Let’s face it, when the power goes out it is always at an inconvenient time and we still have to take our daily showers to stay fresh for work. You’ve got some flashlights for lighting, but is it okay to take a shower when there is no power to your house?
There are a few considerations that have to be answered before you can start lathering up and we’ll get to those. Here’s the short and sweet version though:
Can you shower when the power is out?
You’ll be able to take a warm shower when the power is out under the following conditions: 1.) the water can properly drain (municipal sewage or septic without a pump), 2.) you have water pressure (municipal or generator), and 3.) you have a gas water heater that isn’t tied to the electrical grid.
There 3 primary factors to look at with caveats and gray areas to all of this and we’ll dive into them below.
Before we continue – if there’s lighting outside, please refrain from showering. Now, let’s get started!
1.) Will the Shower have Someplace to Drain Without Power?
There is no use in taking a shower if the water has nowhere to drain. The last thing you want is to get clean but back up your house’s plumbing with gray water and waste from the toilets.
There are two primary setups that you will have:
- Municipal Sewer Line
- Septic with a Drain Field.
Municipal Sewer Line
As long as the plumping from the shower you wish to use pipe out to a sewer line without means of an electrical pump, you will pass the first test in being able to take a shower.
Once the wastewater travels downhill by means of gravity, it becomes the city’s problem and you don’t have to worry about anything backing up in your lines.
Septic with Drain Field
Sometimes you will be able to have your shower drain properly with a septic, and sometimes not.
If your septic is fed by gravity from your house, and there isn’t an electrical pump that moves the water from one chamber of your septic to another (or to the drain field), then you will also pass the first test in being able to take a shower.
In this case, water will run to your septic via gravity, and it will naturally dissipate in your drain field over time without any mechanical assistance.
However, if your drain field is higher than your house or higher than the septic tank, then you will have an electrical pump in the septic to help the water move uphill and fight gravity.
In this situation, you’ll only have about a day’s capacity in the initial tank with the electrical pump (not working without power) before it will begin to flow back into your house to reach equilibrium.
If you choose to take a shower in this case, keep it brief and do the sponge bath method to minimize water use. Get wet, turn off the water. Lather up, rinse off quickly.
2.) Will You Have Incoming Water to Take a Shower Without Power?
Again, we need to differentiate between the two primary means with which households get their water:
- Municipal Water
- Well Water (electrical pump)
If you are hooked up to municipal, or city water, you will almost always have water coming through your lines when the power goes out.
Municipalities have pressurized systems using gravity (water towers) and mechanical pumps as well. They are also generally outfitted with redundant power sources for when the grid power goes out.
So unless the water lines are disrupted by something like an earthquake, you’re generally pretty safe.
Well Water (Electrical Pump)
As you guessed it, even though country folks like me have water straight from the ground, we still rely on electricity to move it up and through the lines.
So when the power is out, the water will cease to work unless you have a properly sized generator.
One gray area here is that these households will have some water to use if the power goes out. Well pumps move water to a pressure tank which is generally 10 to 30 gallons.
The pressure tank moves the water to your faucets.
When the power goes out, you will be able to harvest water from the pressure tank until it loses pressure, so make the best of it!
Now, if you’re looking to keep your well pump running along with the other essentials in the house, you can’t go wrong with this Champion generator from Amazon. Everyone I’ve talked to who has a Champion and who have also had a Honda (considered the industry best) has told me that they’d go with a Champion any day as the quality is indistinguishable from a Honda but half the price.
If you’re in the market, a Champion generator is well worth the consideration
3.) Will You have Hot Water for the Shower if the Power Goes Out?
Now, if you’ve passed the first two tests of your water having somewhere to drain and having water at all, you’ll then need to know if you will have hot water during a power outage… unless you’re the special breed that enjoys cold showers.
Water heaters come in all makes, models, and fuel sources. We’ll cover the big ones.
Tankless (gas or electric):
If there is no power and you have any form of a tankless water heater, then you will not have hot water at all.
As the name suggests, there is no holding tank for the hot water and it created on demand. Without a reservoir, you’ll be left with absolutely nothing if the power fails.
Electric Water Heater with Tank:
Since this type is electric, you will not have any newly heated water without electricity. However, the 40 gallons or so that you already have heated up inside the tank can be gradually harvested and used over up to about 3 days.
To keep this water hot, make sure you turn off the supply line to the unit. There should be a cold water shut-off valve above it.
If you fail to shut this off, you will keep introducing new (and cold) water to the tank as you pull the hot water out. Since you don’t have power, it won’t be heating up, and that 3 days of hot water use will shrink rapidly.
If you have municipal water, you will have pressure to carry this water to you throughout a power outage. If you have a well pump, you’ll have as long as the pressure tank keeps pressure (which won’t be long), so make your shower quick!
Gas Water Heater with Tank:
You might think that since you have gas and not electric that you’ll be in the clear for hot water. You are partially right.
There are gas water heaters with a standing pilot light which means that it is always lit. If you look around these models, there won’t be any cords leading to a wall outlet.
Gas water heaters with a standing pilot light will continue to heat up water.
Newer model gas-powered water heaters are almost exclusively made with an electrical component (it plugs into the wall) that will ignite your flame to heat the water when there is a demand for it.
Without power, this electric starter will cease to work and your gas water heater will not fire up.
Some gas water heaters also have a power vent. There are more expensive models but they also rely on electricity to operate the power vent.
How Long will a Water Heater Tank Stay Hot Without Power?
With a hot water tank that’s unable to stay powered without electricity (all-electric and most newer gas models) can have heat retention for at least up to 3 days.