Can You Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out?

Power outages are a frustrating but common experience of the modern age. Depending on where you are, these outages might last for minutes or days.

They can be caused by a huge variety of different factors. Without electricity, you have to use battery-powered light or candles, make use of battery-powered appliances, and use creative methods to heat or cool your house.

But how does your plumbing connect to your electricity? If you flush the toilet while the power is out, what will happen?

In some cases, your plumbing and running water should remain unaffected by the outage. But in others, you’ll want to hold off on flushing the toilet.

So, can you flush the toilet when the power is out? It actually depends on what toilet system you’re working with.

Different buildings have different setups for their wastewater. The plumbing will vary depending if you have a septic system, well, or sewer connection.

Here are the most important things to know about flushing a toilet without electricity.

How Many Times Can You Flush A Toilet Without Power?

toilet flush

The number of times that you can flush your toilet depends on two factors: where you get your water from, and where the waste goes when you flush.

These factors are related to your overall toilet system. To understand your options, you’ll need to know what type of system you have.

One system is called a gravity fed system. In this system, there is no electricity used.

The waste flushes through the pipes with the help of gravity, flowing out to the sewer. With gravity fed systems, you can flush your toilet as many times as you want.

There’s no need to worry about sewage backup.

Another system is a pump based system. This system uses the same type of basic setup as the gravity fed option, which means that the waste flows downward with gravity.

But this particular system is usually installed when you have a septic tank.

With a pump based system, the contents of the toilet flow into a tank before they are sent to the rest of the septic tank. The contents of the tank are typically pumped out using electricity.

Since there’s no access to electricity when the power is out, you won’t be able to empty this tank.

You’ll be able to flush your toilet a few times. But if the tank becomes full, it will overflow by backing up the pipes and into your toilet.

That’s a nasty hassle that you don’t want to deal with. It can also release noxious gases into your bathroom.

Some of these toilet tanks are built with gauges. The gauge will tell you how full the tank is.

If you have a gauge, then you can flush the toilet until you know that you’re nearing capacity. But if you don’t have a gauge — or your gauge relies on electricity to display readings — then it’s best to err on the side of caution.

The final basic system is an upflush system. Sometimes toilets are placed below the basic sewer lines, often when people are finishing their basements.

Since the waste has to be pumped upward to enter the waste pipes, this toilet cannot function without electricity.

With an upflush toilet, the waste is broken up by a macerator built in. Then the pump moves it upward through the pipes.

This makes it easier to move than solid waste.

There is no way to flush this type of toilet when the power is out. Unless you have a backup home generator, the number of times that you can flush this is zero.

Since these types of toilets are almost always built in basements, though, it’s a good idea to just use the bathrooms on the ground floor and above during a power outage.

Can You Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out On A Well?

Well water is an important source, especially for people who live outside of city water grids. The only problem is that well water needs to be pumped into the house with an electric pump.

Because of this, your running water can be compromised during a power outage if you draw from a well.

Assuming that you have a gravity fed toilet, you can flush it once during a power outage. The water in the toilet tank will fill the bowl.

But if there’s no water in your pipes without the well pump, then the tank won’t replenish itself like it usually does.

If you can get water to pour into the toilet tank manually, you’ll be able to flush the toilet more often. Some people use buckets to gather water from streams or melting snow.

You might also be able to buy bottled water at the grocery store to serve your purposes.

You’ll probably also want outside water for purposes like doing the dishes.

Can You Flush The Toilet When The Power Is Out On A Septic System?

It is possible to flush the toilet if you have a septic system, but there is a caveat.

With many septic systems, waste doesn’t flow directly from the toilet to the septic tank. Instead, it is held inside a smaller tank and then pumped into the septic system.

This pump uses electricity.

If that’s the case with your plumbing, then you can only flush your toilet until the small tank is full. If you keep flushing beyond that, the tank will overflow.

Since it can’t enter the septic system without electricity, it will push back up your pipes and into your toilet.

You definitely don’t want that! So make sure that you’re careful.


There are different rules when it comes to electricity, running water, and flushing the toilet. For some people, the toilet isn’t connected to the electricity at all.

For others, power outages can seriously mess with their plumbing.

If you have a gravity fed toilet, you can flush to your heart’s content. But if you use well water instead of city water, you’ll need to refill the toilet tank manually.

Your well pump uses electricity to replenish your water supply.

If you have an upflush toilet, which is built below the sewer system, you’ll need to wait for the power to come back on. These toilets break down waste and pump it vertically into the pipes, which can’t be done without electricity.

If you have a septic system, then your toilet might empty into a small tank with an electric pump. Make sure you don’t overflow this tank by flushing too many times.

Hopefully your power will come back soon!