As professional plumbers, one of the most common questions we are asked is, “does plumbing work during a power outage?” and this is a valid concern. After all, when a big storm rolls into your neighborhood, there is a good chance that the power will go out. This could be caused by a nearby generator blowing, or high winds could force down a tree that falls across a power line. The response times to the aftermath of a storm can vary depending on the amount of warning, the severity of the storm, and the time of day that it occurs. In some cases, the true extent of the damage cannot be accurately assessed until daylight, and homes without plumbing can suffer during this period. Let’s take a look a look at how plumbing works or doesn’t work during and after a power outage.
Check if Your Water is Still Working
During a power outage, it’s worth checking your faucet because, most of the time, it will still be running. The volume of water may be diminished, but it’s often possible to carry out basic hand washing, brushing teeth, and even grabbing a short shower to keep clean. This is pretty typical for homes that are supplied by a local water supplier, but what about homes that source their water from a well? A well pump needs a source of power to run, so if the power is out, it’s not likely that any water will be available until the power is restored and that could take some time. For this reason, it’s advisable to keep some stored water in your home if you rely on a well for clean water.
3 Things That Will Not Work During a Power Outage
Although the water may still be running for very basic needs, there are three plumbing related areas that are not likely to work at all without a supply of power; they are water heaters, sump pumps, and the toilets in your home. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
- The Water Heater
The water heater relies on power to heat up the water for use in your home. Even if you have a water heater that uses gas for heating, the unit still needs electricity to operate. This is particularly true if you have a tankless water heater for your home. These systems are extremely energy efficient, but they store no heated water, and they require power to work, making them useless if the power goes out. If you have a water heater with a tank and there is hot water stored inside, you may have access to heated water until the supply runs out. If the power is likely to be out for some time, you may want to ration your hot water limiting its use to hand washing for hygiene purposes.
- The Sump Pumps
The sump pumps cannot operate without a source of power, and we rely on them to prevent flooding during a storm. So, if you’ve ever harbored a secret fear about localized flooding in your home, a power outage will see those fears realized in a very short period of time. If you cannot run the sump pumps, there is no way to redirect the rainwater that’s intruding on your home. For this reason, many homeowners have a power backup system to run their sump pumps if the power goes out. If you’re interested in a system like this, get in touch with your local licensed plumber for expert help and advice today.
- The Toilets
In certain circumstances, the toilets could stop working during a power outage. This isn’t always the case, but if this does occur, it can be a terrible experience for the home. Despite the obvious unpleasant aspects of human waste disposal, this can also lead to a loss of hygiene that could make people feel ill. During any type of disaster, it’s always important to maintain hygiene standards as much as possible to avoid illnesses and diseases. Every toilet requires two things to work, a supply of water and gravity induced pressure. But, there are some toilet models that also need a pump that requires power to flush the waste away. If the power is out, the pump will not work, and the toilet cannot flush any existing or new waste placed inside. Check which type of toilet you have before the next power outage, and then you can prepare accordingly for this possible scenario in advance.
Preparing for a Power Outage
It’s always a great idea to carry out a little advance planning for a number of different scenarios that could affect your home. During a power outage, it’s usually a good idea to stay in place until the storm passes and the power is restored. Going out during a storm is usually a bad idea, flying debris and falling trees can cause a serious injury or fatality. Getting around the home and seeing what you’re doing will be difficult, so have one or two LED torches is a good idea. Other lighting options such as solar lanterns can help, and a battery powered radio can help you to stay informed.
To deal with water related power outages, make sure you always have some bottled water in reserve. A couple of liters per person and for each pet in the home should be enough to keep everyone hydrated until the power is restored. If you have a toilet that uses power to flush, you may want a handy bucket and a supply of toilet paper on hand for basic human bodily functions. Water may be scarce for a while, so you can supplement your hygiene with anti-bacterial gels or sanitizers.
If you want to know more about your home plumbing system, contact your local professional plumber and ask about a home plumbing inspection. The plumber can evaluate your home plumbing system and make suggestions on how to conserve water and save money.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.