Can You Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out?

No matter where you live, it’s likely that you will experience a power outage at some point. Hopefully the power will be restored quickly but, in the meantime, you’ll have to find the candles, get the camping stove out and hunker down. Pretty soon, though, the call-of-nature will come knocking and you’ll be left wondering; can you flush the toilet when the power is out?

Can You Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out?

The answer depends on the type of toilet system you have. In my part of the world it’s very easy to flush the toilet when the power is out as most people have gravity fed systems that will flush easily. However, in other areas it may be necessary to pump the waste into the public sewer systems – a piece of the puzzle that does rely on electricity.

Gravity Fed Systems

Gravity fed systems require no power to function so you are able to use the toilet normally even when the power it out. The flushing action allows water from the tank to drop into the toilet bowl, creating pressure which pushes the contents of the bowl out through the trap and onward to the public sewer system.

Toilets on a gravity fed sewer system CAN be flushed when the power is out. The only caveat to this is if you rely on water being pumped from a well to fill the toilet tank. In these cases you can still flush the toilet, but you must either manually fill the tank or flush using a bucket of water.

Pump Based Systems

Pump based systems use traditional toilets (which are, themselves, gravity fed) but the waste that is flushed enters into a tank and then is pumped up to the public sewer system. It is this pump that relies on electricity to work; without power the tank will just get fuller until it overflows – not a situation you want to be in.

If the tank has a gauge on it then you can still flush until the gauge indicates that tank is full; otherwise it is probably best to not flush until the electricity has returned.

Toilets on a pump based system can MAYBE be flushed when the power is out; if there is a gauge and you can tell when the tank is getting full.

Upflush Toilets

Upflush toilets rely on electricity to function. These are often installed in basements where the public sewer system is above grade and so gravity fed systems will not work. The flushing mechanism on these toilets is the same; water drops from the tank and empties the bowl of waste. The waste is then fed into a macerator and pump at the back of the toilet. The macerator breaks the waste into a slurry and then the pump moves it up to the public sewer outfall.

Without the pump the waste cannot be moved; upflush toilets CANNOT be operated without electricity.