a severe winter storm when the pipes freeze due to exceptionally chilly conditions, which can happen in the New Jersey climate (and there are also solutions, such as winterizing your home).
Under normal circumstances, if the toilet won’t flush but the toilet isn’t blocked, then dumping a bucket of water into it usually fixes the problem.
Here’s a bit more information about different ways toilets can work:
Gravity-Fed Waste Removal System
As mentioned above, if you have a gravity-fed flushing system, you don’t need electricity to run it. Most traditional toilets work this way. A standard toilet has a tank located above the toilet seat and bowl. The tank has a pulley system such that when you pull the handle water flows forcing waste down the drain.
If your home runs on Municipal water or City water, you don’t have to worry about power outages. The authorities store water in tanks which people can use before more pumping is needed.
Most apartment buildings use electricity to pump water to all of the units. However, if the building has holding tanks, the water should be enough during periods of electrical power outages.
Septic with a Downhill Drain Field
If you have a septic tank with a downhill gravity, you don’t need electricity to flush the toilet. With such a setup, whether you use water in buckets or jugs to flush, the waste will flow to the mainline without a problem. This is unlike an uphill drain field septic system that needs electricity to drain it efficiently.
When do I need Electricity to Run my Toilet?
If your water removal system is powered by electricity, flushing the toilet during a power outage can cause problems. This system collects waste inside a chamber that has been specifically designed, then sends it to the sewer via an electric pump. The pump will not operate if the electricity is out. If you flush too often, the tank will eventually overflow and sewage could back up into your basement, this can lead to a terrible, unpleasant, and costly problem.
Here are some of the scenarios where you need electricity to use your toilet.
These toilets are mainly found in public restrooms or basement bathrooms that are often far from the building sewer lines. These toilets have a plug on the wall that won’t flush without power.
Most septic systems work such that you need enough water to create pressure that will flush solid wastes to the main lines. If you have no power, you may still use buckets of water to flush your toilet a few times.
With an extended power outage, you may experience foul odors due to sewer backups. This is because there isn’t enough water pressure to drain out all the waste.
How Does a Toilet Work Without Electrical Power Supply?
Ideally, toilets only need water and pressure to flush. Electric Power only helps to pump water to the holding tanks. Most pumps are located at higher elevation areas so that they drive water at high pressures to residential areas.
Water authorities also use water towers located on a high elevation, such as on a hill, to ensure constant water supply to households. The water towers need electricity to run.
For example, the Brick Township, NJ Municipal Utilities Authority has five water storage tanks to serve the entire Brick Township area, except for Barrier Island. The water tanks are filled by pumps at the water treatment facility managed by the Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority. These government entities ensure that there’s water being stored on high ground, which means gravity, not electricity, is the force required at the moment of flushing your toilet.
Proficient Plumbing & Heating Assistance
Winterize your home by calling Proficient Plumbing & Heating for all of your heating, plumbing, and electrical needs.
Give us a call at 848- 448-3539 or fill out the contact form on our website, and we will be more than happy to discuss the services you need in greater detail and set up an appointment with one of our knowledgeable staff members. No matter the time of day, we are here to help in any way possible. We offer free estimates and 24-hour emergency services so that you are never alone when an accident happens.
Proficient Plumbing & Heating is always prepared for your home’s winter surprises and emergencies.